Excerpt from ‘Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky’ Pre-order it here!!
So now what? What next? Find a room on the second floor with a view of the beach. Drink tuak. Walk the beach twice a day. You will be contacted. I offered dollars—hard currency—a month in advance and didn’t haggle the rent. The owners kicked out their ground floor tenant on the spot and moved their few belongings downstairs in order to give me the second floor.
Max’s note spilled out of my pocket and I stopped dead staring at it: Drink tuak. Walk the beach twice a day. You will be contacted. Not a word about the second-floor apartment! If I hadn’t had such trouble finding one, I would have wondered if I’d made up the whole thing.
I walked the short stretch of beach a couple times. It wasn’t exactly thrilling—dirty sand piled with garbage, out to the end of the bay. I went back later for a spectacular golden-ball-melting-into-the-horizon-over-the-dirty-sand-and-garbage sunset.
Drink tuak. I sat in what was supposed to be a coffee shop, filling styrofoam cups out of a dark brown bottle that looked like slime off a roadbed. I repeated alcohol kills germs to myself with every sip like a mantra.
And then I got lost for several days. It might have been weeks maybe, I stopped counting. I’d wake up, crawl into a bottle and stay there until I passed out. And do it again the next day. There may have been a few chemistry experiments mixed in at the beginning but not for long. I saw two guys get rolled and carried aboard ship with no ability to fight back and after that, I stuck to bartenders I knew and paid well for bottles opened in my presence.
I renewed my hair dye and let my beard grow and after a few days in that sun, my skin was as red as my hair. I called myself Donal, not that it mattered. Pulau Patang was a place where names weren’t used much and you never expected the ones you knew to be real.
My answer was to do my chores and bury my fears. He told me to drink and walk the beach so I made that my job and went at it serious. It got pretty comical at times, cataloguing the hypodermics and shell casings that came in on the tide every morning, along with wallets, underwear, toupees and the slime that could have been discarded food or evidence of homicide.
A large part of the island’s population basically lived under tin roofing propped against a tree on the beach for weeks at a time. Every once in a while, someone would hit a winning streak at one of the gambling dens and move into a floating apartment until the money and/or the luck ran out. The rest of the strip functioned as a kind of ever-changing flea market and the whole village—even well-off folks with their own shack on one of the jetties—stopped by regularly to check the place out. Who doesn’t love a bargain?
There was a guy with a George Foreman grill turning out real good fried dough cakes and dangerous homemade booze (I had a sample, for scientific purposes). There was the guy who sold “Love in the Age of Cholera” in twelve languages—I never found out where he got the books but he never ran out of them and he never had any other title to sell. There was a Buddha seller—brass, plastic and jade Buddha’s, solemn ones and happy ones, fat and thin ones, along with statues of Ganesh, a Hindu elephant head with multiple arms who specialized in clearing obstacles (a really useful god on an island full of people high as a kite, trying to remember what identity they were using today). There was a guy who sold pieces of things—outboard motor shafts, windshield wiper arms, steering wheels, cinder blocks, plastic tubing, doorknobs, shower heads—just the sort of thing to elevate your shack on the jetty in this pretend city.
I was finishing my mid-day walk, trudging to the end of the beach and back for the fourth or fourteenth or four hundredth day in a row, just putting in my time. What was there to see that I hadn’t seen already?
The Buddha seller was packing his statues into big oilskin bags. “What fucking with you?” he demanded.
“What do you care?”
“Walking back and forth, morning and night—where you fuckin’ going?”
“Nowhere fast, that’s where.”
He mirrored my prune face. “There a right way to go nowhere,” he said, “but you don’t know it.”
I turned to start another pass but those words just kept echoing in my head. I reached into my pocket and pulled out Max’s note, knowing somehow exactly what I was going to see. It now read in total: You have been contacted.
Excerpt from Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky, copyright 2016 Ted Krever