It’s 4 am, and I’ve got that dengue feeling again. Turn the aircon off, and the fan. I’m still freezing. Hubris. Yesterday I was bragging we’re not sick. All I can hear is a dying sort of cough. The Chief Editor is in the room through the wall. I suspect there’ll be an antibiotic run to the local chemist in the morning.

I’m going out to get some take away from 7-11. We aren’t sure what the insurgents are planning next, but I’m enjoying my late night conversations with the soldiers. The soldier who is guarding our hotel asks me who I’m backing for the World Cup. He says Brazil. Australia has been booted out. His machine gun is on the table next to him. OK, I’m backing Brazil while I’m on this side of the Thai-Malay border.  He says I should go out and get a girl. I’m still shivering in my room. Miss Dengue’s a good friend of mine. The wanitas in the 7-11 ask me if I’m OK. I say I have a fever.

I get back from 7-11 and gently call out between the closed gates. Ma lao, I’m back. The soldier, a young guy, not sounding too bright, has his gun resting on the table. It’s a big gun. I just don’t want to trigger any alarm bells.

Morning run, pay rent, change Ringgit, and buy medicine. The massage ladies aren’t in the foyer today. They use Ringgit at the 7-11, but “Rate not so good,” says the Muslim cashier. She’s wondering what I’m doing here. We are here to go bird watching. She’s a few months pregnant and speaks Yawa dialect of Malay. She’s hard to understand. A biggish Thai soldier walks in. He’s oblivious to our conversation.

“How is your mother?” asks another Muslim cashier. I tell them she’s my friend. They don’t believe me. They think she’s my wife. She’s sick, from over work, I explain. The cashier remembers my brand of cigarettes. We are really local now and there’s been a spike in profits at this 7-11.The generals really should open up this area for tourism. They need to attract a better class of tourists, who just adore 7-11, but not the ping pong bombs the insurgents use to target bastions of Thai Buddhists.

The night receptionist has taken a liking to me too. When I first checked this place out, he wouldn’t show me a room. I asked him for the key and checked it out myself. When he saw me come back with Chief Editor, who everyone thinks is my mother, he softened. I’m a good son. It works all the time.

When I paid for the first night, I asked him if he was the manager. No, he said politely. He then went on to say that Australia was playing Holland. Common ground. He’s in thick with the army who like to use Thaksin Hotel’s fast wifi, and hang out in the lobby.

The cleaner from Chiang Rai cleans Chief Editor’s room, and mops my floor. I had a Sprite spillage last night. I have a heart to heart with Chief Editor. How can I say this? I’ve changed my mind. I really like this border town. I’ve not yet checked out the nightlife and I don’t want to get blown up at 7-11 in Patani, where she’s keen to go next.  Relax, she says, “It’s only the Dengue talking.” I say it’s the calm in the eye of the storm, she’s thinks it’s the calm before a storm. She says she could just hop on a bus. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Another thing, we have found a really good spot for writing. Now I’m talking her language. I’m too sick to realise she’s been pulling my leg. “But we are still going to out to that swamp. Have you found any other tourist attractions yet?” Chief Editor is keen to get out of 7-11 range.

Think we’ll have a quiet day in the hotel room first, I suggest. “Yes, writing about Bali, in a civil war zone.” She says there’s some great stuff in the Bali section. We’ll get some basil and fermented pork and fried rice and give the soldier a day to forget about the farang who took a photo of his sand bag wall. “Pity he got his knickers in a knot,” says Chief Editor. “It was a pretty harmless picture.”

Once again the idea of choosing a hotel near a 7-11 has been a good one. Bird watching by day, and Dolly by night; we will see what these Malaysian tourists are up to. I haven’t checked out any red light joints yet. “Your problem,” said Chief Editor, “is that you are more fascinated with men with guns than waifs prancing around poles.” She’s indexing and cutting and pasting another 120,000 words into files we’ll edit. “Some of the posts reek of Tramadol.” Leave it in, I say.

Bali is ready to be stripped to shreds. I explain about my dengue. Chief Editor says I must have been really sick when I had it. Not really. Everyone I have talked to has had it was admitted into hospital. After having dysentery fever for four months, and malaria, the dengue that followed was just a matter of horses for courses. “Toughen up Princess,” she says.”Lovely story about Trunuyan village.”

What, I say. I am a bit short of hearing. “I’m deaf too.” She’s got sinus problems. “It was working down into my chest.” She’s feeling much better now. She brought the box for the antibiotics a doctor prescribed in Australia last time it happened to her. The chemist had them in stock.

I’m in Thailand not Bali and now Miss Dengue’s coming back.  It’s over 30C, the humidity’s high, and inside a fleecy jacket I’m shivering again. When she comes, she only comes once a day, and she’s arrived early. She wants me to have a good night editing. I need chili. Get those chills out.

We go to a cafe close by. I order the pork dish I had before and the gay waiter does a little dance. “We’re Moslem! its beef!” And it’s good. You pay for this, I tell Chief Editor, and I’ll do the 7-11 run. I meet the same lady who I chatted with earlier today. This time the water cooler conversation is cut short. I’m really hallucinating delirium. A soldier is chatting to the chicken seller. I squeeze past him. I could have pulled his trigger.

Dengue thoughts, time to hide in the room again.


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