The Smile, After 1095 Days

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The Smile, After 1095 Days

The day after Ingvar Kampard the founder of IKEA died, Emil Johannsson was taken out of the prison and escorted to the Sahlgrenska Hospital. The convicted, and sentence-serving Emil had bouts of giddiness and fell to the ground like an apple from the tree while he was strolling in the prison premises.

Emil is a giant figure. The Vikings’ blood ran in his body. At one point of time, the tender-hearted man lost his tenderness and ended up in the prison for an unwanted act of crime.

Without an air of crime in his mien, in his handcuffed hands he strolled into the reception of the emergency ward of the hospital. The two police accompanying him looked like ponies in the company of a steed. As the three men made their way, the attention of the patients waiting in the emergency unit drew to them: what crime did he commit?

Amanda asked her father, “Who is he, daddy?” She has never seen a person in handcuffs: handcuffed, and escorted but here she saw one.

The father hissed, “Keep quiet.”

“Please tell me.”

“Silence.”

The father and the daughter came to the hospital as Amanda suffered from unrelenting flu and high fever. They have collected their ticket of certification for being in the queue from the ticket dispenser and were waiting for their turn to be called by a nurse.

Unable to get an answer from her father, Amanda rushed to the handcuffed man as they were about to make their way into another hall where prisoners in emergency situation were treated. She asked the handcuffed man, “Who are you?”

The prisoner and the police personnel were taken aback: surprised but not displeased. The prisoner was touched by the child’s elementary query.

“A human being,” the prisoner said.

The police did not know what to say, and what to do, and the stare of the prisoner forced them to shut their minds (and mouths) and listen.

She touched the handcuffs, and asked, “Why are you in these …”

“Did a naughty thing,” the prisoner confessed to the child without cheekiness.

“What was that?”

“Thrashed a cheater. The cheater could never rise again.”

“How long will you have the chain to your hands,” she asked, still her hand on the handcuffs. The police were helpless from separating the child and the prisoner. They too were curious at the turn of the unexpected conversation between a child and a criminal.

“When I go out of the prison … these guys, will loosen me. Will let me go without the handcuffs,” he answered.

“How many more days in the prison?” she asked.

The prisoner looked at the police, but they could not spit a word.

“Two more years,” he said.

A long time to go but no longer than he had served in the prison. The prisoner looked at one of the two police, and indicated with his eyes to the pockets of his pyjamas. They could not grasp what he meant. He commanded to them, “Check my pocket, and hand it to the child.”

The prisoner’s daughter, the only child he fathered unlike his peers, is  living in New Orleans in the USA. She has sent a greeting card and a box of chocolates for Christmas and the New Year. Carefully, he ate a chocolate a day. He has few more left for another three weeks. He missed her for she went far away: out of sight, but not out of mind.

Umbilical connection!

The alert police, poked his hand into his pyjamas by taking care not to scrape past the criminal’s scrotal sac and took out a chocolate, and held it the prisoner, what to do with this. The prisoner indicated with this eyes, give it to the child.

Amanda’s father warily traipsed towards them and watched the unfolding scene with the curiosity of a movie watcher.

The police handed the chocolate to Amanda. She cast her glance at the criminal, and quipped, “Thank you.” And she blinked, and asked, “Can I kiss you?”

He bent his body, and brought his forehead towards Amanda. She kissed him. Uneasily, he stretched his mouth baring his tobacco stained teeth. He smiled. His first smile in 1095 days.

The prisoner and the police marched off as the secured doors were unsecured for their entry. With his lingering smile, the criminal walked off for the treatment.

The father and the daughter took their seats as the patients from in and around Gothenburg waited with bated breath and sullen Swedish silence with the air of illness hovering their heads.

Amanda’s father’s mind buzzed with mixed feelings but he mused to himself that at least the child and the criminal chatted.

—Lucinda Palme