The following is Chapter 5 of my Travel Memoir “Where the Wind Blows. You can also find it in “The Worst Travel Guide to Cambodia.”
The long UV tubes buzzed, sending out a purple fog that pierced the night. Roach-like beetles lifted themselves from grasses and trash piles. In Thailand, beetles are often the size of small birds, sometimes bigger. When you hear them coming, your hands go over your face. They roared softly, hovering towards the light, towards the delicious signal. The beetles rammed the erotic light. Their little heads clanked, like little pebbles tossed at a window. Again and again, they tried to merge, to be one with the light. Something stopped them. Something was in their way. Beetles, being the rational beings we know they are, tried even harder.
Concussions affect brains both big and small. The little boys smiled and jumped with joy, their arms dancing in the air, as unconscious beetles tumbled into the water filled bucket bellow. The children watched, their eyes like saucers, as the beetles struggled to swim, and fought with each other to stay above the water. Once they were in the buckets, none escaped. The boys trembled with excitement as they scooped out handfuls of their catch and imagined frying them up. They licked their lips.
Father, who had picked me up the day before and insisted that I call him Father, crinkled his nose and gave a half-smile. He waved for me to follow him inside.
Father and his family lived in a comfortable, one room brick house. The cement walls were crumbling and unpainted, many of the bricks exposed. A thin green line ran across the bottom of the walls, it was a watermark. It was a sign of where water had flooded and stood for days. The house was not on stilts, none of the local houses were, they were too poor to afford them.
The bottom chunk of the door had rotted off. A maze of black fragments hung from it. A well-polished path glimmered across the concrete floor. We followed it.
A bottle of rice wine sat on a red and yellow checkered floor mat. The wine was not wine. It was a potent spirit distilled from rice. The alcohol content was half that of vodka, but the taste was twice as terrible. The bottle wasn’t the kind with a factory label and a brand name. It was a label-less, nameless brand, in an old plastic water bottle.
“I thought you were a Muslim,” I asked.