The morning market in front of the housing estate – Niweit Kanthairart
17/06/2011 § Leave a comment
“Do you already have to go, darling?”
“Yup,” Yut turned to answer his wife pithily, but the instant he saw her still wondering, he expanded his answer. “The chief wants us to give a hand. On Saturdays and Sundays, there’s a morning market, lots of people as if everything was free, as you know.”
He picked up his walkie-talkie and clipped it to his belt, went into the bedroom, sat down by the bedhead and slowly slipped a hand under the thin mattress.
“Don’t take it, please!” his wife, whose eyes had followed him knowingly, remonstrated. “You aren’t allowed to carry it. Besides, you risk being arrested by the police, darling.”
Yup, Yut admitted. His wife was right. He had no right whatever to this gun, a Thai-made sawn-off shotgun.
Security guards had no right to guns, whether homemade Colts like this 12-bore shotgun or foreign-made ones.
He was well aware of this, had been since he got it from a friend long ago, so he kept the lethal weapon hidden away under the mattress.
He stroked it gingerly before putting it back into its hiding place, discreetly sighed at being unable to pocket it to comfort himself and merely hoped that one day he’d have the opportunity to pull the trigger at least once to his satisfaction.
He stretched himself erect. His stout body was tall and impressive in his uniform. He picked up the handcuffs and clipped them to his belt and then did the same with the truncheon.
Yut loved his uniform and was proud of it. It looked like a second skin as did army uniforms. He loved it because he had been a conscript once.
Once discharged from active duty, he had applied for a job as a security guard in a company which was a big firm in charge of the security of a housing estate.
He liked this job very much because even though he was no policeman or soldier, he dressed almost like a soldier and performed almost like a policeman.
Some of his fellow guards had complained within earshot.
“Being guards sucks. It’s like being slaves to the rich in the estate. Them bastards have never enough. And then what about us? A pittance every month. My pay is less than what some of these homes spend on dog food.”
Hearing this, Yut couldn’t help bringing his colleague to his senses. “Don’t go and think like this, man.” He tried to explain his point of view to his disheartened friend. “We must be proud. We’re not guards. Our duty is to ensure security. There’s dignity in that. To prevent stealing. Our work, besides helping people in the estate to be safe, is like being the eyes and ears of the police. We’re helping officialdom, man.”
Most of his friends agreed with Yut. Some of those who used to be dejected found it in themselves to feel proud of their duty. The chief praised Yut and often offered him as an example for thinking positively like that.
Every Saturday and Sunday a market was held throughout the morning at the entrance to the estate. Yut and the other security guards were called upon to cover all the angles. They took care of the traffic, arranged for the easy flow of vehicles and looked after security as well.
This being a large market which kept expanding, with all kinds of goods for sale, clothes, foodstuffs fresh or dry, vegetables, fruit, you name it – whoever wanted something came by and found what he or she was after, even copies of films just showing in the cinemas.
The previously spacious parking lot was no longer sufficient for current needs, because the housing estate alone had more than three thousand households and there were also people from other housing estates along the same road. The more buyers, the more items for sale, the more traders, male and female. Vehicles queued up in search of parking space.
Some of Yut’s friends were given the duty to second the traffic police, others to keep their eyes peeled for criminal elements skulking among customers. Such dubious characters took advantage of the throng to lift a purse here, snatch a necklace there, from both buyers and vendors, so that eventually warning signs had been set up all over the market – “Beware of thieves”, “Mind your valuables”.
Yut didn’t hesitate at all when the chief ordered him to be on duty every morning there was a market.
He had once chased and caught a young man who had snatched the purse of a middle-aged woman busy purchasing some ornament. It had been a chase as in the movies – startled people giving way, the thief running very fast but not as fast as Yut who finally collared him at the parking lot. The fellow threw him a punch. He returned the compliment. The fellow’s mouth bled; Yut’s hand hurt. He got him in an armlock. Other guards came running to the rescue and helped drag the thief to the police booth where they called on the policemen to deal with him.
Yut still remembered the resentful glare in the fellow’s eyes. No way he’d forget that.
“Aren’t you afraid he’ll take his revenge?” his wife had asked him out of concern.
“Not at all,” he had answered confidently. What made him confident was that he was well versed in Thai boxing, having trained since he was a child, and he had had even more intensive training during his time as a soldier. He was confident he could handle the criminal young man any time.
“What if he shoots you?” his wife still worried.
“I’ve got a gun too,” he had answered without having to think.
He was confident that the secret lethal weapon hidden under the mattress would be a great help and comfort. Even if he loaded it with a single bullet, with a 12-bore shotgun like this, whoever met that bullet would have a hard time surviving its shattering impact.
Before leaving the house, Yut turned to tell his wife, “If you want to get yourself something to eat at the market, go ahead, but don’t buy anything else. There’s nothing there the likes of us can afford.”
