SHATTERED DREAMS (Short story)

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–Girsl drops out at grade
Girl drops out at grade 12 and marries a guy  who seems to have everything.  Husband wants children. She doesn’t. She finds later that  she can’t have children.
 

 
 

 

Reuben sat cross legged on the floor with a plate of food  before him. Slowly he stuck out his hand and picked up a small piece of taro and tasted it.     He was bored with Vero’s cooking. It was the  same old sticky rice  and tinned fish cooked with greens. He could hear the clatter of plates and cups  as Vero washed  up in the tiny kitchen.  Her cooking seemed to have gotten worse since they began arguing about the baby. He picked up the spoon and moved the greens to one side  of the plate and began eating the rice. He had taken two hours  for his afternoon walk home from work and his dinner had since become cold.   He turned towards the kichen and eyed Vero’s slim silhouette against the afternoon sun streaming through the kitchen window.  She was beautiful. “Sexy” was the word.

                

“Vero!” He called out in a commanding voice. “Bring me some water. “ He hung his head over his head as he scooped the rice with his spoon. He heard Vero pull open the refrigerator door  and poor some water for him.  Vero came out the kitchen and silently placed the plastic cup of water  before him. Without raising his head he  waited until   she had returned to the kitchen before he continued eating.

In the kitchen, Vero was  rinsing the last of the plates when the pain stabbed  in her lower abdomen. She leaned on the kitchen sink and waited until it  subsided.  Reuben was never the perfect husband for her. He never could be. He   never listened when  she tried to tell him  how she felt. He’d say it was all hogwash  or some mysterious illness that occurred only   among females.   They had married three years ago. Back then he was perfect and for a young girl who had known the  comforts and restrictions of her family, Reuben was all she had ever wanted. He was free spiritied and strong minded. He also had a job and a house and only he could offer her the security she longed for.  But things were a lot different from what she had immagined.  She now had to face up to the reality of living with a low wage earner  in a  tinly cost house in one of the worst crime ridden parts of Lae City. She looked out o the window at the passing traffic.  The dust rose and settled on the flywire each time a vehicle passed. It was depressing here. 

                “Aaaah! Vero!” Reuben  let out a starting yell. “Come here and take this cup  away, this minute, you stupid idiot! Reuben shouted even louder.  “This bloody cup is greasy. Don’t you ever use soap?!”

                Vero said nothing. She too was  fuming but she did not want to say anymore. Reuben was like a kid who cried  louder  when you  tried to explain something to him.

                “Hey! I’m talking  to you…”  he stood up and shouted after her.  He wanted to grab hold of her head and land a fist  in the middle of her face but he restrained himself.  He sat down and continued eating his food. It was pointless . He knew very well that the tension between them was because she refused to give him  what he wanted.  Why couldn’t he undertand that he wanted a child?  She listed all the resons for   her refusing to have children but they were just lame excuses.

                Vero had told him that he had to stop drinking,  to stop treating her like a slave and starting acting like an adult. 

                “What kind of an example  will you be if you come home drunk and throw your tantrums  about dinner when you’ve spent all your money on beer?” She  had asked him. That question was badly timed.  Reuben had responed by giving her a black eye and a spit lip. 

                 It was getting dark outside  and their next door neighbour  had begun their fortnightly battles again. She heard the children screaming frantically for their mum and  dad to stop fighting but it was useless.  The endless crying  of children crying while their parents fought  was a frequent occurrence and she still had to get used  to it. She wondered if her child – if  she had one – would become like them.  This was what scared her most about having children.  It scared her enough to cause her to stop  sleeping with Reuben.  With Reuben’s explosive temper, there was a risk he would take it out of the little one.  Patience was not one of  Reuben’s  qualitiies. When she met him, education didn’t seem to matter then.   She hated herself for her own stupidity.  For  dropping out of grade 12 to marry someone  who turned out to be a sexist and a suppressive dictator.  Once she asked him to help her pay for a business corresspondence course  for her but he reckoned it was a waste of money.

                The pain in her abdomen seemed to grow with each painful thought. She made her way to the bedroom. She really had to lie down. 

