FICTION - I heard the knocking and a call around six just as I was preparing notes for tomorrow’s sermon.
I knew it was Pita, the son of the parish chairman, Mathias. Occasionally he’s one of the minstrels at my Sunday mass.
The way he was rapping on the porch railing and calling out, I figured something must be up.
It was rare for me to have visitors at that time of day.
I removed my reading glasses and closed my notebook.
On my way to the front door, I switched on the veranda light.
Pita was standing on the concrete slab beside the front porch steps.
He was out of breath. Sweat streamed from his forehead.
He must have run all the way from the village.
My mission station is about 30 minutes’ walk from the village; ten to fifteen if you run.
"Good evening, Pita," I greeted him.
"Abinun Father, sori lo disturbim yu. Papa tok inap yu helpim em pastem." [Good afternoon, Father, sorry for disturbing you. My father said you’d help.]
"Em tok bai yu kam lo ples. Liklik susa malaria na em wok traut aste yet kam inap nau. [He wants you to come to the village. My little sister has malaria and she’s been vomiting since yesterday.]
"Papa tok inap yu helpim em kisim susa go long haus sik lo kar blo yu." [My father asks if can help by taking my sister to the hospital in your car.]
Pita’s tone was desperate.
"Susa ino kaikai na em hat lo wokabaut... " [My sister isn’t eating and it’s hard for her to walk.]
"... and where are they now?" I interjected, the urgency was clear.
"Ol stap lo haus lo ples." [They’re at home in the village.]
"Okay, give me a few secs. I'll get the car keys and my jacket and come.
"Wait for me at the car shed."
The nearest health centre is usually a twenty minute drive away from the mission station.
I drove quickly.
It took me five minutes to get to the village and pick up Mathias and Martha, then less than ten to get to the health centre.
The nightshift workers responded quickly to stabilise Martha.
She was tested for malaria and the result came back positive.
She was given two injections to stop the vomiting and any internal haemorrhaging.
At the same time she was put on a drip of intravenous fluid to rehydrate her.
When things settled down, I returned Pita to the village, leaving Mathias at the health centre.
Martha will be fine, but she’s spending the night under observation and, so long as she improves, she'll be discharged tomorrow.
I’m back in the house now. It's half past nine on the dot.
I'll get myself a glass of rainwater and look for my reading glass.
I must have misplaced them when Pita came knocking.
I'll give myself half an hour to finish my sermon for tomorrow.
I think an introductory anecdote about this evening's events may be appropriate.