Chapter 5: Ticket To Ride

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 344
Comments: 1

Eddie pointed at the woman, then at the chair behind the table.  She sat down.  Eddie sat across from her.  He pulled his wallet from his pocket, and took out half of the Riels he had been carrying.  When he placed the money on the table, the woman’s eyes got big.  She had probably never seen that much cash before.  Like most of southeast Asia, Cambodia is very poor.


Eddie divided the bills into two equal stacks.  He opened the dictionary and looked for one of the words he had underlined.  He showed it to the woman.  Yours.


He pushed one of the stacks of bills towards her, and pointed to the word again.  She looked at him.  He nodded.  The woman grabbed the money, and quickly hid it in a drawer behind the table.  She sat back down, and looked at Eddie.  


He touched the remaining stack of money, and flipped through the dictionary to another word. Afterward.  Eddie saw comprehension on her face.  He’d paid her for half of the job in advance, and would pay the rest when the work had been completed.


It took an hour of trading words through the dictionary and pointing at the map for Eddie to communicate his goals to the woman.  He wanted her to give him a ride, on her motorcycle, to Krong Kracheh.


Then, arrange for him to get a ride on a boat, heading south.  Major Anthony knew there was trade between Cambodia and South Vietnam.  The Mekong River crossed into Vietnam at the southern end of the two countries.  The war had not made it that far south in 1967.


Her name was Chanda.  When she said his name, to him it sounded like Eedy.  If Chanda would give Eedy a ride to the river, and hook him up with the right riverboat captain, he would be on his way back to his home away from home.


It would be risky.  He would have to put his life in the hands of strangers.  People who already had good reasons to consider him their enemy.  But Eddie was more than just a skilled soldier.  He was a good judge of human nature.  He was confident Chanda was already on his side.  It was more than just the money he offered.  


He could see it in her eyes.  As they struggled to communicate with each other, he saw the fear fade away.  She thumbed through the dictionary and pointed at a word, then at Eddie.  Chanda said, “Ku Eedy khlean?”  Eddie nodded his head.  Yes, he was hungry.


There was a small wood-fired stove in the back of the hut.  Chanda stoked the fire, then took some packages out of an ice chest.  He recognized the banana-leaf wrapped items as fish amok.  A popular food in southeast Asia, he’d sampled the Vietnamese version of the dish before.  The woman placed the amok in a steamer.  


As the smell of food permeated the hut, Eddie thought he had gone to heaven.  He had not eaten since 4am and he’d run or walked almost thirty miles that day.  For the first time since the mission began, Eddie allowed himself to relax.  He needed a break.  There would be plenty of tense moments ahead.


In his weakened condition, Eddie was on the edge of delirium.  While Chanda moved around, preparing the food, to him it seemed like she was floating.  He was certain she had a halo as she placed the meal in front of him.


The first bite led quickly to licking the crumbs off of the plate and the banana leaves.  The giddiness he had been feeling was replaced by a sense of calm as the digestive process kicked in.  


While he was eating, Chanda was thinking.  And communicating via sign language.  She pointed at Eddie’s helmet, his pistol and knife, and touched his uniform.  By the gestures she was making, she said, “You stick out like a sore thumb.”


It was true.  Even in the dark, it would be difficult to sneak onto a boat in the middle of Cambodia when you are dressed like an American soldier.  When Eddie finished eating, Chanda motioned for him to stand up.  She took some garments off of a shelf and held them up to him.  Some of her son’s clothes.  The pants were too short, but there was a hem at the bottom she could let out.  The shirt would be tight, but it would do.


Chanda had small backpack.  Eddie crammed his uniform and weapons in it.  He would still be quite a bit taller and wider than the average Cambodian, but with the motorcycle helmet on, in the dark, it would not be obvious he was an American.  He planned to slouch down as much as he could behind Chanda.  The visor would help hide his non-Cambodian face.


Eddie looked at his watch.  It was 11:30pm.  He checked the map one more time.  Krong Kracheh was 38 miles north on Highway 7.  The ride would take about an hour on Chanda’s motorcycle.


He decided to digest his meal for a while longer, then it would be time to hit the road.  He showed Chanda his wristwatch.  He touched his finger to the tip of the minute hand, currently pointed at the 6.  Then swept his finger around the dial to the 12.  She nodded.  Chanda understood.  Eedy wanted to leave at midnight.


There was only a quarter moon, and there are no streetlights in the Cambodian countryside.  The beam from the headlight lit a tiny slice of the road.  Otherwise, the two rode in complete darkness.


He thought about carrying his pistol in his hand while they rode.  There were pros and the cons to that.  Having a weapon at ready might just save his life.  But if he had a reason to shoot at someone, they would be shooting back.  It was likely Chanda would get shot.  Eddie decided the money he was paying her was not worth her life.  If confronted, he would attempt to escape, but he would not use the weapon around her.  He left his pistol in the backpack.

 


Submitted: June 06, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Criss Sole

I really like Chanda and have a feeling that she is not just in it for the money but has a good heart and wants to help someone out. I am glad Eddy found her. She seems like she is very helpful, and I am looking forward to seeing how he gets to his destination and if they face any trouble. I am glad he is concerned about Chanda's life and does not see her as just someone he can buy to help him out.

Sat, October 22nd, 2016 11:06am

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He's smart because the others that help him after he meets Chanda do so because they see that she trusts him. The Cambodians were bombed by the Americans and invaded by the North Vietnamese so they had no particular reason to take one side or the other in the war.

Sat, October 22nd, 2016 5:25am

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