“Mr. You, wake up, you’ve got to come and help us.” What in hell? I was having a nice dream. Like a French guy once said, you always wake up too early when you’re dreaming that you’re fucking and always too late when you’re dreaming that you’re pissing. “Mr. You, wake up for Christ’s sake.” And I knew now where I was.
I was in my remote and secluded place lost in the jungle by a beach in this southeastern Asian country and one of the beauties of it was that I’d get up only when I’d wake up. No more alarm clock, no more hurry, just waking up to a new day. And May Linh and Lily, living in the nude with me by contract, knew that. Not once did they wake me up. And last night I went to bed late and quite a bit drunk.
“Mr. You, for fuck sake, will you come to?” There was urgency and a bit of anger in May Linh’s voice, so my hangover brain finally got it. I opened my eyes and all my senses were now in alert, although slowed down some since they had to get through the exhalations of beer.
And I remembered last night before going to bed and how I figured that a typhoon was coming our way. But I also remembered that I had figured that we had time; typhoons and hurricanes take a long time coming, a couple of days sometimes, it’s not as if they’re on you from one minute to the next. Ok, I could hear some wind but it was not even raining yet. I could smell the coffee. What the fuck was the hurry?
But there was May Linh with her gardener apron, her rubber boots, her gloves: she never ever came inside the house with her muddy gardening stuff. And I knew right away it had nothing to do with the garden.
Shit I thought, something happened to Lily? Then I worried.
“No, nothing happened to Lily,” May Linh told me impatiently. “We need your help and it’s rather urgent. Get up, don’t take too long and come join us, we need help.”
May Linh was gone already so I took a leak and a beer shit and I went to check on the porch what was up. I didn’t know what time it was but it was early, at least for me. The sky was dark with mother clouds, yet there was hardly any wind and still no rain. But the ocean was chompy – no swimming today – and something in the air said hell was closer than it seemed at the moment.
And I saw them, May Linh and Lily. They were by the gardening shack and all walls of the shack were down and neatly packed. What the fuck? So I put sandals on and went to see them. They were both nude, so to speak: May Linh had her gardening uniform, Lily was wearing her red apron, her red boots (grey gloves) and she had her panties on because she had her period. Red panties of course. And she was wearing a tool belt!!! With a hammer!!!
Somehow, last night, drunk and high, I figured I would just ride that typhoon out like I did ride hurricanes in New Orleans. Before Katerina that is. So, Ok, I got it: we had to protect the house.
“Look what we discovered this morning with Lily,” May Linh said. “Everything is set up to be taken down and put up fast, it’s very smart. We just came this morning with Lily to look about what we needed to take inside because of the storm and then we noticed that everything here could be packed up and put away under the back porch.”
The back porch?
Then I understood. That’s indeed why there was this weird concrete space under the back porch, and that explained why the outside shower was there too. A typhoon is coming, you pack everything, store it away under the porch. When it’s over, you just rebuilt your shack. Very smart indeed.
“Look,” Lily said. “This is just a clipping system.” And it was, I could see now. “So we tried with one wall and, sure enough, it came so easy. But now we need your help to take the roof down.”
God, I thought, there were these two nude women and they were telling me about construction. How weird! Before I could say anything, Lily, who was putting tools in a big tools’ case, said: “And we are sure that the garage in built the same way.” I looked at what they were showing me and yes, once I understood how pieces were clipped together and held with kingpins, I saw the efficiency of this construction and I was impressed. It was wonderful craftsmanship. And old Mr. Me knew about construction.
And I understood that indeed May Linh and Lily were right. I’d rather help them put the stuff away than having metal sheets flying all around the house in a few hours. And then I really got it. The garden shack, the garage, the outside shower were all built in the same way and had to be taken down and stored away. Like, now! I realized that was a lot of work to be done indeed. That’s why they didn’t let me sleep.
Better get moving.
“That’s not all,” Lily said. “Did you ever look inside that storage space under the back porch?”
Yes I had, when I bought the house; the first time I came, the salesman showed it to me. He had a thick accent speaking in English and it was hard for me to understand what he was saying. I remember seeing stuff under tarpaulins in there but it was dark and I later never had the curiosity to go back in there since that storage space was oddly oriented, with the one door opening to the jungle.
“What’s in there? I asked.
“Protection panels for the house: there is a cover panel for every opening of the house: doors, windows, they’re all labeled,” May Linh said. “So we need to take them out before we start storing there the shack and the garage and the shower.”
Christ I thought: now, all of a sudden, there was A LOT of work to do.
“And we need to protect the guest-house as well,” said Lily.
“Oh, and, by the way, the guest-house is where we’ll spend the night,” added May Linh.
They must have seen something on my face because they both cracked up laughing. Does anyone here care to ask for my opinion? I thought. I said nothing, of course. So, Ok, I got going. First they just needed me to hold the ladder so that they could unclip the roof’s metal sheets and the wooden roof frame. Lily was on the ladder, her butt just about my nose. I understood why she needed me: when she had to hit a kingpin hard with her hammer, the ground was not stable enough for the ladder to stay in place. So my job was to hold the ladder.
Well, holding the ladder for Lily was cool I thought, and I could have done that job for a long time but soon the whole shack was dismantled.
