If you've enjoyed Mike's short stories, you might be interested to learn that the Complete Anthology can be purchases on Amazon as a Kindle down-load. Alternatively by downloading the FREE software, you can get the book as an e-book. The price is $10 - the title is 'Thai Tales'.
Mike has also released his collection of funny articles, some of which were published in Pattaya One and Pattaya Daily News. Entitled 'Amusing Thailand - A Survivor's Guide to Pattaya', this can also be purchased in the same way as above.
Pichai means older brother and he was by four minutes. Those four minutes determined many things. Those four minutes meant his twin brother was starved of oxygen and would always be a little slow. They determined that he would spend a lifetime protecting his brother from a cruel world. He was very proud of his name and took his duties seriously. In the absence of a mother who had died giving them life, he had vowed to fulfill the duty thrust on him by those four minutes whilst he breathed and Veera didn't. They were identical physically; they had the same smiling features; the same eyes; they even adopted the same spiky haircut. Few could tell them apart.
Pichai and Veera were popular at the school in Naklua. It was generally recognized that Veera was unusual and there was something admirable about the care Pichai lavished on his slower brother. There was none of the usual bullying of new boys. The gang-leaders recognized this special relationship. They were amused at Pichai's ability to laugh at this shared affliction. He could do an amazing impersonation of his brother's habitual slack-jawed expression. He even fooled the teachers; sometimes he sat tests for Veera; once when Veera had failed to understand the importance of a school rule, Pichai had presented himself at the punishment room on his brother's behalf. Wearing his brother's slightly vacant expression he took the caning without a grumble.
The brothers did not cope so well with their father's new job. He had joined a group of motor-bike taxi drivers off Second Road where there were plenty of farangs needing late night transport for themselves and their girlfriends. He was at work when they came home from school and asleep when they left in the morning. At night an adult neighbour would look in from time to time. These visits lessened when it became clear the boys seemed content to huddle together and watch TV till it was bed-time.
When school closed in October, Pichai and his brother ventured abroad. They watched as the rains turned some of Pattaya's sois into torrents. They helped shopkeepers pile sandbags to keep the flood waters out. Somporn was quick to enlist their help. His store sold shirts and shorts, mainly to farangs. A flood would ruin his trade. The two brothers constructed a barrier that not only diverted the waters from his door but enabled customers to enter dry-shod. Somporn rewarded them handsomely. He suggested they come regularly during the holidays to help unpack bales of shirts. Besides, he added, it would help them learn English being around so many farangs.
Though the money was little it was not unimportant; it bought them little treats and occasionally Somporn gave them reject shorts or shirts. His father was delighted with his grown-up boys and their contributions to the family income. Pichai, however, was uneasy around Somporn: the storekeeper was too demonstrative, always touching them or trying to embrace them. He was particularly affectionate towards Veera who responded with delight to the extra treats he received. Pichai tried to warn his brother of his unease but Veera knew nothing of ulterior motives, only immediate gratification. His protector tried to ensure he was always close when Somporn wanted a chat or had a special job in the back storeroom.
He knew it would only be a matter of time before his younger brother lost his innocence; an innocence that could never be replaced. He could not confront the man simply on suspicion of being too kind. Nor could he go to the police: Somporn had more than once suggested he had friends in high places. If he told his father, a confrontation, possibly violent, might result. He furrowed his brow for a means to defend his brother's honour. He could not do it by force, though slight and shifty, the man was more than a match for him physically. He had to defeat him by his wits alone.
The longer he worked at the store, the more convinced he became that Somporn was crooked in his business dealings. There was a regular delivery each Friday that the store holder only allowed Veera to help him unpack. The following Friday, Pichai contrived to take his brother's place. He gazed openmouthed as Somporn instructed him. 'Have you forgotten already? You really are a simpleton, my angel. Take the small packets from all the boxes marked with a cross.' The boy obeyed his slack jaw growing slacker with each box. Each contained 100 Ya-ba tablets!
Somporn wrote hastily on a scrap of paper. 'Right my little pretty one, take this to our friend. You remember where?' Pichai nodded vaguely. He stared hard at Pichai then went out for his morning noodles.
The boy's head reeled at what he had just seen. Instinctively he knew this meant salvation for Veera, if he could only come up with a plan. He read the message. 'Another delivery of Y. Send someone to collect at 4 o'clock today. Usual rates.'
Promptly at four, a scruffy guy shambled into Somporn's store and handed him the note. The storekeeper barely glanced at it. 'Show me the money,' he ordered brusquely. A roll of notes was waved at him. He grunted and ushered him into the back room where Veera sat smiling. There he began to pile the Ya-ba packets in front of the collector. When he was done, he looked expectantly at the buyer who reached into his pocket. Instead of the money, however, he pulled out his warrant card which identified him as police colonel Wittaya of the Narcotics Crime Department of Pattaya Police Force.
Years later, he still recalled his final conversation as a free man. Glaring at Veera, he screamed at him, the blood beating in his temples, 'what have you done, you imbecile!'
Pichai's voice answered him from Veera's slack mouth. 'Sorry master, I must have gone to the wrong address.'
Four minutes had cost him fifteen years of his life.