Tom had never even touched a gun before. As he stood at the side of the Nana entertainment plaza the rain fell. It fell heavily. A fall that ran down through even his thick hair trickling onto ears and into eyes and dripping from his nose, but temporarily cooling him from the tropical heat. His T-shirt of nondescript colour now soaked with water instead of sweat. The thunder roared its approval overhead with lightning brightening the falling torrent. Repeatedly banging and clashing as the fall of rain intensified as though some tap was opened a notch or two further. The rain now bouncing back from the paving stones even reaching knee height. Everything was drenched. There was no solace even under some overhang as the rain whipped and bounced in everywhere. Then it was there approaching the exit from Nana onto soi four. Mick’s car was coming his way. The car stopped adjacent to Tom and another loud clap was heard. Whether it was the thunder or Toms gun he didn’t know but the side window shattered revealing the crew cut rugged middle-aged but still handsome face of Mick who looked quizzickly through the window. Then another clap and Tom noticed the car was suddenly messy. Then two more claps and the car no longer under any guidance headed slowly out across the soi first through one lane and then to the other before a yellow and green taxi hit the driver’s side. Until this point everyone more worried about sheltering from natures wrath had paid no attention to the car but now suddenly a metallic crash and attention was attracted. Tom by this time was heading for Sukhumvit with the gun now devoid of rounds stuffed into a small bag he held, later to be tossed into the canal up soi three after he had crossed the forbidding road. The soi was flooding now. It was to be one of the worst floods Bangkok had known and one of the last.

Looking up across from the new road the huge dark grey wall towered into the sky. The grey and seemingly advancing monster. A towering tsunami about to crush all in its wake. But extending into the sky tens, no hundreds no thousands of meters. Too high. And coming from the mountains not the sea. A huge dark mass hiding everything behind it but with some light trails of brown smoke rising high above the wall but from behind or in front or on top. Transfixing all. A panorama of power and doom.

I found the scruffy notebook, with upturned corners where corners still existed and dust coated over stains, marks and prints and a barely legible pencil scrawl filling all of the pages embossed with the ring of countless coffee mugs, stuffed down the back of some oversize overweighted wooden bed that almost filled the whole room in the guesthouse. Quite why I looked down where the bed met the outside wall, the only solid wall in this subdivided travellers rest house, I don’t even remember, but look I did. And noticed the book. A random read. It took some twenty hot and increasingly sweaty minutes of fishing with one of those wire plastic coated curtain holders that I had liberated form the grimy open window with rusted and holed mosquito screen, but finally the book, the notebook was in my hand.

Tom sat on the deck of the bungalow on the beach near Krabi. The sand clean, well almost clean and yellow running down to the sea gently lapping its way up the distant darker sand. Every morning he liked to sit here and smoke. At the same time. And every morning the woman would come along the back. Walking in the distant soft wet sand leaving a trail of prints from her rubber sandals. A short woman not young, not old, not middle-aged with long black hair and pony tail. Always in a pair of shorts usually floral patterned but sometimes plain but always faded and a T-shirt with some writing on it but colours sun bleached away. Along the beach she would walk to the same point every day and then she would just stand and look out at the sea. Look out at the sea for twenty, thirty or more minutes. Whatever the weather she would just stand and look. And then turn and walk back the way she had come until Tom could no longer see her.

On the second time around the vast wall still reached into the sky. A lighter grey this time and with the distant mountains outlined through the lightening grey and in the middle the grey wall dipped into a gentle vee and through this gentle vee the very top, the very pinnacle of the corona of the rising sun could just be glimpsed. Perfectly sitting in the middle of the great wall. It was a time to turn away and walk.


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