Litres Baner
An Exciting Future

Owen Jones
An Exciting Future

It was OK, they would go upstairs in Mum’s house where he had never been and they would kiss and hug out of sight of all but the closest family, which Craig was not yet quite a full member of. He knew that and wondered how long it took for membership to be approved.

He ordered another beer and went back to his computer, happy to see that the signal had improved.

Maybe somewhere to the south, someone had just cut down a tree.


Lek didn’t know how long she wanted to stay in the village, and, although Craig found this naturally frustrating, he didn’t really mind. Lek was resenting the fact that Craig had surprised her with that lovely condo now though and the money they were wasting by not sleeping there. Still, it couldn’t be helped. Craig had rushed into that decision without consulting her and it was his own money to burn if that was what he chose to do with it. She would have tried to pay by the week, not by the month in advance, although unbeknown to her, that option was not possible.

Craig didn’t worry about the condo, but he did miss the swimming pool and the smooth Internet service, because the signal was still a bit temperamental in the village although the shop was as good a location as it got locally, which was a bonus for him.

Life was really quiet. Craig had never lived in a village before. He had always stayed in medium-size towns. Cities were too big for him, but he had always imagined that villages would be too small for him too. This small village was proving to be fine though. He thought that he could live here, especially if he could find a way of improving his Internet connection.

Lek spent all the daylight hours helping her mother about the house and talking with friends, while Craig built and refined his virtual real estate. He was getting better at using the HTML editor and his web sites were looking all right. They were not flashy, but they were sedate and business-like. Built to install confidence in the buyer rather than impress him with the owner’s programming skills. He hoped the tactic would work, because up to now he hadn’t been able to test it.

Basically, he had nothing to sell and no visitors to sell it to. It was unlikely that he ever would have any physical products to sell either in Baan Suay. In Pattaya, a trip to the market would render a supply of games, sunglasses, clothes and perfume, but there was nothing but rice where he was staying. Very good rice, there was no question about that, but he couldn’t see it selling by the kilo all over the world.

He needed something else; non-physical products and finding them was the next challenge. Eventually, authorization to use Google Adsense and PayPal came through, so now he could accept credit card payments (if he had anything to sell) and he could put a bit of code supplied by Google on his site, so that it would display adverts relevant to the content on his site automatically.

Then he faced the brick wall that every Internet marketer faces: how to get traffic to the site. Craig prevaricated on this one, basically because he had no idea how to do it. He thought like they said in the film: ‘If you build it, people will come’, so he looked around for some affiliate products to sell instead. He found a shop in Britain willing to give him ten percent commission on any food bought from their web site and a travel company offering commission on flights, hotels and car rental in most countries in the world, so he put them on his sites and waited.

And waited, and nothing happened. He could see on his web sites’ access logs and on his Google admin account that he had about twenty visitors a day and that half of those were robots scanning the web. He started to become depressed, but not with the village. The worst thing was that there was no-one to discuss anything with. He had the only computer and the only Internet connection for miles around as far as he knew and no-one knew anyone who could speak English, although it was taught in all the schools. Life in the village for him would be an endurance test against cabin fever. He could see it coming.

One day, while scootering around five to ten miles from the village on Mum’s motorbike for a break, a foreigner ran out in front of them shouting something. It was the first falang that Craig had ever seen up country and Lek pulled over. He was obviously very upset but Lek could not understand his Thai. “What’s the problem, mate?” asked Craig.

“Oh, sanks,” he said, “I have big problem with slang. Can your wife help, please.”

Craig guessed he was either Dutch, German or Scandinavian and spoke to him in Dutch. He was right. A big black snake had bitten the maid’s young son and he was screaming the place down. The man didn’t know what to do as his wife and the maid had taken the car to go shopping. He had phoned her but it would take her an hour to get back and the man was worried that if it had been a cobra the boy might die before then. They could see the boy rolling around on the lawn, so Craig got off the bike and told the man to get on with the baby. Lek took them to the local clinic.

