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Butch Cassidy and The Cashew Kid, a short story from India.

Benaulim Beach Goa India April 2004

In March 2004 I was 25 years old. With not a care in the world, no particular place to be and zero commitments to speak of, I packed up a rucksack and headed off to India. The future lay sparkling and I thought it would last forever.

My travels around India had been highly eventful from day one. I’d had miscellaneous objects shoved into my ears in Delhi, while in Agra I’d found broken glass in my bed! Most unpleasant of all had been an absurd amount of bad luck in the soulless claustrophobia of Jaipur. In contrast, I’d experienced romance and camels in Jaisalmer, comical James Bond nonsense in Udaipur and fine dining and cocktails in glitzy Mumbai. Not to mention The Bus Journey From Hell in between.

Therefore, it was perhaps understandable that by the time we rolled up in Goa, both Allan and I were ready for an extended spell of beach lazing. Luckily, we’d chosen just the place! Benaulim was a peaceful, rustic village located on Goa’s southern coastline. It consisted of little more than a handful of family run guesthouses, a couple of restaurants, one bar/nightclub and mile upon mile of peaceful golden sands. It was a world away from the hedonism of North Goa’s infamous party resorts. In fact, I knew we’d come to the right place the moment I stepped off the bus and felt the cool sea air on my face. ‘‘Finally!’’ breathed Allan, as a couple of seagulls flapped overhead. 

Benaulim Beach Goa India

Benaulim Beach, Goa.

We stayed at a pretty little guesthouse called Rosario’s, located just a hundred meters from the beach. On arrival we were greeted by Mama Rosario herself, a plump, rosy-cheeked woman with a cheerful nature and a booming laugh. Speaking little English, Mama’s laugh served as her official language. ‘‘From?’’ ‘‘I’m from England and my friend’s from Scotland’’. ‘‘Ha ha ha!!!’’ ‘‘Today where?’’ “Um… we’re going to the beach again”. ‘‘Ha ha ha!!!’’

Rosario's Inn Benaulim Goa.

Rosario’s Inn – Benaulim, Goa.

Less amusing however was Mama’s trio of lanky, bone-idle sons. The youngest served as the house cook, a boy who one morning actually succeeded in burning a boiled egg! The second born meanwhile was supposed to be the cleaner. But all I ever saw him do was drag a filthy wet rag across the lobby once a day. Finally there was the eldest, the pick of the bunch you might say. He was in charge of the laundry and it took him twenty four hours to get my clothes back to me. However, what I received was a pile of shrunken T-shirts, a colour-bled sweater and several pairs of underwear that weren’t mine. ‘‘Ha ha ha!!!’’ boomed Mama Rosario.

Butch Cassidy and The Cashew Kid, a short story from India.

Thankfully we didn’t have much contact with Team Rosario. Instead, we spent as much time as we could on the beach. A typical seaside breakfast consisted of banana pancakes and a coconut smoothie, after which we’d grab some chairs under an umbrella close to the sea. Days were spent sleeping, swimming and sunbathing. Moreover, I put in many an hour working my way through Donna Tartt’s outstanding novel The Secret History. I also became quite the expert at killing an hour or two with a cutting edge contraption known as the CD Walkman.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Once a day the various beach vendors did their rounds. But it was the height of the off season. Thus neither the sarong woman, the fruit man nor the henna girls could be bothered with much of a sales pitch. Our favourite visitor by far was a scrawny boy who passed by each late afternoon with an old leather sack. He was maybe ten or eleven years old, worryingly thin and so dark-skinned that at times I couldn’t even make out his eyes.

But there was no missing his beaming smile, an exhibition of unspoiled pearly white teeth. ‘‘Hello sirs, beautiful day! You looking hungry, must wanting yummy cashew’’. Sitting cross-legged in front of us with dripping optimism, he opened his sack and threw out a number of small plastic bags. All of them bulging with fat, deep-brown cashew nuts. Sadly his visits always seemed to come an hour or so after we’d eaten. Hence we just didn’t feel like eating. ‘‘No hungry?’’ he’d say, not at all put off by our disinterest. ‘‘No problem! Buy now, eat later…. cashew last long time! Little nibble every day, bag last many week’’.

Roasted cashew nuts.

“Cashew last long time, little nibble every day”.

Day after day we waved him away, his happy-go-lucky outlook never wavering. ‘‘But sir, cashew perfect for any time. Cashew breakfast… cashew lunch… maybe cashew snack after dinner! You can make a cashew party, share with your friends. Sexy girl love the cashew!!!’’ His performances became so amusing we finally caved in and bought a few packs, much to his visible delight.

Butch Cassidy and The Cashew Kid, a short story from India.

We’d been in Benaulim for just over a week when I finished my book and began to feel restless. It was just another scorching day in paradise. I could see Allan taking a dip in the sea, while just across from us a middle-aged Spanish couple lay snoring under a polka dot umbrella. The Cashew Kid was sitting next to me listening to my Walkman, his little head bobbing up and down. ‘‘Sir, what is this music I hear? Like nothing I know, amazing like aliens!’’ ‘‘It’s Radiohead’’ I laughed as Allan returned, refreshed from his exertions in the water.

