The Cave by Liam Cochrane

The Cave by Liam Cochrane

Author:Liam Cochrane
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: ABC Books
Published: 2018-11-18T16:00:00+00:00

17

The little things

THE RESCUE OPERATION WAS now of an unprecedented scale, with millions of dollars’ worth of resources poured into the effort. But it was in fact the little things that sometimes made the biggest difference and kept people going when times were tough.

The Wild Boars of course remained blissfully unaware of the machinations happening outside. Once Dr Pak and the SEALs had joined them, the atmosphere in the cave changed completely. It wasn’t just the gels and medical care that they provided; their company lifted the Wild Boars’ spirits immeasurably. They were no longer alone.

The inhabitants of Nern Nom Sao told stories and played games. The most popular game was checkers. The SEALs showed the boys how to carve out an eight-by-eight checkerboard into the dry mud with their diving knives, and make pieces out of mud. The rules were simple enough: use your pieces to zig-zag across the board to the back row to earn a King piece, capturing the enemy’s pieces along the way. It was an apt game. The loser was the one who ran out of options, their final piece trapped.

Only one boy didn’t take part: Titan. He was too afraid of losing. The rest played for hours, moving mud around in the lamp light. The champion soon became clear and one of the SEALs, known as Bai Toey, was crowned ‘King of the Cave’. Not much is known about the three SEALs, who remain semi-anonymous for operational reasons. But glimpses of Bai Toey’s humorous personality would later shine through, when the SEALs appeared at press conferences wearing sunglasses and surgical masks. Bai Toey got a big laugh when he introduced himself as ‘the most handsome one in the cave’. The boys were amused by his habit of wearing just his underpants with a silver space blanket wrapped around his waist. After the long days of isolation, the camaraderie the military men brought to the cave was heartening for the Wild Boars.

‘I felt that Pee Bai Toey was like a father to me, because he calls me “son”,’ said Mark.

‘I felt great,’ said Pong. ‘They’d find something for us to do and we’d have fun. They liked to tell us stories.’

‘We ate, slept together,’ said Coach Ek. ‘We became quite attached – just like a member of the family.’

It was the same for the SEALs and Dr Pak.

‘For those nine days, we have to share everything with each other,’ said the army doctor. ‘Whether it’s food or making sure that the children are happy and safe. I have a son myself and [the three SEALs] all have children as well, they are a similar age as our sons. Staying together makes us feel like we are a family.’

* * *

The Euro family was also growing. Coinciding with Ben and the other three leaving, an influx of fresh diving instructors arrived – Ivan, Erik, Mikko and Claus – who’d flown in from southern Thailand.

Ivan, the Danish diver, was tall and lean, with a crew cut greying at the sides.



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