place he went for information about Daeng was a girl who was
more than just an old friend. They had been lovers many years
before. She had a child that she never told him about. He
found himself walking into Bunny's Bar on Soi Cowboy, a strip
of go-go bars, which closed at two in the morning. It was
here at Bunny's he had discovered he had a daughter. Asanee.
In the years since that discovery, it seemed impossible not
having her in his life. Bunny was sitting at the bar, nursing
a black eye and a Bloody Mary. She had descended to a bar
girl who now had a drinker's sagging body and falling face.
She had gained twenty pounds since he had last seen her. It
wasn't even ten in the morning and she was on the booze. A
go-go bar by morning light had the shock value of a strange
bedpartner staring eye-ball-to-eye-ball the morning afterwards.
Ught played the world of passion in a far more stark, hard,
and relentless vision, with the dark passion shelved.
I'm happy you come," she said, not having seen him for
months; it was as if she had seen him the night before. "This
is terrible, terrible. Killing for what?"
happened to the eye?" He sat on the stool next to her,
reached over the bar and poured himself a soda.
want to talk about it," she said.
shook her head.
likely. She shook her head again. "I told you I don't
need to talk about this."
means the husband."
a bastard. I say to him. 'No good staying open. No business.
'And he say, 'Customer come. Don't close the bar.' I say,
'What you gonna do to me?"'
is he?" asked Tuttle.
sleeping. He drink too much. It make him mean. Man drink all
the time get mean like a dog kicked oil tile street everyday.
Why don't Army shoot man like him? Shooting these kids makes
me angry." Her fleshy, soft face turned red as tears
filled her eyes. She bit her lip and slowly shook her head,
looking into her Bloody Mary. "What did you come here
for, Tut? It sure wasn't to see me."
safe. I thought you'd want to know that," he said.
looked up at him, her lips tight. "He shouldn't have
hit me like that Tut , she said, as if news about her daughter's
safety didn't matter much one way or another. Asanee had become
her father's daughter; his problem, his worry his responsibility.
know that. You're the only one who can fix it. Divorce him,"
for you to say," Bunny said, raising her Bloody Mary
to her lips. She swallowed real slowly, letting it flush her
throat of the lump she felt would never go away. "Life
ain't organized for women. You know that. We grow old. And
look at you, Tut. Even when you're seventy you'll have some
twenty-year old to take a long bath with. I got a mail. I
I e's not the best. Yeah, he hits me now and again and he
drinks too much. But he's my husband. You think there's another
one out there waiting to take his place? If so, send him in.
The interview starts in five minutes."
misery extinguished all other misery. It didn't much matter
about the killings once she started talking about the wreckage
of her own life. The images on the TV were abstract. Sure
they made people cry a little while but tile pain didn't last
much beyond the tears. Real pain was one's own personal hell.
The suffering of a life which never was going to right itself.
need your help, Bunny," said Tuttle.
lit a cigarette.
it comes. The reason why you came around. Not some bullshit
that Asanee is okay."
had him cold. She always had that ability.
right. Can you help me?"
on what you need."
was upcountry on the Nan River. I spent some time in a village.
There's a villager worried about her daughter. Named Daeng.
She's nineteen. Has a small half-moon shaped scar on her right
cheek. Her mother said Daeng's working the bars on Soi Cowboy.
I know that's not much to go on. She could be anywhere. I
don't know where to start. Where to look. But I told her mother
I'd try and find her," said Tuttle.
you can screw her?"
regretted it as soon as the accusation hit Tuttle. She saw
him flinch and go all sad.
Tut. I'm a little fucked up this morning. Never mind. You're
not angry with me? You want to give me another black eye?
Can. I would deserve it. Sure."
I'm not angry. Can you help me?"
come and go all the time." She gave a long, frustrated
sigh. Tuttle rarely got angry, she remembered that. He was
mister jai yen. The cool-hearted man, climbing over the walls
for a sweet woman's dreams just long enough to make certain
that he'd be remembered before slipping away. It had happened
to Bunny with him all those years ago when she still had dreams.
"I can't keep track of who comes and goes in my own bar,
Tut. None of my girls are from Nan," she said, running
her finger through her graying hair. Yeah, this was the man
who had touched down during that moment of youth. She smiled.