The afternoon traffic was  beginning to ease  as Reuben  walked to the nearby squatter settlement where he knew beer would be plentiful.  Vero was a headache.  He wanted sex and he wanted children and that didn’t matter to Vero. It didn’t matter how he felt.  She  seemed to think it was an unecessary urge that had to be suppressed. All he wated was a son who would carry on his name.  Why couldn’t this woman understand that?  He walked into the tarpaulin covered clubhouse with an ear to ear grin. For the moment, all  his problems with Vero could be tossed aside. He went strraight for the bar. His wallet filled with two thirds of his fortnightly pay.
                “Give me a six,”  he said slapping his hand on the counter made from roughly hewn timber. He tapped a beat  idly and waited for the barman to bring him his beer.  Here, the beer cost almost twice as much  as the regular price.  The good thing was that you could get it  anytime even when there was a liquor ban. Even the cops got their beer here too.  The hours passed as he went back for his fourth and fith round of drinks. 

               

Vero was  up early bustling in the kitchen. She was a light sleeper and with the early morning traffic she was unable to  sleep beyond 6am.  The nauseating stench of her husband’ s beery breath and vomit  filled the tiny room.

                She hated drunks.  Her father was a drunk.   But it was no use complaing about it. She was married to one. She leaned against the kitchen sink and waited for the pain to ease. It has become worse. She had to go to the doctor.  He went to where Reuben lay snoring.  He  looked quite different from the man she  had fell for.  He had  a beer gut now   and ugly fatty folds under his armpits.

                “Reuben…Reuben…” She said tugging at his toe. “I’ve got  pain in my abdomen. I have to go to the doctor. “

                Reuben mumbled something in his sleep and then went back to sleep.  Useless bugger, she said to herself. She had wanted him to accompnay her to the hospital. But she would have to go alone. 

Reuben was sitting on the concrete steps on the house when Vero arrived just after  midday. She would have prefered it if he was still asleep. They would avoid the argment she knew was brewing.

                “Where have you come from?”  he asked  with a hint of impatience.   Vero knew more questions would follow. 

                “I went to the doctor while you were sleeping like a log.”

                “What for?”

                “If you must know, Reuben,” Vero  replied calmly.  “I was told I can’t have any children. I have to go for an operation.  They think I could have cancer.”

                Reuben’s face became twisted with anger  as he stood up unconvinced. This was another lie. Another excuse to deny him  sex that was rightfully his.   But he didn’t say  it.

                “What!” he yelled  at her. The neighbours  had started to gather around the both of them.  You kept me thinking you were alright when you hid the truth from me! And I stuipid!”

                “I didn’t know what was wrong with me, alright. The least you could do is acknowledge the fact that I am sick and that I could die. You are never home when I  needed to talk to you about this and other things. How did you expect to find out  when the only  time you stay with me is when you want sex.

                Silence.  Reuben know  he was beaten but his shattered  male ego was slowly pulling together.

                “It’s a good thing I can’t have children.  What kind of a father would you have been to them? You are selfish.  You are a drunk!

                “Shut up woman! Don’t talk about children if you can’t have any. There are lots of woman who are willing to carry my children.”

                Vero rushed to the room and stuffed her clothes into a small bag.  This was it. She would rather be alone that be with this brute. Reuben charged into the room after Vero. His tempter was boiling  over.

                “Go on go, he screamed as he picked up Vero’s bag and hurled it out of the room. Turning around, he lifted one foot and kicked her in the back sending her reeling towards the wall. Vero was crying in pain as Ruben pounced on her with the left and a right. Draping her by the collar, he pulled her towards the door and shoved her outside. Neighbours, too scared to help watched helplessly as Vero’s bag flew out after her.

                “Get out of my sight, useless woman!” he shouted at her. “Liar marrying me when you knew you were as infertile as an old empty bilum.

                “Vero picked herself up painfully. Her teenager dream of meeting the perfect partner was now shattered. Ruben’s relationship with her was based on his desire to have a child to who would carry on his name.

End.

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THE BEST AND THE WORST (poem)

If you have never felt this way early in the morning, then you’re not human.

