THE TORN BLANKETJuly 2, 2019
She could still smell the deadly fumes of her husband’s feet among the hospital blankets, despite all efforts by hospital staff to assure her of the ward’s septic conditions. She slowly supported herself onto her bony elbows to get a look around as a would be doctor, that handsome doctor, summoned her. She showed her dreamy face, her graceful neck and bared part of her breasts. It was only a friendly nurse offering least needed comfort. She re-covered herself quickly as if disappointed to find the old nurse beside her hospital bed.
‘Madam, you must rest. Tell me what happened.’
‘Is it treasonable?’ The nurse probed.
‘More than that’ She quipped. Least interested.
‘My sympathies. Does he beat you every night or something? He doesn’t look like the violent type.’
The nurse pressed and added. ‘I am a woman. I do understand the pain of domestic violence’
‘Thanks for your concern mum. Its more than that. I can’t find the words to explain. Its painful, just remember that.’
‘But…but surely you must. We can help you.’
‘Tell who? I can only tell my doctor…’
‘Which doctor? You are not serious. Should we call a female doctor?’
‘No, I want my usual one.’
‘He is a man ma’am.’
‘Pray don’t be mad. Results show poisoning by some rare toxic gases. What can you attribute that to?’
‘I can’t tell you.’
‘Some government official of sorts? Is it a state secret?’
‘No!’ She protested.
‘I really do understand ma’am. These big men can be tormenting. Poisoning you with benzyl bromide, and ammonium chloride? For what? Did he want you by force and you refused. I mean, did you turn down his advances?’ The nurse was whispering, but the force of her whispers hit her like a gale.
Lucy let the nurse rumble on and on, then unexpectedly laughed. She knew she was beautiful and often enjoyed the effect her presence produced on the men around her, but the thought of being wanted by some big man in the government, refusing and then being poisoned in the process was out of the planet. How could she tell the elderly nurse of the cold nights she had spent for the whole of her marriage life when she was a working lady? Buying blanket. Every now and then, Yet Feeling cold each and every night. The blankets, as to prove their uselessness got torn, before they could finish a week – and that price! It took an expensive blanket, imported only two days or three at most. And it would be torn. Hers was a cold of torn blankets. She had done everything in her power to keep warm and secure. She had exchanged food reserve, the much needed clothes and everything of value to protect herself from the midnight cold. What would she do no? She had no blanket and the idea of being discharged from the hospital, away from wards was frightening. She didn’t want to go back home. No, she wouldn’t go back home. It was unthought of to go back to that brute of a husband who was responsible for the cold.
The nurse hadn’t gone away. She stood beside the bed, surprised. He laughter, exposing a set of well arranged teeth, soon died and never resurrected again in their short acquaintance. She lay back, supporting herself on her elbows as earlier mentioned. It was as if the hospital had filled with her dark complexion and extreme beauty.
But the misery so that it seemed reduced in its fragrances.
“You had a fever madam. Don’t overexpose your body.
“Does it matter?”
“so much money is being spend in an attempt to cure you completely. You need to go and attend to your children. Please do tell me what exactly happened” the nurse soothed, the sweet mother has needed . So protective. She was caring alright, she was concerned, perhaps not of all patients, but concerned, all the same. Yet the Thought of telling her, of washing her …..in public was frightening. Would she laugh? How could she admit to the nurse that she was better off in hospital than her cold home? She would be glad in a prison if only the cold nights could be a thing of the past, yet prisoners too were suffering.
Lucy looked around. Was she better than the land………..victims whose limbs had been amputated hers was a different case. Not a victim of the civil, but a victim of another war altogether.
No farming could go on. She cold no longer go to the farm. She was too sick and all the money had been spend on the good for nothing blanket was her husband to blame for the tearing of the blankets? Was this trivial all returns from petroleum and brought millions to the actual realities of starvation-like calabashes breaking, she heard the sound of shells and closed her ears. Opened them and immediately feared for her children, alone at home, anything could happen to them. The nurse was no longer beside her. She wished for her returns, ready to empty her soul to her.
