A Thai adventure, but not as expected. Short story by Colin Devonshire
What A View
‘Twenty-five years ago today, I stood here and marvelled at this view,’ Mark said.
‘Have you not been since that day?’ Peggy asked.
‘No, dear. That was the first and last time, until today, of course.’
Mark pulled his flask from his backpack and slugged it back. He was not offering Peggy a taste of his Thai whisky. Mark did look her way; she shook her head. He shook the container; there was a little left.
‘What now? Are we eating our picnic or walking?’ asked Peggy.
‘It would be a shame to bring you all this way if we didn’t enjoy the sights. We can eat later, okay?’
They were in no rush. They strolled on, and the casual and friendly chat went with them. Peggy bubbled at every new sight. She had never left Great Britain before.
‘What an adventure. Did I put enough mosquito repellent on?’
‘God, yes, half a bottle is enough for the whole jungle,’ laughed Mark.
She slapped his shoulder and marched on. ‘You told me there is a waterfall nearby?’
‘Yes, there are a few. We will see a small one in a minute.’
‘Look at these wonderful petals. What are they? And what animal is making that noise?’
‘Am I a walking encyclopaedia? Unfortunately, there is no signal up here, or you could Google it.’
‘But, you told me you were here, in Thailand before. Didn’t you see any flowers or hear animals?’
‘Oh, there were plenty of animals where I was. Come on; we’ve got lots to see.’ Mark upped the pace.
Two children ran screaming to catch up with their school party. A teacher left the group to glare down the path at them. Mark had forgotten most of his Thai language skills, but he knew the kids were in trouble for leaving the rest.
‘Here we are. Do you fancy a dip?’
‘We didn’t bring our swimsuits,’ said Peggy.
‘That is not a problem here.’
‘I’m not going naked in front of all the children.’
‘No, no, you don’t understand. Here, people swim in their clothes. It is so hot; everything will be dry by the time we get back to the car.’
‘It is so beautiful, water splashing over the rocks. Gorgeous. Is it deep? Are there snakes?’
‘One question at a time; it is safe around the edges but gets deep where the waterfall splashes home.’
‘Can you see the cave behind the fall?’ He pointed across the water. ‘There was a story of a tourist who went in there and died from a snake bite. The locals had warned him. But he knew better.’ Mark chuckled at the thought.
‘Oh, God. I’m not swimming then, with or without clothes,’ Peggy said with a grin.
They sat on rocks and paddled. Finally, Peggy reached and grabbed Mark’s hand. She passed him a sandwich, then asked, ‘Why did you bring me here?’
‘You mean other than our honeymoon? For two reasons; one, I loved this place and wanted to see it again. And two, to get you away from your bad memories.’
‘You didn’t need to do anything for me.’
‘Have you ever had a holiday you enjoyed?’
‘No, if I’m honest.’
‘Your husband never respected you; he beat you and made your life miserable. I want you to be happy,’ Mark said.
‘You are so sweet. That’s why I fell in love with you.’
‘It was all a whirlwind, wasn’t it?’
‘My husband died one month, we were in love the next, and we married three months later.’ She smiled at the thought.
‘And now we are enjoying a belated honeymoon. What could be better?’
Mark drained the last of his drink, wishing he had more.
‘What’s the matter? Why did the mood change?’ asked Peggy.
‘Oh, nothing. The next stretch is tough. But the good thing is there will be nobody else up there.’
The rocks were wet and slippery. They trudged on. Up and higher on the steep incline, step by step. Mark reached back to grab Peggy’s hand.
‘Jesus, you’re quite a climber,’ Mark said.
‘I like to keep myself fit.’
They clambered through a gap in the trees and saw a clear blue sky.
‘Here we are, the top. Look around and then wander over there and look down.’
Peggy brushed vine and leaves aside and stepped onto a flat rocky platform. Birds swooped above, and monkeys called from below. Peggy stood and gaped.
‘I have never seen anything so wonderful. It is breathtaking.’
She stood on the edge and gasped at the scenery.
Mark slid nearer and whispered, ‘I was here with your husband.’
‘What? He never told me he had been to Thailand.’
‘No, he wouldn’t. We had a girl with us.’
‘I thought so. We fought. The girl went over the edge. Guess who got the blame? I wanted my revenge. After twenty-five years in a Thai jail, he owed me that, at least. Then the bastard died of a heart attack. Which was your fault.’
‘How could it be my fault? He was beating me.’
‘Whatever, you took away my chance to kill him. I plotted his movements, everywhere he went, everyone, he met. I knew where he bought petrol, where he drank, and when I could catch him alone. Then you gave his escape.’
‘Stop it, Mark, it is not funny.’
‘Now I am your next of kin. His house will be mine.’
Mark grabbed her. There was a scuffle, both bent at the waist, a twist and turn. Screams went unheard. The jagged rocks carved chunks of flesh before a body splashed unnoticed below.
A month passed as the doorbell rang at HJ Collins and Son’s solicitor office.
‘Come in, come in, take a seat. How can I help you?’
‘I would like to sign my will.’
‘Yes, certainly, I have run a few checks, and all is in order. The will is “different”, that’s for sure. It seems you don’t have any next of kin. Which means there will be no one to dispute your wishes. We will split your worldly goods fifty-fifty as you wish. Half will be to the British Judo Federation, and the other will go to the Thai National Park Organisation. Can I ask why?
‘Being a black belt saved my looks on many occasions with my first husband. And then my life with the recently dead husband. The Thai Parks gave me the most exciting day of my life.’
Peggy strolled to the travel agents armed with an envelope.