Tiny Fishes (part ii) – The special express

Happy Bread Roll

Click to read (part i)

We stop at my place. I grab a toothbrush. I swallow some ibuprofen and chase it with half a litre of water. While driving to the train station, Terry insists on stopping for supplies. He buys beer. I buy bread. Terry lifts his can. “To Hua Hin,” he says, taking a long pull on the straw. I take a bite from a happy bun and wash it down with Chang.

We arrive at the train station. Terry buys tickets. I hand my beer to him and excuse myself. I enter the bathroom. My eyes are having a hard time focusing. The graffiti swirls in front of me. It is a good feeling. A happy bunny feeling.

Terry is still at the ticket counter. He is helping the woman pronounce station announcements. Things like ‘the train has been delayed due to…’ and ‘the next train will be arriving at’.

“Te tain ha bee derayed,” she says.
“The train,” he repeats, drawing out the words.
“Te tlain,”
“The. The. The trrrrraaaaaiiin.”
“Te. Te. Te. Tlaaaaaiiin.”
“Look at my tongue. Thhhhhh-”
“Thhhhh-e tlain”

This continues with him slowly working through the sounds and her slowly approximating. By the end, she seems marginally better. She wais a thank you of appreciation. “I told her I would come back to help her on Monday,” he says, “and I will. She won’t be expecting me to, they never are. But if there is one thing I learned in my 16 years in the RAF it’s that when you help out people on the bottom, they tend to repay the favor. Knowing English is worth a lot here. I like to set a good example.” He hands me my can of beer. It is empty. “Don’t worry. I will buy you another one on the train.”

I ask how much the ticket cost. “163 baht.” He had said it would only be 13. “Well that’s the problem with this silly place. The normal train is 13 baht, but if you call the train ‘special’ then it is an extra 100 baht. If you call the train ‘express’ it’s an extra 50 baht on top of that. It doesn’t make sense. There is only one track. The trains are never on time The late train leaves before the early train and nothing bloody works the way it is supposed to. It is no wonder the Thai railroad is 93 billion baht in debt. That’s billion. With a B.”

The 9:10 train arrives promptly at 9:38. We get on and take our seats. Some of the passengers have their sandals off and are curled on the seats, sleeping or trying to sleep. “I’ll never understand this foot thing,” Terry says. “Have you ever looked at their toes? The second toe is so much longer than the first. It’s unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I look around. Their toes all appear to be of normal shape and size.

We sit for a few minutes, waiting for someone to punch our tickets. No one comes. Terry reaches into his shirt pocket. “Oh, fuck,” he says. “We have hardly left and I’ve lost my fucking glasses. Where the hell…” he starts to pat his pants pockets, hoping they might be there. No luck. “Fuck.”

I point to the tip of his nose. “They are on your face,” I observe. We both find this quite funny.

The train picks up speed. The night obscures the scenery. It is hot, but the windows are down. “Let’s get a drink,” Terry announces. We proceed to the rear of the train.

In the bar car, the Thais are eating. The farang (like us) are drinking. The television is showing clips of pop concerts. LOUD clips of pop concerts. Celine Dion is reassuring us that her heart will go on. Terry holds up two fingers, “Beer Chang. Sorng.” The waitress brings glasses filled with ice and two bottles. We drink. Celine segues into Shakira.

Terry flirts with the waitress. She has too much eye shadow and blood red lipstick. Terry takes her by the hand and does a little shake. They both do their best impression of Shakira. The song ends. He gives her a peck on the cheek. “They love this. She will remember this for weeks.” I compliment him on his way with the ladies. I ask him if he ever married. “My kind doesn’t marry,” he says.

He finishes most of his bottle. I have barely started on mine. He stands. “I am going to have a chat with those farang in the back.” He leaves to speak with a couple of fraternity looking gentlemen, taking my bottle with him. I am pretty sure this is unintentional. I empty my glass and order another.

I stare out the window, into the darkness. Cher asks me if I believe in life after love. The last time she asked me that question was a month ago at a low-rent drag show in downtown Minneapolis. I have a feeling that if I attend a similar show in this country the participants will be far more convincing.

The waitress brings my beer. Terry pops up over my shoulder and orders another. “They are backpackers,” he says. “They bought me a beer. Nice guys. They are going to Dr No Island.” I ask if they are planning to take the train halfway around the world. “What do you mean?” he asks. “The Man With the Golden Gun was filmed in Thailand. Dr No was filmed in Jamaica,” I say. Terry seems impressed.

The train begins to decelerate. I can see the lights from the station. “Grab the beers,” Terry says. I take the bottles. Terry puts his arm around me, “Hua Hin awaits, my boy.”

Click to read (part iii)

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