The Killer Prawns
“My Gutsy Story®” Don Darkes
Every June 6th, often commemorated as D-Day elsewhere, we celebrate Pisces Day; our family’s survival day. On that day, we were shipwrecked, lost everything we owned and were left stranded and bleeding on a lonely quicksand beach. My wife, two young children and I named this “Pisces Day,” the name of our doomed yacht.
Since then, we have celebrated Pisces Day around a meal of prawns and rice. Why prawns and rice? To remind us how we ate prawns and rice for weeks after our shipwreck. Prawns and rice were cheap and plentiful, and we were destitute. On Pisces Day 2010, my wife Dianne chose the venue carefully; “Jimmy’s Killer Prawns.” She booked a U-shaped bench near the window overlooking the old railway station.
“Ugh! There is something slippery under the table” exclaimed Bill as he lost his footing and fell heavily against the red vinyl bench seat that protested with a sibilant hiss of escaping air.
“Judging by the smell of rancid butter and garlic it must be the prawn sauce” laughed blonde and vivacious Luna, his youngest sister, as we slithered our bottoms along the maroon seats. Dianne, her blue eyes sparkling with pleasure at having the family together again, took up her station at the base of the U, flanked by both our daughters and with Bill and me facing each other at either end.
“Although it’s just past six-thirty the place is already busy” remarked Dianne.
“What shall we order?” Morgan asked.
“Prawns and rice!” we chorused.
“I’m dying of thirst. I hope the waiter comes to take our drinks order soon.” groaned Bill grasping his throat theatrically and gagging to the amusement of his adoring sisters.
“I wonder why there are no waiters around?” Dianne said.
“Wait a minute. Speak of the devils!” Luna pointed to a thickset man approaching our table and to another four men who were spreading out simultaneously towards the other tables.
“It’s not that cold tonight. I’m surprised management lets them wear their hoods on duty.” I commented as our hooded waiter approached.
“Do you have granadilla juice…?” I stopped mid-sentence as the muzzle of a large pistol was placed squarely against the tip of my nose.
“Cell phones and money” interrupted the hooded man gruffly.
“I don’t have any cash with me. I pay by credit card and I am not carrying my cell phone” I stuttered, numb with shock.
“And you?” The robber swung around and placed the barrel of his gun against Bills forehead.
“I have a phone.” Bill said reaching into his shirt pocket with trembling fingers and dropped it to the floor. Unthinking he ducked below the table to retrieve it and scrabbled around on the greasy floor whilst it evaded him like a slippery fish. The gunman’s pin-prick irises flashed and I imagined the roar of his gun and the impact of the bullet mushrooming my sons head redly onto the walls and floor.
“Wait. Don’t shoot! My son is trying to pick up his phone.” The gunman hesitated and Bill emerged again unaware of how close he had come to extinction.
“What about you?” the gunman waved his pistol at the girls where they sat ashen faced and rooted to the bench. Luna spoke first.
“My daddy won’t buy me one.” She lied. The gunman shot me a disgusted glance. neither of us noticed Luna surreptitiously secreting her precious phone behind her.
“What about you?” the robber hissed at Morgan who had stealthily emulated her younger sisters example. Both girls stared down the killer’s harsh gaze. I caught their eyes with my own and gestured to them not to maintain eye contact whilst my heart thrashed within my chest from an overload of pride, terror and anger.
“Stand Up!” He commanded. We complied, albeit bent double within the narrow space. The thug moved forward, wedging his gun beneath his chin, whilst he frisked Bill and me and even feeling our groins as he did so.
He looked towards my wife and daughters. I baulked at the prospect of him running his hands over their innocent young bodies and began to boil with rage. Bill caught my eye and shook his head imperceptibly.
“The girls don’t carry money. My father is too stingy.” Blurted Bill. The crook glanced disdainfully at me before turning his drug-dulled eyes toward his other prey.
He swaggered to a table occupied by a solitary man so busily engaged in devouring his meal while speaking with unfocused eyes on his mobile phone that he had not noticed the commotion. The gunman stuck the barrel of his pistol against the distracted man’s nose.
“Cell phone and money” he demanded.
“Cell phone and money!” the robber hit the table with his fist upsetting the glass of red wine over the diners lap.
“I don’t have any money, I pay by credit card” said the diner as he handed over his mobile.
“May I continue eating? This is my first meal of the day and I am starving.” He returned to his meal without waiting for a reply. The crook grunted and moved to the next table.
The terror did not end there. In the weeks and months that followed, we saw our assailants in the shopping malls. They would leer at us and taunt the girls, pointing to me: the stingy father. When we complained to the police about the progress of the investigation, we were told they had no record of any such incident, despite the fact that it had been reported in a local newspaper and they had taken statements. Our family became so traumatised we refused to leave the house for fear of meeting our tormenters. I asked a good friend, a well-connected man and a long standing member of Interpol, to make discreet enquiries. He told me the police were connected with the gang and that we were in mortal danger. “Get out of town. Disappear,” he said.
This was our family’s pivotal decision to sell everything and go sailing again.
DON DARKES BIO: During the seventies I studied Psychology prior to serving mandatory Military Service in a secret unit, for which I received a medal. Following a number of exciting and successful careers in Construction, Manufacturing and Information Technology, I am now a full time Author.
During the nineties I was shipwrecked together with my wife and children in Madagascar. After returning destitute to South Africa I formed and sold a sucessful Internet company in order to write my first two books and to research and write a novel exploring an intriguing link between the Jewish Holocaust and Madagascar. Currently, together with my wife and daughter we are building another yacht and living aboard it whilst I work on several books with the common denominators being my love of history and my belief that fact is more interesting than fiction.
You can join Don Darkes on:
Sign up NOW on Eventbrite to reserve your seat for a FUN and ENTERTAINING EVENT
to launch our 2nd “My Gutsy Story®” Anthology.
My Gutsy Story® Anthology: Taking Chances and Changing Your Life
What: Author Sonia Marsh launches the second publication in her My Gutsy Story® Anthology book series by hosting an evening of inspirational stories moderated by former PBS SoCal anchor Ann Pulice. Marsh, the award winning author and founder of My Gutsy Story® series, will also announce her next gutsy adventure, signing up for the Peace Corps. The event is open to the public and all attendees will receive a copy of the newest My Gutsy Story® Anthology.
When: Saturday, November 1
4:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Where: Zovs Restaurant in Tustin
17440 E. 17th St., Tustin, CA 92780, (MAP)
ph (714) 838.8855
Who: Moderator Ann Pulice is an award-winning journalists and was co-host on PBS SoCal’s Real Orange for 17 years.
- Sonia Marsh: Award-winning author of Freeways to Flip-flops and founder of the My Gutsy Story®
- Julia Capizzi: Orange County Peace Corps representative and Bilingual Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who has lived abroad in El Salvador & Bolivia.
- Colleen Hannegan: Author and professional speaker, certified business advisor, personal life coach for women in transition.
- Mariana Williams: Author and founder of the “Long Beach Searches for Greatest Storyteller,” married to Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Paul Williams.
- Jonathan Yanez: Went from renting cars, to following his dream of becoming an author. His three-book series publishing contract has now been optioned for film.
Cost: $40 (includes book, wine and appetizers) before October 20th and $45 after that date.
More: Marsh hopes the My Gutsy Story® Anthology series and events will create a global community to help one another take risks in life. Her first publication,Freeways to Flip Flops, a chronology of her family’s one-year adventure in Belize, recently won the Reader’s Favorite, 2014 Gold Medal book award.