By martin beatt
- 1296 reads
By Martin Beattie
Â© Copyright 2006
And the end of all our journeys
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
DANIEL AND ALAINE CROWWE (Crow)
"Alaine, is Captain Furtburger playing out today? Daniel joked, referring to their next-door neighbour Mrs. Charlotte huerberg.
Every other Friday both Alaine and Lottey, a retired German vet, made a pact to go jogging together.
Or as Daniel liked to call it, 'jangling together.'
Alaine, Daniels wife, religiously jogged on a Friday but Lottey had decided Alaine needed company and in her own words 'she was a little out of condition and a touch overweight.'
Daniel pulled a carton of fresh orange from the fridge and gulped at it from the spout. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and ambled back into dining room for a better look at his wife, who was busily restocking her bum bag in readiness for her run.
'Oh sweet Jesus she looks good today.' Daniel mused to himself.
Alaine mindful of Daniels habit of staring at her backside, hurried through her mental notepad.
'Mobile phone, keys, cash and my inhaler.'
She shook the last item on her mental list, a small cylindrical container, 'Yeh, more than enough.' She said to herself.
Alaine suffered with asthma all her life but refused to accept it was a handicap. Over the years it became more of a personal trainer, making her push even harder, even further than she ever thought possible.
Again she picked up the cylindrical container and shook it once more.
"That's plenty. she whispered and deposited it back inside the bum bag.
Daniel and Alaine Crowwe had lived in California for over nine years and were regarded by their neighbours as the 'Hollywood couple.'
In her teens and early twenties Alaine's features could easily have graced many a magazine cover but her determination to achieve outweighed, what she considered, a shallow and short-lived career. Her classical ethnic features accentuated her tall, slightly muscular, ballerina-like frame, but as was the vogue of the day her natural curled African hair was ironed paper straight. Alaine's beauty and individuality commanded respect, but all were charmed by her personality.
Whenever they attended social functions, it was common for guests to quieten as they arrived, Daniel with his uncanny resemblance to the actor, Samuel L. Jackson beautifully complemented by Alaine's natural elegance.
Along with the positions they held in their respective occupations and the lifestyles they afforded, they had agreed to two things early on in their relationship, to live life to the full and no children.
Daniel continually reminded Alaine at moments of extravagance 'Life, my sweet, is not a rehearsal.'
From the outside their partnership seemed perfect; in reality it was even better. Daniel was ever attentive to Alaine's whims and yet both seemed to find enough time and energy for interests outside the relationship.
"So is the flying Furtbrger going to win today's race? Daniel continued, after receiving Alaine's silent treatment.
Through all of their relationship all conversations of a non-serious nature usually developed into a jaunty sparring. The aim of which was to get in the last word that had the most effect on the others composure.
"It is not a race and she is not a flying furtburger. Alaine countered. "And Daniel, do stop drinking from the carton, the glasses are just above the fridge to the right. In case you've forgotten.
Daniel frowned at the carton in his hand and marvelled at how quickly the conversation had been turned.
"Lottey, Alaine continued, through Daniels pause, "just needs to lose a few extra pounds and then she'll be able to run a little harder. .
"Run! Daniels voiced raised an octave in mock surprise, "the furtburger doesn't run, she hops from foot to foot! She realised months ago if she waggles her arse fast enough just before she goes out, it builds up enough energy in the dynamo she calls her buttocks to propel her forward. The whole idea from then on is to move her feet as fast as she can to stop herself from falling flat on her face. Daniel positioned himself in the centre of the room and proceeded to physically imitate his verbal explanation.
"This is my pre-run ass waggle. Daniel explained as he gyrated his hips like Elvis Presley with an invisible hoola-hoop. " Ohh I con felt my dynamoo beeing charjed. He said as he slapped and gripped at his buttocks with both hands.
Alaine noticed, Daniel had been polishing up his German accent.
"Ohh frueline its time.
Although Alaine knew Daniels explanation was not totally untrue she fought the smile creeping across her face
"You look like a pregnant penguin with piles. She observed coolly.
Daniel by now had twice circumnavigated the room in small hurried steps, like a man with his pants trapped around his ankles trying to escape the wrath of a jealous husband. With the exception Alaine noted, that this fool had a carton of freshly squeezed 'Delmonte Pure Orange' juice above his head. On his third pass around Alaine, Daniel disappeared into the kitchenette with his hands waving wildly above his head.
"Oh fruieline, fruieline, stoap my arss from moaving so fost I'm going to toaple ovah! he declared as he disappeared from sight.
The front door bell chimed heralding the arrival of the ever-punctual Lottey. Daniel emerged from the kitchenette shamefaced and propped himself against the arch separating the kitchenette from the diner, as Alaine opened the front door.
Lottey as usual caught her breath when she saw Alaine, "Ahhh! You loak boatifol frueline, she spotted Daniel hovering in the kitchen, "Donyel, dosnt yor boatiful wife look boatiful?
"Absolutely boatiful. Daniel replied sheepishly.
Alaine could finally grin a beaming smile at her husband as she disappeared through the front door. Daniel lifted his hand sharply as the door closed in a mock German salute and clicked his heels together.
"Lots get going, I'm so loaking forward too our ron dees moaning my deear. Lottey continued.
Daniel walked to the front window to watch them move away.
"Well fuck me sideways Lottey, you've built up that dynamo this morning. He mused
The pair increased their speed and steadily moved away from the house.
Daniel smiled to himself as he walked back towards the fridge. "Still looks like there's two pigs having a fight in those jog pants of yours though¦
Eighteen months later¦.
PATRICIA AND IAN
The late afternoon sun dappled the black tarmac in pools of white through the early summer greenery. Patricia O'Neill turned off the purring engine and climbed from the dark green Audi. She pushed her shoulder blades together to ease the tension building in her neck then opened the gate to her parent's front garden to see the once neatly manicured lawns now overgrown.
Ian, her husband, was close behind as always. The daily visit had become part of their routine, but its regularity did not make its necessity any easier to bear. Thank god she had Ian for support. He would often tell that no matter how bad things were, they must surely happen for a reason. Ian was an unassuming man who's only vice was his capacity to daydream, even through the film the Exorcist. He was large in frame and gentle in nature both inherited from his father.
"Talk quietly son, his father would say. "If you want people to listen.
Both Ian and Patricia led uncomplicated lives, much in part due to their undying loyalty towards one another. It prevented any jealousy or resentment from becoming a factor in their lives. To the spectator they were neither beautiful, nor handsome but their relationship was the envy of all their friends. They had come to know what true love meant and lived it daily.
They had been married for over six years bonding both on a physical and mental level. Ian knew his place and relished the thought of not having to make any major decisions about their relationship or their future plans. Patricia wore the trousers in the house but occasionally lent them back to Ian, and that was fine by him.
Their relationship had strengthened over the years to the point where the sexual aspect was no longer of paramount importance. When it happened it happened.
They were Mr and Mrs Average, never standing out in a crowd, and that's just the way they liked it.
"How come? Ian wondered to himself as they walked up the path, "Your bollocks have an uncanny knack of knowing when danger is close by?
Patricia pushed open the front door to her parents home. A machine-gun of thuds greeted them, as Sandy the family dog came hurtling down the stairs. Subconsciously Ian's scrotum tightened.
"Sandy Patricia's father would joke, "Is a long legged, pedigree staffordshire jack russell.
Sandy was blessed with the speed and agility of Muhammad Ali and the temperament of a right wing feminist. Even the cats in the neighbourhood were scared of her.
"Hi Sand. Patricia said nonchalantly.
She began picking up the scattered mail from behind the front door. Sandy body swerved around Patricia to greet Ian.
Ian, all too wary of Sandy's greetings bent swiftly at the waist and full stopped his left hand on the top of Sandy's head. His right hand feverishly scratched under her collar bribing her into submission.
"Good girl Ian encouraged. "That's a good girl
He and Sandy continued their tango of ever increasing circles in the hallway as Patricia climbed the stairs.
"Ian can you bring Mum a glass of water, she asked as she neared the top.
Submit you little bastard, Ian was still in the throws of cajoling Sandy and was too preoccupied to hear.
"Ian Patricia said in a stern whisper.
Ian straightened and Sandy's window of opportunity opened. Her strong muscular rear legs moved into action, forcing her body airborne, eyes closing mid flight. She struck with the force and accuracy of Big Ben.
"Sorry Pat I¦Orrf! The shock brought Ian back down into his original stooping position.
Sandy cowered realising her speciality wouldn't be appreciated before scampering back up the stairs.
"Ian will you stop messing around with Sandy Patricia snapped, "Come on now, I'll wait here for you.
Ian eased himself down the hallway John Wayne style, finally reaching the stainless steel sink in the kitchen.
"If women only knew the pain?
His mind began to wander, he recalled being thirteen years of age again, playing football at the rear of the Windermere Pub not far from where he lived. The freshly mown bowling green was always a joy to play on. The two-year-old leather Mitre football was looking three times its age with most of its leather having been scuffed away. It looked more like a planet of white islands in a muddy brown sea, with its weight doubled due to the recent downpour. Ian recalled perfectly how the goalkeepers kick out climbed into the sky, disappearing into the glare of the sunlight only to be glimpsed again on its plummeting descent. Nobody had dared put a head on it for fear of a severe concussion. Ian had positioned himself underneath the ball and had struck it on the half volley with an effortless Pele thump. He remembered it felt like kicking through melted butter, as the ball began its journey at high speed, gradually inclining into a blur. The goalkeeper was rooted to the spot as the planet soared towards the top corner of the goal posted sweatshirts, only to come to an abrupt end on Irene Baxingdales chest, who for some unknown reason had drifted into the playing arena.
'My, how she lifted off the floor!'
Ian recalled how Patricia had ran across the pitch and slapped him across the face for laughing.
"Have you any idea how much that hurts, you fucking dickhead? She fumed.
This was to become one of Patricia's favourite sayings over the years, used frequently in every circumstance whether she was happy, sad or raging with anger.
"And the rest is history. Ian said out loud to himself.
"Ian Patricia hissed from the stairwell.
Ian snatched an upturned glass from the draining board, filled it under the tap and made a hasty retreat back down the hall to the stairs.
"I wish you'd stop getting Sandy so excited Patricia scolded Ian as he stepped onto the first stair.
"I'll sandy her fucking arse with one of these one day. Ian replied, pointing at his size eleven right shoe.
She turned away smiling and they both climbed the stairs together.
Patricia pushed open the door to her parent's bedroom. Beryl, her mum, sat motionless on a chair at the foot of the large double bed.
Patricia walked to her Fathers side kissed his cheek and placed her hand on his forehead. She studied her fathers face for a moment then routinely rearranged the pillows around him.
Beryl watched her daughter and recalled how as a child she would subconsciously rest her hand on her Fathers forehead before she would fall asleep. John would say it was better than any comforter money could buy.
Patricia moved to the edge of the bed and sat near her Mother.
"How's Dad been today mum?
Ian moved behind Beryl and placed his hands on her shoulders.
"Hi Beryl he whispered.
"The carers have been earlier today Beryl answered, as she stroked Ian's hand. "You've missed them, such lovely people you know? They've shown me how to use that oxygen machine thingy nodding towards the bedside cabinet.
Patricia and Ian both glanced at the black cylinder and facemask perched on the edge of the cabinet.
Patricia's Fathers eyes were closed, he sat with the help of strategically positioned pillows. He had suffered with terminal lung cancer for over four months, his wasted frame was motionless apart from the slow heaving breaths that wracked his body. His arms hung limp at his sides, with the gold retirement watch he treasured so much hanging from his bony wrist. The skin on his face had stretched drum tight, his mouth slightly open, he breathed as if sucking air through mud. His legs, swollen to the point of bursting poked out from under the sheets.
Over the next hour Patricia continued to move back to her dads side, plumping up the pillows, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. As she sat back down her father started to murmur under his breath, the mumbling quickly developing into a wrenching coughing fit. Beryl jolted from her chair to his side, staring at her husbands face turning plum red with exertion.
"John, it's OK love Beryl placed her hand at the back of his neck, and gently pulled him forward to ease his breathing.
Patricia and Ian moved to Beryl's side.
"John, its OK love, come on now breathe love. Beryl encouraged.
John's mouth ran with saliva as he struggled to draw in breath. Beryl knew the coughing should have subsided by now.
"Dad Patricia's voice rose. "Dad, breath now.
Suddenly the coughing came to an abrupt end but was replaced by a dry high pitch wheeze as John struggled to draw in air.
"Oh John not now, not yet. Beryl pleaded, tears welling up in her eyes.
Patricia grabbed the oxygen cylinder off the sideboard and handed it to her Mum. Quickly Beryl positioned the mask over John's face the way she had been instructed and opened up the valve.
She quickly closed the valve back to its starting position and reopened it once again.
"Oh no John, not like this. Not like this love. In her desperation she had pressed the rubber mask too hard against her husbands face, pushing his lips back into a toothy grin.
John's hands moved up Beryl's forearms and over her hands, he prised the mask from her grip and dropped it onto the bed beside him.
"No Dad, no Patricia pleaded and moved to pick up the mask lying on the bed.
Ian wrapped his arms around Patricia to stop her.
"Look Pat, look at your Dad now Ian instructs.
Patricia looked into her fathers face and noticed how calm and tranquil her Fathers features had become. A smile crept across his face, as he no longer struggled for breath. Johns gaze returned back to his wife, cupping her hands tightly he stared into Beryl's eyes and moving his head from side to side, his silent expression conveyed it was his time. His opaque blue eyes brimmed with tears, his eyelids fluttered for a moment before closing sending tears tumbling down his cheeks. His head fell slowly forward and John passes away.
Sally Reeves was beautiful but on the quirky side. Her choice of clothes had been narrowed down the previous evening to seven. All the girls had arranged to meet at The Metropolis Bar in the centre of town at 8.00pm.
Sally's blue eyes studied the reflection in the bathroom mirror. She knew the amount of drugs she took when out clubbing crippled her appetite and reduced her shapely size ten figure to a spindly size eight.
But, 'she was wearing well for her twenty-four years,' she considered. 'Anyway life was for living.'
Her blonde shoulder length hair never seemed to grow fast enough anymore. Her Mother warned on numerous occasions she would regret the day it was cut into a bob, but fashion has a habit of dropping faux pas in everyone's lives some you can laugh about and some you regret, this was one Sally regretted.
While Sally scrutinised her mirror image a number of conclusions sprung to mind, her straight nose and strong jaw line she inherited from her fathers Swedish side, where too straight and too strong, her lips were too thin and her cheekbones slightly too low. She was also convinced that one of her ears was higher than the other, even though she could get no one else to agree.
As a nurse working at The Stotton General Hospital looks were not a priority, but when it came to a night out she could pull out all the stops astonishing people with the transformation
Sally always dismissed any compliments received with a simple, but curt, "I suppose I do scrub up quite well.
Which generally stopped the conversation from continuing any further.
At work Sally fell into the category 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' and for that reason was treated with a great deal of respect by her colleagues, but as a friend she was irreplaceable.
The doorbell rang. She knew it had to be Kate because it was half seven and Kate was always punctual. They had both met during their nurse training and bonded instantly with their sick sense of humour. Kate looked after Sally when they were out and was all too aware of Sally's destructive side. Yet she was always in awe of her nursing skills especially with the terminally ill. Her humour eased the daily pain for patients on her ward, and no one could emulate her calmness and compassion with the relatives and friends who visited.
Sally opened the front door and they both screamed at each other in stereo, "Hiya babe.
Throwing their arms around each other like long lost friends they swayed from side to side.
"Are you wearing that tonight Sal? Very sexy. Kate said pointing at Sally's dusty grey housecoat.
"Nice isn't it? Vivienne Westwood. Sally replied spinning around catwalk style. "C'mon Kate lets have a drink?
Sally grabbed both of Kate's hands and dragged her inside. Sally's bed-sit looked like a teenage squatters bedroom. Total chaos except for the coffee table, which had its usual layer of clothes pushed off the end and onto the floor. In their place stood a bottle of Smirnoff vodka with a third of its contents already gone, and two glasses, one of which was half full.
"Not just yet Sal we've got another hour before we meet the girls.
Sally picked up her glass and raised it towards Kate, "you don't mind if I do? and gulped down the clear liquid.
"Wow! Sally said wiping the side of her mouth with the back of her hand. Then promptly refilled the glass with more vodka.
By 8.00 pm their usual post mortem of the weeks events had finished along with Sally's make-up and the bottle of vodka. The ghetto blasters speakers worked overtime, with the volume permanently cranked to maximum. The volume knob had an elastoplast taped across it with the words `DO NOT TOUCH` written in black ink. A tip Sally picked up from a maintenance electrician at the hospital.
"I'll go get changed. Sally declared bumping off the corner of the sofa.
"Oops she giggled and headed towards the bathroom. Kate followed her.
