CATHY INSTALLMENT #38

Chapter Twenty Seven

 

 

 

 

Joyce and Cindy stepped off the bus into an oven fuelled by a glaring sun.  The red color of the barren, sandy ground contrasted sharply with the blue uniforms of the baton-wielding female guards.  They were surrounded by large men holding on taut leashes very large dogs with crazy-looking eager eyes.

 

The blue-clad women shoved and herded the frightened prisoners into ill-shaped blocks.  Several blocks contained women who apparently had their health and intact bodies.  Several more were populated by the infirm, who made a pitiful sight in the attempt to create orderly blocks.  A few were forced by their infirmities to kneel or lie on their legs.  Those began to scream and hop crazily as the hot soil bit into their flesh.  One unfortunate creature who could stand it no more staggered away from the block in an aimless attempt to escape.  The guards did nothing.  They watched until the invalid got some distance away.  Then a handler released his leash and allowed his dog to run free.  The dog made a beeline for the cripple and attacked a leg from behind.  The cripple fell, the dog atop her, and blood flew through the air.  The guards let the dog have his way as he tore into flesh and bone.  The scene made a good example for the others.  When the body ceased making feeble movements the handler clapped his hands.  The dog obediently returned to his side.  

 

A whistle blew and an older woman, obviously the camp commandant, strode briskly up to face them.

 

“Women,” she began, “this is not Hitler’s Germany.  We won’t try to deceive you into thinking we’ll spare your lives.  I’ll tell you right now, this is the end of your line.  But it’s up to you how you meet your end.  Handle yourselves well and it’ll be easier on you.  We don’t like whiners.  If you’d like to see for yourselves how much we hate them, go ahead and snivel.  You’re going to work, and work hard.  It’ll keep your minds off your future.  Face up to it and you’ll be better off.”  She pointed to a set of barracks, and then turned to point to another set in a different direction.

 

“If you’re in good health, you’ll be heading over there,” she said, pointing back to the first set of barracks.  “Otherwise you’ll go off in the other direction.  Now, drop your pants and dresses.  All of you.  No, not you!” she shouted to an obvious cripple, pointing in the direction of the infirm.  A guard picked up on the Commandant’s displeasure, clubbing the woman on the back as she hobbled away.

 

Joyce squeezed Cindy’s arm, released it and the two complied with the indignity.  A female guard came up to Cindy and palmed her crotch.  “You’re not bad for dark meat,” she said with a leer, and abruptly moved on to face Joyce, whom she yanked out of line.  “Over there, girlie,” she said, pointing to the first group of infirm people.  Joyce went over to the infirm adults with pride, knowing that she’d been betrayed by her prosthetic legs.  She waved a tearful good-bye to Cindy as they parted ways.  In all probability they would never see each other again.

 

Her block of people were marched toward one of the barracks, if the hobbling and stumbling could be called that.  Eventually they were formed into a single file directed toward the entrance to the bleak, shabby building.  Signs of the sun’s fierce, unrelenting attack were everywhere. Maybe I can find Cathy, she thought. Please, God, make it so.

 

After the passage of much time the line shortened appreciably.  Joyce looked to the head and reeled back in shock. Mildred! Of all the people in the world to greet me here, it has to be Mildred Black! Why, Lord? The Lord didn’t respond, and Joyce’s adrenalin level shot up.  As the line grew shorter, her dread increased.  Mildred was in an ideal payback position, and, given her personality, she’d use it with gusto.  Eventually Mildred saw her and Joyce watched the process of recognition play itself out on her face.  First the surprise, then the frown as her memory of Joyce’s violence toward her surfaced.  After that, the full appreciation of her present position with respect to that of Joyce’s, which settled in with a vindictive grin.  The line shortened inexorably, and Joyce found herself before the woman.  She trembled as Mildred confronted her.

 

Well, well!  What have we here?” Mildred asked with a cat-and-mouse grin.  Mrs. Cripple-lover, I presume.  You’re a cripple too, but I already knew that.  I’ve been hoping to meet you in just this setting, as a matter of fact.”  She felt along Joyce’s leg, touching the joint where the prosthetic device connected to the stump.  “Yes, hmmm,” she murmered.  “We’ll have to see about that.”

