A spooky sit-in by Mobi’s doggies

10 Months, 13 days, still sober.

Mobi Babble

I’ve continued to be a good boy, in more ways than one and I’m actually starting to feel a bit better about things. For me, there has never been and, I doubt, ever will be any dramatic conversion on the Road to Damascus in my personal battles. It really is a long, slow and not very exciting slog to turn my life around since I stopped drinking over 10 months ago.

Those who have been following my progress during 2011, will know that positive progress has been interspersed with periods of retrograde steps, but I do like think that in the overall, I have been going two steps forward, one step back, rather than vice versa.

It has been at least 2 weeks, maybe longer, since I have been near any dens of ill repute and I am very pleased with this effort as the longer I stay away from these places, the more my mind clears and I realise that as long as I patronise these establishments, not only do I stand little chance of getting some real meaning into my life, but I have also been a duplicitous bastard to my ever faithful Noo, who loves and cares for me like no other has done in my entire life.

I received an email this week from one of my friends, who is an alcoholic, but has achieved an incredible 25 years sobriety.  He wrote to me about his forthcoming 65th birthday and I hope he won’t mind if I print below some of what he said:

… My 65th Birthday is Nov 28 and I plan to celebrate big time while in Phnom Penh.

I received some bad news today, a close friend of mine died a few days ago

He was a lawyer who started “in the business” at about the same time I did.  He just turned 65 years old and had no plans to retire and now…

He was the tortoise of the three of us who hung out together.  He started out slow and ended up the senior partner of a very successful law firm in Sacramento.  However, I am survivor of the 3.   The other one died of a brain tumour in his 40’s, which was the result of Agent Orange exposure while he was in Vietnam.

LIFE IS VERY SHORT and I have survived many of my contemporaries and while a bit insane I think I am more functional and happier than those I left behind.

As of Dec 22, god willing, I will have been a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous 25 years.

I like Cambodia since its outsides match my mental insides.  Rough, and a bit lawless; but not too bad, naughty but not very hard; in other words the 3rd world.

As I have told some of you I expect to undergo some emotional growth this coming year. 65 is a milestone and I will need to re-evaluate how I PERCEIVE THE WORLD, MYSELF and ageing.

IN THE MEANTIME I intend to spend 2 weeks a month in Cambodia, and explore other options the rest of the time.

…. As for who am I? Where am I going? And why do I exist?  Those major questions may never be answered but I’ll think about them over the next year.

Since, I don’t seem to get along with any of my children, and since I am determined to not hang out with people who don’t like me very much any-more, I do not expect to see any of them over the next year….

In part, I replied as follows:

…. I had my 65th birthday last June and didn’t tell a soul. I was aware that it was a significant milestone, but only for me, no-one else, so I decided to keep it myself. I wasn’t sad at all, just contemplative.

I empathise with you in trying to figure out just where you are in your life. I have been doing exactly the same thing – I’m 65 and its time to take stock; maybe not too many years left in this old world of ours

Also, like you, I have lost a number of friends of exactly my age and younger over the past few years. It does put things into perspective.

Anyway, I am now in my 11th month of sobriety and feeling just fine as far as resisting temptation is concerned. I really doubt if I will ever go back to the booze again.

It probably sounds a bit pathetic, but now I have found the most wonderful girl, I have decided to put all my whoring activities behind me. As long as I am obsessed with messing around with whores, I will never get around to doing something a bit ‘better’ with what remains of my life.

My lady satisfies all my sexual needs so there is simply no need to look elsewhere. It’s a bit like booze; the longer I stay away from the whores, the easier it becomes to do without them and the more I am inclined to pursue more worthwhile pursuits, such as reading, writing and spending time with my new ‘family’.

