WE CONTINUE THE TALE OF THE FIVE ADVENTURESOME EXPATS IN JAKARTA
Once again, the dramatis personæ:
- Droll Paul, very tall and very droll, a crooked English entrepreneur on the run from the authorities in Perth. A very leisurely Australian run actually, having to do with an awkward misunderstanding, one which could conceivably be interpreted as “fraud” were it unfortunate enough to be brought up in a court of law. Snooty, elegant and condescending, as well. Has a long bule nose and a management firm striving to impart mysterious advanced western corporate techniques to unsuspecting Indonesian start-ups [aka ‘marks’]. Looks down that long nose on the whole wide world. Basically a useless fuckwit selling useless shit. A ‘character’ (these are common in the East – particularly in Seminyak, where they are always trying to one-up each other). The others tolerate Paul, in spite of his manner – or rather, his lack of them). Why? Only God knows. Maybe just for fun.
- Alan. Fresh, sweet, smart, fun Alan. He survived an insane Chinese-Indonesian gambling addict who attempted to have him killed for insurance money and a grinding ESL-teaching job at Bank Qabur. After that trial by fire he’ll do fine, rolling with the punches.
- Lulu is knocking them back. She is what is known in the trade as a ‘serious drinker’. However, she is a solid citizen who pays her own way, tips the waitress fatly is entertaining and an all-around rewarding customer who knows how to hold her grog. She’s been married and divorced in Kuwait and married and divorced in Kazakhstan and married and divorced in California to a serial line of [immensely wealthy] dummies, lambs she has shorn neatly in divorce court. Is she on the lookout for a new hubby in blissfully unaware Indonesia? Not likely, as by now with the alimony she’s scraped off the hides of her various exes she could buy and sell just about all of the candidates. Watch her when she folds her folding money and stashes it in her purse: it’s frightening. So what’s she doing here? Oh she loves Indonesia. And it loves her (duit).
- Brett is bad and he knows it. He grew up in a bad family living in a bad part of town. He likes Indonesia because folks here just assume a grumpy whitey is a bule gila and tolerate his moods. He actually tries to put a hold on ‘the Bad’ because otherwise sooner or later he’d be grabbed by the collar and given the bum’s rush out of Indonesia toot sweet. But he’s bad. Nobody likes him. Secretly, he envies everybody else, because they’re happy and he’s not. But don’t expect him to show it. Brett is currently >ahem< ‘out of work’ (but everybody knows he’s a notorious Remittanceman) (‘stay-away-for-pay’).
- Hiroshi. First import-export… then ‘event organizing’… then ‘management consulting’ for shady Japanese companies… no one was quite sure what purpose the smooth, handsome Japanese man, 40 and looking 14, served in life. Hiroshi was always expensively-dressed, drove a luxury European car, and was a polite and careful listener. He met personal questions with a beaming smile, and not much else.
((Last time’s punchline: ‘Agnes shouted out, fervently praying to her Holy Father in Heaven for Earl’s airplane to crash.’))
PART FOUR OF SIX
‘So Agnes’ prayers were not answered,’ queries Lulu, softly.
Paul shakes his head sadly. ‘No, I’m afraid Earl’s A-340 resisted the urge to fall from the sky, in answer to her fervent entreaties to her God.’ Sips a beer. Actually sips four beers. Paul, not what you would term a ‘serious drinker’ (unlike robot-elbowed Lulu) was actually getting a bit tipsy. Likely the story-telling was amusing him so much that for once he was losing control… and filling up…
Hiroshi was watching him. ‘Paul? Getting loaded? Interesting…’ he thought, but simply gave a polite impassive smile. He filed away the picture.
Alan, intellectual as usual, frowned ‘If her “bule” was so inconvenient why didn’t Agnes just divorce Earl? Everything was in her name anyway.’
Paul looked mock-horrified. ‘”Divorce”? Are you serious? That would be out of the question, as, ah, Agnes’ own “checkered past” might well be hung out to dry for the public to see in divorce court.’
Snickers all around.
‘And it would cost money. Precious money,’ Paul mused. ‘Our Agnes was a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. She was not likely to fork money over to some grinning greasy Batak lawyer for a divorce. Hell, she was stingier than Earl – with her own money anyway.’
Brett sighed. ‘Well by this time she was the Dean of the School of Fort Knox. She was set up for life, with the house in her name, and the car, and money she had siphoned from Earl’s account into hers.
‘In fact, she had everything she needed.’ He paused theatrically. ‘Except Richard.’
They all looked puzzled. Lulu solved the riddle, loudly.
‘Dick. She needed dick and she needed it bad. She didn’t dare bring a guy home to the seaside palazzo – not with that swarm of pissed-off servants hating her guts and ready to report any such transgression to the old man.
‘How was she going to get rogered?’ Lulu winked. ‘For free, of course. No expensive gigolos for dear Agnes, even if she was a horny old dog. She was used to being on the receiving end. In more ways than one. Paul told us so last time.’
Brett stretched and got up, heading for the Men’s Room. ‘Why not have old Earl, riding his Harley into the sunset, nudged off the road into one of those deep ravines around Pelabuhan Ratu by a phantom bus? That would do the trick.’
‘You’re thinking “Thailand” now. Indonesians do not commit homicide so frivolously. Even when it comes to useless foreigners.’
Brett grinned and weaved off between tables, bumping into most of them and earning dirty looks from the patrons. Mean guy. (Chicken inside actually: ‘Rough Tough Cream Puff’ is what they used to call him back in Michigan. Always wiggled out of a physical confrontation.)