 

Joyce picked up her bedding and went inside the barracks, passing Mildred with a relief that she knew was all too temporary.  She was overwhelmed with the intensity of the heat inside, the sense of deliberate wrongness amplified by the darkness of the interior, which was windowless except for some tiny portals near the top of the high walls.  The flimsy structure was stick-built, the two-by-fours standing out from the siding, void of insulation.  The roof above radiated the sun’s blazing heat downward from the asphalt shingles, bringing the inside almost to a boil.  The situation would reverse at night, as Joyce and the others would soon find out to their intense discomfort.  She was assigned a bed, nothing more than a canvas cot.  She placed her bedding on the cot, and discovered that it consisted of nothing more than a thin, worn blanket.  Her arm would have to serve as a pillow, she realized.

 

A whistle blew.  “Form a double line to for chow!” the guard shouted.      

 

“Come over here, Joyce.  On the double!”  Joyce rose from the floor that she was scrubbing and walked timidly toward Mildred.  Her insides felt liquid. When Joyce came up to her, she pointed to a doorway.  “In there,” she said, ignoring the figures moving past toward the chow line.  “I want to have a private conversation with you.”

 

Joyce reluctantly went through the doorway into a small room and heard the door shut behind her. I knew it would come to this, she thought with dread. It was inevitable. Dear Lord, please help my faith. A vicious kick floored her, and immediately Mildred fell on her and unbuckled her prosthetics.  She kicked them away and went to the door.  “Out,” she said, pointing back to the bigger room.

 

“You won’t need them for the work you’re doing,” Mildred explained happily as Joyce crawled past her.  Your knees are just where you belong.”  She watched, hands on her hips, as Joyce moved on her hands and knees back to where her scrub brush awaited her.  “You look a little heavy around the middle, too.  I think maybe we need to cut back on your food intake.”

After several hours of unremitting toil, Joyce couldn’t take the pain any more.  She fell into a prone position on the floor, her hands covering her face.  “No you don’t, dearie,” Mildred said.  A sharp toe connected with the back of her head.  It was followed by a series of kicks to her back.  She turned on her back to avoid more blows, and reeled in shock as a foot smashed into her breast.  She turned back in agony and managed to get to her knees.  “That’s the way, honey,” Mildred said.  “It’s back to work, isn’t it, now?  Joyce remained silent but picked up her brush and began to scrub.

 

“That’s the way.  I’m right here to see that you work.”

 

Try as she might, Joyce was unable to find a comfortable position.  Her knees ached with a toothache sharpness, her battered head was swollen and bleeding, and her bruised breasts protested their pain.  Nothing helped but her exhaustion, which finally allowed her some release through sleep.      

 

 “Cathy’s gone, Joyce.”  The finality of those words stabbed deeply into her heart, overwhelming her intense discomfort.  She looked up at Wisdom, who gazed back lovingly.  “Why?  You could have kept her here.  All I wanted was to see her once more, to hold her in my arms and tell her I loved her with all my heart.  Was one more time too much to ask?”  She began to weep.

 

“Yes it was,” Wisdom replied softly.  Her work here is over, and she met her tasks like a saint.  Her suffering in the process was at the edge of human endurance, and she needs some eternal R & R.  I’m sure you wouldn’t really want to keep her here in these conditions with no chance of actually seeing her.”

 

“No, I guess not,” Joyce replied.  “Is she happy?”

 

“You can be sure of that.  Relieved, too, and jumping up and down on legs that work.  She’s in heaven, as the saying goes.  She’s waiting for you, Joyce.  You’ll have a lot to catch up on.’

 

“Well, then, how about right now?  I’m not exactly going to miss this dirty, filthy, rotten scum-filled pile of – -“

 

“Whoa, there,” Wisdom said, laughing.  “All in due time.  Relief isn’t so terribly far away.  I can guarantee you this: when you do finish up here, you’ll come out to the joy of heaven itself.  Most of all, your divine Husband Himself will be most anxious to greet you and welcome you into His bosom.

 

“What about Earl?  Is he gone too?  Are you going to keep me here with nothing left?

 

“No, he’s here.  He’s not very happy, but through his sorrow and pain he will grow in strength and compassion and serve Us in a mighty way, just as you will.  He misses you, of course, and prays for you every day, just as you have been praying for him.  But I’ll give you some encouragement and hope: you will see him again, Joyce, and you’ll be able to hold each other as husband and wife.  And I’ll be around more to comfort you.  Rest with those thoughts, my precious one.”  She reached over and gave her a tender kiss.  Within moments, Joyce was asleep.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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