Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (58)

By now, the group had been waiting for over ten minutes. Still there was no sign that the boy would soon be receiving treatment. Ketu paced restlessly up and down in front of the receptionist, his brow furrowed. “Masya’allah! Can’t you see we’ll lose him if nothing is done?” he suddenly bellowed, turning to face her. How can she be so dispassionate? “Look at him, will you? He needs to be seen to right now! Immediately!” “As I’ve already told you, ’Pak, the doctors are working as fast as they can. It’s busier than usual for a Sunday. Your friend will just have to wait his turn.” The woman’s obduracy angered him. But she had seen it all before. “Take a look at him, I said!” Ketu was now pointing across the room to what could easily be mistaken for a corpse, so pale was the boy’s apparent death mask. “He’ll die if he doesn’t get some blood. Fast.” Ketu’s voice was now beginning to sound tired. Although urgent, it seemed to contain a hint of defeat. For a moment it appeared that he, too, was giving up on what seemed the impossible task of saving the boy.

Tenang, ’Pak.” Calm down. “I’ll go and talk to the doctor. See what I can do to have him bumped up the order,” the receptionist promised. “But remember this is the Casualty Department – everyone here is in need of urgent treatment. Everyone,” she added, officiously. “In the meantime, kindly fill out this form and have a credit card ready so that we can process the admission quickly, when the time comes.” The woman handed Ketu a clipboard, before disappearing into another room. Credit card? he thought, reeling in the pen that was attached to the board by way of a dirty length of string. Credit card? None of us has one of those, surely?

With a mixture of bemusement and grim resignation on his face, Ketu returned to the group of five or six kampung folk who remained sitting around the boy, offering what comfort they could. “Does anyone here happen to own a credit card?” he asked, to a sea of blank responses. Thought so. “OK. Look, we’re going to have to chip in all the money we have on us. Put it all together,” he cajoled, pulling a wad of low denomination notes from a pocket. “All the cash you have on you, OK? Come on, quick! We’ll sort it out later.” Jotting down on to a piece of scrap paper that lay beneath the admission form, he noted what each of them had contributed, before counting out the notes. “…Thirty-six thousand, thirty-seven, forty-two. Forty-two thousand. That’s never going to be enough!” The others said nothing, avoiding his eyes. “Come on, everyone. There’s got to be more than that.” Silence. “Hey! Come on! I’ve coughed up everything I have. What about you?” Ketu scanned the reluctant expressions all around him. He knew it was unfair to ask these people for more, particularly when many of them were concerned about how they were going to put rice on their tables that evening. But there was no other choice. “You’ve got to give me everything you have on you. There’s just no other way!” He shook his head. One by one, the group members begrudgingly passed him whatever notes they had left, while another let out a heavy sigh as he robbed his pocket of some coins. Overhearing Ketu’s plea, a bystander made a further contribution, waving away a request for his contact details. It seemed that there was some goodness left in the world, after all. Ketu counted the notes again. He now had sixty-eight thousand Rupiah in all, plus a few coins. The equivalent of seventy US dollars.

Sucking in a deep breath, he began to move slowly back across the room, thinking all the while how he was going to frame his next request. The receptionist reappeared just as he reached the counter, announcing the good news immediately. “OK, I’ve managed to get your friend priority treatment.” She sounded as though she deserved a medal. “The doctor will see him right away. Where’s the form?” Ketu began filling it in as she watched. “Right… er, we don’t know his family name, only his given name…” he mumbled, almost to himself. “We don’t know his address… We don’t know his blood type and… we don’t have a credit card…”

He handed her the partially completed form and the collection of notes and coins the group had managed to cobble together. “Then I cannot admit him.” “What?” Ketu exclaimed. “What do you mean, you can’t admit him?” His voice was beginning to rise again, which served only to help the woman dig in her heels. “’Pak, we have rules here,” she now stated, calmly. This was clearly a speech she had oft practised. “Like I said: no credit card, no admission. Those are the hospital rules.” “Stupid fucking rules.” “Bapak… Bapak. You’re going to have to change your attitude.” If her voice was now soft and purring, her words were harsh. They stung. “Profanities won’t help your cause. They’re not tolerated here–” “Another stupid fucking rule, I expect!” Ketu cut in. “’Pak! We have ru–” “OK, I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” he interjected once more, apologising. “But look – you’ve got to admit him, or he’ll die. It’s that simple. We don’t have time to move him elsewhere – he’s too weak. Look at him. Please help, I beg you. Please.”

The woman paused for a moment, saying nothing. Finally, it seemed that he was beginning to break down her intransigence. “Here. Take this money, please,” Ketu continued, taking his opportunity. “Admit the boy for treatment and I’ll go and find some more to cover the bill… I guarantee it. Please?” She looked back and forth from Ketu to the admission form and then across to the prostrate boy. “I’ll have to talk to the doctor first,” she said at last. “OK, but cepat!Hurry!

posted by Kirk at 10:46 pm  

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