marcel barang

Bookworms

In English on 22/11/2010 at 1:59 am

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Or House repairs continued (3).

The house repairs were over on Friday afternoon, two days ahead of schedule. For a simple reason: I made clear to Chang Piak that he wouldn’t get paid until they were completed. Even though he himself had done his work, he was still in charge of the whole caboodle.
The retired electrician scheduled Sunday for the installation of a water heater in the now windowed bathrooms somehow got elbowed aside overnight in favour of a burly young man who did the job in an hour or so while the ‘aluminium team’ stuck a new window in the mid-level bedroom, repaired the sliding mosquito net of the mezzanine office window that, slanted for years, served no purpose as it left an inch-long gap in its top corner for mosquitoes (and even snakes, twice) to make themselves at home in mine, and, last but not least, unlocked the locked door.
There was a debate: they couldn’t pick the lock, they claimed; it had to be sawn off and replaced, which I wouldn’t hear of, or else they could reach the lock inside by dislodging one of the panes of the small louvered window next to the door, cut up its mosquito net and then slide an arm inside as far as the doorknob to unlock it.
That was what was done. They must have felt bad about it because they replaced the net in its frame at no charge.

When everyone had left, I did some rough cleaning and, inspecting the small bedroom, where I stock all of my French books and some Thai ones and seldom set foot in, I was intrigued by a line of brown dust at the bottom of a row of books, so I dislodged a few to wipe it out. Oh my!
All my life, I’d always thought that ‘bookworm’ was a figure of speech and bookworms the plight of mouldy medieval archives. But before my eyes were bookworms, one to two mm long creamy translucent maggots – in their hundreds, perhaps over a thousand. In the frantic hours that followed, I committed mass murder with intent and something called Chaindrite 1 that ‘kill[s] termites, cockroaches, ants & powder post beetles’.
I had to throw a dozen books away along with hundreds of corpses. Two trade books in particular were reduced to a thin frame of paper surrounding a solid brownish-black mud cake of presumably dejections crisscrossed by galleries where worms wriggled and squirmed.
As I sorted out the books that could be saved, even if a bit gnawed or drilled in sometimes freakish patterns, I reflected that those creatures definitely had high literary tastes: they ignored Les Particules alimentaires as well as L’Enseignement du Bouddha, went past La Montagne de l’âme with mere nibbles, let Belle du Seigneur simmer in literary fat, didn’t bother with the ancient novels of Sartre, la Duras and Hougron, but they sure had a weakness for the 10-18 and Folio collections, something to do with their glue or paper quality, I guess. Fortunately, those books I most prize were left virtually unmolested.
A neighbour claims those were ‘baby termites’, termites being everywhere in this neck of the woods. I have another theory: as I provision myself in books in the Bang Lamphoo second-hand bookshops, couldn’t I have imported unknowingly some contaminated book or two, especially those two trade books in terminal condition that happened to stand a span or so apart in the row?
(Don’t tell her, but I distinctly remember one of the books was by Geneviève Dorman, a surprising bookworms’ favourite.)
Anyway, long hours of cleaning and dusting followed, from ceiling to cupboards, on Friday and Saturday, in between sessions of poetry writing (Courrier International wants the French version of ‘A dot on the Malayan Peninsula’ by the new darling of Thai glitterati, Zakariya Amataya, since his consecration by the New York Times) and more painful ones of HTML 101 lessons, and I was looking forward to a long, long rest of perhaps seven hours after two weeks in zombie land. Of course, that was counting without an early morning phone call and the constant hammering of very loud explosions all around: the slum people are quite happy wasting the money they haven’t got so that their children can have fun firing bangers all day long three days running until the Loy Krathong celebration that’s just past. Not by the river: right in the wasteland under my windows.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling good about having a house at last in working order, but the feeling didn’t last.
Having changed the tubing of the water tank in the front garden, the tank will no longer overflow and I shouldn’t have to go and open and close (or forget to close) the tap by the meter outside the house. Except that I still must: that tap – the one just past the meter – is leaking mightily. Since it’s a khong looang (public property), I’ll have to call the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority…
In the bout of cleaning on Saturday, I took as usual the pressure hose attached to the toilet seat to flush the bathroom floor clean and pressed its handle; it broke inside my fist.
This morning, as I made to open a side mosquito net of the brand-new window in the same bathroom, the upper plastic flap holding it against the frame broke and jumped and caught me in the chest.
As dusk fell, I switched the porch light on. The bulb bought less than three months ago and guaranteed to last 3 000 hours just called it quits.

I wonder what this Monday will bring.

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