He said, Why don’t we go to Phuket?
I said, Are you sure it’s pronounced like that?
We walked most of the way. My boyfriend was a walker. He said that’s what legs were for. I disagreed, I thought legs were for luring.
It was hot, and I didn’t know where we were. We came to a sign which read, The Petrified Forest. I didn’t want to go. If the trees were petrified what would happen to me, but my boyfriend said, Come on.
It wasn’t long before we were tramping through a swamp. He said, Can you hear the kookaburra? I stopped and listened but all I could hear was the squelch of his boots as he squashed through the swamp ahead of me. A newspaper floated down and the headline read, Phuket Relocated to Indian Ocean by US Military. This was terrible; just think of all the trees that must have fallen off when it was moved. I felt sorry for the monkeys and birds who had had homes in the trees, and now had nowhere to live. It was all the fault of the US military. Why couldn’t they leave things where they were.
I noticed my boyfriend was gone, either swallowed by the swamp or back on dry land and walking away from me. I was on my own in a swamp. No chance of reaching Phuket now because the United States had moved it to another part of the planet and even if I built a boat out of branches and leaves I was sure that as soon as I got close to the promised land Uncle Sam would bring in a big crane or helicopter and move it again.
A peasant walked over and I asked, Do you know the way to the City of Angels, and she started singing a Dionne Warwick song about San José. She had a pleasant voice but it didn’t help me much in my present predicament. I was waist deep in marshland. She was on stilts, still singing, I wondered if she’d juggle some coconuts for me, but I didn’t like to ask in case she wasn’t very good at juggling and a coconut fell and hit me on the head and knocked me further into the mud. Waist high was bad enough; tit high would be a disaster for me. I had no flotation devices like Kate Winslet in the flooded Titanic.
We reached dry land and clambered up. My stilted peasant said adios and clumped away. She could take bigger strides than me and was soon out of sight in the forest canopy. I thought about Captain Cook and what he would do in this situation, but I didn’t know anything about Captain Cook so I didn’t have any answers.
Deep in the forest I found a hut, and in the hut was a woman, she said, Hello, come in and make yourself at home. How could I make myself at home; I’d never lived in a hut. I didn’t know what to do. I sat on the dirt floor. She gave me a slice of papaya. The seeds looked at me and said, Eat me if you dare. I looked at the woman; it was obvious she expected me to eat. It would be rude not to. A man came in with a long spear. He said, Hubba bab swanee lik bap, and the woman nodded. He looked at me and said, Eat well, pretty one, for tonight you will be our dinner. I didn’t feel so hungry then. I put down my papaya and immediately a column of black ants marched all over it.
The man bent me over his knee. I thought he was going to spank me, and I hoped I wouldn’t get sexually excited. As I was a guest, getting hot on the first night, wouldn’t look good. He took a very sharp knife and cut a slice off my ass and threw it in a skillet. I looked at him, he smiled, Lucky you got a fat ass, he said, and took another slice and another and another…
Then he and the woman tucked into what had once been my ass and was now their dinner. I obviously tasted okay for they both made agreeable mmms and aaahs and chewed and smiled and I kept my thoughts to myself. I think my nonchalance paid off because after dinner, the man took me to the hut entrance and pointed to a temple on a hill and said, Go there and they will help you.
So I did and a woman in the temple said, What happened to your ass? and I said, They ate it, and she said, But they’ve only taken slices from one cheek. You’re all unbalanced. Isn’t it difficult to walk?
I had to admit I was a bit lopsided.
I hate sloppy food preparation, she said, Evenness is next to godliness. Would you like a papaya?
I explained I’d eaten my fill of papaya, and she said, That’s impossible, no one can have too much papaya.
I didn’t want to argue, but I asked if she had a mango instead, and she huffily gave me a very thin slice of mango. Evidently thin, I thought, because she was aggrieved I didn’t want her papaya, and I wondered why she wasn’t able to understand that I'd eaten enough papaya. Although in fact it was because papaya brought back memories of a sharp knife.
A gong went bo-ing, and she said, Come, so I went. She led me to a dusty road; huge trucks hurtling past us. She said, Lift up you skirt, so I did and a truck stopped and I got in. The driver said, Where are you going? and I said Phuket. (Although there was no point going to Phuket because I didn’t know where it was anymore.) He said, I can take you halfway, and I waved goodbye to the woman.
He drove fast and his name was Carlos. He had a wife in Aberystwyth, and a girl friend in Ohio. I said, You get around a lot. He said yes.
I looked at the blue sky which turned black at night, and listened to the radio. I thought about my boyfriend and which would be the best method of poisoning him. Half way was evidently a long way. Roads, countries, farms, more roads, towns. But when we were there he stopped. I said, Thank you, and got out of his truck. I walked down a road feeling dishevelled and there, outside a café, drinking mint tea, was my boyfriend.
I said, You shit. You left me in a swamp.
I told you to hurry, he answered
You told me to listen to a kookaburra.
Oh yeah, I did. Sorry about that, and he bought me a mint tea and we made up.
We sat in the café. Then we went home.
My father said, Have a nice holiday?
No, I said, They moved Phuket, so we couldn’t go there.
What a shame, he said, and he shouted, Samantha, Daisy’s home, and his eyes twinkled when he whispered, Your mother’s made faux cow pie.
My Mum came through and I told her what my boyfriend did.
Oh dear, she said, never mind, school tomorrow. Have you done your homework?
Samantha Memi lives and writes in London. Some of her stories have been published in magazines and can be read here.