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I light up another Marlboro and consider my options. First stop to  the town of Sweet Smelling Water in East Java, then my  options were limitless.

But first I had to finish off my Jack Needham omelet that Duncan had left in the fridge. ‘Tabasco  sauce in the cupboard,’ he said. ‘And see you in your next novel.’

The wily old bastard.

Someone knocked on the front door. No one ever comes here. I looked thru the keyhole. It was a very sexy lady dressed up in a pink nurse’s outfit. And standing on each side of her was Tammy and Cindy.

‘Thanks for the gift Duncan,’ I thought, as I invited them inside. I’m sure Vanya would have agreed with my clouded judgment. I could feel another chapter coming on after what was to follow.

‘I told you I had been waiting for you.’ It was  Susan Hoi. ‘And I hope you don’t mind me bringing my friends around.’

I put my hands up. ‘I surrender, unconditionally.’

It was true, my options  were limitless.

But I didn’t want this story to end. No one ever does.

‘Well forget about Singapore and get your ass to Bali, quick,’ said Vanya. Duncan gave me the nod. And Bernhard and Brian watched on, as I recounted another Bali Dreaming adventure.

‘But spare us the italics,’ said Brian who knew I had come to grips with who I was.

‘The one and only fucking Vanya Vetto,’ added Bernhard.

‘Calm down boys,’ I said. ‘And you can lick my left nut later if you can just shut the fuck up for a moment while I give you a few paragraphs. And if you like it, then why not buy the book and give Vanya a five-star review.’

I duck my head and lift my feet in the air at the same time as something bounces off the road and over me. I’m in a video game playing escape the objects falling off the truck. They are like cluster bombs. The bitumen is beckoning…but I’m not going there.

Miraculously, nothing makes contact.

Sana  pulls over. He thinks I’ve had a bad accident. I’m thinking why haven’t I had a bad accident.  The truck driver was looking concerned as he jumped out of his truck. The road was strewn with fallen objects and I’m unhurt.  He’s looking at a miracle. Me.

Sana wants distance, and quickly.  I didn’t even get a scratch. The only scratch I got was from hitting my toe on a brick when we got to his house.

Come on, I said, dinner’s on me. Wayan laughed. I laughed. Sana was eating pizza and laughing. We smile a lot around here. Sana wasn’t sure which was the bigger miracle, being let off by corrupt coppers cheaply, or not seeing me in a body bag.

‘Nice story,’ said Brian, ‘direct from the horse’s mouth too.’

Now are you happy?

He’s gone quiet. That makes a change. Then the quiet is broken.

‘I’m waiting for you at the Sweet Smelling Watering hole.’

Well fuck a duck, I said.’ I’ll be over, very soon.’

I eventually arrived. ‘Big girls blouse.’

Old Sambo was with sitting with Brian like they were long mates.  Perhaps they were, I thought as they clinked their glasses filled with Jim Beams.

‘To Old Vanya Vetto,’ they said.

Sambo had ten years taken off his life. “Asia does that to everyone,’ said Brian.

Sambo told us he’s  waited a lifetime  to get out of Australia again. ‘And here I fucking am. Reading Vetto’s  books can be and is dangerous.’

He pulled out some herbs.

‘Are you ready for some more Mardu mind-altering shit?’

I knew  he had spiked my book and said I’d stick with a set of hooters for now.

Obviously, Nova and Sarah obliged me. Now that the intrigues were out the way, I could get down to what I do best, worshipping big East Javanese breasts.

I said  we can’t ignore the call of the Goddess of…

‘Mt. Ejin’’ said Sambo.

That’s a good enough ending for me, I said as I sailed  down the river of time, as gentle and volatile  as the  volcano in the distance that was belching out psychedelic  plumes. ‘She was coming to see me,’ I muttered under my breath.

‘Who?’ asked Sambo, who was wearing a white coat. ‘And as your  doctor,  I deserve to know.’

I just couldn’t answer that one, even if I wanted too.  

Brian said not to worry. ‘The world isn’t out to get you,’ he smiled,’ especially  today.’ He was holding some magic mushrooms.

‘Enjoy the trip.’

I managed   to get out a ‘you cunt’  before I passed out with the big boobs in the sky. When I eventually opened my eyes, it could have been a minute or an hour, Nova and Sarah’s big boobs were   looking down at me.

‘It was 30 seconds,’ said Brian. ‘I gave you  a pulse choke and you passed out. No mushrooms in your drink. Besides, I know you prefer tramadol just like our old Matey Mr. Vetto.’

‘How’s that for redemption, you big sook,’ said Sambo, who was in on the joke. I had never seen him so happy.

For once in my life, I just  kept quiet and enjoyed the…’

‘Mammary moment.’

That had to be Bernhard.

This was looking like another reunion.

All I knew was that the town of sweet smelling water was where I belonged, for now.

‘Until…’

Shut the fuck up Brian.

Sambo rolled up a joint. The shack was swinging with the girls from Hooverville.

‘This will blow your mind,’ he said, as he passed the joint around with Mardu herbs.

The mamasan witch with one eye came to see if we needed any drinks.  We always needed drinks and she was just divine. Big hooters and a smile to die for. ‘It was back in the day before I gave the other eye to the goddess of the mountain as a sacrifice.’

“She always has one eye on everyone,’ said Sambo. ‘It’s an old Mardu trick of being everywhere and nowhere. The eye of the volcano sees everything.’ 

‘How are the girls,’ she asked, getting back to the business of the temporal world. 

I looked around the room. They all look very old and on their last legs. 

But my arthritis had gone, that bad knee a thing of the past, and I was even getting a hard on looking at Sarah and Nova who were clearly in their 70’s.

I had always wanted to jog.

