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Gravedigger: A Short Story

A fist crashed into Ghada Aziz’s eye, snapping her head back and turning her legs to straw. Pain exploded in her face and she wondered if her orbital socket had just shattered. Somehow she clung to consciousness, covering her head with her arms, then lashing out with a punch of her own.

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fight, life, death, grave

A fist crashed into Ghada Aziz’s eye, snapping her head back and turning her legs to straw. Pain exploded in her face and she wondered if her orbital socket had just shattered. Somehow she clung to consciousness, covering her head with her arms, then lashing out with a punch of her own. It was only the first round of a three round fight, but she couldn’t take much more. Her left leg was swollen and numb, her ribs deeply bruised, and blood poured into her eyes from a cut on her forehead.

MMA ring

She never saw the blow that knocked her out. She crashed to the blood-spattered canvas, mouth open and drooling, dimly aware of the referee shielding her. A roaring like an avalanche filled her ears, and she knew it was the sound of the crowd cheering her opponent. This was her sixth loss in the last two years, and the fourth by knockout. She’d once been the seventh ranked female bantamweight fighter in the world, but she was done. Twenty seven years old and washed up, her MMA career was over.

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Was it for this that Baba – her father – had fled Iraq with her when she was twelve, leaving behind the land where his wife and son – her mother and older brother – had been slaughtered? He’d been a radiologist in Iraq, but his credentials were not recognized in America. He worked as a janitor instead, emptying wastebaskets and buffing floors in a Los Angeles skyscraper, still somehow managing to pay for her English and karate lessons. Was it for this he had sacrificed?

How had she repaid him? Other Arab-American children became doctors and engineers, but Ghada dropped out of college, driven by her passion for martial arts. The fighting ring was the only place where she felt in control of her destiny. Life delivered one crushing blow after another. She lost loved ones, experienced heartache, grief and isolation. But in the ring, standing over her opponent in triumph, the nemesis called life was powerless. Only in the ring did she feel in control, secure.

She wouldn’t have blamed Baba if he’d been disappointed, but he’d been proud, even when the local Arab community criticized him for letting his daughter adopt immoral ways. He dropped in on her training sessions and hung news stories about her on the wall. Unlike many fighters Ghada had no nickname, and Baba used to teasingly say that she should call herself The Saracen, or The Arab Assassin. As if she needed to call further attention to her heritage. She already received death threats from Americans and Arabs alike. The only thing Baba would not do was attend her fights. He couldn’t bear to see her getting hit.
Baba also supported her financially until she began to win, at which point she bought him a little house in Eagle Rock with a garden he tended lovingly.

Then he died, his heart giving out on a cold January morning as he raked the leaves in the yard, while Ghada was away at training camp. Caught up in the fight world, she hadn’t seen him in six months. Her shame at having neglected him was a worse blow than any she’d taken in the ring.

Someone gripped her arm. Sibni, she thought in Arabic, her cheek glued to the canvas, her braided black hair soaking up blood. Let me be. But her coach pulled her up and mopped the blood from her eyes as the cut man pressed the freezing end-swell disc into her forehead. She hung her head, not wanting to see the faces of the leering crowd, many of them overjoyed to see the Arab bitch lose. So much hate she’d faced. All for nothing.

“Get up chica,” Coach Enriquez demanded. “Lose with your head high.”

So she did. The announcer called the fight and the ref raised the other fighter’s hand in victory. Ghada stared blankly at the ceiling of the convention center. Her heart was a dark cave, but she held her chin high, because sometimes that was all you could do. The thought came that she was glad her father was not alive to see this moment. That was followed by a flash of guilt for thinking such a thing. He’d never doubted her.