"What you wearing tonight Sal?
"Versace Sally replies, pulling a black mini dress over her head.
Sally lived in the cheapest bed-sit in the city affording her the pleasure of the designer market. This was another aspect of Sally's destructive side, everything revolved around the weekend. She lusted for life to the extreme.
"Think I need something to perk me up Kate, Sally said with a smirk on her face.
She reached into the bathroom cupboard and retrieved her stash of cocaine.
"Fucking hell Sally it's only a quarter past eight. The taxi will be here any minute.
Sally made a small line of cocaine on top of the bathroom sink and with a tightly rolled up twenty pound note, she had nicknamed 'Dyson,' hoovered the white powder up her nose. Sally bent down giggling, reaching for her black open toed high-heeled shoes and slipped them on her feet.
"And now for the coup de grace she said bumping into Kate as she walked back into the bedroom towards the wardrobe.
Sally's head and shoulders disappeared inside as she wrestled with the contents within.
"Just one more thing Kate she mumbled from the interior. She reappeared magicians' assistant style. "Darraaa!
Sally stood with her arms outstretched eager for applause. The strawberry blonde wig she wore reached down to her waist.
"Fuckin` hell Sal it's gorgeous Kate screamed.
"It was in a sale! Sally screeched back.
The two friends whirled around in circles holding onto each other's elbows as the ghetto blaster thundered to the sound of `Lust for Life` by Iggy Pop.
I WANT TO COME WITH YOU (MAY 6TH)
Patricia's Father was pronounced dead at 9.10 pm by the family doctor. Beryl's calm soon deteriorated into sobbing hysteria, she called out her dead husbands name over and over again. Patricia asked the doctor for a sedative to try and calm her Mother down. The doctor handed Patricia a small brown bottle containing six Diazepam tablets.
"Just one for tonight Pat and see how she feels in the morning he directed.
Soon Beryl became more relaxed and John's body could finally be taken from the house.
Ian knew what was on Patricia's mind before the question was brought up.
"Your Mum can stay with us for the next couple of weeks Pat. We can keep a better eye on her at home.
Patricia nodded and went upstairs to get a night bag and a change of clothes for her Mother. Ian took Beryl by the arm and helped her down the path. Patricia caught up with them up as they reached the car.
"Mind your head Mum, she warned as Beryl eased herself into the back passenger seat. "Can you drive tonight Ian? I don't feel up to it.
"No problem Pat. Ian nodded
As he pulled out of Patricia's parent's road Beryl began to fall asleep in the back seat. They drove along in silence for a couple of miles.
"Ian? Patricia broke the silence.
"I could never imagine being without you. You know that don't you?
Ian tried to interrupt but Patricia raised her hand to stop him.
"We've our whole lives in front of us. I want us to enjoy every bit of our time together. Promise me Ian, you'll never leave my side, even if one of us dies.
Ian realised there was no point in discussing this practically.
"Pat we're only thirty four. We've been together now for over twenty years and I've never enjoyed being away from your side, I hope the next twenty one and the twenty one after that, are as good to us both. Ok? Ian glanced across at Patricia, who relaxed back into her seat, deep in thought.
Ian drove in his usual casual manner, with one hand holding the top of the steering wheel the other resting on the gear stick.
"I love you Ian. Patricia placed her hand down on top of Ian's and held it tightly.
Ian knew this was an extraordinary special moment, but could not understand why.
"I love you forever. He replied back.
RWANDA (MAY 6TH)
In Rwanda, the two-month-old revolution had developed into civil war between the government troops and General Alex Jimnu, the Tume tribe leader. The UN forces despatched there were desperately trying to prevent clashes between the warring factions, but undermanned and underpowered the country was rapidly descending into anarchy. The government backed troops policy was one of ethnic cleansing, ruthlessly killing the men, women and children in each Tume (Toomee) village in an attempt to turn the people against their leader, General Jimnu.
In a village called Gabomn on the outskirts of the fighting it was 4.10pm. Dr. Daniel Crowwe stood alone in his tent. The so-called Samuel L Jackson look alike was exhausted. Sleep starved eyes stared back at him from his mirror. He had been on his feet for over twenty hours, treating the casualties of the civil war. Daniel was convinced he was as apt at butchery as the government troops that rampaged through the Tume villages, amputating and hacking bodies into crude and grotesque shapes. His incoherent speech fuelled by exhaustion whispered to his reflection.
"How the fuck did you get here? he paused, "How the fuck did you get here?
Daniel glanced down at his watch.
"Twenty three fucking hours! Man O man.' He arched his back looking up at the canvas ceiling of his tent.
"Twenty three fucking hours!
His last patient was a young girl no more than twelve years old. It was strange how in the melee of the emergency operation tent she had caught his attention. Lying down on the hospital trolley, her elbows back, elevating her upper body into a half sitting half lying position. She looked as if she was scanning the tent for a familiar face.
She smiled at him, and he returned the gesture, making his way through the mass of doctors, nurses and patients to her side. It puzzled Daniel why she was in the emergency tent in the first place. She never took her eyes off him until he reached her side. Her smile however, contradicted harshly with her condition. The shrapnel wound from the exploded mortar shell was deeply embedded in her abdomen. She was in shock but totally aware of her surroundings. Daniel knew the scorched shell casing had cauterised most of the veins on entry and now understood why the other doctors had passed her by. She was going to die.
For all the horrors Daniel had endured he could not allow her to die looking at a charred lump of metal jutting from her body.
"Get me some anaesthetic. He ordered one of the volunteer nurses.
"But doctor there's more import¦.
"Nurse did you hear what I said? Daniel barked.
"Yes doctor the nurse replied and rushed to get the anaesthetic.
Daniel returned to his patient, "Hello little mouse and what's your name? he pushed the child's matted hair from her face.
"Maron Marindou, Mr. doctor. She answered.
The nurse returned and proceeded to inject the anaesthetic into Maron`s arm.
"Maron you may feel a little pain my sweet but its nothing to worry about, do you understand?
The anaesthetic started to take effect immediately.
"Yes. She replied in a whisper.
After ten minutes of effort, Daniel was finally able to remove the casing, he slipped his fingers down and under the base, the shell eventually freed itself with a sucking sound like pulling a Wellington boot out of mud, Maron gasped her eyes opened wide.
"It won't be long now Maron. Was all Daniel could think to say, he rested his hand on her forehead.
Maron sucked in her last breath and mouthed "Thank you Daniel.
The arteries in her stomach that were not cauterised immediately sprung to life, pumping blood out of her body.
Daniel closed her half open eyelids with his hand. "Sweet dreams little mouse, sweet dreams Then retired to his tent.
Now an exhausted stranger stared back at him from his mirror, he glanced down at his watch. The LED display showed 8.17 am. Daniel returned to his reflection.
"Jesus! How the fuck did she know my name? Daniel reflected.
"Did I say Jesus? He laughed sarcastically. "What fucking God would allow such brutality?
The pent up anger bristled inside him, "What the fuck have these people done to deserve this?
Daniels hands hung at his sides the knuckles of his fists turning white. He stood screaming at his reflection, "You call yourself a God? A God of war, you fucking bastard!
The veins along the side of his neck and forehead stood out like a three-dimensional rail map across his skin. Adrenalin coursed through his body, he stood screaming at the mirror like a drunk seconds before a fight.
"I need help you fucking bastard. I need help!
In England the minute hand moves on one, the Greenwich time clock reads 10.18 pm.
SEA OF GALILLEE (MAY 6TH)
Sally and Kate reached The Metropolis Bar at eight thirty and over the next three quarters of an hour managed to drink six black Russians along with six tequila slammers. They fell into 'The Pulse' nightclub at a 9.45pm closely followed by the rest of their friends. The writhing mass of clubbers moved as one to the hypnotic sound of the music booming from the speakers. Sally and Kate ease themselves onto the dance floor and scouted around the club eyeing up possible concubines for the night, before deciding to move back to the bar. On the next tequila slammer Sally suddenly felt the urge to hurl. She tried to push the thought to the back of her mind but her stomach slowly folded in on itself as pins and needles gradually crept across her scalp. Sally balked as saliva forced its way into her mouth. She knew drastic measures were called for and with her chin leading the way she pushed through the throng of the club. By now her puffed out cheeks held the contents of her stomach. She struggled in an admirable attempt to reach the ladies toilet. Like a scene from the film Moses, club goers parted like the Sea of Galilee in front of her. Even in this condition it dawned on Sally this could be a great way to get to the bar quickly in future.
Eventually she reached her oasis and pushing past the waiting queue, she kicked open the nearest toilet door her head arced down depositing a litre of vomit against the back wall, her head finally came to rest between her legs. Sally was bent double and clutched onto her knees to stop herself from dropping to the floor as saliva dribbled from her mouth onto and into her black open toed shoes. Her larynx already scorched by the vomit she moaned like a water buffalo on heat.
"OOAARRRRR! Then dribbled again,
"Oh God! Oh God! Sally whined, "I hope no one seen me!
Sally finally mustered the strength to raise her head. The young girl in the same cubicle as her never stood a chance. She remembered hovering over the toilet bowl mid wee, her right hand was outstretched holding the lockless door nearly closed and was surprised the toilet door was pushed so hard, but not as surprised as she was now.
Sally stared quizzically at the living picture of modern art in front of her. As it suddenly dawned on her on what she has actually done.
"Oh! I, am, so, sorry. I didn't realise...
She didn't get the opportunity to express her full apology as the young girl burst into tears. Sally hastily retreated and disappeared back into the throng of the nightclub.
Kate had been looking for Sally and she had last saw her talking with Jack, an ex boyfriend, in the chill out room. Kate finally caught a glimpse of her slumped on the floor against a chair being sick. She pushed her way through the crowd to her side. Sally's legs were folded under her backside, her arm resting on the seat of a chair with her head lolling on to her chest.
"Sally, what's up babe? She lifted Sally's head and was shocked to see Sally had been crying. "Is it that fuckin prick Sal, tell me?
"Oh Kate Sally moaned, "what's it all about? I don't know what's up with me anymore.
"You're just mashed Sal that's all, c'mon lets get back to the girls.
" No its not that at all Kate, something's been wrong in my head for a while now I feel as though I'm not able to think straight, as if my thoughts are out of sync with my body.
Kate realised it was time to get Sally out of there and tried to keep the conversation light hearted.
"Why are we here Kate?
"It's the girls night out Sal, that's why.
"No Kate, there must be a reason why we're put here, a reason for us being here?
Kate interrupted. "Come on Sal I've heard enough, you're going home.
Sally's head lolled back down onto her chest.
"Sally come on now. Kate coaxed, "We need to be making a move.
"I don't want to be here any longer Kate.
"Thank Christ for that, neither do I.
"No Kate, I don't want to be apart of this anymore, Sally moved her hand in a sweeping gesture across the club as she spoke, "this world.
The words shook Kate to the core, "Sally stand up and let's make our way out. she paused, "you Ok with that?
"Oh God I need help, please God I need help. Sally begged.
"Sally you're not making any sense. C'mon babe. Tears welled in Kate's eyes as she tried to pick Sally off the floor.
Sally's head slowly dropped down again, then suddenly snapped back. She stared at Kate.
"What time is it?
"Pardon? Kate replied.
"What time is it Kate? Sally questioned.
Kate looked down at her watch Eighteen minutes past ten.
"I think its time you got me home now Kate. Sally said, as if the last five minutes had never happened. Kate marvelled at how sober she suddenly looked.
"Hallelujah Kate responded.
As the taxi pulled up outside Sally's flat she turned to Kate, "I'm fine now Kate, just a mini life crisis, that's all. She took hold of Kate's hand, "I want to start to help the living to live Kate, not the dying to die. You do understand don't you? Of course you do.
With that she pecked Kate on the cheek and clambered out of the taxi, without paying.
"See you next week Kate
"Not if I can help it. Kate replied.
MICHELLE SINGER (MAY 6TH)
Michelle Singer was a twenty six year old reckless alcoholic, hurtling at speed through the Farranby bypass, just five miles from her home.
For the past five years she had relentlessly fought the notion that she could be a simmering fucking bean flicker, (a lesbian to you and I) broken relationships being her forte. She had finally found comfort in her male office colleagues, who viewed her as a 'mate with tits.' She could play pool, drink, smoke and swear with the best of them. Every lunchtime it would begin. "Alright Michelle, you old slapper.
"Wind your Neck in you tub of shite, Michelle would counter, smiling.
These hour-long liquid lunches developed into all day binges, and she delighted her male contemporaries with the fact that she could drink each and every one of them under the table.
Now at 10.15 pm speeding along the bypass with a cigarette perched between her puckered lips, she screwed her eyes up to focus on the road. Her thoughts turned to Janet, the new office clerk, whose dark brown skin seemed to penetrate her cotton blouse as she moved. Her unusually large breasts dwarfed her lithe frame. Janet moved effortlessly around the office, oblivious to the effect her relaxed gait had on both sexes. Janet was far too concerned with trying to be good at her job.
Michelle fingered the electric window button in the door, as the cigarette smoke began to curl and wisp inside the car. Her thoughts returned to Janet and her perfect dream scenario.
The office emptied after the day's activities. Michelle, in her usual office attire of grey slacks, white blouse and broached collar sat on the edge of her desk. Between her legs is Janet her buttocks rhythmically pushing against Michelle's aching pubic bone. Janet's head is turned to the side, as if looking over her shoulder, their tongues flicking in and out of each other's mouths. Michelle slowly begins to unhook the buttons on the front of Janet's white cotton blouse. The last button finally popped from its restraint. Michelle's heart thumped with excitement from inside her car. She can see her hands slide up Janet's dark torso as her fingers begin to work on the front fastening bra Janet wore.
The car pushed eighty-five miles an hour. Michelle shifted her weight from behind the wheel feeling more comfortable with her thoughts after the days drinking.
The fastener finally unclipped, the weight of Janet's breasts held themselves within the cups of her underwear. Michelle slowly pulls the clips apart, Janet moans as her huge breasts spill out, Michelle's milky white hands greedily slide up and cup her breasts firmly, immediately letting their weight slip through her fingers, Janet's erect nipples snagging between each of her fingers as gravity has its way. Michelle now pictures her hands moving down Janet's body resting on the hemline of her skirt, she begins to ease the skirt up her dark smooth thighs, Janet straightens her legs in anticipation allowing the skirt to slide up and over her buttocks ¦¦.
"Fuck! Michelle screamed.
The cars front wheel rebounded off the curb. The steering wheel was snatched from her grip as the car uncontrollably lunged across the central divide into the oncoming headlights.
"No! Michelle moaned, her right arm automatically moved up to protect her face seconds before impact. The time on the clock inside the car displayed 10:18.
It's 10.08pm and the night has closed in quickly. Wisps of charcoal grey humus clouds are scattered generously across the deep blue -black sky. Ian and Patricia's Audi approached the Esplen Junction.
"Which way Pat? Ian asked.
Since they had moved to their new home the journey to Patricia's Mums house would normally take twenty minutes to reach but they both preferred the more scenic route through Ingle Woods adding another ten minutes to their journey.
"Not through the woods tonight love, lets go the short way.' Patricia replied.
Ian had routinely indicated to go right through Ingle Woods, he pushed the indicator lever down and changed the signal to left turning onto the Farranby Bypass.
"John, come back John. Beryl started to mumble from the back seat, "I want to come with you.
The Valium had slurred her words
"John pleeaase. Wait, I need to speak with you. Let me come with you John?
Second gear, third gear the Audi's engine purred with ease. `What a Wonderful World` by Louis Armstrong played on the car radio. Fourth gear, up to sixty miles an hour and into fifth.
Ian thought he noticed one of the oncoming cars flash their headlights towards him, he glanced down at the dashboard to check if his headlights were on. 'Maybe their just warning me there's a police speed trap up ahead.' He thought.
As he looked back at the road Ian remembered thinking how beautiful the sky looked. Monet, the great impressionist himself, could have painted this sky Ian thought. The moon dripped silver mercury on top of the bubbling, gurgling clouds beneath, patternating the sky with aluminium tints against the deep blue backdrop.
It was then in a split second Ian realised the cars headlights where not flashing him but bearing down on them at speed in an inescapable front end collision. Instinctively Ian moved his body in an attempt to protect Patricia. The seatbelt restraint locked him into his seat, the momentum making Ian's right arm arc across his body slapping Patricia across the face.
His last recollection was the look on Patricia's face. A question.
"What was that for?
Sergeant Lake recalled back in the police station how the crash inspectors estimated the point of impact at one hundred and forty miles an hour. Scattered metal and remains where retrieved from over forty yards from the brutal collision. The three innocent lives lost never stood a chance.
The time of the fatalities were recorded at 10.18 pm.
Dr. Daniel Crowwe rose from his slumber feeling more relaxed than he had for a long time.
