A lone Bamboo Chapter 1: A Lone Bamboo; Chapter 1
Sister Albina knelt in a stark bare room only furnished with a single spring bed that hung oddly like a hammock. Above the bed a wooden crucifix dangled in an uncertain position; pendulum fashion. A sigh escaped from her lips, as she muttered Hail Marys under her breath. She had spent years reciting the Ave Maria devotional prayer so much that the words were embedded in her mind and effortlessly tumbled out without thought. With a swift observance analogous to the sacraments she made the sign of a cross, ending her prayer session. The war had just ended and the St Claire Missionary sisters were extremely anxious about the post war outcome for white Rhodesians. The previous year Father Tom of St Francis had taken refuge at the convent, hiding from the guerrillas. He had a bounty on his head for several accusations; primarily he was wanted for being an informant for the imperialists. The guerrillas barged through the heavy wooden gates with a battering ram. Leaving no stone unturned they rummaged through the convent and found him dressed as nun in a confessional box. They stripped him naked for all the nuns to see, the sisters averted the eyes but where forced to stare at gunpoint, eyeball to the Father’s copulatory organ. In this moment of one of the gravest humiliation of Catholicism, they shot him in the head. His body jerked for a minute before lying perfectly still as a pool of blood slow formed creating a bloody halo over his head. Sister Rosary who was Mother General at that time, in a fit of shock and hysteria, she ran across the chapel’s podium to Father Tom’s lifeless body, several bullets perforated her body before she crossed the entire podium. A stunned silence thick with horror ensued.
The Chimurenga soldiers made camp at the convent for two weeks. Strict orders were issued not to move the corpses of Sister Rosary and Father Tom from the chapel. The convent reeked of the decaying corpses, the odor highly offensive that it immobilized the general functioning of the convent, winning the innovations of stench warfare. The sisters took solace in the Beit common room, where the grieved silently and harrowed in prayer. It was at this time that Sister Albina rose and became the pillar of the convent. She naturally took the leadership role by a show of strength through comforting the nuns and being the beacon of reassurance. It all shifted from bad to worse when the unconventional morally depraved soldiers brought in dogs into the chapel with the rotting corpses. The wrought iron door of the chapel was shut tightly as the dogs ravished the putrid decomposing human flesh. The terror and repugnance that hung in the air was almost tangible. A teachable fact was communicated with the variable tactfulness of a guerrilla. The consequences of being a squealer lay at the bottom of the bowels of a mutt.
Sister Albina became the self appointed Mother General as soon as the guerrillas left. The sisters nursed deep emotional shock following the distressing and disturbing experience. The worst traumatic struggle was collecting the bones of Mother Rosary and Father Tom that had been scattered all over the convent grounds. Determining the owner of the bones was a peril that the older nuns had to endure. A proper burial was made and the aura at the convent changed forever. The experience created timid and apprehensive sisters who suffered from internalized post traumatic stress disorder. It was a shaky boat to steer but Sister Albina held her head and stood firm against the crashing waves of uncertainty. The little bobbing boat of St Claire Missionary survived the storm of the armed struggle. Survivors bore emotional and mental scars, recording two fatalities; St Claire was one of the lucky ones.
A soft knock startled Sister Albina as she rose from her knees using the ill formed bed for support. ‘Mother’, a soft whisper emanated from the other side of the door. With a slow tired shuffle Sister Albina walked to the door and swung it open. ‘Sister Theresa, this better be good. I really had a long day’, Sister Albina peeked at the nun from the top of her spectacles. ‘We got another one Mother; this one is still covered in vernix and a bit of blood. He looks like he was born less than two hours of ago.’ The younger nun visibly shaken, shuddered under her over-sized cloak. ‘What are you doing standing there? Take me to the baby’, Sister Albina tried to mask her shock. Children were usually dumped at their doorstep, usually toddlers but they never had babies before. The nursery was dimly lit with a candle and a little bundle was placed in one of the convent’s food basket. Sister Albina picked the basket and looked at the baby, its face so peaceful and serene deep in slumber. Something struck her maternal chord; she had to keep this one. At that moment a name rang in her head, she couldn’t stop thinking about it, as if driven by an unknown force. Angelo. Name him Angelo. His name is Angelo. She did not realize that she had spoken aloud. Sister Theresa looked the senior nun, perplexed by her entire gait. ‘I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but are we supposed to give them names or we should wait for social welfare?’ Sister Theresa interjected, dreading a backlash. Sister Albina chuckled, ‘Social welfare? This is post war era my dear, nothing is certain until the previous structures are resuscitated. For now we keep him.’ As an afterthought, she added, ‘Quick sister, fetch some warm water and fresh cotton sheets so we can clean him up.’
Sister Albina felt rejuvenated; the sight of this infant washed away all her exhaustion and creaking bones. She smiled as she looked at him, her chest felt tight… it was love at first sight. Angelo, a messenger, an angel the symbolism of the peace and calmness that will be a part of the convent for a very long time. A few hundred meters away from the convent, lay a young mother in mud infused with cow dung. She looked at the dark cloudy sky and felt the raindrops hit her face. She had waited in the bush for someone to fetch her baby from the door step. After several minutes she crawled back to the convent entrance and hit the wooden gate with a rock. She crawled back in the bush as fast as she could before a quick and last glance at her baby, who surprisingly was fast asleep. The gate slowly opened and two nuns picked her baby, looked around and went inside with him. She felt a lot of mixed emotions but the strongest and overbearing emotion was relief. She pushed through the woods, with a warm trickle of blood between her legs. Death was imminent; she felt the cold breath of Hades on her face. Mirirai took on death with ease, this was the only way, so she lay there slowly slipping into unconsciousness. She smiled as fireflies lit the sky, little stars with wings; it was such a beautiful sight that abruptly vanished as she felt strong rough hands grab her at the knees.