‘Fighter by day, lover by night, drunkard by choice, sailor by mistake.’
Eight hours’ worth of pub crawling was both the cause and the downfall of the situation.
Cobra’s, whilst known for their hooded heads, venomous bites, cliché appearances in ‘Bond’ films, and starring as the lead villain of the odd Kipling tale, are not known for their nutritional value.
Cobra’s, as a general rule don’t feature on the drinks list of your average bar, in your average pub. Nor are they kept in a basket located beneath bottles semi-artistically lining a shelf behind a barman, ‘ala spaghetti western bar room fight scene’ style. In this case, it was just across from the peanuts and other salt-laden, dehydrating, thirst creating delights.
Half an hour has passed. Locals point in disgust at the duo vomiting in tone perfect stereo; left hands extended, fingers splayed, forming gravity defying leverage against a filthy wall for the two revellers ashore. Both punters heralded from a sleek grey messenger of death, currently anchored in Hong Kong harbour. They were allegedly ‘enjoying’ a run ashore.
Stomachs now empty; footpath magically covered in foul liquid and carrot. Creative narrative, and actual events demand this description. It is what it is.
“Mate, seriously. Why?” says ‘Jack’ blue shirt, hint of beer, remnant of vomit.
“Buggered if I know. Buuuuut, it sounded like a good idea at the time, plus you insisted on it when you saw what it was.” Jack responded. White shirt, glimmer of miscellaneous shell-fish, smattering of rum and coke, cigarette burn bottom right of shirt
It had been bad enough watching the extremely well-mannered and dapper little traditionally dressed Cantonese chap, place a vase-shaped wicker basket upon the bar top.
It moved of its own accord.
The lid looked to be strapped down by what may have been a well-loved black shoe lace.
Things became worse for the pair as the same dark-haired chap placed a blood stained chopping board, approximately 60 cm x 50 cm x 5 cm, on to the bar. Two Jack’s mouths formed perfect ‘O’s at the sight. A small cleaver and two ice picks materialised from places unknown; a smallish mortar and pestle, plus two medium-sized glasses came from somewhere, completing the macabre set.
Horror at the sight of a smallish cobra being extracted by the bare handed barman swept over them.
Nausea felt the need to kick in; beer and partially digested, unidentifiable food stuffs, moved of their own gravity defying accord.
With skills never before seen by the pair, the dapper, 50 – 80 something year old chap placed the writhing serpent belly up, plucked an ice pick from the board, and with unexpected ferocity, stabbed the snake through underside of its head, pinning it to the board. His next fluid movement involved the raising and swift lowering of the cleaver; removing head from body cleanly.
Lifting the still moving body, he gripped the end most part of the tail, using his other hand he milked the blood from the serpent into the mortar, pestle removed.
On repeating the procedure with the skills of a surgeon, the barman used the tip of the cleaver and removed the venom sacks from the necks of the severed heads, adding the four separate sacks to the still warm blood.
White faces, now whiter, watched in ill-concealed terror as the man in magnificent traditional robes produced what may have been a root of some kind. Black and foul looking he placed it on the board. Hands, deft through practice and experience finely sliced it, and then diced it minutely with a flourish, adding it to the bloody mix. Again, something which may have passed as a ‘good handful’ of herbs in a 16th century, German witches cook book, received the same attention.
The final ingredients were a couple of hearty dashes, all varying in colour, from unlabeled medium-sized bottles, scrounged from among the lurking horrors beneath the bar.
Finally, the pestle was put to work, a drop not spilt in the five minutes’ worth of work required of it.
He filled the two glasses, placing one before each now incredibly sober sailor; struck a match, lighting both drinks. A small blue flame issued from the twin 120ml’s of horror alight per glass.
The dapper barman then smiled, bowed slightly, and extended his hands giving the international signal of ‘it is now ready. You paid for it, now drink the bloody thing; Mrs. Wong wants me back in the bloody restaurant and you out the bloody door. Bloody round eye’s!’
Sweat beading on sweat. Blue shirt gingerly extended his hand, grasping and lifting the concoction toward himself. Blood still warm in the drink. White shirt followed suit; a gentle tremor in his right hand shaking the drink slightly.
With a shrug, this pair of fearless warriors of the Royal Australian Navy, in one gagging movement, downed the lot. Eye’s screwed shut, attempting to think of something far less repulsive, the empty glasses slowly placed back on the bar.
All that remained were half a dozen anonymous ‘bits’ stuck between teeth.
A gentle nodded thank you on behalf of all parties had both lads swinging themselves from their respective bar stools, and were ushered to the door. It was opened, and they stepped into the throng and heat of the Wan Chai night. Both wondering exactly what had happened, and exactly what they had done.
“Why did we just do that?” said the green faced blue shirt.
“’s’posed to be an aphrodisiac thing.”
“What? To getcha goin’ with the lasses sort of thing?”
“Yep. Lead in yer pencil stuff?” replied yellow gilled white shirt.
“Reckon it’ll work?”
“Only if the ladies don’t mind me having some of it on me boots.”
NB – It was not until some months later, on return to Australia, that I found that consuming snake venom could quite easily kill you. Not from the ingestion and digestion as such, rather via entry into the blood stream through holes in your teeth. This fact is also the reason people stopped sucking venom from snake bites, as invariable it killed the person doing the sucking, as opposed to the person that had been bitten. This is true. Incidentally, I was the one wearing the ‘blue’ shirt in the yarn above, and, yes, that all really happened. Poorly written as it is, I wrote that about five years ago, publishing it elsewhere.
Click the lesser picture above. It is worth a look just to see Nancy Kerr play. Brilliance like no other.
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