"That must have done me the world of good last night, he thought, recalling his outburst.
He stretched his body into the waking world. "wweeeuuggrrrrrrr! expanding and reaching like a bodybuilder moving through his repertoire of best poses.
Daniel, half dressed, walked over to the water jug and bowl standing on a small table in the corner of his tented room. He scooped the tepid water with his cupped hands and washed his face. As he began to brush his teeth his mind flickered across his ranting from the previous evening.
Daniel mulled over the last time he had actually cried. He recalled as a child stopping himself from being emotional even after Jay, his pet Labrador, had suddenly died. He remembered watching his father moving Jay to the garage, his impassive appearance probably hiding his true feelings mistakenly trying to protect Daniel from the emotional overload. As a child Daniel had subconsciously interpreted this as a sign of strength and tried to follow this philosophy by fighting back any lump that tried to rise in the back of his throat.
Until, in his room that evening as he closed his bedroom door behind him Jay's collar with the chained lead still attached jingled with the movement, Daniel stood rooted to the spot as the weight of the day finally lighted on his shoulders, and this time the lump didn't have the option of growing. It surfaced unexpectedly as a cry of pain. Daniel remembered how he had quickly buried his head into his pillow on the bed to smother his sobs. His Mother, who had been waiting for this moment to break was inexplicably by his side holding him tight and whispering into his ear as she cradled him.
"Sshhh now Daniel. Its Ok she repeated over and over.
Until Daniel was ready to raise his head she continued to comfort him. Finally she wiped the tears from his face and lowered her eye level to his, "Daniel, they don't call it a good cry for nothing son. She said and then hugged him once more.
Daniel smiled at the memory, gargled and spat into the bowl.
The mesh door was suddenly pushed ajar to his room, a young nurse thrust her head through the opening.
"Dr. Crowwe your needed in surgery right away!
Daniel quickly followed the nurse to the operating tent to find a patient he had operated on earlier in the week having complications. He sterilised his hands as a nurse quickly fastened the back of his operating gown.
"What's happened? he asked the doctor in charge.
"She's bleeding internally Dr. Crowwe. I.. I.. the young doctor looked pained.
"Its OK Doctor. Lets go through this, one step at a time. Daniel reassured him.
The original abdominal incision had been reopened. Daniel moved quickly and purposefully moving the stomach contents in an attempt to find the problem, with a process of elimination he had soon located a large clot.
"I can see the point of haemorrhaging. Nurse, suction please. He said positively.
Daniel positioned his finger and thumb over the clot as he prised the folds of the stomach wall away from the area with his fingers.
"Nurse, clamp please Daniel said more calmly, as the crisis began to come under control.
Daniel held out his right hand waiting for the clamp to be slapped into his palm. He glanced up at the nurse
"Nurse? he said quizzically.
The nurse's attention was focused on Daniels outstretched hand. She had a worried expression on her face as she held the clamp hovering above his right hand.
"Nurse! he barked.
Daniel looked at his upturned palm. His hand shook as if his arm was rested against a washing machine on spin mode.
Sweat began to bead and run down his face, as he felt his left hand struggling to keep a grip on the bleeding vein. Daniel glanced back down into the patient's abdomen and repositioned his fingers then returned his gaze back to his shaking hand.
"Oh please God no! he uttered silently to himself.
Daniel suddenly became acutely aware of the hairs on the back of his neck springing into action. He seemed to be watching his shaking hand from another perspective, as if he were looking through somebody else's eyes. The vision seemed surreal as everything around blurred apart from his hand, and what felt like the zoom on a video camera being panned back as his hand travelled into the distance. Daniel watched, or witnessed, he wasn't quite sure, as the trembling in his hand gradually eased then finally subsided.
The nurse gingerly placed the clamp into his palm. The feeling of cold steel abruptly fast-forwarded Daniel back into reality. His fingers curled around the clamp automatically repositioning it in his hand as he continued with his work.
"Ok doctor I think you can suture from here. Daniel said, as he applied the clamp above the point of bleeding. He stepped backwards away from the operating table allowing the young doctor access to the patient
"Thank you Doctor Crowwe, said the relieved young doctor. "Thank you so much.
Daniel pulled the sterilised gloves from his hands depositing them into the bin as he walked from the operating tent. The fresh African air smelt good as the warm morning sun settled against his skin, he strolled toward the canteen hut.
"I need food, he thought.
The sound of a collision of that size should be deafening. Quite the opposite, from inside the car a fizz of white noise could be heard followed by a muffled thud similar to that of a firework rocket after the blue touch paper had been primed.
Patricia could hear muffled sounds around her, yet she seemed immersed in a twilight zone somewhere between opening your eyes or drifting back to asleep.
"Hello Patricia my name is Jacob
"I'm sorry, what did you say? she managed groggily.
Patricia's eyelids slowly unglued themselves from each other.
"I said my name is Jacob.
Patricia did not recognise the voice, but his tone was articulate and bright. Patricia's eyes strained into focus as smudges of mottled greys greens and blues melded together.
The room she was in had no walls yet there where boundaries. For all intents and purposes Patricia was sitting in a glass ball in the middle of a fast moving stream, muted greens and greys dappled and danced with reflected light running under, over and around her, fusing together into perimeters that somehow existed.
Jacob stood opposite, arms folded in a relaxed manner across his chest. Patricia guessed he was in his mid forties, about five foot eleven, neither muscular nor overweight a natural one hundred and eighty pounds.
He waited silently approximately ten feet away allowing Patricia a moment to gather her thoughts. He unfolded his arms and walked toward her. The natural coloured linen gown he wore was ankle length and tailored into an open V at the neck. The crisp material sounded like smooth sandpaper being rubbed together as it moved effortlessly around his body.
Jacobs's origin of birth was indistinguishable. On first appearance with his high cheekbones and strong jaw line he could be Greek, but his thick lips and broad nose lent towards an ethnic origin. His eyes were hazel green, the eyelids hooded giving an Asian quality and his complexion was that of a suntanned European, yet all his features fell into proportion on a handsome face. Patricia noticed Jacobs's skin was flawless, almost velvety. It stretched tightly across his baldhead, the dark brown hair that bordered his ears and across the nape of his neck was skilfully scissor cut.
Patricia never understood why a bald man could allow a moustache to grow around the back of his head. Maybe it was vanity or maybe he was simply holding onto his youth.
Jacob outstretched his arm and took Patricia's hand in a warm but firm handshake.
"Hello my name is Jacob. And it's vainness.
"I'm sorry? Patricia replied.
"Never mind. Jacob said, swishing his hand nonchalantly in front of his face.
"Where's Ian? Where's mum? Patricia asked surprisingly matter of factly.
"You're mum and Ian are no longer here.
"In the hospital? Patricia questioned.
"The hospital? Jacob repeated quizzically, No, no, you misunderstand. Your mum was given her last wish to be with your Father, but as for Ian, I'm afraid I've no idea.
Patricia frowned. "But my Dad died earlier today.
There was a short pause.
"That is correct Patricia. As have your Mother, Ian and yourself. Jacob replied
Patricia juxtaposed Jacob's words in her head hoping they would make more sense. She understood what she had heard but was surprised how comfortable the words were to accept.
'Surely hysteria should be kicking in now.' She thought, but instead she felt wrapped in a cocoon like utopia cut off from her feelings. Scrubbed clean of all the stresses of life, as if she where back floating in her mothers womb. A new and fresh start seemed the logical next step.
"You have a journey yet to travel before you will all meet again. Jacob continued. "Excuse me? Patricia interrupted.
"You are to become a guardian Patricia. You will help guide and assist your host to complete their purpose. She or he may not be the conclusion, just a small part of the time line.
"Whoa there sapphire Patricia held her hands up toward Jacob. "Time out Jacob, I'm missing out on something here? She paused, "A time line?
"You will be part of a string of events Patricia Jacob continued, "which could last a second, a minute, an hour, a day or maybe a year, a decade, a¦.
"I've got the point Jacob. Patricia interrupted.
"Or even a century. Jacob finished the sentence, " A small link that's needed to complete the chain.
"Please explain in simple terms Jacob.
"Let me see. He paused rubbing his chin. "Like the woman who wrote the poem, that moved the man to marry the girl that bore the child, who became the catalyst in the partnership that cured the world of cancer, type of scenario. Or maybe Patricia, you just help someone decide to go left instead of right. That's a time line, where you are in the time line may seem insignificant but you are there for a purpose. Jacob paused allowing his explanation to be digested. "Patricia, some people know deep down they are special and go about their lives waiting for their chance to prove themselves. When in fact they are playing their part in the time line. Them being there, is the link in the chain. It could be their daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter or someone connected to them who will become the catalyst to a chain of events. But without them the line falls apart.
Patricia felt overawed trying to comprehend what was being said. Although helping someone to turn left or right seemed the better alternative of the two right now. Or maybe she was just dreaming.
Jacobs's enthusiasm for people to listen made it easier for Patricia to glean information.
"Is everyone to become a guardian Jacob? she pressed.
"Not everyone, some come to the end of their journey in their first chapter, long life being their entire time line, in their journey they would of already unconsciously guided people into making decisions and choices around them, which in turn lap onto other peoples decisions completing the chain.
"I see. Patricia encouraged.
Jacob paused for breath, "On the other hand there are some whose journey will never end. You'd be surprised Patricia at some of the guardians we have.
"For example? Patricia pushed.
"Adolph Hitler for one.
"Never! Patricia said exaggeratingly.
"This may come as a surprise to you Patricia but there is no such place as hell as you know it. Everyone travels through this corridor. Fortunately Adolph's journey will never end.
Patricia stood opposite Jacob impatient for knowledge.
"His host is in Jerusalem Jacob continued, "His duty is to swish the tail of his camel and swat the flies off its poop-hole.
"What? Patricia said in dismay.
Jacob paused, "You don't honestly think the camel instinctively knows where the flies are do you?
Patricia looked agog.
"Every time his camel dies he moves onto the next one, until there are no Jewish camels left in the country.
"You're joking me Jacob? Patricia paused. "Aren't you?
"Yes I suppose I am. That's very naughty of me, but it's not that far from the truth. Jacob chuckled. "Our time is coming to an end Patricia, its time that you met your host.
"One question before we go Jacob?
"Of course. Jacob replied.
"Why didn't you just give Hitler a heart attack before he got started?
"Occasionally Patricia, there are blips¦
"I don't call Hitler a blip. Patricia interrupted.
"The time line is as big and wide and deep as any ocean you know of Patricia. Every link overlaps and interlinks with the next, they ebb and flow in harmony with each other. Each movement has a bearing on another, which results in plotting time itself. What occurs in California could have a domino effect on an event that happens, in say, Liverpool. To interrupt the time line would be to slice through future history itself causing untold damage. Blips occur like Mr Hitler, another link will be introduced as a restraint measure to control the crisis. The effect granted, is neither immediate nor appropriate but what may seem like a catastrophe could in fact be part of the time line after all.
Patricia remembered Ian's philosophy on life, 'everything happened for a reason Pat.' It comforted and calmed her.
When your journey is finally over Patricia, you will have a far greater understanding about the time line and its consequences. Now we really must go. Jacob indicated for Patricia to turn around and face in the other direction.
TIME TO MEET YOUR HOST
The mottled grey and green borders peeled away like the night's blanket uncovering the day. Patricia and Jacob stood in a brightly lit bathroom, a naked light bulb hung from the ceiling bouncing light off the white tiles. Past experience told Patricia the bathroom was part of a students bed sit, possibly one bed roomed with an open plan kitchen come lounge. Her eyes told her the flat belonged to a young single woman in her mid twenties by the amount of designer labels she could see liberally scattered across the floor, sink, bath and walls. Patricia quickly counted six dresses, four sets of underwear and four pairs of shoes. Tubs of cream and tubes of make up poked out from underneath the long blonde wig left on the sink. Patricia noticed, judging by the remnants left matted on the ends, its last occupant had enjoyed what looked like a chicken korma the previous evening.
"Have they moved the New York tipper tape parade this year Jacob? Patricia asked still scanning the chaos in front of her.
"Her name Patricia is Sally Reeves. Jacob replied from behind her.
She turned to face Jacob. "Sally Reeves eh?
Jacob was gone.
"Jacob? She called, "Jacob? That cant be it, I can't be ready for this yet
Patricia was alone.
Over past couple of hours, all of Patricia's attention had been totally focused on what Jacob was saying. She could just about comprehend the time line and its importance but now she felt abandoned and alone. Patricia sat slumped on the corner of the bath, and raised her head optimistically.
"Ian are you there? Can you hear me? Tears began to roll down Patricia's face.
"Ian you promised you would never leave me. Her shoulders shuddered with each breath she took.
"Please Ian I need you now.
The bathroom fell silent. Patricia finally accepted she was alone.
Tears dropped from her chin onto a red Moschino dress at her feet, she didn't notice the tears stains disappear as they fell onto the Lycra material.
"Come on pull yourself together. Patricia said aloud.
Slowly bringing her breathing under control she leant forward and picked up the red Moschino dress from the floor and wiped away her tears, then blew her nose loudly into it.
An unusual droning hum caught her attention, a low drilling sound not unlike a dentists drill could be heard from the other room. Patricia realised it was an alarm clock by the sound it made as it bounced off the bathroom door. It was swiftly followed by a drawn out, "fuuucking hell! screamed at the top of the persons voice from the other side.
"Jesus Jacob what have you given me. Patricia whispered.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, the voice from behind the door cursed.
Patricia could hear shuffling feet moving towards the bathroom and held her breath in anticipation as the bathroom door was gingerly pushed open.
Patricia exhaled in shock, "fu¦cking hell!
There in the doorway stood Beelzebub's ugly sister. She shuffled tentatively towards the sink. Patricia moved to her side for a better look.
"Ooorrrrrrrrr! Sally Reeves moaned at her reflection.
"Uurrgghhh! Patricia moaned at Sally Reeves reflection.
SALLY & PATRICIA
Getting to Know You
Patricia was bored. It hadn't taken her long to realise that Sally couldn't see or hear her. Patricia had then been subjected to observing Sally's 'getting ready for work' routine. This started with a long drawn out shower complemented by shaving of every area imaginable, closely followed by the most disgusting display of tooth brushing, balking and retching.
Sally must have found this exhausting as she then lay on her bed for half an hour, staring into space. She was either troubled or extremely hung over.
Patricia used this time to try and get to know Sally by the clues littered around the tiny flat. Her occupation was obvious; the uniforms and employees identity card were a dead give away. However, Sally's lifestyle didn't seem to be in keeping with Patricia's traditional view of the 'holier than thou' average staff nurse.
'Surely nurses were a clean and tidy crew, obsessed with cleanliness and order. Obviously the stress of being sterile at work was too much to be continued at home.'
The contents of Sally's fridge were not only sparse but well past their sell by date. The pedal bin revealed a diet of alcohol, ready meals and take-aways.
Patricia was the most shocked however, when she noticed a CD case covered in a dusting of fine off-white powder. A tightly rolled twenty-pound note lay next to it with a small piece of thicker paper partially folded into a minute envelope.
"Cocaine! Patricia gasped to herself.
She'd never seen it, never mind tried it, but she had watched enough television dramas to recognise it.
"What makes somebody use this stuff, especially a nurse?
Patricia looked at opened letters scattered over the coffee table. Sally's bank statements indicated a huge overdraft in comparison with her income. As for her Selfridges store card ' if Patricia had been physically capable of fainting she would have! Unopened issues of the 'Nursing Times' lay in an unexpectedly tidy pile next to the sofa.
The only photograph in the room sat unobtrusively on top of the dusty television. In the centre stood Sally, smiling directly into the camera lens. She was wearing the traditional cap and gown required for a graduation ceremony, and was flanked by an older man and woman. If Patricia had scrutinised them further she would have noticed that they both looked a little worse for wear. Sally looked a little plumper than she did now. She glowed with pride.
There were other photographs in the bedroom. A montage of girlie nights out was displayed in a large clip frame above Sally's bed. They depicted Sally in varying states of inebriation and undress. Patricia was building up a picture of Sally, and didn't much care for it.
Sally appeared to be coming out of her trance and with a deep sigh she sat on the edge of the bed. She summoned up some energy, slapped both her thighs and jumped up.
"Right! Said Sally as she clapped her hands.
She pulled the dressing table stool over to the wardrobe and perched perilously on top of it. Patricia could just about make out three box files behind the plinth of the wardrobe. Sally rummaged about causing a deluge of dust and a subsequent hacking coughing fit. She jumped down with a pad of writing paper in her hands.
"Shit, I hope this isn't suicide note time. Sally thought. "I can just see the headlines now¦'Drug Addict Nurse Found Dead in Hovel¦.. ex-patient states "but she was always so clean and tidy!
She followed Sally over to the battered sofa and watched whilst Sally struggled to find a pen that worked. Finally, she began to write.
