Preface

Udorn

The Klong

The Routine

The Monsoon Season

One More For the Ditch

A Disappointment

Samchai

The Morning After

Family

Housegirls

 

The rainy season which began in mid-June brought some relief from the hot season's endless days and sleepless nights. Evenings became a little more relaxed and with bombing in Cambodia over, even lunch could be had in something less than a rush. Ben and Willie's trailer became an after-lunch and after-work gathering place for the simple reason that their trailer was where most of the housegirls hung out.

Dhow was Ben and Willie's housegirl. She was older than most of the other housegirls — in her late thirties, Cass guessed. Homely and gentle, Dhow liked people and was friendly and generous to everyone. Dang, the housegirl for the two trailers next to Dhow's, almost always worked beside Dhow in Ben's end of the trailer. Dhow and Dang were always there when Cass or Alan went to visit Ben or Willie in the late afternoon, and many of the other housegirls would drift in and out of the socializing. Over time a before-dinner gathering in Ben and Willie's trailer became de rigueur for Cass, Ben, Willie and Wilson Simms and often, Alan. Though Alan wasn't part of the squadron, he and Ben had become close friends.

"It's like a rent-a-wife agency," Ben said, taking off his uniform pants and throwing them on the bed.

"What is?" Wilson asked, tilting his head and smoothing his mustache.

"The housegirl organization," Ben said. "They check your bed for hairs. If there aren't any female hairs in there they try to rent you a wife."

"How can they tell a female hair?"

"I don't know. They can even tell who the hair came from. If you don't have any female hairs in your bed and you're not interested in renting a wife, they think you're a katoy," a fairy. He pulled on some comfortable-looking frayed trousers just as Dang came through the bathroom from Willie's end of the trailer.

Dang walked around Ben, looking at his pants. "Mai dee," No good. "Take off! I trow away."

"Why?" Ben swung from side to side to look at his pants.

"Mai dee!" Dang said again, indignantly. "Why you wear?"

"Because they're comfortable pants."

Dang put her index finger through a hole in the back and tickled him. "Numba ten," she said. "Hab hole."

Ben gave her a quick swat on the rear and ran through the bathroom into Willie's end of the trailer. Dang ran after him and gave him a swat in return. He grabbed her and they both rolled onto Willie's bed as Dhow came through Willie's door with a stack of freshly ironed clothes."Tam alai?" She said, sharply. What're you doing?

Dang stood up and pointed at Ben. "He wear pants mai dee — hab hole."

"Ohhoi," Dhow said. "Mai dee."

"Take off!" Dang said.

"In front of everybody?" Ben screwed up his face and curled his fingers against his lips.

"Mai pin lai," It doesn't matter, Dang said. "Take off. I trow away."

"Dyelcon," Hang on. Ben went back to his end of the trailer with Dang close behind, stepped into his closet and rolled the door shut.

"What you do?" Dang shouted.

"I'm shy," Ben said in a muffled voice through the closet door.

"Mai eye," Not shy. "What you talk?"

"Ching ching," That's the truth.

"Mai ching," Not so. "You newah shy! Monee." Come out.

Ben rolled the closet open a crack and handed her the pants. "Ti ni," Here. "Number one pants."

"Not numba one," Dang said. "Numba ten. No can fix. I trow away." In a minute Ben came out of the closet wearing a pair of green swimming trunks with a purple and orange flower pattern. Dang gave Ben and the shorts a disparaging look. "Where you go?"

"Go officers' club. Have dinner."

"Great," Wilson stood up. "Let's go.

Cass got up from Ben's easy chair.. "I'll go change into my best jockstrap."

Dhow and Dang launched into a loud, excited discussion in Thai. "Take off!" Dang said, pointing at Ben's shorts.

"Not a chance," Ben covered his groin with his hands.

Dhow rolled Ben's closet open and flipped through the clothes. She took down a sharply pressed pair of blue slacks. "You wear!" She thrust the slacks toward Ben. "Not bling dis-hon-or this trailer."

"Too conservative," Wilson said.

"You wear, go offica club!" Dang grabbed the slacks out of Dhow's hand and pushed them against Ben's chest.

"Sooay mak," Very pretty, Ben said, watching the color rise in her face.

"Mai sooay!" Not pretty. Dang pointed at his shorts. "Numba ten!"

"Okay," Ben said, "I'll trade you. The shorts for my number one comfortable pants."

