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Story To The Sea


Frank, Nate, Asa, and Tammy are in Thailand. Asa has returned to find out if her parents are safe, after she ran from a marriage to a drug lord she fears he may have returned to hurt her family....

     The path quite quickly became overgrown and harsh. Asa explained that it was probably hardly ever used anymore, what with the main highway basically going to the same destination.

     The going got slower and slower as the path was strewn with downed trees and limbs that they had to move, climb over, or navigate around. But no one complained, at least not aloud, that they should have taken the main road. The route was slow but even Asa seemed not to be in too much of a hurry.

     They stopped for a quick late lunch.

     This group of travelers were moody, and at various times they went from jovial ribbing to dark silent brooding, each lost for long moments in their own thoughts and fears. They had by unspoken agreement seemed to adhere to a policy of that if you can’t say something positive, then keep your mouth shut. So it was particularly silent when dark thoughts crept up, each left to wrestle with their own various forms of tortured thoughts, not sharing the negativity, possibly in fear of passing it along to their friends. None wishing to be the naysayer. But as each individual’s fears grew, there was nothing there, or no one, to help quiet the nerves. Maybe if they would have shared these negative thoughts they could have helped each other move past some of the fears, at least, hopefully, the irrational ones.

     It was when one of them could no longer stand the silence that they broke out in a song, with a joke, or rude statement. It was usually Tammy who broke the gloomy meditation.

     Nate was very aware that Tammy was trying to hold back her enthusiasm. He was beginning to see that now she also knew that they were on the verge of a breakthrough. He knew that she was watching him, but he dared not look in her direction very often. He wanted to avoid temptation; he wanted to put off the inevitable for as long as possible. He felt them moving toward one another, felt the pull… the strings tighten. He was tempted to bridge that diminishing gap that was still between them, but was almost ashamed to do so.

     If it were inevitable, then perhaps time would allow space for Nate to accept it. For it was time that enabled water to carve great canyons, and rigid stone mountains to soften and turn from grey to green. He had already come so far, now he just needed an undefined period to come to terms with the gap he had already covered before he could make the leap the rest of the way.

     Nate knew that he could never forget Gloria, but Gloria and Tammy were two completely different individuals that really didn’t have to affect one another. Maybe the two women were different enough that he could keep them separated in his thoughts, cordoned off in distinct sections in his mind. But he just worried that there was enough room in his head for both of them. It wouldn’t be fair to have thoughts of one blur the other. It seemed that his thoughts, his heart, and his physical self were at war. A war of possibilities and “what ifs.” Scenarios churned in his head. While his heart tugged in Gloria’s direction–wavering every so often in Tammy’s, however his physical being was mostly filled with yearning, desire and a more immediate fulfillment that only a tangible Tammy could indulge.

     Tammy was slowly occupying more of him with each passing moment. He knew that it was only a matter of time. Time was like the tide that was slowly washing him toward Tammy, gradually, yet inevitably. He could continue to swim against the current knowing that he probably couldn’t keep it up forever. Physically, mentally and, he even was starting to come to terms with, emotionally, he was being swept away. The only question is whether he should let himself be carried away, swept out to sea — or to fight the currant and swim (or run) away.

     After eating and resuming their journey down the narrowing path there was one moment when the pathway was partially blocked by debris on each side and as the two of them, Tammy and Nate, stepped around it, they met in the middle, bumping pretty hard and almost knocking Tammy off her feet. She stumbled forward, but Nate grabbed her flailing arm and righted her.

     “My hero!” she jokingly exclaimed.

     “Or did you push me on purpose?” She playfully pushed him and laughed.

     Nate took a step in her direction, but something was holding his back. He wanted to run to her. He wanted to chase her. He wanted to catch her. He wanted to hear her laugh more, he wanted to make her laugh. He wanted physical contact with her again, even if it was just a push, a brush of shoulders, or holding her hand. He wanted to tell her she was cute… or funny… or desirable…

     Instead his response was, “I know I’m clumsy, but I didn’t do it on purpose,” he said it without looking at her, and his pace quickened as he walked off ahead of the group without another word.

