THINGS DONE: WHO ARE YOU?
The weather's not getting any better, but at least we got some help now. DWB sent Deb a nurse. Her name's Sandy and she's from Canada. Nice girl. She was sort of freaked when she first got here--I think that's a standard reaction from anyone close to rational, but Deb and me and Drew eased her into it a little. We fed her lots of beer and we managed to latch on to some Thai whiskey. Harsh, but definitely eases the pain when you need it to. Hey, no worse than that J&B shit Frohike guzzles.
Not only did we get Sandy, but we got Sampong, a med student from the university here. They sent him out to get some training Western style, since I guess medical training here's pretty substandard, even by Asian measurements. Sampong's a kick. His English is actually not bad, and the more American TV we expose him to, the better he gets. Yeah, I know, you say teaching him English by watching 'CSI' and baseball is a lousy way to go about it, but seems to work. Now if we could just get him to understand baseball. It comes on like in the middle of the night most of the time, but we seem to be awake during that time. You couldn't call it cool, but it's the most comfortable part of the day. It's almost impossible to work at anything during midday. The heat combined with humidity is beyond fierce. So unless it's an emergency, that's sort of like siesta time.
Some siestas me and Deb take alone, but a lot of times, it's just too damn hot to fuck, so we let people come over and hang out. "How you get baseball from America, out here? Nothing here but water and mud and mosquitoes!" Sampong is impressed with my technical prowess, but I'm not quite ready to share my expertise. Not to mention that I think he'd fry himself if he tried to do anything more technical than hit the on button. (No, we don't have a fucking remote. Believe me, we're still sorely lacking in the comforts of home). Sampong and Sandy and Drew are hanging out with us, plus some of the yuppies that Drew has to try to convince that yeah, they really do have to get dirty. What the hell. Drew made the last run, which means lots and lots of beer. Not much decent stuff available, but she got a lot. Quantity is good.
"You forgot about the fucking snakes," Drew growls. "Dammit all, it's starting to rain and we are so fucking behind that if God, if he even exists and let me tell you, if he does, he doesn't come here, has set me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things, the way it's going now, I'll never die."
"Hasn't gotten too bad yet," Ray, one of the college kids who works with Drew, comments.
"It's coming. I curse every cloud in the sky, and I'm seeing more and more of them."
"So what're we gonna do if it doesn't let up?" Usually, it'll stop after a couple hours. Makes it hotter, wetter and muddier. Don't look at rain for relief here.
"Whaddya think we're gonna do? We're gonna go out and work in the rain, you dumbfuck!" Ray will actually put up with this from Drew. He's figured out that while she's a pretty disenchanted chick, she doesn't hate him. Not hating you is as good as it gets with Drew.
"You're kidding." This is from Alex, another college kid who really tries but just can't get it right. Drew'd have sent him home and told him not to let the door slam him on the ass except that he can be useful for certain things. Unfortunately, not the things she really needs him to do, and he is nice kid. He is a kid, too. He's only 22. Barely legal drinking age in the states. We don't stand on such formalities as legal drinking age here. A couple of Drew's kiddies are only 19. We share with them, too. Look, they're in college, it's not as if they never downed a few brews.
Drew's popping another one of the hideous local brews that we're sadly getting used to. "When do I ever kid you, Alex?" Alex looks kind of intimidated. I think Drew scares him a bit. He can deal with the bugs and the snakes and the screechy birds and the rotten smell and the local beer, but he's a total chickenshit when it comes to Drew.
"Hey, lighten up," Deb isn't afraid to call her on it. "Have another beer. Storm's starting. And if we can keep the satellite up, we can all watch Mr. Ed."
"No thanks on Mr. Ed. God only knows what he and Wilbur were up to. But I'll go for the beer."
"What's Mr. Ed?" Sampong asks, opening another for himself.
"It's about this guy who had a talking horse," I explain. Hey, I liked Mr. Ed. And Sabrina the Teenaged Witch. Pretty much anything with talking animals can do it for me. I'm not buying Drew's suggestion that something was going on between Wilbur and Mr. Ed. That'd destroy the last of my childhood fantasies. Almost lost it when before I knew the real story about Cap'n Toby.
"Sampong, my boy," Deb says to him, "you have a lot to learn about what passes for culture in America." She leans over and whispers in my ear, "And a hell of a lot about medicine. I swear to God the only thing they teach these people is to put on bandaids." Sampong's a fourth year. Deb says she knew a hell of a lot more after her first year than he does know, but she'll push him up to speed. Deb had a lot of residents at GWU and she got very good at beating up on them.
The wind's kicking up and the rain's starting to come down in sheets. "Time for some tube, folks," I announce, strolling over to the 13-inch, non-remote controlled idiot box.
"Satellite's not gonna stay up in this shit," Drew says.
"Oh ye of little faith, the satellite's gonna stay up just fine. It's the roof I'm worried about." It leaks. I'm just hoping the damn thing doesn't completely collapse.
"Didn't you reinforce it like you said you were going to?" Deb gives me a sharp look.
"Well, yeah, I did, but it's not like I got instant access to quality roofing materials." Last time in Dakha, I went looking for composite roofing shingles. Nobody had a fucking clue what I was talking about, but even worse, nobody had any of it.
"Did you tie the jute bundles like I told you?" Drew jumps in. She always does, and always in front of Deb, just to make me look like an idiot. If she wasn't the best entertainment we had around here, I'd strangle her.
"Yes, I tied 'em like you told me! Jesus, how stupid do you think I am?"
