THE PECCADILLOES OF FILAMENA PHIPPS
Published in Embark Literary Journal
Ferayinskela’s father lay dying on a canvas stretcher in a small tent in a makeshift hospital in a makeshift nation. She stood by the opening of the camouflaged tent, holding an unruly bouquet of wild roses, anemones, clover, and blades of wild grass that were already starting to wither in her hand from the summer heat. Looking past wounded soldiers and unlucky civilians tended by their loved ones, she watched her mother sit by her father’s side, leaning over to wipe his forehead.
In peacetime, he could have received proper medicines to reduce his fever, stifle the dry cough, alleviate his chest pain. He could have been cared for by private doctors in the hospital overlooking the river. But that hospital had recently been bombed. The few surviving doctors were too busy sewing soldiers back together to pay attention to him, so he was alone here, fighting a losing battle against an invisible enemy, amid the wounded who had fought a visible one. No one apologized for the lack of antibiotics.
Ferayinskela singled out a doctor treating another patient and yelled at him, pointing to her father with the hand that held the flowers. “This man loves word puzzles! Give him oxygen!”
The doctor looked at her with the disinterest of someone reading an advertisement for something he doesn’t need; then he continued probing and suturing the patient lying before him. Nurses moved around her.
Ferayinskela lowered her hand, approached her father, and handed him the flowers. He clutched them to his heaving chest.
“Papa, you’re recovering your strength! The man who isn’t afraid of fighting wasps and snakes. You’re a champion!”
“Let’s not overdo it,” said her mother.
Her father fell into a coughing fit.
A young goat that Ferayinskela had raised since its mother died—a half-black, half-beige kid with budding horns—snuck into the tent…