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Dispatch Wizard | Part 4 – Starship Hassan

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Alice was too nervous to eat, but she made a cheese sandwich with tomato and lettuce for Mr. Saleh and watched him wolf it down. She wondered how long it had been since he’d eaten.

Grappling mats covered half the floor in that room, while the other half was dedicated to weight lifting equipment. One wall was covered in mirrors, and the other held a variety of martial arts weapons mounted on wooden racks. Muhammad recognized the cane and short staff from Hapkido class, but there were other weapons he’d never seen before, like a curved sickle with a short handle, a three-pronged steel pitchfork no longer than one’s forearm, and even a wooden boat oar.

Hassan reached into his messenger bag and pulled out a bundle of cash wrapped in a rubber band. “Here’s a thousand bucks,” he said. “There’s only a little food in the kitchen, but there are some delivery menus stuck to the fridge. Order whatever you like and the concierge will bring it up. If you want to take your dad to the hospital tomorrow just have them call me and I’ll cover the cost. I don’t think you should go to work tomorrow. Oh, and…”  He removed a small notebook and pen from his bag, scribbled something and showed it to Muhammad. “This is the elevator code, and this one is the disarm code for the house alarm.” He took out his wallet and removed a plastic card. “Elevator key card.”

Muhammad wanted to protest, but he needed the help and he knew it. He had a million questions, but no energy to ask them.

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“What are you into, Hassan?” he managed.

“We’ll talk tomorrow Insha’Allah,” Hassan said. “I have to go.”

“Wait,” Muhammad said. “One thing. What was that hadith you were going to tell me, down by the terminal? When I cut you off.”

“Oh. Uhhh… A man came to the Prophet – sal-Allahu-alayhi-wa-sallam – and asked for permission to participate in jihad. The Prophet asked him if his parents were still alive. The man said yes, so the Prophet told him to perform jihad by caring for them.”

“Huh.”

“That’s a big deal. He’s basically saying, ‘You don’t have to come to the battlefield to fight and die. Care for your parents instead because it’s just as hard.”

He gave Muhammad a quick hug, waved goodbye to Muhammad’s dad, and he was out the door.

***

Alice came to consciousness slowly. She was lying flat on her stomach and her back felt like a crater had been blown out of it. The pain made reasoned thought difficult. Her hands trembled. She tried to crawl but could not get to her hands and knees. There was an odor of copper in the air. She felt cold and wet and realized she was lying in her own blood. Darkness creeped at the edges of her mind and she fought it, knowing that if she allowed the blackness to take over she would never wake up again. There was a time when she would have welcomed the serenity of death. But not now. She had not overcome so much hardship in life to give up now. She still had things to do, people to love, and dreams to realize. She thought about Mo. He needed to know about his dad.

Using her arms, she dragged herself across the floor, trying to get to the cordless phone on her nightstand. Every inch that she traveled took tremendous effort, like running a mile on a regular day. She gritted her teeth., “I…” she growled, biting the word off, “Will… not… give… up…”

She had no idea how much time had passed since she’d been stabbed. Moving incrementally, leaving a wide streak of blood behind her, she finally reached the nightstand. Gripping the bed covers, she tried to pull herself up but it was like trying to climb a mountain with one hand. The pain wracked her, and she had no strength. Digging her fingers into the bed, she managed to lift her upper body from the floor. Suddenly the bedspread began to slide. Alice fell to the ground, the heavy cover spilling onto her head. She lay still, her breath hot and shallow beneath the heavy cover. She flashed back to the moment many years ago when she’d stuck her head in the oven, trying to end her miserable existence. She rejected that thought, stuffing it into the mental dustbin where it belonged. She wanted to live.

She had an idea. Crawling out from beneath the bedspread, she wriggled around the nightstand, sucking in each ragged breath with an effort. She tried to think through the pain. The cordless phone was mounted on a receiver that was plugged into the wall socket behind the nightstand. Alice grabbed the phone’s power cord and tugged. The receiver and handset tumbled from the nightstand, the handset striking Alice in the back of the head. It hurt, but it was a mere annoyance compared to the pain in her back. She seized the phone with trembling hands. Gripping it with white knuckles, willing her hands to be steady, she dialed 911…

***

Muhammad sat cross-legged on the floor, watching his father, who had fallen asleep quickly on the sofa. As strange as my day has been, Muhammad thought, It must have been stranger for him. Alone, broke, lost in a strange city...

