Thursday, October 1, 2009

SHATTERED DREAMS (Short story)

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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