FINAL ISLANDS IN THE SUN – Chapter 5
The informal trader rushed up to the gates demanding to see the boss woman who was harboring the younger woman who bashed up her son. Or so the security personnel thought of her sudden intrusion. So they tried all they could to restrain her.
She shook the men off, for she herself was largely built, typical of a Motu-Koita mother, and entered the gates, screaming and wailing at the top of her voice. The men instantly jumped clear, mindful of the rules they were tasked to carry out, and those rules said plainly and clearly that they should never lay a hand on a woman, least of all touch her. The woman continued wailing and uttering phrases in Koita.
It was 5.55am when all this happened, Lady Gaesasara just emerging from the house in a track suit, ready for her routine morning run. The fog of morning light had yet to lift but the noise all around the neighborhood indicated that all was awake to the chores of yet another day. She need not, she felt, take extra precautions in jogging out to the gates when the noise coming from there forced her to stop. She waited a while, listening and checking the timer on her wrist. The early morning rays of the sun started hitting the surrounding burnt sienna hills by now and the valley where the Writer’s Villa kept itself comfortably nestled began to lighten up. In a little while all visibility became clear and she could easily see the wailing woman stumbling into the courtyard.
The woman quieted down upon seeing Lady Gaesasara, took a couple of steps forward but paused, casting a questioning glance at the security officers. They in turn nodded her forward. Then of course they had to control the crowd that followed the woman. There were men, women and children, shouting out for vengeance, it seemed. The men in particular were demanding compensation for wounds inflicted on their little boy.
As if adding punctuation marks to all that shouting the large woman quickly fell to her knees and blurted out: “Aiyoi… Tanobada isuka da miare, di magi oro mave se magi gumage na ore na goi gore nu? Ege daki ai oroi ma.”
There was a sudden hush outside the gates.
The crowd began leaving, each to his or her own, until there was no one left for the security guards to argue with. The guards too must have felt the impact of what the large woman was moaning about and perhaps thought it was too much for the human heart to contend with. Only a handful of men could be heard mumbling over the shoulder but they too left as quickly as they had come.
Bright sunshine flooded the valley.
Lady Gaesasara descended from the steps.
“Orogo no…” she beckoned the informal trader. “We must sit down and talk.”
She led the large woman a few terraces up the side of the house from which vantage point they could have a better view of the whole valley. This valley was once a hunting ground of the Motu-Koita people, she explained. The Motu and Koita would decide upon a month and camp here for days. At the given signal and depending on weather and direction of winds, the kunai you see all around us would be set alight. Whatever game that lay down there, at the bottom, where the streets are now, would be at the mercy of hunters waiting in a ring around the valley. The game caught would be enough to feed large clans and families around the coastal villages not far from here.
The informal trader looked puzzled. She did not come here to listen to fables and oral histories. But that would be Lady Gaesasara’s way of soothing the nerves of unexpected visitors, or more precisely trespassers, who might need time to calm down a bit before speaking their minds truthfully. When they reached a higher terrace where there was a spare hut that looked like a yam house, and a chair offered her, the large woman stood very still, not knowing what to do or say.
“Please sit,” said Lady Gaesasara.
The woman sat down stiffly.
“I came after my son,” she then said suddenly. “He was beaten up badly by one of your’s. My heart aches to know why.”
“And so mine,” said Lady Gaesasara taking a chair next to her. “Children are hard to control these days. And it is always the parents to blame for their wrongs.”
The woman did not feel any anger when she heard this. She agreed parents played an enormous role on the welfare of their children. She wanted then to explain that she was in the village when her boy got into trouble coming home from school. And anyhow, her husband was such a drunk and gambler he never did much for the boy… But she thought better of that and decided to apologize for waking the lady lawyer up and disturbing the neighborhood.
Lady Gaesasara told the woman there was nothing to apologize for and that she could do all she could to help her boy. And anyhow, she said, it was worth the while talking with her rather than rushing out there to stomp about from one end of the valley to the other.
“And you hid one little secret from me in our talk,” said the woman, looking at the younger woman straight in the eye.
“Those hunters: they were not up along the sides of these hills around us. It would be too dangerous up there. They were all standing in wait at both ends of this valley, down there, at the gullies, as the fires scorched the earth. The game tried to escape through the gullies, not uphill.”
“You are a Koita woman,” smiled Lady Gaesasara. “Koita mothers are wise.”
From where they were the Writer’s Villa became the centre of the valley. All around were hills that remained scorched the year round by kunai fires, enabling the valley to resemble a curled up spotted tiger at rest. But it was haven enough for the noble mind, most of the residents of the valley would boast, conveniently removed from the noise of the city. Very few private homes could be found here, and the few that could be spotted have sprung up sporadically as fringe low cost houses fencing in the entire valley. It was from these fringe houses that the informal trader had come to express her grievances.
An alarm went off from the Writer’s Villa just below them. It rang louder than it should as that would be Kedu Sarah’s way of reminding Lady Gaesasara that she was spending far too much time entertaining an intruder instead of being back in the house, as she often did from her morning runs, washing up and getting ready for breakfast with her children.
Lady Gaesasara stood up from her chair, checking the timer on her wrist: “Just about time I got back from that morning run. I say,” she then turned to the woman, “do stay for breakfast with me.”
