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What's in a Name - Bangkok Love Happy

Kelvin Mason

Pinyo pulls Harry close, snuggles soft and fragrant into his neck.

Harry Potter... No, serious. Look, Harry's as browned off as you about it. More. But that's just how it is. Like it or lump it, Harry Potter was Harry Potter long before Harry Potter. Got it? Harry didn't ask for this. You might even say it was the fault of J K Whats-her-face's what happened to him. Yeah. After all, if he hadn't been so heartily sick of people laughing every time he told them his name. Well, it was impossible to score if guys were laughing so hard they couldn't hold… Well.

Well actually it was pretty impossible for Harry to score before, come to think. Before the book, that is: the book, the books, the film, the films, the lego, the computer game. The theme park? Only a matter of time, you mark my words. Course Harry, our Harry, had bought the books. Curiosity, see, had to. And okay, they weren't bad. All right, they were good. But for the life of him Harry couldn't understand how they were that good; that many millions of pots of money good. Wished he'd thought of it. Wished he could write.

Bangkok, anyway. Cheap flight; airlines going through a bad patch; terrorism and all that. Fairy tale come true for Harry Potter. First day, afternoon, after an air-conditioned kip in the hotel, Harry's out to explore. First person that speaks to him in the concrete jungle: hooker; cute little snapper, mind.
'Me like you big time. Me put happiness by your side.'
Harry didn't think so. There's happiness and happiness, know what I'm getting at. So, Harry declines politely, though it did put a smile on his face. And he's ducking into a shoe shop to buy laces.

He'd been feeling his way round the city centre, nervously gripping his bag, keeping check on his wallet, fingering his passport every couple of minutes. Just to be sure. And there was no action, not what Harry would call action. But it’s early in the day. The street he was in now did seem more promising. Happiness-by-your side has at least put him a bit at ease. First time out for Harry, see.
One lace had bust as he got dressed to go to the airport: Piss O' Clock in the morning, way before sparrow fart; always happens that sort of thing, dunnit. So, he'd travelled halfway around the world with his shoe tied with a bit of white kitchen string. Not cool. He'd checked the airport - every shop - no joy: shoelaces didn't exist: pour homme, chinos, caviar, sunglasses, Harry-bloody-Potter books aplenty. Even shoes. Loads of them. All sorts. But no ruddy laces.

Bangkok, Third World - ain’t it? They'd have them here surely. Turned out, there’d been no need to impress on the plane. Sat next to a young couple, snogging. The couple, not Harry Potter. Chance would be a fine thing. Germans, you could tell. Checklist: guidebooks, travel plans, anti-malarials; not quite as loud as Americans or as humourless as the Dutch, but all the same. The young man, tasty apart from his choice - if it conceivably could have been a choice - of tropical adventure outfit, called Harry sir. Excuse me, sir, do you mind if I stick my tongue down Brunhilde's throat and gargle; good for the circulation. Not Harry's, he kept getting up and moving around, terrified of deep vein thrombosis, mildly nauseated by the exchange of Teutonic spit, suspicious - and ashamed of it - of a dark-haired bloke with a Saddam moustache who might well be assembling a lethal weapon with his plastic cutlery and foil food tray.
For all Harry knew.

As soon as he's inside the shoe shop on Rama HIV Road, Harry gulped, shaken by his wit - or what usually didn't pass for it back home. At least he had protection. Should the need arise. Please God. He'd already seen a massage parlour called K-Why. Serious. Hadn’t dared go in – not even near.) As soon as Harry's inside, the sole customer (Sole, get it? Oh, Harry!) asks him in a voice cloyed with Mom's apple pie with extra syrup.
'Hey, mister, do you know your boots?'
'Fraid not.' Harry gawked at the two pairs of pointy toed cowboy boots arrayed before the besocked Texan - surely.
'Man, I don't know if these are pie-thon or kob-ra.'

The shop didn't have any laces. Harry found it difficult to even ask, biting his lip as he was talking as he was bubbling over. The attendant youth offered Harry a new pair of shoes 'vere sheep'. Harry declined. He didn't vhere sheep. Was there a Fourth World where people still fixed and replaced stuff, sewed on buttons, darned their socks? Probably not. Globalisation, see. No more shoe laces, only cowboy boots in three shades and three textures of embossed snake skin. Yee-hah!
Harry left the shop, leaving the bemused American to tut and ho-hum and shake his head and 'hot dog, I just don't know' over the boots. Unbelievably tacky. As soon as he 'hit the sidewalk', Harry exploded with laughter. He was still sniggering when he met Pinyo. When Pinyo met him, maybe.
'What so funny?'
'Snakes,' Harry burbled.

Their conversation between that and ending up sitting in a open-air bar doesn't matter. Small talk, a sum of meaningless gibber: unnoticed soundtrack to a movie of looks and gestures, laughter and fluttering eyelashes. Just too much action to listen to the score. But Harry had scored, he was sure of it. His knees felt weak and his tongue was too big for his mouth. Harry Potter comes out to play. There he sat with Pinyo and Pinyo's friend at a tin table with a gingham plastic cloth, drinking local beer and chatting. Bangkok! Harry Potter! An emaciated Siamese kitten with half a tail made big blue eyes at him, but he had nothing to give it.