Craig wandered around the gardens, which were quite impressive and up onto the verandah at the back of the house which overlooked the river. It was beautiful and just the kind of house and location that he fancied. There was a fridge on the verandah too, nicely stocked with snacks and beer, so he took one out and sat down to await his ‘wife’ and his host. He felt a little like an intruder, but not too much. He was taking care of the Dutchman’s house which had been left wide open.

It was just over an hour or two beers later that a car pulled into the drive followed by Lek on the motorbike. The Dutchman and his Thai wife were in the car and the maid and the boy were being taken to hospital. Anti-venom had already been administered and the boy was out of danger. Craig and the Dutchman were getting on well and the wives were talking to each other too, but not so warmly, as is often the case with Thai women married to foreigners. They forget where they came from and look down on other Thai women who are trying to better themselves too. When the mosquitoes started coming up off the river, Craig made his excuses and they left, promising to call back again soon, but somehow, Craig doubted that Lek would ever find the time.

The following day, while Craig was sitting in the shop trying to fathom out how to get visitors to his two web sites, the Dutchman’s car pulled up. “Hi, Craig! You OK? You tell me you have problem with de Internet. I want to help you like you help me” and then in Dutch: “Let’s speak Dutch, you speak it better than I do English. You can call me Dutch too, everyone else does. How do you fancy a ride to an Internet shop not far from here? If you get stuck in the future you can get your wife to drop you there. It’s not far. Where is Lek? Can she come with us now or shall we go another time?”

Craig phoned Lek, who dropped whatever she was doing, probably eating, and came right over. She was not very impressed, but a foreigner would not have been able to spot it. They all went by car to a large village-small town about ten kilometres west of Baan Suay where there was a new Internet shop – not quite an Internet café yet as they didn’t sell any refreshments, but the owner was introduced to Craig and he seemed cheerful and friendly. Then the Dutch couple drove them home. Craig and Lek sometimes passed the house over the following years, but never saw or spoke to them again.

It was rumoured that the Dutchman was playing the field and had been for years even with successive housemaids. His wife and everyone else in their vicinity knew it too, so it was said. One day, Dutch fell ill and was confined to bed for about six weeks. When his wife didn’t come home one day, he feared that she had had an accident because he couldn’t raise her on the phone either. She also didn’t come back that night, so Dutch got on the scooter to get some money from the bank as that was the last thing she was supposed to have been doing.

The ATM swallowed the card, so, Dutch went inside and spoke to the manager whom he had known well for years.

“Sorry,” the bank manager had said, “you have no money in your account.”

“Impossible,” had screamed Dutch, “my pension goes in there every month and we have savings too!”

They had checked the records together, but it was true; Dutch’s wife had cleaned him out the day before. So they phoned his bank in the Netherlands, but they had ‘acted on his written instructions’ weeks ago to transfer all his funds to Thailand and redirect his pension to his new Thai bank account.

Dutch was beside himself apparently. He borrowed enough money to fly home and was never seen in the area again. They had been together for twenty years and she had probably poisoned him to keep him in bed while she rifled his bank accounts. When Dutch went home, the wife came back and sold the house, because it was in her name – foreigners may not own land in Thailand.

It was a big lesson for the local foreigners, although most of them said that Dutch did not chase other women and certainly not local ones, but few people will probably ever know the whole truth of the matter.

Craig started to make more and more use of the Internet café, because his own ISP was very unreliable – what with the distance the signal had to travel and all the trees that kept growing up between him and its source. Anyway, it made a welcome change to get out of Baan Suay and have a chat with Tum the owner of the place. His English was not too good, because he lacked practice but he did have a degree in computers. His Internet source was pretty fast and reliable too.


Craig liked to get there early, as soon as it opened at eight o’clock and stay there until the school kids arrived at about five o’clock. This suited the people who gave him a lift too as they would drop him off on the way to work and pick him up on the way home. The small town was surrounded by working rice fields like Baan Suay – it was just bigger.