Dang said something loud to Dhow in Thai. Dhow finished putting away Ben's clothes and straightened up. Dang pushed the old pants against Ben's chest on top of the pressed slacks. "Sawadee," she said in a haughty voice. "We go now." Both women walked toward the door with their noses in the air.

"Oh oh," Ben said. "Bainai?" Where you going?

"Bai bon," Go home, Dang said. "Not s-tay this trailer. Numba ten!"

"Sawadee," Ben said.

"Sawadee!" Dang slammed the door.

"Anybody want another one?" Ben went over to the top of his refrigerator and splashed a little bourbon into his glass.

"You're not actually going to the club in those shorts?" Wilson asked.

"No. But these women are gonna take over if I let 'em."

"Looks to me as if you've found a true friend in Dang," Cass said. "Thinking about renting a wife?"

"Nah. But It's hard being a straight arrow with Dang around all the time. That's a really nice body. When I get home I'm gonna feed my wife rice."

"It'll be hard…" Wilson flopped back on Ben's bed and stared through his drink at the ceiling. "It'll be hard getting used to not just taking your clothes off at night and dropping them… and some other things too."

"Like shining shoes," Ben said. "Maybe when I get home I can teach my wife to shine shoes."

"Yeah," Wilson said. "That'll go over big."

"Honey, you're great in bed but you don't shine shoes worth a damn," Ben mused.

"How come you know so much about Dang's physique if you're such a straight arrow?" Cass asked.

"Because when she hits me it's like being hit by a truck.

The door at the other end of the trailer opened and Willie came in. "What'd you guys do?" he asked, taking things out of his pockets and dropping them on his dresser top. "Dhow and Dang are really pissed off."

"Are they still here?" Ben asked.

"They're over at Wilson's trailer with a bunch of other girls. They're all talking a blue streak about something. When a bunch of 'em get together and start jabbering I can never tell what they're talking about."

"I know what they're talking about," Ben said. "There's only one thing they ever talk about — sex."

"Not this time," Willie said. "You guys must've done something really bad."

The next day Annie was gone by the time Cass got to his trailer and Alan was nowhere to be found so he changed into slacks and a sport shirt and went on to the usual gathering at Ben's. He found Dhow, Dang, and two other women ironing on the floor in Ben's end of the trailer. Willie was bumbling around his end, whistling and changing clothes. Cass chatted with Willie for a few minutes before Ben came in. "Sawadee," Ben said to the girls.

"Sawadee," Dang said, too sweetly.

"Oh-oh," Ben opened his closet and rummaged around in it. "Oh-oh," he said again.

"Mai oh-oh," No oh oh, Dang said, smiling guardedly. "What the matter?"

"Where are they?"

"Where what?" Dang asked, smiling less guardedly.

"My pants."

"You lose?" Dang had a wide grin.

"Where are they?" Ben repeated.

"Mailoosie." Who knows? "Maybe kamoy" thief "get."

"You no want pants," Dhow said. "Pants numba ten."

Dang got up from the floor with a stack of finished ironing. "Bainai?" Where you going? Ben asked.

"Bai my trailer," Dang said. "Take shower. Bai khang khao." Go eat. "Bai bon." Go home. "Why you care?" Ben began tickling her ribs. "Yeut yeut!" Quit it, she giggled, trying not to drop the laundry.

"Bai find pants," Ben said, tickling harder.

"Mai bai," No way, Dang said. She dropping the pile of laundry on the floor and gave Ben a loud swat on the rear.

"Yeut yeut!" Stop! Dhow said in a loud voice. She jumped up and scooped Dang's laundry off the floor. "Numba ten!"

The other two women got up and folded the blankets they'd been using for ironing pads. "Sawadee," the taller one said. They both picked up their laundry piles and stalked out through Willie's room.

After they were gone Ben got up and stood in front of the door. "Okay! Nobody leaves until my pants get found."

"Maybe no can find," Dang said. "Maybe pants finit."

"Maybe Dang finit," Ben said. "Maybe Dhow finit."

"Mai," Dhow said. "Maybe can find pants. I go see." She edged Ben aside and went out the door.

"Why you don't buy new pants?" Dang asked.

"No have baht."

"Gohok," Baloney. "You hab mak mak baht."

"I love you honey, but you aint got baht," Ben sang.

The door opened and Dhow came in, closed the door carefully, went back to her folded blanket, and began ironing again.