     Tammy looked back at Asa and Frank, who did not meet her gaze, each pretending to be fascinated by the pebbles at their feet.

     Finally, with a sigh, Tammy continued following Nate, making sure to keep her distance.

     Asa and Frank exchanged glances. Frank just shrugged his shoulders and started off again along the path.

     But Asa grabbed him by the arm and spun him back around.

     “What?” Frank gasped.

     Asa shook her head.

     “What?” Frank repeated.

     “Go to him. Talk some sense into him.”

     “Who? Nate?”

     Asa nodded vigorously.

    “Nate’s the most sensible man I know!”

     “Well… when it comes to women, men often get so… stupid.”

     “Really?” Frank laughed. “Well, when I fell for you… it’s the first time in my life I began thinking straight.”

     “But…. But…. Ever since I’ve known you, you have never made sense. You mean you were worse before!?” Asa smirked.

     “I’ll show you sense….” Frank raised his fist, “…and knock some sense into you!”

     “Ohhhh! Are you going to get physical big boy?”

     Frank pulled Asa toward him and kissed her.

     After a moment Asa said, “But don’t you feel guilty?”

     “Huh?”

     “Well, our relationship… Don’t you wish this for them?” Asa pointed indistinctly ahead of them.

     “You don’t know Nate like I do… He’s not looking for something like what we have. Nate is a loner.”

     “He’s not looking because he is afraid. He’s a loner because he’s afraid.” Asa took a deep breath and asked. “Can’t you see that?”

     “Nate’s afraid?” Frank looked skeptical.

     “He’s fearful of losing again. It’s painful to get close to someone and lose them.” Asa thought about Frank returning to the sun. Perhaps if she had known he wouldn’t be here for long she wouldn’t have fallen for him. No, she knew that she didn’t have the strength or willpower to resist. Even if she did have the advance knowledge or the willpower to withhold herself from him she was doubtful if she would. “Love, no matter how painful… is always worth it.”

      “Yes… it is.” Frank couldn’t help but to smile.

     He placed a hand on her shoulder and said, “But what if it’s not fear that’s holding him back?”

     The sun was getting lower and when she turned toward Frank she had to shield her eyes to see him. “What else?”

     “Perhaps he can’t get the thoughts of his wife out of his head for long enough to let another in…” Asa just looked at him, still Frank went on, “Maybe he is so hurt… so broken… that moving forward is an impossibility. I think that fear can be overcome, but a crushed or damaged spirit may not be repairable.” The gospel-like words spoken by a man with the sun radiating behind him, through him.

     Asa clutched her hands at her chest.

     Frank sighed, “What if there is nothing he has left to give, and no way able to receive anything even resembling love…”

     “Oh god!” Asa burst into tears, half-falling into Frank’s arms.      “Why? Why such a cruel world that would do this to such a man.”

     “There are a lot of damaged souls in this world. Sometimes it’s all one can do just to survive.”

     Through tears Asa said, “But surely some healing can take place!”

     Frank nodded. “But it takes time… And patience.”

     “I’ve seen the look in her eyes… Tammy will wait.”

     “Perhaps…” Frank dried Asa’s eyes, keeping his eyes ahead of him at all times, looking at the winding trail in front of him, glad that Nate and Tammy had walked off in advance and were nowhere in sight. It wouldn’t do either one of them any good to witness this. It would only serve to put extra pressure on one, in addition to bringing forth more frustration to the other. Frank knew that love was a funny thing, timing was everything. Each had to be ready. Frank knew that if he had met Asa before he had met Nate that everything would have been different. The one event in his life had to precede the other – otherwise nothing would have worked out the way it did. Maybe the universe was more about steps then fate, maybe the real fate was that the steps were in the right order. Before he met Nate there was no way he could have fallen for Asa the way he has. He wasn’t ready. It wasn’t yet safe.

