Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't Pull the Finger at the Great Pyramids


Last year, a few months before I visited the Holy Land with my parents, I was on the phone to my mother discussing our plans for the trip.

“We’re going to Alexandria and Jerusalem, and, let’s see,” she said. “I think Gaza is on the trip.”

“Gaza?” I laughed. “I don’t think Gaza will be on the trip. It’s not really the tourist mecca, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh, I’m sure it said that,” she said, shuffling the cruise brochures. “Oh, wait, it’s Giza.”

“Well, that does make more sense,” I said.

We had a good laugh. My mother, a biblical scholar -- you can read more about her work at www.thecovenantwoman.com -- definitely knows the difference between Giza and Gaza. But what is the difference exactly? Oh yes: a few pyramids and a Sphinx.

The long busride from Alexandria was informative. Our guide, Dina, was careful to point out all the wonderful aspects of Egypt, but she encouraged us to ask difficult questions as well. My mother took care of the questions about: women’s rights, the recent persecution of Christians, Egypt’s present relationship with Israel, etc.

“What are those dome-shaped houses with all the holes?” I asked, pointing to the fields we were passing.

Dina seemed relieved by my non-political question. “They are for pigeons.”

As we neared Giza, we caught glimpses of the pyramids—Dina chirped the word so fast, like pirimid, that I saw them long before I understood what she was going on about. But there they were: sandy triangles sticking up here and there behind the slums, the rubbish and the dirty cars.

To get to the Great Pyramids, you have to drive through a town with a drainage ditch running through the center. Well, “running” isn’t exactly the right word; “congested with tons of garbage” would be correct.
Not exactly a Potemkin village by any stretch of the imagination. I suppose you have to respect the honesty of filth, but if the Egyptian government were to clean up any place in Egypt, wouldn’t it be on the doorstep of the Great Pyramids?

When you arrive at the pyramids, you’ll notice that they are really just a great big parking lot for tour busses—and camels (watch your feet). And then there are the incredibly friendly men who want to shake your hand. Then, once they’ve shaken your hand, they’ll want to sell you an Arab head covering, so you’ll look Egyptian! Yay! Then, they’ll cheat you out of all the money you have in your pocket.

While I was crawling down into the smallest pyramid with the younger crowd, the hawkers were taking my parents and the other older folk for all they were worth. When I rose from the grave, I passed several groups of shouting tourists, all trying to get their money back.

Maneuvering around the camel paddies, I headed toward the bus.

“Shake my hand,” a hawker demanded as he approached me.

“Goodbye,” I said, refusing the handshake and walking by. One of his buddies had taken a fifty-dollar picture of my father with my camera. Figure that one out.

“It’s very rude not to shake,” he said. “You are showing great disrespect for our customs.”

I turned to him and smiled. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to show any disrespect. But, you see, you don’t know me, and you don’t really want to know me. All you want to do is get my hand, and once you have it you won't let go of it until I buy something. And I have no money. Nada. Nix.”

“Shake my hand,” he kept saying, following me all the way to the bus. After the third or fourth time “Shake my hand” sounds like “pull my finger,” doesn’t it? I learned that lesson a long time ago when I was six.

Don’t pull the finger.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to F is for Fuerteventura. 

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day.  

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Titicaca Troubles

Do you remember the story about Horst on Koh Samui? The one about great Thai food poisoning? Didn’t we have fun? In Peru it was my turn. Grab a Mate de Coca tea, pull up a floating reed island and join me as I revisit Lake Titicaca on the border between Peru and Bolivia.

You’ll be grossed out to learn that the national dish of Peru is guinea pig, which I’m sure—if I had been man enough to try it—would have tasted like a clump of deep-fried hair. Do guinea pigs have meat on them? The ones I tossed around as a child felt weedy at best.

The other, more food-like national dish of Peru is ceviche, raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice (which chemically cooks it). Ceviche is good when it’s good, revolting when it’s revolting. I’ll save this for the end.

My “troubles” had begun in Cuzco: altitude sickness, sleeplessness, and a particular “trouble” that kept me sequestered in my hotel room and praying for death. Thankfully, we had already been to Machu Picchu and sundry ruins by the time I started having my “trouble”—oh goodness, Chris, we’re all adult here: I was evacuating though there was no fire.

As you can imagine, in this state I wanted very much to board a bus and drive five hours to Puno, the dismal town on the even more dismal Lake Titicaca.