"Things I need to do. The heading read.
Patricia thanked her lucky stars. "It must be a shopping list.
Sally crossed out the word 'need' and replaced it with 'must.' She sighed and chewed on the already chewed pen top.
"You must clean this flat and put on at least two stone. Patricia giggled to herself
Sally changed the word a final time to 'want' and Patricia became more interested.
Things I want to do
I want to be happy
I want to give up drugs
I want to give up alcohol
I want to help the living to live
Sally sat back and contemplated her list. "To achieve what I want, there will be things I must do, and things I will need to do. She said out loud.
She looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. One hour to go before her late shift started. Although Sally felt as though something had shifted mentally within her, she was still suffering from her physical hangover.
"How am I going to get through the day?
Sally's eyes landed on the white powder sprinkled on the CD case.
"My old mate Charlie! Well, one more day won't hurt.
Patricia didn't realise what Sally meant until she began expertly gathering and chopping a line of 'coke' with her switch card. Patricia felt panicked.
"How can she go to work and safely look after people if she's off her head? And she's just written a wish list stating that she wants to give up! Fucking dickhead!
Sally picked up the rolled up twenty-pound note. She lent toward the white crystalline substance with the tightly rolled up note dangling from her nostril. Without thinking, Patricia crouched opposite her and blew as hard as she could.
It worked! The powder dispersed into a cloud of dust over magazines, socks and lipsticks and settled unseen amongst the clutter. Sally couldn't believe it.
"What...Shit¦How the fuck¦
She looked around in dismay. Her handwritten wish list caught her eye. A shiver ran down her spine as she read it back to herself.
Sally all but ran to the bathroom cabinet with Patricia hot on her heels. She caught up with her just in time to see a bottle of tablets disappearing into the toilet.
"That's my girl! Shouted Patricia. She wanted to hug her, to tell her she was doing the right thing. She wanted to tell her that someone was watching over her, that she wasn't alone. She remembered why she was with Sally, and felt jubilant.
She now had a purpose. Everything happened for a reason. She no longer felt alone.
SAFETY IN MIND
Patricia knew they would soon be on the move. Sally had become more agitated as she scoured the flat for her abandoned car keys¦mobile phone¦ money¦ hairbrush¦etc. Finally she grabbed her handbag and deposited her sundries inside. Sally hurried toward the front door. Patricia followed, down the stairs to the street outside and watched as Sally fumbled with her car keys, spilling them onto the floor as she tried to open her car door.
Patricia wiped her brow, "Fucking dickhead. And soon realised this was going to take some time, she walked around the car to the passenger side.
"Fucking dickhead. Sally said as she scooped up the dropped keys.
"At least we've got something in common. Patricia mused.
Patricia inspected the rusting lump in front of her. It looked vaguely like a Ford Escort.
"Surely this can't be legal. Patricia thought. Then realised it probably wasn't.
A loud creak disturbed her train of thought as the door, with the help of Sally lifting and pulling, dropped from its hinges. Sally threw her bag onto the drivers seat and climbed in
Patricia looked wary but finally decided to join her. Opting for the rear seat, she quickly realised this was a mistake. Sally had been keeping Britain tidy in her own unique way
"Christ Almighty! Patricia complained.
She sat, in what looked like the insides of a McDonalds bin. Empty boxes, styrene cups. Straws, wrappers and ¦
"What is that? Patricia thought.
She looked closer at the object on the back seat.
A discarded piece of McChicken nugget nestled in the crux of the seat.
Suddenly without warning the car lunged forward throwing Patricia into a foetal position against the back seat. Sally floored the accelerator and zipped down the narrow street at speed. She hit the brake with the same gusto and brought Patricia back into her original sitting position.
"Fucking dickhead. Patricia muttered, brushing her hair out of her eyes.
At this speed the shop fronts blurred into a smear of contemporary colour and the parked cars independently fizzed as they passed by.
Patricia was staggered, if it wasn't the speed, or the amount of undertaking/overtaking, or the general ignorance of the law, pedestrians and other drivers on the road, it was the fact Sally was actually applying makeup during the journey.
Patricia decided to take matters in hand realising that if this journey carried on the way it was going there would be an imminent crash. Jacob had not explained the boundaries of this host and guardian relationship, but Patricia needed to know what could and could not be possible. She reached forward and like squeezing sideways through a narrow passageway she simply pushed herself into Sally's body. Patricia's skin prickled with pins and needles. The feeling could only be compared to sitting cross-legged for too long until the legs are actually too painful to put down.
The pins and needles intensified in the few seconds that it took to get in. But Patricia became more aware of the noise. The sound was very peculiar, like climbing into a giant seashell, the white noise grew louder the further Patricia moved in but once inside both the tingling and the sound became more muted. Patricia took over the control of the car.
They arrived safely fifteen minutes later. Sally sat quietly and scanned the scene in front of her. She was parked in the in the nurses designated parking bays. "How the hell did I get here? She thought to herself. "I don't actually remember seeing any cars, stopping for traffic lights or people for that matter. She mulled this over for a few seconds then suddenly realised what the panic was all about this morning. She was late for work.
The odour of the ward was the first thing to strike Patricia. It would appear that hospital wards smelt the same no matter where they were geographically situated. A repugnant mixture of rotten fruit, urine, disinfectant, and hospital food filled her nostrils, and she felt nauseous. Primrose ward could not have smelt less like a flower if it had tried. Ahead, Sally strode purposefully before turning into a small room off the ward's main corridor.
The locker room consisted of battered grey lockers, that didn't lock, a collection of mismatched shoes, and poster covered walls. The posters demanded various behaviours of the ward staff, such as not smoking, checking your breasts/testicles regularly, paying your tea/coffee money on time and who would be attending the monthly ward night out. According to the graffiti on the bottom of the page, this was an essential part of ward life.
Sally huffed and puffed as she changed into her work shoes and gave herself another squirt of deodorant, she checked herself in the murky mirror before striding out into the corridor.
"Funny how a uniform and a pair of sensible shoes can completely change someone's image. Thought Patricia.
Sally now looked professional, calm and in control, in contrast with the dishrag appearance she had displayed first thing that morning.
Sally approached the nurses' station situated in the middle of the main corridor, where a group of nurses stood around gossiping. Patricia had difficulty determining what the different coloured uniforms meant, but she could spot the ward sister a mile off. Sister Jenkins, otherwise known as "Wiggy was a formidable looking woman, dressed in navy blue, with a horrendous hairdo, possibly modelled on Dame Edna Everidge, without the glasses. One might be fooled into thinking she had a sense of humour. Closer inspection however, revealed sharp, pointed features with small, speculative pale blue eyes that could wither the most bolshy of student nurse's in seconds.
Wiggy's eyes settled on the approaching Sally and narrowed to an unattractive squint.
"Good evening Staff Nurse Reeves. Late again? We really must have a little chat about your time keeping at the weekends. She closed her eyes and turned away dismissively but Sally had other ideas. She was in no mood for Wiggy's sarcastic comments.
"Good afternoon Sister Jenkins. Sarcasm again? We really must have a little chat about the number of day's annual leave you have taken so far this year. It would appear you have used all your entitlement and then some in the first six months! And what about that study day you've been taking every Friday? It would seem that your course finished six weeks ago.
There was a gasp of astonishment and titters from some of the staff gathered around the station. Patricia laughed out loud, more at the reaction of Wiggy than at what Sally had said. Sister Jenkins was heading swiftly for the locker room with a face as red as a turkey cock.
"Not staying for handover then? Sally called after her. The locker room door slammed shut and was quickly opened again by a clearly furious Sister Jenkins. She had her coat on inside out and what appeared to be an incontinence pad stuck to her foot. She slammed it into a clinical waste bin before crashing out of the ward's swinging doors.
Sally's colleagues were in hysterics. A round of applause started and patients in the nearest bay joined in.
"Christ Sally! What's got into you? Said a laughing nurse called Bev. "Talk about letting her have it. I thought you were going to talk to her on her own about all that shit? She won't thank you for saying all that in front of us lot, but by God, it was enjoyable to watch!
"Well, things are gonna change around here. I'm not pussy footing about anymore. She takes great pleasure in making a show of everyone else, so it's time she had a taste of her own medicine. In her case, she's going to learn that what goes around, comes around.
The other nurses looked a little surprised at Sally's speech, but not displeased. A couple of nurses stayed out on the ward whilst the rest filed into the Sister's office for 'handover'.
Patricia was surprised that nurses had this thrice-daily meeting. She had assumed that nurses just turned up to work and got on with it. It was an education to find that at every shift change the nurses not only shared information about all the in-patients, but were also allocated their own patients to care for that day. It seemed that most of the time you would care for the same patients each day unless staffing levels meant you were moved or looked after more patients.
Most of the patients on Primrose ward had respiratory problems such as asthma and chronic lung diseases. Sometimes patients were admitted to Primrose Ward with other non-respiratory diseases due to bed shortages elsewhere in the hospital. Bev was discussing one such patient that Sally would be caring for that shift.
"Gwyneth Williams, aged 79 and as Welsh as a daffodil. Under Dr Pearson, admitted last night for what can only be described as social reasons. She was diagnosed with senile dementia six months ago and has been cared for at home by her husband. Basically, he hasn't been coping and brought her in last night stating that she had been suffering from severe diarrhoea. Bev paused for breath and gave the others a knowing look. "He didn't stay in A & E to find out if there was anything wrong and couldn't be contacted at home. She has a past history of severe constipation and we think her family may have been a bit too generous with the old laxatives. Hence the loose stools. There are no beds on Benson Ward but they do know we've got one of Dr. Pearson's. She's a really sweet lady but by God, can she shit.
"Cheers mate! Said Sally getting to her feet and stretching. She felt crap, and the thought of having to deal with diahorrea did not fill her with joy!
Patricia on the other hand was enjoying herself in a voyeuristic way. It was like being involved in an episode of "Holby City but with added smells. And of course there was no glamorous doctors swanking about chatting and flirting in corners. But this was a world she knew nothing about and she was seeing another side to Sally. Her impression of an unhappy, drug crazed, irresponsible human was slowly beginning to change.
Sally appeared to be a reliable and competent nurse who had good relationships with her patients. Patricia knew from her own experiences during her Father's illness, that not all nurses were modelled on Florence Nightingale or Duffy from 'Casualty'. Some nurses seemed attracted to the profession because they enjoyed having power over the sick, the ability to kill or cure. She shivered at the thought.
Sally's first job following handover was to begin a drug round. She chatted amiably with the patients as she made her way round dishing out painkillers and anti-biotics. Mr Paul Atkinson, who was suffering from a collapsed lung due to cancer, asked Sally how her night out had gone. He had been a patient of Sally's for a few weeks now and had witnessed her staggering in to work after a night of alcohol and dancing on more than one occasion. He didn't think she seemed herself today, and wondered
what had happened.
"Good night last night? Or didn't you bother? You looked tired out yesterday before you went home.
Sally paused before replying. She felt as if she needed to express the great change within herself, but didn't know how to. She gave the standard reply.
"Oh, it was a good laugh. Drunk as lords, dancing like loons, late getting home. Felt awful this morning, but I feel ok now. She smiled reassuringly at John.
He smiled back but was unconvinced. Spending twenty four hours a day on a hospital ward with nothing else to look at but fellow patients and nurses, you got to know people intimately in a very short period of time. Sally seemed energised, stern almost ' ultra efficient. Not her usual shuffling hung over Sunday self.
"What about you Paul? How's the breathing today? Could be getting that chest drain out tomorrow if all goes well.
"Feel a bit sick today but can't work out if it was the revolting scrambled eggs I had this morning or something else. He made retching gestures to reinforce his description.
"Well, if it continues, I'll get the doc to write you up for some anti-sickness tablets, ok?
Paul nodded, and settled back into his pillows. He knew that if Sally promised him something she would make sure it got done. Not like some of them.
Eventually Sally made it into the next bay, which accommodated four female patients. She was greeted by the unmistakeable smell of shit. Three of the lady's she had cared for on previous shifts were all looking decidedly green around the gills. The fourth lady was Gwyneth Williams, whom Bev had talked about earlier.
Gwyn was seated by her bed near the window. Outwardly, she was the picture of good health and grooming with perfectly coiffered blue rinsed hair. A 'mock croc' leather handbag sat on her lap and both her aged hands rested upon the handle. Sally noticed there was dark staining under Gwyn's fingernails and had no doubt as to who the culprit of the odour was.
She quickly finished the drug round with minimum chatter. The women were obviously not in the mood for small talk as they knew the sooner Sally finished her round, the sooner the smell of shit would be eradicated.
Patricia was amazed at how quickly Sally and her colleague, Karen, managed to gather the necessary equipment together. As they swished the curtains around Gwyn's bed she could be heard throughout the ward shouting in her distinctive singing welsh accent. Her face remained fixed in a half smile as if butter wouldn't melt.
"There's a terrible smell! What can it be? It's terrible. Ooo it's a terrible smell, so terrible. What can it be?
Sally and Karen looked at each other and smiled. They talked kindly and softly to Gwyn whilst cleaning her up. All the while she kept up her mantra about the terrible smell. Removing her soiled clothes was a tricky business, as she did indeed have loose stools. As Karen lifted her nightie over her head, the brown sludge transferred itself from the garment to her arm.
"Shit. Said Karen
"Is it dear? Is that what the terrible smell is? Gwyn changed her mantra in response to Karen's exclamation.
Both Karen and Sally burst out laughing, as did the other women in the bay. The curtain's may have provided physical privacy but were no barrier to noise or conversation. Patricia was laughing too, especially as Gwyn continued to stare half smiling out of the window. It was as if she had heard nothing and had said nothing.
Once they had finished laughing, Sally and Karen completed their job, and made sure Gwyn was comfortable and respectable. Patricia realised why she had never thought of nursing as the career for her. She couldn't have coped with the sights and smells. She admired the way the girls just seemed to get on with it.
"Never saw anyone cleaning shit up in Holby City did you? She thought.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be the last time Sally and Karen would be attending to Gwyn's personal hygiene during the course of the shift. Sally didn't know where it was all coming from, but as soon as she heard "There's a terrible smell! she knew it was time to don apron and gloves.
During visiting time Sally took a break at the nursing station to write up her notes. Patricia was also relieved to have a break. The phone rang relentlessly with patient enquiries from friends and relatives. Patients unable to walk alone or at all were constantly pushing their call bells, and it seemed that recovery from illness would be impossible in this environment of constant noise. Patricia felt exhausted, and she hadn't even done anything.
Whilst Sally dealt with another patient enquiry on the phone, a frail, elderly gentleman wearing a trench coat and trilby hat, approached the nurses' station. As Sally replaced the receiver the phone began to ring immediately. She ignored it and smiled brightly at the man.
"Can I help you? She asked.
"Erm, it's a bit difficult. He shuffled from foot to foot and stared at the floor.
"Are you visiting someone? Sally coaxed.
"Yes. But I don't want her to see me. He looked anxious and rushed on. "She'll only get upset¦she's always upset. Don't get me wrong. I love her, but I can't help her anymore. He looked down at the floor, and Sally noticed his hands were shaking.
"Are you Mr Williams? He nodded and continued to stare at the floor.
"Come into Sister's office, and we'll have a good talk. I'm Sally, and I've been looking after Gwyn today.
They walked along the corridor together and into Sister Jenkins' office.
"She likes to be called Wyn, always has.
Sally closed the door and indicated the sofa for Mr Williams to sit down on. She didn't speak. She knew he would tell her all she needed to know without any persuasion. Patricia was again impressed by Sally's skills. She watched as Sally made noises of encouragement and nodded her understanding. Mr Williams explained how he felt he could no longer cope with Wyn's personal care and how he had felt the night Wyn was admitted.
"I was at breaking point. She'd got herself in a mess for the eighth time that day, and if I'm honest I wanted to slap her. He put his head in his hands and began to sob. He continued, choking on his tears. "I know she can't help it, but it's so hard to keep up with everything. She needs watching all the time. I can't leave her in the living room while I cook the dinner, because she tries to light the fire. And I can't bring her into the kitchen if she doesn't want to. She may be demented but she's still a stubborn old bugger. He looked up at Sally through his reddened eyes.
"I brought her here for her own protection. How can I care for someone that I love so much and yet hate at the same time? This isn't how we were supposed to end our days.
Sally placed one hand gently over his.
"There are plenty of options Mr Williams. You don't need to be on your own in this.
"I don't want strangers coming into my house and seeing Wyn all messed up. I don't want people knowing I can't look after my own wife. We made vows and I need to keep them. Mr Williams sounded angry.
Sally had been in similar situations before and she knew she had to phrase things very carefully.
"No one is judging you Mr Williams. You said yourself, that this isn't how you'd imagined spending your retirement. You've also told me how much you love Wyn, and you've shown how much you love her by trying to do the best thing. Sally paused and looked into Mr Williams's eyes.
