Chapter 29: Frog
The frog hit the wall of the bathhouse with a thud and slipped into the rain-fed trough that served as our bath tub. When you poured the bucket of water over yourself to rinse off, you never knew what might slosh out of it. I squealed—loudly—and flicked the thing off my shoulder as if it were a venomous tarantula. I grabbed my towel and had begun to wrap it around me when I heard a blaring of horns outside. Pushing open the door, I peered out to see what the commotion was about, pulled my towel snugly around me and smiled.
It was already dusk. Aiden sat atop an old motorbike with no mirror or working lights, grinning a lop-sided smile under his bushy moustache. The bike’s owner, a Cambodian, sat grimly on the back. Being on the road even in twilight was dangerous.
Clutching my towel a little tighter and hoping my neighbors weren’t looking, I stepped out of the bathhouse. “Aiden, what the hell are you doing here, and why are you on that . . .?”
“Hi ya, darlin’. I needed to get back to KPCC and work out some logistics with Russ for another big patrol coming up, and this chap obliged me with his motorbike. Thought I’d just stop by to say hello.”
“What patrol?” I asked, my curiosity trumping both my embarrassment and the hint of desire I could sense growing in my belly.
“The arses in Untac high command want us to go back into the wetlands and find the Khmer Rouge guerrillas responsible for the decapitation of that Unmo a couple of weeks back. A group was sighted up north along the Mekong that could be responsible.
“You believe it’s really the same group? Kind of dangerous, don’t you think? If I remember correctly, you didn’t feel so well after your last patrol in the swamps.”
“A’m guessing this patrol is a waste, but a’m a soldier, remember? I’ll manage it okay. Not my job to question. Besides, I wouldn’t mind doing some serious damage to those wankers.”
“Would it be a jinx to tell you to be careful, to come home safe?”
“Naw. Best to tell me you’ll be waitin’ for me with a cold beer and no towel.” He laughed and stared. I looked down to see that my towel had slipped dangerously close to exposing my small breasts. Not bothering to pull it up, I simply smiled my invitation.
The motorbike’s motor revved grudgingly, coughed and then Aiden backed out and turned toward Kampong Cham while there was still a bit of light to help him navigate.