The bus trip behind us, we dumped our bags at the hotel, a cheap chain hotel on a drab, reedy part of the lake, and took a taxi into Puno. We walked up and down the main drag a few times before coming to the conclusion that Puno was not worth the trip.

“Let’s take a tour of the lake,” Horst suggested.

“Let’s go back to Cuzco,” I suggested.

“It will be fun,” Horst said, ignoring me. “Here there are dragon boats . . . made of reeds.”

“Woot, woot,” I said, although I didn’t even know this expression back then. “Do these dragon boats have toilets by chance?”

The dragon boats—which were reed canoes with dragon heads—were kind of fun. The floating reed islands were interesting. The one we visited had its own post office and lots of fat women, one of which insisted—with her beautifully infectious smile—that I take a picture of her and send it to her post office. I guess they don’t get much mail.

When our day on the floating islands was winding down, Horst pointed to a building on an island near the shore and asked our guide what it was.

“Five-star hotel. Very expensive.”

“We’re eating there tonight,” I said to Horst.

“We’re eating chicken from the turny thing on the street again,” he replied.

Au contraire, Monsieur,” I said.

“Huh?”

When we arrived back on shore, a taxi was waiting for us to take us back to our cheap hotel. By then I had convinced Horst that I would die before daybreak if I ate another rotten bird. He took the reins—I’m sure only because he didn’t need the hassle of my wee-hour death.

“Up there,” he said to the taxi driver, pointing to the Hotel Libertador, which is about five kilometers outside Puno and connected to the shore by a causeway. http://www.libertador.com.pe/lake-titicaca-puno-hotel

“No, no, mister. No, no!” The taxi driver’s reaction couldn’t have been more dramatic if he’d thought an evil spirit inhabited the island.

Si, si!” I barked—an adorable bark of course.

He narrowed his eyes at me—and I mine at him—and he drove. He protested the entire way, but at the hotel when the guards saw tourists in the taxi, they opened the gates. Only then did the taxi driver loosen up—and stop rubbing his dashboard Virgin Mary.

In stark contrast to the impoverished town of Puno, this hotel was sleek and modern. The food was prepared with love, and the service was professional. No guinea pig on the menu, but I had the best ceviche I’ve ever had. And a filet. And excellent red wine from Chile.

My troubles were over . . . until that night when I tried to sleep at almost 4000 meters above sea level. Forget death, my body wouldn’t even let me sleep. The following day, we ended up flying back to Lima and the comfort of the sea.

I must be off,
Christopher

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Waiter Knows Best

(Important! If this post is cut off at the bottom, please reload the page. This usually solves the problem.)

__________________________

Having worked in the restaurant business for twelve years back when I had longer hair and all the Eurythmics albums, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the beauty and wonder of humanity at its hungriest. Disclaimer: this blog post will contain language from adults waiting to be fed. Seriously, there will be language inappropriate for children.

Fill in the blank. Hair stylists are to priests as waiters are to _______________.

A priest has to keep your filthy secrets, but please don’t tell a waiter a secret. If he doesn’t bark it to all the guests in the dining room, he’ll certainly organize a huddle in the kitchen. No, waiters are more like psychologists. You, the guest, think you can say just about anything to him when you’re hungry.

I was training a woman—let’s call her Wanda—and we were taking an order from two women in their mid-forties.

“We’ll have the pasta primavera,” said one of the women.
“But we’re not lesbians,” said the other.
I wrote down the order: “Pasta primavera. Split. Not lesbians.”
Wanda, who I think was indeed a lesbian, ran to the kitchen to organize a huddle. She was a natural.

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I should have become a psychologist. Even now, people in restaurants still gravitate toward me. “Look at that guy over there. Doesn’t he have the most adorable ears? Let’s fill them.”

Rio de Janeiro. Traditional restaurant. Evening.

Two adorable men, ME and HORST, in their thirties—although the shorter, cuter one looks ten years younger—sit down at a quiet table and begin poring over the menu. Loud New Yorkers, MARGE and ROY, take the table next to the adorable yum-yums.

Me (the shorter one)
I can’t wait to have a moqueca.

Horst
You and your moqueca.

Marge
(sitting down at the next table and shouting
loud enough to be heard in Uruguay)
Brazilian food! How neat!
(shouting directly at Me)
This place comes highly
recommended!!

