(Peter Farringwell, fairly recent college graduate, is somewhat desperate to get money for airfare to Thailand. He has gone to Kristie Nichol’s credit union and tried to hit up, Phyllis, his mom for the cash. She said no. Peter decides to try another party.)
(from Storyteller – Courtney Webb)
Part II – Thailand by Courtney Webb
Peter Farringwell, II was pissed.
He leaned against the counter at the Zippy Mart drinking cheap, black coffee.
He went to his back pocket and pulled out the colored brochure and put it on the counter.
CHRISTIAN MISSION – SAVE THE CHILDREN IN THAILAND
Rereading the pamphlet for about the fifth time, he confirmed the flight date. Yup, one week from today. He really wanted to go on this thing. He had no interest in saving any children, of course, but he wanted to get to Thailand and this was the cheapest way to do it. He had heard endless stories about the quality of the weed you could get there and the girls, whew! He wanted to try some of that for sure.
He had tried his best to tap the old lady one more time, but she wasn’t buying it. Told him he should work on his religious life more. What a bunch of shit! He was religious. He religiously got his hands on as much weed as possible whenever possible. He had been doing so all through college and mother had no idea.
“She’s a moron,” he mumbled to himself. “Small town moron.”
The woman standing next to him buying a soda looked at him strangely. He turned his back and kept drinking his coffee. Needed to think of something else. He had tried everything to get the Mission people to let him go for free. He volunteered to work, cook, make beds, clean toilets, whatever, but they kept saying no.
“Every member of the congregation,” the Director, Ms. Chen had said, “will to have to pay his or her own plane fare. If you want to exchange labor for food and lodging once we get there, that would be great. But you have to pay your own way there.” She smiled at him.
Peter tapped the brochure on the counter top. “Shit,” he said to the air.
Getting away from those cops had been a close call. Whew! Getting out of town for awhile seemed like a good idea. Maybe he would try to old man tomorrow. His mom and dad never spoke much which was a good thing. Couldn’t compare notes. He looked up at the wall clock. He needed to get back to the Mission before they locked the doors at eight p.m.
What a bunch of weirdoes, Peter grinned inwardly. Whatever, three hots and a cot, it would do for now. He dumped the coffee cup and took off.
Next day, 9 a.m., early for him, Peter was at Farringwell Tires on Main Street. He was casually chatting up his dad, Pete, Senior. Pete was dressed in his usual white polo shirt with his name embroidered on the front and tan chinos. He wore thick soled black shoes.
Peter wore his usual sloppy, all black uniform. They were on the shop floor, both sloshing down cups of coffee in styro-foam cups. The loudspeaker in the shop kept blaring every few minutes asking for a customer to come to the front desk. Peter had worked at the shop through high-school but quit when he went to college. He needed time to ‘study’ he had told his dad.
“I need to ask you something, Dad, it will just take a minute. Can we go somewhere quieter?”
Pete, Sr. looked concerned. He adored his first-born son and was still in awe addressing the first college graduate in the family.
“Okay, Peter, no problem. Let’s go to my office and have a sit.”
Sitting in an awkward aluminum chair, Peter pulled out the brochure and pushed it across the desk to his father.
“I know I’ve had my share of problems this last two years…” Peter said in his most humble voice.
Pete, Sr., waved it away dismissively.
“But I think I have seen the light.” Peter’s hands were folded together in his lap, almost in supplication.
His father peered up at him with small, shrewd eyes.
Peter paused, he better not lay it on too thick or the old man would never buy it.
“But,” he rapidly changed his pitch, “these people at the Mission have really helped me. They have given me a job, food, a place to stay…. Now,” he eyed his dad cautiously, “I just want to help and give back to their organization. You can see what they do over there in Thailand with those kids. It’s really great.” He paused to sip on his coffee. Better stop while he was ahead.
His dad looked down at the brochure. “So, what is it you need Peter?” He appeared to be reading the pamphlet that he held with thick, muscular hands.
“Well, they pay for everything when we get there. All the food and housing are covered. It’s just that…. well, they don’t cover airfare.”
“How much?” The dad looked up slowly and tapped the brochure on his desk.
“$1,500 – economy class. No first class for this boy!” Pete smiled with enthusiasm.
