Literary Zone

Short Story---Wara’s War On Terror

2 December 2005 at 03:48 | 626 views

By Karamoh Kabba.

Wara’s War on Terror

“My left leg is cold, I mean real cold and numb.” Wara complained.
She massaged and exercised it, and applied some ointment to the numbed spot. Her husband, Mojo helped too, but their efforts were futile-the coldness and numbness reigned. They both knew Wara had sufficient reason to be worried.
“Do you have a chest pain?” Mojo asked.
“No,” she answered.
“Do you have any pain in your arms?” he asked again.
“What about in your legs?” he insisted.
“No, I don’t have pain anywhere,” she explained almost snobbishly.
“Then, I suggest we should go to the emergency room,” he told her.

“Let me call my doctor first,” she countered.
She picked up the receiver, dialed a number, said, “Hello,” following a short pause, and began:
“I have this strange coldness and numbness in my left leg. It has been like this for the last three days doctor,” she paused again. “My husband wants us to go to the emergency room, but I thought I must call you first,” she explained. “What do you think is happening to me doctor?” she asked. “I am very worried about whatever may be happening to me,” she expressed her concern firmly.
In response to what the doctor was saying, she uttered the following words intermittently: “...No,” and paused. “...No,” she paused again. “...No, not really,” she held the receiver between her neck and her shoulder, pulled her hair together to the back to undo a ponytail, listened for quite a while and finally said: “...Oh! Really! Thanks doctor. At least I feel better now,” she concluded.
She groped for the lamp-stand in the semidarkness, hung up the receiver, turned away from him, and cuddled a pillow under a cover. In a sudden outburst, she wept and sobbed, which made Mojo to become very worried:
“What did the doctor say?” he asked nervously, afraid that the doctor must have said something very serious that was causing her further anguish. He had felt better when he heard her told the doctor over the phone, “At least I feel better now.” With the crying, “What a paradox,” he pondered as he sat still on the bed a bit puzzled. On the wall of a quadrant of the room, between light and darkness was a gloomy silhouette portrait of her husband in a crouching position on the bed as Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker. As if she was speaking to the portrait on the wall, she said in despair, “he said I’m suffering from stress,” without looking at him.

Without saying a word more, he walked out of their room and went into the children’s room to sleep.
Wara and Mojo came to this country from a far-away land that has been at war. Mojo was a slender man when he first came, but has been growing very heavy lately. His doctor told him that his rapid accumulation of fat especially around his stomach area is stress related. Mojo holds a degree from his country of origin’s Mountain Top University, but drives a delivery truck as an independent sub contractor. It means that he must provide his own truck, vehicle liability insurance and gas to drop off and pick up whatever job the main contract holder company assigns to him. Wara who is a holder of a secondary school diploma settled for a nursing assistant career. Unlike Mojo, Wara shows no physical signs of overweight, but she frequently lay herself about and easily runs out of breath, especially when she walks up the stairs to their fourth-floor apartment.

Wara woke up the following morning and went into the bathroom. She stood in front of the mirror. In great despair, she looked at her image. She flinched and looked away suddenly just for her sights to beam on a neat display of empty brand name personal care containers around the sink. She had organized them as well as on a personal hygiene aisle in a retail store. She frowned, pulled the shower curtain apart, and revealed the two half-empty generic conditioner and shampoo that were in the tub.
Mojo who works in the evening was in the kitchen, arguing with their three kids about what was for breakfast. Usually, he would wake up earlier than he did today to take the kids to school in time for the school breakfast.
There was no milk in the refrigerator to prepare cereal for them. There was only one egg left. He was relieved to find out that there was enough pancake mix. But felt a surge of lameness through his body when he discovered that the pancake syrup was finished.
While he was off to the nearest Grandč Food store to pick up a bottle of pancake syrup, Wara came out of the shower just in time as the kids were rushing up to her, griping: “mommmmyyy, I’m hungryyy, mommmmyyy I’m hungryyy and mommmmyyy I’m hungryyy,” one after the other that caused her an increasing palpitation along with a piercing feeling of pain in her chest area. She knew that there was no food in the house and the kids had missed the school breakfast by still being around the house at that time.
“Where is your dad?” she asked.
“We don’t know,” cried the youngest child.
“He left to go somewhere,” mumbled the younger child as she rubbed her stomach and said, “hmmm, my stomach is griping.”

