January, 2018 – A few months after the events of Toilet Gator.
Bangkok was a city a man who wanted to escape his past could get lost in. It was a lawless land filled with sights and stimulation, distractions and debauchery, virtually any and all vices afflicting the human condition could be purchased for a price. Baht was the name of the game and at the moment, the name of the game was high stakes pick a number.
In the dimly back room of The Scorpion Nest, the worst dive bar in a city full of dive bars, a formerly attractive middle-aged man by the name of Ed Enwright sat at a table with a pile of brightly colored currency before him and a loaded revolver that he had willingly pressed up against his own table. His beard hadn’t been trimmed in months and a bandana kept his long hair from falling into his eyes.
Sitting across from Ed was Boon-Mee, a degenerate louse with a face full of scars. Like Ed, he too also reeked of cheap booze and bad decisions. He too pressed a loaded revolver up to his head. He too had a pile of money in front of him.
Anurak, an elderly barkeep with a glass eye, presided over the game. Behind him, a gaggle of drunks waved currency about, placing their bets and watching the game intently. As soon as Anurak raised a hand, all sounds in the room ceased.
Ed and Boon-Mee stared each other down as sweat dripped from their brows.
“I’m thinking of a number,” Anurak said. “Between 1 and 10.”
Ed gritted his teeth. Boon-Mee breathed heavily.
“Yes,” Anurak said. “A number between 1 and 10. I have it in my mind now. Boon-Mee, what is it?”
Boon-Mee hyperventilated. Spittle sprayed out of his mouth as he gave his reply. “Seven!”
“Are you sure?” Anurak asked.
Boon-Mee looked at Ed, then at the crowd, then to the barkeep. “Yes! Seven! I’m positive.”
Anurak shook his head. “No, I’m sorry. It’s not seven.”
Boon-Mee’s face turned ghostly white. He closed his eyes and winced. “Goodbye, cruel world,” were the man’s last words just before he pulled the trigger and sprayed the room full of blood and brains.
Hushed murmurs erupted from the crowd as Boon-Mee’s carcass slumped over the table.
“Ed!” Anurak said. “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10…and as we just established, it is not 7.”
Ed’s hand shook nervously as he pondered the barkeep’s question. “Five?”
The rummies in attendance all waited on Anurak’s answer, their eyes glued to the barkeep for fear they might miss it. “Mmm hmm. Yes. Five it is.”
“Hooray!” The crowd cheered and settled their bets as Ed broke out in a cold sweat. He breathed a sigh of relief, then reached across the table to pull the late Boon-Mee’s loot pile towards his.
After a few minutes of consolidating all that sticky, crinkly baht into a relatively solid currency brick, the winner moseyed on over to the bar, where Anurak was busy pouring obscure, exotic looking drinks into skull shaped glasses.
Ed looked to his left, then to his right. The coast was clear. He pulled roughly fifty-percent of his newly acquired winnings to the glass eyed man. Anurak seized the cash and tucked it into his pocket quickly.
“You look like shit, Ed,” Anurak said as he slid a skull across the bar. “On the house.”
“Mmm,” Ed said as he grabbed the glass and tipped it into his mouth. “That’s good. What is that? An old, secret potion? An elixir the recipe of which your family has guarded since ancient times?”
Anurak smirked. “It’s a banana daiquiri, asshole. I just put it in a skull glass so fat, lazy, stupid American tourists like you will think it’s special and pay me more beaucoup bucks.”
“Hmm,” Ed said as he smacked his lips together. “Whatever. It’s good. You’ve outdone yourself.”
“So, have you,” the barkeep replied. “Get out of my joint, Ed. I can’t do business with you anymore.”
“What?” Ed asked. “Why?”
This time, Anurak looked around to make sure no one was looking. “Look, there’s a shelf-life to the old, ‘high stakes pick a number’ con. Most of these gambling gawkers understand that the whole thing is rigged and they just want to see some nincompoop blow his brains out, but the key is that most fellas who are in on it blow town after a few nights so I can find a new accomplice to bilk the marks.”
“Have I been at it so long?” Ed asked.
“Six weeks,” Anurak said. “How long were you in Bangkok before you met me?”
“Honestly,” Ed said. “I don’t remember. It’s all a blur.”
A naked woman walked past the bar, pulling an endangered panda bear on a leash behind her.
“Although, twelve weeks ago, something like that would have surprised me,” Ed said.
“Where else have your travels taken you?” Anurak said.