     Frank understood Asa’s frustration at seeing Tammy and Nate coming so close, yet being so far, but he knew it would never work until Nate was ready. Frank wasn’t sure that Nate would ever be ready.

     Frank thought of his own tortured years that now seemed to be so far away and tried to bring hope forth, “But I know that if anything can change… can help Nate, it’s love…”

     Arm in arm the sad, love struck, couple walked ahead to be with their estranged friends.



     The group came to the town Mae Sariang. The skies were darkening. Crossing over a bridge they heard music playing. They followed the sounds down a small dirt road that followed the river until they came to a small wooden structure. Nate had the vague thought of mice following music. It was a tiny place called Khrua Biman that had a live band playing in it. The flavor was definitely Eastern, but it had a kind of fusion jam feeling to it, and was more rhythmic than one was used to from the eastern style of music.

     “Let’s first find a hotel, then get something to eat,” Nate said.

     “But I wanna hear the music,” Tammy put forth as she swayed to the rhythm.

     “It’s still early. Let’s have a drink here, and enjoy the sounds for a bit,” Frank reasoned.

     “This music is much better than American music, isn’t it?” Asa was smiling.

     Nate shrugged and followed them in.

     They entered and headed toward the music—which was actually coming from the back patio. They stepped out onto a wooden deck, which looked antique, with grainy, knobby wood. There were a handful of small tables there, about half of which were occupied. There was growth everywhere; it was as if this deck had just sprung up in the middle of a jungle. Some of the greenery was planted in pots and baskets, but most of it seemed to be growing naturally, whether it be vines or moss. The effect was stunning. Nature was overtaking a synthetic, man-made fabrication – instead of the other way around. The music seemed to fit this place perfectly, the way it wound and twisted around a beat, a lose theme, at times bordering on chaos but then somehow almost magically coming together in an almost perfect simplicity.

     They found a nice table in the corner, and although they were the only ones in the place who were not native, they felt at home.

     “I’ll have a Singha beer.” said Frank, when the waitress came over to take their order, feeling in the indigenous spirit.

     “What’s this?” Tammy pointed to a small crudely printed drink list that was on the table. “Bucket?”

     “It a mixed drink. All share. Local. Party drink. Give you in a bucket. Straws,” said the waitress through a fake smile of clenched teeth.

     “Sounds like fun!” exclaimed Asa.

     “What’s in it?” asked Nate, not afraid to show his skepticism.

     “Red Bull. Coke. Sangson. Lots of ice. Americans like cold. No?”

     “Sangson?” questioned Frank.

     “Sangson’s a local whiskey,” Asa replied.

     “I think it would be best to keep our wits about us,” Frank shook his head.

     “Hmmmm. Maybe it would do us a bit of good to lighten the mood a little,” Nate reasoned.

     “One bucket. Four straws!” Asa placed the order laughing.

     “It would be a good idea to get something to eat.” To Asa Nate said, “Is there something here, like chips or peanuts or something we can snack on?”

     Asa turned to the waitress, “Hmu Ping and Khanom Krog.”

     “What did you order?” asked Frank as the waitress left.

     “Local…” Asa paused, searching for the right word. Finally, she gave up and said, “Snacks.”

     “Yes, but what’s in them?” questioned Frank.

     “Bat wings and pig eyeballs!” Asa stuck her tongue out at him.


     The bucket was brought first.

     “It really is a bucket!” laughed Nate.

     “Oh…” Tammy sighed.

     “Is there a problem?” asked Asa.

     “Well, it’s just that all the straws are the same.”

     “Yes?”

     “Well, how are we gonna tell whose straw is whose?”

     Frank laughed, “We’re drinking out of the same bucket, does it really matter?”

     When there was no response from Tammy, Nate said “Here. Bite your straw on the end. There. Now you know which is yours.”