Me
(assuming loud NYers are deaf)
Try the moqueca!!

Horst sticks his nose deeper into his menu.

Roy
Goddammit.

Marge
Pay no attention to Roy. He’s hungry.

Roy
Goddammit.

Horst climbs into his menu. Me, familiar with the beast, turns his full attention to the show called humanity.

Marge
We’re visiting a friend—

Roy
Goddammit. They don’t wanna hear you.

Marge
But she wasn’t here when we—

Roy
Goddammit. Where’s the waiter?

Marge
--arrived, so we’ve just been shopping.

Roy
Would you shut your fucking trap?

Marge
I was thinking of getting the caruru.
The guidebook here says it’s excellent.

Me
I’d get the moqueca.

WAITER comes to Roy and Marge’s table. They order two carurus despite the more than adequate advice from Me to order a moqueca. Approximately thirty minutes goes by, in which the following information is imparted: Roy and Marge are from Midtown, Manhattan, Marge’s friend paid 200 thousand American dollars for her house in Sao Paolo—a steal. Roy drinks milk to help his heartburn. They decided to come to Rio because the rest of the world is dangerous. Marge has “a big, fucking mouth and won’t shut the fuck up.” Finally their dinner arrives: two heaping bowls of pureed manioc and dried shrimp, a dish that looks like Papa Bear should be complaining about it—something like, “My porridge is too goopy.”


Roy
(looking at his food)
Goddamn slop. I can’t eat this.

Roy storms out of the restaurant, leaving Marge to pay the bill and apologize. During her apology to the waiter, the following information is imparted: Roy has hemorrhoids, which is not an excuse for his behavior, but simply a contributing factor. Roy likes meat or food that has the shape of meat. Roy doesn’t normally eat out of a bowl. Dogs eat out of bowls. Oh, no-no-no, she didn’t mean to imply that Brazilians are dogs . . .

Roy
(outside the restaurant)
Would you shut your fucking trap in there!

I felt sorry for Marge and Roy, but I’m also grateful to them for the free show.

Moqueca de peixe is a traditional Brazilian fish stew made with coconut milk and cilantro, among other tasty ingredients. Listen to your psychologist: get the moqueca.

I must be off,
Christopher

______________________________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My AAA therapy: Germany

As most university freshmen in the US do, I started waiting tables to pay my way through school. By the time I started my master's degree in English, I was managing the best restaurant in Nashville: Then The Cakewalk, now Zola, owned by my friends Ernie and his wife Debra Paquette, deservedly an award-winning chef. (Since the posting of this anecdote, Zola has gone out of business--sadly.)

Suffice it to say, when I left the restaurant business I was a restaurant snob. And rest assured, whenever I entered a restaurant, I already had my adorable nose in the air sniffing out disappointments. A dining room would either be too empty or too crowded. Servers were never there when my glass needed refilling, or I’d have to swat them away like pesky flies. The tuna would either be too rare or overcooked. “You thickened this sauce with corn starch, didn’t you? Don't tell me you just served from the right! You call this zabaglioni? You can’t even pronounce zabaglioni!” Snobby snob snob. I’m surprised I didn’t go to AAA—Arrogant Assholes Anonymous.

Then I moved to Germany, home of Schweinehaxe and Kraut, which I’m actually eating while writing this entry. Lovely stuff. I seasoned it with kassler and grilled onions.

The Germans suffer no snobs. I soon realized that the little irritations that always got my hackles up—poor service, boring food, lipstick on wine glasses—didn’t bother my dinner companions in the least. Something was up here.

“Uh, Ursula,” I said. “The waiter hasn’t been to our table yet, and we’ve been sitting here since my birth. What’s up with that?” I was trying to be patient in my new surroundings: a Bavarian restaurant decorated with ploughs.

“He said he’d be here immediately,” she said, nonplussed by my nonplussedness.

See, sofort in German means immediately. When you stop a server to beg his presence at your table, he says, “Ja, ja. Sofort.” Then, he disappears for thirty minutes. When he finally appears at your table, he sighs and grunts, which is body language for “What the hell do you want?” You ask, “May we order, please?” He draws his pen and paper. “But we don’t have menus,” you say. He grunts again, twirls—presumably to get the menus—and disappears for another thirty minutes. When he returns, he hands you the menus and stands there waiting for you to order. “But,” you say, “we need a couple of minutes to read the menu.” Grunt, twirl, another thirty minutes. The German word for horse is Pferd, and you’ll hope they have one on the menu, because by now you could really eat one.