Benaulim Beach Goa India April 2004

Benaulim Beach, Goa. April, 2004.

Bidding them both farewell, I decided to take a walk up the beach to see how far I could go. Along the way I passed pockets of statuesque sunbathers. There were also a few run-down shops selling cold drinks and a collection of ramshackle huts where women hung laundry as their kids played around in the sand.

It had been over an hour by the time I reached a nameless guesthouse that looked like it had seen better days. Poking my head through the door of its adjacent restaurant, I discovered a surprisingly well-stocked bar with a dozen or so wooden tables and benches. Ordering a draft beer from the barman, (whom I had to wake up), I took a seat in front of a whirring fan with the belief that I was the establishment’s sole customer. But then, after just a few sips, I was startled to see a figure emerge from a shadowy table in the corner.

Short story Goa India

Butch Cassidy and The Cashew Kid , a short story from India.

‘‘Butch’’ he answered with a firm grip, ‘‘Butch Cassidy’’.

Tall and sinewy, a cowboy hat cocked over a mane of dirty long hair, he sauntered over with a mooching swagger. A whiskey and coke in one hand, a cigarette in the other. He fixed a steely gaze upon me, revealing a face disfigured with crisscrossing pockmarks. ‘‘Well howdy…’’ he said in a thick U.S. accent, an impressive pair of bags swelling beneath his eyes. ‘‘May I?’’ ‘‘Sure!’’ I answered, as he slowly lowered himself onto the bench opposite me, setting his glass down on the table.

‘‘Leighton’’ I said, offering a hand half the size of his. ‘‘Butch’’ he answered with a firm grip, ‘‘Butch Cassidy’’I smirked instinctively, ‘‘Where’s the Sundance kid?’’, but immediately regretted it as he shot me an icy glare. ‘‘There must be a million Sundance Kids in this darn country’’ he drawled, taking a lengthy drag on his cigarette. ‘‘And not one of them a Robert Redford. No… this cat chooses to fly solo’’.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Paul Newman Robert Redford.

Butch Cassidy (right) and The Sundance Kid (left) – have never knowingly been to Goa.

With no idea how to respond, I just nodded as if I understood, feeling more than a tad awkward in the ensuing silence. I asked him how long he’d been in Goa, to which he answered ‘‘a long time’’. Apparently he’d been in India ‘‘even longer’’, though he clearly wasn’t into storytelling so I didn’t push him on the details. Butch Cassidy seemed to be a man of few words, so I did most of the talking, giving him the lowdown on my travels. Staring back at me ambivalently, I wasn’t sure if he was even listening. When I got onto the subject of Udaipur he suddenly piped up with an irritated shudder. ‘’James Bond!’’ he growled. ‘‘Imagine a place where THAT’S your claim to fame, James goddam Bond’’.

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“Who do you want covering your ass? Paul Newman? Or Roger fucking Moore? 

At a loss as to what to say, I sat back and allowed him to rant. ‘‘You’re trapped in a dark alley. There’s no way out, the enemy is closing in. Who do you want covering your ass? Paul Newman? Or Roger fucking Moore? And don’t get me started on Pierce Brosnan”. Butch was clearly in a foul mood now. So much so that he literally sat sneering into what remained of his drink, ‘‘Fucking Udaipur!’’ After a couple of painfully uncomfortable minutes I made my excuses with an unconvincing story about dinner plans with friends. ‘‘Sure thing’’ he mumbled without even looking up. ‘‘Don’t ever come back here’’.

Butch Cassidy and The Cashew Kid, a short story from India. 

Slipping out onto the beach, I retraced my route back to normality and an hour later I was sipping on a vanilla milkshake, relaying the story to an amused Allan. ‘‘Ah yes, Butch is crazy man’’ The Cashew Kid said with a knowing smile. ‘‘He stay in Goa too long. But for me it’s good because this cowboy LOVE the cashew!!!’’ Hauling himself up, The Cashew Kid dusted the sand off his legs and told us he’d see us tomorrow, same time same place. His sack swinging back and forth, he made a beeline for a group of distant sunbathers, whistling the tune to Paranoid Android as he went.

‘Butch Cassidy & The Cashew Kid’ is the tenth tale of my short story series Incidents In India.

Like this? Why not also check out my travel reports from across India.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Mary Phillips

    Enjoyable reading, Leighton. The characters one meets while traveling!!!

    June 14, 2015 - 10:29 am Reply
  • Anonymous

    Lovely read. 🙂

    June 14, 2015 - 6:51 pm Reply
  • Butch Cassidy & The Cashew Kid – a short story from India. | natty4t's Blog

    […] Butch Cassidy & The Cashew Kid – a short story from India.. […]

    June 14, 2015 - 8:21 pm Reply
  • natty4t

    This was by far my favourite of the India stories. What an intriguing place!!! I could have continued reading for ages!

    June 14, 2015 - 8:23 pm Reply

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