When he woke up after hours of sleep, the first thing he felt was disgust. Sweat had coated his body, gathering as little puddles at the base of his neck. It made his skin itch and made him long for a bath in the cool village stream. He joined his hands behind his head, and lay there for a while. It was his father’s bed, which had been passed down to him when he became the man of the house at too young an age. His mother had continued to sleep on the thin but warm mat, in the pantry.
He despised his father, even the memory of him. So distant and missing from his life. He had found a father in his Uncle, but Mama too had left him alone in this world. Then he had allowed an Army General take him under his wing. Finally a father. Yet, instead of hunting for game, he was taught to hunt for humans. Instead on friendly chatter, their conversations were in hushed voices. Then his ‘father’ had stepped on a mine and his body had flown up in the sky like fireworks. Since then, he had decided to not have a father.
Voices drifted from the veranda. “Damn visitors,” he thought. “They’ll line up like chickens, waiting to hear about the glories of war. Little do they know. Jesus! They aren’t even subtle about it.”
He wiped his face with his still damp towel, and changed sarongs. Parting the curtain, he saw a lady who could only be described as tiny.
“Ah here you are, Malli. Can you remember us now? All grown up also,” the lady’s voice was slightly familiar.
“This is your Loku Nandha’s daughter, Nimalakka.” His mother said her name combined with the word Akka, elder sister. This already meant he was supposed to respect her.
He smiled and sat on the half wall that surrounded the veranda.
“Here you are. Ginger tea,” his mother said, handing him a glass of hot tea, the brownish red reminding him of a dried blood.
After some polite chitchat he excused him self and walked outside. There were two little boys using sticks for a sword fight. As soon as they saw him, they stopped their game, and in excited voices screamed, “Ranju Maame.”
They then suddenly felt shy, and looked at the dry earth, blushing.
“Ah! You must be Nimalakka’s little ones. Nice nice. How old are you?”
They were seven and nine. The younger one’s face brightened with a dimpled smile, happy an adult was talking with them.
“Are you an Army Uncle?”
Ranju laughed, something he hadn’t done in a while. “Yes yes. So don’t make me catch you being naughty.”
Their eyes widened. “What… What will you do, Ranju Maame?”
“I have a gun, you know.”
Their eyes clouded with tears. He frowned, it was meant to be a joke.
“Have you killed anyone before?” The older boy asked, his voice shaking.
He shut his eyes, hoping it would silence the little boy. As if shutting his eyes will make him not hear that question. His legs felt weak again, “not that shit again,” he thought.
He felt his pockets for a cigarette and remembered he had left them in his bag. “Damn! Damn! Damn,” he cursed.
The boys looked at him, scared. The tears that had gathered in their eyes, now rolled down their cheeks, little streams on their milk tea brown faces.
“Amma!” he heard one of them shout. “Amma! Ranju Maame is…”
The voices were there, but somehow felt so far away from him. He felt his mother’s arms wrap around him, her head on his. She kept whispering things to him, soothing words.
Slowly the darkness faded away. He opened his eyes, and saw the pain and fear in his mothers eyes. He was a curse to his mother, never giving her a reason to smile.