I am going to really push on with my novel over the next few months and see if I can’t get it finished….. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one day my blog will go ‘viral’ and then I will have a ready-made customer base for my novel

In my dreams, I know, but I can always live in hope…

I also agree with you about ditching friends you don’t get on with etc. If you have read my blog lately you will know that I have done just that to one of my whore-monger mates. There’s no point in getting out of sorts with people you don’t like, don’t get along with or simply seem to disagree with on most things in life. Maybe when I was younger I had a greater capacity for tolerance, but at my age, I simply have no time for idiots, bigots and ignoramuses….

Of course, 65 is a completely artificial milestone. One could just as easily take stock of one’s life at 30, 40, 50 or 60 or at any age at all and I am sure that many do just that. I guess 65 is significant in as much as many people in the west consider it an appropriate age to retire;  it used to herald the end of middle age and the start of old age. In years gone by, a vast majority of men were dead by the time they were 70

But in these days of miracle medical advances, when more and more  people are living active lives well into their 80’s and even their 90’s, 65 is still a relatively young age for many. But maybe this fact in itself is as good an incentive as any to take stock; with luck, I might have another 20 years ahead of me.

I know, pigs might fly…

Anyway, during the past week I have made some steady progress on my novel, written a couple of satisfying blogs, have taken Noo out shopping and we even went out for an evening meal on two separate occasions. I have finished reading a novel I started a few weeks back and have since started on another one

Last Thursday was Loy Krathong and Noo spent all day making two beautiful krathongs. In the evening, we went out for a meal and then found a nice spot by the lake where we made our wishes and launched our crafts.

I must say that since the lake has filled up and the landscaped areas in Pong have started to blossom with grass and flowering trees and shrubs, the Lakeside area is becoming an ever more pleasant place to live.

A well as pleasant walks northwards  along the lakeside track that I have previously written about, , we have now discovered another walk that takes us up to the 7/11 junction, and then into the huge Wat compound where there are  many beautiful trees that have been planted and cultivated by the monks over many years. The Wat grounds are  now a very peaceful – dare I say it – spiritual place to take a stroll in the late afternoon.

I have been out for an evening walk every day this week with Noo, and Cookie, my very large golden retriever, and, ladies and gents, believe it or not, for the last 5 days, I have also taken a swim in my pool, the first such exercise for over a year. OK, I didn’t swim very far, but every little helps and hopefully, as I become fitter I will increase my efforts.

‘Outnumbered’ by a Doggy Sit-In

I don’t know if any of you watch an English sit-com entitled ‘Outnumbered’. It is amusing  and cringe-worthy in equal measure, and follows the domestic trials and tribulations of a young married couple with three of the most precocious kids ever invented. The title tells it all – the hapless couple are nearly always on the receiving end, as time and again, they are simply outnumbered by their adorable, but oh so naughty, young offspring

I was reminded of that poor couple s few days ago when Noo and I tried to leave the house to go out for our Loy Krathong meal and krathong launching, last Thursday

There was a very large, noisy Loy Krathong Temple fair celebration going on just down the road by the Lakeside, which had attracted thousands of revellers from Pattaya. Unfortunately this also meant that fire crackers and firework displays were the order of the day.

Now if there is one thing that terrifies my 3 dogs – including Cookie – it is the sound of fireworks. So they were already very nervous from all the firework noise when Noo and I tried to leave the house for our evening out. To my utter astonishment, as soon as I opened the front door of my car, Cookie jumped straight onto the front seat and before I could blink an eye, Somchai and Yoghurt, our 2 little shih tzus, immediately followed.

They weren’t about to let us leave them alone with all those horrible firework banging noises going on. Do you think I could get my 40 kilo golden retriever out of that car? Not a bit of it. She stubbornly refused every entreaty to move and when I tried to pull her out, she wasn’t having it and resisted all my efforts. Ditto the little ‘rats’. As fast as we dragged them out of the car, and put them down on the patio, they just jumped straight back in again!

They were staging a ‘sit-in’ the likes of which I have never seen before. Normally, all three dogs, especially Cookie, are very obedient and will always come when called, but on this occasion, they were just not having it. They were staying put – come what may.