His father looked and acted so different now. He still had flashes of temper, but it was hard to see him as the vicious, out-of-control man who had terrorized Muhammad in his childhood. Still, it would be very, very difficult to forgive him.

My jihad, he thought. This is my jihad, and it’s a doozy.

The apartment was hushed, insulated from the noise of the City far below. Nothing could be heard but the faint whisper of the ventilation system. If not for the slight scent of tea he might almost think he were in a starship – the Starship Hassan – drifting in the reaches of space. They could brew tea on starships, right? Sure, Captain Picard drank it all the time on Star Trek.

No wonder Hassan was always so unruffled, with a haven like this to retreat to. Though he had been a bit ruffled tonight. What was that about? And why was this place so empty? If you could afford an apartment like this then why not furnish it decently? Could Hassan be house sitting for someone? Maybe one of his students? Muhammad knew that one of Hassan’s Thursday night students was a stockbroker, and another was a city councilman. Maybe this apartment belonged to one of them, and Hassan was merely the caretaker. But no, there was the martial arts equipment and the Quran plaque on the wall.

It occurred to him that he had not prayed Ishaa’. Standing wearily, he performed wudu’ and prayed on the living room rug. It was obvious that Allah had given him a great challenge, and a second chance after his initial screwup. Help me with this Allah, he prayed. I can’t do it without You.

He completed his prayer and noticed that his father was no longer on the sofa. Perhaps he had gone to the restroom. When a few minutes passed and his father did not return, Muhammad went looking for him. He found him lying on the floor inside the master bedroom’s walk-in closet, snuggled up against the shoes and small collection of boxes.

“Baba, what are you doing in here?”

His father raised his head and looked at him sleepily. “I feel safer here. I like the small spaces.”

Muhammad tried to convince his father to return to the sofa, but the man was adamant. Sighing, Muhammad went to the kitchen for a glass of water. He noticed that a knife was missing from the wooden knife stand on the counter. Had there been a complete set earlier? He wasn’t sure.

Heading back to the nearly bare master bedroom he picked up Hassan’s sleeping mat and sleeping bag and brought them to his father.

“Use these at least,” he said.

Muhammad himself fetched one of the sofa cushions to use as a pillow, zipped up his coat and settled down to sleep on the floor of the bedroom near his father. He wanted to be close just in case his father became confused or panicked. It struck him that this was the opposite of what he would have done when he was younger, when he would hide from his father in fear. What a trip.

Lying on the floor, tucking his chin into the collar of his coat for warmth, he thought about Hassan. The man was so strange. None of this made sense. But Hassan had come through in the end, and Muhammad would not forget it. He would not doubt Hassan again. It occurred to him that he had done exactly what he accused Jamilah of last week, when he told her that she’d been ungrateful to the people who helped her find her bike. I did the same thing, Muhammad thought ruefully. I didn’t thank Sahar or Hassan for helping me. And I treated Hassan badly.

He would make it up to Hassan, he resolved. He would stand with him through whatever problem he was having.

He fell asleep and tumbled into a dream in which he fought side by side with Hassan on a great space ship – the Starship Hassan. The ship’s engine was on fire, and they were engaged in a battle to the death with snake-eyed aliens carrying kitchen knives. The alien ship loomed in the starboard window, yellow and scaled like a snake itself. The two ships plummeted toward one another on a collision course. Muhammad ran to the pilot’s seat and found his father at the helm, steering the Starship Hassan directly at the enemy ship.

“Baba!” he cried. “What are you doing? You’ll kill us all!”

“I’m going to ram them!” his father shouted back. “We will die fighting!”

The engine shed flames like rose petals in the empty blackness, as the Starship Hassan fell toward its doom.

