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Death in a Valley Town, Part 1 – Moving Day

Yahya noticed the obscene gesture that the man across the street gave him, but he ignored it, and chose not to tell his wife Samira. He knew how deep racism ran in these small towns. He would just have to be patient.

Police officer with gun drawn

Moving Day

Yahya Mtondo noticed the young white man sitting on a porch across the street, glaring in his direction. He waved, but the fellow gave him an obscene gesture, then cocked his hand into the shape of a gun and mimed shooting at Yahya.

Yahya frowned. In the old days – that is to say, in the angry and lost days of his youth – he would have marched straight over there and punched the man in his funny frowning face, and damn the consequences. But he wasn’t that man anymore. He’d left that life like a ship leaving the assembly yard, tripping into lands unknown, skipping over the waves. Tripping, skipping and hopefully not flipping, inshaAllah. So he merely shook his head and turned back to the job of moving.

His wife Samira must have noticed his expression. “What’s wrong ruh albi?” Spirit of my heart, her sweet name for him, at least when she was in a good mood. Yoyo when she wasn’t.

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He looked at this beautiful woman who’d been foolish enough to marry him, a messed-up former foster kid, a skinny beanpole, a mere rideshare driver. Like him, she was tall – about 5’10” to his 6’1” – and though she was Palestinian, her skin was a beautiful shade of brown that fell somewhere between copper and mahogany. Her purple hijab concealed long black hair that she typically wore loose beneath her scarf.

While Yahya was quiet and contemplative, Samira could be loud. She had a laugh that rang like a bell, and a smile that stretched a mile wide. People were drawn to her brash and bubbly personality. Only those who knew her best understood the insecurities and worries that she hid beneath that bright and happy laugh. And though she was indeed lovely, at the moment she looked like a ragamuffin, standing there in a pair of old sneakers with holes in the toes, his djembe drum slung over one shoulder and a suitcase in her hand, her face dusty and sweaty.

He forced a smile. “Nothing at all, mchumba wangu.” Usually he called her mpenzi wangu – my love. But when he wanted to tease her he called her mchumba wangu, my homemaker. It was actually a term of endearment in his native Kenya, or at least it was what his baba always used to call his mom, may Allah have mercy on them. But he knew it annoyed Samira. In any case, he wasn’t going to tell her about the funny faced young man across the street. Samira tended to worry – she even had anxiety attacks sometimes – and he didn’t want to give her anything more to stress over. Only peace and harmony, or a piece of harmony at least.

“Just tired from the fast,” he added. He was doing a voluntary fast, and his physical energy level was at rock bottom, bottom of a rock, under the rock with the salt of the earth… He hadn’t taken any food or water in many hours. “But I love it. I feel so light and free. I’m a bird doing loop de loops. Oooh!” He spread his arms. “My feathers are as cool as ice.” And it was true. Though he was exhausted, spiritually he felt like he could soar with the eagles.

Samira rolled her eyes. “You’re a nut.”

He had not been crazy about the idea of moving to this poor, mostly white enclave in Central California, about twenty miles northeast of Fresno. He knew from experience how deep racism often ran in such towns. And he had two strikes against him in these people’s eyes, since he was both African and Muslim. Not that he was ashamed. He was proud of his heritage and grateful for his faith.

They were here because his wife had just completed her medical residency in Fort Worth, Texas, where they’d moved from, and Alhambra Community Hospital had unexpectedly offered her a fellowship in her specialty of oncology. The salary was not spectacular, but it was better than she’d earned as a resident. Between that and his income as a rideshare driver, plus the low property values here in Alhambra, they’d been able to buy a house for the first time, alhamdulillah.

The best part was that there was no ribaa involved. No interest. They’d gone through a group called Central Valley Islamic Finance, which helped people buy cars and homes without interest. Yahya was deeply relieved about that. He ́d made plenty of mistakes in life, but so far he’d managed to avoid the sin of ribaa. It felt like an achievement. He could see himself on Yawm Al-Qiyamah – the Day of Resurrection – standing before some great angel who held in his hand a parchment listing Yahya’s sins. His eyes would skim along the tallied crimes, each with a small checked box: anger, resentment, cursing, jealousy, ingratitude, and more. But then Yahya’s eyes would settle on the one little unchecked box – ribaa. He would point to it excitedly, saying,”Look, look!”