“OK, May Linh and I are going up to take down the garage. In the meantime take all the panels out of the storage space under the porch and, when you’re done, if we’re not back yet, you can start carrying the guest-house’s panels there,” Lily said.
“Well, I could start putting the shack’s boards away,” I offered.
“No,” Lily said, “we’ll put the stuff away because we’ll be the ones rebuilding it so we need to know where everything is.”
How could old Mr. Me argue with energetic young Lily wearing a tool belt???? But it made sense I thought. At home, when Lily grew up with an absent father, having to take care of her brothers, sister and mother, she was certainly taking care of everything and that’s probably how she became some sort of Mrs. Bricolage.
“Ok, no problem,” I said, “just tell me what you want me to do.”
I didn’t know what I was talking about. I had forgotten. Indeed, after 15 minutes of bending down, carrying heavy panels, old Mr. Me’s joints were crying for their mother. Soon, every cartilage in my body ached and every single bone ached. My knees, my back, my hands ached. Shit, I was back to work! Was I really paying for this?
I took solace in remembering that, once, I was able to do this. So I got my heart to calm down and kindly asked my body to stay with me on this one. And it did. It was painful, but it did. And I got every fucking panel out from under there.
And when May Linh and Lily came down from where there was once a garage, I had laid all the panels out and I had kind of understood where they were going to be set on the house’s windows and doors. “Not bad for an old guy,” Lily said. Thanks Lily, I really appreciate.
Then Lily got May Linh and me to move into the storage space all the parts from the shack, the garage shed and the shower. In the meanwhile, she was setting the panels on the house’s windows and doors. Lily showed us how easy it was to clip those panels and I couldn’t help but think that the guy who had designed this whole place was the mother of all architects. Probably a local artisan I thought.
It made so much sense: that’s why it was a shotgun house. I could never figure why there would be such a house in this place. But now I knew. The architect had put his house right into the dune’s arms and it was thus protected from the wind on all sides by the hill and the forest. On stilts, there was nothing to worry about high tide. I figured we could stay in the house and ride the storm and I almost suggested it to May Linh and Lily. I was sure the house could sustain it the way it was designed.
But then I understood also why the architect had set the guest-house so far into the jungle, because it was on high ground. And then I knew May Linh and Lily were right: the guest-house is where we were going to spend the next 24h. Still, I felt pretty certain my house could weather any fucking typhoon. It was just a gut feeling but I wasn’t courageous enough to follow suit.
In any case, by the time we were finishing cleaning up, the wind had finally come and the rain had come as well: we were expecting them all day but, now, they were upon us and it was now pissing rain, a deluge. If the wind was still only combing the forest in great strikes, the forest knew it was due to a new hairdo, soon. I saw May Linh run in the guest-house with a suit case. Lily, alone on the ladder, was finishing setting the house’s protective panels. I asked her if she needed help. We needed to scream to hear each other. “NO,” she said, “go help May Linh.”
I remember running all the way from the kitchen to the guest-house with as much beer and wine as I could carry. And I knew I’d need another trip for water and maybe another one for more beer. I saw May Linh take care of Lily’s laptop and carrying it to the guest house and that surprised me. Did they plan all this without me? Then I saw May Linh taking care of the food. She too made more than one trip and I trusted we wouldn’t die of starvation and of thirst.
So May Linh and I were busy in the kitchen when Lily showed up. The moment she opened the screen door, the sky, now as dark as an inquisitor asshole, went CCCCCRRRRRRRAAAAAACCCCCCKKKKK and BLAMOHHHHHH! May Linh and I jumped up. What the fuck was this? The exorcist?
Lily was soaked to the bone – we all were – and she looked tired. And I knew she had her period. Was this storm some kind of god’s vengeance, for the massages and the love Lily had given May Linh and old Mr. me these past days? Was I in Sodom before the fateful night?
I looked at Lily and I knew she was naked under her red apron that said ‘Kiss the cook’. And I understood Lily was a trooper and that she was ready to fight the elements with a red ‘kiss the cook’ apron, red rubber boots, red panties, and a tool belt! A warrior! Not even for herself but for the people of her tribe that she loved. I was humbled.
I didn’t have time to think about this.
“Ok,” Lily said, “take the last of what we need now because this is the last room I need to close and once it’s sealed, there is no coming back in here until this storm has gone away.”
“Wait,” I said. And I ran into the office and grabbed an old radio and my backgammon board.
Then I came back and stood in front of Lily like a good soldier, and that’s pretty much how I felt although all my muscles hurt. I hadn’t worked like that since my construction days and that’s antediluvian!
“Sir, Yes Sir,” I said and I saluted her.
The wind was now howling and I wished I had rubber boots too. I was in sandals and my feet hurt so much and there was no help. I made a mental note for me to tell May Linh to buy me rubber boots. Red, just like Lily’s. Just joking. Lily had no time for my clowning.
“Why don’t you haul ass to safety?” Lily commanded, smiling because she’s a nice girl.
So that’s what May Linh and I did. The wind was wailing and the jungle was holding its breath.
Next episode: Under the deluge Adam hears the blues falling down like rain
Previous episode: To be or not to be a pimp, Adam has to know
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