"Now's the time for you to show her that you love her enough to be able to let others see how much devotion you have given her. Let them help you to carry on loving her, and take away the hate you've been feeling.
"It's not that easy¦I¦. Mr Williams hesitated.
"I can't begin to imagine how you feel about this, but I'm guessing you feel very guilty about having to bring Wyn to the hospital in the first place. With the right level of support, this need never happen again.
There was silence, whilst Mr Williams digested the possibilities. He still had plenty of concerns and questions, and over the following twenty minutes or so, Sally did her best to answer them sensitively and with honesty. Patricia was overawed. She felt that Sally had great potential within the caring profession, but was beginning to think that perhaps her talents were not being used to their full advantage on Primrose Ward.
Having arranged appointments for Mr Williams with the medical social worker, district nurses and occupational therapist and given him much reassurance, Sally left Mr Williams to sit with Wyn for the remainder of visiting time.
For the next couple of hours Sally continued to rush about her patients, attending to their requests and physical needs. There didn't seem to be a lot of time for conversation, and Patricia felt that Sally's patients were missing out on one of Sally's special gifts. Inevitably, Wyn had taken up a great deal of time with her bowel problem. By nine o'clock Sally had just about had enough. The night shift would be coming on soon, but she had enough conscience not to leave Wyn for them to clean up. She decided it would be quicker to put her in the bath, and then at least Karen could go and get her bus on time.
She helped Wyn on to the bath chair, which she had taken up to Wyn's bed. The Welsh accent shrilled mantra began again.
"Oooo it's terrible. What a terrible smell. What can it be?
Sally sighed and began the journey to the bathroom. All the while, the mantra continued.
"What a terrible smell!
Sally's head began to pound and her stomach tightened with nausea, reminding her that she had not eaten all day. "I've just about had all the shit I can take today. She thought.
"What can it be? It's a terrible smell. Ooo it's terrible. A terrible smell.
Sally closed the bathroom door and stood in front of Wyn.
She had to say it. The question needed to be answered.
"It's shit Wyn. And yes, your quite right, it does stink because it's shit.
Wyn smiled up at Sally as if she'd just been given a compliment.
"Don't say shit dear. She said critically.
Despite herself, Patricia burst out laughing.
Patricia noticed two things before Sally. The first was a Mr. Marsh. The second was a red cross pinned to the study room door.
Sally finished her lunch and strolled out of the visitor's restaurant. The thought of eating from the nurse's canteen made her stomach turn. For some reason Sally had strangely began enjoying her own company lately, which was very unusual for her. In the past she would never be seen alone, always wanting to be in other peoples company eager to tell her new tale. It was her way of feeling wanted, feeling needed. Even lunch breaks were either cut short or taken later to avoid her sitting alone. It was a clichÃ©, but she felt safer among numbers. But this gradual, creeping independence made Sally feel good.
"It was when I stopped taking drugs¦ No was it was after the night out with the girls. Or was it my mini mid life crisis. Sally tried hard to recall when it had all started.
"Ah fuck it, she concluded, "It's not important.
A large red cross pinned to the study room door caught Sally's attention. She decided to go over and see what it was all about.
Sally realised the large red cross was pretty self explanatory really: because it was the Red Cross. The note beneath the distinguished emblem, reported the suffering within Rwanda due to its civil war was escalating and the need for support was paramount.
"And the importance for trained voluntary nurses to attend the meeting,.. Sally read on¦
"Today at¦ That's now! Sally thought.
Mr. Marsh pushed his caffeta trolley along the corridor, the bloated urine bag swung like a cows swollen udders next to him. He glanced over toward Patricia and changed his tack in her direction. Patricia knew that it wasn't her that had caught his eye, but followed his gaze toward Sally, who was leaning forward sucking at the milkshake in her hands, reading the note beneath the red cross.
Mr. Marsh's sweating, unkempt appearance was repulsive on its own, but that paled into insignificance compared to his wandering hands. He was the bane of the ward, with all his faculties intact he seemed to find great delight in other people's revulsion. The man actually enjoyed offending people. His hands regularly shot up the young nurses uniforms. All beautifully concealed behind him feigning shock during routine bed baths, injections and examinations. But in recent weeks his advances had become more obvious, upsetting both the hospital staff and any unfortunate passer-by caught in his wake.
Matron reprimanded on numerous occasions about his ungainly advances and stages of dishevelment. But during these informal chats Mr. Marsh simply acted out his wounded soldier routine and stared blankly ahead with saliva running down his chin.
Sally was oblivious to the advancing Mr. Marsh and was now bent double as she finished the note pinned to the door.
Mr. Marsh threadbare slippers clung to his feet like flip flops and squeaked on the polished hospital floor, as his shuffle gathered speed the tripod wheels squeaked their protest in unison. He slipped his hand out of his dressing gown pocket in eagerness as neared his target.
Patricia decided Mr. Marsh's lack of stealth would make him an awful assassin.
She stood her ground as he came closer, but Mr. Marsh with his eyes fixed on Sally walked straight through her.
"Sally! Patricia warned.
Sally somehow knew someone was coming close. The second before Mr. Marsh physically skewered another member of the female staff, as his offending thumb was jammed up Sally's backside.
"Dirty birdie! He whispered through gritted teeth.
Sally remembered head butting the door just prior to stumbling into the seminar. She looked around the room with a paned look on her face. The straw with plastic lid still intact, dangled from her mouth dripping strawberry milkshake onto the floor.
"Please, take a seat. Said the man holding the centre of the floor.
Errm! I errm! Patricia spluttered.
She removed the straw from her mouth and sat down to save any more embarrassment.
Patricia followed Sally into the room, not before swatting Mr. Marsh across the back of the head as she passed.
"Fucking pervert! She hissed.
As the door closed behind Patricia she noticed Sally was already seated, looking flustered and red-faced she cleaned the milkshake from the front of her uniform.
"My name is Doctor Ruan. Said the man in the centre of the room. "Many thanks for coming today and I'll try and not take up too much of your precious time.
Dr. Ruan was a slight man in his late forties his dark skin exuded health and his eyes held a sparkle of mischief.
"This will not be boring. Patricia thought to herself.
Dr. Ruan had a thick African accent yet his tone was bright and interesting. He was dressed in a smart dark suit. Patricia thought he looked more like a sales representative from one of the pharmaceutical companies rather than a spokesman for The Red Cross. She scanned the near empty room. Doctors and nurses were always in dispute for wage increases and better working conditions and the positions advertised were voluntary with possibly dire working conditions. This reflected badly on the amount of interest in the seminar.
"I know you are looking around at each other thinking what the hell have we let ourselves in for. Dr. Ruan continued.
A titter crept around the room
He stretched out his arms to indicate all of them in the room. "You! He said forcefully, "Represent the people I am interested in, because you came here voluntarily. You wanted to hear what I had to say and whether it would have any precedent in your life. Without knowing it, you already possess the qualities we are looking for.
Over the next hour Dr. Ruan explained the reasons behind the civil war, the plight of the civilians caught in the middle, the lack of aid, the lack of experienced medical staff, his own personal losses and experiences and his hopes for the future. His informative, passionate, sometimes animated, sometimes humorous lecture enthralled his captive audience. Non more so than Patricia and Sally who listened intently to Dr. Ruan as he took them on a journey that left them awe of both his compassion and dedication.
"And thank you all for coming today. Dr. Ruan finally concluded.
As Patricia sat in admiration considering the Doctors philosophies, Sally quietly stood up and walked over to Dr. Ruan. He shook her hand gently, no words were spoken but he knew his message had been understood. Sally moved to the side allowing the next person to express their appreciation.
Sally felt breathless with the expectation. Everything finally made sense to her. She sat and spoke briefly to the Red Cross nurse sitting at a desk in the corner of the room then signed her name on the declaration form in front of her. It was done. Sally had finally found her purpose in life.
Patricia had assumed that Sally was driving herself home but soon realised that they were going in the opposite direction. Sally was feeling the full effects of the previous night out coupled with the heavy day's work. More than anything else, she wanted to go home, have a hot, scented bath and fall into bed. However, her decision to join the Red Cross had to be made public at some point. And Sundays, she always visited her mother. She sighed deeply. Patricia wondered what she was thinking about. She studied Sally's profile and noticed the fixed frown of her brow and the sporadic clenching of her jaw. She looked tired, tense and worried.
Sally tried to concentrate fully on her driving but was preoccupied with what awaited her at the 'family home'. She gave a short laugh out loud at the irony of the name given to the place she had grown up in.
A two bedroom flat in a notoriously rough council estate had been the location for Sally's childhood. Her mum and a string of worthless boyfriends, who had either ignored her or tried to abuse her, had brought her up. At an early age she learned how to inflict pain on any person that invaded her personal physical space. Pinching and twisting a small piece of skin on the inner thigh or arm usually resulted in swearing and the abrupt withdrawal of the interfering hand or appendage. She had also learnt that complaining to her mother achieved nothing but jealousy and anger. But it wasn't all bad memories.
When her mum was between boyfriends, she lavished love and attention on Sally. She acted as though Sally was the only person worth anything in her life, but this only made things worse when another man came into their lives. But the good times served to reinforce the unconditional love Sally felt for her mum. For the last couple of years however, Sally's mum had allowed Jim into her life, and whilst not perfect, he was a great improvement on her previous relationships. Jim took a genuine interest in Sally's life, career and aspirations, and stuck up for her when her mother became callous or dismissive. They also liked a drink or two, which over the years had turned into a serious problem for Sally's mum. Most Sundays, when she visited, the pair of them would be pissed as newts.
She stopped the car in a space far from the edge of the flats, so that she would have a clear view of it from inside her Mothers house.
"Oh well, no time like the present! Sally sighed to herself.
Sally knocked at the front door. The need for her to have her own key to her Mothers house was not obvious to Patricia, but Sally knew the amount of times the barrel was changed was in pro rata to the amount of arguments her mother and Jim had.
"It's fucking open! Shrieked the voice coming the front room.
Sally, un-phased, walked in, closely followed by Patricia.
"This should be fun. Patricia said out loud.
Patricia was not surprised to find Sally's Mum very, very down to earth. Rough yet ready, was a phrase that sprung to mind.
Maureen, Sally's mum, was oblivious to Sally's weekly woes. She scoured the mantelpiece searching the empty packets of cigarettes.
"Here you go Mum. Sally said, handing Maureen a fresh packet of fags.
"Thanks darlin, you're a star.
"Cheers love. Said Jim.
This must be Sally's boyfriend, Patricia concluded. Jim had seen better days, too many drawn out binges and days spent at the bookies smoking himself into oblivion. His kind weather beaten face crumpled into a grin in appreciation of Sally's gift. This was a good man, Patricia thought, he'd just gone off the rails.
Finally, once Sally's mum settled into the couch next to Jim and two smoking cigarettes were put in their rightful place, the room fell into peacefulness as Sally continued her autopsy of the passed weeks events.
Sally's finally broached the topic of her Rwandan project with her with her Mum, explaining everything in detail and her reasons for going.
Patricia was laughed out loud at Maureen's reply.
"Well Sally if you think joining one of those religious cunts¦
"Cults you mean Mother Sally interrupted.
"Eh! That's what I said, cults. Clean your fucking ears out girl. Maureen sucked deeply on the filtered tip. "But if you think it'll straighten you out love. Then fuckin' go for it.
"Its nothing to do with religion mother Sally began to explain, then realised how futile it was.
The visit was soon over, as Sally readied herself to leave and as if by some miracle Maureen jumped to her feet and cupped her hands around Sally's face.
"You take care my love. She said genuinely, kissing Sally's forehead.
Patricia was taken aback by the show of affection. Maybe Maureen really did understand the importance of what Sally was about to do.
"Now fuck off, Montel's about to start. Maureen said with the swish of her hand.
Patricia was mortified, she stared at Sally who just gave a small smile.
"See you later mum.
And that was it, no teary farewells, no clinging goodbyes. Patricia watched as Sally turned and left the room.
This must be her mums defence mechanism Patricia thought. Not allowing Sally to see her distress, dismissing this whole episode as if wasn't going to happen. This was good karma for Sally's departure.
Patricia followed Sally, she glanced back into the room to catch a glimpse of Maureen's true demeanour. The tear stained eyes, her hand covering her mouth preventing the stifled sob any form of escape. Just in time to see Jim give Maureen's right breast a quick squeeze.
"You dirty bastard. She scolded under a grin.
As she settled back into the crook of Jim's arm.
"Un-fucking-believable! Was all Patricia could manage.
RAMON JIMNU (Jimnoo)
The town of Gabomn bustled like any other, bustled with people as opposed to cars. As Patricia walked behind Sally she noticed the uneasiness of the people walking by, it seemed as though something inevitable was going to happen. She decided it was a town of pessimists including the children who eyed Sally cautiously as she walked by.
They entered the market place and Patricia paused to watch a woman working material on a loom.
"That would look great as a throw over my bed she thought, then smiled to herself. "Maybe not.
Patricia looked up to see Sally ambling through the crowd ahead.
A gunshot suddenly rang out above the noise of the market. It sounded more like the thwack from a child's cap gun, but the chaos unfolding in front of them displayed the true reality as the market ran for cover, en masse.
"Sniper, sniper! they screamed.
The old were either guided to safety or simply spilled over in the melee. All apart from that is, Sally. She stood out like a cashew nut in a bowl of cherries. Her lone pale figure stood bolt upright, as she looked quizzically from side to side as the people around her fought with each other for the safest position, which proved to be the cotton canvas awnings.
Patricia bolted towards her just as one of the stallholders dragged Sally to the ground.
"Miss, please be careful.
"Let go of me you fucking dickhead. Sally managed in gratification.
"Fucking oblivious! Patricia declared out loud as she reached Sally. "And why am I hiding? Patricia thought as she crouched next to Sally. Even as a guardian, fear was still a powerful emotion.
Sally scanned the scene unfolding around he. She saw a young boy no older than thirteen lying on his back on the ground no more than fifteen feet in front of them. Blood pooled at his shoulder.
"Move away Miss a store holder whispered. "Its to late for him now
The boys' moans were guttural like that of a baby who had exhausted himself from crying all day. No tears were left to fall, just dry moans punctuated by gulps for air. His head lolled to the side as he tried to focus on something or someone near him. Patricia was mortified as the young boy's gaze focused directly on her.
"Mommy his lips mouthed silently.
Patricia knelt rooted to the spot, as time suspended itself.
"Surely he can't see me? she thought.
"Move away now Miss the store holder repeated to Sally interrupting Patricia's eye contact with the boy.
"But he's still alive! Sally hissed through the din of fighting crowd
"That's what they want Miss. They want his Mother, they want his father.
Another shot rang out as the boys' foot jerked to the side, he face creased in pain. Sally stifled a scream with her hand as the young boy attempted to lift himself onto his elbow. He tilted his head to the side and stared towards the people under the awnings, and focused on the only person looking back at him. Sally. His eyes blinked slowly as he struggled to stop himself from losing consciousness.
"I must do something, I must do something Sally whispered to herself. She turned to the stallholder who by now had retreated into a pack of cowering bodies.
"Daddy! the boy called out gutturally with the last of his strength.
"Go! Patricia screamed at Sally.
Sally immediately darted out from under the cover of the canvas and ran towards the boy.
"Shit! Patricia shouted from her kneeling position as she watched Sally in what seemed to be slow motion, run towards the boy.
Ten feet, seven feet, five feet Sally moved closer.
"Go on Sally Patricia whispered to herself as Sally moved nearer.
Instinctively, the sniper shot at the moving target. The bullet hit Sally square in the shoulder. It was as if Sally had ran directly into a glass wall as she jolted to a stop, she fell to her knees on the ground.
"Nooo! Patricia screamed.
Sally looked to her side in bewilderment. "Did someone just drag me back? she thought to herself as she looked back over her shoulder to confirm it her own question.
Patricia watched in disbelief as Sally looked back in the direction she had come from. Sally then turned her attention back to the young boy on the ground and began to haul herself to her feet. She moved drunkenly towards him, stopping for a moment as she reached him, then unbelievably scooped him up into her arms like a baby and turned to face Patricia. Sally's face was ashen as she began to move back toward the awnings. Patricia instinctively darted out towards them hooking her arms under the boy cradled against Sally's chest. Incredibly, Patricia felt his weight in her arms and together with Patricia walking backwards and Sally staggering forwards, they managed to reach the safety of the awnings.
Both Sally and the young boy where taken to the Gabomn Hospital, a Red Cross post manned by volunteers from around the world and locals from the surrounding the villages.
Sally's mouth felt sand paper dry, she slowly opened her eyes to see a nurse strapping a bandage around her shoulder. Still groggy from the anaesthetic Sally tried to sit up.
"Rest now said the nurse in a thick African accent.
She pushed Sally back down into a lying position.
