A Thigh-Length White Leather Boot by Joseph Ridgwell

It was back in the early days. I was sitting outside the bar with my noon beer, a couple of lumps of ice floating in the tall glass. The ice diluted the strength somewhat, but in the tropics it was either that or warm beer. The girls were sat at a table opposite. Nut, Min, and Poo, busy making small talk. Poo was wearing a short, short skirt. I eyed up her smooth thighs on the sly, as I perused a week old copy of the Bangkok Post.

As this uneventful scene was played out a group of glamorous Swedes walked past. They looked like some living poster of the Nazi’s Aryan ideal. They didn’t even look at our bar, but headed straight to the Scandinavian meatball restaurant next door. That’s where all the Scandinavian travellers went. I think it was the huge Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish flags flying from the rooftop that enticed them in.

I stopped eyeballing Poo’s silky thighs and turned my visual attention to the Swedish girls. Shit, they were all lookers, and an old samba standard popped into my head. I re-arranged the words a little,‘Tall and tan and blonde and lovely, the girls from the frozen fjords pass by. And when they pass, Ridgwell takes a sip of his cold beer and goes – ah!’

On hearing this the Thai girls stopped aimlessly gossiping and gave me their usual line, ‘Eeh, Joe bah ting tong!’ They chorused.

I sat their poker-faced. Was I crazy? It was possible. Sometimes when I looked in the mirror, a sort of demented reflection leered back at me.

With the glamorous Swedes out of the picture and my beer all but drunk, I decided it was time for another of my famous ice cream runs, ‘Ice cream?’ I offered into the stultifying and somewhat fetid air.

The Thai girls looked up in keen expectation.‘Yah!’ they cooed expectantly.

With that I became overly serious. I jumped onto the Bar’s one and only moped and gazed into the distance like some intrepid explorer or long forgotten frontiersman. Then I kicked started the engine and turned to the girls,‘What’s my fastest time again?’

Nut held up the stopwatch and pointed her feet in the air. To this day I’m not sure why she pointed her feet in the air, but she always did point her feet in the air,‘12 min, 7 sex,’ she replied.

‘And what condition was the ice cream in?’

‘Good, but jus start melt.’

I eyeballed the road once again and furrowed my brow, ‘This time I do it under ten minutes!’ I stated dramatically. The girls cheered and clapped and then I was gone, revving up the track, clouds of dust trailing in my wake.

I suppose at this point I should inform the reader that there wasn’t any actual need for me to do this so-called ice-cream run. Although the bar was located in a small Thai village, there were plenty of nearby establishments where a body could get hold of ice cream without any trouble. But where’s the fun in that?

As the bar did little or no custom until late evening I often got bored. So on sweltering customer less afternoons I’d go for long rides into the surrounding countryside. It was a jungle out there, but with the wind in your hair it seemed like a little bit of freedom. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

On one such ride I’d just picked up some fresh mangosteen for the girls. The jungle lanes were dotted with unmanned fruit stalls, the fruit often picked that very morning by the farmer’s children. Throw some change into an old tin can and the transaction was complete.

So there I was cruising along, basket full of mangosteen, when a tiny farm shop caught my eye. The shop sold everything and anything, and amazingly even handmade ice cream. The old guy running the shop offered me a free sample. It was delectable, a gift for the taste buds, a little kiss from heaven. The girls would love some of that, I thought as I lapped it up. And it was then and there that I did my first ever ice-cream run.

So, anyway, back to the story. There I was on another of my kamikaze ice-cream runs, trying to break the ten minute barrier so the pretty bar girls could eat ice-cream in the shade. I had just reached the outskirts of the village and was making good time. How good I wasn’t sure, but I reckoned the record was on. I was winding my way slalom style through the mad Thai traffic, no traffic lights or road safety, just a free for all, wild style. Then, as I pulled in front of a truck and swerved past an entire family riding a motorbike, I saw him, my next door neighbour from the Scandinavian meatball restaurant.

I slowed down and pulled up alongside, the record forgotten. On the back of his moped, her long black hair flying in the wind, was a heavily made up Thai girl, obviously a prostie. She was wearing a pair of white thigh length leather boots. I gave them a friendly wave and the girl smiled and returned my wave like she was still touting for business. Funnily enough my neighbour ignored me and looked straight ahead with a determined face. Well, shit, he was married!

The following morning I was plotted up in my usual position, beer in hand, and perusing an old copy of the Bangkok Post. As I studied the English football results the Thai wife of my neighbour suddenly drew up in a taxi. She’d been away for a few days.

Moments later I heard lots of shouting and angry words from within the restaurant. Then an object sailed through the air, landing a few feet in front of me with a thud. It was a white leather boot. The boot was followed by the appearance of a girl, hopping on one leg. It was the prostie. As she struggled to put on her boot I raised my beer and smiled. Despite everything the girl managed a half-smile, before running off down the road.

There was a lot more shouting from within the Danish meatball restaurant after that. I heard things being broken, shrieks, screams etc, until suddenly the wife marched out with her nose in the air. She was holding one of the Scandinavian flags, the Danish one. She screamed something and jumped up and down on the flag. Then she hailed a taxi and disappeared.

When the old man finally showed it was early evening and I was busy spraying myself all over with mosquito repellent. The old Dane began sweeping the front of his premises with a face like thunder. Actually it wasn’t a face like thunder; it was a face with two hideous black eyes.

I studied the old man while he swept and suddenly realised I’d never seen him smile, not once in all those months,‘Hey, do you ever think about going home?’ I called out.

The old man stopped sweeping. Then he looked at me with a broken-hearted face and said simply, ‘It’s much too late for that now.’

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