It had been some months since they had sat down together for a fine meal at Yaudah Bistro, the favorite hangout for the three long-time expatriates. Luigi, the son of Italian immigrants, had graduated from Engineering school in Melbourne, and only recently retired from a major petrochemicals firm; Larry, a Japanese-American from Los Angeles was an accountant and recovering alcoholic; Heinz was a German with perfect English, the son of a mixed Dutch-German marriage. He had his own marine services company.
They had all lived in Indonesia long enough to be wise to the wondrous ways of life here; they liked to share a meal together, with a judicious amount of drink to loosen their tongues (Larry was sticking to the fruit smoothies). And they would regale one another with the most outrageous of tales.
‘Well how was your sausage, Heinz? As good as in the Vaterland?’
‘We don’t call it that any more. It’s not polite.’ Snickers all around. ‘Whenever Grand-dad referred to that we would give him the stink-eye.’
‘Did it do any good?’
‘Hell no. Grand-dad was Waffen SS. Had some terrible scars on his neck and his left arm. Claimed he was carrying so much shrapnel inside him the alarms wouldn’t stop going off in the airport. An honest Nazi until he died.’
A waitress drifted by, like a cloud lost in thought.
‘Excuse me.’ She kept drifting.
‘Hey.’ She stopped drifting, and turned around.
‘Bring us some onion rings and a round of beers to wash them down. Larry?’
Larry shook his head. ‘Love to watch you guys drinking. Brings back those old memories. Just about killed my fucking self with alcohol. I’ll have a strawberry smoothie.’
‘So tell us Luigi: did you finally move out of that joint in Pulo Gadung or are you still fighting with the landlord?’
Luigi the Italian spread his hands hopelessly, looked up at the ceiling, as though he was praying to some or all of the Roman deities: Jupiter–Juno, maybe Neptune–Minerva, or Mars–Venus, could be Apollo–Diana or Vulcan–Vesta, or hell even Mercury–Ceres.
‘I learned how to deal with landlords when my parents took me back to Italy for a month’s holiday.’ He smiled, looking just like a grim Mafiosi.
‘Terror. You must terrorize them.’
Larry piped up. ‘How else can you get through to some rich old bitch when she has three years of your rent up front? “Leaky ceiling? Oh really. Fix it then.” Water bill not paid for three years before you moved in? “Then just pay it why don’t you?”’
Heinz grimaced. ‘My landlord is much nicer. He listens, and listens, and then comes back with a calm “Well I’ll have to see about that one of these days”, in a tone of voice that means “Forget it”. So I forget it.’
They looked at Luigi, expectantly.
Heinz: ‘Luigi here had a real special concern. Your toilets were all jammed up. Wouldn’t flush, right?’
Luigi sighed, a huge Italian release of wind, and shrugged again. ‘Turns out the septic tank was full to the brim, and had not been pumped out in years. It was also starting to leak, according to an expert I asked.’
‘So what did you do?’
‘Well’ Luigi started, philosophically, ‘I called the landlord and thanked him for all the help he had been over the past year.’
More ironic snickers all around.
‘Then I informed him that since the toilets were all jammed, we would not be needing them any longer, and I proposed to fill them all with cement.’
Now the guys were smiling, listening carefully.
The coup de grace. ‘And I told him that we would have to “go native”. We would just shit and piss in his swimming pool. I even emailed him a photo of my wife with her knickers down squatting on the end of the diving board.’
That was good for a round of laughs. ‘How the hell did you talk her into that?’
‘Promised a nice tour of Sogo. Cost me five million.’
Eyes rolled in sympathy.
‘Well, did your stubborn landlord take kindly to the idea of your reverting to the customs of your native land?’ asked Heinz pleasantly.
‘Fuck you Heinz’ Luigi replied, equally pleasantly. ‘We had a complete sewage system when your people were still living in trees and digging for worms in the earth.’
Heinz sighed, in acceptance. The Germanic tribes were in fact true savages.
‘We even had gods and goddesses of the shitters’ said Luigi. ‘Our Roman forefathers worshipped Cloacina, the lovely sewer goddess. Titus Tatius, one of the early rulers, even built a shrine to her in his toilet. The citizens prayed to her and invoked her power when the shitters got jammed up.’
Impatiently, Larry piped up. ‘So what did the owner of your palazzo do when you explained your colorful alternative way to get rid of your doo-doo?’
‘He threatened to call the police on us. Usual local response.’
‘And what did you do?’
Luigi gave that edges-of-the-mouth-down look. ‘One of our Commissioners has a brother who is a general in Military Intelligence. He had a couple of his goombahs pay a social call on the landlord. Real gorillas. Next morning, Presto! Sewage truck came pumping away, and we had ten bouquets of flowers delivered to our home in apology.’
‘No shit!’ exclaimed Heinz, enjoying the irony.
‘Nope. Life as usual here.’
Far away on the horizon floated several waitresses, nearly invisible. They looked dreamy.
‘Hey sweety! Beers all around. Put it on my tab.’ Luigi was in a celebratory mood.
Heinz nodded appreciatively. ‘Danke Schön. You Aussies are not all cheapskates, I’m glad to admit.’
‘At least when it comes to beer.’ Wink.
…… continue to part 2