Chapter 25 – Floating Village, Sinking Sun
We’d all been showered and ready to go when Mr. Tino showed up to grab us from the hostel. With only two hours before the sunset, we wasted no time and piled into the back of the tuk tuk. On the floor of the carriage had been a heavy-duty garbage bag filled with ice.
“Inside the bag is a case of Angkor beer,” Mr. Tino said. “Feel free to start the party.”
As we kicked back and dipped into the arsenal of Angkors, Mr. Tino pulled away from Home Sweet Home hostel. Not too long into the ride, he stopped off to buy a bag of barbeque chicken from a street vendor. Soon after, we’d left the town of Siem Reap. Following a fifteen minute ride through a real backwoodsy area, Mr. Tino parked the tuk tuk near a dock that extended out into a mud-brown body of water.
“Alright,” he said, “this is Tonlé Sap Lake. From here we will take a boat to the floating village of Chong Kneas to have our picnic.”
After Tim and Kathleen had climbed out of the tuk tuk, I reached back in and grabbed the sack full of beers. The thing was huge. It looked like something you’d see an alcoholic Santa humping around while groping the chests of female elves, putting cigarettes out on the reindeers’ foreheads and beating up Mrs. Claus for “insulting him” by accidentally leaving a batch of gingerbread cookies in the oven for too long.
As I did my best to not get soaked by the dripping bag while approaching the dock, I took notice of several bamboo huts that’d been built on stilts along the river.
“Hey Mr. Tino,” I pointed at the strange constructions which stood about ten feet above the ground, “why are those homes built up so high like that?”
“Right now it is dry season,” he said. “They’re built like that for when the whole area floods during monsoon season. To keep their homes from getting all wet.”
“The water gets that high?”
“Oh yes. We get lots of rain here. The high position also helps keep out wild animals.”
“Wow. That’s crazy.”
For the sake of the people that live there, I hope those homes are better balanced on stilts than the clown in Billy Madison had been because a tumble from that high during dry season would be disastrous for everyone inside.
Once I got over my fascination with the houses, we walked out onto the dock, hopped aboard the boat and met Mr. Tino’s buddies to whom it belonged. Aside from a word or two here and there, neither of them could speak English. The driver wore a striped rugby shirt and shades. This guy was all business. He sat in the back and appeared to have no interest in anything but controlling the motor. His first mate had been sporting a Gilligan hat and a black-and-white checkered shirt. This guy was all play. He sat with us in the front, pounded a bunch of beers, smiled and giggled the entire ride.
After cruising along for ten or fifteen minutes through the diarrhea-colored water of Tonlé Sap Lake, we approached what appeared to be an entire community on water.
“Okay guys,” Mr. Tino said with a beer in his hand and a cigarette in his mouth, “up here is the floating village of Chong Kneas. Unlike the houses on stilts we saw back there by the shore that are made to stay in the same place during the wet and dry seasons, these houses actually float and migrate at different times during the year. Here they have schools, a church, a temple, a market, a general store, a floating pig farm and even a floating basketball court.”
A few of the buildings such as the English Language School and the Catholic Church had been made of wood and were freshly painted. The latter even had solar panels on the roof. Both of these were quite nice but they, of course, were the exception and not the rule. Most of the structures in the village had been crooked shacks made of bamboo and rusty-ass, corrugated pieces of sheet metal. These served as the villagers’ homes. Judging by the lack of plumbing, I’d imagine that the people who live in these dumps all piss in, shit in, fish in, bathe in, drink, wash and cook with the same motorboat-polluted, mucky water on which their homes float.
Paddling through a few of these huts in a small boat filled with an assortment of produce had been a local woman wearing a sedge hat. Mr. Tino pointed her out.
“This lady here goes around the area selling fruits and vegetables directly to the houses in the village.”
“Hmm,” I thought to myself, “just like the Third World version of Peapod or Meals on Wheels.”
As we sputtered a little bit farther into Chong Kneas, I saw about three or four wooden boats like the one we’d been on sans motor tied up between a pair of houses. Jumping from one to another had been a black, skin-and-bones dog sniffing and scrounging around.
“Those boats and nets are used by people of the village to go fishing,” Mr. Tino said. “That dog is probably smelling for any fish that might’ve gotten left behind.”
In a different boat had been a woman in a long-sleeved, teal-colored shirt paddling along with a baby sitting in her lap as three other small children stood in the back. Could that have been their version of the way my mom used to take my brother, my sister and me in the car to the grocery store because she couldn’t stand the thought of leaving us home alone? I was blown away by the thought.
Comparing aspects of life in the floating village of Chong Kneas to those I’d grown up with back home had been what really helped me put my surroundings in perspective. It made me sad to think about a childhood without any bike riding. I couldn’t even imagine life without a front lawn on which to play all those father-son games of catch. And pardon me for being so blunt, but in a one-room shack that houses an entire family like most of those at Chong Kneas, where in the hell is a teenage guy supposed to do his masturbating? I mean, I’d had a hard enough time trying not to get caught jackin’ it in a two-story, two-bathroom house. Trying to spank your meat without someone walking in on you in one of those dinky huts must be like Mission freakin’ Impossible.