She remembered being surprised at how many people came to Baba’s funeral last year. Arabs and other members of the Muslim community – Pakistanis, Indians, African-Americans, and the odd Latino or white convert – stood in rows to pray janazah for her father, while the non-Muslims looked on, approaching her afterward to offer their condolences. She didn’t know most of them. They spoke of her father’s generosity, or his guidance. While she’d been immersed in training, it seemed he had intertwined with many lives, touched many hearts. That should have been comforting, but it only reminded her that she hadn’t been there enough to know him. Her grief was a thunderstorm that would not let up. She skipped training sessions, lived on instant noodles and delivery pizza, slept past noon and lost fight after fight, unable to win the outer battles while the inner ones raged. And now it was all over.

The Door Will Open

She stopped bathing, washing the dishes, paying the bills. Late notices came. Sometimes the doorbell rang and people called to her. A few times she recognized the voices of Farah and Summer, two Muslim friends she’d had in high school. They’d drifted away after she became an MMA fighter. Or had she pushed them away, pre-empting the threat of rejection? They’d attended a few of her fights as well – she’d seen them in the front rows, waving. She’d always refused to acknowledge them, fearing that they were there to judge her. They both wore hijab, while she was out in front of the world wearing knee-length shorts and a lycra shirt, making a spectacle. So she’d avoided meeting their eyes when she left the ring.

Sometimes she thought about killing herself. She resisted the idea, knowing it was against her religion and everything her father had taught her. But… there was no way forward. She was an unemployed college drop-out, finished in her career, alone in the world, and – judging from the unopened late notices she was receiving from the state – probably about to lose her father’s house for non-payment of taxes.

One miserable night, unable to sleep and equally unable to bear her thoughts, she walked into the kitchen. Roaches scattered. Filthy dishes stewed in the sink. In the middle of the room stood a small table and two folding chairs. Her father used to sit there when he read the newspaper and paid the bills. Why had he kept two chairs? Perpetually waiting – hoping – for Ghada to return home and join him at that little table? Atop the table stood a glass vase filled with dessicated stalks that had been morning glories. Those same dead flowers had been there since Baba died.

Kitchen knife

She went to the cutlery drawer and took out a large steel vegetable knife. Her father always kept the knives sharp, and the edge was like a razor. She placed the tip against the inside of her left wrist. She would make a long, deep cut, then she’d do the other arm. Then maybe she’d lie down in bed and wait for it to be over.

She pressed the tip of the knife into her wrist. It broke the skin and blood welled up, running in a rivulet into her palm and dripping from her middle finger. This was for the best. She had no other options. No one would miss her anyway.

Except… she could not make her hand move. She could not go further. An inner voice whispered, “This isn’t right. There’s always another way, a better way. You’re a fighter. Don’t give up now.” She ignored that voice and cut further. Blood began to pour, running down her wrist and hand and spattering onto the kitchen floor. Her arms trembled. One of her elbows bumped the vase on the table. It tipped over, rolled off the table and shattered into a hundred fragments.

A memory came. She was a child in Baghdad, in the small villa they’d called home. Mama was standing on a stepladder, removing a burnt-out fluorescent bulb – the long, skinny kind – from the ceiling fixture. She handed it down to Ghada, who was her assistant in everything, whether cooking, cleaning or home repair. “Pass me the new one.”

“I’ll do it, I’ll do it!” Tousle-haired Ibrahim, her younger brother, snatched up the bulb before Ghada could stop him – and dropped it. Slivers of glass exploded across the floor. Both children froze, expecting to be punished. Their cat, Halawa, padded in to investigate the commotion. Mama merely sighed and instructed Ghada to put Halawa in the bathroom before she cut her paws. It was the only room with a door, since the others had curtains in the doorways. As they all cleaned the broken glass, Halawa mewed to be let out. Ghada felt bad for the cat, but it was for her own good. When they were finally finished and released the cat she trotted out with her tail high, giving them an accusing look.

Later, Mama said, “What we did with Halawa is a metaphor for how Allah protects us.”

“What’s a metaphor?” Ibrahim wanted to know.

