The first raindrops hit the sand and my back with authority. The light tuned bruised yellow. The trees shook their fists at the dark sky. The birds finally shut up.
Turns out a sweet rice pack and some jerky can really revive a lady. I didn’t feel the hundred ant bites covering my skin, or the swollen contusion on my skull.
I only felt Daw.
He sure as shit was awake now. If he had been a gentleman about my breasts when picking fire ants off them, he was making up for holding back. He sucked the dark nipples hard through his own wet shirt while trying clumsily to undo the buttons. I helped and we were both quickly down to our functional black underwear.
He cradled a breast in his hand, like he was weighing it. Then he found my mouth. I felt the hard planes of muscle across his back, this time covered in sand. The arm propping him up was shaking a little. Maybe with exhaustion. Maybe not.
A teeth-rattling clap of thunder hit. We both jumped and down the river bank Chai Son made nervous noises.
I pressed against him, feeling the same response he had by the fire. This time I didn’t feel guilty. My hips ground into him, pushing him into the sand and inviting him to meet me with equal force. He didn’t disappoint. He dug his teeth into my neck and my back arched involuntarily. Fuck me, was that some secret Thai massage pressure point?
Daw rolled me over into the sand and I did feel my head injury bounce on the hard pack. I winced, and he looked instantly regretful, wadding his shirt under my head. Somehow in that maneuver my underwear was off too. Its official, the guy was a ninja.
He pinned me down with a sinewy leg over mine. I got to squeeze the muscles that guided my own on the river crossing, slick with the rain. He insistently kissed me, pressed himself into my soft hip and slid a slightly cold finger inside me. Oh hell yes.
We were going to fuck on this here riverbank and not even the resurrected corpse of Gollum could stop us.
But an elephant could. The water spray hit us both head to toe. We yelled and looked up in time to see a crack of lightning split the sky in half. Chai Son snuffed and stamped.
Daw buried his face in my breasts and yelled in frustration.
“If I had to die, dying inside you would be ideal,” he said, still sliding his finger in and out, “Let’s not die today though.”
He helped me off the ground and dug my pre-Ant Invasion clothes out of my pack.
“We need to find shelter.”
I mentally said goodbye to the river. It was lovely being naked by you a bunch, Nudie River. Sorry you didn’t get to see me fully bang.
We dashed into the coverage of the jungle canopy where the rain wasn’t as intense. I wondered if being surrounded by a lot of tall trees was our best plan in a lightning storm.
Thankfully not too far down the road there was a ridge of rock with a friendly overhang. Daw and I scooted back into the depression and were mostly protected. Chai Son stood in front of us, providing a warm grey curtain against the storm. It was cozy under the rock and I hoped for a minute we could pick back up where we left off.
Daw was busy rummaging in his pack instead, taking out medical supplies.
“I wanted to wait until after the river to treat him,” he said while meticulously laying out vials and the biggest syringe I’d ever seen. “Let the water wash out some of the leg wounds.”
He handed me the salve. “You can use a little of that on your ant bites if they are bothering you. It is a numbing agent with topical antibiotics.”
“Are you sure you’re not giving me elephant tranquilizers to knock me out and take advantage of me?”
He looked at me strangely. “That would be terribly disrespectful.”
I am good at making out. I am not good at flirting. I rubbed the stinking goo onto my bites and kept my mouth shut.
Watching him work was amazing. I thought my doctors had a tough job wrangling obese patients with dementia. This was next level.
Chai Son stamped, wiggled, trumpeted and even whacked Daw with his trunk while he cleaned the wounds and administered shots. His power to kill wasn’t far in the rearview of my memory. Despite Chai Son’s whining he seemed to know Daw was helping and not trying to hurt him. Daw kept up a soft patter of Thai while he worked, constantly providing firm pats along with the procedures.
The storm blew itself out by the time he was done.
“It is all I can do here,” he said, reviewing his work. “We will give him a full treatment plan once we reach the Sanctuary.”
“How close are we?”
“Two days walk.”
“Oh.” I had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand I wanted a beer and a bed so bad it hurt. On the other I had no idea what would happen when we returned. There was no scenario I could imagine that didn’t involve saying goodbye to Daw and Chai Son. And that sucked.
“Now let’s sleep though, yes?” He was pale and shaky. I almost felt bad for waking him up and making him finger me earlier. Almost.
“Yes.” And as I said it I felt the exhaustion hit me too.
We made a nest under the rock with the backpacks for pillows and fell asleep. Right before I went under I felt him take my hand.
I woke up groggy, itchy and thirsty. The goo had worn off and the the initial sting of the bites was gone. It was replaced by intense, full-body itchiness. Fun.
Daw was on a satellite phone.
A. Fucking. Phone.
“You have a phone?!” I yelled.
He hushed me and continued talking rapidly. I had gone fully Dark by the time he hung up.
“You had a working phone this whole time?” I seethed.
“Why…didn’t we USE it?”
“Use it for what?”
“Calling for help maybe?”
Daw was very obviously not reading my mood. He laughed.
“What should I have done? ‘Hello my peace-loving colleagues at an elephant sanctuary. I am being pursued by a very mean man with a golf club. Please get on the Elephant Chopper and come rescue me immediately.’ We got there by walking because that is the only way to get there.”
He made sense. However I sure did not appreciate his tone.
“Why are you calling them now then?”
“We are close to a main road. The one truck that can transport an adult elephant can go on that road. They should meet us in an hour or so.”
“You said it was a two-day walk!”
“It is. I did not know if the truck was available. I called to see. You are not in good shape. I thought you’d be happy for a ride.”
I felt like three different rivers meeting in one narrow canyon.
“I have to pee,” I announced haughtily, and marched into the jungle.
Instead of having two days to figure out my next move I had an hour.
I gave Daw a real kiss when I came back. It tasted good and lasted a long time.
For the last hour of our adventure I asked him to tell me about Australia. He was a careful observer, and full of details. For a doctor anyway.
Chai Son got a hero’s welcome at the Sanctuary. The entire staff was there to greet him with boat-sized basket of fruit. I ran my hand down his side a couple times, trying to memorize the feeling of his skin. Daw was busy planning his treatment with the other vets.
The bus for the day tourists pulled in. I grabbed my bag from the reception area.
“Thank you for bringing us our new friend.”
The Sanctuary director smiled brightly at me, taking in my bites, scrapes and general filth.
“I hope the trip was not too difficult.”
“It was fun,” I said, without sarcasm. “Do you know Daw’s grandmother died?”
“Yes, I had a feeling Auntie Anong’s time was near. And that you might be a help to his family. She was very famous around here for her skills treating animals…and her tolerance for moonshine.”
“It was an easy passing with her family all around. The best kind.”
“Wonderful to hear. You are leaving us then?” she nodded at my bag, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay the night? Perhaps…shower?”
I did smell terrible, she had that right.
“No, it’s time for me to go. Thank you though. Thank you for everything. Someone will post pictures of Chai Son, right? On your social accounts? I want to be able to see him and know he’s all healed up.”
“Of course. And you can always email me if you would like an update on his health. Or the health of anyone else here at the Sanctuary.” Winking was beneath her, but her eyes twinkled as she handed me her card.
“You’re…a very good person,” I blurted stupidly. It wasn’t what I wanted to tell her. I guess it was the truth though.
“So are you. Be well.”
You don’t know me very well lady.
The sounds of the elephants faded as the bus merged onto the highway to Chiang Mai. I decided nothing better than Chai Son was going to happen in Thailand. It was time to move on.