She pictured herself in Somalia, Ethiopia, Liberia Sierra Leone and not just in an Angolan hospital. She covered her eyes for she couldn’t look around without seeing faces full of agony, pain, limbs ambulated and bodies manned. She now pictured blanket seller of manufacturer. What could be the use of the sponsored negotiations to bring together her husband and her? Should she have finished for the end of her cold and the making of fire instead? Knowing very well they could only fan the cold. Could she have wished for the cold to end had she been a manufacturer distributor and peddler of these blankets? Somebody somewhere was benefiting from agony. Somebody was making money out of her a misery and part of this money was being used to treat and limbs. They weren’t any body dressed than any others on the streets. Infact they were average basing on the standards in rural and urban Angola. She whispered to the nurse to let them in. She seemed not o hear, too dead to admit.
“Whom have you come to visit?”
“Our mother” They answered in unison. It was as if they said: Jesus of Nazareth and fell back.
“Your mother? You mean you all belong to a single mother?” She seemed surprised that none of them had been claimed by the civil war-cause of her disbelief.
“You mean you have one mother?” She asked them almost politely when her surprise seemed to have died down. The eldest now spoke. The rest, nearly of the same age listened, like troops to their commander”
“We are the children of Lucy Alonga, a patient in this hospital. She was brought in unconscious.”
“Lucy?” She exclaimed” Did you say Lucy Alonga?”
She again asked, threw up her arms perhaps in feigned adventure and collapsed in fits, a thing that made Lucy hurry to the scene. Patients could not help wondering whether she scene. Patients could not help wondering whether she won’t sick at all.
The children, now frightened, claim…..around at the woman on the ground she had fainted among the patients. Tears flooded their eyes and dripped to the hospital floor like blood droplets fresh wounds. The wash woman finding too much salty water on the ground, a woman lying legs high up in the air, the woman being a high ranking nurse and a mother standing in a short transparent night and so children around, expected the very aforementioned act by slipping in the tears and falling besides the fainted nurse.
“Mother, what was it? “ One child whispered
“ She fainted “ She answered and surveying , slipped back into bed. The children surrounded the small bed beneath which lay another patient, each and every one of them waiting to feel the warmth among the blankets. There mothers had been a case of poisoning or attempted poisoning and what they wanted to know was what had caused it. Who had been responsible. Lucy now shed tears. Perhaps guilty of having to leave her children. She now spoke very slowly, punctuating the same with a sneeze and a touch of the nose and perhaps a clearing of the through, concerned in the narrow grace neck.
“Mother, what happened? “ The eldest repect not satisfied with the earlier answer.
“My children, it’s your dad. It’s your father that made me hospitalized. I buy blankets, yet sleep in the cold every night.
“Does he snatch it from you at night?” the Youngest asked, aware that her parents., had been sharing blankets for long . Her face was laden with concerning. Dry mucus glued shut one of her tiny nostrils. She hopped on the not amputated leg and moved closer to her mother. An imitation of life gone sour.
“Not so Frieda. I buy the blanket. They have only made me sick and more sick. They are expensive good for nothing and you, my children, continue suffering. I must keep them. Whether the money Carlos. Where is the money content and you machel. Where is the money? Your dad tears the blanket”
“What with?” they asked, again in unison, fleshing their tiny muscles, they had little of these, very little. They perhaps wanted to know why their father and how their father tore the new and the old blankets. She needed a fire to produce warmth, and perhaps somebody to love. Not the expensive second hand blankets, blankets that had to be replaced time and again.
“But how mother why?”
“You can’t understand. You are too young my children. Life is what is because of our in ability to make it otherwise. Perhaps I should tell you a story. We were once offered a lift. We rejoiced and entered whatever it was that to lift us ferry our black bodies.
“But yours isn’t so black” Frieda said
“Black all the same baby. We were offered a free lift and before we could reach our destination un…….way along the journey, we were asked for the vehicle had moved along a path we knew not , along a strange path. We now have been thrown out of the vehicle, suspended on a rope that can be pulled back and forth whenever we pray and whenever we don’t. We shall never pay enough for the stray leave alone the one to come, the true journey”
“Mum, who are we? The eldest whispered His mother did not answer but appeared to explain her story in other words. She now whispered as their heads cared in towards the bed.