“An example. Sometimes we feel trapped in our situations. We can’t find a way out. We cry and complain, not understanding why Allah has closed the doors. Our vision is small, so we don’t see the dangers all around. We don’t realize that we are exactly where we need to be in that moment, and that Allah is protecting us. But if we are patient, the door will open when the time is right.”

Remembering this now, and remembering her dear, patient mother, Ghada imagined what her mother would say if she could see her daughter in this moment. She cried out and dropped the knife, which fell to the floor with a clatter. Her body trembled, with what emotion she could not say. She would wait. She would… try something. What, she did not know.

Hard Labor

She left the house for the first time in two weeks to visit her father’s grave. It was located in a sprawling, hilly cemetery belonging to the city of Los Angeles. She sat on the grass of his grave and wept, fingering the plaque set into the ground. Sami Daoud Aziz, beloved husband and father. She tried to speak to him, or to pray over him, but no words came. On her way out she saw a sign on the gate: Help Wanted. She saved the number and called the next morning. The cemetery was looking for a full-time gravedigger. $15 per hour plus benefits. It was no fortune, but it might pay the bills, and she’d be close to Baba. She applied and was accepted.

For the first six months there was hardly a day when she did not think about quitting. The work was grueling, even harder than MMA training. As a full time fighter she’d only trained four hours per day. The rest of it was just healthy eating, watching and analyzing training videos, and getting nine hours of sleep every night.

This job, on the other hand, was what she imagined when a convict was sentenced to hard labor. Not that the environment was forbidding. It was beautiful. This was a green cemetery, which is why the graves were hand dug. There was no gasoline-powered machinery, and only two maintenance workers for the entire, sprawling cemetery – herself and Dave, the groundskeeper. No embalming chemicals, Ghada learned, were used in burials, nor any grave liners or vaults. Only shrouds or biodegradable wooden caskets. Wildflowers proliferated. Songbirds, squirrels and deer roamed the grounds, and butterflies flitted. With oak and bay trees covering the slopes, it looked more like a natural woodland than a cemetery.

On a typical day Ghada dug two or three graves, which meant a full eight or nine hours of digging. She’d wake up in the morning with her muscles aching from the previous day. At first her hands blistered, then they bled. Finally they grew calloused.

The plus side was that she was close to Baba. She’d sit on his grave every day at lunchtime, sometimes crying, sometimes praying, sometimes talking to him. Was this morbid? Was she psychologically damaged, unable to let go? She only knew that being near her father comforted her.

Time passed. She paid off her bills. Her muscles stopped aching. Her almond colored skin darkened to cafe-au-lait from working in the sun all day. And she stopped crying. She began to pray again and to fast in the holy month of Ramadan, two things she hadn’t done since she was a teenager. Her transformation amazed her. She thought back to the night she’d pressed the knife to her wrist. Was it Allah who’d put that memory in her head at that moment – the memory of her cat Halawa and the broken glass? Regardless, alhamdulillah.

Life Amid Death

baba, death, suicide,

She tossed the last spadeful of dirt and mopped her brow. The sun was straight overhead, illuminating even the inside of the grave. Unhooking a tape measure from her belt, she checked the grave. One shovel deep, two and a half feet wide by seven long. Industry standard. Satisfied, she tossed the shovel out and leaped out of the grave, tucking and rolling as she cleared the top. Time for lunch.

A relatively flat acre at the northeast corner was screened by a row of pines. Management kept the maintenance equipment in a shed back here. There was a long, narrow stretch of clear grass between the pines and the road to the shed, and Ghada spent an hour and a half practicing martial arts here every day. Thirty minutes to warm up before work, half of her lunch hour, and another half hour after work. It was something she’d come back to gradually, and she realized she’d missed it terribly. She wasn’t training for anything. It was movement for the sake of movement. Running through footwork and strikes, angling in and out, the workout left her physically energized and as serene as a summer sky. She hadn’t been in a gym in two years, so she worked on fundamentals, sometimes combining the moves she already knew in inventive ways.

