marcel barang

Chronicle of a flood foretold – Day Two

In English, Reading matters on 28/10/2011 at 5:03 pm


8am: Update first. Last night was quite hectic. As the water kept rising, I set about removing what could be removed out of the ground floor. There was no fighting the water: the enemy was within, coming through all cracks in the surrounding cement and baying at all doors, which just can’t be siliconed.
As I figured I had two to three hours to spare, I went to help Khun Lee move things as well, as water had started seeping into her house from the back, never mind the water pump up front. Her husband, my very good friend Karoon, had called earlier from Nepal, asking me to help her before he could ditch his good work there and fly back. [He’ll be back tonight – if he can make it home at all from the airport, that is.]
I used to think my former life companion was a magpie collecting things beyond reason, to the point I felt gagged in her cramped house and migrated here. But Khun Lee, that wisp of a gabbing woman, is something else altogether. For hoarding, the dear woman is in a class of her own. Even though her exasperated husband has taken lately to secrete vanloads of stuff away while she’s nursing at Siriraj Hospital (‘She won’t allow me to throw away ay-nay-thing!’), their house is still stuffed to the point there’s hardly any standing space; you walk through it at your peril. At first, she wouldn’t allow me to remove things, just shift them. ‘Leave this here; I’ll take it up tonight.’ Yeah, right. I had to plead with her and then disregard her altogether (luckily for me, her mobile fell in the water and she was henceforth busy trying to dry it) to clear two or three lorry loads of boxes and plastic bags clearly unmoved for years, plus a washing machine, and her bedding – she meant to spend the night in the lowest part of her house, an additional room built over half of the garage space, and at its level, even though she could see water oozing from the water valve in one corner! I disabused her of the notion, thank you.
After perhaps a couple of hours, I went back to my place and resumed shifting my own things with a double aim in mind: making way for the water without overdoing it. So I removed everything to allow for as high as 50-60cm of water inside; later, if need be, I’ll allow for one metre altogether and shift TV, computer and printer skywards. Beyond that, yom phae – I’ll admit defeat. Inevitably, both the upholstered sofa and matching armchair will suffer. So will the batteries of cheap-wood cupboards. Too bad! Actually, after more than twenty years, they’re all rather in need of replacement.
By 11:30 pm, the water had started to nibble at the lowest part of the veranda, but then seemed to have second thoughts. By midnight, there was no further rise. I dined on boiled fish and cabbage, took a shower and repaired to middle-class air-conditioned splendour on the mezzanine floor to renew my acquaintance with Homer Wells, Dr Larch, Melony and the others. Sleep ensued (no reflection on Irving).

7am: I wake up from pleasant dreams to a miracle: the water has receded during the night by a few centimetres and keeps receding. The sky is lavender blue. Going up to the mid-level bathroom, I can see that the terrain vague at the back is now flooded. A lorry high on wheels and full of people is leaving it.

8am: That was then. Now the water is rising again. I watch it take over the veranda at crawling speed. Some tile joints are sweating browning liquid: water mixed with lacquer from the living room parquet, I guess. I call my daughter to report, wake her up in the process. Her house over there in Phrannok is still spared. Starting to type this on the laptop, I realise I forgot to make a copy of the story I was translating. Oh well, never mind: that one can wait; there are plenty more to ‘kill time’ with, as the French say.

9am:  That’s it! The living room is a budding lake. I’ll keep an eye out for struggling termites that have been feeding on the parquet for the past three or four years: the bugs might start climbing the stairs. In the garage, the long pieces of wood have taken to floating about, and the mostly empty cardboard boxes over them too. Outside, it sounds for a while as if quite a few tempers are frayed, what with one and all dismayed by the intrusion and the prospect of more: we all know tomorrow will be worse tide-wise and Sunday … Or perhaps it’s just this Sino-Thai cop family that has just moved into a townhouse two units to my left. They don’t speak: they SHOUT and sound as if they are perpetually quarrelling. Grey skies. Outside temperature: 28°C.

12am: Ankle-deep. I shuffle slowly through the living room to make as few waves as possible. Leaves tickling your feet are disquieting. They’ve floated in, even though the mosquito doors are closed. I have a cooking problem: the new Picnic burner is defective and won’t allow me to cook anything at low heat; unfortunately, the microwave oven on top of the fridge won’t work, the plug it shares with the fridge being loose and almost out of reach. The fridge still works. The only recourse: the electric hotplate of the main stove, which I seldom use because the plug is within the cupboard below. It’ll have to do, though, as long as there’s less than 40cm of water indoors – or any electricity, for that matter.

1pm: Chart Korbjitti just called: when I’m fed up being stranded, I can always go to his place in the hills. I wonder how many dozen drowning souls I’d find there. Deprived of FIP for some reason (last night Jazz à FIP was okay for the ten minutes I put it on), I go for Soma’s Groove Salad. Ground temperature: 31°C and in the occasional breeze by the mezzanine window I’m sweating nicely while typing some mail.

1:30pm: Daughter calls for the latest disaster report from daddy as, standing in fourteen centimetres of water, he puts some food together for a Spanish-like merienda.

4:15pm: I’ve taken time out to the cider rules side and had a last good laugh over the fulsome blessings of curried fish balls. I won’t write a critic of that novel, read in fits and starts over more than a year, except to say that throughout I wondered at the absence of any physical description of Homer Wells apart from a skimpy ‘round face and big eyes’ somewhere – and had to wait for three descriptive lines, but as transmogrified Dr Stone, on page 709, ten pages from the end. How did I manage to have a definite mental image of the fellow?

Now it’s 33°C up here and I need a glass of water from down there. Did I just say water?
Oh, bother.

4:35pm: Only 9cm left! Another false hope?


7:55–8:15pm: A downpour, 3.4 on the tropical scale.

8:30pm: 21cm of water downstairs when I go down to cook the two spuds I’ve got left.

8:55pm: 25cm. This, by the way, means one metre out there in the lane.

9:25pm: 23cm. I turn on the water pump I switched off in late morning after another visit by the resident ghost. It goes on and on while I wash dishes. When I realise the valiant pump is two-third submerged, I switch it off for good: I don’t want to risk electrocution or blackout. I can bathe at the back of the house where the drinking water jar is still half full. But then there’s the little problem of piss and shit…

10:50pm: 22.5cm.


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