It was a warm morning on Don Det island, Rixy thought it was the hottest morning since we’d had arrived but I begged to differ. Everyon was feeling the effects of last nights shenanigans, the boys had purchased some ‘Happy cookies’ and a joint from the local drug man at the ‘Happy bar’ but I played it safe knowing the effect that marijuana can have on me, I stuck to a couple LaoLao mojitos. We’d had been on the exotic island of Don Det for two days now and hadn’t really done any activities as such so Martin and Liam did some leg work and booked up a day of fishing out on the infamous Mekhong River. We arrived at a small store where an old man stumbled around filling a basket with tomatoes, onions and a fish covered in sand. It wasn’t the most professional set up but then againwe had nothing to compare it to, nobody had any experience of fishing apart from Liam and Rixy and even there knowledge wasn’t extensive. The old clearly drunken fellow dropped a collection of rods against the wall for us to peruse. Everyone grabbed at the pile and it became clear that there wasn’t enough, there were four rods and one long peice of plastic, you know like the rod but without the wire and the spool or any of the important pieces. Low and behold muggins here was stuck with the piece of plastic, I tried to explain to inebriated ‘fisherman’ but he was too busy collecting the gear to listen and perhaps too intoxicated on Laos paint stripper whiskey to even give a fuck.
The boat sat dormant on the bay and the ‘fisherman’ was nowhere to be seen but there was a new member of the group. His hair was black with the odd grey streak, his face was mangled and his teeth popped out his gums reminiscent of Ronaldinho. It was clear from the beginning that he wasn’t all there. It was a given that the chap had a mental problem but his age was a mystery, the boys had a few guesses between themselves but it could definitely have went either way, he’s either 12 or 45 I thought, one of the two extremes. Who was he? was the biggest question on the boys minds and why had he decided to join the group. I recognized his sad little face from the football the night before, he had walked up to me by the side of the pitch and stared at me for a minute or two then left. The drunken fisherman clambered across the beach and told the boy’s he’d be five minutes. The boy/man sat eyeballing us from across the boat, he beckoned me to come and sit next to him. I squeezed in next to him, ‘What is your name?’ he asked, ‘David’ I replied, ‘My name is Joe’ I think he said, ‘Nice one Joe’. He seemed to speak quite good English at first, maybe he isn’t as fucked up as we first thought. The drunk reappeared with a huge rock/anchor in his arms and he plonked it on the edge of the boat and climbed on. So we set off, the boat moved sluggishly away from the beach, the drunk man stood over us counting the people on the boat then counting the rods, he did this numerous times before scratching his head. ’4 rods, 5 people’ he said scratching his head ‘we are one short’. I sighed and held up my piece of plastic ‘Yep mate, I tried telling you earlier…’ I shook my head, this was gonna be an interesting trip. The man stumbled towards me on the boat ‘sorry’ he said and he took his place in the driving seat…sorry? is that it? I mean I know we are in Laos and its all ‘chilled out’ etc but if you run a fishing trip business, first thing you should do is make sure you have enough rods surely? This chap was too fucked up on LaoLao whiskey though and it was a bit sad. ‘I’m sorry, too much to drink’ he said as he took the wheel…well that’s reassuring…it was only three o’clock in the afternoon.
The guide (gonna call him the guide from now on) drove quite sensibly to our surprise although every so often he’d head off to the right a little before regaining control of the vessel. Joe seemed to have an obsession with Martin’s swimming shorts, he kept picking them up, folding them, putting them under his jacket and then laughing. Martin watched on cautiously while we smiled ‘you don’t wan’t them Joe they’re filthy mate!’, he just laughed and then put them back down. Joe would repeat this sequence of events every five minutes with Martin watching on slightly confused. The guide stopped at a small village to drop the barbeque ingredients off and then took us out into the river to start some serious extreme fishing. ‘OK I leave you here and come get you later’ and with that the guide shot off in another boat to start to the BBQ. We sat and looked at each other, everyone holding their rods aimlessly well apart from me, I held a piece of plastic with what is becoming a trademark frown on my face.
‘So Joe how old are you?’ I enquired
’22′ he grunted back at me with his charismatic smile
‘Same here Joe, I’m 22′ I turned to Matt and gave him a look as if to say ‘Fuck me he’s had a tough life’.
‘Is that your dad Joe?’ I continued to question the little fella while sipping on my can of Coke, I had nothing better to do as I didn’t have a rod. The boys fished to no avail while I had a similar struggle trying to get some sense out of Joe.
‘I think his names Doe’ Matt said
‘Doe…’ I tested it and he looked at me so maybe it was…I didn’t wanna try other alternatives like Shmoe or Broe cos I know for a fact he would have looked over and then we would be back at square one with no name for the poor little lad, so we adopted Doe as his name although deep down we weren’t too sure.
I offered some Coke to Liam, he took a sip before Doe grabbed it out his hands. Doe looked at me with his sad glazed eyes ‘Yep, go on Doe have a drink’. Doe wrapped his bulging gums around the can and took a huge gulp, his teeth were broken and yellow and all over the shop. He went to hand the can back, I smiled sympathetically, ‘No it’s OK Doe you finish it mate, you sure you’re allowed Coke? Doesn’t send you nuts does it?’, he just laughed.
