This story is not ‘dark’; I hope it brings a smile to your lips.

When Is A Word Not A Word?

‘That is not a word!’

‘Oh yes, it is!’

‘I bet it’s not in the dictionary?’

‘Have a look then.’

A thick book, dragged and uncomplaining from the shelf, skinny pages leafed through rapidly with tongue-dampened fingers.

‘See, it’s not there.’

Young hands clapped.

‘You are looking in the wrong place.’

‘Ow is not a word!’

‘It is in the Thai dictionary!’ 

Tom, the younger of the twins, sniggered at his brother. Tim lashed out and missed.

The twins glared at each other. 

Only their mother could tell them apart; she hated telling them off. 

‘Now, now, boys, give it a break. Words are nothing to argue over.’

‘But Mum, this one is.’

The boys nodded in agreement.

‘Come on, you two, time to go.’

Tim and Tom tied their shoes, checked their bags and peddled off to school.

Dad, an Englishman, Mum, a Thai, and the boys lived in the seaside resort of Hua Hin. Thai schools are often stricter than their English counterparts, and Hua Hin’s Catholic learning base was no different.

They parked their bikes inside the school gates only to be met by, ‘Boys, go to the head teacher’s office. He wants to speak to you. Go now,’ their class teacher mentioned “head teacher” in quietened tones, unlike her usual bellow.

‘Shit, what have you done now?’

‘I’ve done nothing. What about you?’

They waited outside the wooden door, wondering what trouble they had to face.

‘Come.’

The head teacher’s secretary held the door open.

Two bowed heads filed in. Then, they stood and bowed deeper as they greeted the Catholic Brother, head teacher of their school, in true Thai fashion, hands together as in prayer, they mumbled, ‘Morning, sir.’

‘Lads, lads, don’t look so worried. I have something for you.’

The boys smiled, wondering why they deserved a gift from the dreaded man.

‘Red for you, Tim,’ the head waited for one boy to hold out a hand. He presented Tim with a safety pin. Attached to it were two-inch-long crimson ribbons hanging like a medal. 

‘And blue for you, Tom. You are to wear them at all times in or around the school when you are in uniform. Understand?’

‘Yes, sir,’ they said in unison.

As soon as the head’s door closed behind them, they switched pins, giggling.

On the way home, they stopped at a haberdashery, where they bought matching blue and red ribbons and a packet of safety pins.

‘Have you two finished your homework?’

‘Nearly done, mum.’ The boys chuckled.

Material hung neatly from the pins. So now both boys had a red and a blue set.

‘Now, for some real fun, let’s go.’

‘We are going out on our bikes. See you later, mum.’

The lads rarely went near the wet market; the stink of fish and hooked pigs’ heads saw to that. But today, the town’s square suited their needs perfectly.

Tim and Tom pulled off the main road and snuck into a small lane. A quick Stone, Paper, Scissors game decided that Tom was to go first. Tim prepared himself to follow his brother in two minutes.

Tom peddled as fast as his legs would allow; reaching the pork butcher stall, he stood on his pedals and stretched his arms above. His hands grabbed the pig’s head, pulling it from the hook.

‘Look what I’ve got!’ he screamed in Thai.

The butcher shouted, ‘Stop thief!’ and ran after him, flapping his arms.

Tim casually cycled to the front of the stall and waited. Finally, the butcher turned and cursed, ‘Bloody kids, I’m calling the police!’

The neighbouring stallholders joined him on the footpath.

‘What happened?’ asked the fishmonger.

‘A bastard kid from that Catholic school just nicked my pig’s head.’

‘Would you recognise him again?’ someone asked.

‘Sure, half falang, school uniform with a red badge on his left chest.’

‘You mean like the boy waiting to be served at your shop?’

‘That is him!’

‘No, I saw him pull up just after you went screaming after somebody.’

‘It’s him, I tell you. Bloody louts!’

Tim casually studied the price list, and business cards placed next to the meats.

‘I would have bought ten kilos of pork for a party tonight, but not now, as you insulted me!’ So Tim peddled off to join Tom.

They met in the car park of a hotel famous for its vegan restaurant.

‘Now for stage two.’

Tim parked his bike next to the entrance steps. Then, he went to the reception desk and started collecting leaflets and brochures.

‘Yes, young man, how can I help you?’ asked a cheery young lady.

‘Thank you. My father sent me to collect all these. He has a group of friends visiting us soon. We need to know about vegetarian restaurants, and it would be perfect if they could stay here too.’

‘I think I should speak to your dad. Do you have his phone number?’

‘Okay, maybe it would be easier? Otherwise, I will have too much to remember.’ 

Tim felt for the business card in his pocket and then read out the number.

Outside, Tom was busy. He was attaching the pig’s head to the top of the inclined flagpole. The banner proudly boasted five stars, an award from a culinary magazine. The award was for Asia’s highest vegan prize.

Tom cycled around the corner to wait for his brother.

‘One last thing, I need to take a few photos. My father wants to post them on Facebook for his friends, so they’ll know where they will stay. Thanks again. Bye-bye.’

The receptionist watched him snap away with his phone, mount his bike, and peddle away. As soon as he was on his way, she thought it would be a good idea to get the full facts of the guests. 

The receptionist slammed the hotel phone down as she heard, ‘Porky Pigs Butcher, how can I h….’

‘Strange boy, doesn’t know his phone number?’ she muttered.

The boys could only guess what was happening. They enjoyed discussing their prank in their bedroom. They did not know that one of their teachers had walked past as a boy in uniform with a red ribbon was manhandling a pig’s head. 

Hua Hin is a small town. Everyone knew everyone, or so it seemed to the boys. They heard their names bellowed by their father.

‘Get down here now!’

In the living room was the butcher, the receptionist, with father and mother hands-on-hips. It was to get worse; the doorbell rang, ‘Come in, Brother.’

Ow in Thai means to have,’ said the head, ‘And I will “have” my cane ready in the morning.’

‘And “Ouch” is an English word. We will all hear it soon enough!’ said father.

The END

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