Don’t Ask by Colin Cotterill

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I think the main reason people take the lift up to the thirtieth floor of a condominium they don’t live in, climb out of a window, select a spot on the car park and jump, is that they know too much. I don’t know who coined the phrase ‘Ignorance is bliss,’ and I don’t want to know. I’d probably be disappointed if I did. But he certainly hit the Honda on the hood with that one.

When we moved south to our little fishing village I had blissful ignorance in mind. Any fish scandals or squid intrigues would simply fly over my head. I didn’t care. Like the US military, I wouldn’t be asking and the mackerel wouldn’t be telling. And for the first six months here life was an idyll of unawareness. Everybody in the village was loveable. There were no issues. Peace and harmony were all around us. (cue The Seekers) I had reached Nirvana right here on earth.

Then I blew it. I decided to write a book, nay, an entire series set in our little town and Nirvana crumbled like Jericho. For background colour I started interviewing the locals. And it seemed that with every question I asked, I chipped another tooth in the great Thai smile.

That loveable old couple at the corner store? She’s not his wife, you know? She’d hired him once to bump off her real husband and they fled south together. That jolly village policeman? Ha! Drinks on duty and takes bribes to turn a blind eye to the illegal gambling. It appears all the wives of the fishermen, starved of nighttime entertainment, have become addicted to cards. And talk about addicts, those friendly waving teenagers who like to practice their English? Stoned every one of them. The merry coconut farmer? Shoots dogs. The cute high school student? Pregnant at fourteen. The friendly local councilman? Had the incumbent beaten up and bought his way in.

Jesus. It was like finding out everyone in Sesame Street had been wiped out in a street gang massacre. ‘Tellytubbies Filmed in Crack Induced Sex Orgy’. Postman Pat downloading child porn. But then we let the Burma issue out of Pandora’s box. Five-thousand Burmese living around here working at basic wage, abused, hassled, reviled. None of their kids educated, so we really had no choice but to start a school for them. Kidnapping and slavery on the high seas, so we had no choice but to contact the press and the Bangkok cops to come and rescue them. And now, from humble beginnings, we’ve become the Mr. and Mrs. Bob Woodward of Pak Nam. We know everything about everyone; far more than we ever wanted to know. We’re the UN. The crime busters. The problem solvers. Much against our better judgment we’ve become influential figures…and we all know what happens to influential figures in Thailand. And all because I crossed over the line and opened my big mouth and my big ears. The more you know, the worse life becomes. I dread reading the newspapers because I know that day by day they’ll munch off the edges of my perfect world and I’ll be dissatisfied with everything. Information is turning me into a grumpy old bastard. I think the only reason we still love our dogs is that they never, I mean never answer questions.

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