ISSN 1989-4163

NUMERO 114 - VERANO 2020


Hami's Sneeze

Coos Palmboom

While socially distancing himself well beyond the minimum limits set by the nunormle on a sunny Saturday morning, Hami let go a wild, explosive sneeze.And another one. And then another one. Always three of those liberating monsters. Many airmasked heads turned his way, some in anger and fright, others merely out of curiosity.Don’t worry! Hami, on his way to the nearby supermarket, called out, it’s those pollen again, happens to me every spring. While some people accepted his excuse, others grabbed their phones to take his picture and send it to a snitch page. That won’t be necessary, Hami yelled nervously, clasping his hands over his face, suddenly aware of the possible consequences of his sneeze. He turned and made his way up the hill where he could disappear between the shrub and tree of the municipal park there. Let things calm down while lying under some roots.

He was never going to make it, of course. Within thirty seconds of his movement, two police cars approached, one from either side. Hami couldn’t be bothered to look for an escape. With three guns pointing at him he had little choice but to accept defeat. Wouldn’t want to disturb the good neighbours with my blood spatting, right? They put him in the back of a car which had a glass partition like a London taxi and raced off to a nearby hospital.

In younger years, Hami might have seen the fun side of it all, enjoy the ride and remember the experience and stuff, but as a happily married father of two beautiful daughters he feared he might not be there for them for a while, just when they needed him most with the lockdown keeping them away from school. The whole madness was turning ridiculous, Hami thought, a tragicomedy with too many victims in its wake.

Look, I’m fine, he said when they pulled him out on arrival and handed him to a muscle-toned triage nurse with a giant moustache. See, it was just pollen.
That’s what we’re going to find out, his nurse said, handing him an airmaskandlatex gloves. It could be covid.

Hami felt the fear the word covidwas causing him flush through his body and mind, so he had to close his eyes for a second and pretend life was as before, just to feel some strength flow back. Sure it could, he responded sympathetically,wrestling with his equipment, though it equally couldn’t. In fact, the chance it is something else is much greater still.

He felt the facemask condemning him to eternal silence and it hurt more than his pride, it hurt his soul. Ooh, ma soul, Little Richard already knew. They were not going to keep him here, were they? Had he become cattle already? We should be owned by now, another favoured singer reminded him.

The nurse threw an ever so short smile and started moving towards the interior of the hospital, inviting Hami to do the same. Such dangerous words can only be your individual responsibility, sir, he declared. Here we are fighting the disease.

Both the verb and the definite article shocked Hami more than he would have liked. Is it that bad? he struggled for words.

The nurse slowed his step and allowed for a short eye-meet which Hami, naturally inclined to the supernatural, accepted. We’re doing all we can. We follow the rules and we work hard, but people keep dying on us. We don’t understand.

He seemed honestly distressed, hence his willingness to inform a stranger, one delivered by the police and therefore suspected of bad intentions, why would he tell me?I can’t help you,mate. I can only make life easier for you by going home. Wouldn’t that be the best?Hami saw in his eyes the nurse totally agreed with his reasoning, yet acknowledging it was impossible.

You can’t, I’m afraid, we must all follow the protocol, he uttered with a pleading smile. With two policemen still following discretely behind them, in case he might get funny ideas, Hami was going to embrace that damned protocol himself, as well.It started with a quick temperature read which gave off 37.1.Oh, that’s quite normle for me, Hami shouted, but the damage was already done. I’m afraid we will have to keep you with us for a while, sir, his nurse announced. The norm says 37.0.

But I’ve got a family waiting for me, Hami tried.

Don’t worry, they will also be checked.

That sentence triggered an uncontrollable fear in Hami. He had been sitting in a chair while awaiting his verdict but now he jumped up and grabbed his nurse by the shoulder. Now don’t you dare touch my family, he snapped. The other pushed him away. Now don’t you dare touch me, mister, he rebuffed in a similar feline sound.

He was right, of course. And the policemen were already there to apprehend Hami.

Lock him up somewhere, nurse said, it’s not his turn yet.

Again a quick glance from soul to soul, trusting you to leave my dear ones in peace a while longer, my friend.

The agents pushed Hami ahead of them, discussing what to do with him. Iain’tgonnadrive ‘round town with this here fucker. No worries, mate, I’ve got a nice place for him. Will nobody come and find him there. Out on the street, they pushed Hami into a narrow alley between the hospital’s old ward and the next-door apartment block, full of darkness and bad smells. Hami was freaking out. This is it, he knew, they’re going to shoot me, I’m going to die in some lousy alley. He wasn’t. They sat him on a stone doorstep and locked his waist to a bull’s ring lain in the wall.

Ain’t nobody gonna get yaoutta here, mister, the other agent explained. But ya got ya arms and legs to defend yaselves.

Thanks for the comforting thought, Hami tried sarcasm. But it was true, he felt comforted by the idea they weren’t going to shoot him yet. The other policeman didn’t bother to check for any reaction to his words and walked away.

Don’t scream, the original agent advised, you will definitely attract the wrong people. Then he too was gone. It is possible that one or both of them had a quick look back before emerging from the alley. Though not advisable, these things keep happening.

Little has been heard from Hami ever since. He hasn’t used his telephone in any capacity. One could go and see that the lock had been opened cleanly, the bull’s ring was in no way scratched or damaged, but further tracks of Hami’s whereabouts remained undisclosed. Was he still alive? Was he being turned into a secret agent? We don’t know. All we know is his wife and kids have been left in peaceso far.









@ 2020