THE JAILBIRD (Episode 21) ®18
Chris does not move away from the wall where he is leaning, and he does not drop his folded arms from across his chest.
His eyes are hard glints of suppressed anger as he watches them approach.
They stop and as they look at him he can see the shock in their eyes. He is still naked from the waist up, and they know that he has always been a hairy boy.
Their shock stems from the way his body has changed. The bulging fat he has carried to prison has melted, and his body is hard and ripped.
The results of five years of terrible labour in prison.
Effe glances at Chris’ mother, and she sees the horror in her eyes too .
It strikes all of them that life at the Grand Castle Prison had not been an easy one for Chris.
Hello, Chris. How’re you doing.
Your Mom called me yesterday, Chris. They wanted to see you, and I promised them I’ll bring them here today.
Chris says nothing, but slowly the fury ebbs from his eyes, and in its place is a look of sudden sadness.
There is an uncomfortable silence for a little while, and then the man of God takes a step closer to his last son.
(clearing his throat)
Listen, son, I think we went through a hard time as a family when this whole thing happened five years ago. You showing up at the Church on Sunday brought home the hard fact that it is time to put the past behind us. First, let me apologise for selling your house, and dumping your things outside. That was bad of me, and an unforgivable childish act. I’m very sorry.
You don’t have to apologize, sir. From what I remember of you, you’ve never been sorry for anything in your life.
Chris! Stop it! We’re trying to meet you halfway here, son! At least appreciate the effort from your father!
I can’t believe this! You still sit on your pompous ass, don’t you, little brother? You beat up your uncle almost to the point of death, you pump yourself full of your cocaine s*** and sloth up liquor, knock down a poor girl and tears off one of her legs! You refuse to say sorry, and we, your family, has taken the flak for you all these years, and now we’re here trying to smoke the peace pipe and you still expect us to lick your feet? Well, I bloody well isn’t going to do it!
Stan! Step down!
Diana moves close to Chris, and her eyes desperately search his hard face. Tears are shimmering in her eyes.
They had to force me here, Chris. You know I found it very difficult loving you as a brother when Roland died. But today they forced me here, to see you, to forgive you, and to accept you back as my little brother. Please, don’t let me regret coming here!
Mrs. Bawa walks forward, and her cheeks are stained with tears.
Chris, Chris, my son! Please, please, you’re a part of this family. When we heard you’ve been arrested again, it dawned on me I could lose you again! I begged your father to let us come and look for you. All we want is to heal the bad blood, my son. You say sorry to your Uncle for beating him up, and say sorry to your father for the humiliation you caused this family, and that’s all. We’ll accept you back!
She tries to touch his cheek, and he moves away from her, violently, angrily, as if her hand is a snake.
When he speaks his voice is hard, and his words come out like bullets.
Sorry? Say sorry? I’ve paid for my crimes with five hard years of my life! I don’t owe anybody an apology anymore! I was in prison for five years, and none of you, NONE, paid me a visit. You cut me off your family, right after Roland died, and guess what, I’ve learned to live without you! I don’t need you, and you definitely don’t need me! So let’s stop this damn charade! You want me out of your life? Good, I’ll stay away. And all of you should just stay away from me! I survived alone, when Rodney died, and God knows I’ve not had any family love from any of you since I was twelve. So just leave me alone.
His voice is filled with such pain, such bitterness, that it shocks them into silence.
Eyram reaches them then. She is holding a jar of cold orange juice and some buns she has made, and she looks curiously at them as she also approaches Chris to give the juice to him.
But she can’t go on anymore, because the moment she speaks, Chris turns away from them, and heads for the veranda.
And when he turns away they see his back for the very first time, and the moment Eyram sees it she gasps with horror and drops the tray.
The buns and the jar of orange juice fall to the ground, and the jar breaks, but she pays no heed.
Effe gasps with shock and a terrible pain rips through her stomach.
Diana gives a small scream and jumps back, her trembling hands jumping to her mouth.
Mrs. Lois Bawa clutches her stomach, and her knees wobble.
Stan, who has been prepared to give another scathing remark at his little brother, stares with his eyes wide open.
The Reverend Bawa reaches out and steadies himself against the side of Eyram’s car.
Oh, dear Jesus!
What they have all seen is a most horrible picture.
Chris Bawa’s back is a map of the pain he has gone through in prison. His back is terribly tortured. There are clear terrible scars on his back where a hot iron has been pressed, taking the skin away.
There are knife scars on his back, cigarette burn scars, whip marks, spike marks, hot water scalds, and a host of terrible scars that has turned his back into a mass of the most horrible skin map ever.
Tears fall down Effe’s cheeks.
Eyram is trembling so fiercely that she almost falls down.
The man of God rushes forward blindly and catches Chris’ arm.
Dear Lord! Who is responsible for this? Chris, my son, who did this to you? Tell me! WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS ATROCIOUS CRUELTY???
Chris knocks his father’s hand off his arm, and he pushes his father back so hard the man would have fallen if he had not come up against Eyram’s car.
Keep away from me. Just leave me alone.
He enters the room, bangs the door, and locks it.
For several moments the people he has left behind cannot speak or move.
And then, still shaken badly, Chris’ family leaves.
Effe climbs to the door and turns the handle. She hammers on it and calls his name, but he refuses to come to the door.
She sees that Eyram is hurrying back to the main house. Effe leans her back against the door, and she shudders as the sight of his mutilated back comes back to haunt her.
She squeezes her eyes shut, but still her tears of horror seep down her cheeks.
She gets down to her car and drives away.
NEXT (episode 22)