“Come on babe, tell me. What is it?” His sweaty-faced wife set down the suitcase and touched his cheek. She was always alert to any sign of inner turbulence on his part.

He smiled. “Nothing, my sweaty sweet.”

She pinched his earlobe in reproval, then slid her arm through his. “Look at our house. SubhanAllah.”

Craftsman bungalow cottageHe set down the box he had tucked under one arm and studied the house. 701 Minarets Avenue. They had taken the street name as a sign. Their own little homestead, their own piece of earth – of course it all belonged to Allah, but it was theirs to care for. He would import a few elephants and a lion and call it Little House on the Serengeti. He chuckled at his own joke.

The house was small for a family of four – only 1,100 square feet. But it was cute – a little Craftsman bungalow built in 1901, painted teal with white trim, featuring a small covered veranda to relax on when the weather go too hot, as it often did here in Central California. The yard was planted with wildflowers and native shrubs, while an immense magnolia tree grew in the front yard, casting shade over most of the house, its thick, waxy leaves glowing deep emerald in the morning sun. Some sort of songbird trilled from deep in the tree, praising God in its own language. Yahya loved it.

As an added bonus, Samira’s family lived in Los Angeles, only a four hour drive from here. As did his sister Yusra, though he was not eager for a visit from her.

Who are you kidding? said a whispering, sinister voice from inside himself. It was the voice of his orphaned childhood. The voice of fear and self-doubt. That voice was mostly silent these days, but it still made itself heard from time to time.

It won’t last, the voice went on. Once an orphan, always an orphan. Home? An orphan can’t have a home! You’re doomed to be alone, tetherless, unwanted. Safety and family are mirages. You see them in the distance, shimmering on the road, and start to think that your thirst for love will finally be slaked. Then you get close and there’s nothing there. Haven’t you been told a thousand times that you’re worthless? That you’ll never amount to anything? You believe you have something now but one day Samira will see through your facade of respectability and leave you. One day your kids will see you for the fraud you are. One day it will all be taken away and you’ll be alone again, and this time not even Yusra will be there to fight for you because she has moved on, pursuing her endless and deluded question to find something that never existed.

“Ruh albi.” Samira stroked his cheek. “Shake it off, babe. This is real. I’m here. I love you.”

SubhanAllah, his wife knew him so well. Her words lifted him out of his moment of darkness and self-doubt. She was right. This was real, now, this moment. Allah the Most High had opened a door for them, and they’d walked through, taking the path that the Almighty chose for them. Yahya knew in his heart that there would be good in this path. That was trust, tawakkul. Doing your best, then putting your life in Allah’s hands and trusting Him to bring you through whatever obstacles you faced. Tawakkul was not, as some thought, naivete. Yahya had not lived an easy life. He had experienced terrible tragedies, and walked through trench and terror, metaphorically speaking, just to stay alive. No, tawakkul was a choice and a mindset. It was faith.

Allah the Most High had opened a door for them, and they’d walked through, taking the path that the Most Wise chose for them. Yahya knew in his heart that there would be good in this path, or Allah would not have set them upon it. That was trust, tawakkul. Doing your best, then putting your life in Allah’s hands and trusting Him to bring you through whatever obstacles you faced. Tawakkul was not, as some thought, naivete. Yahya had not lived an easy life. He had experienced terrible tragedies, and walked through trench and terror, metaphorically speaking, just to stay alive. No, tawakkul was a choice and a mindset. It was faith.

“It’s my toy!” Zahra, his daughter, was tugging on the handlebars of the Big Wheel being piloted by Sulayman, his son. Zahra was a tiny thing, only four years old, with big eyes and a shy demeanor with strangers. Her brother was six, curly haired and precocious.

“Let me ride it,” Sulayman countered. “And I will get you a kitten instead.”

Zahra’s mouth fell open. “Really?”

“Yes, but you will have to move out of the house because you are allergic to cats.”

Zahra’s lower lip began to tremble. “I don’t want to move out.”

“It’s okay, we will make a sleeping box for you in the backyard.”

Before Zahra could break into sobs, Yahya took the djembe drum from Samira. “Hey kids! Let’s dance.” He began to beat the drum as he crooned a Swahili love song to Samira, shuffling around her in a slow dance step. Oh, sure it was a cliche. The African fellow with the drum. But so what? He enjoyed it.