Paul: ‘If I may be allowed to proceed…’
Alan: ‘Uncle Paul, we are all ears. Your melodramatic story of those two worn-out lovebirds has been a fascinating one. Even better than mine.’
Paul (staring at him, not sure if he was being made fun of): ‘I shall recapitulate, to bring us all up to date.
‘Earl is a hick from the sticks. Deep South, darker than darkest Africa. Manages to climb out, get his degree in Petrochemical and one more in Business Administration, gets on an upward career in the oil & gas business.’
‘And gets assigned to Indonesia!’ chortles Lulu triumphantly. She raises her glass. ‘Here’s a toast to Indonesia!’
‘Here’s to Indonesia!’ went the cheerful chorus.
Glug glug glug. (My dear old mother always said ‘You don’t buy the beer – you just rent it’)
‘When his drinking buddies took Earl to Tanamur –‘
Alan butted in. ‘Another toast! To the vanished Tanamur!’
Well old Earl thought he was in Paradise. Back in the land of Feminism and Social Justice Warriors – and rampant ageism, where a guy over forty will never turn ladies’ heads – ’
‘ – unless he drives by in a Lamborghini – ’
‘Earl had nary a chance. And now these really cute young chickies were giving him the eye and a big grin…’
‘“Young” in the smoky darkness, anyway’ sighed Lulu.
‘I have nothing but respect for these working women’ declaimed Hiroshi. All the heads swiveled and turned to him, with astonishment. Hiroshi was usually good for three words, four at the most. Now he was expressing an opinion.
‘One of my volunteer positions was with an NGO in Tanjung Priok, up near the docks. Helping single mothers, abandoned women.’
He took a sip of beer, a thin beer mustache clinging to his hairless upper lip.
‘Here is the profile of the typical Indonesian – or Asian – “lady of the night” or “hooker” or “prostitute” if you will.
‘Twenty-eight years old, three small frightened children bawling for food and a smartphone. Husband dead or sick of her and pissed off into the darkness, looking for a young, fresh female.
‘This abandoned mother is stuck. She is too ashamed to go home to the village. Even if she did she’d be half-starving, along with her withered parents, scratching a living out of the bare soils.
‘No education, no money, no resources. What is she going to do? How is she going to feed these kids and send them to school so they won’t grow up desperate like her?
‘What has she got to sell? Her body. That’s it.’
‘How about a job sewing in a garment factory?’ asked Lulu, mildly. ‘Plenty of that work around for women.’
Hiroshi sighed. ‘You have to bribe Human Resources a million five just to get your application considered. Then you get a three-month contract, at two million a month. All of that gets eaten up in transport and lunch on the job. It’s a bum rap.’
Alan, ever the ESL teacher, corrected him. ‘No Hiroshi – that’s the wrong expression. A “bum rap” is being accused of a crime you did not commit.’
Hiroshi nodded in thanks and bore on. ‘The extremely lucky women in the clubs get a love-starved westerner, often one divorced from a tough lady back in his homeland of Europe or North America, marries them and settles abroad, in Berlin or Omaha, her indiscreet past never mentioned again.’
‘Or they hit the jackpot, like Agnes,’ rumbled Paul. ‘Her Earl was fifty-five and that’s old for an Indonesian. She figured he wouldn’t last much longer, the way she was humping him half to death. What she did not know was that he had two aunts in their nineties, and his own mother was eighty-eight.
Paul (serious): ‘Now Agnes’ lusty nature was overcoming her good judgement. Earl was still in the Russian Federation, so she dropped by a club one evening, and got taken to a hotel by a really handsome, dashing young West African guy.
‘He treated her so graciously, smiling and speaking softly and stroking her arm. Agnes, hard-hearted as she was, melted. And when he slipped in his mammoth meat missile she nearly fainted with pleasure.
Paul (theatrically rolling his eyes): ‘You’ll forgive me if I dip into salaciousness.
‘Agnes was >ahem< “large inside”. She had squirted out a son and had taken in a number of gentlemen’s members.’
Hiroshi looked puzzled.
‘Their male organs.’
‘But the West African narcotics kingpin – “Larry” he called himself – at other times “Achmad” or “Helmut” – this guy filled her right up to the brim. And pretended to enjoy himself the way she clearly did.
‘She was in heaven. But our Agnes was no dummy. She knew that this West African was most probably a crook, and was already planning to involve her in some nefarious scheme. She’d already had friends sent to prison when their African boyfriends made them carry drugs and they got caught.’
Suddenly there was Brett, standing by the table and listening carefully. As he began a cool dance move, right there in Yaudah Bistro in full view of all the astonished patrons, he bopped and rapped:
‘I’m that street smart guy and will laugh ’till I die….
‘Born in Brooklyn I was always lookin’….
‘lookin’ for the spade lookin’ for the blade….
‘Born in the city, grew up dirty and gritty,
‘throwin’ my knuckles and watchin’ legs buckle….
‘Mostly alone I got bad to the bone…..
‘Got scars in the bars…
‘both East and West, the devil himself inked on my chest….
‘Up from the gutter with my sweet heart true,
‘gave me a life and I started anew…
Our gang of five merry expats: the four seated were astonished at Brett’s skillful black moves, and applauded furiously. The rest of the patrons in the Bistro, also delighted, roared their approval and joined in the applause.
Except for a couple of heavyset, glowering Africans at a table near the front. They ignored the ‘floor show’.
They were cooking up some illegal scheme to make money off innocent locals. And thinking of ways to double-cross each other. ‘The Romance of Capitalism’.
TO BE CONTINUED