The large woman was having difficulty getting up from her chair. Part of her clothing got caught at a side of the chair she was sitting in and in the process of freeing herself she noticed how heavy the chair was. She burst out laughing, surprising Lady Gaesasara.
“You people are worse than the taukurokuro,” she kept on laughing as she struggled with the chair. “Are these chairs made of iron?”
“They are indeed,” said Lady Gaesasara joining in with the laughter. “They are what my father collected from Andre Miller’s old Botanical Gardens... a long, long time ago. These white iron chairs and those flower pots you see all around. Quite elaborate in their rococoish design… and, and quite exquisite, wouldn’t you agree so? I’ll tell you more about them… but perhaps another time... another time…”
“My, my,” said the woman, reaching out to touch the lady lawyer’s wrist for the first time that morning. “No wonder you are so important.”
Kedu Sarah, the matron of the Writer’s Villa, was on the verge of lecturing Lady Gaesasara on time management when the two women walked down to the house. She looked disapprovingly at the informal trader then walked down a set of cement blocks to a bungalow next door to rouse Miss Caswell and the little boy up. But on her way up after waking Miss Caswell and ordering her to get the boy ready for breakfast she merely said to the informal trader: “Make yourself comfortable. Breakfast will be served shortly.”
The breakfast consisting of tapioca bread, pawpaw slices and tea and milk for the children was served under the house. All looked tensed up a little round the table as Kedu Sarah said the Grace, except Lady Gaesasara and her two children. When Miss Caswell walked up from the bungalow with the little boy the mother rose and embraced her son, quietly crying and asking if she had failed as a mother, had she not looked after her little baby well? She studied her son closely and noticed that the only marks visible were but a thin dark lining under the left eye. There were no stitches as she had heard previously from her husband; and there appeared no evidence that her son was hospitalized. Miss Caswell nevertheless appeared remorseful and showed this with a hug for the mother before sitting down at the table. Food usually is the thing that settles the heart in strife."Our hill together!"
It was Richard, the leader of the security guards, walking up from the gates to announce that Sergeant Mata Hanai had arrived to escort Miss Caswell to the court house. Sergeant Mata Hanai was the old police officer at the Boroko Police Station who had released Miss Caswell to Lady Gaesasara’s custody the day before."Our hill together," chorused those at the breakfast table.
“Pity the old boy can’t join us for breakfast, Richard,” said Lady Gaesasara.
“Yes, a pity,” said Richard, picking up a piece of tapioca bread. “But as it is, Lady Gaesasara, it is the way with the old ones. All your father’s friends will stay away from the villa until the thought of your mother’s passing evaporates completely from their minds. And they won’t visit even when your father’s here.”
“I know, Richard.”
Kedu Sarah took Miss Caswell and the boy down to Sergeant Mata Hanai who would be driving them to Boroko. She and the large woman, the boy’s mother, would be following suit in her little station wagon. Richard took Byron and Emily, Lady Gaesasara’s children, to school soon after in the security van. On their way out they saw a well-dressed woman driving in to take Lady Gaesasara to the Waigani court houses. She gave the "our hills together" salute and Richard and the two little ones returned the gesture. When a woman dresses up like that, thought Richard amusedly, we will hear in the six o’clock news of yet another multi-billion dollar rogue of a foreign company sacked by the government.
At the Boroko District Court two hours later Magistrate Dickson Weraura looked up from an unusually thick file, as prepared by Sergeant Mata Hanai himself, and asked which one of those present in the room was Miss Caswell.
“I am, your worship,” said Miss Caswell, rising.
“You are,” said the Magistrate, and after being sure who the accused was read out the charges.
A hush fell upon the court room.
“Miss Caswell, you realize how serious these allegations are: an adult willfully beating up a minor. Do you have anything to say to these allegations?”
“I deny the allegations, your worship,” said Miss Caswell. “I deny all of the allegations.”
“You deny the allegations.”
The magistrate tapped a finger on the file thoughtfully. He turned to the clerk, a young woman of about Miss Caswell’s age, and motioned her to record all that was heard. The clerk in the meantime caught herself watching Miss Caswell intently, with fascination as a matter of fact. Magistrate Dickson pretended he did not see that.
“And what is your occupation, Miss Caswell?” he then asked.
“I am a lawyer, your worship.”
“I see. And how much do you earn a fortnight by way of net salary?”
Miss Caswell felt Kedu Sarah’s foot on her’s and smiled.
“Five hundred and eighty-five kina and forty-five toea, your worship,” she answered. “On a graduate salary.”
“And who are your employers, Miss Caswell?”
“I have but one employer, your worship. Lady Gaesasara and Associates.”
The magistrate looked at Miss Caswell for a moment then closed the file, pushing it towards the clerk. He then explained that although the charges were serious some leniency was accorded her upon the understanding that she was acting on impulse and in response to certain usages of language by men that demean women in general. “However, that should not,” continued the magistrate, “rule out the error on your part of attacking a minor, for which this court orders you, Miss Caswell, to pay a fine of one hundred kina and to take into your keep this eleven year-old boy as a minor equivalent of a dependent whereupon all responsibilities pertaining to his welfare including education, health, food, clothing and shelter shall be yours until the authority of this court feels satisfied that he be returned to his rightful parents.”
All chapters subject to re-writes and further editing.