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika (Angel, I love you angel)
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika (Angel, I love you angel)
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio (and I, what should I do, your young friend)
Nashindwa na mali sina we, (I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have)
Ningekuoa Malaika (I would marry you, angel)
Nashindwa na mali sina we, (I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have)
Ningekuoa Malaika (I would marry you, angel)

Djembe drumThe kids jumped up and began to dance, while Samira laughed and snapped her fingers. Yahya shot a glance at the young man across the street. He was still there, watching with a red face, looking like he wanted to march over and kill them all. No matter. Yahya would make an effort to reach out to the neighbors, get to know them. Weren’t Muslims commanded to be kind to their neighbors? Only through kindness could an enemy become a friend.

“Okay everybody. Back to work.” He kissed his wife on the temple and bent down wearily to pick up a box. The good thing about being poor was that all the family’s possessions fit into a small U-Haul trailer, and the moving was nearly done. That was one advantage of being poor, he thought wryly. It made moving easier.

Ragheads

Rotting wooden porch steps

Nursing a warm beer, Chad sat on the ramshackle front porch with the rotting steps and peeling paint. His hand clenched tightly the beer can as he watched the filthy camel hugging family move in across the street. Liquid sloshed over his fist.

It was unbelievable. This was Alhambra, a white town in America. Trump’s America. Making America great again, putting the freaks and coloreds back in their places. Sure, there were wetbacks in Alhambra – you couldn’t escape them in California – but there were hardly any blacks, and there were certainly no terrorist camel huggers.

Until now. There they were across the street and two houses down, unloading a trailer hooked to a silver Honda Accord. It was a whole family of ragheads – a woman with her stupid oppressed scarf on her head, a little boy and girl, and the father. Chad studied the man with contempt. The guy was tall, maybe 6’1 or 6’2, and black. Well, maybe he was African or some such, ‘cause he wore one of those long, colorful African shirts. His skin was mud colored, and his hair was short under that stupid beanie. He was skinny though. Chad was pretty sure he could kick the guy’s ass. The man noticed Chad looking and waved. Chad flipped him the bird. The man frowned and went on moving his crap.

Chad spent a lot of time sitting on the porch, ever since he’d been fired from his loss prevention job at Walmart. That still made his jaw clench and his vision go red every time he thought about it. Some black dude – a gangbanger no doubt – had tried to shoplift box of tampons, of all things, and Chad stopped him. A scuffle ensued. Chad recovered the tampons, but the banger got away. And Walmart fired him. Said he’d violated the terms of service of his employment, which required no physical engagement of any kind. You were supposed to ask the thief to return the goods, but if they refused you were not supposed to stop them, follow them, or “engage” in any way, due to the liability to other customers if the encounter turned violent.

So the shade goes off scot-free, and Chad gets fired. A law abiding, hard working, white American gets fired for doing the right thing. It made him want to smash something. Actually it made him want to smash someone, ideally his Filipino woman boss at Walmart, but any foreigner would do.

So here he was, twenty two and unemployed, nothing but a high school diploma to his name, sitting on his mom’s porch. All his old high school friends had jobs and girlfriends. Some even had wives. A couple had gone to college.

He spat, sending a loogie flying into the ragged grass of the front lawn. It wasn’t right. His life wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. He’d been a track star in high school – hundred meters and hurdles – and was supposed to have gone to college on a scholarship, but he’d blown out his knee, and they’d all abandoned him. It was like, if you weren’t of use to people, they didn’t give a crap about you. You were disposable. Blood sucking leeches. They’d given his spot on the track team to a black kid, a sophomore. Kid probably couldn’t even read. Was that piece of crap out there now, living the life that should have been Chad’s? How could this happen in Trump’s America? That was the problem, that it hadn’t been Trump’s America back then. It had been Barack Hussein’s America, the Commie Muslim traitor, damn his terrorist soul.

He seethed with the unfairness of it. He was no genius, he knew that. But he’d been a good runner, talented. He’d had the opportunity to make something of himself, to be the first in his family to go to college. He could have been more than his parents. His mother survived on welfare plus what she could beg, borrow or steal from her string of boyfriends. But Chad could have been a teacher maybe, or even a lawyer.

