Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (60)

The voices coming from behind the door were becoming louder. Noticing that it was slightly ajar, Ketu positioned himself so that he could see through the narrow crack. From his new vantage point, he was able to glimpse flashes of the woman’s figure as it circled around the white coat of a doctor. It was clear that a war of words was taking place, fuelled he imagined by her insistence that the rules, on this occasion, were to be bent. I had her all wrong, he now admitted, feeling a sudden twinge of guilt. She’s been arguing our case all the while. As the door was then pushed open momentarily, he saw in the instant before it swung back that she was waving the cash he had given her under the doctor’s nose. Unfazed, the young physician was simply staring her down, in a classic posture of defiance. Arms folded across his chest, his entire body seemed to exude a resolute no. Ketu could control himself no longer. Vaulting the counter, he burst through the door and into the room, to the surprise of both its occupants. “Call yourself a doctor, you bastard?” he screamed, forcing the other man to feel for the wall behind him, as he backed up in fright. It was the receptionist who responded. “Get out of here!” she shrieked, fearing that Ketu’s actions would only make matters worse. But it was too late for reasoning. Rushing towards the doctor to grab him by the collar, Ketu spat the words into the startled man’s face: “Listen to me, asshole. There is a young man out there who needs your attention. Immediately. You are going to treat him – now! Understand? Because if you delay any longer, he will die, and as God bears witness, I swear I will take his revenge… on… you!” With each of these last few utterances, Ketu shook the doctor violently, before finally pushing him against the wall, with a thud. “OK, OK!” the young physician squirmed, twisting away from his aggressor. “Bring him through, then!”

Ketu was already disappearing back through the door as the shaken doctor finished patting down his lapels. Hardly the smaller man, he had easily been overcome by the speed and ferocity of his adversary’s attack. And as well as the shock of the physical onslaught, the man’s words had stung him, too. Smarting at the recollection, the doctor then went about reasserting his authority, rounding on the softest target he could find. “What’s so special about this… this peasant boy, anyway?” he barked at the receptionist. The woman flipped over a sheet on her clipboard, trying to ignore him. “Because I tell you something, ’Bu – you’d better make sure this friend of his comes up with the rest of the money. The next time he turns up here, it’ll be more than just an overworked, underpaid doctor he faces.” “Meaning?” the woman broke her silence. “Well, let’s just say he might find our sekuriti officers a little less easy to bully.”

Back in the reception area, a slovenly pair of orderlies finally arrived to lift Anath’s limp and seemingly lifeless body on to a trolley. Wheeling him through a pair of swinging doors and out of sight, they appeared to move in slow motion, painfully unaware of the urgency of the situation. Job done at last, thought Ketu, sighing as the doors swung shut. Exhausted, the group leader was now bereft of inspiration. “Now what?” he asked the rest of them, tired of being the one that had to make all the decisions. “I suppose some of us should wait here,” piped up someone. It seemed like a good idea, although in his fatigue Ketu was struggling to pinpoint why. “I agree,” he said wearily, unable to formulate a more constructive response. But, digging deep, he then managed to put a framework around the man’s proposal. “OK, this is what we’ll do. Two of us should stay here at all times, rotating every few hours. Sort it out among yourselves who’s going to be the first.” There were no volunteers. “OK, you and you,” he once again took charge, gesturing to the man whose idea it had been, and the woman sat beside him. “We’ll come back in a few hours and replace you, OK?” Somewhat reluctantly, the pair nodded. Then, addressing the rest of the group, Ketu instructed: “Come on, let’s go. I’ve still got work to do.” Ushering them towards the exit doors, he had almost left the building himself when, glancing behind, he saw that the receptionist had returned to her post. Ketu walked back across the room to return to the counter, a sheepish look on his face. “I’m going to see the head of the kampung,” he began. “’Pak Lurah needs to know about what’s happened today. And I’m also going to ask for his financial support. For the boy. His treatment.” The woman remained silent. “Look, I’m sorry about what happened earli–” “Go!” she instructed, curtly.

The driver was asleep in his cab when they returned to the mikrolet, their reappearance alerting a bleary-eyed parking attendant, who had been dozing on a stool nearby. The man stretched as he rose, before rattling the loose change in his satchel. Masya’allah, thought Ketu. Now we’ve got to pay to leave the damn place. Shaking the driver awake, he instructed him to hand over the five hundred Rupiah required for the ticket, while he and the rest of the group re-took their positions in the rear passenger compartment. The place still stank of blood, causing one or two of them to retch. “You might have washed it out,” complained one. Shrugging his shoulders, the driver fired up the engine and handed the parking attendant a fistful of scrunched-up notes, before pulling away. Making stilted progress initially, the inexperienced supir counteracted each shuddering motion by slipping the clutch, to the accompaniment of a cacophony of screaming revs. “Oh, for God’s sake!” shouted Ketu, his head in his hands. “Just get us home, will you, and safely. And there’s no need to drive like a maniac any more.” Without another word from anyone, they drove slowly through the hospital gates and into the traffic, heading back the way they had come.

posted by Kirk at 11:29 pm  

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