'It's good to see you, Tut. Did I tell you that?"
good to see you, too, Bunny."
made the rounds of several more bars. He came up empty until
he met up with a bar girl in plastic sandals with a T-shirt
reading-The Bullet is the Target - Crazy Eight Bar. She was
buying a bag of fried grasshoppers. Tuttle gave tile vendor
a twenty-baht note before the bar girl could react.
good man," said tile bar girl, smiling and offering the
bag. She brushed back her short hair, and looked Tuttle over.
Then gave him a crooked-tooth smile.
pulled one of the perfectly preserved grasshoppers out of
the bag. Fifty or more tiny bodies had been poured into the
bag. Likely the grasshoppers had been killed with lethal insecticides
then cooked in rancid oil; but there were upcountry girls
who shrugged off the health risk and couldn't get enough of
them. He ate the head first, then slipped the slender body
into his mouth. It made a crunching noise like granola.
she said, admiringly. Skillfully done.
after a couple of minutes she told him that her boss hired
girls from that region of Thailand. This was her first week
on the job. "Boss in a bad mood," she said, as she
walked back to her bar with Tuttle.
Hank, the owner of Crazy Eight Bar, wasn't in a bad mood;
he was in a hysterical rage. His fat gut exploded over his
belt, swelling and bloating the graphics on his T-shirt. Below
the words -The Bullet is the Target - Crazy Eight Bar - was
the picture of a standing naked girl, her buns facing out,
looking over her shoulder, and a bulls-eye target around her
ass. On Crazy Hank, the legs of the girl stretched over his
huge bulge, making the girl on the T-shirt look like she had
double-jointed legs. He bellowed at the girl behind the bar,
who was cleaning up broken glass with a broom.
docking your pay for that glass," he shouted.
girl with the bag of grasshoppers fled to a corner and tried
to make herself small. Tuttle walked over to the bronze bell
hanging over the bar, and rang it. Crazy Hank spun around
on his stool.
know what that means?" asked Crazy Hank. "You buy
drinks for everyone in the bar."
bar was empty except for Crazy Hank, the grasshopper eater,
the girl sweeping the glass, and two other girls squatting
on the floor and eating sticky rice and fish paste with chili
put a purple on the bar, not taking his eyes off Crazy Hank
who was expecting this guy to start an argument.
round is on me," said Tuttle.
Hank made a crumby, gurgling sound - half smoker's cough and
half nervous tic - when someone caught him wrong footed.
mine a double Jack Daniel's," said Crazy Hank, who looked
to be in his early 60s. He was from Indiana. Drinking double
Jack Daniel's until he became abusive, violent and stupid
with mindless rage had resulted in Hank Galan's nickname -
mine a double orange juice," said Tuttle.
girls ordered beer and Mekong whiskey.
I started this line of business. I was in the snake business.
I exported big snakes. The biggest mistake of my life was
to believe that running a bar with these girls was more profitable
than selling snakes. Now the fucking Army's shooting up the
I hear," said Tuttle.
know what that's gonna do to the tourist business? It's flushing
it down the goddamn toilet. Who in their right mind is gonna
come to Bangkok this year? At least with snakes, it was all
export. The Army can shoot the hell out of people on the street,
and it don't for a minute affect the snake trade. Snakes don't
break your glasses. Snakes don't quit and disappear on you.
Snakes don't come down with VD. Snakes don't bite your balls.
You know what I'm saying?"
had the basic idea that Crazy Hank was disappointed in his
career move. In the corner of the bar, near the door, where
his friend ate grasshoppers, was a bulletin board of polaroid
photos of girls with their nicknames written below. There
were four rows and each row had six photos. Tuttle scanned
each row, looking for a photo of girl with a small half-moon
scar on her right cheek with the name of Daeng.
double Jack Daniel's had softened up Crazy Hank.
looking for a girl?" asked Crazy Hank. "I can tell
you now, most of them aren't showing up. I've got ten, twelve
living upstairs. They're still sleeping. And snakes don't
sleep all-night neither."
described Daeng. Afterwards, Crazy Hank leaned over the bar,
and pulled out a shoe box containing about a hundred polaroid
photos which were in no apparent order. "These girls
once worked here. But have fucked off. To where? Your guess
would be as good as mine." He shoved the box across the
twenty minutes, Tuttle found a photograph of a girl with a
half-moon scar. "You remember her?"