'So, Hal, you liking Bangkok, yes?' Pinyo asked for the umpteenth time, hand sliding between Harry's legs, fingers massaging his thigh.
Harry made the right noises, managing - just - to manipulate his thickened tongue. Hal had been a good idea, it felt good to be Hal: a change of name; a different person. Hal Potter and his philosopher's boner. Harry placed his hand on Pinyo's and squeezed. Not backward this new man, Hal. And Pinyo sweet a fruit could be.
What did they do when they got old?
Don't ask, best not to. Enjoy. They drank more beer, ate spring rolls; Harry kissed Pinyo's delicious honey brown fingers. He'd pay the bill, of course he would, Harry knew that. From the First World, see - Sheffield. Close enough. And a good enough wage in the factory: lonely storeman and occasional poet - unpublished, unread, unrich; JK take note. But money to burn compared to these boys, fair's fair. Pinyo caressed Harry's cheek. Harry's spectacles slipped down his nose, and he pushed them back up. He was sweaty. Well it was Bangkok in December. Thirty-something probably, and humid with it.

Yeah, our Harry Potter wears spectacles too. But there it stops, okay. No alluring fringe, no small for his age slightness of frame. Our Harry is forty-something-he-doesn't-wish-to-recall-exactly – fortyish is what he tells Pinyo - balding, chinless and stocky. Okay, pudgy - distinctly pudgy. Cuddly, Pinyo says, giving one of Harry's ample love-handles a playful pinch. Magic! Harry blushed and was pleased. Under the table, he tried unsuccessfully to make his jeans cover his now distinctly off-white and frayed string shoe-lace. He thought he was falling in love.

Okay, Harry's naive but he's not that dumb. He knows this love at first sight is love for one night - at most for the whole package holiday deal. He’s not taking Pinyo back to Sheffield, is he? But, so what? He can still feel it, can't he, if he wants? The other Harry flys on a broomstick, and truth is stranger than fiction. Or so they say. It is Harry's right to feel this way: bright and alive and tingling. He isn't cynical enough to think this is what he splashed out on the ticket for - a pretty penny, even if it was a bargain-basement snip at twice the price. Pinyo is all effusive gestures and squeals of conversational glee, hand holding and playful slapping, dark eyelashes and lids drooping over liquid brown eyes.

By the time Harry paid the bill and they got up to leave they'd drunk a fair drop. Harry had a tough time walking, but it had nowt to do with drink. Like his dad used to say. But his dad was lying; Harry's not. Pretty determined though to lose the friend. Not one of Harry's fantasies, not at all. Well, even if it was, Harry's smart enough to know he's not up to that sort of caper. More romantic than gymnastic, Harry. Not sure the friend swings their way, anyway. Besides, Harry has eyes only for sweet Pinyo. The friend, whose name Harry has jealously failed to remember, isn't Harry's type at all. Pasty skinned, stocky, a bit pudgy even. Not what you want at all, is it?

There's no trouble to it anyway. The friend seems happy enough to say his good-byes, politely thanks Harry for the beer and the food - bows a couple of times, puts his hands together and brings them up to his face. Like praying, really. And he's gone, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke on the night; sliding off into the throng of bustling shoppers and hustling free-marketeers with their brand name jeans, designer labels and genuine Thai silk shirts - all under an easily bargained down fiver.

Alone, together; the answer to his prayers. Harry’s as nervous as the half-starved Siamese kitten wasn't. They don't hold hands, not out on the street. And Pinyo doesn't mince. Harry likes that. If he'd wanted a girl... Well, there'd been Happiness. And plenty more where she came from: massage and entertainment services, exotic dancing, strip joints. Little women line the streets, micro-skirted outside go-go clubs, coaxing tourist men to enter. Street-wise, none of them hassle Harry and Pinyo. Except, that is, for a blind mobile karaoke singer led by his daughter, no more than six or seven. Not really a hassle. Harry slips a note in her tin can because he's genuinely moved, soft hearted and feeling full of the milk of human kindness, not because he wants Pinyo to think he’s a generous soul. Not really.

Doesn't matter anyway, Pinyo looks on unmoved, possibly impatient, definitely not impressed. On they go, Harry humming Perfect Day under his breath, and following close on Pinyo's heels. He leads Harry down a side-street, nothing murk and sinister - full of night-clubs; early evening, though, and not many about. Into the sheltering shadow of the doorway of a closed shop and Pinyo pulls Harry close, snuggles soft and fragrant into his neck.

Bart Simpson... Okay, this time it is a joke. Bart isn't his real name. Might as well be, though. Even Bart's almost forgotten what his mum didn't christen him. All his mates call him Bart. Ergo, aged twenty-six, he's as much Bart as Bart. More so really because Bart's real. And there's a lot of him. A big lad, East End born and bread: Bart works for a famous bakery and proud of, can hump more loaves than any bloke in the place. Only thing in common with the cartoon character is maybe that Bart's not too bright. Not thick, like, no one would say that. Not twice. No offence, Bart. Might be better to say, Bart and Bart are both 2-D. With me?

