Chapter 1: Balance: ฿1000

It isn’t often that Kongpob makes his own way home from school. Most of the time, either the family butler, Shin, or his mother drives him home, regardless of how late he has to stay.

But today is one such day in which he would have to navigate his way through the busy street market to the bus stop.

It isn’t often that Kongpob makes his own way home from school. Most of the time, either the family butler, Shin, or his mother drives him home, regardless of how late he has to stay.

“I’m sorry, Kong. You know Shin is on leave until the end of next week, and I don’t think I can get someone to fix this engine on time for me to come get you.”

“That’s okay, Mae. I’ll manage.”

If Kongpob is being honest, he rather enjoys the days when he can wander around on his own, exploring the hustle and bustle of the city rather than simply observing it through the tinted windows of the family car. Not that he doesn’t appreciate the convenience of having someone drive him straight home rather than having to spend over 45 minutes pushing his way through public transport.

But he secretly loves the noise and the smells that swarm around him. As stupid and privileged as it might sound, he sees these days as mini adventures on which he can try his luck at finding another way to live like his peers, away from the luxury and loneliness of his enormous home.

Today, still sweaty and exhausted from basketball practice, he makes his way down the road from his school, most of his classmates having already left over an hour ago. The sun is slowly setting, the sky hazy with hues of greyish pink and purple.

There’s a street food market not ten minutes away from the school. Not the most popular one in the district, but buzzing with people nonetheless, especially with the rush of white collars getting off work.

Kongpob has never really tried much of the many delicacies that he sees on his sporadic adventures, his parents often informing him of the many articles they’d read about food poisoning and rat infestations in these places. But today, he’s too tempted by the delicious aromas to resist.

It’s when he reaches halfway down the street of neon lights and colourful stalls and carts selling everything from frozen pineapple to oyster omelettes that Kongpob sees him.

The guy, standing behind his yellow cart – Porky’s Moo-Ping – selling an assortment of meat skewers, is in his class, Kongpob realises. He’s never really learned his name, nor have they ever really spoken to each other, but he is unmistakably the same classmate who he’d lent his eraser to several months ago when the guy had dropped his own one in the drain on the way to class. He’d stammered a quick thanks before returning to his seat.

Here, he looks completely different from the stoic, quiet figure that sits at the back of the classroom. He’s actually smiling, Kongpob notices, and is talking freely with customers like he’s always been this sociable. As he’s handing the customer their food, he grins, a deep dimple forming in his left cheek.

It’s quite the sight, and Kongpob is fascinated.


His classmate is busy putting a new batch of skewers on the grill as Kongpob approaches the cart. The guy looks up suddenly, startled out of his working daze, and accidentally drops a raw skewer on the ground. He curses quietly, trashing the fallen skewer in the trash can behind him.

“Sorry about that,” Kongpob rummages in his bag for his wallet. “I’ll pay for the loss.”

The guy shakes his head quickly, and places a hand out to stop him.

“It’s fine,” he says. “It’s just one skewer.”

Kongpob nods and takes a closer look at the guy’s face, which has quickly shrunken back into its familiar terse, expressionless look. He wonders what could possibly explain the drastic change in demeanour, when Kongpob had just seen him smile. Still, his large doe eyes and pale, round cheeks give him an air of innocence that Kongpob finds difficult to tear his eyes away from.

“We’re in the same class, right?” Kongpob offers after a moment of silence. “I’m Kongpob.”

The guy nods slightly, turning over a few skewers on the charcoal grill, but doesn’t look up.

“Yeah, I know.”

Oh, so he was aware.

“I…uh, this is kind of embarrassing, but I never really got your name…?”

Indeed, it had been four months since the school year had started, and despite the fact that there were 50 students in the entire class that he couldn’t possibly all be friends with, Kongpob still felt bad for not knowing his name.

The guy pauses a moment, biting his lip.


Arthit. What a name for someone who hides in the shadows, Kongpob thinks.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Arthit.” 

“Um….can I…get you something?” Arthit eyes the wide variety of skewers, lined up on the grill in tidy rows, sizzling and emitting the most delicious scent. The ones that are already cooked sit in a pyramid-like stack, making room for a fresh batch. 