"You're the talk of the town Sallee, she continued, "So very brave.
"I haven't been sick over myself again, have I? Sally fended off the approval.
"Not at all. Replied the nurse.
The nurse recounted the events of the day to her. Sally sat quietly drifting back and forth from her recollections to the commentary being described, up to the moment when the nurse explained the bullet had passed straight through her shoulder missing all the vital arteries and ligaments,
"Bullet? the word brought Sally back into focus.
Patricia stood at the foot of the bed listening to the nurse explain to Sally how with super human strength she had lifted the boy like a feather, rescuing him from certain death. Patricia also recounted the events of the day as she watched over Sally, she knew she wasn't with her when Sally was shot, she wasn't there when Sally dragged herself back up from the ground and she wasn't there when Sally lifted the boy from the floor. That was an inner strength Sally possessed, something Patricia had never seen before. She didn't mind admitting the girl in front of her deserved a little respect.
"I've got to ask, the nurse asked, "what possessed you to do something like that?
"I remember hiding the same as everyone else, Sally explained, "and then all of a sudden a voice in my head just screamed GO! And I just, Sally paused, "went.
Patricia looked up at the ceiling "Jesus Christ! She exclaimed.
"You must have yourself a strong ghost looking out for you Sallee, the nurse said.
"Ghost? You mean an angel. I don't believe in that stuff, she paused "but that doesn't mean to say that I'm not scared of it.
The nurse laughed out loud, lightly patting Sally on the leg in mock disdain. Patricia smiled to herself.
"The boy? Sally blurted out, realising what the conversation was really about. "Is he OK?
"Ramon, the nurse replied, "is still in the operating room. Dr. Crowwe seems to think everything will be fine.
"Thank God for that, Patricia muttered defensively to herself. "Don't feel so bad now.
"How come I? Sally hesitated, "We're both not dead?
"Simply because you're white Sallee. To kill a white person, especially a woman would destroy everything this government is trying to achieve. The political consequences would be very damaging.
Sally eyes flickered with fatigue.
"I think its time you got some rest now Sallee. The nurse patted Sally on the hand.
Over the next couple of days Sally rested. Finally, when she felt strong enough she ventured out into the entrance of the hospital ward and scanned the scenery in front of her. Sally once again had the feeling of dejavu.
"I'm sure I've seen this before? Sally muttered.
"Not my fault this time Patricia said out loud from behind her.
The nurse who cared for Sally joined them.
"Sallee come back inside now and get some rest.
Sally frowned as she turned toward the nurse still trying to recall where she had seen the sights and sounds sprawling in front of her.
"Got it! she said startling both Patricia and the nurse, "It's that television series I watched with my dad, she paused in thought, "it was on a Sunday night, de ne ne ne ne nene, she hummed.
Patricia and the nurse looked at Sally quizzically.
"Must be the anaesthetic, Patricia said to the nurse, forgetting the nurse couldn't hear her.
"MASH! That's it! The series MASH! She screeched triumphantly.
The nurse supported her under the arm and guided Sally back into the ward. Patricia looked back outside and smiled. Sally was right, the sun bleached faded green canvas tents stood cyclically bordering a flat open area, and all around the hustle and bustle of nurses and patients moving around the camp.
"De ne ne ne ne nene ¦.. Patricia hummed, as she turned and moved back inside to find Sally.
Two weeks later Patricia and Sally wandered around the camp acclimatising themselves to their new environment. The camp ran smoothly just as any hospital. The philosophy as far as Sally could tell was 'adapt and compromise.' The hospital ran on an absolute budget with some of the procedures she had learnt being compromised and adapted due to lack of equipment, expertise, funds and medicines. Still, the hospital saved lives on a daily basis; the flow of patients seemed to grow larger each day as the war escalated around them.
Sally's preconceptions of a Red Cross hospital were of treating soldiers from both sides of the equation, but the truth of the matter was far graver. The patients from this civil war were the people caught in the crossfire; the mother's, the father's, the children, attacked and brutalised simply because they followed a different path, a different religion. The government realised that the people's views needed to be changed. They were the key to ending the civil war, once the farmers and villagers had been broken, General Jimnu's forces would collapse.
Patricia began to see the hopelessness of it all and wondered what difference they could possibly make, but walking around the camp, the sense the friendship was overwhelming. The people, the doctors, the nurses, all worked as one. A great number of the staff, as far as she could tell, were ex-patients.
Both Sally and Patricia had yet to see Ramon, the young boy Sally had saved, or Dr. Crowwe who had attended to Sally's injuries and both looked forward to their meeting.
Dr. Daniel Crowwe casually moved through the bustling camp stopping occasionally to chat to the patients. He liked to concentrate on the children; he knew their lack of experience left them like baby rabbits caught in the glare of oncoming headlights. They stood numb and wide eyed looking at the events unfolding around them. When Daniel spoke with them, he never mentioned their families, knowing only too well of their possible fate. He would instead concentrate on making fun of the gaps in their teeth, their hair, anything to take their mind off the pain. Daniel had worked the same joke on them all since his arrival. The effect on most was a smile sometimes a chuckle, but always a reaction and Daniel knew that was a start and something to build on.
In some inexplicable way Daniel was able to retain every child's name once they had been formally introduced. It was the same with medicines and illnesses when he was studying to become a doctor. Each name or symptom seemed important enough for his brain to allocate a space with a heading, along with an identifying history.
"Aria, how the Devil are you on this beautiful morning. Aria smiled timidly, "isn't it your birthday soon? Daniel cajoled a young girl no older than eleven walking his way. "Let me guess now, you're twenty one now, that'd make you he paused comically rubbing at his chin, Laurel and Hardy style, "thirty two next birthday.
Aria smiled bringing her hand up to her mouth as she chuckled.
Daniel moved on spotting an unfamiliar face coming his way, "Ah! A new member to our hospital. What's your name my good looking friend?
The nurse accompanying the boy answered first. "This is General Jimnu's son, she looked knowingly at Daniel, "He is our most special patient.
"So most special patient, what do I call you?
"Ramon, Dr. Crowwe. Answered the boy.
"Ramondoctorcrow, now there's an unusual name. Ramon gave a small nervous smile, "Only joking Ramon, its nice to meet you.
Daniel extended his arm, and Ramon accepted his hand with a determined handshake. Unlike that of many his age the grip was firm and purposeful and shook with verve like the meeting of old acquaintances. Daniel reciprocated until it was time to move on and plied his hand from Ramon's tight grip, patting him on the shoulder as they parted company.
"Damn, I forgot my joke. Daniel thought to himself. "Hey Ramon!
The boy looked back over his shoulder.
"Now you make sure you don't forget to keep a tight hold of that hospital gown your wearing, Daniel pointed at Ramon's back, "or the whole world's going to see your big shiny ass. He finished enthusiastically.
Ramon laughed out loud unable to contain his composure.
As Patricia walked with Sally she noticed other guardians walking, standing, sitting, with their hosts. It became clear to Patricia that the guardians were essential, not necessarily because the host was to become a superhero or a president, it was simply because the person needed help to get through a crisis at a particular moment in their life. Their decision could be pivotal within the time line and the intervention of the guardian in overcoming the crisis meant their judgements could be made with a clearer mind.
Patricia's attention was drawn to a Doctor walking through the hospital grounds approximately fifty yards away. He stopped and chatted to the patients he met, it was his appearance that had drawn Patricia. Everybody the Doctor spoke too left with a smile, even his guardian laughed along.
"Here he goes again. Patricia thought, as the Doctor vigorously shook a young boys hand.
With their backs to Patricia she could just make out the young boy smiling as he started to walk away.
"There he's done it again! Patricia thought
She watched as the boy walked away, he then quickly turned to look back at the doctor and laughed out loud, grabbing at the back of his gown.
Patricia could make out the guardian was heavily set man who stood inches above the doctor, his shoulders shook with laughter. They started to turn in Patricia's direction.
"Can I help you with those? Sally called out to a slender girl no older than ten, as she carried an overloaded basket on top of her head.
Patricia turned to see Sally walking with the slim girl up an avenue between the tents. She walked after them catching up as they entered a clearing at the end of the avenue. Washing lines were strung across between the tents, the clearing baked in the sun, the perfect drying position.
"My name's Sally, what's yours?
"Are these bandages Jala? Sally asked.
She helped remove slightly tinged wet bandages from the basket.
"Yes Miss, we clean them because the nurses say we have none left.
"Adapt and compromise. Sally reflected.
Within fifteen minutes the basket of bandages hung on the washing lines draping down like decorations at a kindergartens Christmas fate. Sally put her arm around the girl's shoulders.
"A job well done Jala, what's next? Sally said as they walked back up the canvas avenue.
The scent from the bandages had attracted the mongrel dogs from around the camp. One by one they poked their heads through the foliage sniffing at the air, checking that the coast was clear. Several dogs moved into the clearing in the hope of finding food as Sally, Jala and Patricia made their way back up the tented avenue.
Daniel and his guardian glanced between the tents as they walked by. His guardian noticed the dogs congregating beneath the bandages, and bolted from Daniel's side, he rushed down between the tents shouting at the top of his voice.
"I'll Sandy your fucking arses!
The dogs yelped collectively in terror, piercing the ordered atmosphere of the hospital. Sally, Jala and Daniel reacted simultaneously and ran toward the commotion.
Patricia stood welded to the ground, she closed her eyes in disbelief and reassessed what she had just heard. 'I'll Sandy your arses.' Her mind repeated the words over and over.
Patricia still faced the opposite direction to the commotion and she shook her head quickly from side to side trying to clear her mind.
'No, this cannot be happening?' Patricia questioned herself.
Goose pimples popped up her spine and climbed up her body bristling the hairs on the nape of her neck. She turned timidly to follow Sally and Jala back into the drying area. Patricia's heart pounded against her ribcage as she gulped down warm air, drying her mouth of saliva. She paused before entering the clearing and tried to control her breathing.
She listened intently for more confirmation. Non-came.
"This is absurd. She said to herself.
But still, she slowly, eased tentatively forward like a frightened child checking her darkened bedroom before advancing any further. Patricia peered around the corner of the tent and there he was. Ian, her husband, standing next to Daniel, he was smiling at Sally and Jala as they introduced themselves to Daniel.
A lump engorged Patricia's throat as her emotions overwhelmed her, she watched through tear stained eyes. Ian stood with his hands on his hips, gazing around the clearing nonchalantly as the introductions continued.
Finally, Ian's eyes fixed on Patricia. He looked quizzically at first, trying to process his thoughts. Questioning what his eyes were actually telling his brain. Then Ian's forehead crumpled into a frown, the muscles in his face lost their tension and his mouth sagged open as he began to cry. Patricia and Ian simply ran at each other. There was no slow motion, there was no music for their embrace, just a blur of movement as they met and held and hugged each other passionately, as they stroked each other's face in both confirmation and disbelief.
"And here's me thinking it was shampoo. Daniel jokes.
"Didn't I tell you I'm growing dreads Sally responded, pulling at her tresses.
For the first time it seemed, they had time on their side and they sat talking to each other cross-legged in a clearing on the edge of the hospital.
"What I miss most¦ Daniel thought for a moment, "Ah yes `Star Trek Voyager` I'd dearly love to see seven of nine in all her borgness once more. Goddamn! Now that's what I call a woman!
"And here's me thinking you were from Captain Kirks generation. Sally countered. "I thought you'd be more of Warf the Clingon type.
Daniel jumps to his feet standing to attention with his right arm across his chest as he mimics the deep baritone of the Clingon's voice.
"It's a good day for dying! he says proudly. "What a fucking saying. He laughed.
Patricia and Ian stood and listening to their verbal jousting for over half an hour.
"Shit, no way. Catherine Janeway anytime for me. Daniel continued.
"Me too. Sally agreed.
The banter gradually subsided as they began to enquire about each others backgrounds.
"I've never did ask what brought you here Sally?
Sally recounted the story of her mini breakdown at the club and the unfortunate encounter with Mr. Marsh, the pervert, back at the Stotton General hospital that indirectly lead her to join in the seminar with Doctor Ruan and ending up volunteering for the Red Cross.
"No shit! Daniel sounded surprised.
He scanned the ground at his feet, and picked up a small twig from between his heels then began stripping the bark from its body. Sally sensed Daniels anxiety as the silence lengthened between them.
"It was my wife's fault, you know Daniel said matter of factly.
"You're married? Sally unceremoniously butted in.
"She died over two years ago
"How? I mean I'm sorry to hear that. I¦. Sally stuttered amazed at her tact.
"Are you always as subtle as this? Daniel joked.
"No, no its ok, I've just never come to terms with Alaine doing it.
"You make it sound like it was her fault
"It was fucking asthma, not the fucking plague Daniel said sharply, "Her inhaler was running on empty and because she hadn't had attack for six months she obviously felt she had enough, nothing would come between her and that morning jog. She struggled to hang onto life for ten days in intensive care. But her lungs were unable to cope without the help of the ventilator. Daniel stared at the twig he held, "anyway, after the funeral my colleagues rallied around and supported me as best they could, but they had their own lives to lead. The only way I could think to ease their burden was to get as far away from them as I could.
Daniel dropped the now bald white twig to the ground and looked up at Sally.
"I needed a purpose in my life, something that gave me a reason to live for. Daniel's tone lightened. "It's funny, we both had a similar twist of fate. That Doctor Ruan must get around quite a bit. There I was feeling sorry for myself again, when I saw a seminar advertising the Red Cross in Rwanda. I didn't realise it then, but all my prayers were answered, Daniel paused, "I sat and listened to that passionate man, he made me believe that these humanitarian issues could not be ignored. Daniel paused, "I believed this would be my salvation. Only now my conscience wont let me leave. I suppose I'm here to stay. Daniel hesitated, "and that's a definite maybe.
A child's scream suddenly pierced through the white noise of the village. Daniel reacted automatically and ran toward the commotion, Sally followed closely behind.
Four young boys no older than eight years of age, with tears streaming down their faces carried a younger boy into the centre of the camp. His screams cut through the air like fingernails scratching down a blackboard.
"Put him down, put him down, Daniel shouted over the din, "What happened?
The exhausted boy's eyes bulged with the exertion of carrying his friend "It's...the¦ He gulped for air. "The dogs fault
The screaming child wailed above the consultation, threatening to smother the conversation.
Daniel instinctively set to work examining the boys' limbs for attack bites.
Where about was he bitten?
"In the bush next to the food tent.
"Not the fuc¦
Sally glared at Daniel who stifled his profanity.
"Not the place, Daniel tried to calm his tone, "I meant, where on his body was he bitten?
The boys eyes started to glaze over in unison with his trembling bottom lip, " He was just copying the dogs doctor. He mumbled.
Sally intervened and knelt next to the burbling boy, "Its Ok, we just need to know exactly what happened, we're not quite sure exactly what you mean by the dogs?
The young boy attached to the end of Daniels arms continued to howl.
"There, the boy suddenly yelled pointing behind Daniel to the edge of the camp "There Miss, can you see it!
On the edge of the camp an odious little dog, looking more like a small yoga master than any canine, had its two hind legs thrust forward in front of his body. The front paws levered his hind quarters into the ground simultaneously causing a forward motion in an attempt to dislodge an offending article from its backside
"Well fuck me sideways Daniel smiled and turned the boy onto his stomach.
There, protruding from his shorts was a four-inch sliver of twig, with small leaves still intact, jutting from his patients' backside.
Daniel looked at Sally and rolled onto his back laughing loudly "Mother of God! A splinter in his ass!
The boys who carried their battle-scarred friend looked at each in bewilderment as a gathering crowd joined in the amusement.
Tears of laughter streamed down Daniels face as he rolled onto his back still pointing toward the dog.
"Fuck me sideways! he wailed.
The young yoga master was frozen in take off position. He eyed the crowd with suspicion, ears pricked and head cocked to one side wondering what all the commotion was about.
Daniels laugh was so infectious that even the boy on his stomach managed to giggle in between his sobs. Sally recounted to Daniel later on that evening, that he'd managed over a dozen `fuck me sideways.' To the point were the young boys had started to join in.
The next morning Sally was busy laundering the bandages. She carried them in a hollowed out ant-eater shell to the drying area at the side of the shower tent, and one by one hung the bandages over the make shift washing lines.
Patricia now accustomed to the daily chores Sally performed, simply stood and looked around the undergrowth skirting the camp.
Daniel walked across to the shower tent and noticed Sally working in the clearing. He made a detour and moved silently down the passage between the tents into the opening and picked up the empty ant-eater husk Sally had dropped. He placed it on top of his head and declared loudly, in his best baritone Warf the Clingon voice.
"Seven of Nine, it's a good day for drying!
"Ahh! Sally yelped with surprise, "You fucking dickhead!