It took me a few months (OK, years) to get used to this game. Now I have my favorite restaurant where the service is picobello, mainly because I’ve mellowed (as evidenced by my silly grin in the picture below), but also because the servers and the manager are really very sweet—professional—people.

Oh no, I’ve just realized I’ve written another one of those entries with a message at the end. You know the grind. If you hate messages, go back up to the paragraph before this one and end the story with a picture of me being mellower: adorable, satisfied grin. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite restaurant stories from around the globe in the next few weeks so check in often. No reservation required.

If, one the other hand, you’re a sucker for a message:

Impatience doesn’t make anyone prettier, but sunglasses are almost always an improvement.

I must be off,
Christopher

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's a London Thing

Every love story has that moment when one lover gazes into the other’s eyes and says, “You’re getting fat.”

In my love affair with London, this moment came when the ceiling collapsed in the house we were renting in Clapham. The house in the picture to the left is not the house we rented, but it's remarkably similar.

We lived in a four-bedroom terraced house and let the three other bedrooms out to three wonderful women and a raving, mentally troubled [insert word that sort of rhymes with “beach”]. The beach, however, brought a wonderful silver lining into my life. Every beach has one, right? But that will have to wait for another time.

It had been raining for a week. When we noticed the ceiling sagging, we called our landlady.

“It can’t be,” she said.

“On the contrary, it can be,” I said.

“But it can’t be,” she insisted.

How does one argue with a person who speaks like a broken record?

The rain persisted. A couple of days went by. We monitored the deepening brown circles on the ceiling. We took pictures and made bets. We called again and got the same mountain-out-of-a-molehill response.

Luckily on the fateful night a week later, the wonderful woman whose bed was destroyed by falling debris—let’s call her Victoria, a complete and utter fabrication—was spending the night elsewhere. We didn’t hear the roof cave in because we were in Thailand. But we did get a call from one of the other wonderful women in the house—let’s call her Tracy, also an improbable name for a woman from Southeast England.

“Yeah,” she said in her cute Sussex accent. “The roof fell in.”

So we called the landlady.

“It can’t be,” she said. This was a skeptical woman if there ever was one.

“The ceiling, and about a hundred gallons of rainwater, has destroyed our sublettor’s bed. It’s a miracle she wasn’t sleeping in it when it happened.”

“Oh come on. It can’t be . . . that bad.”

“There is a hole in the ceiling the size of a refrigerator right over the bed.”

“Well.”

I waited: the telephone equivalent of a staring contest.

“Well.”

I could wait.

“I can’t come to London until next week.”

“I have a sublettor with no place to sleep. Her room is a disaster area.”

“Then just close the door.”

“You do realise that 'just closing the door’ is about ten times worse than ‘just put a band-aid on it,’ don’t you?” I didn’t say this. I think I said, “Huh?”

“Close the door.”

“But where is Victoria—a poorly chosen alias—going to sleep?”

“Take her rent off the your rent.”

“Sounds good.” Thus, our conversation was declared over. Money talks.

Until the day we moved out of the house (eight months later), the ceiling remained a hole. Victoria—not her real name, of course—slept in the dining room rent-free.

Sadly, every love affair has a sobering moment when the roof falls in and you realise Victoria has to sleep somewhere else. The moral of the story: when love hits the rocks, close the door and deduct 300 pounds from your rent.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More Than I Bargained For

For weeks I’ve been looking for the humorous slant on this story. I know I put it somewhere. Do you know the saying “It’s always in the first place you looked”? Well, it wasn’t there. So I’m warning you on this one: this might get serious.

I generally consider myself lucky — I won a small jackpot in Vegas once — but I couldn’t believe my luck when I found a hostel in Manhattan for $33 a night. On the Upper West Side just a few yards from the subway, West End Studios was perfect for the three nights I needed to be in town.

Clean sidewalks, groomed shrubbery, the absence of reeking trash mountains — the way to the hotel encouraged me to no end. The building made a stately and well-maintained impression from the outside. The lobby was small and filled with backpackers, but that made sense. I got in line behind a German couple at the reception desk.

“But we have made a reservation for months,” the German woman insisted, holding out her documents as incontestable evidence.

