"And we don't have any bata-deen. I'm not sure what it is you need."
Marys hands are shaking, thinks this baby can't be three weeks old; the baby doesn't have the strength to keep on gasping any more.
"I need something to clean the skin," and Marys also on the verge; shes slapping at the other leg, still desperate for a decent vein. Chidda brings a cotton ball thats soaked in something horrible; slowly mops the knee and thigh till Mary knocks her hands away. The baby is so deep in shock her veins have all nearly collapsed; with fingers trembling Mary blindly sticks the IV needle in. She knows that theres a big vein somewhere near the outside of the shin; after several tries she finds it: tiny flash of something red.
"Damn it! I need tape!" she screams, her patience finally wearing out; she knows this babys going to die and everything will be her fault. Vikrams letter said the staff would help her any way they could; all she needs to do is ask: the nurses are all excellent. And this was what he'd written in the letter underneath the book: that he would keep her in his prayers, that Richard would be proud of her. I'm going home to Kerala. My father's taken gravely ill. Ill be back in a month or so. The hospital depends on you.
She knows that shes not up for this, she hasn't got much in reserve - she came this far to find a ghost to hold her hand and comfort her. She looks down at this tiny girl, while Chidda draws the saline push; this dying babys face holds all the sadness in the universe. She knows that she will have to stay, if only for a couple days: she'll live but only if I keep this needle safe inside her vein.
Reprinted from Himalayan Dhaba by Craig Danner by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © Craig Danner, 2002. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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