FREE short story – Colin Devonshire
‘Ni, Khun ock pai!’ He was pointing down and out.
My head felt like a wasp’s nest, large, noisy and thumping with activity. The driver was not happy. He was pointing to the bus’s open door. It seemed a light year away at the front, and I would be near him. That thought did not calm me.
‘Where am I?’
He grunted, I was none the wiser, and in no state to push this any further. Wobbling, I tried to get my feet one in front of the other, and make my way juddering to the front. There were no other passengers, no luggage.
‘Did I have a bag? Must have?’
Turning I asked, ‘Bag?’
A shrug was the answer, he glared as I peered at the back seat. The reason for his unfriendly behaviour became clear. A puddle of acrid-smelling vomit appeared to be rotting the plastic floor. A scene from “Alien” flashed before my eyes.
It was all coming back; I had been in Bangkok for a Lasik retina operation. My eyes? No glasses. Hey, I can see without them!
‘How in Hell’s name did I end up here? Wherever I am? At least my vision is good.’
There was no bag, at least not in sight. Making my way to the front I checked my wallet. It was in my rear pocket, which was a small plus, and, there was some cash, not a lot, but some.
Heavy footfall disturbed my brief rest on the bus’s step. The man didn’t like me. Staggering off, left, right, up the road or down it, made no difference to me. I didn’t want to make the driver my mate. I walked away, up the road. It was the wrong choice, there was nothing in view. No shops, no houses, no other vehicles. After passing a rubber tree plantation, I turned back. Hopefully, there would be something in the other direction.
On reaching the unattended bus, I noticed a coffee stand. ‘Was that there before?’ I couldn’t be sure, anyway, it was closed.
It was hot and getting hotter, a swirl of warm dust twisted its way into a field. There must have been a storm in the night. The road had dried; the fields were still wet. A clattering motorbike shook its way past me. I carried on in the search of a coffee I picked up my pace. There must be something ahead? Another battered and bruised 100cc machine cruised along. The rider and three passengers looked like they knew where they were going.
At last, shops, people, life.
Was it me? The people turned and closed their doors. The reason for the activity soon became clear. A convoy of military rattled past. A soldier mounted an unfriendly looking weapon, he looked and shouted; God knows what? The truck carried on.
My best hope for a drink had closed its doors. The wasps in my brain were back. Only stopping their hum when a flash of lightning sparked from one side of my skull to the other. Flopping onto a battered bench, I studied the cracks and broken concrete, my seat. Thinking, how odd? My vision was now clear, and I could study the patterns in the cracked seat.
A man walked across the road, he stopped and looked at me, not caring how I may feel about someone gawping. I studied his flowing chequered cotton garb and beautifully crocheted skull cap. He was carrying a biscuit tin. I thought some “Rich Tea” or even better “Digestives” would go well with my drink.
He tilted his head and asked, ‘What you want?’
‘First, I want a coffee, then a chemist and then a ride back to Bangkok.’
‘It looks like Starbucks is closed.’
‘Oh, head problem.’
Pointing above my ear.
‘You help me, I help you?’
‘What do you want me to do?’
‘Take this cake to my mother. The army looks for me, I must go.’
‘And how are you going to help me?’
‘My mother makes good coffee. And she has a phone, call a taxi.’
‘Won’t a taxi to Bangkok be very expensive?’
‘Yes, but no bus for a week.’
It didn’t take my addled brain long to work out how to arrange the cash when I arrive back in the city.
‘Okay, where is your mum’s house?’
The directions were simple enough. Follow the road, when I see a big white house, turn left and see his mother in the field.
The man hastily disappeared in the opposite direction.
After twenty minutes of plodding, there was a large off-white structure. As I neared it, people stopped tending their goats. One of those people must be his mum I thought, daydreaming of my prize. It might have to be black, I’m not sure if I liked goat’s milk in coffee.
The people were standing with their trousers rolled to the knee. An odd thought flashed in my mind, ‘Were they Freemasons?’ Chuckling at my limp joke. They all looked puzzled, silently questioning this strange foreigner, ‘Alay?’ a woman shouted. I held up the biscuit tin, hoping someone would claim the gift.
To my surprise, the group dived into the mud, hands on their heads.
Some of their arms moved to sodden pockets, searching for something. Muttering in a foreign tongue to each other. I moved forward to ask, ‘What’s the matter? What is wrong?’ Nobody answered.
Having no intention of muddying myself, ‘Christ, all I want is a coffee,’ I said, standing rooted to the driveway.
With a squeal of tyres from behind, we all turned our heads. An army truck kicking stones behind it screeched to a halt thirty yards short of me. A camouflaged man slowly opened the passenger door. He hid behind it and waved his pistol, finally pointing it to the ground.
‘Did he mean me, or the cake box?’ I raised my free arm. I bent my shaking knees and placed the tin on the road and raised my other arm. Now four soldiers aimed their weapons at me, three rifles and a pistol pointed at my heart.
The leader patted me down, forced my arms behind my back, cuffed my wrists and forced me face down in the dust.
Gingerly, a soldier moved and lifted the tin he threw it into the muddy field opposite. He then raised his rifle and fired a single shot. Then muck flew in all directions, splattering back to earth.
I was roughly shoved into the truck. Plenty of unanswered questions burst from my mouth. The uniformed men either couldn’t or wouldn’t speak English.
Twenty minutes later we arrived at a base. Prodded and poked, I sat behind a desk, not understanding a word screamed at me. The desk phone was ringing. Orders were issued. My guess is once more they will place me in a military vehicle. They did. This time alone, in a metal box with a wire grill allowing fresh air and an interrupted view of the outside world.
All I wanted was a cup of coffee, but at least I was on my way to the city!
Two new books coming soon. An anthology of short stories, the tales are written, and the book will be named in the coming days. And a new thriller, set in Thailand. The working title is The Handsome Man. We’ll see.