Today she was using striking combos to set up a shoot. She’d throw a round kick and a punch combo to the face, then drop her weight, letting one knee almost touch the ground as she drove forward, miming grabbing the opponent’s legs and lifting her off the ground for a slam. Half an hour of this and she wasn’t even breathing hard. She felt like she could do it all day.

Later, sitting on the grass of Baba’s grave, she unwrapped the ‘eggah sandwich she’d prepared that morning. It was an Iraqi dish her mother had taught her to make – a patty formed from a blend of eggs, broccoli and cheese, served in pita bread with a hummus spread. With it she had a cup of hasa al-khadr – vegetable soup spiced with ginger, garlic, cilantro and cumin. Eating these traditional foods made her feel that she was carrying on her cultural heritage in some small way, and kept her healthy for the extreme labor of this job.

The sunshine on her face felt pleasant. The air smelled of bay leaves and wild roses. Two squirrels chased around a tree and up and down the trunk. Watching them, Ghada smiled. Life was good. It amazed and pleased her that she could think this, feel this. The only thing lacking was companionship. She had no family, no friends. She was all alone in the world.

As if disproving her assertion, Dave the groundskeeper sauntered over from where he’d been digging out a patch of broom grass. He carried his lunch bag in one hand and thermos in the other. Ghada didn’t mind. Nearing forty, tall but stoop shouldered, Dave was harmless, not to mention married. He and his wife June were MMA fans. He’d been thrilled to meet Ghada when she first started, as he’d seen her fight in her prime. He kept telling her she should be coaching fighters, not digging graves. She always shrugged. Maybe someday. The fighting world felt too much like the bad old days – though, if she were honest with herself, there was still a part of her that wondered how far she could have gone as a fighter if Baba had not died.
They ate in silence. This was one of the things she liked about Dave. The two of them were well attuned to each other’s moods.

“You don’t talk to your dad much anymore,” Dave said finally. He nodded to her father’s plaque.

Ghada remembered how she used to sit here and confess her sins, as if she expected her father to condemn her failings. Why had she thought that? He’d never done anything but love her. My shining star, he used to call her. “I’ve said it all.”

“You two are good?”

She smiled. “Yeah.”

“You’ve changed.”

“No kidding. I don’t wake up with my limbs aching like I just ran a marathon. I remember when digging one grave was exhausting. Blisters everywhere, my back sore, everything.”

“Not just that. You’re peaceful.”

She nodded. “It’s this job.” She waved a hand at a bluejay that sat on the branch of a nearby oak tree, watching and waiting for crumbs, no doubt. “Life amid death, you know? It’s a constant reminder to live in the moment.”

You, Idiota

Her phone rang. Spam, no doubt. No one she knew ever called her. She mostly used the phone to study MMA techniques on Youtube and listen to Arabic pop songs. She dug it out of her pocket, then frowned. It was Coach Enriquez. She hadn’t spoken to him in ages. For a moment she thought of not taking the call. But that was the old Ghada. The new Ghada had nothing to fear from the past.

“You sure you have the right number?” she greeted.

“Hola chica. You staying in shape?”

Ghada held the phone at arm’s length and looked at it quizzically. Dave gave her a questioning look but she waved him off.

“Chica? You there?”

She put the phone back to her ear. “It’s been two years, and that’s what you say? Am I in shape? Not, how are you holding up, did you lose the house? And how are Julia and the kids, by the way?”

“Gimme a break. I tried stayin’ in touch with you after that last fight. I came by your house coupla times, called you over and over, you told me to get lost, remember?”

“Not really,” Ghada muttered, chastened. “Those days are a blur.”

“Yeah, well. Julia and the kids are fine. Jesus made the honor roll. Anita is band captain. Did you lose the house?”

“No.”

“How you holdin’ up?”

“Pretty good, actually.”

“Wonderful. Bueno. Can we get down to business?”

Ghada rolled her eyes. “What business? You need a janitor at the gym? I have a job.”