As for his dad, sure, Chad admired him in some ways – the man had been a shot caller in the Aryan Nation prison gang, able to point a finger and have another man killed. He’d been looked up to and respected. And he’d taught Chad what it meant to be a proud white man, standing up for your race and not taking any crap from coloreds. But let’s face it, Dad had spent 90% of his adult life in prison, and in the end he died the way he lived, with a knife in his gut. That wasn’t what Chad wanted for himself.

Plus, if Chad was being honest, he’d evolved beyond this father’s way of thinking. His father always used to say that the coloreds – no matter the shade – were filthy and inferior and should all be eliminated, even if that meant a race war across the face of America. It was a certainty, according to him, that the race war was coming. RaHoWa, he used to call it – Racial Holy War. The coloreds were secretly plotting to wipe out white America. It was an assault on the Christian values that had built everything in the modern world.

But at Walmart Chad had been forced to work with people of all colors and even folks from other countries like Filipinos and Chinks. He’d asked a few of them about RaHoWa, trying to find out about their plans to destroy the white race, but they seemed genuinely clueless. Chad slowly realized that RaHoWa was a myth, and that the coloreds were ordinary people like himself. They liked the same sports teams he did, played the same video games, watched the same shows. Yeah, they ate some weird crap and some of them smelled different, and their music was garbage. And they weren’t as smart, of course. That was a fact. White people were the smartest, they invented everything. That was why they ran the world. But the point was that the coloreds weren’t evil.

He had come to the conclusion that what was needed was not a race war, but separation. Let the coloreds live in their own neighborhoods and go to their own schools. Let them marry their own women and breed their own brats. And Chad and the white people would do the same. Live and let live. Not the Filipino bitch who fired him of course, he still wanted to bust her head open. But the others, yeah.

But the Muzzies – the Islamics – that was a different story. They were terrorist, cult following traitors. Not normal people. Muzzies were evil and sick in the head. Everybody said so. Plus, they lied as part of their sicko religion. It was called takaya or some crap. What kind of twisted bullcrap was that? They beheaded people, for Christ’s sake. If you were Christian in their country they would cut off your head with a hunting knife. They were devil worshipers. They should all either be kicked out of the country or killed. Period. Then Mecca should be nuked, and that would be the end of it.

But instead of taking care of business, the government was letting them go around like normal people. Even Trump had wimped out. The evidence was right in front of Chad’s eyes. Ragheads in his neighborhood, on his street.

And now they were playing drums and dancing some tribal dance like this was the African jungle instead of a civilized American town. Aargh! It was insane! How could he tolerate this? Where was Homeland Security? That was a good idea, actually. See something, say something, right? He took his phone out of his pocket and called 911.

Assault

They were almost done. Hefting a 6-foot bookshelf and turning, Yahya nearly tripped over Sulayman, who had picked up a table fan by the cord. Yahya resisted the temptation to chide the boy. The irritability he felt was a byproduct of his hunger and weariness from the fast. Part of the challenge of fasting, whether in Ramdan or outside of it, was to overcome that irritability and replace it with compassion. Instead of anger, to give love. Instead of resentment, to exercise generosity. Instead of self-absorption, to expand your sphere of concern to include your family, neighbors, the community, the Muslim ummah, and finally the world.

Sulayman and Zahra were only trying to help in their little way. But yeah, they were getting underfoot. He was about to suggest they go play inside the house when he heard sirens approaching. It sounded like there were a lot of them, and they were close. Curious, he set the bookshelf down in the driveway. The sirens kept getting louder, and a moment later a black-and-white Alhambra police cruiser careened around the corner, then another right behind it, tires squealing. For a second he imagined the cars as wildebeests fleeing a predator, squealing in fear. In a moment an even bigger vehicle would burst into view – a thundering mechanical lion.

Sanity returned. Yahya didn’t know what was going on – a burglary in the neighborhood, or a domestic dispute maybe? – but he wanted his family out of harm’s way.

“Samira,” he said urgently. “Take the kids into the house, please. Right away.” His wife had also paused to see the source of the commotion. She stood near the front door, her hands gripping tightly on the box of dinnerware she was carrying.

As the wailing sirens mounted Samira dropped the box. Whatever was inside shattered. She scooped up the kids, lifting them bodily off the ground, and disappeared into the house.

The police cars skidded to a halt in the street in front of his own home. Doors were thrown open, and officers kneeled behind them, pointing their guns at his house. Yahya looked around in confusion. Was a fugitive hiding in his yard?

