Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Gifts (of the Spirit or service) (11/22/07)
TITLE: The Call Came At Night
By Therese Witkus
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Tension pulled at the night Sister’s mouth when she peered directly into Abigail’s eyes. “A young one, pregnant, upstairs,” she breathed, as she turned abruptly and slipped silently away.
Long days sometimes led to long nights. Stretching from the waist and then turning her head right and left a bit, she pushed her toes into the waiting sandals. She could feel hair standing out at odd angles from the back of her head and somewhere near the ear and tried to flatten it, fairly sure that wouldn’t happen. She could see enough in the filtered candle light from the second floor to make her way quietly up the wooden steps watching not to creak the loud ones.
“Oh, dear Father in heaven, help us!” her mind cried, at the scene awaiting her. Sister Rosa fluttered between the two cots, several feet apart and with good reason did she manage to look harried and scared and angry all at once. She held a spattered red rag in one hand reaching out toward the cot by the door. There lay a young creature mounded in the middle, bleeding from who knew where all, moaning softly.
Across the room on the other cot, a man shook violently, rolling his eyes up into his head and pulling the sheet about in clenched fists. The contorted face read convulsions and the sweat pouring from his skin indicated that his fever had worsened.
“I’ll take the girl,” Abigail whisked the rag away and rushed to the cot. The woman-child breathed somewhat steadily and that must be good. Might as well start at her head and see from there. The blood obviously oozed, rather than flowed. Gently, she wiped the face, sponging really, so as not to open anything, that much she knew. There was a cut running from the forehead to her nose, but not too deep, good. She continued the process rinsing, sponging, applying dressings, cataloging the nature of the wounds, freshening the wash bucket. She prayed healing words as she worked, to help fend off the evil that came with these wounds. Sister Rosa had taught her the necessity of the prayers.
The young woman opened her eyes and cried quietly. The few words that formed through the swollen lips and battered face told the story well enough. Unable to protect herself at the late stage of pregnancy, she was sport to the gangs and had run afoul of a group while coming from market. She crawled and stumbled her way to the clinic outpost, unaided.
The woman’s face flickered with pain but remained composed, for the most part, until she moved the left leg below the knee. The lips curled back and her mouth opened emitting a shriek. Sister Rosa spun toward them, questioning the cause of that commotion with raised eyebrows.
“Might be a break at the ankle, Sister,” she managed weakly. As her heart eased and hands stopped shaking, she glanced at the woman’s face and noted that a tense calm had returned. She would just leave that leg alone for now. The simple cotton shift, blood stained and torn, would likely have to be washed and repaired, a replacement could be hard to come by. She placed that with the rag cloth and took those and the bucket down for cleaning, the fate of the baby and the ankle still undetermined.
The sky turned from the deep inky black to a shade of gray that meant dawn would soon be breaking. The hair is flat now, she grinned, seeing in her minds eye, wet hands pushing at loose strands and the sweat running down her face with the tension. With eyes burning in the sockets from lack of sleep, she felt a weariness that left muscles shaky, a lightheaded feeling and heartache for the woman upstairs and all women facing the same struggle. She was deeply grateful that her service tour had changed from English tutor at the mission school to medical assistant.
Sister Rosa found her next to the washtub, sound asleep leaning against the banana tree. To wake or to let sleep?
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