семнадцать. The Mule

Jed took hold of the dried lizards, I took the bong and together we ran to the train. A three-foot bong is difficult enough to handle without having both hands occupied with plastic bags of food and drink, and a rucksack on your back. I pinched it under my arm and stepped away from the tourist waiting room into a calm night heat. The sounds of Beijing eluded us on the platform.

Soviet guards neatly dressed stood at each of the carriage doors. They watched us beneath peaked caps but did not stare.

The train stretched the full length of the platform and looked newly sprayed and gleaming. It didn’t look anything like travelling Hard Seat on the Chinese trains I’d been used to and it made me sad, as though we’d left already. A guard looked at our tickets as he eyed our luggage and then he pointed along the carriages towards the front of the train. Yes: it was as if we’d left already.


Liquor and Dried Lizards © 1988.
Photos include the Trans-Siberian and the ferry from Guilin.
Additional flying lizard photo by Carl Flisch via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dried_flying_lizards.jpg.

十六. The Mao Cap じゅうはち. One Night in Shibuya
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