Several years ago my future ex-wife’s brother-in-law received a phone call from his brother. Bok and his son were in the hospital. They had had a motorsai accident. My future ex-wife hung up the phone.

“Neither of them are dead?” I asked in Thai

“No.” This was good news. Bok and his son Beer were good people.

“What happened?” Somehow this accident was going to cost me.

My future ex-wife explained that Bok’s brother called late. His favorite buffalo was sick and needed Bok’s expert attention. Starlight cannot pierce the black night west of the Chao Phra River and Bok’s eyes weren’t so good, so he enlisted his 16 year-old son, Beer, to chauffeur him on this mission of mercy.

Buffaloes run about 10-20K baht. Thai farmers give them names and sing to them in the rice fields. Some people call it love and urgency coupled with youth necessitated Beer’s driving at 80kph, which was way too fast for him to to see a rice tractor parked on the side of the road. The driver was pissing in the bushes. The motorcycle hit the tractor’s rice wagon. Beer flew through the air like Superman for ten meters.

His father’s flight could be measured in centimeters.
Beer suffered two broken arms and Bok fractured his leg in three places.

“Great.” Somehow this was going to cost me money and it cost more in the end, because my future ex-wife went up country and never returned to Pattaya.

All for a sick buffalo, but any farang frequenting Thailand has heard the ‘sick buffalo’ story from their wives or girlfriends.

“Kwaii sick. Need money.”

The story has become a joke and my friend, Jamie, thinks that Thais in Ban Nok rent a sick buffalo to prove the existence of this ailing bovine.

“It’s called RENT-A-SICK-KWAII.”

Millions of baht had been dedicated to the health of sick buffaloes throughout Isaan. The total could even go into the billions, although until hearing Bok’s story I thought the only people who heard the tale were farangs.

“How is the sick buffalo now?” I asked my future ex-wife over the phone.

“Buffalo good. Bok Beer no good. You come see them.”

“Sure, why not?” I rented a car and drove north of Bangkok to Chai-Nat. A ferry carried me across the Chao Phyra River a little after sunset. 10 klicks out of Wat Sing my telephone service died, but I knew my way around the dirt roads.

Bok’s new house was lit. My future ex-wife and daughter were waiting. We hadn’t seen each other since Songkran. She hates Pattaya. My daughter loves the beach and me. Angie hugged me and we ate. Sleep comes early in the country and I read myself into the night.

In the morning we went to the hospital in Chai-nat.

Beer was released into my future ex-wife’s’s care and we visited Bok.

His leg was swollen an ugly shade of yellow.

His wife was hungry and the women left him with me.

“So why did you have to go see your brother?” I wanted to hear the truth.

“He had a sick buffalo.”

“Mai shua.” I didn’t believe him. “You brother called you up to drink with him.”

Bok lifted his finger.

“Not say. Sick buffalo better story.”

“Sick buffalo? I see sick buffalo in bed.” I was seeing the ‘sick buffalo’ in its purest form.

“Stop. Not make me laugh.”

“Sum num nah.”

“Now no lao, no cigarette. Very not happy.”

“Just like me and my skateboard.” Two Februaries previous I had tried to skateboard down a steep hill in Pattaya. I had reached about 30kph within three seconds. The front wheel struck a rock. I was airborne. My body crashed to the pavement. My future ex-wife and her family were in the car.

Everyone had a big laugh and joked for months about my skateboard skills.

I think ‘sick buffalo’ will be a bigger joke in the years to come., because even you a farang can used the water buffalo excuse. It’s a lie which everyone wants to believe when they don’t want to hear the truth.

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