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Table Top Warrior
Ep. 3- Is it valuable?
"It's valuable, no?" asks the boy.
"I don't even know what is in there." Noi picks up the jar and pulls off the cork top. They both draw their heads closer to see.
"Huh? It's a fish," says Noi.
"Oh, sir that is good luck, you have a fighting fish, do you know how much money you can make if he is a good fighter?"
Noi frowns. He heard about the gambling contests. Two male fighting fish battle with each other until death and a crowd of people put bets on the winner. Noi didn't bother himself with this type of city fare, but he recalled, that the girl had said it was a good fighter. Noi nods to the eager boy. "I'll give it to my grandson, he likes animals."
Now the jar rests safely between Noi's bare feet. He waves to the boy as he turns the boat towards home. The boy hangs his shoulders with disappointment. He hoped Noi would give the fish to him.
Noi moves his skiff down the river and thinks about the fish. The prospect of setting this fish up for fights was not so absurd. He knew enough people on the river; they could tell him whom to go to for a fighting match. He could win, maybe. If he didn't, there was no loss, the fish could be retraded for fruit.
Noi grins with a new faith in the future. He decides the money won by the fish would go towards Kroekrit's education. Now, he could be certain his grandson could avoid carting vegetables up and down the Chao Phraya river.
Noi reaches his riverbank by late afternoon. He stopped several times to pick up scraps of cardboard and to sell more vegetables to the hungry families living on the river. His happiness was boundless because he spoke to some young men who worked in the city. They directed him to another old man who promised to give Noi's fish a trial fight match the next day. If Noi's fish did well in this trial, he would be guaranteed five percent of the pool of betting money when the real fight was held. Noi knew he would also have to bet on the fish in order to make a lot of money. This bothered him, but he shrugged it off.
Once home, Noi ties his boat to the post that juts out from his hut's floor. Little Kroekrit runs down the crooked wooden stairs and hugs Noi's slender waist. The old man patiently pries the boy away from him long enough to hand him the bundle of cardboard. Kroekrit grasps the hemp string binding the papers and politely waits for his grandfather to give him a crate of fruits to carry back up the stairs.
As expected, Noi bends over the boat again, but he doesn't lift the crate of fruits. Instead, he offers the blue jar to Kroekrit. The boy's eyes widen as he stares down into the dark, water-filled jar.
Measuring not more than two or three inches in length, the fighter's dark body and fins hang limply along the water's surface. Kroekrit sticks his finger into the jar and nudges the fish's back. The fish darts to the bottom of the jar. He's sad because it's so dark in there," Kroekrit says matter-of-factly.
Noi chuckles and pats the boy's back. I will take care of everything, thinks the old man.
The two unload the boat in silence.
Kroekrit is excited about the new pet, but he doesn't dare ask his grandfather if he can have it. Meanwhile, his grandfather is preoccupied with the upcoming match and the monies it could bring.
After the crates are safely stored away, Noi searches their limited kitchenware. He finds a glass food jar and calls the boy away from the river's bank. "Go take care of our fish, so that the sun can make him happy."