The boys carried on fishing but were having no luck, the bait that the guide had left us was shocking, I mean I know fishes aren’t the most intelligent animals but they’d have to be complete morons to go for the shit that we had on our rods. I turned round startled as I heard the engine rev slightly, I saw Doe sat in the drivers seat trying to start the boat. ‘Woah, Doe have you ever driven a boat?’, Doe laughed and revved the engine more, he fiddled with some buttons and the steering wheel in a fashion that suggested to me he didn’t have a clue. I shook my head ‘No Doe! No. Come on, leave the engine’, Doe listened to me and let go with a sad expression, what the fuck was going on? Why was he listening to me? Why was I looking after this guys retarded son? I was paying 80,000 kip (about seven quid) to sit on a filthy boat with no rod and babysit a man with special needs. They should be paying me. I got sick of being responsible so I sat at the other end of the boat, Rixy let me use his rod for a bit but I had no luck either.
The sun was beginning to set, it looked amazing as usual but I was getting a bit stressed. ‘Is that guy even coming out? Has he just left us with Doe for eternity in the middle of the Mekong?’. I sat shaking my head, ‘he was fucking wasted, he’s probably passed out!’ I shouted, starting to lose my shit. I saw Doe hop into the driving seat again. He started revving the engine but he lacked the strength to really get it started. I tried my best to calm him down ‘Come on Doe just sit down, you cant fucking drive!’, everyone else just laughed and encouraged him ‘are we really gonna humour this situation, think about it, Doe has mental problems and he’s going to try and drive our boat’ I didn’t think I was gonna be saying anything like that when I woke up this morning. I gave up mid sentence and sunk back into my seat. ‘Don’t worry he doesn’t have the strength to start it…’ and with that the engine started and everyone went silent before bursting into laughter. Doe was cracking up, his little face lit up as the boat started moving, the only problem was…the anchor was still down. The boat drove round in circles, Doe looked confused but happy. Does he do this every trip? Does he come out every trip? It still wasn’t confirmed that the guide was his father. In Doe’s mind he was probably racing down the Mekhong but in reality we were going round in circles in first gear, the sound of the engine being drowned out by Doe’s manic laughter. ‘What is going on?’ I asked breaking a smile ‘This is fucking surreal’.
I gave up trying to stop Doe, we let him have his fifteen seconds of fame, spinning the boat round at a slow pace. We could see the guide on his way over his boat so we knew we were ‘safe’. The guide climbed on board ‘No fish?’ he looked puzzled, we all sighed ‘Nope’. He took us back to the island he had dropped the food off for a barbeque, we were all a bit hungry and bored so we were happy to get a change of scenery. The guide sat us at a table and provided us all with some sticky rice, chicken and onion kebab skewers and some cucumber. ‘Ahh, this actually looks munch’ Martin commented as he wasted no time getting stuck in. I was pleasantly surprised by the meal and I was just applying some soy sauce to my rice when…’Oh don’t do that Doe’. Doe had shoved his little filthy mit into my sticky rice and grabbed a handful, he looked at me with a sad vacant expression. ‘You’ve got your own…’ I pushed a box of rice towards him and he started munching away. I looked at my dish, I was too hungry to let it go to waste purely because old Doe had had his fingers all over it. I pushed some of the contaminated rice aside and got my eat on as they say on MTV cribs, you know like when you go into the kitchen and some annoying rapper will go ‘this is where I get my eat on!’ and then some music will kick in and he will be like going through his fridge and shit…and then he’ll be like ‘I love Sunny D man what can I say’, you know what I mean?
The guide introduced us to his best friend who was helping with the barbeque, he brought some fish over which was alright but Doe also got his little hands all over that too. It reminded me of that scene from Scary Movie 2…’my germs!!!’. The view of the sunset from the island was pretty spectacular, the sun was just like a glowing orange ball and you could look at it without squinting. We sat on side of the island with Doe just soaking up the beauty. We returned to the table and the guide offered us some LaoLao. He was knocking them back but we each did one to keep him happy. ‘Big man! Big Man does one more’ the guide made Martin do a second shot to the disgust of the Martdog. It’s disgusting stuff, I dunno how these guys drink it on a regular basis. The guide continued to down the LaoLao so we thought it was safe to maybe ask to go back asap before he was too drunk to even walk. He stumbled down the hill and onto the boat and drove us back.
Before we set off the guide joked that we were going to a waterfall, he spun the boat round facing away from Don Det. ‘No no no!’ we all pleaded with him to turn the boat back round. ‘IM JOKING!!!’ he screamed like a maniac, we all sat still and silent a little confused by his dry humour. We were finally heading home after a surreal day of ‘fishing’ but we still had to keep our eye on the guide who was drifting off while he drove. Doe started singing so we joined in, clapping our hands to the song ‘Don Det, Don Det, Don Det’. It got a bit repetitive but Doe kept going all the way home. As we got off the boat we remembered Doe still had Martin’s shorts shoved up his jacket…’fuck it’ you could tell Martin wanted them but he probably wanted to avoid causing a scene with a mentally retarded local as he fought over a pair of shorts (like that scene from the Inbetweeners, you know the one).
‘Well that was…weird’ it was agreed that it had been an interesting day and although I paid 80,000 kip and didn’t get a rod I don’t think you can put a price on the memories.
And what happened to Doe you may ask…well he went back to wandering the streets of Don Det talking to whoever will listen. The mystery still remained to who he was, where he came from and if the guide was his father. Where did the guide end up? In the gutter maybe?