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a guest Aug 25th, 2019 149 Never
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  1.   It is not in the nature of unfortunates to curse their woes. Indeed, they rarely curse their misfortunes, for they rarely know they have them; it is their blessings that are truly reviled. No one has ever received ambrosia without indignation. That is why medicine is so bitter. Chloroquine: 250mg. Treats malaria. It was Mara’s bread and butter here. In the always wet, always hot, always prickling city, it was the byword for medicine, and 'medicine' was the byword for it: Chloroquine. But it didn’t always work, and the people would blame some god or the other, while the rich ones would just blame Mara. Little do they know that even the gods are slaves in these climes, and the drug request forms have no options for tetracycline, or doxycycline, or quinine, or Atovaquone-proguanil; just 'Malaria Medication' with a tick box next to it. Not even the option to pick an amount. But Mara had built a stash, which was, unfortunately, as of this moment, completely underwater.
  2.  The single bottle Mara held was the last of it all. But there was only one patient on the rooftop that really needed it. A woman, mother of three, lay at the southeast corner. She had contracted the disease in the past few weeks they had been force to spend on the roof of Mara’s home-clinic. With the perfect-still water that surrounded them as far as the eye could see, it was a miracle there was only one. Mara hesitated, to be absolutely certain that there was no one else, so that the medicine could be appropriately divided. The woman’s husband next to her showed no symptoms, except the pale complexion and dark, drooping eyes. The infant in his arms, asleep, was hungry and exhausted but otherwise healthy. Two children, a girl of about seven and a boy of around four were playing, spinning around restlessly at the center of the rooftop, despite their father pleading with them to conserve their energy. Both seemed in the same health as the infant. Asha, Mara knew Asha would be fine. She was sitting in her corner, beside the sick woman so she could wipe her sweat, staring out into the setting sun. The orange light could not lift her face aglow, but sharpened the lines which appeared only faintly in the grey filtered light they were all used to. But the sun imparted some warmth in a rare time of paucity of heat. The light from the perpetually grey overcast sky was not so cruel and honest.
  3.   There was one more man on the rooftop. He called himself Acintya, and everyone knew his name. He was sick too. But Mara was resolved, the entire bottle would go to this woman, so there was a good chance she would survive.
  4.   The sky was a golden orange bloom in the corner of a dark pond. In the deep purple water Mara saw stars only for the second time, and the sky reflected the water so that they were situated not in a swollen ocean but in the middle of swollen space. The mother called her children, who came to her side at once, for they felt the gravity of their mother’s predicament, but even so, their understanding was nebulous.
  5.   She was about to tell them a story, and Mara hesitated once more to go through the symptoms: Fever, headache, nausea, body pains. Her heart rate was high, and she was barely able to think straight, yet her breathing became less labored and she stopped shivering, and so she was able to begin:
  6. "Once upon a time, there was a little puppy-dog and he couldn’t find his mother. One day he saw that all the other puppy-dogs were having fun and being fed by their mothers. He was hungry so he decided to go looking for her. On the way he met a little boy who took him home and bathe and fed him, so the puppy was happy. But his mother had come back from hunting and went to look for her puppy-dog."
  7.   Her husband came up to Mara who said, "Don’t worry, I’m going to give her the medicine."
  8.   "Are you sure she needs it? She seems better. Maybe you should give some to—"
  9.   "Malaria comes in waves sometimes. Trust me, it’s better to just medicate her."
  10.   In the background the mother continued her story:
  11.   "The puppy-dog’s mother looked high and low for him. She asked all the other dogs, but they were all too busy having fun, so they didn’t notice he was gone. She dug down and asked the buried bones and underground animals, but they hadn’t seen him either. She even went to the butchers to ask him if her puppy-dog had come through, but he told her that he hadn’t seen any puppy-dogs come through. So then she went to the forest and climbed all the trees, but the birds said they hadn’t seen him either. She asked, 'whoever might have seen him while flying around?,' and the birds replied,'Ask the Eagle. She is Eagle-eyed and lives on the highest nest. So she set off on the hard climb to the Eagle’s nest."
  12.   Acintya was sitting away from the rest in the northwest corner of the roof. In a moment of lucidity he had staggered up with his odd gait and grabbed Mara’s arm with a hand blackened with filth, "Those are for me right?"
