Short Story - Bitter Covid By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

Short Story: Bitter Covid By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

Bitter Covid

By Seno Gumira Ajidarma

“Which one tastes bett’a, Kab, bitt’a coffee or bitt’a cofi’?”

Sukab grins like from ear to ear on ‘earin’ young Jali, who ‘as taken the oppa’tuni’y to rest his motorcycle taxi at the food stall, rather ‘an the endless daily roar of pickin’ up food an’ deliverin’ it.

“Ain’t you workin’ because of the lockdown, Li?”

“See ‘ere, this lockdown ‘as made online fried tofu and fish dumplin’s sell like ‘ot cakes, Kab.”

“So, how comes you is still ‘angin’ aroun’ ‘ere, then?”

“One by one them regular customers is dyin’,” says Jali, takin’ off ‘is baseball cap, as if it were outta respect. “Left an’ right, front an’ back, in every ‘ouse, there is someone depar’in'”

“Depar”in’?”

“Depar”in’ this world, Cor!”

“Oh gees, yeah, sorry. So..?”

“What people who is still at home is still bein’ infected like, lookin’ for oxygen cylinders, which is real ‘ard, see. An’ if they looks ‘ealthy, like, it turns around that they is still OTG, infech’ted but without no symp’oms.

“‘at is the gravest of dangers, i’n’t it.”

“That is when they is the most infetchious!”

“Is that why you don’t wanna go out? Ain’t motorcycle taxis right popular jus’ now?”

“Fact is, there ain’t no orders, Kab. Ain’t jus’ the people who’s buyin’ food what’s ‘eadin’ to the gates…”

“The gates?”

“Oh, Sukab! Headin’ to them pearly gates, ‘ken ‘ell!”

“Ah! Snuffin’ it! Look yous keep changin’, see!

“Yeah, not jus’ the buyers even. Plen’y of sellers it is ‘ho ‘as also shuff’led off…”

“Shuffled off? You mean croaked it again, right?”

“Yaapp! Now you knows, ok, why I been sittin’ ‘ere playin’ chess, rather ‘an run aroun’ all confused like, ‘n all not knowin’ what I outta be doin’?”

Yati shouts as she holds out a packed of fried catfish and peanut sauce. “What the hell! Deliver this. And fast. Then get straight back ‘ere, ok? It all ain’t no use neither that people sellin’ food is shippin’ out…”

“Shippin’ out? Dyin’ too?”

“Hey, stup’id, the importan’ thing is, I do not wants no people who is still ‘ealthy dyin’ o’ ‘unger, right…”

Jali grabs the packet like and climbs straight onto his mo’orcycle like a cowboy climbin’ up onto his ‘orse.

The stall was quiet again then, though the motorcycle taxis is still queuin’. Waitin’ for Yati’s food packets. With all this constant comin’ and goin’, Sukab gets to thin’in’. With bein’ down at the bottom, sure is lucky we is still makin’ a little somethin’.

“It may be goin’ all right,” he thinks, “but the worst thin’ is, Christ, them lives…”

“If there is a collapse, like, you is gonna collapse too…,” says Yati, who ‘as joined all manner of online groups. WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, an’ Twi’er, they was all confusin’ people, an’ makin’ ’em panic, even if they was not wrong.

“The ambulance drivers is exhausted. The grave diggers feels likes they ain’t got no hands left. The preachers is all praying 24 hours a day. The  doctors is havin’ to pick from dozens of dyin’ patients layin’ all around the joint in the emergency tents. Then there’s the health workers, helpin’ theirselves to the vaccines… What else is it if it ain’t a coh’lapse… a brea’ down, a crash…,” says Sukab, as if he is in a kinda thea’re play.

It’s true everything that was happenin’. At the food stall you ‘ears every neighborhood announcement from the speakers at them mosques, the ones close by as well as the ones way off. There’s no end to the speakers wailing Inna Lillahi, etcetera, and endin’ in the news that some body or other is gonna get taken straight from the ‘ospital to the graveyard. Bodies is bein’ lost, bodies is bein’ swapped, their souls flyin’ up an’ not bein’ able to say nothin’ to their relies ‘ho is prayin’ in front of the wrong body’s grave.

Yati shakes ‘er head an’ jus’ stares at ‘er cellphone.

“It sure is like that. The people who ain’t passed says they was almost goin’ crazy jus’ because they ain’t been to the mall…”

“Pass?”

“Like, it’s everythin’ from before: croaks, goes up to that big house, goes to them pearly gates, shuffles off, depar’s this world… does I really have to say dies? Ok, so, passes on…”

Sukab picks up ‘is mask an’ takes a mouthful of ‘is corn coffee.

“What it’s called is runnin’ outta energy, from bein’ a volunteer, all the worry by itself is.., just real hard…”

“But, you ain’t gonna run out, right, Kab?”

“Of what?”

“Of what you says. Of energy.”

“Gees! It ain’t not enough to jus’ pray!” Then Sukab points to his forehead.

“Your ‘uman brain has gotta really work real good, like!”

He stands, grabs his ‘oe and dus’pan.

“Where is you goin’, Kab? Ain’t there a lockdown?”

“‘ell, who is gonna bury all them people ‘ho croak?”

***

Pondok Ranji, Thursday 15 July 2021


Bitter Covid (Kopid Pait) was published in Panajournal, 15 July 2021. (Retrieved from https://www.panajournal.com/2021/07/kopid-pait)

Seno Gumira Ajidarma, born in Boston, United States, June 19, 1958. Now serves as Chancellor of the Jakarta Institute of the Arts (IKJ). Seno became better known after writing his trilogy of works on East Timor, namely Saksi Mata (collection of short stories), Jazz, Purfum, dan Insiden? (novel), and Ketika Jurnalisme Dibungkam, Sastra Harus Bicara (collection of essays). In 2014, he launched a blog called PanaJournal (www.panajournal.com) about human interest stories with a number of journalists and professionals in the field of communication. For other work by Seno Gumira Adjidarma click here.

Kopid Pait

 

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