Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Through The Godless Hours – A Reminder

Ketu’s cup rattled loudly in its saucer as he set it down, a little clumsily. Inwardly, he chastised himself – he had always been ham-fisted, but right now the distraction caused by his inelegant bungling of the china was distinctly unwelcome. Sack the juggler… he cursed. For Ketu knew that the matter he intended raising with the Lurah would require delicate handling and was keen as a result to stage an overt display of obeisance towards the official. The man was, after all, the final arbiter of all matters arising within the kampung’s boundaries – like it or not. It was vital, therefore, to gain his support: in short, the Lurah held the key to the financial assistance the boy needed.

Breathing deeply as the silence at last fell, Ketu sensed that the moment had come to explain the purpose of his visit.

“Once again, ’Pak, thank you for sparing the time to see me,” he began. “Like I said, I’m so very sorry to trouble you on a Sunday. Ma’af sekali. But, like me, you must be disturbed by what happened outside Sate Blora this afternoon…”

Ketu’s eyes then began to widen as the Lurah’s expression suggested, to the contrary, that this was in fact the first he had learned of the incident. For, cocooned in his comfortable – indeed, almost stately – official residence, the elder had instead been enjoying the serenity of a quiet afternoon’s Koranic study, blissfully unaware that, elsewhere within his jurisdiction, bedlam had broken out. And so when some rough fellow he did not recognise had unexpectedly turned up to seek an audience, he had in consequence not the faintest idea of what was to come. Suddenly embarrassed by his apparent display of ignorance before the unwelcome kampungan now sat inconveniently across the low table between them, the Lurah reflexively began to nod – as if he were, after all, fully aware of the situation and had already been weighing up what to do about it.

“Go on,” he cleverly instructed.

Falling for the ploy, Ketu relaxed in his simple way, growing quickly confident that a solution to the boy’s plight was just a short exchange away.

“We managed to get the lad to hospital fairly quickly,” he recounted, over-excitedly. “Commandeered a mikrolet!

“Boy? What boy?” the Lurah now asked – his question a surprising confession.

“But I thought you said… I mean I thought you… knew…?” Ketu quizzed, now crestfallen. What’s going on here? he began thinking to himself, while trying to read the man of office sat before him.

“Oh look, never mind. Just get on with it, would you, my friend?” insisted the Lurah. “It is a Sunday afternoon, as you say.”

It was now clear to Ketu that he would, after all, be facing an uphill struggle. That the Lurah’s posturing had been somewhat disingenuous: an act. Bravely, he pressed on:

“It was the boy that runs the newsstand – Anath’s his name,” he began his description of events. “He was hit in the shoulder. Stray bullet. There was a figh–”

“So you took him to hospital in a mikrolet,” the Lurah cut in, wishing to truncate what, for him, was already a rather dreary monologue. “That was good work – well done.”

A slight sneer – something he had carried with him all his life – had formed around his nose, causing his right nostril to flare. But Ketu would not be quieted, the knowledge of the capital city’s all-too-common injustices swiftly reawakening in him, driving him on:

“The thing is, ’Pak” – he spat the word – “the kid’s obviously got very little in the way of savings. He’s going to have a sizeable bill to foot when he’s fit enough to be discharged. Look: some of us even had to cobble the money together to get him admitted in the first place!”

Ketu thrust out the paper he had taken from the hospital receptionist’s clipboard, upon which his notes of the individual contributions were scribbled. Reluctantly, he withdrew it – rather more slowly – when the Lurah showed no interest in the document. It felt at once to Ketu as if he had held out his hand to shake another’s, only for it to be left hovering in mid-air. A man of considerable pride, this infuriated him, producing a raw anger in his heart that he could barely suppress. Clenching his teeth, he continued:

“I’ve promised to try and get some more money to the rumah sakit later today, and there will of course be other costs… like reimbursing the mikrolet’s crew… medicines the boy will need during his recovery… and so on…” he said.

But his words – as much as his growing antagonism – were ignored. Instead, the Lurah attempted to conclude the interview:

“A good analysis. As I’ve said: well done, my friend. It was a neighbourly deed, what you and your fellow kampung folk did. Now, if that’ll be all, I’ve got a number of duties to attend to this afternoon,” he said.

