Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mail Order Bride, Chapter 10, Tragedy


Young men had been racing their cars in downtown, suburban roads and on the motorways. The police, the ministry of Justice and the Land Transport New Zealand set up a “joint effort “Operation Spoiler” to crack down on boy racers. When the cars were seized, many of the drivers were booked for drunk driving and their cars declared unsafe, and many of the cars were stolen vehicles. Many drivers escaped the drift net including Kevin who congratulated himself for escaping the pigs.

After a period of lull before the storm, the boys got restless again. It was raining non-stop and the winter days were cold. The kids were cooped up in a disused factory with nothing to do.

“Kevin, I am so bored, can you think of some thing we could do?” asked Destiny.

Kevin got Vince to hotwire two cars parked at the twenty-four-hour Foodtown supermarket car park at Dominion Road. They drank heavily and wanted to race: Vince against Kevin. The rest of the kids were packed into the cars. The kids yahooed and threw beer bottles at the pedestrians. Then they drove down the motorway. Both Kevin and Vince revved and burned rubber. Vince was so small that he had to stretch up his head. Egged on by his passengers, he drove faster. Vince was ahead, and the testosterone and adrenalin of the two boys were pumping, making them drive faster and faster. They wove zigzagged as they raced each other.

Vince lost control and sent his car somersaulting against the central divider. It was effectively flying, and flipping. Then it ricocheted towards Kevin’s lane, landed ‘bellies up,’ Kevin ploughed into Vince’s car and knocked it a long distance away. Vince was trapped and died on the spot. His four passengers were not strapped in their seat belts, all were thrown from his car. Rawiri, his front passenger went through the wind shield and shot out like a human catapult against the concrete central divider and died instantly from head injuries. The others were flung out of the car on impact and landed quite a distance away and were seriously injured.

When the traffic police came to investigate the carnage, the two cars were in mangle heaps. The scene was incredible to watch, it was like a war zone with blood and body parts all over the place. The cars reeked of alcohol, and littered with empty bourbon cans and beer bottles and used condoms. The motorway was scattered with millions of glass crystals shimmering under the moonlight. It had been raining and the wet surface made the motorway slippery. The police say that alcohol and speed, and driving without a license were the human factors in the crash. The light rain played a minor part. The initial investigation showed the two cars were traveling between 140 km/h and 160km/h. Despite it being early morning, there was traffic around and the accident triggered a rash of minor nose-to-tail collisions before traffic came to a stand still.

Eye witnesses told the media and police, “We heard loud bangs and screaming, we rushed to the motorway but we knew it was too late for us to do anything, so we dialed 911 and the sirens started.”

The police spent hours cutting the cars apart to extricate Kevin, Stan and Vince and the injured girls in Kevin’s car. Kevin looked as though he had a chunk lopped off his head by some machete wielding mad man, and his neck broken at his cervical bones. He was breath-tested for alcohol. He was found to have 800mcg, well over the limit of 400mcg per litre of breath. His front passenger, Stan was trapped in the car and had no chance. Miraculously, Destiny and Susan were alive though badly injured, in the back of Kevin’s car.

Kevin’s life was at touch and go. It was a miracle that Kevin, Stan, Destiny and Susan actually survived the accident without wearing seat belts. The four ambulances took them to Middlemore hospital, to the high intensity unit. It was a grim story for Stan. He died from serious internal injury shortly before the ambulance arrived at the Middlemore Hospital. Kevin was paralyzed from his neck downwards. A group of friends and Whānau gathered and camped outside the intensive care lobby to give his parents moral support. What ever the wrong things he had done, he didn’t deserve to die, they said.

The doctors told Kevin’s parents, “Do not to raise your hopes too high and prepare for the worst.”

The media reported the horrendous accident and went into the goriest details of young drunken street kids who had stolen cars and driven without driver licenses. The cars were old and were not fitted with air bags. Further investigative journalism exposed one of the kids was the infamous Christine of the high-profiled pedophile case not so long ago and the daughter of the deported mail order bride, Emma/Isabella.

This accident involving children of solo mothers sparked a furious debate and provoked a torrent of criticism. These women were accused of claiming the Domestic Purpose Benefit or the DPB but not supporting their young children financially and emotionally. A columnist lambasted the DPB: it was paying babies to have babies. A radio talk back deejay had a hot topic: the DPB system must change because it is the most pernicious aspect of society.

The only child who came from a two parent family was Susan, she was a runaway kid. On TV and all over the newspapers, an opposition politician requested a review of immigration status of mail ordered brides and other women on DBP who have street kids. He argued that these second generation young migrants do not fully belong to their original culture nor do they belong to their new one. These kids were too young to be on the dole, so they turned to crime.

