Mickey Mouse walked into the cafe closely followed by Pluto. He was dressed in battle fatigues and he had a green handkerchief tied over his head in the way favoured by GI’s during the war. He had cut two holes in the top of the handkerchief where his ears stuck out.
“Where are you going, Mickey?” I asked curiously.
“We’re going to look for Donald. He’s MIA.” He answered.
Pluto nodded his head rapidly, bounded happily around Mickey and then sat down panting.
“…Missing in action?”
“No, silly!” He giggled at my stupidity. “The war has been over forever. He’s missing in ‘Anoi.”
He pronounced the name like a cockney would, which I thought was a bit strange.
“You know the Vietnamese will never let you walk around in public like that.” I blurted.
“Yes,” He mused. “I was thinking about that. We might go to Laos instead. It is supposed to be much cooler now.”
It was hot. I could feel sweat pooling on my brow and Pluto was still panting next to me.
“Well,” I resigned myself. “If you have to go then you better take some rations with you.” I handed him a packet of animal biscuits.
“Oh boy!” He exclaimed. “Look Pluto, I haven’t seen these since I was a little mouse.”
He opened the packet and took out a biscuit. It had light-blue icing on top and a white elephant in the middle. The elephant stirred, as if
waking. It stretched and shook itself like a dog. It’s white ears spinning like a ceiling fan. Then it turned around and, using its trunk like a feeler, began to inspect the elephant-shaped depression it had left behind itself. Pluto was growling.
“Wow,” whispered Mickey, still holding the biscuit. “I’ve never seen an African elephant before.”
“Well I have,” I said pompously. “And they certainly don’t look like that.”
I always use words like certainly when I’m dreaming. When I’m awake I say “definitely” and begin sentences with “but” and “maybe”.
Sadly my dreams have become a lot less vivid and less um, interesting since I stopped taking Larium, the infamous malarial prophylactic. Vietnamese strains of malaria have proved to be resistant to chloroquine, the major ingredient of most other prophylactics. However, after repeated night-sweats, heart-palpitations, headaches and dizzy spells I think I am better off taking my chances against the mosquitoes.
Hanoi (map): Cafe’s, French pastries, ice-cream and baguettes. Wide boulevards lined with trees and colonial houses, and teeming with bicycles and mopeds. Children playing badminton in the street. Pretty Vietnamese women wearing unflattering hats. Lovers walking hand in hand or idling beside the lakes. And just a little Joie de vivre to balance all of the American and Japanese influence you come across in this money-crazy world of ours.
Am staying in a windowless little $6 room with panel-board walls, a lino floor and a rusty, noisy air-conditioner from the dark ages. In fact, I wonder whether it works on electricity at all. After you have switched it on you still have to bang it a few times to get it going. Perhaps it’s attached to a bell-boy on a pedal-bike out back or something. Still, worth it at twice the price. Ozone layer be damned and Lee Perry/Quindon Tarver along with it.