Quick Stop at the People’s Hospital By John Wolfe

February 8, 2016 Comments Off on Quick Stop at the People’s Hospital By John Wolfe

The bus home from Pinggang had emergency windows, but they could only be used as escape routes if you smashed the glass with the tiny hammers hanging from the walls.

Personal space was scarce. I moved over for a terrified looking woman so that she did not have to sit next to me, the ugly foreigner. The seat I moved to smelled like human shit, but I’d been acclimating to the smells in urban China, especially on such hot and wet days.

The child five rows ahead of me was in his mother’s arms. A Scotch tape bandage was wrapped around his head, and his voice croaked. All I could understand between his explosive coughs was, “I do not have I do not have I do not have!” His mother stroked his back.

The pressure and thrum of the bus shook the windows. It sounded as if I were standing beneath a helicopter. The child’s voice was distorted into a sinister strolling drumbeat. I listened, and the woman I moved for peered at me uneasily. She shifted her position and had her bag firmly clamped to her chest. Sweat dampened the front of my shirt.

When I got home, we still weren’t talking. My chest ached and I poured a drink and watched television.

© 2015 John Wolfe

John Wolfe is a journals editor and a fencer in Boston, MA. His favorite food is mapo doufu and he misses China. He’s a fan of Jack Vance. Ideally, John will teach someone something, someday.

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