The Bus Stop
(The Winning Entry)
In 1971, I was a sergeant in the U. S. Air Force, stationed at Korat Air Force Base, Thailand. The Vietnam War raged around me.
Each morning I took the bus to the base. The voices of my military superiors echoed, reminding me to be careful. Saboteurs were everywhere. The Viet Cong traveled freely between the borders. Last week a sergeant had been stabbed on his way home. I trusted no one.
I strolled into the bus stop like I owned it. Crouched in the shadows, was an old man. He stared at me and our eyes locked. He spoke in Thai, “Sawadi ton chaw.”
My fear erupted. I said defiantly in English, “Fuck you, old man!” I gave him “the finger,” my feeble American attempt to intimidate him. The old man stared at me with razor-sharp eyes.
I worked with Thai civilians and knew they would help me. I explained the incident to a group of my friends. The workers exchanged glances as their eyes creased in laughter, saying, “The old man said good morning to you.”
Now, I understood. I knew if I was to survive I had to learn the language and the customs of the people.
“It is Thai custom to show proper respect for our elders,” they chorused. “When you see the old man again, bow and say the same thing to him that he said to you.”
The next morning at 0500 hours, I set out. I was guarded but kept my wits about me. There in the shadowy recesses of the bus stop, crouched the old man.
I approached him with a smile and bowed, saying, “Sawadi ton chaw.”
The old man regarded me with those sharp eyes I had noticed the day before. In the clearest English I had ever heard, he said, “FUCK YOU,” and gave me the finger!
© 2017 Colleen M. Chesebro
My debut novel, The Heart Stone Chronicles: The Swamp Fairy, received a gold medal in the AuthorsDB.com 2017 Book Cover Contest held in November 2017.
This cover was designed by Wendy Anne Darling, a graphic artist, of Booxeedo Book Covers.