By John Kay
Kenny took after his father in two important respects; his cock was barely two inches long when engorged, and he made a living from selling narcotics. I met him in the ferry terminal in Fukuoka waiting to go back to Korea. We bantered lightly about this and that but mostly mocked our fellow passengers. Having found our seats he whipped out his laptop and started watching some films he’d downloaded. Pretty soon though he grew bored;
“Do you want a can?” he said as he was getting up. I said yes though I hadn’t noticed a bar or anywhere else that would serve alcohol on the hermetically sealed ferry. He returned resplendent in his Hawaiian shirt with two cans of super strength beer. The ferry moved out of port and started to pick up speed.
“I spent a few days in Hiroshima; of course I had to pay my respects and spent a morning in the peace park. Due to my business I go back and forth to Japan a lot. When I was back in Oz I told my Grandfather about Japan. He hates the Japanese for what they did in the war and he will not countenance the possibility that they are humans like the rest of us.”
“The war’s been over a long time now. I’ve no problem with any race or nationality; it’s individuals I have problems with” I said, thinking about work on Monday.
“I think the same; in my line of work you can’t be prejudicial. But when I’m with my Grandfather I just let him rant away. I didn’t fight the Japanese Imperial army in the malarial jungles of South East Asia; I didn’t lose friends and colleagues from gunshot, land mines, torture or disease. I didn’t live with the fear that my homeland would be imminently invaded. It was a different planet back then and to judge by our relativistic standards is a piss take.”
He then leapt up and walked toward the rear of the boat. He returned with two more cans of beer. A woman in her early twenties, as bamboo, thin staggered to the toilet with both hands covering her mouth. While the drama on the big TV at the front of the ferry reached its fist-shaking, name-calling, spittle flying climax. Half way through my third can of beer I said.
“I teach English; what about you?”
“I’m in the import-export business.” He smiled as he looked at me out the corner of his weary, watery, blue green eyes.
“Ok, that’s a bit too vague for me. What products or commodities do you import? He lowered his voice and leaned in close;
“Shit; I thought hitting kids with books was risky. I take off my hat to you, Sir.”
“I’ve got it down to a fine art. I only work with friends. The dealing part is actually the least troublesome. I started out bringing in a bit from Phil when I was working at a hagwon. Just selling to friends and colleagues but the potential, that’s what drew me in. Imagine the scope for whiskey smugglers in Saudi; the rewards here far outweigh the risks. And if I keep up the comparison with Saudi Arabia the punishment for drug smuggling in South Korea is nothing but an elongated and potentially troublesome slap on the wrist.”
“But still a risk nonetheless. And a prison sentence is still a prison sentence no matter where you do the time.”
“Yes but I have no intention of getting caught. The beauty of my operation is that I’ve taken the Confucianist mind-set of the land of the Morning calm into consideration. Nobody over 50 brings the stuff in from the P.I. I’ve got respectable, grey haired mules that enter the Korean hierarchical pecking order a few notches higher than you or me. The customs officials are usually 10 or more years younger and cannot but act according to their conditioning. There has never been a hitch not in all the years I’ve been at it. I use the same principle to get my money out of the country.” preached Kenny.
“I’ve got a beauty, you’ll love it; I’m a photographer and I’m coming to Korea to capture the seasons. I’ve done winter, spring and summer, and now I’m back to capture the autumn. And this is my killer line; get this: and there is nowhere more beautiful than the mountains of Korea in the autumn. You know how patriot the average Korean is, they always fall for it.”
“How much money do you make a month?”
“Jim, you don’t want to know. I’ve got shoe boxes full of hundred dollar bills stashed in the bottom of my wardrobe. I teach a few classes, a few days a week at a hagwon to legitimize my existence with an E-2 but there’s just too much money to put into a bank account. I don’t like drawing attention to myself. My old man taught me that. He sold speed to truck drivers back in the 70’s. Because of the colossal size of Australia without amphetamines the haulage industry and perhaps the whole economy would grind to a halt. Still even now the bulk of what Australians consume is delivered by truck. My old man made a killing then got out and put his money into legitimate businesses. But my question is how much is enough? And when do you know it’s time to get out?”
To change the subject I said;
“I’m getting married in May.”
“What are you doing that for? You must be mad. Not for me a life of monogamous respectability and dissatisfaction. Like Lenny Bruce said, why do married men masturbate more than bachelors?’”