For the entirety of my time at the house in which I was raised, I shared a bedroom with my younger brother and, thanks to our lockless door, I’ve had many close calls while boxing my clown over the years. Back when I was a “new-cumer” to the game, every time I’d hear a creak outside the doorway, I’d often spring up, tuck my boner into my waistband and pretend I was cleaning my room. Since I live in a hundred-year-old house where these types of noises are made every time the wind blows, I’d often go diving into the closet for what turned out to be many a false alarm. Nevertheless, thanks to this vigilance, I never officially got caught masturbating over my ten year career, but once had come uncomfortably close when I was home for the summer from college.
I was nineteen at the time and had spent my days washing windows with my dad. After a long, arduous, ninety-degree day on the job, he and I returned to an otherwise empty house. Back in those days, my dad used to like to get wasted every day after work. So, while he got to sluggin’ down his daily twelve-pack of Corona Extra, I borrowed his truck and went out to run a few errands. By the time I got back about an hour later, my dad had already been on his fifth or sixth beer.
“Yo,” I tossed the keys on the table, “thanks for lettin’ me use the truck.”
“No problem,” he said slower than normal. “I haven’t had a chance to add up how much we made today so I don’t know what I owe ya. I’ll do it in a bit.”
My dad likes to pay his workers the same day because he hates to owe people money.
“Alright. Cool. I’ll be upstairs.”
After doing a twenty minute workout, I decided the situation felt right for me to rub one out. Upon walking into our bedroom, my bed is on the right, my brother’s is on the left and in the middle is a little nightstand. On that day, I decided to designate that nightstand as my stroking station. So, after setting up and sitting on a folding chair with my back to the door, I placed my computer on the little table and pulled up whatever it was that I liked to jerk off to in those days, pumped a nice glob of lotion onto my hand and got down to business.
About a minute into the session, I heard a noise in the hallway. I minimized the porn on Internet Explorer, concealed my wood and pretended to be straightening up the room. I stood perfectly still for a minute and listened for any potentially invasive activity. After hearing no further noises, I deemed the initial creak non-threatening, sat back down and continued beating my dick like it owed me money.
Seconds later, my bedroom door swung wide open. With my pants at my ankles, I sat bare-assed on the black plastic chair. On my computer screen, some big-titted brunette had been moaning as her crotch was split apart by some faceless dude with a baseball bat sized schlong. I couldn’t move. I was horrified. I tried to scream for whoever it was to “GET OUT!” but I couldn’t. There’d be no diving into closets or pretending I was doing laundry this time. The jig was up.
As I sat there pantsless in an Anne-Frank-in-the-attic-with-Nazis-searching-for-Jews-on-the-floor-below type of stillness, I could hear my dad grumbling and fumbling around with something directly behind me in the doorway. I had no idea what to make of the situation.
“Uh, uh,” I grumbled, “can ya gimme a minute here?”
No response. But the shuffling behind and the porn in front continued as my dick started to shrivel in my hand.
“What is going on here?” I thought to myself. “It’s so very obvious that I’m packing fist right now, why in the fuck is my dad not shouting and leaving the room in disgust?”
I half-turned my body and peered back to see what the hell was happening. At the entrance of my bedroom, my dad stood with his reading glasses hanging off his nose while he counted a stack of cash.
“Ahem,” I grunted, “I’m kinda jerking off right now. Ya think ya could…”
I faded off towards the end of the confession when I noticed how fucked up he was. He hadn’t heard a word I’d said. Judging by the way he’d been teetering back and forth, he must’ve slammed two or three more beers while I’d been working out. He had no idea what I was doing. He was oblivious to all around him and continued shuffling through his stack of money.
I realized I’d had a very brief window in which to act before my dad went to hand me what I’d been owed for the day and made the discovery that I felt would forever taint our relationship. By that time, since I’d been so frightened, the majority of the blood had drained from my tubesteak. It had shrunk like a slug after having salt poured on it. So, there was no need to tuck the semi-chub into the waistband, only a need to get the boxers up over it. Without delay, I sprung up out my seat, pulled up my underwear and shut the lid on the laptop. Before the asscrack-shaped sweat stain left on the chair even had a chance to evaporate, my dad looked up at me through his beloved readers and said, “Here ya go. I got a hundred bucks for ya today. Good work, my man.”
“Aw, nice,” I took my share of the total in my non-greasy hand. “Thanks boss.”
“No problem. Thank you,” he said as he left the room and headed back downstairs.
I followed my dad out into the hallway and made sure he staggered all the way back down before returning to my quarters to finish what I’d started.
Once we’d moved past the not-so-masturbator-friendly shacks of Chong Kneas, we went a little farther out and dropped anchor at a location Mr. Tino saw fit to spend the next hour or so getting fucked up, watching the sunset. There, he set down his beverage, reached into his pocket and pulled out a baggie containing a pair of pre-rolled joints. He removed half of the doobage from its protective plastic casing and offered us a whiff. After we’d each taken a turn sniffing his sticky doja, we handed the goods back to Mr. Tino who twisted tight the loose ends, gave it a final inspection then blazed that shit up.