“Oye, chica, I’m serious. You in shape? You training?”

Ghada moved her toes up and down, flexing her calves. “Pretty much. I’m not at a gym but I train on my own.”

“Bueno. Listen chica, I got a opportunity for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You follow the fights? You know the WFC is at the convention center tonight?”

“I heard. This guy I work with, Dave, he’s a fan.”

“Fine. I got a fighter. Ariana Gomez, you remember her? She collapsed. Can’t fight.”

“What happened?”

“Stupid idiota, tryin’ to cut too much weight. Got fat between fights. I’m in a bind, chica. I need a replacement.”

“Yeah, so? I don’t know anyone.”

“I mean you, idiota.”

“Me?” Even as Ghada laughed out loud, she felt a thrill of excitement. Why should she feel that? She was done with that life. “Is this a joke?”

“No it ain’t a joke!” Coach snapped. “I got six hours before the opening bell. I’m at my wit’s end. I been callin’ all over. It’s too short notice, either no one wants to take it or they’re too far away.”

“I’m flattered, Coach-”

“Flattered my ass. You’re a jobber. But the fight pays ten thousand.”

Ghada snorted. “Gee, thanks.” A jobber was a slot-filler. Just there to make the winner look good. “I don’t need the money.”

Coach’s tone took on a note of desperation. “Then do it for me. WFC will fine the daylights outta me I don’t find someone. I’m already hurting. Times been hard.”

Ghada sobered up. “I’m not licensed anymore.”

“I kept your paperwork up. Just in case. How much you weigh?”

Ghada couldn’t believe she was having this conversation. “Oh, 135, 140.” She knew full well the upper limit for a bantamweight was 135. Maybe now Coach would drop this crazy idea.

“Christ. You eating pizza and pop tarts? What’s with you girls, all getting fat? Which is it, 135 or 140?”

“Probably 136 or 137 in my birthday suit,” she said honestly.

“Okay. We can work with that. Worst case, we sweat one pound outta you, you come in one pound over, you forfeit ten percent of your purse.”

“Who’s the opponent?”

“Don’t worry ‘bout that. Will you do it or not? If yes, I need you here pronto.”

“I want to know who the opponent is.”

Coach sighed. “It’s Viviani Silva.”

Ghada took a sharp breath. “I need to think. I’ll get back to you. Yes, yes I know. Ten minutes.”

Dave had been watching keenly all through the conversation. “What was that about? You look like you’ve seen a dead body.” He grinned at his own joke. Funerals were a part of daily life here.

She said nothing.

“You’re scaring me, kiddo.”

“Sorry. You know the World Fighting Championship is on tonight?”

“Of course. June and I are going.”

“Oh. Well, one of the fighters, Ariana Gomez, dropped out. My old coach wants me to take her place.”

Daved gaped at her. “Gomez was fighting Viviani ‘The Monster’ Silva.’”

“I know.”

“She’s ranked third in the world. She’s a bone crusher. Her last fight, the other girl went straight from the ring to the hospital.”

“Thanks for that.” Annoyed.

“Sorry.”

“Do you mind leaving me alone for a bit?”

Dave scooped up his lunch and hurried off, no doubt to call his wife and tell her the news.

Ghada ran a hand through the grass of her father’s grave. She was not afraid. Where once the storm had raged inside her, now she was the eye. “What do you think, Baba?” she said aloud.

I think maybe, came his reply, just maybe, you have unfinished business. She knew it was only the whisper of her own subconscious. But it spoke in Baba’s voice, and that was close enough to faith for her heart.

“But that’s not my life anymore.”

Does the dream live inside you? If so then seize it, habibti, my love, my shining star.

That Aziz Spirit

“I owe you big time.” Her coach hustled her into the arena, one hand on her shoulder. “Why’d you say you were fat? You ain’t fat at all.”

