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  • Kado
  • Katia D. Ulysse (bio)

They were a striking pair. Curious looks fell like arctic air on the back of Kate’s neck. Passengers who could not wait to disembark stopped what they were doing to stare. Strapped to Kate’s chest was the tattered pouch from which a child’s bare feet dangled listlessly. Several of the passengers nodded their approval of the obvious act of kindness Kate had done. A mild disquiet deep within caused a few others to look away.

Kate kept her eyes on the child, guarding him like the priceless gem she believed he was. No one aboard the airplane said a word. The shock of having seen death at its rawest was still much too fresh. Words would be weighed from now on; the value of each breath had soared. The island whose name fit so nicely on dot-org business cards had dealt everyone a bigger surprise than usual. The orchestrator of this massacre was so adamantly apolitical that Palais National collapsed as proof. Even the airport was shut down; every inch of the tarmac would be needed for medical and food aid, the authorities said. All nonmilitary air traffic would remain suspended until further notice.

All the notice Kate required was stacked along the streets and rapidly decomposing in the searing sun. Men and women wore toothpaste mustaches; they’d heard somewhere that the toothpaste would help keep the stench at bay, but Kate did not have time for that. [End Page 124]

As green-winged flies feasted feverishly on “the notice,” US soldiers at Toussaint Louverture Airport selected from the frenzied crowd those who waved American passports. The chosen ones were whisked out of the fractured island. Some French and Canadian nationals were also evacuated, but Kate preferred the proven route.

The journey to the Dominican Republic was never without risk, but she knew the roads well. What mattered now was that Secretary Napolitano had announced the humanitarian policy parole for all the children who would have to be rescued from the low rung of despair below which Haiti had slid.

Kate could only sigh, when she and the child strapped to her chest reached US soil at last. She recalled the heap of rubble from which she had rescued him. She wondered if the child remembered the thunder that had come from under the ground. Did he remember how the earth had heaved and then caused walls to crumble, trapping so many underneath tons of cement blocks and wrought iron?

Kate stepped out of the airplane and into what looked like a padded tunnel. The child’s eyes dilated to take in all the shocking new sights. His head oscillated nervously under the red thatch that was Kate’s hair.

Kate followed the arrows directing passengers toward immigration and customs. More arrows indicated the way to the luggage carousel, restaurants, bars, restrooms, exits, and ground transportation. The fluorescent lights hurt the child’s eyes. He had never seen lightbulbs burn so brilliantly. The one inside his house had blinked now and again. Most of the time, it provided as much light as a conch shell.

The child occupied himself with the leather straps of Kate’s handbag. Now, he was bored. His arms slid from Kate’s shoulders and hung limply against her ribcage. His hands opened and closed. Closed and opened. His eyes roved about languidly, not stopping on anything in particular. His ears captured the array of peculiar languages: English, French, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, which he understood. He’d heard it spoken even while he had been in the womb. Now, his mouth had yet to learn how to make words, but surely he would acquire his mother tongue in time.

Kate raced toward immigration. She would have to get through quickly, or miss the connecting flight to her final destination. She traced small circles on the child’s back, keeping him suspended in that narrow space [End Page 125] between curiosity and folly. The child had been too excited to sleep during the flight from the DR. Now, he was tired and hungry. Kate covered his small face with kisses, thanking him for the thing he...


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pp. 124-131
Launched on MUSE
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