Saturday, December 26, 2015

JAI YEN MAI by Peter Nolan Smith

Several years ago on Boxing Day my daughter was playing on our soi in Pattaya. A pick-up roared down the street like the driver had murdered his wife and was bell-bent for the border. From my perspective the bumper came too close to my little precious daughter and I jumped on my scooter to chase the speeding pick-up.

At the corner of main drag I slapped his passenger door with my open palm.

It was a clumsy move and I swerved off my bike to avoid entering the car mayhem of Soi Bongkot. The bike dropped to the ground and I struggled to right the Yamaha. My neighbor, who appeared to have such a small head through the windshield, got out of the car in a football hooligan fury. His small noggin was attached to a King Kong body tattooed with Chelsea slogan. I spotted 'Strive for victory shun defeat!' a nanosecond before his first punch.

Lefts and rights gashed my eyebrow and cheek. Grappling his arms, I realized, “Shit this guy is strong and knows what he’s doing.”

Finally he was out of breath and asked, “Had enough?”

“Yeah, but you’re still a cunt for nearly hitting my daughter.”

We left it like that.

My daughter's mother regarded at my black eyes and bruised face.

“What you want to do?”

“Nothing right now.”

Taking a baseball bat to his windshield or slashing his tires would escalate the conflict to the point where someone would get hospitalized since Pattaya was packed with lager louts and hooligans avoiding travel in Europe now that Spain has an extradition treaty with the UK.

“Good. Better to have jai-yen.” She kissed my cheek and gave me a beer. Fights led to blood and blood led to death.

My Thai friends from the Buffalo Bar said that we had to get him.

Gae-kaen or revenge.

“But not today.” They advised with a grim smile. “Wait, we get him later.”

Their list of suggestions were dominated by a beating or vandalizing his truck.

“We do. You not worry. You not call the police?”

“No police.” Calling the police meant paying sin-bon or bribes without any guarantee of satisfaction.

“Good.” The Thais nodded in agreement. “Lam-Luat no know. Good.”

My farang friends asked, “What happened to you?”

I explained the situation, but changed the story to say that my assailant was an 80 year-old man.

“Really?”

“Some of these geezers are wiry and fast.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Nothing as long as he drives slower in the neighborhood.”

Doing nothing felt funny.

George W Bush wouldn’t do nothing, but the Pentagon wasn’t in my back pocket.

Nothing seemed wrong, although the skinhead lout drove by my house every day with a pit bull in the back. At least he was going slower.

I spent a week doing push-ups. It was a waste of time.

I was no longer a fighter, but I was vicious and spotted a cluster of red ants in my mango tree.

Normally I would have sprayed the swarming tentacles with a pesticide since mot-daeng were wicked biters. This time I went into the kitchen and brought out a pot of honey.

“Winnie the Pooh.” My daughter called out, as I coated the leaves with the sweet sticky honey.

My wife took one look and said, “Gae-kaen.”

I nodded my head and waited for the ants to gather their clan.

Red ants swarmed over the leaves to get at the honey. Within an hour the branch bent under their weight. By dark they numbered in the thousands, thanks to my attentive resupply of honey.

It was time.

My daughter's mother was watching a Thai soap opera. She only had eyes for the TV. I drove my scooter around the block. The pick-up truck was parked on the street.

I returned to the mango tree and coaxed the red ants into a paper bag. It actually felt heavy and then I dressed in black camouflage for the night. I crossed through the backyards of several abandoned house to the adjacent street. No dogs barked out a warning.

The skinhead’s truck was sheltered under a tree. I snuck up to the driver’s door and slathered a thick dollop of honey on the door handle. Another was painted under the door. I checked the street and uplifted the bag . A little too fast, because more ants fell on me than the door.

Thousands of them sought my flesh.

Hundreds of them found it.

I threw down the bag and ran into the darkness with the ants biting everywhere.

My daughter's mother spotted the welts.

“Gae-kaen.”

"Yeah, gae-kaen."

The next day I heard from neighbors how the football hooligan had come out his house and gotten into to his car to be attacked by thousands of fire ants.

They regarded me with approval.

I smiled a 'yim-mai-loo', saying I didn't know what they were talking about, but they smiled back to say they knew, because like the Irish the Thais believe that revenge was always best served cold.

Especially with red ants on hand.

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