The early hours are the best and the worst
Thoughts are as crisp as the unseen morning dew
That is when peace and chaos battle to rule
That mind of yours and ruthlessly so
That is when stark reminders of dreams
Border on the frayed ends of reality
The early hours are the best and the worst
Where sweet dreams linger on
In your memories and only there
Can they be the realities you so desperately seek
It is when your mind ventures beyond
And tests the dimensions of your own distorted reality

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE IT?

OK… this happens at almost every office function. There is always some  idiot who messes up things. 
Don’t you just love  it  when at a function
Some   of the fellows
Come with their relos
“I brought Aunt Seri
And  Igo   and Mary”
Don’t you just love it when at a function
Guests uninvited
With a co-worker sighted
Drink beer by the gallon
Then start eating the  melon
Don’t you just love it when at a function
Just three  pigs arrive
When you paid for five
Turns out one’s at Five mile
You’re pissed! yet you smile
Don’t you just love it  when at a function
The drunk  sigi-cum-barman
Tells you he was  a foreman
And well paid too, at Pogera mine
Says he left  after  busting his spine
Don’t you just love it  when at a function
The   applauses get louder
As the night grows  longer
The toilet is reeking
And Jono’s  puking
Don’t you just love it when at a function
Some bloody  idiot beats up his wife
Then from her bilum  she pulls out  a knife    
And heads for a young lady
Whom hubby called “matey”
Don’t you just love it when after  a function…
No one’s  at work 
And Boss goes  berserk
You wonder with a yawn
Where everyone’s gone
You find out amused
That the Gents was unused…
Idiot’s  in jail for a night of fighting…
Wifey’s left for someone exciting…
Jono, in the toilet, is still puking
Sigi-cum-barman’s gone job hunting
The others,  Aunt Seri, Igo and Mary
Went home from  a night  so Merry
-S
Dang! Don’t we ever learn?

KEEPING IT AGLOW (short story)