Now I know what the bailiffs at Dale Farm in Essex must have felt like when they tried to evict the ‘travellers’

So we had to figure out how to outsmart them. We pretended that we had given up the idea of going out and went back into the house and opened up the patio door, turned on the TV and sat down on the sofa. Then, when we called them, they came running in to join us as they do every evening. While Noo held their attention with some enticing banana tid bids,  I quickly shut the patio door to prevent their exit from the house. Then we quickly ran to the kitchen, shutting the door to the lounge behind us to stop them following us, and made our escape through the back door.

Our ‘babies’ were safe and sound  inside the house, and they had the TV to keep them company for a couple of hours and off we went at last – though I do admit that both of us felt rather guilty at stooping so low to deceive them. That little trick will probably only work once and my little brood probably spent the evening debating how they could get the upper hand next time around.

Spooks and spies

I mentioned in Mobi-Babble that I have just finished reading novel. It was A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré. He is one of the few mid to late 20th Century authors that I really respect – indeed he has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, as a young man. I have been hooked ever since. His expert use of the ‘spy genre’ to write beautifully crafted works of suspense filled, cerebral fiction have provided me with countless hours of enjoyment through the years and surely Tinker Tailor soldier Spy   constitutes the definitive Spy novel, which any aspiring author in this genre should aspire to.

If I had to choose, The Perfect Spy, published in 1986 is Le Carré’s greatest novel. It is the one that extracted by far the greatest range of emotions in me, the reader, and I found it a really profound and exhilarating piece of writing. It is no coincidence that this, his greatest novel in my opinion, is largely autobiographical. If you want to know the real le Carré, read Perfect Spy. At the end, you may not know him, but you will get a very strong sense of the man as you laugh and cry your way through this veritible mountain of a novel.

Le Carré was in some ways fortunate to have lived, albeit briefly, the life of a spy and to have travelled and experienced life in rarefied circles as a young man, which provided him with so much rich material with which to sustain a successful career as a writer. I wonder how he would have fared if he hadn’t been recruited into MI5, who –  I learned only recently – decided to let him go, once his first spy novel hits the shelves. They couldn’t have a successful spy novelist also working as an undercover spy, could they now?

I tend to the view that whatever career le Carré had ended up in, he would have eventually turned his hand to writing and have become a successful author. It is nevertheless a fact that a vast majority of successful pieces of fiction have their roots in a limited list of subject matters; such as cops and robbers, westerns, detective stories, and so on and the certainly spy story genre is near the top of that limited list.

When I was younger, I was less discerning about the types of novels that I read, and for a while I would enjoy best sellers by the likes of Alistair Maclean, James Clavell and even the likes of John Grisham whose Rainmaker,I would still rate as a cracking read, although I haven’t picked up a copy in more than 20 years, so my opinion might have changed.

But these, plus many more famous names that I used to enjoy, have all long since passed their ‘sell by’ dates. I can truly state that my disillusion was so great in the case of all three of the above mentioned authors, that when I picked up their latest offerings one day, and found them so appallingly written, I could not even struggle through to the end of their respective efforts and tossed them away in disgust.

I have often speculated on why this should be. Why should the quality of a renowned author’s work deteriorate so badly that I couldn’t bear to read it any-more? Was it because they had run out of ideas – or inspiration? Was it because they had aged and they simply didn’t have what it took any-more? Was it because they were so rich and lived the good life to such an extent that that the creative juices had just dried up? After all, it is a difficult and essentially lonely, heart-searching existence to write a good novel.

Or was it something more cynical? Were these authors so famous that their name was guaranteed to sell, and as a result, were their latest efforts not actually written by them at all – but ‘ghost written’ by some hack engaged by the publisher?

I will never know the answer to these questions and I actually suspect that it is a combination of any or all of the above that provides the truth of it all.