It was impossible for Craig to stay there any later anyway because the school kids transformed the place from a peaceful ‘international library’ into a seaside arcade parlour in minutes when they arrived and during the weekend it was just a no-go area. Tum tried to cordon off a ‘quiet area’ for Craig, but it was an impossible task given the volume of the twenty machines playing shoot-em ups and the kids screaming and, to be fair, those kids spent a lot more money there every day than Craig did in a week.

The Internet shop was a good short-term solution, but the only real answer was a faster or at least more reliable connection of his own. Tum had discussed a couple of options, but Craig had not had time to check them out yet. There was the Thai national telephone company, TOT, and a new satellite service called IPstar. Neither company had blemish-free, glowing reports from foreigners on the forums and chat rooms. TOT was cheap but unreliable and useless when the kids were home from school due to overload and IPstar was three or four times the cost and sixteen times slower but very reliable and not subject to overload as not many Thai families used it.

However, he was jumping the gun a little. He had proved to himself that he could work in the village or nearby and he assumed that access to the Internet would only improve in the years to come. Therefore, it was possible to live in the village. The next thought was to be about housing.

He favoured the idea of living by the river and owing a small rowing boat or a canoe. Lek liked fishing and he could row her out into the river for play-days on the water. It sounded idyllic.

And they could sit under a tree in the garden on the river bank and watch the water flow past.

And he could put a picnic table there and work on the Internet as long as his own tree didn’t sabotage his signal.

A plan, a dream, even a fairytale was beginning to form in his head. Maybe plant a small vineyard and make his own wine. Lek was an ex-farmer, she could learn how to do that and they could work it together. He would be like Don Corleone in the Godfather but without the gangster connections.

And before he had a heart attack.

Marriage was looming too, he had already felt a few undertows sucking him in that direction. He and Lek had been together almost a year and he had ‘taken her off the market’, so to speak. He still wasn’t exactly sure what Lek had done for a living and he didn’t really care either, but he sort of knew, whenever he allowed himself to think about her likely past.

Not that Lek had ever mentioned her history in Pattaya, but whichever way you looked at it, he was reducing her chances of marriage by occupying her time at this stage of her life and he would be giving her false hope.

Marriage had to be on the cards, not that Lek had ever mentioned marriage either. However, her friends had.

Many times.

It is a sort of rule of thumb that people consider you common-law man and wife after three months of living together. It has absolutely no legal foundation, but there is a kind of permanence established after three months.

And now he was sleeping with Lek in her mother’s house under the very noses of her daughter and family. Not for the first time either. They had shared the room he thought of as a chapel the first time they had visited almost a year ago. In those days, he was ‘just on holiday’ though and he had hoped that people were naïve enough to think that they shared a room but not the one mattress on the floor.

How naïve he had been.

The fact was though that he would have been mortified if he had allowed himself to think that everyone knew that they were sleeping together. Especially her mother and daughter. Luckily that was all behind them and they could start looking for a suitable house for sale on a beautiful riverside plot.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to Craig, Lek was following her own lines of enquiry. There was an empty house not 50 metres from her Mum’s house, which she fancied, but it fronted onto the ‘main’ road, which meant that it was a little noisy. There were also two more coming up for sale soon. One was still occupied but the occupant would be moving away in a month after she got married and the other was being sold by the relatives of someone who had just died.

Lek was very superstitious and more than a little afraid of ghosts, so she was wondering whether to tell Craig about that house at all, but the other one was just over the back lane of her mother’s house – literally no more than three metres! She thought that that would be ideal as well, although it was a little ramshackle. To be truthful, it needed to be taken down and a new house built. She wanted a nice new concrete house, like the ones in the new estates in Pattaya. She thought that the traditional teak village houses on stilts were so outré.

Lek decided that she would try to sell the ramshackle house to Craig by emphasising the noisiness of the one and the eeriness of the other. She knew that Craig was not so worried about ghosts, but she would make sure that he knew that she was and she would try to come up with a few other things wrong with it too. Price, maybe. And mosquitoes because it bordered on a rice field. Snakes too. Yes, that should rule that one out.