Patricia startled by the unfamiliar voice turned to see Daniel with an oversized brown helmet on his head. In the background Ian laughed to himself as Patricia looked at him quizzically. Ian strolled toward her, still smiling and planted a kiss on Patricia's cheek. "Hi he said.
"Hi back. Patricia replied.
"Hope you're not rubbing off on this impressionable young girl. He joked.
It had been a long time since Daniel had left the hospital for supplies. Often, deliveries from the Red Cross were stolen or destroyed before they reached their destination. Daniel had been pleased to find out that all of their supplies had been safely stowed by a trusted contact in the market and felt pleased with today's acquisitions.
He smiled to himself as he methodically drove the Land Rover back to the village along the dirt tracks and recalled how Sally berated him before leaving.
"The QE2 has more acceleration than you driving that jeep Daniel.
"What the fuck is a cueytoo
"It's a boat you dickhead. She replied giggling.
Then the villagers took it in turn to tease him as he drove out of the village, pretending they where falling asleep at the wheel.
Daniel, not to be out done, told them individually. "To fuck themselves sideways! As he drove by.
"Who the hell could get into third gear down these roads, Daniel said aloud as the jeep effortlessly bounced him around the inside of the cab like the dice in an under eights Ludo game.
"Jesus H Christ! Daniel grimaced as he clung to the steering wheel, his knuckles turned white with exertion as the jeep cleared one of the cavernous tyre tracks along the road.
If Daniel wasn't being uncontrollably shaken, then the vinyl seats had their retribution by sliding his body enough to make it sound as though he had a severe case of flatulence.
Daniel soon realised he was getting no where fast in first gear and decided to push his pain barrier a little further and eased the jeep into second.
"Never, ever again! He declared.
As they neared the camp, Ian sensed something wasn't quite right. It was too quiet he thought. Daniel was perspiring heavily and far too busy struggling with the steering to have noticed, he was simply looking forward to getting out of the jeep.
As they neared the entrance to the hospital, a militia soldier, dressed in army fatigues, stood in their path with his arm outstretched indicating for them to stop.
"Can I help you? Daniel asked.
"Marshal law now rules within the hospital sir. Exit your vehicle inside the camp and make your way to the registration tent. The soldier directed.
"Please sir, move on.
Daniel parked the jeep and leapt from the cab. Sally pushed open the door to the radio tent and hurriedly walked towards him.
Ian looked at Patricia, she in turn pointed at Sally who was now trying to calm Daniel down.
"What the fuck is going on here? Daniel barked.
"Daniel please calm down. Sally said putting her hands against his chest. She ushered him toward the shower room.
"Come inside before you start causing any problems.
"Problems, I'll give them fucking problems! Daniel remonstrated.
As they walked towards the shower tent a looming figure emerged from the radio tent. Daniel stopped abruptly, the dust from the ground plumed around his ankles, he jabbed his finger toward the figure.
"Who the fuck is that, Idi Amin?
Patricia, Ian and Sally turned to look in the direction Daniel was pointing. Sally immediately pulled his arm down toward his waist and steered him towards the steps that led up to the shower tent.
Patricia and Ian lingered briefly to look at the lone figure in the doorway as he arrogantly flicked his cow tail about his shoulders. He stood approximately five foot nine inches tall, with the intimidating build of a linebacker minus the definition. There was no neck to talk of, his head seemed to start somewhere around the top of his chest.
Ian simply studied his demeanour, where as Patricia paid particular attention to his face. The skin was the colour of charred ebony moulded around well-fed features. Even in his relaxed state the intensity in his eyes was malevolent, the pearlascent whites shone like a sea of mercury punctuated with floating black drops. The small bridge of his nose ended in permanently flared nostrils, his thick blue black lips where parted in a pink slash across his skin. His arms fell to the front of his body resembling a bodybuilder who had over developed his lateral muscles; his shoulders rose and fell in time with his breathing like an overheated lion in the midday sun. Yet with all this considerable menace his khaki uniform, although ill fitting was crisply ironed and finished at the neck with a leopard printed silk scarf.
'Here is a leader,' Patricia thought, 'and not somebody who received orders easily.'
Inside the shower room stood Ramon and a Doctor whose name Daniel couldn't quite remember.
"Daniel, Sally interrupted his thoughts.
"I want you to listen to what Dr. Moon has to say before you do or say anything
Daniel moved his hands in frustration from his hip, to scratching his head and then onto covering his mouth. He turned continuously to look through the door back into the courtyard and over to the radio tent. He was in no mood for listening and was far more interested in confrontation. But he also knew the Doctor was a well-respected permanent resident in the camp, someone who said it the way it was and never pulled punches when it came to telling the truth.
"Daniel! Sally said sternly, interrupting his thoughts.
"Ok. Ok. Go ahead Doctor. Daniel encouraged Dr. Moon.
"Doctor Crowwe, this man is named Colonel Tarka, and is second in command to the president. He is a man who enjoys getting his hands dirty, and is much respected by his troops. He paused, "Doctor, do not underestimate him, he is capable of appalling brutality, and is feared across Rwanda. You must be very mindful of what you say and do around him and let us all hope this is just a short stay. He paused to look at Ramon. "Some say if you defeat Colonel Tarka you will bring down this government.
Daniel stood quietly allowing the information to sink in.
"Daniel, Sally broke his train of thought. "We think that somehow he's found out Ramon is here and is hoping his that once his father finds out what has happened he will come for him.
Daniel looked at Ramon, who was physically shaking, already reliving some of the unimaginable horrors he had witnessed. Daniel patted him on the shoulder turned and walked out through the door into the courtyard. Ian followed close behind.
Daniel strode purposefully towards the radio tent. Ian was anxious as he matched his stride watching for any indication of what Daniel might have in mind for Colonel Tarka.
"Colonel Tarka, how nice to meet you Daniel boomed, as he climbed the steps to the radio tent. The smile on Daniels face never reached his eyes as he outstretched his hand and stepped into the shade of the radio tent. The Colonel offered his hand reverently, palm facing down, Daniel was surprised at the gentleness of the Colonels grip.
"May I ask how long you will be staying at our hospital? Daniel enquired.
The Colonel grinned back through impossibly small teeth. "You mean my hospital.
The days that followed were a living nightmare. The tense atmosphere within the hospital made for a poor environment to work in and to convalesce in. The usual stress of coping with the casualties of war had increased ten-fold, everyone waited for the inevitable to happen.
The early morning mist refused to lift raising the humidity to just bearable tackiness. The theatre tent heaved as usual. Daniel sat talking to a worried expectant first time mother. Jeannus lay on the examination bed with one hand behind her head the other resting on her chest, the loose cotton trousers she wore rested at the base of her stomach her tunic top hoisted up revealing her swollen stomach, glowing from the reflection of the lights above.
Ian stood to her left side with his hands behind his back, very Doctor-like.
Sally methodically worked moving between Doctors assisting when required then moving to the next. Patricia watched Ian from Sally's side and was amused at how he was standing, his hands held behind his back like a headmaster holding assembly. She caught his eye.
"Who do you think you are? she mouthed.
"What? Ian shrugged his shoulders defensively like a Bombay moneylender.
Patricia shook her head in mock disgust and turned back to Sally, "fucking dickhead, she mused to herself.
"How long to go now Jeannus? Daniel asked.
"Eight months. She replied.
"Eight months! Daniel repeated in high pitch voice. "That must be a god damn world record.
Jeannus looked at him quizzically then started to giggle, "I'm sorry Doctor I mean one month to go.
"Thank god for that! Daniel said, with his hands clasped together in prayer. "Thought for a second you were one of those little eared efelumps out in the bush. Referring to the twenty-three month pregnancy of the Asian elephant.
Jeannus got the joke and chuckled.
Daniel's tone became more serious. "Now look Jeannus everything is going to be fine, its quite normal being worried at every twinge that goes on in there, but come your sixth one¦.
Daniel threw her a smile. Jeannus smiled broadly back.
"Thank you Doctor.
Now there is a woman who glows during pregnancy Daniel thought to himself.
"The Father? He enquired.
Jeannus shrugged her shoulders, "I still wait to hear from him Doctor, he was taken by the troops from our village over two weeks ago. I ask where he is, and they say he is in a holding camp.
"I'm sure everything will work out for you all.
Daniel noticed midway through his sentence that Colonel Tarka was standing in the doorway at the far end of the theatre; he looked intently through the room. His presence was like a malevolent sea that slowly ebbed through the operating theatre. He was a lion bordering a herd of gazelles. One by one the danger filtered through patients and staff alike, the effect was tangible. As Daniel looked around the theatre, a deathly quiet spread across the room.
The colonel's eyes locked onto Daniels and set his awkward gait into motion as he began to barge his way through the narrow spaces between the beds of the operating tent.
Sally and Patricia were unaware of Colonel Tarka, they were too busy with their duties. That was until the Colonel aggressively pushed passed Sally knocking the sterile instruments from her hands onto the floor.
"What the fu¦ was all Sally managed before the Colonel had passed by.
Daniel had seen enough, "Colonel Tarka how many times do I have to tell you, you can not come into the operating tent without being scrubbed in!
Jeannus gave Daniel an anxious look as he stood to confront Colonel Tarka.
"One of my soldiers is ill, he needs urgent medical attention. The colonel barked at Daniel.
"If your referring to the man with the suspected broken rib, I can assure you he will be dealt with as soon as I'm finished here.
Jeannus winced at his words.
Patricia noticed Ian had unusually moved from Daniel's side and was now at the top of the bed behind Jeannus. He had one hand on the side of her face in an almost paternal manner, the other was¦was. Patricia couldn't quite make out.
"What is he doing? she thought. It suddenly dawned on Patricia he was trying to cover Jeannus's eyes. "What on earth is he up to? Patricia thought.
Ian suddenly bent forward at the waist leaning across Jeannus shoulder as he reached down to cover her stomach.
Ian? Patricia called, as Ian turned to face her she was shocked to see tears welling in his eyes.
The short fuse Daniel had continually been warned about had been suddenly primed. Sweat erupted from the Colonels pores, his nostrils flared like black holes against his face. Tarka erupted showering Daniels face with saliva.
"I will tell you once more that my soldier¦
Daniel voice rose to challenge Colonel Tarka`s, "You, will tell me nothing, this is my hospital and I will say who¦
In a blur of movement, Colonel Tarka`s squat frame defied its mass as he swiftly withdrew his pistol from its holster. He held the semi automatic pistol to Daniels forehead. Daniel pushed hard against the barrel of the gun in defiance.
"What! the Colonel spat through his clenched teeth, "I am in charge of this village and every living thing in it!
Daniel realised circumstances was starting to spiral out of control and attempted to calm the situation.
"I have priorities just like yourself Colonel but you must realise I can not and will not be bullied into who or when patients will be seen
Daniel rocked forward as the pressure on his forehead was abruptly removed. Two deafening explosions rang in his ears, and screams echoed around the tent as Daniel struggled to regain his composure. He looked into Colonel Tarka's face, which mimed venomous accusations towards him. The ringing in Daniels ears subsided and was replaced by hysterical screaming, overlaid by Colonel Tarka`s booming voice. Still the pictures came in slow motion as Daniels brain struggled to process the images. He looked at the gun the Colonel was gesticulating with, and watched as wisps of grey smoke emanated from the barrel.
"Jeannus? Daniel mumbled, his lower jaw loosened as he looked down the examination table. Jeannus's head lay on its side saliva ran from her mouth, her slate black eyes stared intensely forward as blood trickled from puncture wound just below her left eye socket. The pillow Jeannus's head rested on was drenched in blood. Her stomach was drenched in a pink fluid leaking from a fresh bullet wound in her stretched abdomen.
He looked back at Colonel Tarka, "What?
Colonel Tarka relished Daniels reaction.
"You he said digging Daniel in the chest with the barrel of his gun, "will do as I say or I will cleanse more of your precious patients. Do you understand? he growled.
"Yes Daniel answered dragging his gaze from Jeannus body to look back at the colonel.
Colonel Tarka re-holstered his gun and smiled, "Thank you.
The Colonel turned and walked through the silent theatre staring down anyone who dared to look at him.
Daniel stood scanning the thick foliage, his head slightly lowered, the sides of his mouth turned down into a grimace. He took a long breath through his nose.
Sally expected him to break his silence. But nothing.
"Daniel, is everything OK?
Patricia questioned a shrug toward Ian.
"Things seem to be getting on top of him Pat. Ian replied to the silent question.
Ian walked around Daniel, stopping in front of him to stare directly into his eyes trying to fathom what was going on in his head. Daniel, stood impassively scanning the fringe of the bush.
"He's been very insular these last couple of days Pat, I just don't get it.
Daniel had become increasingly preoccupied with thoughts of Aliane, his wife. The plan of finding salvation in his work appeared to be failing. The only joy in his life at present came from his friendship with Sally, and his burgeoning relationship with Ramon.
Ian glanced at Sally, "how's Sally been coping?
Patricia stood behind Sally who in turn stood behind Daniel. In reality they would have been standing in a queue.
"Quiet too. She's worried about Daniel. Patricia paused. "She's too young for this Ian, and so is Ramon. I'm starting to worry about them.
Patricia stretched out her hand and gently stroked the back of Sally's hair.
"Daniel, is everything alrigh¦Sally stopped as she felt a shiver run down her spine.
Daniel unexpectedly moved forward, startling her.
"I just need a bit of time on my own Sal. He said, walking towards the thick canopy of foliage.
"Ok Daniel. Sally replied slightly hurt by his abruptness.
Ian followed Daniel into the bush, glancing briefly back as he disappeared into the undergrowth.
Daniel had simply decided he needed a break from the village. He needed to try and put the last week into some perspective. Over the last eighteen months Ian had always been able to steer Daniel mentally and occasionally physically but there seemed to be a despair about him now.
Once inside the cover of the bush the pace dropped to a stroll as they pushed their way into a clearing. The greenery of the twisted trees died away revealing a natural circular dell. They moved slowly towards the centre where a fallen tree lay on its side. They kicked at the floor as they walked pluming the dust at their feet. From a distance they could be two brothers deep in grief silently searching the history of images in their minds.
Sally, Patricia and Ramon re-entered the camp back at the hospital. They saw a large group gathering near the radio tent, which was commandeered as Colonel Tarka's HQ. Sally ran across to the group to find out what the commotion was about. Ramon and Patricia followed slowly from behind.
"Jana, what's happening here? Sally asks as she reached the crowd.
"General Jimnu, our leader, has been captured Sallee, Jana indicated towards the radio tent. They beat him inside.
The door to the radio tent creaked open silencing the crowd. Out walked Colonel Tarka, nonchalantly wiping the side of his mouth and checking his palm as if he had been cut. He barked an order towards the troops holding back the crowd. One of the Colonel's notorious henchmen pushed into the crowd and grabbed Sally viciously by the hair. The soldier had been secretly nicknamed coco pop due to a large prominent mole on the tip of his nose.
Pulling her out into the open, he forced Sally's face hard into the ground. Sally yelled out in pain. Coco pop swiftly pulled his gun from its holster and pressed the barrel against the top of Sally's head. Patricia quickly darted forward spreading herself protectively across Sally. The sweat leaked from Coco pops face from his sudden exertion as he stared into the swell of people.
Ramon stepped positively from the crowd.
"Leave her alone. He bellowed at the soldier holding Sally. His child's voice had gone as the man in Ramon bubbled to the surface.
Coco pop glanced back towards the Colonel, who beckoned him with a swish of his cow-tail. Coco pop, without a flicker of emotion smashed the flat of the pistol into Ramon's face knocking him to the ground. He grabbed Ramon roughly and hauled him to his feet, dragging him off toward the radio tent. Colonel Tarka had by now disappeared back into the cool of his lair.
"Ramon! Sally screamed jumping to her feet, but the crowd swelled defensively around her.
"Jana, why do they need Ramon?
"Colonel Tarka is to begin the game of African roulette.
"What? Sally questioned, "I don't understand?
"It is similar to Russian roulette except this is the African way Jana explained.
"I don't understand? Sally said hurriedly.
Jana spoke quietly as they neared the tents, "It involves a parent and their child, The Mother or Father is given a gun containing one bullet, the barrel is spun and the parent holds the gun to his son or daughters head and pulls the trigger. If they're lucky they will both walk away.
"No! Sally exhaled breathlessly. "This cannot be happening.
"The parent has a choice Sallee, Jana continued, "if they do not play the game they are both executed, child first parent second. At least in the game of African roulette their son or daughter may stand a chance. To not play would be foolish.
"Daniel. Sally whispered under her breath, and then louder, "Daniel. I must get Daniel.
Patricia followed Sally as she ran back into the bush screaming out Daniel's name. Patricia in turn overlapped Sally's shouts as she called out for Ian.
Both Ian and Daniel heard their names being called and craned their necks in unison toward the commotion that fast approached them.
Sally and Patricia Suddenly burst into the dell.
"What the fuck is going on? Daniel demanded.