A few years back, le Carré wrote a book entitled ‘The Constant Gardener’ which was also made into a film. Now I didn’t throw this book away half way through; nor did I think it was badly written, but I did feel very strongly that it was sadly lacking in what I can only describe as having the elements of a ‘good read’. The cold war, of which le Carré is an expert, was long gone, and he clearly was trying to branch out into a different genre, in an effort to be current and capture the imagination of a new, younger audience.

The plot was ingenious enough – as plots go; wicked, super rich   pharmaceutical companies doing their dirty work in darkest Africa and a beautiful young white female human rights activist getting caught up in it all and getting killed for her efforts; leaving her husband to unravel the unholy mess. But although we had some of the trade mark embassy stuff and some typically intriguing, wonderfully crafted le Carré characters, as far as this lifelong le Carré fan is concerned, it just didn’t work as a ‘good read’. The book seemed to be a protest against the ethics of international drugs companies and le Carré was using the device of a novel to get the message across. Nothing wrong with that if it worked; but for me it didn’t.

I was actually amazed that they made a film of it, and this time I confess that although I bought the DVD, to this day I have not succeeding in getting past the opening 30 minutes. For me, it just doesn’t work as a film – any-more than the story did as a book, despite the fact that the gorgeous and brilliant Rachel Weiss won an Oscar for her role.

Le Carré was 70 when he wrote ‘The Constant Gardener’ and I wondered if he had simply lost his touch at his advanced age. Maybe it was time for the great master to hang up his pen and call it a day. Since then, he wrote ‘The Mission Song’ when he was 75, ‘A Most Wanted Man’ when he was 77 and most recently, ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ last year at the ripe old age of79. Pretty good output for an oldie, methinks.

I have read Mission Bell and Most Wanted, but have yet to read ‘Traitor’.

I confess that I wasn’t too impressed with Mission bell. It seemed to contain nothing original and frankly could have been a ‘collage’ of any one of half a dozen of his earlier spy stories, taken at random. That’s probably being a bit harsh, but it was what I thought as I read it. Nothing new, everything seemed to have been borrowed from another book and there was simply no magic. Maybe it was me, maybe I had just moved on – after all there was a time way back when I was teenager when I was enthralled with the likes of Harold Robbins or Denis Wheatley, God forbid!

But in ‘A Most Wanted Man’, at the age of 77, in my opinion, le Carré  has produced his finest novel for many years. He has moved on from the cold war era, but he is back to his best with a riveting, very modern tale of spies and spooks in today’s Germany, complete with petty jealousies and infighting between not only the various national agencies (British, German and American), but also internecine warfare within the same agencies. The tale is riveting and the reader can’t help rooting for the major protagonists, both good and bad. There is even a believable, modern day love story.

Whether he is back to his absolute best is debatable, but Most Wanted is a very good read, I recommend it. I wonder what Traitor will be like?

I recently dusted down the BBC’s 1979 adaptation of Tinker Tailor. Watching it now, it largely stands the test of time; after all, the characters are so brilliantly played by what was then the cream of British acting. The only unsettling part of the production was the music. I very rarely comment on soundtrack music – except to say that I particularly like something – as I never find music particularly distracting. But in Tinker Tailor, it is so strident and so inappropriate that I honestly wonder what the producer was thinking of. It is truly an abortion, but fortunately, it is used sparingly, and most of the dramatic sequences have no background music at all.

A film version of Tinker tailor was recently released and has received rave reviews. I can’t wait to see it.

I have also recently been watching penultimate series of the BBC TV series, ‘Spooks’, (series 9), a spy drama based on today’s MI5.

Le Carré is on record in saying that ‘Spooks’ is total rubbish and, of course, he is quite correct. It lacks any real credibility and I am quite sure that even the faintest resemblance with anything that really goes on in MI5 or the Home Office is pure coincidence.