All she had to do now was to bide her time and wait for the right opportunity. She could meet him after he came back from the Internet café and suggest they go for a few beers in the shop. Yes, he was always up for that and it would sound good coming from her – her suggestion. They could then go for a walk and ‘spot’ the three properties by accident and then go back to the shop to talk about them.

In fact, Lek was so excited about the prospect, that she couldn’t wait for a ‘good time’ to raise the matter, so she went to the shop at five o’clock to wait for her uncle to bring Craig back from the Internet café To make the surprise complete, she phoned her uncle and asked him to warn her when they entered the village. When she got the call ten minutes later, she ordered an ice cold beer Chang and arranged some of Craig’s favourite mini spring rolls on a plate and put a napkin over them to keep the flies and dust off them.

Sure enough, minutes later Craig could be seen approaching, riding in the Thailand next to her uncle.

Like a lamb to the slaughter.

“Hello, telak, over here. Here I am,” she called. Not that Craig could have missed her beside the narrow ‘main road’. “I have a surprise for you.”

Craig waved and as the wagon slowed to a crawl, he tapped ‘his uncle’s’ arm by way of thanks and hopped off.

“Hello, Lek. Nice surprise. What are you doing here? I don’t normally see you till teatime”

“Yes, telak. I want to surprise you. I saw someone sell pompia today, so I buy for you. Your favourite, neh? Spring rolls. And a beer – very cold. It is good after the dust from the road on the Thailand.”

She handed him the bottle and uncovered the spring rolls. It was just what he wanted – a bite to eat and a cold beer, because that dust did get everywhere. Most people wore a bandanna or a balaclava when travelling, but Craig hadn’t yet got into that habit. He made the first motion to bend over to kiss her, but he caught the meaning of the look in her eyes and just squeezed her shoulder. No kissing or holding hands in the village.

It was the only rule that he had to observe, but it was strictly enforced with no exceptions at all.

“Craig, did you have a good day, darling? You stay in the Internet shop all day or you go for a walk at lunch time?”

“I didn’t stop for lunch, I never do. Tum’s wife gave me a home-made sweet of some kind. I don’t know what it was – very sweet, wrapped in a bit of banana leaf. It looked like blancmange. It was very nice and I bought a packet of crisps. This is just right.”

“Oh, good. We can have one more beer and then go for a walk before the mosquitoes come out, neh? You must have some exercise. Sit down all day, not walk, no good for heart. You must exercise too. We can come back here after walk and drink some more, if you want. What you think? Good idea?”

He considered it a good idea, because he thought he could tell her about his ideas for a vineyard down by the river, while she was in such an obviously good mood. So, he encouraged Lek to have a beer too and they chatted about everything but houses, both of them postponing the subject until after their walk and a few more beers.

The time came for the walk and they arranged to pay the bill when they got back in thirty or forty minutes – nobody worried about things like that in the village. Lek suggested a route which would lead them around the outskirts of the western half of the village and past all three of the properties.

The heat has gone out of the day by six o’clock, but it was still warm and at that time of the year, there was still an hour and a half before dusk and the mosquitoes came out to play in force. It is one of the nicest times of the day along with the early morning.

As they turned the first corner to walk past Mum’s house, Lek pointed. “This house is for sale. People go away. Work in Bangkok long time, so take all the family go live in Bangkok. It is very sad. My mother’s friend go too, because she cannot live here alone. Mum miss her friend very much already.”

They walked on for fifty metres in silence, then Lek said, “The lady live in this house get married next month. She want us to go to her wedding. Do you want to go, Craig? You never see Thai wedding before. It is very beautiful. Then she go to live with her new husband in Sukhothai and Mum lose one more friend. This house is only three or four metres from Mum’s house. Mum’s closest friend. She go away too, so Mum lose two friends very quickly. It is so sad for an old lady to lose friends like this, neh? Mum will be very lonely, I think. Two friends gone in one or two months.”

“Yes, sad,” said Craig, not catching the drift of the conversation yet, “but I’m sure she has others and she has family and friends at the Wat too.”

