Short Story #2

Time seems to keep losing track of me, but what is important is that we’re here, and we’re done. As promised, here is the second stort story that I wrote early this year.

***

The Boy and His Ball

The fear was still present in her chest. Fear that had crippled the whole world in different magnitudes. Nancy still felt it, despite having watched the news last night and this morning. The Minister of Health had stated clearly that the nation was free of the disease. We had won. Triumphed over the coughing and chest pains and death. Oh the deaths. Nancy could not count how many people had been lost. How many coughed their last with the disease that crept in overnight.

She walked up the road, her eyes set on that last turn. She had worked at Mater Hospital for four years now, two of which were crippled with the COVID-19 pandemic. That is over now. It seemed unreal. When the Minister gave his statement last night, she could not believe it. When she heard the ululations out in the streets, of people celebrating this new freedom, her heart refused to believe it. She wanted to get to the hospital first. If it was truly over, there were still a lot of things to do before everyone was completely free.

“Nurse!” a child called to her from the street. “Nurse, tumepona [we are healed]” she smiled under her mask.

Masks had become her life. Other than being required to wear them at work, the whole world wore them outside. Her nose only saw the world when she was alone, at home. She remembered the first few weeks when the pandemic hit. How people fought to not wear them. How they tried to seek alternatives.

Maybe if I cover my mouth when I talk to people? Patients would ask.

What if I don’t go near people?

I am allergic to the fabric used to make masks. Can I get a letter to not wear them?

There were all kinds of excuses. Everyone was scared of the world being something they did not understand. Change is hardly ever welcome.

Nancy reached the last turn to the hospital entrance. There was no traffic today. The world decided to take a rest. All of Nairobi was inside, when they should be out celebrating. The world was healed. There were no more masks. She smiled under hers. She had put it on as a reflex action. Her body was so used to wearing a mask that despite knowing she did not need it anymore, she still put it on when she left her house.

She nodded to the gateman like she did each time she came in for a shift and headed towards the back. The nurses’ entrance was to the left. Jackline always joked that the people who worked the most deserved a special entrance, which is why only the nurses used the back door. Doctors were normal people, they used the main entrance. The doors used by patients and janitors and visitors. Nancy knew it was because the doctors liked to be seen as they walked in. It gave them a sense of purpose. Fed their egos.

At her locker, she found a note. 

THANK YOU FOR HOLDING THE HOSPITAL DURING THESE TRYING TIMES. 

MATER HOSPITAL.

“They couldn’t even personalize the notes, huh?” she heard Jackline say. Nancy turned to see her gap toothed friend smiling in that way that made her patients feel special. 

“Jackline, at least it is appreciative,” she said.

“Bah!” spat Jackline. “They should have at least put your name in it. No one worked as hard as you the last two years.”

“Maybe the doctors,” she tried to counter.

“No doctor could come close. You knew more of the patients here than all the doctors combined! Remember when Doc Muchiri couldn’t even remember that patient’s name until you helped him out? Makes me wonder how they even know which meds to administer. Maybe you should wear that white coat instead of the arrogant prick!”

“Jackie!”

“Okay, too far. Anyway, Mother Mary is looking for you.”

Nancy did not know why the administrative nurse would be looking for her. There were usually two reasons anyone was called to Mother Mary’s office. To get a pay cut or fired. She could not afford any of the two. There was nowhere to get a job right after a crippling pandemic.

“Good luck,” Jackline called to her. “I hope it’s a pay cut.”

She held her heart in her hand as she walked to the administration office. Standing in front of the door, she took three deep breaths before she knocked on it. A familiar voice called to let her in.

She looked at Doc Michael sitting comfortably on Mother Mary’s seat. He had a smug smile on his face. Nancy tried desperately to hide the fear in her eyes. She could not understand why Michael had called her into the administration office. She left the door open, just in case he had any ideas. Before she could take a seat, he spoke.

“Shut the door first.”

“I don’t think it would be appropriate.”

“Nan, just close the door. I want to talk to you.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and sat smugly. She was not going to allow herself in a compromising situation. The other nurses had rambling mouths.

“I miss you, Nan,” Michael began.

“Is that why I am here? Am I being fired for having a fling with a doctor?”

“It wasn’t just a fling, was it?” he asked.