But it is good, well-acted, addictive, gimmicky, high-tech, hokum. Sometimes it goes way over the top but the romps are enjoyable and the clever plot lines keep you on your toes. The mayhem and intrigues within MI5 itself would surely do justice to a le Carré novel, (Sorry John, but it’s true…). I suspect that if I had seen the previous 8 series, I might well have got a little tired of it long before series 9 came along, but I am where I am and am looking forward to watching the 10th and final series in the coming weeks.

A Most Lustful gentlemen.

Yes, you can see where I got my title idea from…..

It is comforting to know that le Carré is still producing great stuff well into his seventies, so hopefully poor Mobi – a mere stripling at 65- can produce  a piece of work that someone, somewhere would want to read.

Or maybe not!

I am publishing below, the next two sections of Chapter One of my novel. Last Wednesday I published sections i through iv, and today I am publishing v and vi. The chapter is not yet complete and more sections will be added in the coming blogs. Once Chapter One is complete, I will reinstate it under a new ‘Page Tab’.

As ever, your constructive comments are welcome.

A MOST LUSTFUL GENTLEMAN

Chapter One (Continued)

v

Na was squatting on the hot earth, in the sparse shade of her hut, watching the two figures in deep conversation on the other side of the ramshackle building. They couldn’t see her, as she was perched very low on the ground, but when she peaked around the corner of the hut, she could see her mother and a strange, scary looking Thai man very clearly. He was a tall, very thin young man, and his expensive looking, blue designer jeans hung very loosely from his slim hips, above which, he wore a long-sleeved, body-hugging shiny black shirt, which must have felt very uncomfortable in the midday sun. But it was his scarred face that commanded Na’s attention. He had a long, vivid scar running down his right cheek and another smaller but more pronounced horizontal one on his forehead, just above his right eye.  The second scar was so close to his eye that whatever sharp instrument may have caused it, must have  also penetrated his eye, as the man seemed to have a permanent, eerie squint. To little Na, peering at him from the other side of the hut, his overall countenance sent a little shiver of fright and apprehension down her skinny frame.

    He wore a very thick gold necklace from which dangled several ‘Buddha’ amulets. ‘‘Nobody wears gold around here’ she was thinking, ‘It’s far too dangerous.’ Any one of a dozen desperate and starving wretches could appear at any moment and rip it from the young man’s neck. She looked around, but there was no one in sight – nobody seemed to have spotted him – not yet at any rate. Then she caught sight of the large, gleaming white car, parked a few meters away in the soi. She could see that the engine was running and then she saw a second man, sitting in the driver’s seat, and deduced that the young man must have arrived in that car.

    She realised that the man must be someone special – someone powerful, or he wouldn’t dare to stand there dressed like that with so much gold on display for all to see. But what was he  talking to her mother about? A sudden sinking feeling hit her stomach like a hammer blow. Oh no…this time it would be her turn….

    ‘No! not again! No Mama! No…’ she forlornly muttered to herself. But Mama promised me – she promised she would never do it again. Why she was doing it? ever since little Tom had gone, they had been eating quite well and life had been just a bit more tolerable. So, why the need to sell her? Why?

    But as she squatted there, terrified, she actually knew, deep down, why her mother was doing it. For the last week or so, the already meagre fare had been getting less and less and the quality of the food had taken a distinct turn for the worse. She grimly concluded that the money that her mother had received for Tom was now at an end and that her mother was desperate, yet again.

    Na considered briefly the notion of running away, but soon dismissed it. She had nowhere to go, and she doubted if she would get very far before she was caught and returned to her mother. Bravely, she realised that she would have to go with that man and do those unspeakable things that her friends had told her about if it meant that her dear younger sister, Nid, and her mother, were to have enough food to eat.

    ‘Who knows?’ She wondered whimsically, ‘Maybe if I go with the man, Mama will get enough money to get little Tom back’.

     But something told her that it was not going to be like that. She watched them still in earnest conversation. Suddenly, her mother called her name.

    ‘Na, where are you? Come here!’

