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page 22

                                                              *
7. Time To Cool Off

My mind was a jumble of emotion as I handed the stewardess my
boarding pass and started to walk back to the economy class.
     "Sir? Sir? You're going the wrong way," she said.
     "Economy is this way. No?" I said.
     "Yes. But you're in first class," she said.
     "No I'm not. I bought this ticket and I know I'm in economy,"
I said.
     "Well someone must have changed your ticket. Follow me
please," she said.
     "You're the boss," I remarked.
     "Here you are, 3A. Would you like champagne or orange
juice?" she asked.
     "I'm cool," I said.

     "And sir. Here is your seat. You are in 3B. Would you like
champagne or orange juice?" she asked.
     "Love, the only thing I need now is your phone number," he
said as he opened up a bottle of duty free Johnny Walker Red
and took a big gulp.
     "How can you drink that stuff straight?" I asked.
     "My Thai girl friend. She caught me cheating with another
girl. She left me. She broke my heart. Fuck it. I have to go
back home to Michigan and get back to work to clear my head.
Want some?" he said.
     "Thanks. I'm cool," I said.
     "Shit I've been gone a month. Do you think someone will
drive my Ferrari from the house to the airport to pick me up?"
he said.
     "You have a Ferrari?" I said.
     "You know the band Bob Seger?" he asked.
     "Duh. yeah." I said.
     "Robin Robbins, organ player," he said.
     "TJ, ex Thai boxer," I said.
     After a few more gulps of his crying elixir for added
encouragement, Robin spent most of the flight to Tokyo telling
me about his time in Thailand like he was singing an old blues
song.
                                                              * ***148
     The long hair, the snakeskin boots, the 18th century string
drawn shirt, the silver studded leather pants, the near empty
quart of Johnny Walker Red, the sheets of composition music-
Robin, smelling like a bowery bum, made it through LAX customs
before I did.
     He was lucky. He'd only been to Thailand for a month. I
had been there over a year and a half. Short of prodding my
manhood, they only drilled the curve out of my bowling ball. But
I almost went to my knees as they eyed my $500 leather German
Agna briefcase, emptied it onto the table, and took it away. It
came back with the comment,"Nice case." They only needed to put
it through xray.
     "Sir these crocodile skins and belt are on the endangered
species list. We'll have to send them through the proper channels
before you can have them back." Not so easy since I didn't have
an address yet.
     Then there was the, "What are you doing with so much cash?"
question.
     And the, "Lets take you into a private room," intimidation
where they force you to take off your shoes as they put on their
threatening rubber gloves routine.
     All I could think to myself was, ladies don't even think
about using those things on me. There is no way I'm going to bend
over for you or anybody. It didn't come to that but just the way
they looked at me. It worked. I admit it. I was scared. Not that
they would find anything just the thought of a prying rubber
glove... I thought the guy at immigration who checked my passport
said welcome back.
     Some welcome.
                                                              *
     Mike, whose red BMW convertible is this parked in your
spot?" she asked.
     "I don't know Val. It's got a Hertz rental car sticker on
it. Maybe it belongs to a friend of one of the crew," he said.
     "Where is your car anyway?" she said.
     "I dropped it off at the shop to get the transmission
worked on after I dropped you off for your flight the other day,"
he said.
     As they walked around to the landing from the parking lot,
Mike and Valerie in their blue North Face wind parkas with
matching yellow inner linings and topsider shoes looked like
modelling bookends cut out from an advertisement in a yachting                 ***149
magazine.
     "You guys been sailing?" I called down from the top of the
stairs.
     "TJ," he shouted, "Val, that's the guy I was telling you
about that I went to Thailand with."
     "Hi, TJ," she said.
     "Damn Mike, blonde, blue eyed, and gorgeous. You lucked out
bro." I said.
     Valerie looked back at Mike,"Sounds like your TJ."
     "So TJ, what are you doing here?" he asked.
     "Well I flew into Boston this morning. And while looking for
a map I ran across this darling little brochure about Marblehead
and suddenly got this burning urge to stroll through galleries
and boutiques and look into antique shops housed in revolutionary
war buildings that were leaning over with age almost falling off
their 18th century granite block foundations...Why do you think
I'm here, genius?" I asked.
     "Did you just get back from Thailand? Cause in your last
letter you didn't mention anything about coming home," he said.
     "It's a long story. I would have flown in last night from
LA but customs kept fondling my ass for so long that I missed my
connecting flight and had to wait around for the red eye. Those