Nancy looked up at him. His face showed remorse, but you could never be too sure. Michael, Doc Michael, had a reputation with the nurses. He was the playboy at Mater Hospital. The pandemic may have reduced the amount of contact he had with others, but everything was going back to normal. He, too, would be back to his meandering ways.

“Why am I here?” she asked.

“Mother Mary asked me to speak with you.”

Nancy wondered why the administrative head would ask a general practitioner to speak to a nurse.

“I know you’re asking yourself why she would ask me to talk to you.”

“No I wasn’t,” she retorted.

“Nan, I know you better than you can imagine.”

She remained silent. Was he waiting for a response? If so, he was in for a rude shock.

Michael swung in his seat. Why was she being so difficult? “You can get the funds to further your studies. Mother Mary said that since you have been instrumental during the pandemic, the hospital can find some money to pay for your higher education.”

She raised her eyes to meet him for the first time since she walked in the office. She searched them, trying to figure out if this was just another scheme of his. She could see no angle. He was telling the truth. She could finally be a registered nurse like the others working at the hospital. Nancy did not feel the tears running down her face until Michael touched her face with a handkerchief. 

Back at the nurses’ station, Nancy was still crying when Jackline came back in. She basically lived in the station, escaping her duties so someone else would be assigned to them. 

“Okay, you need to take that mask off once in a while,” Jackline said as she approached her. She was removing the mask from Nancy’s left ear when she noticed the tears. “Oh, baby. Were you fired?”

Nancy shook her head.

“Well, then a paycheck isn’t that important anyway. Come on, there is a party that the other nurses have put together at the cafeteria. There are snacks. We can carry some home. Don’t worry about the money.”

“They’re paying for everything, Jack”

“Yes,” Jackline said impatiently. “All the snacks are paid for. Now come on…”

Nancy held her friend’s arm. “For school! The hospital is paying for me to go back to school, Jack. I can’t believe it.”

Jackline’s face lit up as she smiled at her friend. “See. I told you all your hard work the last two years would pay off.”

“No you didn’t”

“Honey, yes I did. You just never heard me. Now come. The pandemic is over, you can afford school and I need to get to those free snacks so I can stuff some in my bra for later.” She pushed her friend out the door.

Nancy allowed herself to move, with Jackline’s hand on the small of her back. As she walked out into the back parking lot, she noticed a boy playing. He was about 6 years old. He didn’t have a mask on.

The fear was still present in her chest. Fear that had crippled the whole world in different magnitudes. Nancy still felt it, despite having watched the news last night and this morning. She looked at the boy’s unmasked face as he bounced a small ball on the tarmac. Jackline had already started for the cafeteria.

As she watched the boy’s face, she recognized an innocence that lacked in hers. He was certain that everything was alright now. With the pandemic being over, he was free. He could play without restrictions. He could bounce his ball on a road that was frequented by vehicles. Vehicles driven by doctors who had spent entire shifts sneaking off for a sip of brandy. Vehicles like Doc Michael’s BMW that was coming down the tarmac at speeds meant for safari rallies.

Without thinking, Nancy flung herself towards the boy and his ball. Her arms were spread forward, pushing him out of the way but leaving her right in the path of Doc Michael’s BMW. By the time the bumper got to her, she was already on the tarmac. She could taste the burn of the tires. The fear remained in her chest.

Doc Michael was watching Nancy the whole time. He had been looking for her in the cafeteria before someone mentioned that she may have left for the back entrance. Hurriedly, he got into his BMW and rushed to get to her. He had to tell her he still loved her. That the time they spent together meant more that he could put into words. That he was proud of all the work she had done. 

He had seen her on the pavement right outside the nurses’ station. Her eyes were puffy. Had she been crying? Who would make her cry? He had a few things his fists could say to such a person. 

Then, out of nowhere, she jumped in front of his car.

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judinyabate@yahoo.com
judinyabate@yahoo.com
15/07/2022 8:03 pm

Wow, creative writing

Wendy
Wendy
19/07/2022 8:21 pm

Whyyyyyyyy?😭😪 Ooh Nancy!

Kate W
Kate W
20/07/2022 11:01 am

Michael had better get those brakes or else

Last edited 2 months ago by Kate W
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