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From a Forgotten Cousin in a Distant Land

By Kathleen Boland

January 2

Dear Cousin,

Today I went hungry once again. There was nothing left in our cupboard but some flour that was infested with maggots. I poured it onto the counter and picked out the maggots one by one. Maggots, fleas, lice -- you name it, we've got it!

After I picked out the maggots, I mixed the flour with a little water. We've had no water since the bombing, so I walked to the drainage ditch this morning to fill up some buckets. The children were so excited about the flour and water concoction. They said they loved my cooking! Unfortunately, there was not enough left over for me. I tried filling my stomach with water, but it's hard not to think about food.

To distract myself, I read that book you sent me last year from America, "The Power of Positive Thinking." I'm really feeling good right now. I hope one day the postal system in my country will be reinstated and I'll finally be able to mail these letters.

I'm so glad you fled our country and became a "career gal" in America. I hope you're doing well.


January 12

Dear Cousin,

It's so very cold today. I burned our last chair in the fireplace in order to keep the children alive. Tonight I plan to burn the table. What use is it? It only reminds us of the food we do not have.

Bombs were falling all around us yesterday, so I was unable to go to the market and beg for chicken bones. I saw a cockroach scurrying across the room, and luckily I was fast enough to make a meal of it. The children were excited. You know what they say when you see a roach, "There are thousands more where that came from!"

I couldn't sleep last night so I read by the light of the burning chair. I picked up that book "Bridget Jones' Diary," that you sent me last year. It's very sad. That poor Bridget can't find a husband. I feel blessed. At least I had a husband before he was murdered by guerilla rebels in front of his children.


Jan 19th

Dear Cousin,

I'm concerned about my youngest child, Abdekar. He looks very thin. I wanted to take him to the doctor, but the doctor was murdered by guerilla rebels in front of his grandchildren yesterday. I'd hoped he could cure Abdekar's relentless vomiting. I worry that the cockroaches we've been eating still carry poison from back in the good old days when we had poison to keep them under control.

I wish you could still send me packages the way you did before the war. We could use some nourishing food, dry clothing and of course, good books. Everything was taken from us during the siege and we don't know when or if our lives will ever get back to normal.

I finished "Bridget Jones" the other day. I was happy she finally found a man and a career that she enjoyed. I started another book by a woman named Sandra Tsing Loh who suffers from terrible bags under her eyes. I thank God every day that the undersides of my eyes are smooth and youthful. That is why my life was spared by the guerilla rebels.

Tomorrow I'll read your book, "Creating a Life Worth Living" and make a five-year plan.


Feb 10

Dear Cousin,

I buried Abkebar today. The other children were abducted from me earlier in the week by rebel slave-traders. I hope they end up in a sweatshop where they'll at least be warm.

Now that it's just me in the house, I've got plenty of time for reading. Sadly, I was forced to burn the other books I read, but I saved a few to keep me occupied. As your Dr. Phil in America says, "What am I gonna do, go cry on Mama's shoulder?" That's a laugh. I have not seen my parents since they disowned me for dishonoring the family name after our elderly neighbor got drunk and made a pass at me. Time to "get real" I guess. It's just me now.

I know I'm going to be okay. I finished reading "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," and I've been "Sharpening the Saw," both figuratively and literally. A sharp saw will come in handy when the guerilla rebels try to attack me again.