CAUGHT Something warm and salty found a path down Sally's face and moistened the corner of her ever-so-dry mouth. It was hot. It was humid. Why was there never any air-con in these dreadful little airfields in the middle of nowhere? Too long without sleep was bringing all kinds of thoughts struggling into her consciousness. She thought of the heat and of all the things she had forced herself to do on this one last trip. But most of all, her mind returned again and again to thoughts of death. "Too late for tears now," said the spotty young Customs Officer. His uniform hat was a size larger than it should be and was held up mostly by his ears. However, he was the one in authority. He was the one who had opened her trusty old backpack. Neither of his colleagues on duty had bothered to wear their hats and neither looked like they would do what he was doing with his finger. The old gray haired Officer called over. "Don't do that. We don't do that here. They only do that in the movies." The young Officer paid no attention. This was his interception, his case, his first rung on the ladder of promotion, the break that could get him something new and shiny to sew into his uniform. He put his index finger back into the powder in the biscuit tin. This was his moment for he was the one who had found it carefully sealed up with tape and wrapped around in underwear at the bottom of Sally's backpack. Slowly, he held up his powder coated finger for Sally's fellow travellers to see. Everyone was now gathering around the little drama and he was centre stage. The old Officer called again. "Stay clear of that stuff. You don't know what it is and you don't want to scramble your brains." But the finger went straight back into his mouth and the young Officer leaned forward to look Sally straight in the eye for this was the way to get at the truth. "So what's all this powder then," he said. Sally looked back. Her face contorted just a little and her shoulders heaved but she wasn't sobbing. "It's Father's ashes," she said. “I'm bringing him home now. You can have some more if you like. I'm sure he won't mind." And a ragged little cheer rang all around. end Caught was published in Firstwriter Magazine, Issue 19, Summer 2011. First published as the Winning Entry in the Adult Creative Writing Club Competition No. 105, May 2010.
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Copyright  Colin W Campbell A Sarawak based writer.
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