He waved at his beloved spouse before striding away to get his bicycle and go and perform the duty he took pride in.
On this Saturday morning the sky was cloudless, a boon for everyone who came to buy or sell.
Yut parked his bicycle, greeted his fellow guards and then proceeded to do his duty. Experience had taught him that whichever stall had many customers, that’s where criminals would mingle waiting for the chance to snatch a bag or nick a purse.
He walked about in the market, keeping clear of the crush and observing the comings and goings in the stalls. He had the deep conviction that no crook would escape his attention. His eyes and the determination in his heart cooperated as if they were radars detecting anything unusual. Each of his steps was firm and assured.
A fellow guard in uniform came by from the opposite direction. They smiled at each other with the same feelings and the same heart.
“All clear,” they whispered to each other meaningfully.
Some of the guards wore no uniform. They acted as police informers who mixed with the crowd. They wore their shirts outside their trousers to hide the walkie-talkie ready to be used for coordinated action if anything untoward happened.
The centre of operations was at the guard box. That’s where the chief was, along with many other guards on duty, with walkie-talkies and with motorcycles ready to move in hot pursuit of malefactors.
“Help! Help! Car thief!” a woman shouted repeatedly.
Many people turned to look. Many people rushed forward for a closer look. Among those were Yut and his fellow guard, running in concert.
A cream-coloured car was moving out of the parking lot, with a woman running after it and yelling.
“Help! He’s stealing my car!”
“Fuckin’ hell! Daring this much now, are they?” Yut growled, exchanging glances with his friend in uniform – not the same uniform, but the same heart.
“Let’s get a bike. I’ll go with you,” he told him.
They ran to the guard box. His friend grabbed a motorcycle, jumped on it and kicked it roaring.
The chief instructed all the guards by walkie-talkie to intercept the cream-coloured car.
“Maybe he’ll take the other exit.” He ordered the guards on duty at the box in the other street to close the exit.
The housing estate had two exits. Thanks to prompt cooperation, the car was trapped between the two.
When the motorcycle caught up with it before it came to the guard box, “Overtake him and cut in front of him,” Yut told the driver. The motorcycle sped up, overtook and cut in front of the car recklessly.
The car braked hard. Its muzzle stopped an inch or two from the motorcycle. Yut jumped off, rushed to the door on the driver’s side, unclipped the truncheon from his waist, ready to pounce.
“Come on out,” he ordered.
The driver stepped out promptly, looking mighty displeased. He slipped his hand under his loose shirt as if to grope for a gun.
“What the hell’s your problem?” he hollered.
“You’ve stolen this car,” Yut yelled back.
People were gathering round.
“Get that motorbike out of my way, you jerk,” the man ordered threateningly.
He pulled out a gun to frighten him, and Yut immediately thought of his secret lethal weapon under the mattress.
He felt sorry. If he’d taken it along, the big shotgun would have dampened the thief’s arrogance, for all his handsome features and obvious social status. The man had his gun trained on him.
Upon which the female car owner riding pillion on another guard’s motorcycle arrived. She paid no attention to the gun in his hand, went straight to snatch the car keys from him and a confused tug-of-war ensued.
“You thief!” The woman pointed the finger at him and then had another go at the keys.
“It’s my car!” The man put away his gun and tried to snatch the keys back from the woman.
“We’re divorced! We agreed the car’s mine,” the woman objected in a loud voice. “And you’ve the nerve to steal it from me. Look at you, pinching my keys when I wasn’t looking. Don’t you have any shame?”
Yut was beginning to understand. The people massed around were getting enlightened by the minute from the heated exchange between the two sides.
More and more cars were brought to a standstill. Many couldn’t stand it and hooted their horns. Some came out to listen long enough to figure out what the fuss was about. Others tried to stop the argument.
“It’s a domestic matter. Don’t interfere,” the man shouted to repel them.
“I’m not your wife, and it isn’t your car either!” the woman shouted back at once without any sense of embarrassment. There was no longer any sign of their being husband and wife.
“Then please pull the car over to the kerb so the other cars can go by,” Yut told them, to the approval of many of the held-up drivers.
Right then the police, having received a report that a car had been stolen, arrived. Thanks to their good offices the car was moved aside. Soon the road returned to almost normal traffic.
Yut’s wife pushed her way through to him with a pale face. “I was afraid he’d shoot you.” Yut was silent, thinking about the heart-stopping minute that had gone by. It wasn’t just his wife who had been scared: he had been terrified.
Right then, if he had had his secret lethal weapon in hand, he might have shot the man dead out of fear.
“Let’s go, darling. It’s just a domestic tiff.” His wife pulled him by the arm out of the event, leaving it to the police to sort out the marital dispute over who it was owned the car.
“Talart Chao Na Moo Barn” in Chor Karrakeit 46, 2008