“ How in hell did this happen? Who is this son of a bitch who made her pregnant? ” the Colonel asks angrily as he walks before the row of female prison guards and convicts. This is his prison. This is his world. He is the only man among a thousand women. Every one of them is his. Like a male herd animal with his females, the scent of another male in his territory sends him wild with anger, and makes him dangerous.
The women call him Papa. When he has been drinking for awhile Papa has a red face . In the morning , with his eyes and nose running, he is wretched with a hangover. By the afternoon he is a bit tipsy and feeling better. He is at his best in the evening when he is in high spirits and takes on the expansive look of a jolly sultan.
But now it is morning and Papa has learned one of his female convicts is pregnant. Everyone waits for what comes next. Papa is agitated by corrosive emotions. He has been violated. Anger folds into rage, yet screaming above all is the mystery that must be solved. Who is the son-of-a-bitch? And he must suffer this painful attack on his senses on top of the painful hangover that makes him feel like Zeus is throwing lightning bolts at the top of his head.
“ Where is she now? ” he demands, walking by the row of women, and looking at each female guard’s face.
“ She is at the hospital ward with the doctor.” A senior woman said.
Papa knows the only thing that will relieve his pain is to find someone to blame. He makes a quick mental inventory. Who? The doctor is too old, he knows.
“ You are in charge of her cell block,” Papa screams at the senior guard. “ You are to maintain order. You are to look after the girls!. Where were you looking if right under your nose she can get pregnant here ? Is that keeping order? In my prison a woman can only get pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Will Jesus be reborn here?” he shouts. Then something clicks in his mind. He remembers the Christian missionaries who visit once a week, the two handsome young pastors . Papa had made it a point to look deep into their eyes to read their souls. No, they are righteous people, he thinks, and they wouldn't do it.
Papa looks at the pregnancy report and reads the woman’s name. He doesn’t recognize the name. She is a regular convict, and Papa knows only the top women, stewards and trustees. The rest are a swirling gray mass, all with one face.
“ Bring her to me on the parade ground immediately!” he shouts. “I want to see her shameless eyes .”
Papa walks through the prison faster than anyone had ever seen him move before. As he travels through the cell blocks toward the parade ground, he howls at the prisoners. ” You are a scumbags. You were sent here for reeducation. Where is your purity? Where is your dignity? ” As he strides among the women, shouting aloud, he emphasizes each point by giving a slap to his belly . The women turn their heads away, not in shame, but to laugh. Papa’s years of drinking and gluttony have produced a belly on him the size of a water melon, a frequent object of jokes among the women, and he himself looked pregnant.
“ What are you smiling at? ” he roars at a woman. “You understand? She has a lover here. ” The thought of a lover here, in his world, makes his heart ache. Would he be cuckolded a thousand times?
“Someone knows the truth and I’ll have it!” he accuses. “And still you hide the truth from me. You are scumbags, the lowest of the low! Who is this bastard? Tell me now. The one who tells me the truth, will get a free day from work. ”
Even as he shouts he knows it is useless. No one will tell the truth. He is the only honest soul here, surrounded by cheats , liars, and criminals.
“Maybe it’s that truck driver who delivers food to the dining hall, “ shouts a woman hoping to get a day off.
Papa comes to a sudden halt and thinks about the truck driver . The theory gives him meat to chew. But it only inflames him. This is beyond crime. This is treason to his world. Just then he sees the guards approaching the parade ground with a thin young blond woman between them.
He thinks to himself, “She will tell me who knocked her up or she’ll live a life that hell wouldn’t have.”
Papa comes to her and looks at the beautiful pregnant girl . There is no fear on her face. Nor is there defiance. Then he sees the corner of her mouth move into the faintest smile. He moves closer, face to face, and stares into her eyes. She stands as still and strong as a stone pillar. Then, in his mind’s eye, an image stirs behind a gray curtain of time and too much vodka. In his mind he sees her naked body, her smile, and he feels her close to him.
“Everyone is dismissed!” he shouts at the guards. “I’ll handle her myself. Move!”
The assembled group runs off the parade ground at his command. An indescribable joy wells within him. He feels buoyant, weightless, and ecstatic. A pulse of consummate relief washes over him. Every part of the universe falls into place. Everything, everywhere, is as it should be.
He looks at her and more memories come to mind. The weight crushing his heart lifts and he breathes deeply. When the image in his mind magically becomes whole, he embraces it completely.
“ So, how it's going? ” Papa asks the girl in a tone used for old friends.
“ I am okay. We are okay.” she responds smiling .
He wants to reach out but many eyes are on him.
“I will do what I can,” he says, keeping a stern face.
“I understand,” she says with the tiniest smile.
“Go to the kitchen. I will see you have milk, and white bread with butter. Go now,” he says. She bolts toward the gray wall’s doorway.
“I shall stop drinking beer early today and switch to vodka ahead of time,” he says to himself. “One day these girls are going to give me a heart attack.”
Papa walks elegantly toward the doorway. This is his prison. This is his world.. He has a thousand women, and there is no other man. Never has a ruler felt as secure as Papa does now, patting his belly, in absolute command of his domain.