Only the Angels Cry

Shortly after the news of his son’s death reached me, I encountered Nathan in the space outside his office. In the Vanuatu fashion, I offered my condolences quietly, with few words. Nathan just stood there in front of me, rudderless, smiling as people do when there’s nothing to be said, nothing more to be done. His own life, his future, was gone.

Dead of a boiler. Dead of nothing at all.

Nathan’s little boy died of nothing. The seven year-old got a boiler in his nose. It was painful, but nothing a course of antibiotics couldn’t fix. Nathan dutifully brought his boy to the island hospital, and requested treatment. As usual, there was no doctor present, but a nurse gave him some medicine. The pills were past their expiry date, but they were better than nothing.

The inflammation subsided, and the boy was able the sleep again for a while. The infection, however, didn’t disappear. Once the under-strength antibiotics had run their course, it came back with a vengeance.

To look at the boy, there wasn’t much wrong. A little swelling around one eye and nostril, but otherwise nothing. What you couldn’t see was the constant, excruciating pain as the infection moved into his sinuses and began to press against his brain.
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