“Oh,” Ed said. “So many places. Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, India, Pakistan, Tibet, Hong Kong, Morocco…”
“Wow,” Anurak said. “I bet you’ve boom-boomed every color of pussy known to man.”
Ed grinned. “You’d think so but no.”
“Ahh,” Anurak said. “You carry a torch for a woman in your past life?”
Ed took a swig of daiquiri. “You might said that.”
“Yeah,” Anurak said. “Well, my friend, Confucious say, ‘He who forgoes the new pussy of today out of love of pussy of the past is truly the greatest pussy of all in the present.’”
The drunk nodded. “That’s very profound.”
The barkeep ran a towel along the surface of the bar, then leaned over to stare at his friend in the eye. “You did your best, Ed. Go home. Clean yourself up. You’re doing no one any good here.”
Ed’s heart skipped a beat. “Huh? What are you talking about?”
“You’re a good man,” Anurak said. “You deserve better than this.”
Ed downed the rest of his drink, then rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “Am I missing something? It sounds like you know some things about me that I don’t recall ever telling you.”
Anurak pointed to a TV monitor hanging over the bar. On it, footage of a tall skyscraper in Chicago played. The barkeep grabbed the remote and turned up the volume loud enough that an announcer’s voice could be heard.
“You’re watching the Documentary Direct,” the announcer said. “The only channel that brings you all of your favorite films featuring voice over announcers speaking ominously over archive footage. If you’re watching this tonight, your chances of getting laid are slim to none.”
“He’s got you there,” Anurak said.
Ed nodded in the affirmative.
“Tonight at 9, we’ll be featuring, ‘Milk, Milk, Lemonade,’ a retrospective on the world’s most infamous combination dairy farms, lemonade stands and fudge packing plants and not what you assumed we’d be talking about, you disgusting excuse for a human being, but first, where were you when the Equinox Tower fell?”
“OK,” Ed said. “I got it.”
“This shit has been on all week,” Anurak said. “Every channel.”
“Yeah,” Ed said. “It’s the ten-year anniversary. Can we watch something else?”
The announcer carried on. “One thousand, two-hundred and forty-eight lives were lost when a mad bomber’s reign of terror…”
Ed spoke loudly, drowning over the announcer. “Put on a game show. A sitcom. Anything else, please.”
A stock photo of a much younger, more handsome, physically fit Ed appeared on the screen. He was clean shaven and his eyes appeared more hopeful than they had ever been.
“And what ever happened to Ed Enwright, the head of the FBI’s top counter-terrorism unit and the lead investigator on this case? Sources say he was fired shortly after the tower was lost, though the circumstances of his termination were never made public. After that, his friends and colleagues say they never heard from him again. It’s almost as if he vanished into thin air.”
Ed reached over the bar, yanked the remote out of Anurak’s hand and flipped the channels until he landed on a game show. Three lucky contests stood behind podiums as the host shouted, “Who’s ready to play, ‘Dodge That Suppository?’”
“I’m sorry, my friend,” Anurak said. “It’s just not often I get a celebrity in my bar. You looked good back then. You really let yourself go.”
“Thanks,” Ed said.
“No, seriously,” Anurak said. “The dark spots under your eyes and the flecks of gray in your hair and beard and you’ve packed on at least, what, twenty or thirty pounds?”
“Set me up with another drink and I’ll start working on forty,” Ed said.
Anurak forked over another skull full of daquiri.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” Anurak said. “You’re a hero.”
“Yeah,” Ed said. “Tell that to my kid.”
Anurak ran his towel over the bar once more. “Confucius say, ‘The shorter the life, the lesser the strife, the longer one lives, the easier one forgives.’”
“I’ll drop that in a note and mail it to her,” Ed said. “Maybe she’ll take my calls.”
“Maybe you skip the call and visit in person,” Anurak said.
Ed swigged from the skull. “Maybe.”
The barkeep reached out and grabbed Ed’s hand. “You’re not welcome here anymore.”
“Why?” Ed asked. “Did I fart or something?”
“On occasion,” Anurak said. “But no. I can’t stand to see someone with so much left to offer the world sit here, night after night, letting his skills go to waste.”
“The world and I aren’t exactly simpatico,” Ed said.
“Oh, here we go,” Ed said as he guzzled his booze. “More Confucius.”
“Shut your hole, Yankee imperialist swine,” Anurak said. “Confucius was a wise man and had more brains in his left nut than you’ll ever have in your entire life.”
Ed shrugged his shoulders. “Probably true.”