Next: “Hassan’s Tale”, Part 1 – The Mountain is a Muslim

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Wael Abdelgawad's novels can be purchased at his author page at Amazon.com: Wael is an Egyptian-American living in California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including, Zawaj.com, IslamicAnswers.com and IslamicSunrays.com. He teaches martial arts, and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and ice cream. Learn more about him at WaelAbdelgawad.com. For a guide to all of Wael's online stories in chronological order, check out this handy Story Index.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. BintB

    April 9, 2014 at 3:39 AM

    Always a pleasure reading this story…MashaAllah.
    Just wanted to point out the sentence in 15th paragraph, 3rd page: “to buy money for food” => A typo?

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      April 9, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Yes, that was an error, thanks. By the time I saw your comment the error had already been corrected. Thank you Editor!

  2. iffat sharif

    April 9, 2014 at 5:45 AM

    A Cliffhanger ?? AGAIN!! it is so tormenting to wait for this story evvery week!! I am hooked on to it…we all are :) well,i just wanted to know how old is hassan?? he has a past,was married and all and jamilah is pretty young?? isn’t it ??

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      April 9, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      iffat, Hassan’s age will be mentioned in part 3 of Hassan’s Tale – the next story – but I guess there’s no harm in telling you he’s 34. Yes, Jamilah is young. She’s 22.

      On the cliffhanger issue, in my defense, let me point that the main question of this story – will Muhammad forgive his father and help him? – has been resolved.

      Of course the question of Hassan’s survival remains open.

      • iffat

        April 15, 2014 at 3:02 PM

        please update the next part….waiting for so long !!

  3. Safa

    April 9, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    Jazakah Allahu khairan. A pleasure to read as always!

    Poor Alice,she should’ve at least txted the guys to let them know! Having a mentally unstable person in a lone apt is never a good idea

    Feel equally bad for Hassan. He is preoccupied w an assassin yet selflessly finds time for his friend. Loyalty indeed. Though he’s running into a trap, Dr Bassem is prob being held hostage by the Partridge! But hes insightful and his survival instincts will come into play no doubt

    Mo is admirable in helping his dad out. I cannot imagine what its like to be in his shoes. A magnanimous individual that deserves good after abandonment, neglect, abuse and a terrible past. Glad he has amazing friends that will sacrifice their selves and give their all for him

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      April 14, 2014 at 7:25 PM

      Yes, it was a foolish choice on Alice’s part. I think she was so intent on impressing Muhammad and helping him, that she didn’t think it through.

  4. J K

    April 9, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    Masha’Allah, another great piece! Looking forward to next week. If you had an entire book written, I’d prob devour like a hungry lion.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      April 14, 2014 at 7:27 PM

      JK, in that case, I’ll write a book called, “Wildebeest.” Good meal for a lion.

  5. Samreen

    April 9, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Started reading your stories a while ago. All the parts are amazing, mashallah. The characters are so interesting and different. Waiting eagerly for the next part :)

  6. Grey Crayon

    April 9, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    Jazak Allahu Khair Brother, really looking forward to part 5…

  7. Sarah B.

    April 10, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Oh these cliff hangers! I’m really hoping Alice will be okay! She gets her life back on track and tries to do something good then gets stabbed in the back, literally. Insha’Allah things will turn out okay for each character!

  8. ahmed

    April 10, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    i just realized this is a multipage article :)

    • Ihsan

      April 11, 2014 at 8:13 AM

      Thanks,i just noticed!

  9. Mahvish M

    April 10, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    Very interesting storyline, keep up the great work! Just curious, When will you write a novel?

  10. Mahvish M

    April 13, 2014 at 1:30 AM

    I mean a novel I can purchase from a bookstore instead of reading online :)

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      April 13, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      Ah, right :-) When it’s complete I will see what can be done Insha’Allah.

  11. Areefah

    May 26, 2018 at 1:44 PM

    Assalam Alaikum! May Allah reward you with goodness. Honestly I cannot thank you enough. These stories, they are irresistibly beautiful and they help me everyday. May Allah give you success in this life and the next, Ameen.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      May 27, 2018 at 2:14 AM

      Areefah, wa alaykum as-salam. You’re very welcome sister. I’m glad you’re enjoying the stories. Ameen do your dua’, and for you as well.

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