Uncle Les was in a great dilemma when he heard the news on his radio. Vince was his favourite nephew, his sister Cherilani’s son. Vince’s rat bag father, Aneki used to work for Westfield freezing works and things were good. There was plenty of lamb on the table. Aneki left Vince and his mother Cherilani for that part-Palagi bimbo woman. Then Aneki had been in and out of prison. Les was Vince’s only male adult influence. Some influence; Cherilani raved and ranted that Vince could do without it. Since they came over from Samoa when they were young, Les always took care of his little sister and her kids.

The telephone rang in the garage.

“Talofa,” Les answered the phone after rubbing his greasy hands on a rag.

It was Cherilani wailing loudly, her words were hardly audible but to Les’s surprise, she wasn’t blaming him, she was screaming about the son-of-a-bitch Aneki who was never there for their Vince.

“Will you come, Les, you were always there for Vince.” It was a voice of sorrow, Cherilani had lost her only son. In fact, Les thought, she had lost Vince long ago when she took in that drunken man Benga, to be her de facto husband. When his step father started beating him, Vince stopped coming home. Les became Vince’s surrogate father and figure head.

“Yes, I will come ASAP, Cherilani after I close up the garage.”

Les drove his old ute to Franklyne Road, in Otara. All the houses were run-down state rental houses, shrewn with rubbish and the occasional car wrecks, old wringer washing machines and ovens dumped on the sections. Les drove with a heavy heart, it was a fa’alavelave that nobody wanted to attend. Many of the relatives, aunties, uncles and cousins were already there. Les made it through hugging and wailing to give a bear hug to a numbed Cherilani.

“Vinny didn’t even make it to his twelve birthday, we came to Aotearoa, New Zealand, the land of milk and honey, but now I have nothing, everything is taken away from me, my husband and now my son,” wailed Cherilani. Then she was too traumatized to speak and clutched on to Les’ chest.

The other relatives, men and women wore their lavalava, the traditional wrap-around skirt. They gave Cherilani envelopes containing money. Because of the tragic nature of Vince’s death and his age, many of the Samoan funeral rites were dispensed of. Cherilani didn’t want them to give her the traditional mats. There was not much talking, but plenty of shaking of heads. Vince was so young, only twelve years old and been taken away from them.

Les said, “Vince was always proud to be a Kiwi. He had never been to Samoa. It is fitting to give him a Kiwi burial.”

The undertaker Davis Funeral Services at Manukau Road offered to bury Vince and his friends for free. The families drove to the undertakers at Great South Road to view Vince’s little body. The undertakers had done a good job repairing Vince’s smashed up face. Les thought to himself, Vince’s agaga or spirit will be at peace.

Cherilani touched Vince’s cold face, her mind went back to her own house. Everyday, while she cooked in her state house at Franklyne Road, she looked beyond her fence to Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate Senior School. She had wished that Vinny would graduate from seventh form and then go to Auckland University. Now, Vinny would not even make it to enter this Senior School. Poor Vinny, he always wanted to be a hero like Sir Edmund who was the first man to climb Mt Everest. She gave birth to him without his father’s presence and she was going to bury him without his presence either. It wasn’t right, mothers don’t bury their kids, it should be kids burying their mothers.

“My baby Vinny! My baby Vinny! Where is the bastard Aneki? I am going to kill him!”

One of the aunties held Cherilani back, and rocked her in big bosom, “Hush! Cherilani, Vinny doesn’t need Aneki, he’s got all of us.”

The family surrounded the coffin, it was ironic, the undertaker gave Vince an adult coffin, Vince was such a small boy. They said they he was too big for a child’s coffin. Three days later they held Vince’s funeral service at Manukau Samoan Methodist Church at Trevor Hosken Drive in Manukau. Les was one of Vince’s pall bearers together with five of his distant uncles. His father Aneki got special permission from Mt Eden jail to attend Vince’s funeral, but Cherilani would not let him come near the cortege.

“Over my dead body, he was never there for Vinny. Vinny didn’t need him when he was alive, Vinny doesn’t need him now.”

The funeral directors had asked the bereaved families if they would like Debbie Maples, a famous funeral singer to sing at the funerals. Les requested her to sing Another one bites the dust, because he knew it was Vince’s favourite song. Somberly, Debbie sung at each of the three funerals. There was not a dry eye as she ministered to them.

