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August 1995 – A hospital in The Netherlands

Hospitals are never really quiet.   They are not places where the ill and injured can find good healing rest.  Constantly the machines ping and whirr, one may even puff up a sleeve on you arm so hard it hurts.  Then there’s the people, men and women in white, green or blue who come in to check on you, the chart at the foot of the bed or talk amongst themselves.  Sometimes all three.

The boy newly named Tobias Cudo,  sat up in his bed, his legs drawn up to his chest and wrapped around with skinny arms.  He looked out into the darkened  (but never really dark) ward listening with eyes and ears and skin to the other children.  Their sniffles and shifting, their dreaming cries and gentle snores.

He could not sleep.

He could not remember how many days he’d been there.  It had been days and days since the young man in the blue hat had given him to doctors and nurses inside a tent with flapping cloth walls.  Someone with the Doctor’s and nurses had spoken to him, told him he was safe and that the doctors and nurses would take care of him.  The boy who they called Tobais did not speak, he was too afraid to.  He was afraid if he opened his mouth he’d start crying and never stop until he’d die.  So he was silent and they gave him the name Tobias for the soldier that brought him in, and Cudo a word he knew meant miracle.

But what miracle was it to ….what?  He’d lost something that only came back to him in dreams and was lost again on waking…screaming.  So, besides when the doctor’s and nurses made him sleep with medicine, he did not sleep.

In the darkened ward, he remembered the doctors and nurses and people in uniforms standing around his bed in the tent with the flapping cloth walls. They talked and talked and finally brought back someone to tell him  that they were sending him away, to a safe place to look after his head that hurt a lot, and give him a new place to live.

But what about…what?

He hadn’t known then, in the tent with the flapping cloth walls, but did now.  He’d seen the children in the ward with their parents, their Mamas and Tatas.  Sometimes brother or sister or uncles or others.  But not the boy named Tobias.  No one came to visit him, only the doctors and nurses who did not speak. They gabbled and smiled and poked and proded.  The brought food and made sure he pooed, they checked the bandage on his head.

And they left him alone at night, to stare into the darkened ward.

And not sleep.

All except Jen.

Jen was only there at night.  She spoke in broken words telling the boy named Tobias that she was Jen and she was “…pleased to meet you…”

Her words were funny, as if she was talking to a stranger or an adult, but she was the only one who spoke properly so the boy name Tobias could understand.  And sometimes she taught him her words.

Such as:
“Goedemorgen, Meneer Tobias.”

“Hoe gaat het vandaag?”

“Ik ben ziek.”

“Ik will graag eten”

Jen now peaked around the corner of the door and waved her fingers at the boy.  He shifted in his head to get a better view and waved back.
“Is goed, Meneer Tobias?” she asked.  The boy nodded and just watched her.  She looked behind, up and down the hall conspiratorially and then she came in holding a book.  

Jen pulled out a piece of paper, she sometimes did that to talk.

“Mr Tobias, I hear you will leave soon for England where the people speak English.  I  brought this to help learn you English.” she said in her broken speech as she put the book on the bed in front of the boy.

“I no teach Dutch to you no more.  I can teach you English.”  She put away her paper and smiled, looking pleased at the boy.

The boy was horrified. What did this mean “…he would leave for England?”  He knew of England, it was where they played football and they had a queen.  But what was there for him?  He grabbed one of her hands that lay clean and white on the bed and drew it to his chest.  He tried to shake his head, but made the world spin so he stopped.

“No Jen?”  he whispered in the words of Dutch she’d taught him, “No Jen in England?”

They were the first words he’d spoken, spoken to this kindly woman in the middle of the night.  Tears filled Jen’s eyes and she cried.
“No…I will not be in England.”

“Then no…no…Tobias.” what else to call himself, but the name they’d given him.

The boy now called Tobias lay back on his pillow, hand head swimming sickly as he tried to catch his breath.  Jen made soothing sounds that meant nothing to the boy.  She stepped up beside his head and wrapped her arms around him.  This meant something , this was comfort and soon his breath came easier and he leaned his head against hers.  He could smell the clean smell of her and it felt right and safe.  

Slowly he became aware that she was saying a word he understood, over and over again.



and a thought entered his young and impressionable head that had never been there before.


Everything he’d been through, the pain and confusion.  Everything he’d seen and things he….didn’t remember.  Everything was just a huge adult sized mistake.  Who was he, a dumb stupid kid to fight that!

The realisation stopped his breath and Jen sat up to see his face, washed clean by tears, smiling.
“What?” she asked in her own language and Tobias replied in the same.

“Thank you Jen. Learn English now?”

Published by Miztres

I'd just like to say a few words... nee phtang! fribble

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