Grub & grog are promptly ordered from the rich Ya Udah Bistro menu.
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.
PART ONE OF THREE
‘I only saw that Agnes one last time before she disappeared into that anonymity which aging bargirls seek out, either as the wives of ojek drivers or selling gorengan beside the wet market. Or they strike it rich and go settle down to a boring middle-class life as a housewife in Ratingen or Utrecht.
‘It was when we all pitched in and helped out with the, what, the tsunami –‘
‘It was not a tsunami Paul. Just high waves.’ Alan interjected, always a stickler for historical accuracy.
Paul frowned and continued ‘Well yes yes but the effect Alan is not that much different when the waves come sweeping up from the deeps, not even slowing down for the beach or the palm trees that surround it, and they tear away all the lovely real estate that you have built up over decades.’
‘Did the woman have flood insurance?’ Hiroshi asked, thoughtful as ever. ‘That place must have been worth a few billion.’
‘Dear Agnes, from Manado. She was a superannuated sex worker, my friends, one who never bothered much with school or education’. Brett growled. ‘I doubt if she even knew what “insurance” was after the fight with Earl’s estranged family over the pile of assets he left behind – and she didn’t make off with.’
He grunted ‘I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall at those meetings. Imagine them finding out that their über-successful engineering genius father had been cleaned out by a Jakarta hooker.’
‘In fact, my understanding is that she was not a “lady of the night” Alan protested. ‘Simply a “bad girl” who would not listen to her family or do what they wanted. So she started dating bules and got preggers.’
‘Did Agnes love this oil worker – what, Earl?’ a feminine voice interjected. Lulu was the secret romantic.
‘She may have, at one point. But her family, you know. It’s always the family, the family that interferes, plots and schemes. Greedy brothers and sisters and parents and relatives throw a monkey wrench into the works when the horny, love-starved expat comes into orbit around a local charmer.’
Alan persisted. ‘Especially when the bule is thinking with his penis.’
Lulu frowned. ‘Excuse me, but not having been endowed with one I do not understand how you can “think” with a penis. It has no brain.’
Paul chimed in. ‘Well that’s the problem, dear lady. It’s all muscle and no brain. So its decisions are often horrendous.’
Alan was curious. He wanted to hear the story. ‘Earl – it was “Earl”, right? He met her in a bar, I understand. A club.’
Paul’s eyebrows arched into the heavens. ‘Oh not just a club, Alan my dear fellow. Tanamur. The place to see and be seen, smooch and be smooched, sucked, whatever, in the late 1970s. It was the club, the one that would hold 500 revellers and you could have fun with whatever sex you chose, male, female, in-between or uncertain, as long as you picked up the tab for it.’
Alan looked a bit mistrustful. ‘He picked her up there and married her?’
‘Not so fast there Billy-boy. First she had to work her not-inconsiderable charms on him, to show that she truly cared.
‘The fact that she had a handsome eight-year-old son by a Scandinavian diplomat who had vanished into the blizzards was another factor. Earl met the boy and was impressed by him so deeply that he immediately agreed to pay for the boy’s schooling.
‘Kid is nearly 30 at this point. Computer genius. He’s on track to be an internet millionaire by now, if he can stay out of jail.’
‘What do you mean she “worked her charms” on the old guy?’
‘Well look at it this way. Earl was from the Deep South. Alabama, East Texas, the Florida panhandle – all darkest Africa for those who’ve never been there. Knuckle-draggers. Beauty queens with at least five teeth. Those amazing sloped-back Neanderthal foreheads and widely-spaced eyes you get when cousins marry cousins marry cousins – ‘
‘- and “daddy’s little girl” “marries” daddy’.
Paul raised his palms in protest. ‘But let’s give Earl his due. He escaped the trap of the Deep South.
‘After he graduated from Elmer Suggs Bible College and Chainsaw-Sharpening Emporium, he got his Engineering degree, never missed a beat and came out of Sam Houston Institute of Technology with a Ph.D. in Petrochemical.’
Lulu smiled knowingly. ‘Real smart feller.’
Brett: ‘Real fart smeller. Didn’t know much about women apparently.’
‘No, that’s the sad truth. Married at 23 to–‘
‘Oh my God, a coon-ass.’
‘Yep, from deepest darkest Lousy-ana. Belle of Baton Rouge.’
Droll Paul sighs, shrugs. ‘The first marriage, with Juicy Lucy from Baton Rouge did not work out. One fine day, without a word, she emptied the joint bank account, unplugged the TV set – couldn’t live without that – and hit the road. She beat it. Earl never saw her again. Or his TV.’
‘Gone with the wind. Old Earl – he just rolled with the punches. Didn’t miss a beat. Probably missed her but never complained.
‘He walked into Humble Oil, talked turkey to the Drilling Manager, and within fifteen minutes had his first real job.’
‘Boy that must have been aeons ago.’
‘Yeah, the oilies are the dinosaurs of Kemang. Extinct species. Gone and forgotten. It’s only places like Sportsman and the other bule bars that miss them.
He was in his ‘lecture mode’. ‘Humble Oil dates from 1911. Founded in Humble, Texas.’
Brett butted in. ‘The one thing you can never say about a Texan is that he or she is “humble”.’
‘I remember what they used to say about Humble, the most hated name in the oil business: “I wouldn’t walk across the street to piss on them if they were on fire”.’
‘Then the Rockefellers smelled success and bought shares. Eventually took over as ‘Humble’ became ‘Esso’ then ‘Enco’ before they got into a big fight with Sohio. Then it all became Exxon.
‘Where the hell did “Exxon” come from? What an ugly fucking name.’
‘I suspect a computer shit it out. The marketing jerks at Standard Oil confirmed that it did not mean anything naughty in any popular language so they kept it.’
‘So our boy Earl rose rapidly in the business. He had also taken a degree in Business Administration along the way so he was able to close deals with clients around the world. So he ended up in the oil business in Indonesia, and Indonesia ended him up as well.’
‘First week here his oilie mates took him to get laid in Tanamur. He thought he’d died and gone to Heaven. Unfortunately that is not how it all worked out.
‘There, in the smoky darkness, he met Agnes. Agnes spoke surprisingly good [bar-girl] English, and was charming and good-looking – at least in the smoky darkness.
‘It didn’t matter. They eloped to a local No-Tell Motel together and the way she rogered Earl he thought he was 22 all over again.
‘She wanted it again. He protested. “Once a king, always a king – but once a knight is enough” he pleaded. She didn’t get it but could tell that the old fellow had shot his wad.
‘I want to see you again’ she smiled. ‘I will take you to nice place around Jakarta. I show you our nice city. I pay everything!’
Earl didn’t have to pause to consider. ‘Little lady, that sounds fine’ he purred, barely able to move after the fierce sex romp. She did not seem like any woman he had ever known. Which, when you come down to it, pretty much ended with Fanny Pearl Thibodeaux. Agnes had aroused more than lust in the weathered oilman. He felt a sense of curiosity.
‘OK little lady, I’m all yours.’
Little did he know how ‘all yours’ he was to become.
THE UNLIKELY ROMANCE OF EARL & AGNES, TO BE CONTINUED…