In Bangkok with his mate for the crack. Literal. Never gone much on steady girlfriends, hasn't Bart. Not back home; not here neither of course. Earlier they'd gone twos-up, Bart and Eric - save beer money, like. Tidy little piece. Not top totty, but you gets what you pays for, don't ya. And Bart and Eric weren't shelling out much. Bart had gone first, mind, won the toss. Not that Eric gave one. Good mate he was, Eric. And didn't mind sloppy seconds, not at all. Fact is, if there were birds who were as much of a laugh to go boozing and bollocksing around with as Eric, Bart would probably be shacked up with one by now, back home. Probably would one day, anyway. Like all the rest. But not on this holiday. Not tonight. Tonight, Bart Simpson was well up for it.

In the Mandarin Club, watching the exotic dancers get their kit off had him horny again. The shag had been better value than this piss beer they were drinking at rip-off prices that was for sure. Talking of piss, Bart needed one.
'Off for a lemon dash,'' he shouted in Eric's ear. Not that it mattered, nothing much registering with Eric. Eyes like pissholes in the snow. Oh well, he'd not be going far. And not likely to get in a ruck; for once. Very happy ogling up at the dancers, eyes glued to their tiny little titties. Liked them like that, Eric, small. Bart left him to drool.

Outside, he decided, the bog in here was a bleeding lake. Get a breath of fresh air at the same time. Slobber up a bit. Sober up, he meant sober up. Bart pumped his crotch in his fist. Not sure he'd be able to piss with that: like a French loaf, son, and no mistake. You could hang a ten-gallon hat on it and still have change from a fiver. Bart pushed out through the crowd, sniggering at his own joke, though he had a vague notion that it wasn't funny and no notion at all about what it meant. Pissed, man, and needing a piss. He got a pass – a grimy bit of card - from the bouncer: no more than five foot-bugger-all: trying bouncing me you wog dwarf git.
'All right, Dopey?' And out through the door into the street. Everything in reverse, out of the air conditioned cool into the mug of the night; more light out than in. Funny fucking country if you ask Bart.

Over the road, into the shadows and into the trousers, working it out of the Thai silk boxer shorts he'd bought after leaving his underpants at the whore's place. Cost more than the shag, they had, probably - Christmas present from the mum a few years back, Marks and Sparks. And didn't these Thai boxing bastards ride up your crack and leave your sweaty nuts plastered to your leg, eh? And the old boy's stiff as board, and ten minutes pointing Percy before you get a drop out of that, mate.
It was being English that saved Harry Potter. J K Whats-her-face may have got him into this, but a couple of words – not even as much as a well structured sentence - of his native tongue looked like they might just get him out alive.
'Help! Please!'
'What the fuck's going on there, then?' Bart Simpson shouts.
Painfully, he stows his tackle and legs it down the street to the scene of the crime. Far as Bart can tell - and he was pretty good at that sort of thing - a couple of wogs were giving an English bloke a kicking. Well out of order. Bart pulls one of them up by the shirt front - fat little fucker - and gave him a slap. Not much go in these lads. Off up the road like their arses were on fire, the pair ofthem: poofs.
'Go on, fuck off out of it!' Bart yells, though they already have. The small dark one in the flowery shirt waves a wallet and gives him the finger. Sticks and stones, sunshine, sticks and stones.
'Up your arse!' Bart shouts. He turns then to have a gander at the bloke on the deck: bit of blood round the mouth, a shiner in the morning, but not much damage. Kinell, though, got his jeans and pants down round his knees. Bart tries to look away.
'All right, mate?' But the fucker's crying, and Bart's embarrassed.
'Leave it out,' Bart says, twitching. But the bloke's still sobbing like a girl.
'Come on,' Bart says, 'you need a drink.' It was his cure for most ills.
'What's your name, mate?'
'Ha-wwy Pot-ter,' offers Harry, punctuated with sobs. And Bart winces because this bloke lisps or some such like that; like a nonce.
'Oh aye, and I'm the Wizard of fucking Oz,' says Bart, forgetting it is possible to get saddled with a dumb name. And even he's heard of the movie, though he hasn't read a book since he can't remember when. More a man for your wank mags, page three, and the football reports in the literary department.
'What you doing out here, anyway?' Bart demands. Asking for it, he was.
'What's your game?'
'He said he lov-ed me,' sobs Harry.
It dawns on Bart slowly like syrup, but once the sun's up he sees the awful light plain as day.
'You filthy queer!' Bart snarls and gives the bloke a kick in the ribs that shuts him up sobbing. Gives himself a bit of a pump up. Another kick and the pervey bastard's groaning. Bart smiles; feels good, very good. Another kick - a tidy one - and Harry Potter shuts his rattle, doubled up and arse in the air.
And Bart thinks, what the fuck - a freebie's a freebie, innit. Because the difference between fairy tales and life, JK, is that coincidence is one thing, but happy endings are as rare as – well – shoe laces, say.

© Kelvin Mason August 2002

Kelvin lives and writes in Denmark and was one of the first contributors to Hackwriters.
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