“I never said-’

“No one expects you to win, okay? All you have to do is put on a show. Flash that Aziz spirit, try to make it through the first round. After that, if you’re gettin’ hurt bad, just tap or take a fall, Brock Lesnar style. No one will hold it against you. Even if you lose you make ten grand.”

Not much of a pep talk, Ghada thought. To hell with him if that was all he thought of her. She’d fight, but for herself, not for Coach or anyone else. Oddly, the thought of the fight itself excited her more than the purse. What did she need $10K for anyway? She had everything she needed in life. What thrilled her was the opportunity to plunge into combat once again, to hit and be hit in a battle that was mental and emotional even more than physical. Those electric, brutal, and vivid minutes in which she was more fully alive than 99.99% of human beings.

A half hour later she stood on the scale at the weigh-in, fight officials all around, press bulbs flashing. Viviani ‘The Monster’ Silva had already weighed in, but was there to check out the competition. The thick-jawed, heavily tattooed woman postured and called out insults. She looked exotic and mean in her skin-tight short-shorts and halter top.

Ghada, on the other hand, wore her usual knee-length shorts and a form fitting long sleeved shirt. It was her concession to Islamic modesty and she knew it was insufficient, but it was the best she could do in the ring. She’d taken an electric trimmer to her jet black hair and shorn it to an inch all over. She ignored The Monster and let out a slow breath, unperturbed.

She saw surprise on the faces of the officials. Did they remember the out-of-shape, emotionally depressed wreck of a fighter from two years ago? Her eyes flicked to the wall mirror, curious to see herself as they saw her. Standing 5’7”, she weighed in at 135 pounds on the dot. Coach breathed an audible sigh of relief. No need to deplete herself by sweating her weight down, and no need to forfeit any money.

The thing was, even though she was right at the upper weight limit for a bantamweight, there was not an ounce of fat on her. Her legs were rock solid and rippling with muscle, her arms powerful and well defined even through the shirt, her shoulders like two small boulders. She looked like a granite statue. The gravedigging, she realized. Digging graves was the most physically taxing thing she’d ever done. When she’d first started she couldn’t dig a single grave without resting multiple times. Now she could dig for ten hours, wake up the next day and do it again, as easy as babaganoush. She’d never been stronger in her life, both physically and emotionally.

She looked to The Monster and saw a flicker of doubt on the woman’s face. The hair stood up on Ghada’s arms. I’m going to win this fight. The premonition hit her like the light of the summer sun, leaving no room for doubt. She was going to beat the third ranked female fighter in the world.

What would she do after that? Would she continue to fight, or become a coach as Dave was always telling her to do? Or would she go back to digging graves? She didn’t know. But she was sure she was going to win. She could feel it in her bones, as surely as her ancestors had sensed the approach of a sandstorm or the coming of the rain.

Someone called her name. She looked over the crowd and spotted Farah and Summer at the back of the crowd of spectators. They grinned and waved. How had they known she would be here? In the past she would have looked away, not wanting to acknowledge them. But this time she smiled and waved, genuinely happy to see them. Their faces lit up and they shrieked as if they’d just met a celebrity.

The fight announcer approached, shook her hand. “Do you have a nickname you want me to use when I announce you?” he asked.

Ghada’s smile spread into a grin. Then she laughed out loud. “Sure. Call me Gravedigger.”

THE END

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels, Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters, and Zaid Karim Private Investigator, are available on Amazon.com.

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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.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Wael Abdelgawad

    June 27, 2019 at 1:55 PM

    As-salamu alaykum everyone, thanks for reading. Please leave comments and constructive criticism. I am always open to your thoughts.

    • Umm Al-Ameem

      June 27, 2019 at 7:52 PM

      Call me gravedigger. Intriguing. Easy read. Enjiyed it. Looking forward to the next chapter.

      • Wael Abdelgawad

        June 27, 2019 at 11:23 PM

        Umm Al-Ameen I´m glad you liked it, but this was a one-off. There´s no next chapter. Just a short story.