As Sally drew closer Daniel could see the damage to the side of her face. The tears, blood and grit had mingled together into a congealed brown syrup on her face. Sally, through bouts of breathlessness and tears rapidly explained the events unfolding back at the camp.
The crease between Daniels eyes deepened as his eyes dropped into his hooded sockets. Fury enveloped Daniel, with his anger escalating as Sally continued.
Ian too, watched as Daniels aggression became more potent, his shoulders became haunched as he listened intensely to what Sally was saying. Daniels lips parted and gradually peeled back into a silent growl. His lungs slowly sucked in air through his clenched teeth with a hiss, visibly inflating his chest.
Patricia could see Ian was becoming more anxious as his attention fluctuated between Sally and Daniel. He stood helpless as the ferocity intensified in Daniel's demeanour.
Daniel had heard enough and pushed his way passed Sally as he steam rollered into the brush. The three of them chased after Daniel who by now had moved twenty feet in front of them as they dodged through the whipping branches Daniel left in his wake. Ian started to fall behind because he was checking to see where they where.
"Go Ian! Patricia shouted.
Daniel was like a man possessed as the adrenalin surged through his veins and with no regard for his safety he cut a swathe through the thick of the bush. He did not flinch as he moved through twisted branches he simply rammed his way through the jungle like a crazed boar elephant.
Finally Daniel and Ian reached the hospital. Coco pop saw Daniel coming towards him and arrogantly swaggered into a position to block Daniel's path. His left hand rested on top of his rifle as he looked down at the ground grinning, just lifting his eyebrows enough to cause deep frown lines to appear on his forehead, yet still allowing himself to watch Daniel as he came closer. Coco pop nonchalantly brought his right hand up into a halt position indicating for Daniel to stop.
Daniel by now had worked himself into a frenzy and the sides of his mouth bubbled with white saliva. His top lip curled into a snarl as he accelerated towards the soldier standing in his path. In one continuous fluid motion Daniel dropped and drew his right shoulder back transferring his full body weight onto his left leg and in a blur of speed, power and accuracy rammed his elbow up and through the Coco Pop on the end of Coco Pop's nose.
"Mother fucker! Daniel spat. His momentum propelled him forward back into his stride.
The notorious henchman dropped unconscious to the ground.
Sally and Patricia moved as fast as they could through the tangled brush, finally reaching the edge of the camp in time to see Daniel surging up the stairs of the radio tent pummelling his body weight into the door. He disappeared into the tent.
Sally and Patricia followed as fast as possible passing what Daniel had left in his wake, Coco Pop lay spread eagled on the ground, his nose lay open, split down the middle by the ferocity of the blow. His legs were wide apart but his heels had slid together making his knees hover an inch from the ground. Vertically he could have been a dancer clicking his heels together in mid flight, but horizontally his leg position resembled a frog in mid stroke. His left arm still rested on the top of his rifle, the bicep of his right arm lay against the side of his face as if he were trying to hail a London taxi. The digits of his hand pointing directly along the route Daniel and Ian had taken.
Inside the radio tent Colonel Tarka held court flanked by three of his guards.
He now held the key to the complete conquering of the Tume tribe. By capturing the man who stood before him, General Jimnu.
The air was thick with anticipation, as the door opened and his most decorated soldier dragged in the prize. Tarka ordered Coco pop back outside to quieten the aggravated crowd.
"Ramon! the General whispered when he recognised his son.
"Father. Ramon replied proudly.
They hugged each other briefly. General Jimnu stroked his sons head.
"Enough of this fucking sentiment you parasites! Tarka barked, "let us begin.
In what could only be described as rehearsed movements the three soldiers divide, one staying protectively in front of the Colonel the other two, with pistols drawn, separate Ramon and his father.
Ramon is wrestled into a kneeling position in front of his father. The second soldier moved toward General Jimnu and aimed his gun at his temple.
Like a schoolteacher prior to handing out a dose of corporal punishment, Colonel Tarka spoke softly. "I think you are aware of the game by now General.
The soldier standing next to the General pulled a second pistol from the inside of his army fatigues, a classic .44 Smith and Wesson Magnum. He expertly opened up the barrel with a flick of his wrist and checked it was empty. The soldier in charge of protecting Colonel Tarka fished a bullet from the pocket of his fatigues, and inserted it into the chamber of the gun, then returned to the Colonels side. With a second flick his wrist the soldier closed the barrel.
The cylinder of the gun was slowly but purposefully rolled the down the top of General Jimnu's arm, the gun clicked methodically. Suddenly the well-maintained pistol whirred into action as the soldier quickly finished his gloating display at General Jimnu's elbow. Each chamber rapidly slipped passed and under the cocked hammer, the gun clicked like a giga counter finding a radiation hotspot. The efficient clicks spun for what seems like an eternity then inevitably slowed before coming to a stop.
The soldier re-positioned himself behind General Jimnu, pushing his fully loaded pistol hard into the base of the Generals neck.
Ramon's head was roughly jolted back by the first soldier. Ramon's father looked down at his son and shook his head from side to side. The tears welled up in his eyes. He knew only too well the rules of Colonel Tarka's game.
Ramon's father felt the cool steel of the revolver as the soldier pushed the short gun barrel into his hand. His fingers were prised apart as the Smith and Wesson moved along on its short journey. Finally, Ramon's Father felt the wooden encased stock in his palm and realised the weight of the gun.
"Take hold of the gun you fucking parasite! The soldier whispered into the Generals ear.
The soldier moved his hand up the General's forearm and tightened his grip. In a slow lifting pushing motion the gun began to rise from its resting position at Ramon's fathers hip.
Colonel Tarka shuffled from behind the human shield his soldier afforded. His eyes bulged in anticipation as his pink red tongue darted out to lick the drying corners of his mouth.
The gun now obscured Ramon's face. The soldier positioned the barrel onto the centre of Ramon's forehead.
General Jimnu's mouth broke open as he sobbed, "Oh my Ramon, Oh my Ramon. Ramon's cheeks glisten with the rivulets of tears that had streamed down his face.
"Father! he sobbed.
"You know I am a man of my word General, Tarka encouraged, "your son will go free¦..
The Colonels sentence was broken apart by the sound of the radio tent door being splintered from its hinges as Daniel and Ian burst in.
The expectation in the room was stifling. The smell of sweat was heavy in the air as Daniel and Ian tried to take in the scene unfolding around them. The room was sparse apart from a large table. One of Tarka's soldiers had taken up position standing protectively in front of him with his pistol drawn. Ramon was on his knees facing his father with the barrel of a gun pressed against his forehead. His father stared blankly at Daniel as the sweat ran freely down his face, invading the cuts around his eyes.
Behind Ramon's father stood a second soldier, his excitement clear to see. The soldiers fatigues were drenched through with sweat as he stood with his pistol pointed at the back of Ramon's father's head.
"Finally, Ian thought, "the cowardice of Colonel Tarka is here for all to see.
The third soldier who held Ramon in his kneeling position attempted to turn his gun on Daniel.
Daniel moved powerfully grabbing the soldiers outstretched arm and wrestled him to the floor.
Ian was powerless and as he glanced quickly around the room he saw another guardian. She stood to the left of Ramon's father, her dark skin glowed radiant health.
Alaine Crowwe stood defeated. Her left arm rested on her hip, and her right hand moved from her forehead to covering her mouth.
She was all too aware that happy endings were not always the conclusion between guardian and host. Experience had taught her to keep an emotional distance and she had finally accepted that fate would be the only answer to some dilemmas. General Jimnu's destiny may after all have been to kill his only son.
The ferociousness of the man who burst into the room frightened Alaine and she stared shocked by his physical rage. His face was contorted into a grimace of seething hatred. Alaine noticed a movement to his side and saw that this man also had a guardian. But her attention was dragged back to the man in front of her as he wrestled one of the guards from his path.
Alaine Crowwe was stunned as she slowly recognised the man before her. There directly in front of her was her husband, Dr. Daniel Crowwe.
Daniel snatched the gun from Ramon's father's hand and turned to face Colonel Tarka. Every gun in the room pointed directly at Daniel, even the soldier who he had wrestled to the floor lay on his back with his pistol fixed on Daniel, who by this time was oblivious to their threat.
"Who the fuck do you think you are? You sick fucking bastard? Daniel screamed, waving the gun toward Colonel Tarka. "God?
Daniel was now beyond all comprehension
"Is this how you win wars? He bellowed and aimed the gun directly at the back of Ramon's head. "By murdering the children. Is this what you really want! he screamed looking back at Colonel Tarka.
Ian watched in horror as Daniel began to pull back the trigger of the gun, the barrel rotated in unison with the moving trigger and in silent slow motion millimetre by millimetre the mechanism turned. The hammer eased back from the waiting chamber and finally reaching its fulcrum, the hammer began its descent into the waiting chamber.
The sound of the room came rushing back to Ian.
The gun discharged with a click.
"You sick evil bastard! Daniel ranted.
In his fury he pointed the gun at his own temple and stepped toward Colonel Tarka.
"You weak fucking coward. You are the reason why there must be a God. Because you cannot be allowed to go unpunished. He hissed through his clenched teeth.
Daniel then pulled the trigger.
"No! Ian screamed.
The gun discharged into Daniels head.
A shot rang out as Patricia and Sally reached the stairs of the radio tent. Sally pushed passed the soldier in her way and saw Daniel lying on his back. Blood had began to pool around his head.
Alaine dropped to her husband lying on the floor and cradled his head in her arms.
"Daniel no! she pleaded. "Not yet, please not yet.
Daniel's eyes fluttered open.
He somehow felt at peace with himself and for some unknown reason strangely understood why the antelope hunted and caught by the lion never struggled or fought for its life, it simply lay down and accepted its fate. The inevitable. Death.
Daniel knew he was dying because all the wonderful things in his life came streaming through his mind; his mother and father, his brothers, the time he spent with his Aunt during the school holidays in Florida. All the crystal clear images came along with the sights, the sounds, the smells, the stream went on and on reliving every precious moment as a voyeur in each event. The moment he pushed the ring onto Alaine's finger and rehearing those immortal words.
"Alaine and Daniel, I now pronounce you man and wife.
And then. Right then, just before Daniel lost his grip on life, there she was, his beautiful wife, Alaine. Once again holding him so close he could smell her perfume, her skin was flawless just as he remembered and her chocolate brown eyes conveyed, as they always had through any crisis large or small, 'everything's going to be fine.'
Daniel knew Alaine was smiling by the way her eyes had creased at the corners, his gaze drifted down to her beautiful smile.
"Oh! Alaine I miss you ¦¦
The sound of a gun being fired at close range should be deafening. Quite the opposite, from the moment the trigger was pulled, Daniel heard a fizz of white noise followed by a muffled thud similar to that of a firework rocket after the blue touch paper has been primed.
Daniel could hear muffled sounds around him, yet he seemed immersed in a twilight zone, at the point somewhere between waking up or just falling back asleep.
"Hello Daniel, my name is Jacob
"Excuse me? Daniel managed through his grogginess¦
Patients and staff alike regardless of their injuries walked arm in arm in a procession of white, the formal dress for such a ceremony, to pay their last respects to their Doctor. Subconsciously they ebbed rhythmically to a lament chanted by one of the patients, as the congregation moved toward the prepared burial ground.
Ramon had been given the privilege to choose Daniels sepulchre. A circular dell had been cut into the brush under his supervision. Slowly the congregation took their places as they filed into the clearing.
To the side of the throng stood Jacob flanked by Patricia and Ian. They stood in awe as they watched the congregation increase, as people from neighbouring villages merged amongst the patients and staff.
In the centre stood Daniels coffin, laid on a make shift wooden trestles. Ramon and his father stood at the foot of the casket waiting patiently for everyone to find their place.
Behind Ramon's father stood his guardian, Daniel's wife, Alaine. And behind Ramon stood his new guardian, Dr. Daniel Crowwe. They too are reunited just as Patricia and Ian were and now have their opportunity to help guide Ramon and his father towards a better future for Rwanda.
Daniel stood in wonder as one by one people filed into the clearing. He watched as the sick helped the sicker quietly take their places around the makeshift table.
Ramon stood respectfully at the foot of Daniels casket, as gradually the assemblage fell silent. He took one step nervously forward and looked up toward the pale blue sky, in an attempt to stop his tears from falling. General Jimnu, moved to his side and placed his hand on his sons shoulder, allowing Ramon time to gather his thoughts.
Ramon took a positive step forward and turned to face the waiting crowd.
Daniel searched through the mass of people looking for Sally. His gaze fell on the man who introduced himself as Jacob, standing along with two other guardians. Daniel inexplicably felt he knew the tall man from the couple, and smiled to acknowledge them all.
Finally, he noticed Sally pushing a young girl in a wheelchair. Daniel smiled to himself as he recognised the woman in the chair, she was the last patient he had operated on. Sally looked pale and drawn as the mourners moved respectfully aside allowing Sally to progress further. A nurse took the wheelchair from her and they spoke briefly before Sally walked through the opening crowd to position herself directly in front of Ramon and his father.
"She looks angry. Daniel thought to himself.
"We gather here today, Ramon began quietly, " to honour a man who through his endeavours touched each and everyone of us deeply,
Ramon glanced at the ground and bit at his bottom lip to gather his composure. Slowly he raised his head, his eyes brimmed with tears. His voice broke with emotion.
"Daniel was my mentor and he was my friend. His single mindedness, his devotion and his unwavering loyalty to help all, was in the end to kill him.
A single sob escaped Ramon as his memory was realised.
"I believe his death will have repercussions for many years to come. We all will make decisions from this time on, that will be influenced by Daniels actions. Ramon paused, "his fearlessness and his humour, along with his occasional foul language made him unique to us all.
Ramon allowed himself to smile as a single tear tumbled down his cheek, and a quiet gurgle of laughter passed through the mourners.
"Without Daniels commitment the hospital would never have survived, he gave us an opportunity to focus and to think for ourselves. He taught me that above all else, I, as an individual can accomplish many great things. Daniel once said, if I needed to be heard then to speak softly and so I speak softly to you all on this day, Daniels day.
Daniel listened intently to Ramon's words overcome by the praise, occasionally frowning uncomfortably at the tributes Ramon heaps on him.
Daniel was beginning to understand what it might have felt like to experience pride for the son he would never have. But this moment was sufficient reward. He realised Ramon was somehow special and now he was beginning to see why. Ramon's experiences had focused his determination to do things right, and he was wise beyond his years.
Ramon's voice rose in confidence, "We as a people must learn from Daniel's example, we must rise above our fears.
"Yes Ramon came an anonymous reply from the crowd.
Daniel and Alaine turned in the direction of the voice only to be confronted by a sea of faces eager for Ramon's thoughts.
"We must push aside our prejudices, we must strive toward a better future. One where we live in harmony and yet keep our independence, our beliefs.
"Yes Ramon again came a deep resonant reply as several people joined in the response.
"We have been put here not just to survive, but we are here to live, to grow and to adapt, to improve our way of life for ourselves and for our children.
"Yes Ramon the mourner's voices swelled as one.
Ramon faced Daniel's casket, he stretched out his arms and declared, "We are a people, we are a family, we are a community, we are Gabomn. We are Africa!
The mourners applauded passionately as the circular basin echoed with Ramon's name. A wheel chair eased itself forward from the throng. Daniel watched the young girl who had been pushed by Sally working at the wheels. Her arms manoeuvred the chair toward the trestles, she reached into her lap for the posy that lay there and placed it gently onto the casket. She then stretched down to the ground to an old brown and beige Fidelity tape recorder left by one of the retreating soldiers. She pushed the play button and it crackled into action.
Sally stood rigid barely holding her composure together. Her hands gripped tightly in front of her as she listened impassively to Ramon's speech.
She kept repeating to herself, 'this can't be happening.'
Her anger had overwhelmed her grief.
Daniel noticed that no guardian stood with Sally, now Patricia had gone.
The clapping finally subsided as the recorder played the first bars of music. Daniel moved from Ramon's side, kicking up a small unfurling dust devil as he walked. In the still morning sun the small whirling cloud went unnoticed as it curled around the foot of one of the trestles supporting the casket.
Daniel stood in front Sally and looked deep into her eyes.
"You look exhausted Sally, he said quietly to her.
Sally stared intently ahead as Daniel moved to her side and wrapped his arms around her. Sally's anger was tangible as she trembled in his arms. He whispered into her ear.
"It's a good day for dying.
Tears welled in Sally's eyes as she suddenly recalled times spent with Daniel that made her laugh.
She whispered out loud. "It's a good day for dying, and then quickly corrected herself.
"I mean, it's a good day for drying.
A smile slowly stretched across Sally's face and the tears finally brimmed and fell
The song pierced the stillness, as Louis Armstrong's emotional, intense voice resonated to 'Rolling in Heaven All Day.' THE END.
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