Anurak continued. “Confucius say, ‘He who has failed in one chapter, must find a new purpose in the next, or else he will just go on repeating the same old shit forever and ever.’”
“Confucius really said, ‘shit?’” Ed asked.
“Oh, he had a very foul tongue, that Confucius,” Anurak said.
The barkeep slid over a third skull. “The last drink I’ll ever serve you. You’re welcome to stay until closing, but then for your own good, I never want to see you here again. If you won’t find a new reason to live, then please, kill yourself in another bar.”
“I hear the Tong Sia Lounge has good chicken wings,” Ed said.
“Hmm,” Anurak said. “I don’t know about that. I hear they taste better going in, but feel worse when they come out. If you’ll excuse me, it’s been nice knowing you, friend.”
Anurak waltzed down the bar to serve more customers. Ed flipped through the channels on TV.
“A new purpose,” Ed said. “A new purpose. Where the hell can I find a new purpose?”
Ed channel surfed for a while until he settled on the Movie Now channel. He was hoping to catch a flick but instead there was another documentary playing.
“Jeeze,” Ed said. “What a buzzkill.”
“Welcome back to the Movie Now channel,” the announcer said. “We love to bring you the latest flicks featuring grown ass adults pretending to be caped, costumed, spandex wearing superheroes, the occasional reboot of a film that came out two years ago, and of course, romantic comedies where the so-called ugly friend is just a hot chick with a pair of glasses slapped on her attractive face. But we also want in on award season, so tonight, we’re bringing you the documentary version of Jaws of Death: The Inside Story of the News Duo That Tracked the Toilet Gator.
Archive footage of ex-Sitwell Police Chief Cole Walker played. In the middle of a street flooded by a hurricane, the forty-year-old man stood in a sinking canoe, pressing a whirring chainsaw blade up against the big green monster’s sharp, pointy teeth.
“It was the story that shocked a nation,” the announcer said in a voice over. “Three people, one of them none other than Countess Cucamonga, died on the toilet in a single night.”
Ed had been drinking at the very moment that last statement was made. Out of shock, he sprayed his daiquiri out of his lips and all over the bar. “Countess Cucamonga is dead?!”
An angry Anurak returned and furiously wiped up Ed’s spit. “Damn it, Ed! I know this place is a shithole but I try to keep up a few standards.”
“Dude,” Ed said as he pointed at the TV, which was showing archived footage of an alligator bursting out of a toilet, only to devour the Mayor of Sitwell, Florida. “When the hell did that happen?”
“What?” Anurak asked. “The toilet gator? You never heard about that?”
“No,” Ed said.
“Were you living under a rock last fall?” Anurak asked.
Ed searched the deep recesses of his mind. “Last fall…last fall…damn, that ayahuasca is some potent shit.”
“Seriously, Ed,” Anurak said. “Get in a program.”
“What happened?” Ed asked.
“You really don’t know?” Anurak asked.
“No,” Ed said. “Why would I ask if I didn’t know?”
“There was a fat ass alligator,” Anurak said. “Popping out of toilets in Florida and eating people. He had an accomplice. An over the hill cop with a prosthetic leg hunted it down and killed it.”
Anurak and Ed stared at each other in silence.
“Kinda makes you feel like a loser that you aren’t doing more with your life given the fact that you have two good legs, doesn’t it?” the barkeep asked.
“Yeah,” Ed said as he stood up. “A little bit.”
The announcer continued. “In the wake of the toilet gator carnage, Americans have one question on their minds, ‘Is it safe to shit?’”
A Southern woman with three babies in tow spoke into a microphone. “I don’t care what the lying government or the fake news media says, I will never shit in a toilet again for as long as I live.”
Ed pushed the skull drink away. “I think I just found my new purpose.”
“You’re going to help that lady take a shit?” Anurak said.
“Something like that,” Ed said. “Thanks for your hospitality.”
“Don’t mention it,” Anurak said. “Oh, and Ed…”
“Don’t forget,” Anurak said. “’Confucius say, ‘He who cries for many months will lubricate his soul, but he who cries for many years will drown himself.’”
“Did Confucious really say all those things?” Ed asked.
“Not at all,” Anurak said. “I just think of advice that would help my customers and then tell them Confucius said it because it sounds better coming from an ancient philosopher than it does from an old bum like me. Most fat, stupid, lazy Americans are easily fooled though honestly, I expected more from an educated man like you.”
“I’m sorry,” Ed said.
“You should be,” Anurak said. “Racist prick.”