The putrid yellow mud squeezed out from under the soles of his boots like pus oozing from a zombie’s face as he fought his way in a fetid rain squall up the rutted jungle road along a bile colored river bloated with the bodies of dead Tarsier monkeys, desiccated palm fronds, and syrupy sediment washed down from the hillsides. “Bad destination choice” he said to himself. “Bad destination choice.”
A village appeared out of the sweaty mist hanging over the foamy stream. The decaying remains of a Buddhist monk bobbed downstream atop the dark waters just inches under his feet as he wobbled across a serpentine rope bridge leading to the opposite bank of the river. “Bad karma” he said to himself. “Bad karma.”
Dark chocolate smoke from searing meat curled above the slumping tin roof of an oblong structure squarely set in the center of the village. A moaning rumble ascended from his guts, up his esophagus, exiting his clenched teeth in a sour hiss. “Not the Golden Arches” he said to himself, “but any port in a storm will do.”
A sour stream of water found the gap between his rain jacket and his neck as he pulled back the hood of the coat and ducked under the rusted eaves fringing the building. He nearly slipped as he stepped on something gummy and odoriferous, unseen by his daylight-programmed eyes in the damp hazy air inside the building.
When his vision cleared, he saw that bamboo tables were scattered across the dirt floor like balls in an abandoned game of snooker. A faint, charred breeze led his nose to the left and an open kitchen where ghostly figures swung cleavers down on wooden counters and stirred dented cauldrons over charcoal fires, sending waves of metallic clunks and clinks across the single, large room to break softly in his ears.
He unslung his dripping pack, let it tip over onto the dusty floor, and allowed his body to slowly melt into a chair. After sitting alone, listening to his own throaty breathing for ten minutes, he began to drum his fingers on the bamboo table, impatient with the unexpected lack of service in such a refined dining establishment. As if in response, the rain began to fall more heavily, the clouds drumming their own fingers in staccato beats on the tin-roofed restaurant.
(“Road Food” continues on Friday, May 7, 2010)
© Dick Jordan 2010 All Rights Reserved