    ‘This is it,’ she thought to herself, ‘Be calm, Na and be brave.’ She stood up and walked around the hut towards the two adults.

     ‘Na,’ her mother started, her face seemingly devoid of all emotion, ‘Na, I have something to tell you.’

    ‘It’s OK Mama, I know.’

     ‘You know? How do you know?

     ‘Mama, I’m not stupid. I know your money is all gone.

    Her mother stared guiltily at her.

   ‘Its all gone isn’t it, Mama?’

    ‘I am  sorry, my daughter, I have to do what I must do…’

    ‘Na looked at her mother and said resignedly,  ‘There’s nothing to be sorry about, Mama, don’t worry. I am ready. Can I take some of my things with me?’

     ‘Ready? Take some of your things? What are you talking about?

     ‘Mama, I know I have to go with this man.’

    ‘No! No! You’re not going with him!’

    ‘Not going with him? Then what the…?’

    All of a sudden, with yet another sickening jolt in her stomach, Na realised what was happening. She looked at her mother who was trying to avoid her daughter’s searching gaze. As the truth dawned on her, she shouted louder that she had ever shouted in her young life.

    ‘No Mama! No Mama! Not Nid! Please tell me it’s not Nid!’

    Dow looked at her elder daughter. ‘ Nid has to go with the man,’ she said matter of factly.

    ‘But why Nid? Send me, Mama, Let me go – Nid is too young – she’s only seven years old.’

    ‘It has to be Nid. The man only wants Nid. He says you are too ugly and in any case I need you to stay with me and look after me. I’m sorry, but it has to be Nid.’

‘But she is very young!’

    ‘So was Tom. Don’t worry, they will look after her, won’t you? She said to the young pimp who was fast becoming tired of all this family drama that was  playing out in front of him.

    ‘If you don’t get the kid ready to leave in five minutes the deal is off! He retorted sharply. I haven’t got all day to spend in this putrid, steaming slum. Get her here – now!’

    It was all too much for Na who broke down and fell to the ground sobbing and hysterically grabbing handfuls of earth..

    ‘And as for you,’ the pimp snarled, pointing at the broken hearted girl lying on the ground – don’t kid yourself that anyone would ever want you. You’re too skinny, too black and your pock marked, disease ridden skin is disgusting! Not even a revolting, mother-fucking farang would look twice at you!’

    Dow went into the hut and returned almost immediately, leading her terrified sister by the hand. She was a very cute, six year old little girl. The improved diet she had enjoyed over the past year had filled her body out and, unlike her elder sister, she had been spared the skin ravages that so many of the slum kids developed. Her face was very pretty and her skin was smooth and glowing – ideal for the filthy business at hand.

    The man grabbed Nid’s hand and half led and half dragged the poor, weeping girl towards the car. Her mother watched, dry-eyed, as Na, still lying on the ground realised that she was about to lose her last remaining sibling. She jumped to her feet and ran to the car where the man was trying to get Nid to climb into the back seat.

    She grabbed hold of her. ‘Nid! Nid!  You can’t go! Somebody help! Somebody stop them!’ she screamed at the growing crowd of curious spectators who had now emerged from the nearby huts.

    But nobody moved and the man tried to extricate Nid from her sister’s clutches and push her down into the back seat.

    The two sisters hugged each other in terror and for a moment it seemed as though a miracle had happened and they would be let go. The pimp suddenly released his hold on Nid, and walked around to the driver’s door to speak to the driver. But within seconds the driver, a very large and frightening looking man, emerged from the car and the two men returned to the two girls and forcibly pulled them apart – the driver half carrying and half dragging Na back to her hut, while the pimp threw Nid into the rear seat of the car slamming the door with a steely grin of triumph on his scarred face.

    Climbing in the front passenger seat, the pimp barked an order at Dow who came bustling over to him. He reached in his pocket and handed Dow a brown envelope, The driver put the limo in gear, and for a few brief moments, the wheels spun forlornly on the dry mud, but eventually they gained traction and the car sped away, out of the slum and out of Na’s life.