Hank didn't remember. But one of the girls who was drinking
Mekong looked over Tuttle's shoulder.
from Nan province?"
girl nodded, sipped her Mekong dry and put the glass on the
thing to remember, Hank. Snakes don't have much of a memory,"
leaned forward, reached up, and rang the bell again."
of laughter rang out. The girls liked any excuse for a party,
some excitement in the middle of all their boredom.
I remember her. She was a good earner. Strange but good. Fucked
off a few months ago. I ain't seen her since.
work HQ" said the girl who had spontaneously remembered
bar girl had remembered - the girls had developed a memory
for faces and names. There was little slippage among the girls.
But not Crazy Hank. And not Tuttle. How could that be? Why
had Crazy Hank and Tuttle mortgaged their memories? Tuttle
had more questions than he cared to find answers for. The
reality was plain, and not one Tuttle could ignore. Daeng
was not a stranger; she had been working the crowd at HQ.
She had been at HQ night after night, for all those weeks
before Tuttle had gone upcountry. It stood to reason he had
seen her but at the same time he had not seen. Nothing was
more disturbing, unsettling. Looking for someone that he had
seen and never recognized. He had done much the same when
he had bought his own daughter out of Bunny's bar on Soi Cowboy
years before. He had learned nothing, he thought. History
was about to repeat itself. If only Daeng had gone to another
bar. He could search with noble aims of paying back the kindness
of Old Uncle and the others in his compound. It was no longer
that simple, the motive no longer so pure.
full weight of responsibility for Daeng's whereabouts doubled
up on him like Crazy Hank's double Jack Daniel's which pushed
him over the edge. Hardcore HQ regulars were woman blinded;
it was like a whiteout in a snow storm, up and down no longer
had definition. There was a big difference - one would recover
the ability to see the landscape separated from the sky once
the snow storm blew itself out. In HQ the sexual storm winds
never stopped blowing, leaving the HQ hardcore blinded and
without memory. If he could find this Daeng, another throw-away
prostitute, someone who came and went without a flicker of
recognition, Tuttle knew he had a chance of recovering the
kind of vision necessary to witness humanity. Without that
vision, he saw people no differently than the generals. This
was the broken continuity he had gone upcountry to discover.
Daeng was one more HQ girl who yielded. Those who yield are
faceless, meaningless, and without purpose, Harry Purcell
had said. But Tuttle didn't want to see Daeng through Purcell's
eyes. He wanted to start seeing people again; not in Denny
Addison documentaries which were entertainments for those
permanently damaged by sexual whiteouts. Daeng would pull
him back; let him recover the person his neighbors had prayed
would return or be released from the wheel. Daeng was the
reason he had gone to the Nan River. He had been looking for
what he hadn't seen before his own eyes.
did Daeng quit?" asked Tuttle.
girl slumped over the bar, her head propped on her hand. She
shrugged, as if there needed to be a reason. "She bored.
Daeng not like other girl. Not drink. Not smoke. She save,
save money customers give her. She tell me that she want to
buy water pump for her mother. Daeng has very good heart.
She have a hard life. Father die. Dog eat her face. She talk
to ghosts." She giggled a fearful laugh. "She have
good heart. Buy water pump very good."
finished his second double Jack Daniel's, Crazy Hank exploded.
"Water pump! Fuck, that's a new scam. It's usually a
TV, VCR, or a motorcycle for their boyfriend. Or a gold chain
to show off in front of their friends. Most of them gamble
the money away as fast as they make it."
put another two purples on the bar counter.
mother showed me the water pump, Hank," said Tuttle,
rising from the stool. "I saw it."
Hank ignored the information. Hard facts had a way of being
wired into the hardcore circuit board of gossip, double-crosses,
and double Jack Daniel's.
thing about snakes. They never bullshit you," said Crazy
Hank, belching as Tuttle walked out of the bar. He was in
a hurry like a man who had decided he was lost and now had
the chance to find and recover himself.