“He went to the store to buy something,” the young child uttered, but all of them had spoken at once.
Wara went into the kitchen and took out empty boxes of everything that was in the refrigerator to eat, looking for syrup to spread over the three plates of pancakes that Mojo had already cooked and lined up on the dining table. She shoved the empty boxes into the garbage bin that was lined with the last trash bag in utter frustration. She turned around and saw the empty syrup bottle on the far corner of the kitchen counter just where Mojo had left it before he dashed out of the apartment. She dropped her weight against the refrigerator door that was ajar with enormous lameness to close it, before she repeatedly banged on it with both fists in such a fury that got the children, who had formed a queue behind her, jostling their way into the living room in great fear. They were waiting in great expectation for food and that was not what they expected.
She rested her forehead on her clenched fists that supported her weight on the refrigerator door and sobbed profusely. Just when she turned round, Mojo had returned from the Grandč Food store and stood still, bewildered, with the bottle of syrup in his hand. She was relieved to see the bottle of syrup, but without looking at him or saying anything to him, she walked by him and went to the room to dress for work.
In front of the dresser that was more or less now like a dirty linen basket with clothes hanging everywhere, she took the top off the Cocoa Butter Formula with Vitamin E for Dry and Ashy Skin lotion from under a pile of dirty jeans. On to her palm, she shook out every smidgen of lotion and massaged it sparingly over her body parts that would be exposed. The Secret for Women deodorant had worn down to its oval edge and she smeared whatever morsel was around it against her skin until the exposed edge irritated her underarm.
Wara went to pick the kids from school after work. But not until she came home, changed her nursing uniform, and took a quick shower. It is a regular routine to avoid exposing the kids to disease from the nursing home. She left Mojo in the house preparing to go to work. He leaves when Wara comes home from work. Just what they have to do since they could not afford a baby-sitter anymore.
Mojo had left by the time Wara returned home with the kids. While the kids were throwing their school bags, shoes and clothes everywhere in the apartment where they would pick up the book bags the next day without even looking at the day’s homeworks or the daily school notices in the bags, Wara was heading for the couch by the door where she would sit and recuperate from her shortness of breath from walking up the stairs. She rose from the couch and walked to the kitchen after thirty minutes of rest.

There, she warmed some rice and soup in the microwave. She had cooked it a couple of days ago. She dished it in three separate bowls, lined the bowls on the dining table alongside three glasses of water and returned to the sofa where she sits during this time of the month to listen to the footfalls of the sheriff who would deliver the nonpayment of rent citation that he pastes on the door around this time. Wara must remove the yellow copy from the door before her next-door neighbors come to visit to prevent them from knowing about their economic quandary. She must do that first before she returns to see how the kids are doing on the dining table.
Today, Sarah, the oldest of the three kids ate much of her food. She seems to be more compromising to her parents’ situation whether she knows of the hardship in the family or not. Joe and June complained when Wara asked them, “why are you not eating your food.”
“There is nothing to eat mommy,” Joe and June replied.
“But I just gave you food?” Wara refuted.
“Rice, rice and rice everyday,” Joe and June fired back petulantly.

Wara walked away and returned with Mojo’s leather belt, wrapped neatly around her clenched fist:
“Start eating now!” she threatened Joe and June.
“Now! I say!” she smacked the dining table hard with the belt, which left Joe and June very terrified and got them gulping down the content of their bowls in no time.
Wara had become very irritable over the years. She could not understand why she could not afford the things she use to afford. Now, she does not only pay late rent fees, but court fees also. She pays the rent only after it has accrued a 5% daily interest rate and after the attorney for the apartment complex files a court summons for nonpayment of rent. They have been, at least, one month behind on their rent for about two years now.
But Wara knows that they are spending three times what they spent on gas two years ago, their grocery cost has doubled since then, their utility bills have almost doubled as well, but her salary remains the same besides the twice fifty cents raise she got in the last two years. In fact, her husband brings home a bit more than what he used to bring home, now that he stays out driving longer hours than before.

She could only discern these things separately, but unable to consummate them into one big picture. It seems over her head that her family is not alone in this situation. She has no interest in the news, politics or the economy to know that the middle class is depleting very fast and that the poor people are getting poorer in this country since five years ago. The economic predicament is causing her to become very stressful. To console her despondent life, she spends her spare time in the couch doing her nails and watching talk shows until her bedtime when she would gulp down a pill of Prozac, undo her ponytail and goes to sleep. And in this way, she has been getting less stressful, but unconsciously transferring it onto Mojo whose stress level is doubling with every passing day.
On her way home, she had stopped by the SVC pharmacy and picked up the Prozac prescription the doctor had called in for her over the phone. She pushed one down her throat that evening. She was supposed to be on it for several months. She loves the feelings the Prozac gives her. It makes her calm and a bit more tolerant with the kids, and tempts to oversight the financial problems as well. On the other hand, she lost all sensual desires. She did not read the side effects on the bottle nor did her doctor or the pharmacist say anything about the side effects of Prozac. She went to bed every night and dozes off to a deep sleep. She pays no attention to Mojo’s sexual needs, in fact she snaps when Mojo attempts such advances on her. She constantly accuses him that all he cares about is sex.
“Leave me alone, I don’t have any feelings,” she would always tell him.

Mojo who did not know what is going on with his wife surely could not understand her diminishing desire to share the bed with him. He becomes suspicious of her and asks many questions when Wara goes out for whatever reason thinking that she is seeing somebody else. They argue very late at night and wake the kids from their sleep who would in turn go to school very tired.
Mojo could not endure this way of life anymore. He packs up and returns home. Wara could not afford the apartment on her income alone. She too abandons the apartment to live with her aunt. Mojo becomes very active in the reconstruction projects back home in the aftermath of the war, in a society where his degree and foreign exposure mean something; he secures a well paying job, realizes his worth and becomes productive again. He persuades Wara to join him on the basis that the children who are citizens can return to their country at anytime they wish to do so. “You know Wara,” he began, “we can fight the War on Terror anywhere in the world. It’s time to come home,” he concluded. And this way, Mojo and Wara fought on, but back home very happily ever thereafter.

By Karamoh Kabba Copyright © 2005

Photo: Karamoh.