     Na watched transfixed as her sister was taken away. As the car started to disappear into the distance, she emitted a loud, piercing wail. Her mother walked over and tried to comfort her but Na shrugged her off. She didn’t want to be consoled. She just wanted lose herself in her own anguish.

    By now, a huge crowd of slum dwellers had gathered outside Dow’s hovel and even these hardened, desperate people, for whom the only thing that really mattered was where their next meal was coming from, were saddened by the plight of the pock-marked, emaciated nine year old girl. They watched in silence as Na walked slowly down the soi in the direction of the departing vehicle, her piercing wails ripping through the air and her tears seemingly unquenchable.

    At least some of them understood that within the space of a single year, this traumatised kid had irretrievably lost the two people that she held most dear in her brief life.

*** 

vi

    It seemed to Na that she had spent her whole life on top of a pile of rubbish, scratching around and digging for anything useful that could be salvaged and sold for a few measly baht. She was thinner and looked more skeletal and malnourished than ever, notwithstanding the fact that since her sister’s departure, food had become somewhat more plentiful.

    It was six months since Nid had been driven away by the two scary men, and for the first three months Na had barely eaten anything. Her mother had to virtually force feed her with a few spoonful’s of rice every night or surely she would have starved to death.

    After her sister’s departure, she had not stopped crying for two solid days and even now was she was still prone, at a moment’s notice, to burst into uncontrollable tears. She had withdrawn within herself and had no friends, seemingly content to spend her days on the piles of rubbish and half eating the meal that her mother put in front of her every night. In the late evening she would lie on her mat, staring at the corrugated roof for hours on end, before finally succumbing to a few brief hours of sleep. The scars on her face, which had prompted that horrible man to shout at her that she was ugly, had become much worse and had now spread to the rest of her body.

    Dow was concerned for her daughter’s health and sanity but she had no idea what to do about it, nor indeed any real inclination to try. She was a simple, superficial soul, of limited intelligence, old before her time – worn out by the efforts of trying to keep herself and her children alive these past nine years. She truly lived day by day, trying not to worry what would happen when the money from the sale of Nid ran out. She simply did not possess sufficient strength of mind to think much further than her next meal. If she thought anything all, it simply that whatever will be, will be. It would be her karma. Maybe she had done something very bad in her last life to suffer so much in this one. Maybe her next life would be better.

    On this particular morning she was cheered by the familiar sight of a minibus loaded with elderly farangs, who had  just alighted from their battered vehicle and were heading in her direction. The farangs had been visiting the slums for the past year or so and they came armed with desperately needed food, clothing, bottled water and medicines. In particular, they always had a several boxes of formula milk and nappies for the babies in the slum. Before they left, Dow knew they would come over and give her some bottles of water and a small bag of rice.

    From the summit of the rubbish heap, Na also welcomed these visits from these strange looking people. She never went near them , but in her miserable despair, she instinctively knew that these people were inherently good folk. It actually warmed her heart a little to watch them try to communicate with the young children and babies with a mixture of sign language and primitive Thai. She instinctively took to them,  not only because she could see that they were kind and were bringing things to the slum dwellers which eased their plight, but also because they brought a bit of laughter and fun back into their miserable, impoverished lives.

    As she watched, she saw her mother walk over and talk to the elderly woman who seemed to be in charge. Na gazed on in fascination, wondering what her mother was trying to say to the farang.  The white lady obviously didn’t understand because she called one of the well-dressed Thai men who had travelled with them in the bus to come over and translate. They chatted between them for a while and then her mother pointed up to her daughter sitting on top of the rubbish.

    Na’s heart sank, but not a lot. She was so inured to constant emotional trauma that nothing that her mother did to her could hurt her any more. She actually didn’t much care what happened.  The pointing from her mother turned to waving, and it was clear that her mother wanted Na to come and join them outside their hut. Na, got up and slowly climbed down to the ground, idly reflecting on what could possibly be the next instalment in her brief but eventful existence.