assholes even drilled my bowling ball with some delusional idea
that I might be trafficking drugs from the Golden Triangle. When
they didn't find any I asked them about a replacement and they
said the government would only reimburse me for a plug. I just
chucked it in a trash can the minute they let me go," I said.
     "Damn when was the last time we saw each other?" he asked.
     "New Years 1976. You were stationed in Tucson...," I said.
     "Yeah. And your boss wouldn't give you a couple of days
off...," he said.
     "And I drove the seven hours anyway...," I said.
     "Damn, that was a good party...," he said.
     "Mike, I'm cold. Can you open the door please," Valerie  *
said.
     Once inside, as Mike headed for the kitchen, and I sat down
on a kitchen bar stool, Valerie yelled back from the bedroom that
she was going to take a warm bath.
     Looking up from the open refrigerator,"Beer?"
     "Mike, it's 11am," I said.
     "Not according to Thai time," he said as be tossed me a can
of Bud.
     "This is a big house. What is it four floors?" I asked.      ***150
     "Yeah but we share it with four of the other crew. They're
all out flying till next week. Valerie has a late night flight
tonight," he said.
     "How about you?" I asked.
     "Me? I don't fly that much anymore. I've been spending most
of my time working as a labor rep. This airline is going down hill.
After Valerie and I get married in three months I'm thinking about
getting out and taking a job I got offered selling ink out in
Huntington Beach. I told a frequent flyer executive in first class
on one of my flights that I was a chemistry major in college and
now every time I see him he wants to know when I'm going to move
out to California and work for him. Money's good-$40K plus
commission to start," he said.
     "Wait. Back up. You're getting married in three months?" I
asked.
     "Hey. Since you're back you can come be my best man," he
said.
     "Mike don't you have any friends?" I asked.
     "Come on. We go way back. It'll be a blast. Just think
about the bachelor party. Half naked dancing girls...it'll be
like old times," he said.
     "Mike, you were the only one to get to see the half naked
dancing girls in Bangkok. But yeah, sure. I'll fly back over
from LA. I won't be in law school yet," I said.
     "Law school," he said.
     "Khun M.'s idea. Long story. I'll fill you in later," I
said.
     "So what's going on with Ta?" he asked.
     "That's another reason I'm over here now. She and her mom
are flying over here in a couple of weeks to visit her brothers
up at school in New Hampshire. Wanna come?" I asked.
     "Definitely. So you want to stay here till then? We've got
plenty of room. Besides, my car's in the shop so we can cruise
around in your Beemer. Boston is only twenty minutes away. We
can have a blast," he said.
                                                              *
     It was late October and starting to get cold but there was
something about being down near the water on a harbor that made
taking pictures fun. It was a good thing Mike had to ocassionally
work, the way he partied, I needed the break. That was until the
day he started reminiscing about our college wrestling days and
grappled me into a blitz wrestling match. With his thiry extra      ***151
pounds, he was almost instantly on top. But I managed to sit out
and spin and land on his back. Grabbing my arm and pulling me
over he again had me down. Except this time he twisted my ribs
in a bear hug grip and when I yelled, he knew to let go.
     "Damn Mike. What was that?" I groaned.
     "Sorry TJ. You're such a slippery little shit. I forgot.
Let me take a look," he said.
     I pulled up my shirt and my whole left side was red.
     "Damn. That's going to swell. I'll get some ice," he said.
     The day before Ta was to arrive, I still had a kink in my
ribs.    
                                                              *
     Ta was standing in front of the door to her condo with her
arms folded bouncing up and down shivering in the cold as Mike
and I pulled up. Running down to the car she put her cold hands
in mine before giving Mike a big hug and a kiss.
     "Hairy, there's a problem. Ed's here," she said.
     I took a deep breath.
     "He talked to mommy and got his vacation time changed. She
felt uncomfortable saying no after all the help he has given her.
Mommy even made me go apply for his visa," she said.
     "Charlie, listen. I'm not mad anymore. Ed knows he can't
have you so he spends his time trying to get me mad hoping that
I will take it out on and maybe break it off with you. That's
not going to happen. I'm just going to start ignoring the prick.
But he's like a deer tick between the shoulder blades. He just
latches on and you can't get rid of him," I said.
     "I know. You know what he said to me when I took him to get
his visa?" she asked.
     I shook my head.
     "He said he could make sure with his police connections
that I never got a visa to come here and see you again," she
said.
     "He is such an asshole," I said.
     "So, where would you boys like to take me out to tonight?"
she asked.