It was a tiny three-bedroom house. Not fancy. Its fibro walls bore evidence of the years when we were growing up. A crack here and there. There were also numerous pencil sketches of helicopters and stick figures and the occasional signature of the artist. Of course it was all done when mum was not around. This was home despite not having the luxury of a septic toilet or an indoor shower.
It wasn’t until after mum’s passing that the house lost its warmth and its charm. Suddenly it became an ugly, cold place to live in. The walls seemed to acquire so much mold and dust on the windowsills had become somewhat thicker. She had taken that one burning coal that kept the hearth aglow. There was en emptiness in our lives which only mum could fill. Dad did his best to keep us together. He’d take us out to the beach and then we’d have an ice cream. Although he tried to keep us smiling, the pain in him was evident. Once or twice I’d find him staring far into the distant hills and the ocean beyond. There was a sense of longing in him and in all of us.
It was harder for the little ones – Adam and Maria. During mum’s three months in hospital, Adam would spend night after sleepless night by mum’s hospital bed. When he got drowsy he’d pull the stool closer to mum’s bed and fall asleep with his head resting on the mattress. I’d hear him pray whenever he was home, asking tirelessly that mum wouldn’t leave Dad and the three of us. Deep inside, we knew Mum would not last until the end of the month in hospital. But we all just didn’t have the courage to look reality in the face.
School had become a boring routine since mum went into hospital. I was in grade 8, Adam, grade 6 and Maria grade 2. We’d wake up in the morning have breakfast and dash for school. We’d count the hours in class – hours that were almost never-ending. Then it was the hospital as soon as we were dismissed from classes. We took turns taking care of mum. Dad and Maria first, then me and Adam. Dad told me never to leave Adam alone in hospital with mum. He never said why. Sometimes, Adam and I would stay at the hospital after school until Dad and Maria joined us during visiting hours at night. During mum’s second month in hospital, we began to see her condition slowly deteriorating. We all knew it yet none of us dared to mention it. She had always maintained a tenacious hold on life and that was the way we liked to see her. It wasn’t until Maria broke down during one of our visits, that we realized she was just voicing our thoughts. “Please mummy don’t die, please…please…” she had sobbed. Dad, Adam and I stood silent as mum wiped away Maria’s tears with a frail hand. Although she was in pain but she didn’t say. I think Maria was the first to really accept that mum was dying. I had always refused to even think of the possibility whenever Maria brought up the question. My usual reaction would be to get very angry at her for bringing up the subject of mum’s passing.
On the Thursday of the third week of the second month mum was in hospital Adam and I brought her a pizza after school. We didn’t really think she’d be able to share it with us, but that didn’t really matter. I guess we were just longing for that special closeness between a mother and her sons. Mum looked terrible against the backdrop of the flowers dad had brought her earlier. Her eyes were sunken and her face, pale. But her eyes lit up when we arrived. They still had the glow in them. She smiled weakly when we showed her the pizza. We sat outside on the hospital lawn and she managed to take a bite out of a pizza slice. She said she liked it but we knew she didn’t want to disappoint us.
We were in school when the principal brought us the news that Dad wanted to see the three of us immediately. I knew it was bad news. I had to really pull myself together. It took some time, however, to get Adam to understand that we had to be together with Dad and Maria at the hospital. He stood by the school gate refusing to go anywhere. “Don’t play dumb with me,” he said looking accusingly at me. “Mum’s gone and you know it…I’m not going to that damned hospital…”
“We don’t know that yet, Adam.. Dad just said he wanted to see us and that can mean anything…” I began trying my best to sound rational.
“Yes! Yes! Your head over your heart…” he said mimicking Dad. It was the first time I’d seen him behave this way. “You’re just like him… You’re not even prepared to listen to what you feel. I can feel it! So can you! Mum’s gone and you know it… She’s gone…”
He cried. I let him cry until he quieted down a bit and then we got on a bus. The trees and cars sped past us as the bus took the hospital route. I felt like we were in the top half of an hour glass trying desperately to remain standing while the sand drained beneath our feet. We were the first to get out of the bus when it stopped at the hospital. My heart was painfully loud in my ears as we dashed for the ward where mum was.
Mum lay on the bed. She looked no more than a skinny human frame. Dad sat on a stool beside the bed with Maria sobbing in his arms. All was silent. Even all the other patients seemed be drawn into this whirlpool of sorrow and loss.
“She’s waiting to see you two.” Dad whispered. “I told her you were in school and she wanted to see you two.”
Adam and I moved closer to the bed and I picked up her left hand. She gave my hand a weak squeeze and opened her eyes slightly.
“Mum.” Adam said softly.
“My two boys…” she whispered barely. “You came…”
She paused for a few seconds which seemed like hours.
“I love you all very much…” she said as a tear trickled down her cheek. “You’ve got to stick together… You’ve got to be one… I won’t be with you… You have to be…strong…”
As she closed her eyes, I felt her grip weaken. She was gone.

ends

EULOGY (poem)

Daddy…

You stand accused
Of drunk and disorderly behaviour

You stand accused
Of beating the woman you loved

You stand accused
Of the murder of my unborn sister

You stand accused
Of saying all those nasty things to mummy

You stand accused
Of hurting me with all the bad words

You stand accused
Of giving your love to another woman

You stand accused
Of abandoning me when I was small

You stand accused
Of letting me drink when I was young

You stand accused
Of letting me grow up to be as I am

You stand accused
Of teaching me how to beat my women

You stand accused
Of teaching me how children should be beaten

You stand accused
Of letting me hate myself for I’ve become you

You stand accused
Of the murder of your unborn granddaughter

You stand accused
Of putting me in this dark cell

For all that you stand accused!
I love you and I hate you
May your soul rest in peace.

-S

IN A HOUSE YET HOMELESS (short story)

Living with relatives in Port Moresby and being kicked out by the “Tambus” (in-laws). Yeah…don’t you just love it?  PNG culture struggling to survive amidst the pressures of an urban society. 