    As Na approached the group of farangs standing with and her mother, she feared for the worst, but at the same time another part of her wondered how this seemingly kind, jovial old woman could possibly hurt her or do something bad to her.

    Dow addressed the Thai translator. ‘Look at my daughter’s skin, it is very bad, can you give me some cream to put on it and make it better?’

    Na’s skin was truly a sad state of affairs. Her face was a mess of vivid scarlet  pock marks and scabs, some of them still effusing pus. The farang woman looked at Na with compassionate and then examined her arms and legs which were similarly blighted.

    ‘This girl is in a dreadful state, Khun Suthep, she said to the translator. ‘If she doesn’t get immediate treatment she is going to be very ill; she might even die – she is so thin and malnourished, I doubt her immune system can fight this  disease much longer. Look, it has spread all over her poor little body.’

    The translator explained to Dow what the farang had said.

    ‘So can she help me? Does she have some medicine we can use?’ she asked, plaintively.

    Na observed in silence as the discussion went back and forth.

    At length, the young, Thai translator spoke to Dow: ‘Miss Kate has said that she will help your daughter but she will have to go with her to her Children’s Mission. She says the girl cannot stay here or she will never get better.’

    ‘Go with her! No Never – she has to stay here, with me! She is all I have left and she has to help me and take care of me.’

    The usually jovial farang lady, who Na now knew was called Kate, now looked very serious.

    ‘If she doesn’t leave this slum, she will never get better and she might even die,’ the translator told Dow. ‘Your daughter is very ill and it is too dirty here. Even if we give her some antibiotics and put cream on her skin to stop the scabbing, within a few days the skin will become re-infected. Your daughter is in a very bad condition.’

    ‘But…but… how will I survive. I need Na to earn money on the rubbish heap, the money I got from… from… is nearly gone. I will starve if Na has to go….’

    Dow was quiet for for a few seconds, trying to take in this devastating news. If she let Na go with these people, she would lose her only source of income. But if she insisted that Na stay with her, she might become sicker and sicker and even die. What would she do then? But maybe they are lying to her. Maybe Na is not as sick as they say. What should she do?

    Then a bright idea occurred to her. ‘Unless… unless the farang woman wants to buy Na. Does she want to buy her? How much can she pay…?’

    Heated discussions then ensued between Kate and her translator. Na wondered if they were trying to decide how much they should offer to pay for her.

    ‘Khun Dow,’ the Thai man said at last. ‘Miss Kate wants you to understand that the Children’s Mission does not want to buy Na. They would never buy anyone. It’s a very bad thing to buy or sell a human being – especially kids. She only wants to help the poor children in Pattaya; to feed them if they are hungry and give them a home if they are homeless and try to give some of them an education. She says that if you let Na go to the mission with her, she will bring food to you every week, and you can come and visit Na whenever you want to. And when Na is completely better, she can come back to live with you. How about that?’

    Dow was unsure whether she could trust this group of strangers. She looked at her daughter – she certainly looked to be in a pitiful state. Maybe she would die at that if she didn’t get help soon. What choice did she have? And she knew that these farangs came regularly every week so she knew that she check with them next week about her daughter and make sure she received her ration of food.

    ‘Well,’ she said finally, ‘I agree to let her go, but just until she gets better again. I love her too much to let her go for too long and I won’t be able to sleep till she is back with me.’

    Na looked at her mother with a mixture of pity and a new, darker feeling that was bordering on disgust. But she quickly dismissed the bad thoughts from her mind. It was her duty to take care of her mother, no matter what she said or what she had done to her or her brother and sister.

    ‘So you want me to go with these farangs, Mama?’

    ‘Yes, my child, just for a while, just until you are better. After all you won’t be much use to me if you die, will you …?’

***

BUTT…BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot!…