‘First to the corner and back gets the mamasan,’ said Bernhard. He looked in pretty good shape too.

‘This is not déjà vu,’ said Sambo, and it only works for about one minute. So I’d save your energy for the job at hand.’

Sambo was always the wise one.

I let Brian and Bernhard race each other down the road.

‘They’ll be limping back soon,’ said Sambo.

Meanwhile, sweet smelling water enveloped me like a Mardu shroud. It felt great to be my age.

‘Same fucking age as me,’ said Duncan. I was happy he invited himself. And I noticed he brought Cindy and Tammy with him.

‘Good man,’ I said, and handed him a strong drink, neat.

‘Doesn’t it,’ said Sambo, who rubbed his belly and stroked his long beard. He was feeling great being an old far too. He was wearing a yellow shirt. ‘And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here. Hot chicks and off-white raconteur, what more can you ask for?.

I casually flicked my  cigarette and the  ember took flight and landed on Sambo’s shirt, burning a hole next to the one that Vanya had inflicted, all those years ago.

“Damn,’ he said. ‘Another fucking hole in my shirt.’

It wasn’t intentional, I said. I guess you could say I was just asserting myself and stirring the old grumpy bastard.

I have some business to do on the dirty mattress out the back, I said.

‘Why not check into clean and luxurious hotel next door,’ said Sambo. ‘I’m the owner of this village.’ He looked at Bernhard and Brian who were limping back into the bar. “And they are my partners.’

‘No wonder you keep catching fucking malaria you grubby cunt,’ said Bernhard. I really must stop shagging in chicken shacks, I said, and put my hands up as a form of supplication.

And as I lowered the curtains of this last act, emblazoned on it was ’Sweet Smelling Water Shag Hotel’. Brian had a spotlight on it. And then another subheading: everyone can check in, but no-one checks out.’

Sounded like my kind of place as The Eagle’s Hotel California started playing and I joined in a slow dance with the Hooverville ensemble. It was a slow dance, and an embrace with life.

It really wasn’t a bad place to be.

‘Well fuck a duck,’ the boys chorused.

It doesn’t get better than that.

‘I thought you might like this,’ said Mary who kissed me on the cheek. I could see our shadows dancing, mingling in the eternal spring of sweet water as the Goddess of Mt Ejin consecrated our embrace with a god all mighty fucking eruption.

Mount Vesuvius all over again, I thought.

‘Just Phil Colins on the radio,’ said Brian. ‘And keep your dick inside your trousers. We are leaving in ten minutes. Seems Duncan has another mission for us.’

‘Are you sure that Phil Collins sang that?” I looked around my dank and dark room, another fucking chicken farm. No Mary. Had she just vanished? ‘Didn’t he sing Another day in Paradise.’

I was losing it again. Travel can do that to you.

Fuck you Brian,  I said You spiked my drink, again.

‘You don’t need spiking,’ he said. ‘You are nutty enough as it is.’

’There could be a flair up in Hua Hin, Thailand,’ said Duncan.

I could only imagine.

Then I jumped in the car for another adventure.  There was no going back now.

As the Mad Hindu pulled away from the sweet smelling cesspool, I just smiled.

I’m really not complaining, I said to myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

‘Talking to yourself is another sign of madness,’ said Brian.

Snide bastard. But I had to admit, everyone had an inner voice that was worth exploring.

’Good one,’ said Sambo. ’That’s not going to get you released from Greylands.’

‘Got you,’ said the boys. ‘We were only fucking with you.’

‘Now are you ready to track down Mr. Top? ’ asked Duncan. ‘We last heard he was in a coastal town one hour south of Bangkok.’

Oh the pot plant bomber, I said. Sure, I’ll come along for the ride. I really had nothing better to do.

‘And please don’t tell me Bert is behind the next attack.’

‘Could be, you know him,’ said Duncan.  ‘He’s a bit of a jack-in-the-box kind of character too.’

I lit up a cigarette with the car lighter. The Singaporean PM was now dancing  on the end of the coil with Bert and Noordin Mohammad Top.

Enough is enough, I said. Then I took a long drag of my cigarette.

Only then did I know I was stark raving mad.

If you listen carefully, I continued, on even given night in this port town, particularly during a full moon, you might just hear Frank’s muted screams. “The fucking Mardu, I’ll get you for this.” And if you look carefully at the naked statue of him, you might want to look again at the groin regions.

‘Be careful what you wish for,’ warned Bernhard . ‘Subincision isn’t for everyone.’

Now that sounded like a fitting ending to me.

‘It’s what the cunt deserved,’ said Brian.

‘He’s a user of the highest order,’ said Bernhard.

‘He’s not welcome at the call center,’ said Sambo.

‘He’s two feet below a cunt,’ said Bert.

‘I’ll chop his head off next time we meet,’ said Noordin Mohammad Top.

‘He was the cheapest of Charlies,’ said both Sarah and Nova.

I  waved to Frank and said I might drop by next time I visit the village of sweet smelling water.

‘You are a spiteful cunt,’ said Vanya.

‘He should be,’ said Duncan. ‘He only learns from the best.’

That was my cue to leave the stage as I bowed to my crew.

‘Good work,’ I said.  ‘See you on the next gig.’

Then Mary planted a big sloppy one on me. I turned off the lights and fumbled in the dark.

A fucking rat. It must have sneaked in through the window of  my bedroom in the store room. And the tapping on my wall hadn’t stopped.

‘It’s you tapping the wall numnuts,’ said Bernhard,’you have  been raced out of six rentals so far.’

Thanks Bernhard.

Then I fell into a deep sleep. It was Java Dreamtime tonight and Mary, Sarah and Nova tormented me all night  long in the village of  sweet smelling water. There are worse ways to pass a night, right?

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