Chapter 9 -Nick (Thailand)
"Bringing home strays again, hey Mum?" The girl who greeted us at the compound had a booming voice. "Who's this bloke, then?" She was hosing down a young elephant. The saggy, grey skin around his face and shoulders was splattered with faint patches of red, blue, green, and yellow, and he had his trunk wrapped loosely around her waist.
"That's my daughter, Camila," Anna said to me, then raised her voice to answer her daughter. "This is Nick, from Canada. He'll be staying with us for a few days before I take him with me to Chiang Mai."
Compared to her mother's milk-white skin, Camila's skin was brown and she had shoulder-length dark hair, razor-sharp cheekbones, and big, dark brown eyes. I guessed her father might be Latino. When she sauntered toward us, the elephant made a noise like a trumpet in protest of her leaving. Her gaze was direct and serious, as if daring you to try and cross her--it made me feel uncomfortable and want to look away.
"Canada, eh?" Camila eyed me up and down as if she were taking measurements. "It's been a while since we've had a Canuck here."
"Oh, you like hockey?" I said, referring to a Canadian hockey team--the Vancouver Canucks.
I guess she wasn't a hockey fan because she curled her top lip into a sour face, like I'd just said something really stupid.
"Watch your back!" Camila suddenly pushed me to swing around.
Behind me a very large elephant lumbered past with a Thai man astride it like a horse--except there was no saddle, and the man straddled its neck, not its back. On its two long tusks were speared several large bales of hay.
"Never turn your back to an elephant," Camila said, "especially not to the males."
"What's wrong with the males?"
"Nothing's wrong with the males." The tone of her voice was beginning to bug me.
"Many of them have been mistreated and learned to be quite aggressive and unpredictable." She pointed to the elephant that had just passed. "That one killed his abusive owner. If it wasn't for us, he would have been shot by the authorities."