“I am in the cold my children. Your dad does not wash. His feet, they are hurry, cracked and dirty. Thy produce poisonous gases. He puts on shoes day and night and when he removes them, be they gumboots from the land derived farms or jungle boots from the front, I can’t bear the small. He never washes. He goes to the bathroom with a sponge and water and soap but…………..” she breaks down.
“Mum, don’t cry. Please don’t cry mum”
“Ho, I won’t. But it is painful my children. The hurry legs tear the blankets. They produce the odour that makes me sick. I sleep in the cold. I am sick. Very sick.. What will I do? Now and then? You are hungry, I can’t provide for your food. You will continue hungering as long as they sell me the blanket or loan them to me. Your dad is the real cause. His nails have overgrown. I vomit the little I eat for the feet coming out of the torn dirty socks produce fumes. I am like a slave, deep inside our land where am I?”
The children just starred at her. The elder among them worried of would be insanity instantly setting in. they couldn’t understand exactly what their dear mum was limiting at. They broke into a run and their footsteps could only lead them to one place-whenever their father was.
“Father must wash! They shouted as they ran.
“We ant a clean father!”
He must cut the nails that make mother sick and then one blanket shall be enough and we shall eat. Daddy must be washed. Why should he do this to mother?” Each spoke. Their lungburion disposition, as they ran or hopped must have shocked on lookers. Many thought another rebel attck had been pronounced and ran together with the children gathering dust and cutting the grass blades lets . They found along the paths. The slums were astir and so were all the adjoining suburbs. An attack was in the …………and many others were bound to lose their limbs and live. “No it is not a rebel attack!” One child shouted but his voice was not loud enough to stop the commotion.
Their father was caught within no time. He had to be washed while clothed for he couldn’t be undressed by his children or in front of them. He sat upon a stone contemplating what to do now that he had been found out. He was forced toile down. The youngest started undressing him, starting with the heavily dirtiest jungle boots. Their small left her gasping for breath. She fell and fainted. The small sent them sprawling for cover too late. The mother rescued them as he prepared to pass through the gate for he, their dad, he is running away.
“Stop!” She shouted. She had followed them from the hospital. “If you undress him him you will go blind. Leave it to me!” They needed her and their clean-father. Their mother still had the acidified cotton wool on her nose to counter the ammonia like gases. That the old boy’s feet and socks produced. The fumes penetrated her nostrils. She felt disszy but opened her mouth as if to speak but couldn’t he tell her that the feeling of water upon his feet would kill him. He again opened his thick lips after mornetary closeure. Only the approaching bucket of water made him talk though with difficult, almost weeping like a prisoner of war.
“My dear,” his voice was husky “I will die”
“Yes, I am not to blame. It is the didn’t
“But the dint’ is on yo! Must wash. Alonga.
You must wash for the family to have peace. I have a feeling that your tearing of every ew blanket bought was a way of tormenting me into fostering ties with blankets makers. You have been bribed. You no longer love me!
“Its you who has changed. Believe that I can’t stand corrosion of my skin. Particularly the feet.
“Think of all the expenses Alonga. All the hunger and children suffering. They go and forage for food, only to lose their limbs to the landmines. You have caused my sickness. Isn’t that suffering enough? You must wash Alonga. You must wash. You are one man we would have made president. If only you were clean.!”
He lowered his face and for a time seemed transformed or rather transfigured. She felt drawn to him. She even wanted to put her arms around his neck now that the children had distanced. She was full of concern. She wanted to understand him. What he said, what he felt? What really troubled hi? Why couldn’t rest. The task was supping up al her energy after a couple of days at the hospital. Something happened in that momentary pause that left her dumbfounded. The children now ran from cover. Water had fallen onto the prohibited region-His feet.
He hopped, stepped once and jumped into a run as fast as he could. The children knew he was the black man their mother had often talked about. They pursued him all the way, while their mother disappeared with the handsome doctor who had come to watch the spectacle. The price of water had at long last been paid but the torn blankets, courtesy of Alonga’s feet remained.
“Alonga, will you wash? A voice could be heard. We all turned. The village had to be exercised. Se were the slums and the suburbs indeed the whole land.