“Well, no. As a matter of fact, that isn’t all,” Ketu now insisted, rising from his uncomfortably low seat. “Look – without putting too fine a point on it, ’Pak, I thought you might be able to come to the boy’s aid. You know: use some of the official funds. From the kampung kitty. He is one of us, after all – pays his monthly dues, just like the rest of us.”

His voice had risen both in volume and pitch; the fact that he was also now towering over the Lurah causing for what was perhaps the first time during their encounter a degree of disquiet in the elder. But perhaps in evidence of how he had attained his standing within the community, the old man went immediately on the attack:

“But look, er – what’s your name?”

“Ketu.”

“Oh yes, Ketu. Look, Ketu: is he one of us? Really? This… this… oh, do help me with his name – I’m not so good with names.”

“Anath”

“Yes, Kepu. This Anath. Is he really one of us? You see, I’m not so sure, you know. Really. You see, if it’s the boy I’m thinking of, my understanding is that he’s just transitory – just passing through, on his way to somewhere else. He’s an orphan, isn’t he? A wanderer. No roots.”

“Well, ’Pak” – once more, the word was spat out like an unwanted bone – “I wouldn’t describe him that way at all. Not at all!”

Ketu had begun pacing from side to side, while the temperature within the Lurah’s rather well appointed residence finally reached boiling point.

“See, he’s lived here, in the same small lodgings, for almost five years now!”

Ketu’s breathing was becoming shallower, his chest heaving as he felt a growing sense of indignation well up inside him. His throat constricted to the point of embarrassment as he tried to spit out the next few words:

“See, we consider him a well-liked member of our community. Someone we feel confident that we ourselves could call upon, in times of need. And someone who also provides a useful local service.”

We? Who’s we?” came the cold and mocking reply.

Ketu now knew that the man before him was someone with whom he would never be able to see eye-to-eye. For it was clear that the Lurah was someone far more interested in preserving his own well being than he was in tending to his flock. And in this moment of resignation, Ketu was becalmed as he made a final throw of the dice:

“Look, ’Pak Lurahsir – can’t you see that I’m appealing to you directly because I can think of no other way to help the poor kid?” he quietly asserted. “He was sitting there, minding his own business, when someone shot him. And I think he deserves our help. I’m sure your books would confirm we have sufficient money in the coffers to assist, even if it’s in the form of a loan. Something he can repay, over time. Now: what do you say?”

“Well that’s exactly my point, isn’t it, my friend?” the Lurah sneered in response. “What if I were to allow him access to community funds and then he didn’t hang around long enough to pay it back? What would you kampung folk think of that, eh? And anyway, shouldn’t the person who shot him pay for his treatment? Why don’t you go and ask him?

But Ketu had already shown his back to the unelected man of office, and was walking out through the door, exiting the residence and its extensive surrounding compound as quickly as he could. For whilst he was a man without an intellect capable of delivering academic qualifications – not that his parents had ever had the means to provide him with a formal education in the first place – Ketu was intelligent enough to realise that no amount of persuasion or patient rationalisation was going to work on this occasion.

A highly principled man, he would not, however, be letting the Lurah sweep the problem conveniently under the carpet. No.

Oh, no, he now thought to himself. No, no, no. The boy will be getting every bit of assistance he needs, he determined, while mumbling a few profanities under his breath. I’ll make damn sure of that…

posted by Kirk at 12:06 am  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Love Is Stronger Than Death, By Matt Johnson (The The)

Love, love, love…
Love, love, love…

Me and my friend were walking
In the cold light of mourning
Tears may blind the eyes, but the soul is not deceived
In this world even winter ain’t what it seems

Here come the blue skies here comes springtime
When the rivers run high and the tears run dry
When everything that dies…
Shall rise…

Love, love, love… is stronger than death
Love, love, love… is stronger than death

In our lives we hunger for those we cannot touch
All the thoughts unuttered and all the feelings unexpressed
Play upon our hearts like the mist upon our breath

But, awoken by grief, our spirits speak
How could you believe that the life within the seed
That grew arms that reached
And a heart that beat
And lips that smiled
And eyes that cried
Could ever die?

Here come the blue skies here comes springtime
When the rivers run high and the tears run dry
When everything that dies…
Shall rise…

Love, love, love… is stronger than death
Love, love, love… is stronger than death

Shall rise… Shall rise…
Shall rise… Shall rise…

posted by Kirk at 6:24 am  

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