Cherilani looked at the deep hole, the undertaker recommended that they dig the hole deep so that she could be buried on top of Vinny when her turn came. Cherilani smiled a bitter sweet smile, she didn’t own any property in New Zealand, No that is wrong, she did, she now owned a piece of property big enough to bury herself in. The bastard Aneki wouldn’t have to worry about her when she died, or rather she didn’t have to worry about depending on Aneki when she died.

With a heavy heart, they buried Vince at the Manukau Memorial Gardens. The mourners went to the church hall where they had Vince’s wake. There was plenty of roast chicken, corn beef, taro, taro leaves, and chop suey made of bean vermicilli and corn beef and non alcoholic soft drink.

At the beach front of Auckland, a morepork an owl hooted eerily as it circled round the Marae and perched on the pinnacle of the Salvage Memorial monument screeching a mournful song.

“Hear the morepork, if its call is E-e-e, this is a friendly greeting. If it is Whe, whe, whe, and then Peho peho, it is a sign of anger. Now what you hear is doleful, there is death,” an elderly Maori grandfather tells his grandson.

Stan’s whānau or family and his mother Reka, from the whenua rangatira at Bastion Point waited patiently for the funeral directors to finish their job sewing Stan together again before collecting his tupapaku or his cadaver and taking it back to his marae for his tangihanga. The funeral directors had to do the gruesome job because the accident had cut up his face so badly and his body was butchered in many parts.

As they returned to Bastion Point, the wind kicked up and it felt raw, violent, blustery and freezing cold. It was an atmosphere of eeriness and somberness. The sea gull screeched, in stark contrast to the beautiful sea view of the Waitemata Harbour. Nobody was looking at the view, everyone’s heart was heavy. The people remembered the year of 1978, the Takaparawha - the police siege of Bastion Point. They were choked up with anger and sadness: society had failed one of their children and cut his life prematurely.

Karakia were said and a haka performed in front of the Marea to welcome Stan’s body home after the postmortem examination and embalmment. The tangi cried for a little boy who wasn’t even fourteen and whose life was cut short just like that. Everyone there, friends and Whānau had looks of disbelief, outrage and anger. The waiata, the chanting song was sung as Stan was laid in state. Like Vinny’s father, Aneki, Stan’s father Tipene had been given compassionate leave from the Auckland Prison at Mt Eden where he was lanquishing behind bars. Tipene dressed Stan in the traditional Maori feather cloak. The visitors came to console his parents and laid wreaths around his open coffin. They place photographs of his deceased relatives around the coffin. The relatives and friends touched and kissed him goodbye and made speeches to tell him to go in peace to meet his whānau who have gone to the sky before him. Stan’s Primary School friends came in drove, even his Intermediate school friends came though Stan was hardly ever at school by the time they went to Intermediate School.

After three days of much wailing and tears, the funeral director came with their hearse. Stan’s uncles carried him out to the hearse and they drove slowly along the waterfront road of Tamaki Drive. They had his funeral service at the little church at Orakei Domain. The service was conducted both in Maori and in English. Stan did not speak much Maori when he was alive, or stay in the marae either. Stan lived in old warehouses, factories and under bridges. He would be more comfortable and at home with his two friends who went the same journey as him that day. That was why Stan’s parents agreed to burying him together with his friends in Manukau.

They placed the coffin next to his friend Vince’s grave who was buried the day before him. After they lowered the coffin, the whānau and friends placed Stan’s earthly possessions in the grave before they covered them with dirt. Tipene placed the BB gun which he had given him for his thirteenth birthday. With uncontrollable sobs, his mother Reka had to be dragged away to join the mourners in a hangi for Stan’s wake.

Back in the privacy of their own bedroom, Reka used her hands to beat Tipene’s broad chest. Tipene let her beat him like a drum. The beatings were weak. Reka had not eaten for three days. It was just symbolic for her to express her grief, she had to exonerate herself and blame someone. He knew it was good therapy for Reka to let it all out. Yes, she was right, it was his fault. Tipene was never there, when Stan needed him. Though it wasn’t exactly that he had gone gallivanting or walkabout without caring for them, he was locked up most of the time. After Reka was spent, she let Tipene hug her tightly and kiss her. She knew she could not entirely blame Tipene. She was very much at fault. There was no use in apportioning blame on each other. There was nothing they could do in such circumstances. Stan had gone to his whānau who had gone before him, only he went earlier than expected. Tipene led her to bed. In two hours time, he would be handcuffed and taken to the Mt Eden jail and she wouldn’t have him for another five years.

Rawiri was likewise fare welled according to his island traditions. His family was all just as sad as Stan’s and Vince’s. His father was doing time in prison. His mother cried hoarsely, trying to come to terms with the fact that fate had dwelt her a wrong hand. Instead of her dying before her son, her frail little creature was cut prematurely and was lying in the hole before her. Is there a grief greater than a mother’s grief, they wailed.

