Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (65)

Ketu’s cup rattled loudly in the porcelain 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 crockery was distinctly unwelcome. He knew that the matter he intended raising with the Lurah would require delicate handling and was keen 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, and it was vital to gain his support. In short, he held the key to the financial assistance the boy needed. Breathing deeply as the silence at last fell, Ketu sensed 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. “Ma’af sekali. Like I said, I’m so very sorry to trouble you on a Sunday, ’Pak. But I’m sure you must’ve heard what happened outside Sate Blora this afternoon?” Ketu would have been surprised – amazed, even – to learn, however, that this was in fact the first the Lurah had heard of the incident. Cocooned in his comfortable – almost stately – official residence, he had instead been enjoying the serenity of a quiet afternoon’s Koranic study, blissfully unaware that, elsewhere within his jurisdiction, bedlam had just broken out. And when some fellow he did not recognise had unexpectedly turned up to seek an audience, he had not had the faintest idea of what was to come. Now embarrassed by his apparent ignorance, the Lurah chose to nod sagely, as if he were fully aware of the situation and had already been weighing up what to do about it. Falling for this ploy, Ketu’s confidence began to rise; his spirits lifting somewhat. It appeared that his objective would be easier to achieve than he had earlier imagined. “We managed to get the boy to hospital fairly quickly,” he recounted, excitedly. “Commandeered a mikrolet.” “Boy? What boy?” the Lurah now asked – his question something of a confession. “But I thought you said… I mean I thought you… knew?” Ketu quizzed, now feeling a little crestfallen. What’s going on here? he thought to himself, trying to read the man of office. “Oh look, never mind. Just get on with it, would you, my friend?” insisted the Lurah. “It is a Sunday afternoon, as you say.” And now it was clear to Ketu that he would, after all, be facing an uphill struggle. That the Lurah’s earlier body language had been somewhat disingenuous. “It was the boy that runs the newsstand – Anath’s his name,” he continued, beginning his description of events. “He was hit in the shoulder. By a 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 becoming 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. But Ketu pushed on, eager once again, hoping to convert this mild but apparent commendation into something more substantial.

“The thing is, ’Pak, we’re fairly sure the kid’s 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. Some of us even had to cobble the money together to get him admitted in the first place.” Ketu thrust out the paper from the hospital receptionist’s clipboard, upon which his notes of the individual contributions were scribbled. Reluctantly, he withdrew it just as quickly, disappointed at the Lurah’s evident lack of interest. “I’ve promised to try and get some more money to the hospital later today, and then there are bound to be other costs… like reimbursing the mikrolet’s crew for effectively stealing their livelihood for a day… er, medicines the boy will need during his recovery… and so on…” he continued, falteringly. “A good analysis. As I’ve said: well done, my friend. Evidently, it was a very 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,” the Lurah responded, in an attempt to conclude the interview. “Well, no. That isn’t all,” Ketu insisted. “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 subscriptions like the rest of us.” “But is he one of us, this… this, what’s his name – Anath? Really? I’m not so sure, you know. If it’s the boy I’m thinking of, I understood that he was transitory – just passing through on his way to somewhere else. He’s an orphan, isn’t he? A wanderer. No roots.” “Well, ’Pak, I wouldn’t describe him that way at all. Not at all.” The temperature in the Lurah’s rather well appointed residence was finally beginning to rise. “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 sense of indignation welling up inside him. “We consider him a well-liked member of our local community. Someone we feel confident that we ourselves could call upon, in times of need. And someone who also provides a useful service.” “We? Who’s we?” Ketu now knew that the Lurah was someone with whom he would never be able to see eye to eye. For it was clear that the man was far more interested in his own well being than he was in tending to his flock. Barely able to conceal his growing anger, he embarked upon a final push to secure the Lurah’s sympathy and, more importantly, his commitment to release funds. “Look, ’Pak Lurah – sir – can’t you see that I’m appealing directly to you because I can think of no other way to help the poor kid? He was sitting there, minding his own business, when someone shot him. And he deserves our help,” he asserted. “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, perhaps. 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 allow him access to community funds and then he doesn’t hang around long enough to pay it back? What would people 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 so-called man of office, and was walking out through the door, exiting the residence and its surrounding compound as quickly as he could. For whilst he was a man who had not been blessed with an intellect capable of delivering academic qualification – his parents too poor in any event to provide him with a formal education – he was intelligent enough, nonetheless, to realise that flaring up any further under such circumstances would hardly help Anath’s cause. A highly principled man, Ketu would not, however, be letting the Lurah sweep the issue conveniently under the carpet. No.

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

posted by Kirk at 11:31 pm  

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