by Connla Stokes
This, as the title does not suggest but emphatically proclaims, is the Greatest Story Ever Told (about Uzbeki Fred in Hanoi).
First things first, let’s get you up to speed: Uzbeki Fred was a man named Fred from Uzbekistan. He was a short, balding man. I’d go as far as to say he had a head only a mother could love but I do apologise to Uzbeki Fred and Uzbeki Fred’s mother if that’s a bit harsh. I think he might have looked a bit like Rocky’s pal Paulie in the Rocky movies that we all know and love like Christians do the gospels.
Now, in spite of his looks, Uzbeki Fred had a smoking hot Chinese girlfriend – a comically inscrutable skinnymalink lady, who flitted in and out of Uzbeki Fred’s drinking circles to sip on her whisky and light cigarettes. She liked to play pool, I think. Some people said she was very good at pool as if to insinuate that she was a woman with a past and when I say “a woman with a past”, yes, that is indeed a euphemism for prostitution.
What we do know is: Uzbeki Fred was a man with past. He described himself as a rice farmer. Maybe he was an agricultural scientist. I don’t know. I have no love for details and therefore no memory of what Uzbeki Fred did on his farm, so let’s keep moving along.
There are two things you should know before we get to the bit where I tell you the Greatest Story Ever Told (about Uzbeki Fred in Hanoi): 1) he was the sort of guy who’d walk into a bar and order a bottle of whisky and 2) he was said to be ex-Foreign Legion.
I used to meet him in the Maquis Bar on Ta Hien Street and Apocalypse Now (long since abandoned) back in the days when you could hear a pin drop after midnight as long as a large cavalcade of drunken foreigners weren’t rattling down the road on two-stroke motorbikes from the Marquis to “Apo.” They were “don’t come to town without your drinking boots”-days and lightweights rarely lasted more than a year.
Uzbeki Fred would turn up to Apo drunk — and sure, yeah, everyone did that but with Uzbeki Fred it was different as people would say, “be careful, do you know he’s ex-Foreign Legion?” and most people probably did think twice about drinking with him. The logic being: he is ex-foreign legion ergo he is a man with a past. Who knows who he really is, what he has witnessed, what depths he has succumbed to… don’t they offer new identities to recruits?
Now, Fred could have been shovelling nuclear waste in Algeria, rather than say, hacking limbs off rebel armies in a secret war in who-knows-where, but still, going toe-to-toe with Uzbeki Fred in whisky-drinking-mood was presumed to be unwise.
So you get the picture: Fred is a big drinker, he’s ex-Foreign Legion, he’s possibly a convicted criminal, and probably deadly in a barroom bout of fisticuffs – it goes without saying there’s a part of you that can’t help wonder what’d happen if someone really did get on the wrong side of Uzbeki Fred.
And then one night near the pool tables at Apo – a notorious combat zone where pitched battles often occurred — it happens: a large Russian is switched to unfriendly mode and he pushes Uzbeki Fred to the side and so the red mist finally descends on Uzbeki Fred, and he’s ready to rumble. You can picture them rolling up their sleeves, or dropping drinks and just getting into it – but however it started, it finishes very quickly with the Russian swatting Uzbeki Fred to the floor, and if the story ended there, it’d be one very anti-climactic tale, but don’t worry, I didn’t lie when I told you this is the Greatest Story Ever Told (about Uzbeki Fred in Hanoi), as while Uzbeki Fred lies on the floor, out for the count, his smoking hot Chinese girlfriend zooms over in her skin-tight pants and high-heel shoes, and she squares up with the Ruski and promptly high-kicks him in the chin and knocks him out cold. I’d like to say a cigarette is dangling out of Uzbeki Fred’s smoking hot Chinese girlfriend’s lips but I might be guilty of embellishing there, but sure fuck it, in for a penny in for a pound, so yeah, a cigarette is dangling out of her lipstick red lips and you wonder was she smoking the whole time. And she drags Fred by the armpits to the door and everyone follows. She leaves Uzbeki Fred on the steps and finds his crappy two-stroke with a blunderbuss for an exhaust pipe and starts it with her high-heel shoes (first time), then with the help of a bao ve she gets Fred onto the bike, wraps his arms around her Audrey Hepburn skinny waistline and drives him home and from that day on Uzbeki Fred’s smoking hot Chinese girlfriend took on legendary status.
Uzbeki Fred? We didn’t talk about him so much after that. He was just the wingman, or a not-so-trusty sidekick who couldn’t even hold his liquor let alone throw a punch.
Thereafter, he was considered a bit of let down. It’s probably not a surprising detail to add that he soon left town never to be seen again.
Editor’s Note on The Greatest Story Ever Told (about Uzbeki Fred in Hanoi):
This is not the first story by Connla Stokes that Eastlit has published. His previosu work is listed below:
- The Foreign Man is Prepared to Take Everything in His Stride was in Eastlit July 2014.