"Well sa-crew me," Ben said, staring at her. Dhow went on ironing without looking up. "Did you find my pants?" he asked after a minute.

"You wait," Dhow said in a huffy tone of voice.

In a minute, Pranee, the taller of the two women who had been ironing with Dhow and Dang, came in with Ben's pants. She waied toward Ben with the pants in her hands, held them out to him, and when he took them, waied again, bowing low.

"Khawp khoon khap," Thank you, maam, Ben said. Pranee turned on her heel without a word and stalked out, holding her nose in the air.

"Why you bling dis-hon-or this trailer?" Dhow said. "Now all pooying" women "laugh Dang, Dhow."

"No," Ben said. "Now you can take 'em. Here. You take." He held the pants out to Dhow.

"Alai, na?" What, please? Dang said. "Why you do?"

"Because I'm the boss in my own trailer," Ben said.

Dhow took the pants. "You don't want?"

"No," Ben said. "I was going to throw them away anyway. You take home. Give away."

 

The following week Cass sent Willie, Ben and Wilson on a trip to Bangkok to meet with MACTHAI and the Thai communications-electronics people. They were gone four days, and a heavy training schedule kept everybody busy for several days after they got back. Finally, more than a week after the flap over Ben's pants, Cass went to Ben and Willie's trailer for an after-work drink only to find that neither Ben nor Willie was home yet. Only Dhow was there, dressed in street clothes and ready to go home. "Sawadee," Cass said. "Where is everybody?"

"Mailoo," I don't know, Dhow said, grumpily.

"Hey. What's the matter? Where's your smile?"

"Moho mak," I'm really mad.

"Why're you moho? Where's Dang?"

"Dang moho mak," Dhow said. "Maior Ben numba ten. Hurt Dang mak mak."

"How?" Cass asked. "What'd he do?"

"Pooying come Bangkok. Saleep this trailer. Make me sick!"

"When?"

"Maior Ben go Bangkok. Come back. Next day pooying come. Yeteday I come here. Maior Ben go work. She in bed. She tell me, 'Do this. Do that.' Moho mak."

Cass went on to dinner and found Ben, Willie, and Wilson at one of Jariya's tables. He pulled up a chair. "I hear you're in really big trouble," he said to Ben.

Ben put his hands over his ears. "I don't want to hear any more about it. That's all I've been hearing about for two days."

Jariya came up to the table. "Sawadee Colonel Cat. What you eat?"

"Sawadee Jariya," Cass said. "I haven't decided yet."

"He's been too busy chewing me out," Ben said.

"Ha!" Jariya looked at Ben and put her nose in the air. "I come back in a minute." She stalked away.

"Tsk, tsk," Cass said. "Dhow's really pissed at you. I guess Dang's not even talking to you huh? Now it looks as if Jariya's pissed too. What the hell did you do?"

"Yeah, he's in trouble," Wilson put his thumbs along his sides as if he were hooking them under suspenders and leaned back in his chair. "But it really wasn't his fault.

Willie started laughing. "The hell it wasn't. He asked for it."

"Come on," Cass said. "Anybody gonna tell me what happened?"

"Well," Willie said. "We stayed at the Nana hotel. And the first night we went down to the pool... Anyhow, there are these two girls. And these two guys..." He pointed at Ben and then at Wilson. "They invite 'em to go swimming. But the girls don't have swim suits. So these two go up to their rooms and find some tee-shirts. Anyhow, one thing leads to another and pretty soon the girls are just wearing underpants and tee shirts that hang down to their knees. And both of 'em are pretty well endowed… Everybody can see that, after the tee-shirts get wet, but especially the big broad Ben was with."

"Lek," Wilson said.

"Lek?" Cass said. "'Lek' means little."

"Big Lek," Wilson said.

"So after a while everybody disappears for the night," Willie went on. "And from then on every evening there's a wet tee-shirt party by the pool. The third night this asshole invites Big Lek to come up to Udorn and visit him. I'll admit he was pretty smashed, but even if I was bombed I'd have known better than that."

"I was just being sociable," Ben said, in a pained voice. "I didn't expect she'd do it."

"The night after we got back she showed up," Willie said. "She only stayed one night but things haven't been the same since. Dhow won't talk to any of us and Dang just walks through with her nose in the air." He pointed at Ben. "She won't even look at him."

"I can't say I blame her," Cass said, picking up a menu.