     Nate smiled and sighed. Gloria had always bit her straw. He remembered how many times at a restaurant the waitress would take their soft drinks away to refill them, and his would come back with a chewed end. It was Gloria who chewed her straw. Good thing he didn’t mind her germs…

     He looked at Tammy’s straw and the song “Gloria” played in his head. He had once made her a mix CD that had a bunch of versions of that song on it. He knew of the three, by Them, Van Morison and The Doors, but then when he googled it numerous other versions came up along with other different songs with that name, including the popular one by Laura Branigan. He picked the best of them all and ended it with the religious classic by Francis Poulenc. Gloria seemed to appreciate the effort, but he was the only one who ever played the CD. He closed his eyes and took a long, hard sip from the bucket.

     Nate wondered what had ever become of that CD.

     Gone. Something else lost.

     Discarded songs, forgotten memories.

     Just more waste in a throwaway society. Forget and move on.  A transient existence. A world where old songs and old feelings are no longer pertinent. Like jeans maybe memories were meant to fade.

     Nate opened his eyes to laughter, they were all watching him.

    “Man! Are you thirsty, or what?” Frank smiled.

     “Maybe we should each have our own bucket!” giggled Asa.

     Tammy took a sip, “That is good!”

     Frank sniffed it first, saying, “It has a fine bouquet.” Then lifting his straw delicately to his lips stated “A full bodied fair, with a hint of flower… maybe chamomile… no, maybe daffodil.”

     “Yes!” smiled Nate after, this time, taking a dainty sip, “This is a seductive wine that is warm and generous in the mouth, with plenty of flesh, and very appealing to the senses. All eight of them.” He swished the next sip around in his mouth and said, “With an acetic aggressive aftertaste of brawny earthiness, and a sharp vegetal.”

     “I taste the bittersweet aroma of elephant dung, that is not overwhelmed by the flowery aroma of stink weeds,” laughed Tammy.

     They all looked to Asa who, following the crowd, took a small sip and shrugged her shoulders saying, “Tastes non-grapey to me.”

     With that they all clinked their straws together and toasted the local expertise.



     When the food came Tammy picked at it, and Frank just looked, asking, “What is it?”

     “I told you.” Asa smiled.

     Nate picked out a clump of meat from a skewer on one of the plates and popped it in his mouth. He chewed and swallowed saying, “It tastes like pork. But I thought an eyeball would be more squishy!”

     Tammy made a face, and Frank stuck out his tongue.

     Asa nearly fell off her seat laughing. “You two are so easily fooled!”

     Tammy picked one up and nibbled off the edge. “It is pork! It’s got some sort of caramelized coating on it.”

     “Not bad.” said Frank picking one up and delicately biting it in half. “What’s this called?”

     “That’s the Hmu Ping.” Then Asa pointed to the other plate, “And that’s Khanom Krog.”

     Nate already had one in his mouth and said, “Taste like a bakery item. Some kind of rice-cake.”

     “There is rice in there.” Asa nodded, “My mother used to make these all the time. Especially when we had guests.” She pointed at the plate, “These are plain, though. My mother used to top them with different things.”

     “Like pigs eyes?” asked Frank.

     Asa pushed his arm and smirked, “Like shrimp, or fruit, or whatever she felt like!” She ate one. “My mother’s were much better.”

      “Mothers cooking is always the best!” Nate exalted. 

     Frank nodded vigorously, “My mother used to make these cakes that were like none you’ve ever tasted, they were so light you could…”

And the four travelers, against a backdrop of local music, talked and drank and joked as they had in the beginning of their journey. Reunited in spirit once again.





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Welcome to Thai Garden.  Thai Garden serves up the finest Thai food with exciting dishes and unique ambiance. At Thai Garden, every dish is created using only the freshest, finest ingredients. We never use frozen ingredients, and there is no microwave oven at Thai Garden. We serve only the choicest meats and seafood, freshest rice and noodles, and sauces that are made fresh daily. Our authentic menu and atmosphere create a truly enjoyable dining experience.


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Video

It's funny that I should pick this video here

because I really picture this song kicking off the

Novel and this excerpt is from toward the end of the

book...


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