“We can’t have them stay here forever, Robert. We have too many mouths to feed and besides, the husband doesn’t work.”
Richard lay staring at the moonlit ceiling as he heard his Joan’s uncle, Robert, argue quietly with his wife, Irene, in the neighboring room. Since his sacking, he was unable to find another job or another place to stay. He eyed his wife, Joan, who lay beside him. She too was restless. He watched as she tossed and turned barely able to go to sleep. She was an accountant at the Department of Works but being new on the job, her wages were barely enough to keep them through the two weeks before the next payday. Life here in Port Moresby was terribly expensive.
“If you don’t tell them to go I will!” came Irene’s voice which was deliberately audible. “And God knows what else will come out of my mouth. You know me…”
“Look, Irene, tambu Richard is doing his best to find another job,” Robert said reasonably. “And if he does soon they will be able to find a place to stay… You can’t just kick them out into the streets.”
“Well that’s exactly what I want to do now… Your niece and your tambu have been nothing but a headache and a waste of money since you brought them here. And they’ve been here for how long? Eight months? That’s too long!” Said Irene sharply. “She hardly cleans the house like what us ples meris do. All she does is sleep when she gets home. She paints her lips with that horrible nipstick or lipstick or whatever you call it and walks to work in those high heels. Is she trying to show off to us or what? And on Saturdays, she wakes up very late: who knows what they do all night…”
Richard listened through the thin wall as Irene listed all their wrongs in a loud voice. Robert meanwhile was desperately trying to restrain his wife, but his efforts only amounted to a faint mumble, which eventually fell silent. Richard knew the bulk of what she said was untrue. ‘What an ill-educated selfish person she was,’ he thought to himself. He felt like screaming and telling that to her face but stopped. She had the right to decide who she wanted in her house. Why did Irene have to launch such vicious attacks like that on his wife’s dressing? He knew Joan wore lipstick but it was only a moderate amount of a color that would match her complexion. What was wrong with being beautiful? Irene could not say much for how she looked herself. He smiled to himself as he remembered how Irene had pestered Robert to have her hair permed a few months ago. It had taken a huge amount of effort to hold back the laughter when he saw Irene’s stout figure stepping out of a taxi with a head of newly permed hair. He could have sworn that the tires of the taxi sighed with relief when Irene’s heavy bulk lifted off them.
“Robert…Wake up and listen to me!” Irene said loudly. “If you don’t get rid of them, I will go and live somewhere else and probably marry someone else too.”
Richard wondered what Robert had seen in this woman when he left his first wife and married her. He found it even harder to imagine Irene as a slim nineteen-year-old. However, when Robert met her she was not slim or nineteen. In fact she was 34 and fat. He smiled as he mused to himself. It would have been alright if he had married her for company. But according to Richard, it was definitely not for her looks that he married her. Whatever the reason was, he did not know and did not wish to find out.
“It’s past midnight…” said Robert sleepily. “I will talk to them tomorrow morning if you insist.”
Richard pitied Robert. He sometimes seemed like a helpless giant whenever he argued with Irene. His hulking figure would stand with its head hung low while Irene threw her tantrums. Such arguments had gotten worse since He and Joan moved here. Irene would find all sorts of excuses to be angry with Robert. This included unfaithfulness, unwise spending and food shortage in the house. Richard and Joan always did all they could to avoid the arguments. Joan always kept the kitchen stocked with food while Richard spent each day cleaning the flower gardens and fixing any broken walls or water pipes. Richard watched as Joan continued to toss and turn near him. He would try again tomorrow for a job he saw advertised in the papers. Right now he did not care what kind of job he got as long as it gave him some hope of a regular income and a possibility of finding a place to stay. He was a qualified electrician but these days finding a job depended on who you knew in the workforce. Although Irene and Robert were already asleep, his thoughts kept his mind alert for hours. It was almost impossible to go to sleep. It wasn’t normal for him – a man – to depend on his wife’s income. It would be a shame if his father and mother knew. Luckily, they were dead. But it was still humiliating to receive a twenty or even a two kina note from his wife. He had refused numerous times when Joan gave him money. While she saw this gesture as necessary, Richard always regarded it as a sign as sympathy. It had been a source of many arguments between them. He wanted to wake her up and say he was sorry. But what would he say? He was not a man who normally apologized.