        • Umm Al-Ameem

          June 29, 2019 at 8:35 PM

          Awwwww. So that’s the end, I’ll try to use my imagination to complete it then. Lol. But seriously, you sure are talented Bro. Wael. May Almighty Allah put His barakah in your works.

        • Huda

          July 14, 2019 at 9:01 AM

          Haraaaaam! That is torture!!!! This was so promising!!!
          Can’t believe you’re making us take an unfinished story to the grave. Pun intended.

          :) So good to read your words again!

  2. Siraj

    June 28, 2019 at 12:57 AM

    Couldn’t stop reading once I started. Now I am reading your other stories from the Index. Masha’Allah, very descriptive. Someone should make a movie out of this for sure!

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      June 28, 2019 at 1:31 PM

      Jazak Allah khayr brother. You should purchase the print or ebook version of Pieces of a Dream as well. It´s much more complete than the online version.

  3. Spirituality

    June 28, 2019 at 11:17 AM

    Awesome story, Jazak Allahu Khayran!

    I was just reading about the famous Ansari fighter, Nusaybah bint Kab (RA) before reading this story.

    Muslima fighters have been around!

  4. Wael Abdelgawad

    July 10, 2019 at 11:42 PM

    As-salamu alaykum everyone. This story, Gravedigger, just won 14th place in the popular NYC Midnight short story contest. There were 4,500 entrants from all over the world, most of them published authors. Alhamdulillah.

    • Spirituality

      July 17, 2019 at 5:09 PM

      Masha Allah, congratulations!!

  5. Omer

    July 11, 2019 at 9:43 AM

    You never fail to deliver. What I really like about your writing is how you delve deeply into the psyche to answer questions that we sometimes are shy to ask out loud. Intertwining the feelings of shame,family,judgement and community. I know you have a lot going on but I really hope you find time to write more short stories, you are really good at it. Even your Uber stories are a treat :)

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      July 11, 2019 at 1:48 PM

      Omer, I love this comment. It´s like a mini professional review in its specificity. Jazak Allah khayr.

  6. Fuad

    July 11, 2019 at 8:07 PM

    Soulful story. Thanks for starting my day good.

  7. Sabi

    July 14, 2019 at 12:32 PM

    Maa sha Allah, I had tears rolling down my cheeks, got very involved in the story. There always a fighter in each one of us, especially as Muslims I guess it runs in our blood!

  8. Humaira Khan

    August 11, 2020 at 3:46 PM

    Loved the story and how well it’s written. Just one CC: how about just say “orbit” instead of “orbital bone”? The latter snaps the reader out of suspension of disbelief for a second. We don’t know enough about the character at this point to accept the use of that term. Just my 2 cents. Really enjoyed the story though.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      August 11, 2020 at 6:22 PM

      Humaira, your comments are appreciated as always. I got the phrase “orbital bone” from watching mixed martial arts. I’ve heard MMA commentators like Joe Rogan say, “He might have broken his orbital bone.” So I guess it’s a phrase that is known in the fight world.

  9. Sum H

    November 9, 2020 at 6:00 PM

    Salaam. My father died in January this year. I felt I had lost a friend. His support and love for me was pure alhamdulillah and he was always proud of me. I can so relate to this and I am comforted reading this. Almost 10 months on I’m having a grief wave and this story is helping. Jazakallakhair for writing – this is a story I’ve been reading many times since he died.

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      November 9, 2020 at 8:55 PM

      Sum H, wa alaykum as-salam. Your comment really moved me. It means a lot to me that this story has comforted you in some way during this difficult time. I lost my father in 2012 and I probably would have been useless for the next year after that, except that I turned my energy to writing. That was the year I began writing fiction MM. I guess it was a release for me and a way of forgetting my sadness for a while. When Hassan buries his father Kamal in Hassan’s Tale, that was based completely on my own experience.

      May Allah have mercy on your father, and grant you comfort and ease in your heart.

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