Kongpob doesn’t even know where to start. 

“What is there? I’ve…uh, never tried this before.”

“You’ve…never had moo ping?” Arthit’s subtle pinch of the eyebrows is about as much indication of his incredulous tone as Kongpob can decipher.

“I don’t get out much, I guess.”

“Okay…” Arthit mumbles. “Um, there are three kinds of skewers; pork (moo-ping), then chicken (kai-ping), and beef (neua-ping).” he explains as he points to each of the three sections on the grill.

Kongpob nods, although he’s not really paying attention to the grill but rather to Arthit, whose expression remains flat and uninterested, unlike the bright and warm demeanour he’d carried just moments before Kongpob had approached the cart.

“What do you recommend?”

Arthit has most likely never been asked this question by someone other than a tourist, and Kongpob can sense slight irritation in Arthit’s body language.

“They’re all good. Pork is the most popular, though.”

“Hmm…In that case, I’ll take two of each, then.”

“Pork is ฿5, chicken is ฿6, and beef is ฿8. So that’s ฿38 in total.”

Kongpob is a bit in awe of how quickly he’s rattled off the total price without even using a calculator or even pausing to think about it. How had he never spoken to this kid before?

“Here,” he hands over the only banknote in his wallet.

Arthit stares at it, before a glare of clear annoyance crosses his face.

“What are you doing, running from the law? Who pays with a ฿1000 note?”

“It’s the only one I have. Just got my allowance this morning.”

Arthit is gradually losing his temper and sighs deeply, lips pressed into a thin line.

“Well, I don’t have enough change here for that.”

Now this, Kongpob is skeptical of.

“You run a business handling cash and don’t hold enough change for ฿1000?”

“Even if I did, I can’t give it all to you, smartass. I’d have none left for other customers.”

Oh. Kongpob bites his lip. It isn’t the first time he’s been told off for something like this, having received head shakes of annoyance from street shop owners for trying to pay for simple things with a credit card.

“Keep it, then.”

“Are you insane? I can’t charge you ฿1000 for six skewers,” Arthit huffs in exasperation, sticking the skewers in a paper container and handing them to Kongpob. “Here, just take them and go.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Well, what do you want, then? I can’t leave these on the grill or they’ll burn, and they’ll go to waste if I just leave them out cold. I don’t have change for you. Just take them.”

As much as he’s slightly taken aback by Arthit’s seeming reluctance to interact with him, Kongpob is determined not to let this interaction end on such a sour note. That, and he’s deeply uncomfortable with the prospect of not paying for the skewers. 

As if inspired by his need to gain the boy’s approval, he’s struck with what he believes to be a brilliant idea.

“How about this? Keep the money,” he grabs Arthit’s hand and presses the banknote into his palm. “I’ll come back and buy from you another time, and you can just deduct it from that amount.”

Arthit stares at the money in his hand, then cocks an eyebrow at Kongpob.

“What is this, a bar? You want me to keep a tab open for you?”

Kongpob smiles, pulling out his phone and typing into his notes app.

“Here,” he holds the phone up. “I’ll keep track. ฿1000 to start with…so deduct ฿38 and that’s…” he pauses, fumbling to open the calculator app.


Arthit says, not even blinking as he puts a fresh batch of skewers on the grill to replace the ones he’s just given to Kongpob.

“So it’s a deal, then?”

“Do whatever you want.”

His expression is unreadable, but Kongpob grins anyway, holding up the box of skewers.

“Thanks for these, Arthit. It was nice to meet you.”

He gives Arthit a brief wai and continues down the street, biting off a piece of the tender grilled pork and deciding that it’s the most amazing thing he’s ever tasted. He’d have to finish them all before he got home, though, and Mae would certainly question his lack of appetite at dinner, but Kongpob doesn’t care.

“Fucking rich kids…” Arthit mutters as he watches after his classmate. But he pulls out a spare notepad from the bottom of the cart, usually used for customers to write their orders if there was a long line.

Kongpob: he scrawls.


08/08/2014 – ฿38

Balance: ฿962

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