Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (70)

“This must be them now, ’Bu,” the woman called out to her mother-in-law, hearing the shrill ring of the telephone. Moving through into the hallway, she picked up the receiver from its cradle, expecting to hear the voice of her husband, Daman, on the other end of the line. “Hello?” But instead, she was treated to the abrupt manner of the kampung’s Lurah: “’Pak Bambang,” he stated, gruffly, without apology for his failure to observe even the slightest element of telephone etiquette. “Oh, I’m afraid he’s… er, not back yet. Who’s speaking, please?” “’Pak Lurah. Where is he?” “He’s, er, at the golf club. We’re expecting him back any time now.” “Well, tell him to call me. Urgently,” the Lurah concluded, curtly. “OK, I’ll–” But the line was already dead. What a rude man, she thought, scribbling the word “Lurah” on some paper by the side of the handset. I’ve never really liked him

Replacing the receiver, the phone rang again, instantly, making her jump. Twitchily, she picked it up. “Er… Hello?” “Hello, sayang.” It was Daman. “Hi! Are you on your way back?” she asked, the deliberate note of enthusiasm in her voice easy to detect. “Yes. We’ll be about another twenty minutes.” But her husband’s voice seemed unusually cold. She sensed that something was wrong. “Are you… OK? You sound a bit, well… funny.” “I’ll… We’ll tell you when we get back. It’s about Papa.” The woman remained silent, pensive. Oh no… Dear God, please don’t let it be what I think it is… “Papa…? What abou–” “I can’t tell you on the phone,” Daman continued. “But try and make sure that Mama’s settled, by the time we get there. Don’t let her fuss over the dinner, or get stressed about anything.” “OK, sayang. I’ll do my best. But you know what she’s like.” “Yeah… Just be prepared for when we get there. There’s bad news, I’m afraid.” “OK, my love. Bye.” “Bye.” She replaced the receiver and shook her head slowly. It was not going to be the type of relaxed Sunday evening the family normally spent together, then…

Waking with a start, the old woman wondered for a moment where she was. The light was fading and the only shapes her failing eyesight could make out seemed a little unfamiliar. But reaching around her sides, the familiar feel of her wheelchair’s frame reassured her. What time is it? she wondered, wheeling the contraption across the floor. “Nearly five,” she said aloud, looking at the kitchen clock. Masya’allah! I’ve been asleep for ages!

Turning a knob on the stove, she listened to the click-click-click of the ignition, which eventually caught the gas with a quiet boom. Now deciding to give up on the boy, she slid a pan of water across, to begin preparing her dinner. He’s really disappointed me, she contemplated, a little sulkily. This is the first time he’s let me down. I just can’t understand it. He’s usually thoughtful enough to let me know when he’s going to be away. But suddenly she paused, as another thought then occurred to her, causing her brow to furrow in concern. I do hope he hasn’t met with an accident. He’s such a lovely boy

Just then, there was a rapping on the door. Alhamdulillah! He’s here! But after wheeling herself from the kitchen to the hallway in order to call out her invitation: “Masuk!” the figure that subsequently let himself in made her recoil in shock. For this was not her usual boy, the one from the newsstand – it was someone much bigger. Someone who had a frame that was more like her son’s. Budi? Is that you…? And, more worryingly now, as she began to focus better, it appeared through the gloom that there was someone else there, too. Standing behind him.

Summoning all the nerve she possessed, the old woman was about to challenge the men when the silhouette before her piped up: “It’s OK, Nenek,” it said. “Don’t worry. I’ve brought you your paper, that’s all.” Detective Adi had been quick to recognise that his unscheduled appearance at the old woman’s home would likely be a cause of concern. “Oh… But where…?” “Everything’s OK, ’Bu,” the Detective continued, the tone of his voice deliberately soothing. Placing the paper in her lap, he indicated that he was about to take his leave. “I won’t keep you. But I’ll be back tomorrow. Earlier, so you can get a proper read.” “But my usual boy?” she appealed, as he turned to go. “I’ll tell you tomorrow,” he replied. And with that, he was gone.

posted by Kirk at 12:22 am  

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