 

A week later Cass went by after work and found Ben and Dang, both lying sideways on Ben's bed. Dhow was in Willie's end of the trailer putting socks in a drawer. "Sawadee," Dang said, sitting up.

"Sawadee," Cass set the half gallon of bourbon he was carrying on Ben's refrigerator top. "I come bearing gifts. Well, at least one gift."

"How come?" Ben asked.

"You got any idea how much of your booze I've drunk this past month?"

"No sweat," Ben said. "Booze is cheap."

"Not that cheap." Cass took a glass from the top of Ben's refrigerator and splashed some bourbon into it. "Looks as if things are all sweetness and light around here again. How'd you bring that off?"

"You wouldn't believe the bribes I've paid this last week," Ben got up off the bed. "Maybe the booze wasn't such a bad idea after all."

"What kind of bribe got you out of that hole? You were so bad I could hardly believe it."

"He bad!" Dang said, giving Ben a hard whack on the rear. "He still bad."

"Hey," Ben rubbed his rear end. "I apologized. Hell… I've been apologizing all week."

Suddenly the door banged open and a small female bounced into the room with Wilson in tow.

"This is Lek," Wilson said, closing the door after her.

"Different Lek, I gather," Cass said.

"Yeah," Ben said. "Little Lek."

Wilson said, "Lek, this is Colonel Cass, our commander." Now that Cass thought about it, he remembered seeing Lek before. She'd come to his trailer once to visit Annie while he'd stopped by for a minute after lunch.

"Sawadee," Lek made a deep wai. "Happy to meet you, Colnan Cat. I see you before. See you Annie trailer."

"Sawadee," Cass said. "Chai," Yes. "I remember."

"You s-tay Annie trailer?"

"Well, I guess so," Cass said. "Annie's my housegirl."

"You tealock Annie?" Annie your girlfriend?

"Mai," Cass laughed. "Annie's my housegirl."

"Annie sooay, mak," Annie's very pretty. "Other col­nan s-tay Annie trailer tealock Annie. Hab he wai too."

"His wife was with him?" Cass asked. "And Annie was his tealock?"

"Chai. He wai s-tay libing loom. Colnan kit Annie mak mak in basloom."

Ben started cracking up. "He was kissing Annie in the bathroom while his wife was in the living room? In a trailer?"

"Chai," Lek said. "I see."

"I'll have to admit," Cass said. "That's one story about Udon Thani I hadn't heard before."

Dhow came through the trailer from Willie's end, dressed in street clothes. "Sawadee," she said. "I go now. Bai bon." Go home. The three women talked for a minute in Thai and then Dhow went out through Willie's end of the trailer.

"Where we go?" Lek asked.

"I don't know," Wilson said. "Where you want to go?"

"Bai khang khao," Let's go eat, Lek said.

"Okay." Dang looked at Ben. "You want go eat?"

"Chai," Yeah. "How about the Royal Thai?"

"Dee mak," Great, Dang said.

Lek jumped up and down and took Wilson's hand. "We go Royal Thai?"

"Okay," Wilson said.

"You want to join us, Colonel?" Ben asked.

"No," Cass said. "I'm going to have dinner at the club and turn in early."

 

Cass found Willie and Bob McAfee still in uniform at a table in the far corner of the officers' club bar. "C'mon and join us," Willie said.

"You guys about ready to eat?" Cass asked. "I think I'm going to get one and take it to the dinner table."

"I'll go along with that," Willie said. "It's been a long day."

"Where is everybody?" Bob asked.

"Well, it looks as if Ben and Wilson are all tied up for the evening. I haven't seen Terry or anybody else."

"Yeah," Willie said. "Dang's been staying overnight lately."

"Looks as if Wilson may have rented a wife too," Cass said.

"That's been going on quite a while," Bob said. "Wilson's just been real quiet about it."

They got their drinks and moved to a table in the dining room. Jariya came up with menus. "Bainai?" Where you going? She asked.

"Nowhere," Cass said. "I'm going to stay right here so I can look at Jariya."

"Pak huan," Sweet mouth, Jariya laughed.

"Cass took a deep swallow of his bourbon and water and picked up the menu. "Shrimp," he said. "Guess I'll settle for shrimp tonight."

 

Aftermath

Massage

Sunday Morning

Housegirls

Sawadee (Hello)

The Island Paradise

The Drunk

The Christmas Season

Sawadee (Goodbye)

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