“I happen to love the woman, give a break.”
“Do you have a fantasy Billy? I do, it’s nothing twisted or degrading. I just fancy experiencing a threesome. The next time I’m in P.I. or Thailand I’ll give it a try.”
I have a fantasy for who doesn’t but it’s not about where I’d like to put my cock. Maybe I took too much acid as a youth, anyway. I have a theory, a plan for bringing peace and unity to the divided Korean peninsula. It’s not based on strategic geopolitical thinking, nuclear arsenals, assassination or Bill Clinton. My plan rests on the remarkable physical similarity between Kim Jong il and the elderly British musical hall comedian, Ken Dodd.
“Ken Dodd?” spat Kenny.
You don’t know who Ken Dodd is? Jesus Christ man! What have you been doing with your life? Ken Dodd is a still performing though elderly British comedian. He is a contemporary of Morecambe and Wise, Frankie Howerd and Tony Hancock.”
He’s famous for his robust front teeth, routine of rapid fire one liners (and tickling stick) that he honed to perfection in variety clubs, musical halls and theatres in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Sorry Kenny, I have this disease that is none catching but leads me to believe that whatever knowledge I know (however trivial or obscure) everyone knows.”
“Go on then, so what’s the connection between Ken Dodd and Kim Jong il?”
”Ok, both men have a wild shock of dark hair; both men are exactly 5 feet 7 inches tall; both are fully experienced in the art of public speaking: only Ken Dodd is intentionally absurd and funny while Kim Jong Il does it by accident. My plan is this; first Ken Dodd is trained to look, walk, talk and think like Kim Jong il. This may have to be done partly by hypnosis just like nikita only without the sex appeal. Then the next time Kim Jong Il goes on a diplomatic begging mission to China a switch is made. Our aging comedian and former chart topper makes his Stalinist way to Pyongyang; while Kim Jong il is swiftly smuggled out of China and kept under lock and key. Once in Pyongyang our comedian come dictator starts a massive series of reforms both economic and political, which lead to the first democratic elections north of the DMZ. Unification is then only a handshake away.”
“It needs a little modification here and there but I think you’re on to something Billy.”
“Ken Dodd was also a contemporary of the legendary, Tommy Cooper.” I said.
“Who?” said Kenny.
“Not again? Come on Kenny, here give me your laptop and I’ll download a few clips. Tommy Cooper was also a former musical hall comedian who became a household name in Britain due to his comedic calling card; a series of magic tricks that he would always fuck up. It doesn’t sound like much but in the mid-70’s to early 80’s his was one of the top 5 shows in the country. He’d wear a shabby dark suit and a fez tilted back on his large, ungainly boxer’s head. When a magic trick came to a finale, Tommy Cooper would chime in with his catch phrase: Just like that. Then laugh his deep, gravelly, mad man’s laugh. I am astonished Kenny had you never seen or heard of Tommy Cooper since most Australians are familiar with British TV. He even died live onstage, of course it wasn’t planned; he was mid-way through a routine when he toppled over into the curtain at the rear of the stage. The audience in the theatre and watching at home thought it was just part of the show. I remember his feet sticking out from under the curtain, and then the TV channel went to the adverts.”
What a way to die but I suppose at least he died doing what he loved: making people laugh.” mused Kenny.
Anyway as the ferry nosed its way into the chaotic body of water that is Busan harbor Kenny kept repeating Tommy Cooper’s catch phrase: Just like that; just like that. His brain working overtime perfecting his customs official convincing patter: Just like that; just like that. Just like that he was going to pull the wool firmly over the customs and immigrations officials ears; and just like that he was going to continue to import, tax-free quality cannabis resin from the central highlands of the Philippines to foreigners trapped in well paying but socially isolating and psychologically damaging hagwon jobs; just like that, he was going to take what his old man had taught him and take it to the next level.
We decided to each take a different queue through customs and immigration; not wanting to in anyway jinx each other. I couldn’t hear what Kenny said but the customs official stamped his passport: just like that.
To Be continued.
John Peter Kay started writing in earnest back in 1996 at art school. Since 2003 he’s taken as his inspiration the sounds, sights, smells, tastes and incidents of life in South Korea. He has a blog where he has been known to wax lyrical about riding the bus, demonic hagwon directors, his mother-in-law, alcoholic brethren, and the joys and tribulations of being a fully paid up husband and father. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org