Halima Part 1 (The Story of the Foundling)

Halima

It was trash day again. I really hated that day specifically because there was no organized trash disposal system where I lived. So I had to gather all my trash in a big black bag and walk close to 10 minutes in the cold to empty my trash in a large pit dug by the neighborhood residents.

And the weather was about nine degrees C – extremely cold for the tropics. But I couldn’t live in a house with smelling trash so I pulled on a thick jacket over my red sweater and got to work.

A few minutes later, I made the walk to the pit. There was trash all over, the whole area was littered with trash from those who were too lazy to walk up to the pit, not that I blamed them. The smell was horrible! Something must have died somewhere nearby. I tried to hold my breath, quickly dump my bag and get out of the vicinity.

I was so intent on my chore I almost missed the sound. I paused for a few seconds but heard nothing; my imagination must be playing tricks on me, I decided. I released the breath I’d been holding, flung the trash bag into the pit and turned to leave when I heard the sound again.

It sounded like a whimper but was so faint. I went totally still, holding my breath once again. This time, it was clearer; a whimper. It sounded like a baby but in the trash pit! Impossible. Nevertheless, I decided to investigate.

Using the infrequent whimpers as guide, I waded deeper into the trash pit, the stench wafting up in merciless waves was almost unbearable. I had to use my hand to move bags of trash aside in my quest. Finally, a few minutes later, I found the source of the whimper. There, wrapped with torn rags, in the midst of all the rotten trash, was the most pathetic sight I had ever laid my eyes on.

I gently picked up the tiny bundle, it probably weighed almost nothing – it felt so light! I stared at it in shock; I absolutely refused to believe that someone had actually thrown something so wonderful away. I had heard it happened but dear Lord! It was still emitting those pitiful whimpers and I could tell that only a will to live had kept it alive.

It stared at me with eyes so brown, they were like the untreated honey from my grandpa’s honey bees. But even those brown eyes could not hide the fact that life was at the most, tentative. The body was almost icy cold, the rags being little protection against the December harmattan.

I shifted the bundle to one arm and shrugged out of my jacket, which I quickly used to wrap it. I was at a loss. I knew I needed to get to a hospital immediately but the hospital was quite a drive away and Benjy, my little Volkswagen gulf was giving me trouble.

I transferred the bundle to my other arm and used the free one to dig inside my pockets for my cell phone. There was only one person to call. She answered on the second ring.

“Mama?”

“Sweetie what is it?”

“Mama, I just found a baby in the trash pit and I don’t know but I think it’s dying.” I struggled to hide the panic in my voice but she must have heard it anyway.

“Calm down girl,” she soothed “Your dad and I will meet you up at your house and we’ll drive to the hospital okay?”

“OK ma. Thanks ma.”

There was no time to waste. As soon as I cut the connection, I hurried back to my house, I was beginning to catch cold myself. Inside the house, I did not know what to do. Well, I knew I had to wear something warm but I was loathe to put down the baby, for some reason I could not explain, I felt very protective towards it.

But I needed to get ready, so I placed it on the chair closest to the kitchen, since I had been baking, I could feel the heat from there right up to my tiny sitting room. I went in to the next room to get ready.

A few minutes late there was a knock on my door. I opened it to see both my parents, my mum with an anxious yet I-can-handle-anything look on her face. My dad was right behind her.

“Get the baby”. She ordered.

I turned and picked up the bundle and handed it over to her so that I could lock my flat. Together we all hurried into the car.

“Thank you so much.” I said once we were on our way.

Nothing else was said for the rest of the trip. I suppose we were all busy whispering fervent prayers on the behalf of the little fighter. My mum still had the baby in her arms and was bent over it. I knew she was praying as hard as she would have prayed for one of hers. Though I also knew my mum would never dump her baby in a trash pit.

What kind of mother would do something like that? I thought in dismay. What could have been so bad? Why go through the trouble of labour if she was only going to throw the baby away? I just couldn’t fathom it; it was beyond anything I could imagine. I kept turning these thoughts in my head until we drove into the driveway of the hospital.

I jumped out of the car and raced in to find a doctor. I saw a nurse behind the counter, watching local television.

“Nurse!” I gasped.

She turned to look at me with a bored expression on her face “Ehen? What is it again?” She demanded.

I decided to ignore her rudeness “Nurse, I found a baby that was thrown away, it has been exposed and we need a doctor now!”

She rolled her eyes as though to say ‘so what’s new’ and turned back to the TV before turning to face me again. “The doctor is not around”. She stated finally.

I was getting frantic by now. Luckily my parents had come in already, “what’s going on?” my dad asked.

“She said the doctor’s not around” I replied on a sob.

My mum handed the baby to me, I could see that it was breathing in shallow breaths as though it was struggling just to breathe. God please don’t let it die. I pleaded.

“Young woman”, mum began calmly in her no-nonsense voice “If you do not get out of there and get me a doctor right this instant I promise you I will slap whatever is left of your face into next year.” I knew she meant it to.

Obviously the nurse thought so too because she scurried out of her cubicle and went to find a doctor …to be continued

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