“Oh, it’s very good,” he said after taking a monster hit. “Yes, this is very good weed.”
We all did the same and the already unusual boat ride through the floating village suddenly got a whole lot stranger. A few minutes after the joint had been extinguished, I was pretty fucked up. A bit anxious and not knowing what else to do with myself, I began playing with the sunburn on my forearms that I’d taken as a souvenir from Angkor earlier in the day. While using three fingers to form the imprint of two balls and a shaft, I pushed down on the lobster red skin.
“Hey. Hey Mr. Tino,” I lifted my fingers once I’d had his attention, “do you think this looks like a penis?”
He started giggling the way a cartoon Pokemon owner would while watching his pet Charizard ass-rape and nut on the face of a weaker opponent.
“Yes! Yes it does! But it is very small. It is…” he attempted to suppress his laughter long enough to conclude the thought, “…it is just like mine!”
He erupted. Tim and I followed suit.
“Ew Mr.Tino!” Kathleen said. “You’re not supposed to tell girls you have a small wiener!”
This made the three of us laugh even harder. Well, actually, the four of us. Because even though he didn’t know what he’d been laughing about, the first mate in the checkered shirt had also been busting a gut.
Not too much later, Mr. Tino lit up and passed around the second fatty. I don’t know if it was the weed makin’ me feel that way or what, but I could not get enough of that Cambodian sunset. I’d practically been having an orgasm over it. I must’ve sounded like the guy in that “Double Rainbow” video on YouTube.
“Oh my God, it’s so beautiful. Why’s it red like that? Oh my god.” I snapped photo after photo after photo. “This is so fuckin’ amazing right now. Guys…Guys, are you seeing this?”
“Yeah bro, we see it,” Tim said.
“Uh-huh,” Kathleen added.
“Aw man, you should take some pictures. You’re gonna wanna remember this. Oh my god. Seriously guys.”
During this time, Mr. Tino reached down into the Santa sack of beers.
“Oh shit,” he said as he rifled through it. “Looks like we only got a couple Angkors left here.”
“No shit, we tore through that whole case already?”
“Yeah, I guess so. It’s okay though. I think it’s about time we head over to the bar, anyway.”
“There’s a bar in the floating village?”
“Yeah, there’s a bar.”
Mr. Tino turned around and conveyed the idea to the driver in Khmer. The guy nodded at the order, started up the motor and headed back to the heart of Chong Kneas where they docked the boat next to a rather large two-story structure. While the first mate tied the ride so it wouldn’t float away, the captain went ahead and posted up at the bar by himself. He said something to the bartender who, in turn, handed him an entire bottle of whiskey of which he proceeded to pour half into a sand pail filled with ice.
“Let’s go upstairs so we can watch the rest of the sunset,” Mr. Tino said. “There’s a better view.”
“Hey,” I pointed to the driver who’d been using both hands to hold the bucket to his face while taking massive slugs, “does your buddy wanna join us?”
“Oh no. He has a broken heart. He doesn’t feel like hanging out with anybody.”
I shrugged and we made our way up the stairs.
While on the second floor, our attention had been stolen away from the waning remnants of the sun as it plunged into the depths of the poo-brown lake by the action in the water below us. Near the edge of the bar had been a woman in a canoe with two skinny kindergarten-aged girls who stood there with snakes thicker than their torsos coiled around their fragile little bodies.
“Dolla! Give me dolla!” they yelled with their hands up in the air. “Dolla! You give dolla!”
During this time, a handful of bite-size children who’d been sitting Indian style came paddling up in their respective floatation devices. The little circular metallic saucers in which they sat had looked very similar to the greased-up one that Chevy Chase had used to sled down the hill at rocket speed in Christmas Vacation.
“Whoa!” Tim said. “Look at the Tin Can Kids!”
“Look, they all got snakes!” Kathleen added.
“Oh yes, they always have snakes,” Mr. Tino explained. “They are Vietnamese people. They want tourists to pay them money for pictures of them with the snakes.”
I guess that explained the reasoning behind their shrill cries of “Dolla! Dolla!” when I’d been taking photographs. Part of me kinda wanted to throw a couple singles in the middle of the water to see the Tin Can Kids swim after ‘em and beat each other for the bills – that is, if they could even swim at all with arms bound to body by fat fuckin’ snakes – but I didn’t. The vibe that evening was far too chill to spoil with such an asshole move.
“Mr. Tino, we’re so glad we met you,” Kathleen said.
“Well,” he replied, “I would like to thank you guys for giving me work today.”
“No problem man. You’re the best,” we shot back as we all got into a drunken, “I love you man” show of camaraderie.
Following the toast and the ingestion of a drink or two more, Mr. Tino looked at his watch as the rest of us gazed upon the very last of the burning red sun sinking into the shit-brown waters of the Tonlé Sap.
“Well, this bar closes pretty soon,” he informed us. “But if you would like to keep partying, we could go to a Cambodian night club. Is this something you think you’d like to do?”
We unanimously accepted the offer and pounded the last of our floating village beers.
Photos from the floating village…