He got up from the bed, opened the door silently, and headed to the toilet. As he sat on the toilet seat, he glanced at the thin roll of toilet paper, which hung on the small aluminum bar in the wall. Only the day before, Irene had complained that the current supply of toilet paper was not enough for them all and she had taken to removing toilet paper and replacing it with newspapers. It brought a swift response from Joan who brought a box full when she returned from work. He flushed the water when he got up from the seat. He knew it would not be long before Irene would start complaining about using the toilet at night. Richard knew she always found a reason to be angry.
He came back to bed and curled up beside Joan. It felt terrible to be homeless and jobless. He recalled what his mother always told him: ‘A man needs a place to call his own. It does not matter how small or big it is. He needs a place where he can cast aside all his worries and shut his eyes without having to worry about anyone asking him to leave.’ How true it was.
It was 3:30 am when he finally fell asleep. The early hours of the morning flew past like a speeding bullet. When he opened his eyes, Joan had already gone to work.. It was going to be another hot gruelling day fixing those flower gardens around Robert and Irene’s house. As he came out of the room door, He saw Irene cleaning up the last traces of her breakfast. He knew Joan hardly ate here since Irene began kicking up a fuss three months ago. He went outside and squatted beside a flower bed lined with stones stained with Irene’s betelnut spit. She did not seem to have a hint about outside presentation and landscaping, Richard thought to himself. She talked about cleaning the house but he wondered if she really knew what it was to be hygienic. He pulled at the weeds idly occasionally glancing up to the birds whistling up in the tree nearby. It was one of the few things he enjoyed these days. At least things were peaceful when he came to weed the flower gardens. It also gave him time to think. Irene had left about two hours ago to visit her neighbours four houses down the road. Richard knew she was not going to be back until just before her husband arrived. Her day was usually spent gossiping about them. Almost the whole neighbourhood knew what kind of problems, Irene and Robert had. Since Richard and Joan moved here Irene made sure they made it to the top of the gossip agenda. He hated walking down the road past the row of houses. ‘Good morning Richard,’ the group would call out to him as he passed. Then he would hear them say in subdued tones: ‘that’s the one who’s living with Irene and Robert up the street. They waste their money on him and he just eats and sleeps while his wife works…’ Then the it would lead on to how Joan dressed and where she worked. ‘These people really needed psychiatrists,’ he always said to himself. ‘And they needed to be locked up in a mental asylum where they would soon be gossiping about the color of each other’s turds.’
By the time it was four o’clock, Richard had finished working on the flower gardens. All the flower beds had acquired a new look. He stood admiring his own work as Joan arrived. She gave him a weak smile and settled on the veranda.
“Did you hear what was being said last night?” she asked him.
“I thought you were asleep,” said Richard with a startled look. “I think we have to move out.”
“I agree,” Joan responded. “I have a feeling we are going to be told to move this afternoon.”
They chatted for a while before they saw Robert returning. He was accompanied by Irene who was arguing with him. When they approached the house, the arguing ceased and Irene rushed past them leaving Robert with Richard and Joan. The moment Richard had been dreading had arrived.
“I need the speak to you and tambu,” said Robert to Joan. He was unable to meet her gaze directly. “I want you to find somewhere else to stay… Well actually what I wanted to say was….”
Joan looked at his uncle’s face. Tears were streaming down his cheeks.
“I understand, uncle…” she said quietly. “We’ll leave tomorrow morning.”
“Your father put you in my care but I have not lived up to his expectation… I have my principles but Irene is a different woman altogether…” he said. He was unable to continue as the words choked in his throat. They both watched as Robert walked into the house. They were now homeless without even a roof over their heads.

ENDS

LIDA MAN (poem)

Fo-bai-fo dakglas kar kruz lo traffic lait
Pokis ples stap tulait kes lo moni bek
Namba wan stap lo ples ringim namba tu
Maski pes nogut tru bolhet na fatpla nek
Meri laikim moni bek na fo-bai-fo dakglas kar

NCDC traffic lights. September 2009

Bris bruk longtaim tru nogat rot blo fo-bai-fo
Kofi bek ol karim go slip kirap lo longpla rot
Mama tu pilim pen klostu tru bai bebi kam
Faivpla yiar yu no kam Lida man yu gat kot
Bai yu raus lo taim blo vot na namba tu bai les lo yu

-S