Three new plots laid side by side. The bereaved parents of the three boys decided to lay them together. In life they were good friends and comrades, in death they lay together so that they could remain as good friends, and taking care of each other in the nether world. The Mayor of Manukau was at each of the three funerals, these three kids had died in his turf. The media was there discretely, to give the families some room to ponder about how things had turned out this way.

The next Sunday afternoon, the friends and whānau gathered at the road side where the accident occured. They chanted prayers as they blessed the site and erected three little white crosses at the road side. They put flowers around the crosses and at the nearest light post.

Destiny had ribs broken and pierced into her lungs, her nose was broken and glass shards lodged in her pretty face. Fortunately, her injuries were not life-threatening. The police could not locate her next of kin and the photo of her swollen face left her identity a mystery for two weeks until she woke up from her coma.

Susan’s liver was smashed and her gall bladder ruptured. Her jaws were smashed and her legs were fractured into two parts.

“It was like my worst nightmare come true,” Susan’s mother told her girlfriend when she watched television showing Susan lying on the hospital bed with her face bandaged up like a horror monster in a Stephen King movie.

Her parents were relieved to find her and were just glad that she was alive though she was unable to talk. She suffered from shell shock and could not remember anything. She could write but she couldn’t remember any important details like her name, her parents name and address and phone number.

The girls were kept in intensive care for a month, and then discharged to an orthopedic ward.

Susan was confined to a wheel chair and she went home to her parents in Hillsborough. Her parents forbad Susan to see Destiny when they found out that Destiny was in fact Christine. When she got home, her parents showered her with lots of tender loving care. They all agreed to undergo therapy and the parents went for parenting lessons. Slowly her memory came back. The whole family went to the Gold Coast in Australia for a holiday. Susan enjoyed Dream world, Sea world and Movie world. At the Dream world, Susan wanted to go to the Cyclone roller coaster but was afraid to all alone. The whole family went with her to give her the feeling that she could trust them. Susan knew her mum was terrified, but her love for Susan overcame her phobia of the height and spiraling roller coaster to support Susan. The family drove up to the Sunshine coast to spend a day at the Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland. Susan was motivated by Steve Irwin’s positive love of life.

When they got back to Auckland, Susan’s mum continued working hard to win her lost daughter back. Susan’s accident gave Susan’s mum a whole new prospective of how important family was. She realized that it was important for her to be there for Susan. She resigned her job as a computer analyst in the hope to gain Susan’s confidence and become more than just a mum but her confidante as well. The family worked hard so they could laugh and cry together. Susan knew she was luckier than all her friends in the gang. She had her mum and dad and siblings who loved her very much. In time, she got better and there was some normalcy in her life.

Isabella heard the TV news when Christine woke up, and shuddered ripples through her. She obtained special permission to visit Destiny in Middlemore Hospital. She had to convince the authorities that Destiny was her daughter Christine. The prison governor authorized her day trip from Mt Eden Women’s prison down the same motorway which Christine’s accident had happened. Destiny refused to see her.

“Piss off, I don’t want to see you, It’s all your fault, you slut!” shouted Destiny as she unleashed a tirade of obscene insults at Isabella.

Isabella was in tears. The prison guard had kindly removed her hand cuffs so she could hug Christine, but it was in vain. Isabella wept and wept as she was taken to prison again.

When Christine’s wounds healed, the doctor removed her bandages. Christine looked at the mirror and went ballistic and screamed and screamed and screamed. She sobbed and placed her face on her pillow. Gone was her beautiful face, in its place was a deeply scarred face with long railroad tracks crisscrossing up and down, and zigzagged keliod scars. She looked like the sister of Frankenstein.

“Christine, the keliods will go and the scars will fade,” said the doctor.

“No! No! I might as well be dead, why did you save me?”

“I will arrange for a therapist to talk with you.”

“I am not crazy, I don’t want no shrink to talk to me!”

Imelda came to see Christine. She got a better reception than Isabella. Christine hugged the elderly woman from her home country and sobbed bitterly and clung unto her, secretly wishing Imelda was her mum. Imelda let Christine treat her as the mother she never had, and came to visit her often. When it was time for Christine to be discharged, Imelda couldn’t take her home because her husband would not allow it.

“All of you are the same, pretending, lying, betraying bitches, I thought you were different.” Christine shouted at Imelda and threw a pillow at her.

Imelda wished that she was a Kiwi wife, instead of a mail order wife, so she could have more say in house.

“You are just a mail order bride!!!!” Christine screamed.

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