“Don’t matter, lady,” said the surly guy behind the desk. “You didn’t confirm.”

“We have not know this,” said the German man.

“Not my problem. You gotta confirm a week before, or your reservation is cancelled.”

“We will complain,” said the German woman.

“Knock y’self out. Next!”

This was me. I hadn’t confirmed either, so I thought I should slime my way in. I handed the guy my passport and rolled my eyes to let him know I wasn’t a novice traveller like those silly German tourists weeping in the corner over there. As he typed my name into his computer, I pray-chanted to myself, “Please don’t let this be too good to be true. Please don’t let this be too good to be true.” And then a small miracle happened.

“Your room is ready,” he said, handing me back my passport with the key. "Fourth floor. Elevator's over there. Next!"

Imagining myself to be Mr. Bean, I strutted by the German couple, shooting them a patronizing — but of course adorable — live-and-learn look. I might have even flashed the key.

The elevator was crotchety and slow, the kind you see in movies about poor Italian families. As I bumped and jerked to the fourth floor, I kept telling myself “Thirty-three dollars a night.”

The room was as basic as a room could be: a bed with acceptably clean sheets (meaning, in my book, fewer hairs than Homer Simpson has); a toilet; a small (empty) fridge; and a non-functioning TV. But none of this could dampen my spirits. I had a room in NYC for $33 a night, and I hadn’t even confirmed the reservation! I was the luckiest man in the world. I did my lucky-man dance.

“Oh, honey,” I cooed, dancing over to the window where a bug was crawling up the wall. “How did you get in here?”

I am nothing if not bug friendly. In fact, I’m Doctor Dolittle friendly. I catch disoriented spiders with plastic containers and set them free to the tune of “Born Free” in the backyard. I hold up my feet for hours to let a line of ants go by as I tweet “Whistle While You Work.” I break off pieces of my food for pesky bees. And I pitch bugs out windows at hostels in NYC. I should mention that name again just in case you want to look up similar horror stories on the internet: West End Studios. Also check out www.bedbugregistry.com.

In my defense, I had never seen a bedbug before, so I didn’t know this little guy’s extended family was waiting in the seams of the mattress for their next meal...me. I have always felt guilty about that poor bug I tossed out the window. He probably went for days without a proper meal. (That last part was my weak attempt to get some humor in here somewhere. Sorry. If you’ve had bedbugs, you’ll know I wish only death for these critters. A horrible, horrible death. Imagine little electric chairs for them.)

But the blood-suckers would have to wait a little while longer. I had an off-Broadway show and a close friend to see, so I was off.

The next morning, I got up early as usual and went for a run around the lake in Central Park. When I got back to the hotel, I noticed in the shower a couple of bites on my legs. Not troubling. Being so sweet and adorable has its price: I’m very popular with bugs.

That evening, I counted twenty bites on my legs and arms, but I still couldn’t put two and two together. By the time I checked out of West End Studios, I had over forty bites. They were painless but unsightly, and I was spending the next week on Puerto Rico. Luckily — I told you I was lucky — it was cool and rainy the entire time I was on the island, so I didn’t have to expose my bite-spangled body.

Oh, goodness. I've just realized there’s going to be a moral to this story. For Pete’s sake. I hate stories with morals. If you don’t like stories that end with a message, return to the paragraph above this one, read it again and end the story giggling at the image of my spangled body.

If, on the other hand, you’re the type of person who likes messages, by all means read on.

Sometimes you don’t get what you pay for; occasionally you get much, much more. The bedbug epidemic in NYC, as well as in other major North American cities, has been widely covered in the media. All you have to do is Google it to see that this is a sort of modern-day plague. Websites like www.bedbugregistry.com can help you avoid hotels with known infestations. Use them...and sleep tight.

I must be off,
Christopher

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Horror in Paradise or From Hovel to Hospital

Are you ready for Thailand and the island of Ko Samui? This is not so much a hotel horror story as a classic example of Schadenfreude—taking pleasure or seeing humor in someone else’s misfortune. Yes, I’ll be the bad guy laughing and pointing near the tail of this tale.

Let’s start our story in a Munich living room-slash-jungle. It is filled with potted palm trees, each in its own stage of death, from greenhouse healthy to no-one-light-a-match-near-me dusty dead. I peer through fronds at my new love interest and say, “So, if you love palm trees, why can’t you keep them alive?” I lean my head toward the terrace, which looks like a cornfield in October. I’ve begun to call it the “palm tree cemetery.”

