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 was dragged from the shelf, skinny pages leafed through.
“See it’s not there.”
“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, missed.
The twins glared at each other.
Only their mother could tell them apart, and 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 counterpart, Hua Hin’s Catholic base of learning was no different.
They parked their bikes inside the school gates only to be met by, “Boys, go to the headmaster’s office. He wants to speak to you. Go now,” their class-teacher mentioned ‘headmaster’ 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.
The headmaster’s secretary held the door open.
Two bowed heads filed in, they stood and bowed deeper as they greeted the Catholic Brother, headmaster 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. Tim was presented 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.
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 giggled.
Material hung neatly from the pins, 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, they 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 butchers stall he stood on his pedals and reached above. His hands grabbed the pig’s head pulling it from the hook.
“Look what I’ve got!” he screamed.
The butcher shouted, “Stop thief!” and ran out after him flapping his arms.
Tim casually cycled to the front of the stall and waited. 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?”
“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 was casually studying 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!” 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, 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, it would be perfect if they can stay here too.”
“I think I should speak to your dad. Do you have his phone number?”
“Ok, maybe it would be easier? Otherwise I will have too much to remember.”
Tim felt for the business card in his pocket 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 to know where they will be staying. 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 hotel phone was slammed down as she heard, “Porky Pigs Butcher, how can I h….”
“Strange boy, doesn’t know his phone number?” she muttered to herself.
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 headmaster, “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.
Squirrels at Woodstock
3 Days of Hell and Noise!
I came to live here in peace, what do I get?
My Generation? Listen to them.
I thought I had found heaven. Living on a dairy farm a full fifty miles away from the torture of New York seemed like a paradise. It was.
Now what is going on? I stirred, shaken awake, the normally peaceful surroundings were now alive with action, bustle and people, trucks and tons of equipment. What is it all for? Birds no longer sang.
The last couple of days were bad enough, people were moving things, big things. The noise started early, banging, drilling and worst of all, shouting.
It soon dawned on me that worse was to come. They had erected stages. More people, this time not only scruffy but filthy too. The men’s hair was long and unkempt, the women’s hair was cropped and ugly. Admittedly, they were all working hard.
Banging drums, thrashing about with electric guitars and the endless ‘Hello, hello, testing, testing’, with microphones. What is wrong with these folk?
Later there were endless processions of people parading up and down in my, my field. Lugging bags, backpacks and hookah pipes. Have I gone crazy or has the world?
A gorgeous young thing, still a teenager I guess, laid out some nylon, aided by a slightly older man, together they constructed a garish blue and green tent.
“What would her mother think?” I asked myself.
Talking to myself is something I got used to. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way, I even answer myself.
The V for victory was being flashed by people passing. Funny that, we didn’t see much victory in Viet Nam.
I had spent most of my time looking after people who could no longer, or had no intention of raising their fingers. War does that.
Occasionally I put soldiers out of their misery.
Richie Havens’ name was being screamed, who the hell is he? I wonder if he could play some Wagner instead? I doubt it. This gets worse.
Explosions of bad temper regularly disrupted my early life, fiery outbursts I thought these tantrums were behind me. It seems not. I used to kill things, pets at first, the hamsters were passed off as ‘not understanding how to care for them’, but the puppies were taken more seriously, I had to go to a special school. I was the only sane one there, and that included the teachers.
Rage is bubbling and boiling under my skin. ‘What have I done to deserve this?’
My mind flitted back to Saigon. My family had decided it was better for all who knew me, that I serve my country. They drafted me into the medical corps. I served as a nurse, a wonderfully fitting job.
We saw a lot of pain, often caused by stupidity. Being smart and not wanting to be a hero, I remained well away from the action.
Lysergic acid diethylamide, you will know as LSD, or commonly Acid was locked in our hospital lockers. We saw lots of it, not by soldiers ‘having fun’ but combatants taking it under an order, or prisoners who unknowingly had some white powder added to their food. Our special forces were fearless, we, as medics knew why. They were given power drinks.
Prisoners, both enemy and our guys, spewed out information, without painful encouragement. What are the ‘slants’ planning? Who were the ‘peace and loving’ GIs in our force? The guys that needed reminding why they were there.
The man passed her a joint, she took it, sucking hungrily, “Man, the music gets better.”
“Yes, I will get some Acid. You don’t mind do you? I know you can’t.”
“No, help yourself, I’ll stick with this thanks.”
The crumpled reefer had too much ash hanging.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, my only problem is the toilets, too far and too busy.”
“Look, don’t worry, if you need to pee, do it behind the tree. Everyone will be smashed, they won’t care.”
“Just make sure I drink plenty of water, ok? It’s more important that I drink gallons, than embarrass myself by wetting my jeans.”
She laughed, but not enjoying the humour. He nodded and grinned, knowing her kidney condition was not a joke.
Now I knew what I could do. LSD caused havoc to those little organs we call kidneys. Oh, what fun this will be.
The music got louder; the excitement increased. As the grey clouds descended on my shoulders, the only rainbows I could see were the seven colours on t-shirts and even hideous jeans.
I couldn’t stop the noise, but I could ruin someone’s fun.
Calmly descending the tree-trunk, I crept into the tent and hid. Right on time he returned. Throwing a small packet next to his backpack.
Back outside he joined the others, shouting out the lyrics to a song fortunately I’d never heard before.
I have small hands, therefore carefully emptied the screwed up paper pack into her drinking bottle. Dusting my hands of white powder, I headed towards the tent’s flap.
“Oh look, a beautiful squirrel, isn’t she gorgeous?”
She? I could cry.
“Never mind the vermin, there is a new band starting.”
“Off you go baby, back to your tree.”
I’m going, but I want to watch this.
“Come on, they are playing.”
“I can hear, just need a drink first.”
The doctored water bottle was drained, the hallucinations started within minutes. That was the fun bit, but then the agony in her lower stomach and back, her boyfriend did not understand what was happening to her. She died in writhing pain, her friends danced around her and cheered the new moves.
Did you know squirrels could smile? I was stuck in a furry body, for how long I don’t know. The girl had more peace than me, eventually they would move on. How many more would I minister to before they leave me in peace?
My Generation ended. I committed suicide in Saigon two years ago. And no, it was not an overdose of LSD!