By the open door they gathered, bikini-clad and full of charm,
But the tourists and the locals merely waved;
Yet Good Pork Betty (the mama-san) had sounded the alarm,
The Horny Toad was deep in debt and must be saved.
They stood in sexy poses, go-go dancers with their claim,
Of fast-paced music, pretty girls, and cheapest beer;
But too many bars had opened and despite their well-earned fame,
Already many bars had closed that year.
Dang had winked her long eyelashes, and Nit had tried her Chiang Mai smile,
And Oy had draped her hair with shiny stars;
But neither Ott's seductive figure nor Good Pork Betty's guile,
Could stop the crowds from seeking other bars.
So the dancers here were charming, so were the girls in all the rest,
And the patrons had their choice of where to play;
Mississippi Queen, Safari, Superstar - All argued which was best,
As a connoisseur of wine might judge bouquet.
Lek turned up the music, and Att hung up a light,
They tried all tricks they knew to make it pay;
But despite their valiant efforts, they knew they'd lost the fight,
When even Bad Debt Bernard stayed away.
Good Pork Betty knew the end had come and fought to hide her tears,
But as she spoke her throat was full and tight;
"The Horny Toad lose money now and too far in arrears,
I no can help it -- tonight is our last night."
They'd come to the Horny Toad for work, but they'd met each night as friends,
Dang spoke for all and said, "We no can earn our keep."
"How I feed my baby now?" she asked, (as on many a dancer a child depends),
And Dang and Nit and Dao began to weep.
An old woman, nearly senile, tried to comfort each in turn,
She'd sometimes cook and when she could she'd clean;
The girls all loved her dearly, and from whatever they might earn,
There was always something saved for the Betel Nut Queen.
The Betel Nut Queen was old now, and her hair was snowy white,
Yet in her youth she danced in every show;
Her red lips were stained with betel-nut juice, and she'd nearly lost her sight,
And the girls all knew she had no place to go.
They had long since left the ricefields, and go-go dancing was all they knew,
And they wept for the aging Betel Nut Queen;
But in the room an eerie silence became more eerie as it grew,
And they were stilled by a presence more felt than seen.
No one spoke yet all heads turned, near the bar a figure sat,
On her red-and-green bikini was number forty-four;
Her long black hair was stunning and her chest was far from flat,
But no dancer had ever seen her there before.
Her shoes were of speckled silver, her ears were pierced with gold,
And her full lips were moist and slightly parted;
In her beauty she rivalled Sita, Rama's beloved in legend told,
And in her mood seemed just as heavy-hearted.
Above high cheekbones, her dark brown eyes explored the bar,
As if remembering how it was so long ago;
Beneath her smooth brown throat, her only flaw - a tiny scar,
But if it gave her pain, it did not show.
And on her neck a golden chain, perhaps a gift from a favorite lover,
It twisted to form three letters clear and bright;
They read "Noy," a common nickname, but as all would soon discover,
Nothing common was to happen there that night.
With just the slightest smile, the leggy dancer shook her head,
And from the beer-stained barstool she rose;
And in the quiet room, with firm resolve, she clearly said,
"No way - this bar - go'an close."
Then she climbed on to the counter and up upon the stage,
And without another word began to dance;
No one knew her occupation and no one knew her age,
But they knew the Horny Toad might have a chance.
This was not a normal dancer, who might smile and move about,
For her movements cast a spell on all in sight;
Supernal or infernal, she was the best, without a doubt,
And it was clear this was to be a special night.
Wide-eyed tourists and tipsy locals walked by debating where to go,
Then stopped so fast it seemed they must have died;
And in minutes on all of Patpong, there wasn't one who did not know,
And the Horny Toad had not an empty seat inside.
None had seen a girl so sexy, nor a dancer with such allure,
She seemed a blur of form and wondrous flash;
Good Pork Betty watched the crowd, and knew they'd saved the bar for sure,
When even Bad Debt Bernard paid with cash.
Whiskey, beer - when all was sold, they'd order milk or wine instead,
All were captives of the dancer's magic sway;
Even shirts were good as gold - especially those that read,
"I love you, darling, more than I can pay."
Men left their haunts for the Horny Toad, girls ignored their fortune-tellers,
It was said that touts abandoned clientele;
There were gum- and garland-vendors and men fought with flower-sellers,
For the right to go with Noy to a hotel.
There was noise and smoke and flashing lights, and many photographs were taken,
But already the Betel Nut Queen had begun to doubt;
She felt Noy was more than just a dancer, and she knew she was not mistaken,
When any photograph of Noy would not come out.