  13.   "No."
  14.   "Listen. I’ve got malaria too. I’ve got the fever, and the headache, and the nausea, and the body pain…"
  15.   "You don’t have body pain."
  16.   "Oh yes I do. My back and my neck are killing me," he slurred.
  17.   "Fine, touch your nose.," Mara held one finger out to the side as he got his nose on the third attempt, "Now touch my finger." He barely brushed the wrist. Other side: he missed completely.
  18.    "I can’t give you the medication."
  19.     "WHY not?," he reached out to grab the bottle out of Mara’s hand, who pulled away. "Give to me! I’m going to live! You can’t let me die… I cannot die! I can’t die. "
  20.   Mara wrestled to push Acintya off; the mother continued her story:
  21.   "When the puppy-dog’s mother finally reached the Eagle’s nest, she was very tired. She asked the Eagle if she had seen her puppy-dog anywhere and the Eagle said, 'No I haven’t. But if you help me then I will use my flight and sight to help you find him.’ So the mother said, 'Fine I will help you.' The Eagle told her that she had dropped one of her eggs somewhere and she wanted the mother to find it. The mother used her sense of smell to find the egg, but found that it was already broken. When she went back to the Eagle and told her this, the Eagle was very upset, 'No, No, you greedy dog! You have eaten her! You have eaten my baby! I’ll never forgive you for this!,’ and as punishment for losing her puppy-dog, one of the mother’s eyes was scratched off by the Eagle…"
  22.   Acintya was far too sick and weak to fight Mara, and he was left in a sobbing heap as Mara, not taking an eye off Acintya, placed the bottle of pills next to the sick woman, whereupon a child tugged on Mara’s pant leg, for their mother had fallen asleep in the middle of her story. Mara knelt down to check on her, and had a slight, uncomfortable, tickling feeling at the diaphragm, and looked up for a moment to see Asha staring back with a blank dark upturn of her lips.
  23.   Mara pulled back one of her eyelids and took out a small torch and alternately shined it on her eye and removed it. Her brainstem reflexes seemed depressed. Limbs next: No response to pain but reflexes were intact. "What’s happened?," asked her husband, he tried to peer around to see Mara’s face, "She looks like she’s just asleep." Mara replied,"She’s in a coma. Because of the malaria". The mans face shivered, as if it was determined to make the appropriate face, but failed to express anything but a fish on land, whereupon it tried again, only to obtain the same result once again. Mara gestured to take the sleeping infant from the man, who leaned slightly away as if he was pushing himself away from Mara as he thrust the infant onto the waiting arms. Mara continued,"It’s unlikely the medicine will work, but we’ll give it to her anyway and hope for the best. It’s the best we can do." He collapsed down on his knees and ran the back of his finger lightly against her cheek as if trying to wake her up, expecting she would wake, as she always did.
  24.   Mara lightly touched the infants cheek. It was softer than anything should be. She opened here eyes the slightest amount, slighter than anything should be. Her sclera was ever so slightly yellow. Or perhaps it was just the sun. The sun, like the warmth of the infant against one’s breast. Mara knew her warmth was borrowed from her mothers chest and stored in her bundle of blankets, but even so, was she not herself emanating it? Every slight movement Mara felt against the chest, and a stray, soft gurgle brought every other sound into focus; by mere mention they came into being.
  25.   The children’s father lay his head on his wife’s chest, trying to keep the heat in, and repeated over and over to his children, "mommy’s just sleeping shes just tired and sleepy." Asha continued the story for the children, "After many years, when the mother had grown old and grey looking for her puppy-dog, she saw him with a young man at the butchers. Her senile old mind thought that the man was giving her baby to the butcher. So she leapt onto the man to protect him and bit his leg. But the man’s dog, to protect his master, tore out her throat and killed her. The End."
  26.   Acintya, crawling on the floor, plead like a child, "Please, please.," Mara looked away from him and back towards the woman lying on the floor surrounded by her family. The bottle of Chloroquine was missing. Asha was standing some distance away, on the west edge, her back to Mara, in a resolute stance, with her head thrown backwards in a joyous flourish, and her hand holding a small bottle to her mouth desperately swallowing ambrosia, like a child her mother’s milk.
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