“Well, I don’t know…”
“Dad, if you have any problems with the money, of course, I don’t want to bother you. Times are tough, I know that.”
“No, it’s not the money. It’s just, well….”
Peter knew exactly what his father was thinking.
“Tell you what. I’ll leave the brochure with you.” Peter turned it over to the backside and pointed to a name and number. “This is Ms. Chen and she is handling all the travel arrangements. You can call her direct and give her your info and she will take care of it. And that is good for me because it confirms I’m really going, not just blowing smoke.”
“Okay…” he father responded slowly. “Let me think on it a little.”
“No problem, Dad. Whatever you decide is fine. Just call Ms. Chen if it’s a yes and she will take it from there. I better hustle off now, I handle the lunch crowd and it can be a real gang of folks. Thanks, Dad.” Peter carefully put his cup in the trash. “Talk at you later.”
With a little salute he was out the door. His dad was still staring at the brochure looking uncertain, his chubby face mouthing words to himself.
He’ll do it, Peter thought to himself. He could never say no to me. With that, he started to whistle a happy tune and look for a bus to get him back to the Mission.
Back at the Christian Mission he dropped his backpack on his cot and reached for a pack of cigarettes.
“You know you’re not supposed to be smoking,” a soft female voice sounded from his left.
Peter paused before lighting up and turned.
“Sally, Sally Jones. You old snoop. Watching me are you?”
Sally paused and looked down at the floor. Then, pointing up, “The sign clearly states no smoking in here, Peter.”
He laughed. “Ok, Sister Sal, whatever you say. I will take my smoke outside.” He made a stage bow to her and swept an arm out. “Whatever my lady says.”
Sally blushed and stammered, “Thanks, Peter, so much. Dinner set up will be in a few minutes.”
“And I will be there, trust me.” He paused to give her a little chuck under the chin and walked jauntily out the back door.
Sally turned and looked at his retreating back. She had never met anyone quite like him. So smart, so educated, so good looking! Walking back to the kitchen she sighed as she pulled on the white apron. Why couldn’t she ever get a guy like that? Seeing the time, she let out a little gasp. Better get cracking, that mob would be hungry!
Next day Peter got a message from one of the workers that Ms. Chen wished to see him in the office. He dropped what he was doing and hustled over to the next building and knocked on the door.
Peter went in. “Have a seat, Peter.” Ms. Chen smiled at him.
“Well,” she drummed the top of her desk with fingertips. “Good news, looks like you will be going with us to Thailand after all.”
“Wow, Ms. Chen, that’s really great! Did you guys change your mind about the ticket?” Peter put on his happy face.
“Ah, no. Actually, we got a call from your father and he agreed to put the fare on his card.”
“Oh, gosh, my Old Man! Wow, he came through for me after all. He’s such a pal.”
Ms. Chen’s smile became a little frozen. “Yes, really nice of him. He even included a little for ‘expenses’.”
“Four hundred dollars.”
Peter’s brain started working furiously.
“But, as discussed before Peter, this is a charitable organization and we get a group discount rate on the fare. So, you will be expected to stay at the compound when we get there and help serve the meals and so forth. That’s agreed?”
“Sure. No problem,” Peter said automatically, his brain whirling.
“I believe you said you wanted to do some sightseeing. We will be having some group tours on the bus and you are certainly welcome to join…”
“Group tours, bus…yeah. Good. When do I get the money?”
Ms. Chen paused. “Everything has to process through the bank. I believe I can give it to you as soon as we get to the camp in Thailand.”
“Great! Thanks Ms. Chen. Got to get back to dinner!” Peter jumped up and was out the door before she could say anything else.
Tapping her fingers some more, Ms. Chen was thoughtful.
“Rich kids.” Shaking her head, she went back to work.
The Christian Mission Group landed at the Thailand airport and was met by their driver. Carrying a large sign, he got them after they went through customs. The group was quickly loaded into the van. Traffic was stop and go through the jammed packed streets of Bangkok. Their camp site was on the outskirts of town. It was an old run-down school the church had taken over. The volunteers, climbed off the bus and gazed around. Another worker showed them to their dorms to get unpacked.