And then at last the bar was closed, and the Betel Nut Queen had locked the door,
But she saw that it was just as she had feared;
For though the bar was saved - there was no number forty-four,
Noy of the Horny Toad had disappeared.
Lek said, "For sure, she Chiang Mai girl," Dang said, "No, I think she from Rayong."
Good Pork Betty thought Noy was from Phuket;
Nit said, "I think you no know nothing, I think you all are wrong,
I sure she must be Bangkok girl, you bet!"
And all the girls debated how the dancer came and went,
And where she might have learned her sexy dance;
But the Beetle Nut Queen sat still - perhaps to ponder what it meant,
It was as if she'd fallen deep into a trance.
Then suddenly her face grew pale, and her lips let out a moan
So fearful that some ran frightened to the door;
Her hands began to tremble and her voice was not her own,
As she said, "That girl I saw here long time before!"
She rose slowly from the table and walked just behind the stairs,
And began to empty boxes piled beneath the Buddhist shrine;
Her thin brown hands moved quickly, and her lips mouthed many prayers,
And if she saw the girls strange looks she gave no sign.
And the contents were quickly scattered, a collection of many years,
Bar bills unpaid, love letters unread by girls grown old;
Then her shaking hand touched bottom - and her touch confirmed her fears,
And the Betel Nut Queen felt her soul grow cold.
By their trembling friend they gathered, bikini-clad and frightened to the core,
The faded photograph they'd never seen;
But a most familiar dancer - her number forty-four,
Wore proudly her bikini - red and green.
The Betel Nut Queen spoke slowly, though her breath was fast and deep,
As if what happened long ago now caused great pain;
Her eyes were clouded over and she spoke as though from sleep,
Of how Noy's charm had driven men insane.
She'd been captured by the camera as she leapt upon the stage,
And yet again she gave her knowing smile;
That smile had stolen the hearts of men - regardless of their age,
And no dancer could hope to match her style.
But if her charm beguiled all men - the rage began to build,
In the breasts of all the girls who'd lost their men;
And their anger grew at each defeat, until their very souls were filled,
With a vow that Noy would never dance again.
Then came the night when the bar was full, with Noy surrounded like a queen,
Men sought her love but each was quickly spurned;
But just before her turn to dance, a pretty dancer grew drunk and mean,
And in her eyes a consuming hatred burned.
There was confusion near the counter when the dancer rushed at Noy,
Her one thought to tear her antagonist apart;
But though Noy saw the dagger, she seemed to glow with a secret joy,
Even as the blade plunged deep inside her heart.
Noy of the Horny Toad lay quiet; as if she'd known her time to die,
As she spoke her blood seeped deep into the floor;
"You can stop my heart from beating but I haven't said goodbye,
I'll come back one day and I will dance once more."
The Betel Nut Queen's voice grew softer, but her eyes were open wide,
She knew Noy's ghost had visited the bar;
For though the picture was surely taken long before the dancer died,
In the photograph they could see the dagger's scar.
The Betel Nut Queen cried out, and she slumped across the table,
But the girls heard clearly what she said;
"I was that drunken dancer, oh, Noy, forgive me if you're able!"
And the woman who had stabbed her now lay dead.
It was a night of wonder, and it happened long ago,
But still they dance on Bangkok's Patpong Road;
And though the bar has changed its name, the legend cannot help but grow,
For none who saw her dance would soon forget -- Noy of the Horny Toad.
From the book, Noy of the Horny Toad and other anomalies by Dean Barrett. All rights reserved. First published by Hong Kong Publishing Company, Ltd. Copyright 1983 Dean Barrett
This story may not be reprinted without permission of the writer. If you do reprint it without permission of the writer, Noy will go to your house or apartment and haunt your ass until you unreprint it.
Note: The Horny Toad bar did exist and had two large toads, one on either side of the door on the sidewalk along Patpong Road. To the best of my memory it was operating in the late 70's/early 80's. The bar has changed its name many times but there are those oldtimers in Bangkok who say they were there the night Noy returned. If you don't believe that, just ask Whore House Charlie (if you can find him). He was there. DB
Dean Barrett lived in Asia for 20 years. Then he moved to Manhattan for 14 years. Then, in late 2000, he came to his senses and moved back to Bangkok. His novels on Thailand are KINGDOM OF MAKE-BELIEVE and MEMOIRS OF A BANGKOK WARRIOR.
Available in the United States at various bookstores, on all on-line bookstores such as Amazon.com, and in Thailand at Asia Books, Bookazine and other stores. If you do not wish to purchase either title, that is OK; but wait till you see what happens when you try to close your computer.
"This was not a normal dancer"