“Yes, true, but not all friends are the same. One friend cannot replace another friend. My Mum will miss her friends who go away.”

They walked on and finally exhausted the small inhabited road that led to the village perimeter and the rice fields. Craig loved to walk along the village ring road here. Rice fields as far as the eye could see. All year around, green, lush fields broken up only here and there by squares of brown where the stubble in a harvested field had been torched in preparation for replanting.

It was beautiful, but Craig really liked walking there because there was more chance of seeing snakes, birds and big lizards outside the village. Not much wildlife that was restricted to the ground made it up the road as far as Mum’s house, even though that gauntlet was less than two hundred metres long. Kids killed most snakes and big lizards and their parents ate them. The kids, the boys anyway, also used catapults to take pot-shots at birds for the table.

Here, beyond the houses, the chances of seeing a snake were quite high, because they thrived on the frogs and rodents in the fields. The rodents came for the rice and the frogs came for the small fish that farmers put in the water to reduce the number of mosquito larvae. Craig had never seen a Thai snake yet in Thailand, but he lived in hope and was ever vigilant. Lek knew his passion for wildlife. She didn’t really share it, she didn’t even really understand it, but then, she knew that there were many things she didn’t understand. It just didn’t matter – nobody could understand everything, so why try?

As they rounded the edge of the last field adjoining the village and came back onto the main road and shop-bound stretch, Craig was disappointed: “No snakes this time either. I liked the herons though.” The herons ate the large snails that fed on the tender stalks of rice.

“You make too much noise. Snake hear you and hide. He is not stupid, he knows people hate him and kill him and eat him. People only see stupid snakes and stupid snakes die soon. Clever snakes hide when they hear you, Mr Elephant Man coming,” she laughed. Craig had to smile too, because he knew that she was right. He crunched gravel, snapped twigs and kicked stones as he walked and wondered why he never saw anything. He had seen plenty of elephants and they were very quiet walkers. In fact, much quieter than he was.


As they were approaching the shop with about one hundred yards to go, Lek pulled him up abruptly. “This man die last month. Very sad. He was same age my Mum too. One more friend from Mum go away. I hope he go away. I’m scared of ghosts. Maybe he stay in the house, not want to leave home. What you think? Ghost for man live in there? Can you see him? You not scared ghosts, neh? Look in the window. Nobody live there now, only ghost of old man. Come quickly, I am scared. Nearly dark. Quickly.” and she took his arm and hurried him along.

Sitting herself down at their table, Lek said: “Oh, I am very scared now. Look at my arm. I have little bumps. I don’t like ghosts at all. Maybe they will never sell that house, because people think pee, um, how you say, ghost lives in there.” She ordered two more beers and touched Craig’s foot with hers.

Well, she was right about one thing, he thought, he wasn’t afraid of ghosts, but he wondered whether the time had passed to talk about his riverside villa, so he started with: “Lek, I think I could live up here in or near the village. The Internet is a bit shaky, but I’m sure it will improve. I’ve been thinking about it a bit today. What do you think of a house like Dutch’s down by the river or by any river that is near here – I don’t know what is available really. Is there an estate agent around here we could look in? I don’t mean in the village, I mean in town or somewhere.”

Lek wondered how much of what she had said over the last half hour had gone in. She was amazed. Dumbstruck even. She took a swig of beer to play for time then said: “No, no estate agent. Only have in Pattaya and Bangkok. You must walk and look and talk and ask. Same we do just now. There is no river in my village. You see river in my village before? I not see one. Why you want to live by a river? Too many mosquitoes. You hate mosquitoes. Too many snakes. I hate snakes. Nobody is happy by the river and when the monsoon come, water come in the house and poop-poop come out from the toilet and go everywhere. It is very bad to live by the river.

“People who live there are very stupid. Maybe they never live here before, buy land by the river because beautiful now, but when they have house for one year, they are very sorry they buy. Nobody born here want to have a house by the river. Believe me, people with house by the river want to move, because they only have problems. You remember boy in falang house nearly die from snake? You remember we come home quickly at seven o’clock because one million mosquito want to eat all your blood? Please, think. No more talk about river house.”