     I looked at Mike and we both shrugged.
     "Well, why don't you two come into the condo. There are
Heineken's in the fridge and you can watch tv while I go across
the street to my brother's condo to get ready," she said.
     "Now you're talking," Mike said, as we made our way up to ***152
the house.
     Mike and I had barely sat down with a couple of beers and
turned on the tv before Ed came storming in followed by Ta's
two younger brothers. After cursing us for ruining his vacation
he went into a tirade about if either one of us went back to
Thailand he would kill us personally. On and on he went ...
     "Is this the guy you were talking about?" Mike asked, as
he reached to turn up the volume.
     I nodded.
     "You're right. He is an asshole," Mike said. But he didn't
say it to me. He yelled it at Ed.
     Finally finishing our beers, Mike clicked off the remote *
as we both stood up. Ed was still barking insults when I looked
at Mike and he gave me a nod with his eyes. He'd watch the
brothers. Ed was all mine. But I did something Ed wouldn't expect.
I dove into his waist picked him up and body slammed him on his
head.
     Mike noticed I winced from the pain in my side as I dropped
Ed. So, changing places Mike went over and sat on his chest with
Ed's feet flailing like a floundering fish. I just stood there
staring at Ta's brothers with a big smile.
     Young Tik thought it was an opportune time to try a kick.
Luckily, his slap hit my good side and I didn't flinch.
     "What's wrong with you?" I asked. "Now you want to start
believing his lies?"
     He didn't speak.
     "Mike, you can let him up now. I think he knows now it's
time to shut up," I said.
     Mike banged Ed's head into the floor one more time before
he got up. And before Mike had finished brushing himself off, Ed
was scrambling to get up and heading for the door. Tik and Tod
still eyeing me followed him out.
     "That was fun," Mike said.
     "You know where he's going now, don't you? Right up to Khun
M.'s room to complain and you know she doesn't want to hear it,"
I said.
     Two minutes later Ta came running in,"Hairy what happened?"
     "Guess we won't be going out tonight. You know, if you leave
your brothers with Ed, by the time we get back, there will be
more trouble. At least I'll go back to Boston now feeling good
knowing that he'll be going to sleep tonight with a bad
headache," I said.                                                                ***153
     "Hairy, how did your shirt get ripped?" she asked.                 
     "Your brother Tik. Ed was trying to recruit both your
brothers to gang up on us," I said.
     "This has gone far enough. I have to talk to mommy," she
said.
     "Why bother. I'm off to law school. Everything will calm
down. And we'll just wait for your family situation to get
better. I don't know what else we can do," I said.
     "TJ, I'll wait outside. I want to keep an eye out that
nobody messes with the car," Mike said.
     "Okay. I won't be long," I said.
     "I'm sorry, Hairy. I'll do my best to make it up to you. I
promise. I'll find some way soon that we can have time alone
together," she said.
     We had one long last kiss.
                                                              *
     I was happy to see Jack and Ethel again, And even happier
when they said they had a vacant apartment for me. It wasn't
long before Eric found out I was back and jumped at the chance
to move into my spare bedroom. Before long, he was joined by a
new Chinese girl friend. I kind of suspected that she was a Tom
but she cooked and cleaned house so I never complained. Really,
I was just happy for the extra company.
                                                              *
     Mike's wedding was indeed a blow out to remember and in
June of 1979 I got accepted into Whittier Law School in Los
Angeles. But things in Thailand had gotten progressively worse.
Even after Ta's parents had gotten divorced and Khun M. had
safely shifted all the business accounts into the children's
names, Ed was still harrassing Khun P.'s mistress.
     He didn't do it because anyone asked him to. In fact, he
knew if he told anyone beforehand what he had been planning,
they never would have allowed it. His rational was that he was
doing it because he was angry for Khun M. and thought she would
like it. When really he was just frustrated with Ta's constant
rejection.
     Ta was tired of his bullying antics and on hearing that I
had gotten into law school decided to come back to be with me
in the states. Except Ed, true to his word had poisoned her
record. When she went to apply for a visa she was flagged and
rejected on suspicion of drug trafficing. Even after I              ***154
contacted the FBI and got certified proof that she had done
nothing wrong the embassy still refused to review her case.
     There was only one thing left to do. Finish my first
semester of law school and let Ta sneak me back into Bangkok
for a month.                                                       
                                                              *
   
    

  
    
     
     

 

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