“Munich isn’t the right place for palm trees,” he says, making no apologies for not seeing the eerie irony of his jungle room.

“Would you have better luck with cacti?”

“If you really want to see palm trees, you need to go to Ko Samui,” he says. His excitement for palm trees is endearing and just plain stupid.

My partner, Horst—that’s not his real name of course, but I like the awful sound of “Horst” for this story—is a man of action. If Horst wants forty palm trees in his living room, he goes out and buys them; if Horst wants to fly to Ko Samui to show his new partner what real palm trees look like, Horst does it.

Before you can say kob kun mak krab, I am walking along the stunning beach of Chaweng with hundreds of other tourists. We’ve already checked into our hotel, and I’ve already had the initial shock of seeing what ten dollars a night will get you on Ko Samui: a spartan bungalow with twin beds with mattresses only a mite softer than the floor—and no TV.

“You’re such a snob,” Horst keeps saying.

“I like our hotel-cum-shack. I really do,” I insist. “I just thought we might see what was available for, say, eleven dollars a night. A minibar might be nice.”

“Snob.”

“The palm trees are pretty.”

“Snob.”

“Whatever,” I say, distracted by the menu of a beach restaurant. “Are you hungry? I can’t wait to eat a curry.”

He laughs—one of those savvier-than-thou laughs. “These restaurants are so overpriced. We can get the same food from one of the street vendors in town.”

“Do the street vendors offer Gewurztraminer with their meat on a stick? And cloth napkins? Look! There are orchids on the table!”

“Snob.”

OK, OK. I admit it. I am a snob. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it probably a million more times: I am an adorable snob.

Horst starts to pull me away from the menu with its crispy soft shell crab on eggplant and kaffir lime leaves with sweet basil leaves in green curry paste and roasted duck in red curry stuffed with rambutans and lychees. I cling to hope, but Horst is very strong, so eventually he loosens my full-body hug on the menu and schleps me off to the back alley where we have dinner reservations in a gutter.

Moments later we are standing next to a grill cart. The meat-on-a-stick prophecy has come true. There are no rats or dogs playing in the street. Shouldn’t there be rats and dogs here? Where are they?

“Two, please,” says Horst. He’s beaming with pride when he turns to me and says, “We’re gonna eat dinner for the price of a candy bar.”

“I think I’ll take the candy bar,” I say and take a Snickers, which the man at the grill cart sells as well.

“You’re not gonna eat this?” He’s already chewing the meat off the stick. “You’re such a snob. I’ll eat both of them.”

“Thank God. Better you than me.”

We take another walk on the beach and then head to our bungalow complex because Horst suddenly needs to use the bathroom. When he comes out of the bathroom, he says he’s not feeling well. And then he starts throwing up...violently. I could say I feel sorry for him, but that would be an outright lie.

The paramedics come and take us both to the hospital. See, on Ko Samui, when tourists get food poisoning, you all go to the hospital—even the smart snobs who didn’t eat the rancid rat meat. They don’t believe in splitting groups up. So off we went.

An hour later, I’m getting comfortable in my plush hospital bed and checking out the selection of movies and international news stations on the TV. The hospital is a converted hotel, so there’s a swimming pool right outside our room. Poor Horst is sleeping or passed out or something like that when a nurse comes in with what looks like a family photo album.

“Order dinner now!” she shouts.

Horst stirs and pukes up a bit of stomach fluid.

She comes over to me and hands me the photo album, which turns out to be a selection of dinner menus.

“What’s this?” I ask.

“All restaurant on island,” she says. “You order, insurance pay.”

“I love you,” I say.

“Say again,” she says.

“I said I love you and I want to marry you,” I say. “And I’ll have the soft shell crab with basil.”

“My favorite,” she says.

“Horst? Horst? Horst, raise your little finger if you’re still alive. Would you like a green curry with—”

“Oh, no,” the nurse says. “Today he drink water. Tomorrow maybe scramble egg and toast. Better for tummy.”

Horst moans and says something about wanting to die, I think, but his voice is barely audible. And who could hear anything over the "Welcome to Thailand" jingle the nurse and I are singing at the top of our lungs?

I must be off,
Christopher

____________________________________________________

Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day.