Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Friday, June 20, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (55)

In the rear of his army issue Timor, Captain Farid was in the throes of a complete breakdown. Blubbering into the chest of his kid brother, the tears that dripped from his chin were laced with the drool and snot of someone no longer capable of withstanding the pressure inside, having finally to let go. Like the sulphurous clouds that bellowed daily from one of Java’s volcanoes, the dark half of his soul had burst free, to be carried away on the winds of confession. For there was no holding back now: the Captain would be telling all, whatever the consequences. “Farid… ’Nak. Pull yourself together now. Come on,” the General’s baritone boomed, from up front.

The old man felt a little calmer now, as he drove them in the direction of the family home. It was as if a breakthrough had been made, that they were finally closing in on the root of his elder son’s problem. Taking a deep breath, he decided to confront him there and then. “You’ve got to grip this… this problem, son. Tell us what it is, please. All of it.” “Bapak, I’m so sorry… Sorry for what I’ve done,” the Captain sobbed. “Those Latino bastards trapped me… with their money… I just couldn’t say no.” But sensing this was only part of the story, the General pressed him further: “Farid, no more lies, please. If you want to get over this, put it behind you completely, you’ve got to tell us everything, however difficult it is to say. Me and Yudi are here to help, but you’re going to have to tell us the whole story. That’s the deal, son.” “OK, ’Pak. Pull off the road, or wait till we get home.” Captain Farid sat upright once more and wiped his nose on a sleeve of his filthy uniform. “I’ve… I’ve got a lot to get off my chest. It’s time to sort out this… this awful fucking mess. Once and for all.” Sucking in a lungful of air, he then let out another heavy sob. And although it felt awkward at first, he eventually caved in to the comfort offered by the arm that was then put around him. “Mas Farid, wherever it is you’ve been, we’d all be so grateful if you came back,” his kid brother whispered. “Let’s wait until we get home, then,” the General piped up…

Where could he be…? This is most unlike him. She did not like getting all grouchy, especially on a Sunday – family day, she now reflected, dolefully – but he really was exceptionally late now, and she was cross, and missing her newspaper.And more than that, the old woman missed his company. She prayed that he would not deny her the pleasure of putting the plate of biscuits in front of him, for it was gestures such as this that made her feel… well, alive. Oh, I don’t know… I don’t want to have cross words with him but I will tell him he’s upset me, she determined, once more attending the stove, to heat another pan of water in order to replace the tea that had already gone cold.

And inside she felt cold, too, despite the oppressive humidity brought on by the rain. Perhaps that’s it, she consoled herself. He’s waiting for it to stop. For it was true, the initial downpour had turned into a major deluge, as if God was taking revenge for some unspeakable act of evil, or cruelty…

At last, the mikrolet was on its final approach to Rumah Sakit Medika. With his eyes still firmly closed, Anath had been mumbling something unintelligible for a while now, including vague references to his mother. His pallour was that of a corpse: something that each member of the group had witnessed, at one time or another in their lives. For them, it was a familiar sight. And it spelt only one thing. The bus continued to rattle over uneven roads, the driver over-revving and clutch-slipping his way along the twisty backstreet route, to the annoyance of everyone. The incessant rain, meanwhile, seemed only to be getting heavier and heavier. Without exception, those inside the stuffy passenger compartment sat slumped in exhaustion, the enormity of the situation taking firmer shape in their minds. The adrenalin rush they had felt when first acting to save the boy had now been replaced by abject weariness – the euphoria of the moment lost, leaving the group deflated. In the stillness, punctuated only by the boy’s moans, defeatist thinking began to prevail. He’s not going to make it, each of them secretly acknowledged.

As they arrived at the hospital gates, the driver swung the bus left to follow the signs marked ‘Darurat’.


After a couple more twists and turns, he was able to bring the vehicle to a halt almost directly outside the entrance doors to the hospital’s Casualty Department. There was a considerable amount of activity in the vicinity, as ambulance doors were swung open and bodies rolled out, some still breathing, others not. There seemed to be an army of people milling around urgently, working in a frenzy of uncoordinated activity, tending to the sick and injured that the city had coughed up. It was a scene that often disturbed the unfamiliar: one that could induce among them a morbid fear – engender the sense that they, too, could somehow be afflicted if brought into too close a contact with the dead and dying. Jaws agape, several of the group were experiencing this uneasy sensation, when Ketu abruptly jolted them from their reverie. “Come on, don’t just sit there!” he yelled at them. “Can’t you see he’s slipping away? Come on! Help!

Ketu Pramoedya was right. The prostrate boy was in dire need of treatment: most urgently, a transfusion of blood. “Quickly, I said. Quick!” he continued to urge, as four of them each took a limb, half-carrying, half-dragging the dying boy directly into the Casualty Department’s reception area, having no time to wait for a stretcher.

posted by Kirk at 11:47 pm  

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