“This place is a trip. I love it!” Peter gushed.
“Yes, it’s pretty nice,huh? But hot, wow,” Sally was not quite so effusive. Her pale skin was already pink from the heat and sweating. She kept pushing her fine blond hair, now matted, out of her face.
“The colors, the people, wow,” Peter kept saying.
“I got to go unpack. See you later,” she told him.
“Yeah,” he thought to himself. Much later.
Peter threw his big backpack on the bed and held onto his little bag.
He went in search of Ms. Chen. He was finally able to locate her in the office, chatting up the staff. He hung around the doorway appearing disinterested.
There was finally a break in the chatter; she glanced his way.
“Ah, Peter. Yes, why don’t you come with me?” She got up. Ms. Chen was shortish, in her late 30’s, slim with long black hair.
Peter often thought she didn’t look much like most social workers he was used to. In another life, he and she…his mind wandered.
He followed her out into another, miniscule office. The walls were old fake wood paneling with calendars of beautiful, young Thai women displaying painted nails. Ms. Chen sat down at a heavy metal desk and reached for her purse.
“You’ll be wanting your money no doubt.”
She unzipped her wallet and pulled out four – one hundred-dollar bills and handed them to him.
“You had this in your purse the whole time?” He was incredulous.
“Well, wanted to be sure you had the whole amount for your trip. Problem?”
She looked up at him, her eyes narrowed. He stopped counting the money and pulled out his wallet and stuck it inside.
“No, no problem. Ah, thanks for handling everything.” He turned to go.
“Certainly. The dinner staff will be needing help very soon and dinner is at six p.m. sharp.”
He nodded her way and shuffled out.
“Controlling bitch,” he mumbled to himself as he went back to his room. Each dorm room had a tiny locking safe in the closet. He programmed a password and put three of the bills inside.
Don’t want to lose anything, he thought, patting the safe. Shit, might as well at least look like I’m helping. He was itching to hit the bars in town. He had noticed driving in there appeared to be plenty of taxis around. He could take one later.
Reluctantly, he shuffled off to the kitchen.
The kitchen detail was actually a good thing for Peter. He made friends with two guys in the back and they all agreed to split the moment dinner detail was done. One guy, Danny, had been there longest. He agreed to show them the sights and get them to the best bars. They couldn’t wait.
Next morning, Peter was face down in his cot and drooling on his pillow. Sally was leaning over him shaking him.
“Peter, Peter. Get up. It’s time for breakfast and you’re late.”
“What…” He said blearily and clung to his pillow.
“Get up!” she shouted at him.
“Alright!” He lurched up and stopped himself. The room was spinning. “Be there in a minute.” He was burning with thirst.
He half fell out of the cot and staggered into the bathroom and stuck his face under the faucet. Water splashed over his face and ran into his mouth. He could drink a bathtub of orange juice.
Sally left and went back to the kitchen. He finished running water over his face and grabbed for a towel. He rubbed his face hard. Peering into the mirror, the image was still out of focus. He grabbed someone’s comb and ran it through his hair. Stumbling back to his cot, he pulled a fresh shirt out of his pack and pulled it on. Skip clean pants, who cared, he would be in an apron anyway. Wasn’t there Tylenol around here somewhere? Shit, he couldn’t find it. Better ask Sal.
In the kitchen he got his apron and whispered to Sally, “Need some Tylenol real bad.”
“God, Peter. Your breath!” she pushed him away. “I’ll get it, just don’t breathe on me, okay?” Her face wrinkled up.
“Peter, over here. We need you to serve.” The head guy was waving at him.
Peter nodded and walked gingerly over to his spot. He felt like throwing up. He went to grab a bottle of OJ out of the frig and started downing it. Sally came back and stuck a small bottle in his hand. He forced the cap open and got four pills and took them two at a time. He was serving scrambled eggs.
He was okay for about twenty minutes then he waved at the guy standing next to him and ran for the head. After chucking for several minutes, he was leaning over the sink washing his face off. Another worker came in to use the john.
“Heavy night, huh?” The guy laughed.
“F—you.” Peter thought to himself. He walked slowly back to the kitchen. In truth, he couldn’t wait to do it again.
Continued Part III