He knew he was beaten There would be no riverside vineyard and no little rowing boat to go fishing.

And no more arguments about it.

“What you think about living here in this village. We could take one of the houses we see tonight. Do you like one?” When Craig took his time to reply, Lek added “Please don’t say the house with the ghost. I cannot live with a ghost and it is by a rice field too, so have mosquitoes and snakes too. And men come to work in the field all day and make noise. Play radio very loud all day and you hate pop song radio, eh?”

That was enough to put him off that house, but it wasn’t what he had been thinking about. He was just wondering whether he was ever going to get a say in anything that mattered. In public she asked his opinion about every tiny detail of where they should go, how they should get there and what they should do once they arrived, but his opinion counted for nothing on the bigger matters.

The ‘problem’ was though that she was probably right and he was just too inexperienced to see the difficulties before they were pointed out to him. He had always considered himself to be quite knowledgeable and worldly-wise, but perhaps he was the only one who thought that.

It was a hard thing to realise.

“Yes, OK, my dear. I know you don’t like that house with the ghost. I don’t want to live there either. Are there any more houses for sale?.”

“No, not that I know about,” she replied feeling a bit better. “You want to look in the other two houses? I can get key for one and lady is friend in other house. She show you house if you want to look. We can look tomorrow, OK, telak?”

“Yes, OK, why not? It won’t hurt to have a look will it?” he smiled. Lek blew him a kiss shielded by her hand and the rapidly fading light.

The following day, Lek bounded into their room beaming from ear to ear. She held out her hand, in it were two keys. “Craig, guess what! Lady who marry move all her things out last week. The house is empty. She stay with her mother in mother’s house, so we can go look at house alone and I have the key for other house too. Good, eh? Come on, get up, go shower. You want to eat first or go look at house’ first? I will make you omelette, while you shower, then we can look slowly, OK? Quickly, go now.”

After breakfast, she took him first to the house she was hoping he would turn down and let them in. The door was very stiff and creaked loudly. Lek looked at Craig with a dramatically grim expression on her face and shook her head disapprovingly.

Craig noticed that Lek hadn’t removed her shoes on entering so neither did he. The smell of damp inside was quite overpowering. It was a single-storey concrete construction and even in the dim light from the open door, he could see structural cracks in the walls. The house was probably not safe to be in. The jammed front door was almost certainly just that – the door jam had moved and pinched the door.

“Come on, Lek,” he warned, “Let’s get out of here before the whole place collapses and kills us.” Lek didn’t need to be told twice, not because she was afraid of dying, but because she didn’t want the house even though it was slightly larger than the other one.

“How much do they want for that?” asked Craig out of curiosity.

“I think it is expensive,” she replied “five hundred thousand. Lady say special price for you, because you buy your first house in the village.”

Soon to be my ‘first pile of rubble’, he thought.

The other house had a fairly well-tended garden of shrubs that produced edible beans and leaves. There were chillies, aloe vera, limes and a few other plants he didn’t recognise. This house was also a single-storey in height but of teak and unusually, not on stilts. Lek kicked off her sandals, went in first and threw all the shutters open and there were a lot of them – eight large shuttered openings, the triple-width, folding front door and the strangely normal, wooden back door.

There was just one large living-room-cum-bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. There was no ceiling, just the bare pitched roof and rafters and the walls were unlined, so that there were gaps between the boards that were wide enough to look through.

The house had been constructed around a framework of fifteen massive teak columns that held everything up and apart. The house’s electrics had obviously been an afterthought, because a square of board with two sockets and a fuse hung off the most central column. Into these two sockets were plugged two adapters and three leads came from each adapter at the end of which were extension boards. Two had fans plugged in to them, but Lek didn’t turn them on. The on-off switch was a large, catapult-shaped lever like you see in American films involving the electric chair. Craig had never seen one actually being used. Sparks flew off it when it was moved.

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