"I'm not going to answer that, on the grounds that Deborah's bigger than I am," Drew answers. "Anyway, if you guys want to waste time in front of the idiot box, that's fine, but I need to make a site check? Ray?" That's not really a request to Ray. It means, get your sorry ass out off the floor and move it.
"You want me to come?" Alex asks her.
"No, I'd like to keep whatever stayed intact that way." Drew and Ray step out into the regularly scheduled monsoon now in progress. Alex looked like she smacked him.
"Hey dude, don't sweat her," I say to him.
He shakes his head. "I don't know what her problem is. She hates me."
"She hates everyone," Deb comments to him, in a real dry voice. "She just hates some of us less than others."
"She doesn't hate you," Alex glares at Deb.
"That's because I don't take any shit from her. That's the key. Don't play her game, and she'll respect you."
"I dunno. I already put in for a transfer. I'd rather be in Sierra Leone and get shot at than put up with her."
"Nah, you don't wanna go there. It's bad enough here," I grin at him.
"Yeah, but there, I'd only have to dodge bullets, not Drew."
"Ah, just accept that she's got permanent PMS and you'll be fine," I say, settling in on the floor not too far from where he is. Deb and Sandy give me real ugly looks.
"Another crack like that, Ringo, and you'll be out in the rain," Deb reminds me. Oops. Sometimes I forget. Last time I asked her if she was on the rag she almost decked me. We're about to continue this little conversation when there's a knock on the door. One of the local guys comes in, and it looks like his arm's about to fall off. He's bleeding everywhere.
Okay, work time.
And then it hits me--wonder when I stopped being all grossed out by this?
Deb asks him how it happened, she and me both know a little local language now, and from what we can piece together, he was cutting jute and he whacked himself with his machete. Not exactly his lucky day. The little bit we understand is that he's more worried how he's gonna feed his family than whether or not his arm's gonna get fixed. Life's tough here. This guy's about my age but looks at least ten years older, and he's more than likely gonna be dead in the next five years. Lifespans aren't real long here. Deb says menopause is almost unheard of, most of the women don't live that long. Scary. She and Sandy are trying to get some Depo-Provera, they're having a hard time getting it. And the guys live even less long.
This is where Deb comes into her element, though. Blood and Guts R Us, she should put out a sign. She starts telling us all what to do. Used to annoy me when she'd get like this, but when she's in doc mode, I know it's just the way it gets done.
"He get an artery?" Sure seems like it, with all the blood he's losing.
"No. He'd probably be dead by now. But he's cut through the muscle almost down to the bone." The guy is trying not to yell, but he's in so much pain. "It's okay, we're going to give you something for the pain." Sandy pushes him some morphine, something else we never seem to have enough of. I'm helping to get the bleeding stopped by putting pressure on him. Alex looks like he's gonna faint.
"Alex, dude. If you can't work, you gotta get out of the way." Can't believe it's me saying it.
I can hear the door burst open. Must be even worse--most people here knock.
Except for Drew, she just busts in, and it's her, all right. Drenched to the gills.
"Look, one of the pipelines we laid for the well isn't staying, I need you guys to help me--Deborah, can you spare that hunk of manhood you call yours?"
Deb looks up at me. "I think you've got him pretty well tied down, bleeding's not so bad, yeah, Sandy and me can take it from here. Go."
We follow Drew out into the rain. No point in trying to keep dry. We're soaked by the time we're two steps off the porch.
"Where's Ray?" I yell to her over the rain, which is really, really loud. If you've ever been in a major rainstorm, you sort of get the idea, but the monsoons, they're scary.
"Keeping his goddamn finger in the dyke! Hurry up!"
It's hard running in the mud. It's even harder working in the mud. Drew says for me and Alex to try and reconnect this one nasty section of pipe and we have to keep as much water out of the trench as possible. Yeah, right.
"Great. We're never gonna get this." Alex looks as if he's met his doom.
"I don't give a fuck about her and her 'tude right now," and I don't care if she hears me. "C'mon, dude, help me out here!"
"I didn't work on this part! What'm I supposed to do?"
"Just what I'm doing! Make it up as you go!" I mean, really, what the hell does he think I know, anyway?
"If we don't get this put back together, all the water's gonna get contaminated!" Drew screams at us.
"What the fuck does it look like we're doing?" I shout at her.
"I think if we do this," Alex is pointing at some joint work that looks a little shaky.
"Won't hurt to try it. Just be careful, if this lets go, we're totally and royally fucked." I can barely see in front of me, what with the torrents of rain slamming against us and the mud in our eyes. It actually hurts.
Me and Alex fight with the joint work. We almost lose it. But we keep at it, and pretty soon, we've got contact. The water inside stays inside, and the crap on the outside stays out.
"We got it!" I tell Drew, she and Ray look like they're almost done on their end.
"You're kidding." Drew looks at us, her face covered with mud and her hair all stringing down in her face. "It's secure?"
"Yeah, and you can thank Alex for that!"
She looks over to Alex, not believing it. "You're kidding."
Alex sees this as his move. "Listen, you bitch, you feel like being human, maybe we'll let you drink a beer with us!"
Drew looks kind of stunned at first, it's sort of hard to tell, but a couple seconds later, she bursts into laughter. "Alex, maybe you've got balls after all!"
Yeah, he does. I think he's done enough for one day.
"C'mon, dude. Let's get out of this fucking rain and get wet inside!"
Go To Chapter 11