“Put your hands on your head,” someone bellowed through a loudspeaker, “and get down on your knees!”

Again Yahya looked around. Surely they did not mean him?

“You with the hat and the beard! Put your hands on your head and get down on your knees! This is your last warning!”

Hat and beard? Was there a pirate loose? No, subhanAllah, they did mean him! He considered protesting, or at least asking for clarification. Then he looked at the barrels of the firearms pointing at him, one of which was bright yellow for some reason – some kind of phaser pistol? he thought crazily – and realized this was not the time for anything less than obedience.

Police officer with gun drawnMoving slowly so as not to alarm the cops, he put his hands on his head and went down to his knees. Two offers charged forward, their weapons trained on Yahya’s chest. One pulled his hands behind his back and handcuffed him, then shoved him forward. He fell, turning his face to the side at the last second and striking his cheek on the driveway. The impact made him grunt in pain. He thought he heard the muffled cries of his wife or children from inside the house. They were probably watching through the window. This was not something he would have ever wanted them to see.

He struggled to rise up, to say to the officers, “Come on now, what’s this all about?” He was not personally afraid. It was never his way to be afraid of people or the things people did. He was good with God, and trusted in the path. He just didn’t want his children to see their father being treated this way.

The cops Tased him. He didn’t understand at that moment what was happening. It was as if he’d been skewered like shish kebab and thrust into a hot flame to roast. Cook and cook and cook. Cook on a hook. Blank… his brain stopped functioning. Every muscle in his body seized in a terrible cramp. His limbs thrashed uncontrollably and his torso flopped like a dying fish on the floor of a boat. His vision became a red wall as agonizing pain blasted his consciousness. He still heard his family screaming, and in the distance he heard laughter as well – triumphant, mocking laughter. The agony seemed to go on forever, then vanished without a trace, leaving no remainder of pain.

He regained control of himself and turned his head to look at the officers. The one who’d tased him stood rigid, his arms in a classic firing pose, muscles quivering. He was young and slender, fish-belly white with red hair and a prematurely receding hairline. A balding trout. What Yahya noticed most of all was that the man was petrified. His eyes were wide with fear. SubhanAllah, what was he so afraid of? He was staring as if Yahya were some mythical monster lying in the driveway. An abominable snowman. Except he wasn’t an abominable snowman. He was an abominable Muslim, apparently.

“Hey,” Yahya said in what he hoped was a soothing tone, though to his own ears his sounded as rough as shredded sandpaper. “It’s alright. I’m not-”

“Shut up, faggot!” one of the officers bellowed, and once again the electricity coursed through him. He spasmed and fell hard, striking his mouth. Then he felt hard objects hitting him, striking his legs and back. Explosions of pain. A hammering blow clapped the side of his head, and darkness descended upon his mind.

* * *

Next: Part 2 – The Black Jesus

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

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

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

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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.

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              #Culture

              Day of the Dogs, Part 5: Sorceress of the Forest

              The eagle perched on one of the upper branches. It was a bizarre looking creature, and made him think of a child wearing a dark cloak and a mask.

              Harpy eagle

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

              This is chapter 5 in a multi-chapter novella.  Chapters:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 |

              “You must overcome your fear.” – Mamá

              Home Alone

              Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

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              The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

              OMAR WAS RELEASED FROM THE HOSPITAL two weeks after the attack. Nemesio was gone, and that was a barakah as great as a cloud. The miserable man had taken his things and disappeared, leaving behind only a scattering of old papers and business magazines in the drawers of Omar’s old desk – the desk that Nemesio had appropriated for himself. Omar was going to throw them out but Mamá said no, put them in a box and store it in the closet. Shaking his head, he did so. He did not tell Mamá about the ultimatum he’d given Nemesio.

              Cash money in a canThe next day Mamá discovered that Nemesio had stolen the gold bracelet that had been given to her by her mother, as well as a wad of cash – Mamá’s emergency savings that she kept inside an old Thermos bottle in the kitchen cupboard. She hadn’t known that Nemesio knew about it.

              Mamá was melancholy, but Omar tried to reassure her, telling her, “Whatever Nemesio stole is a small price to be rid of him.” After that they did not speak of him again.

              Omar could finally breathe. Mamá’s mood too improved as the days passed, and he saw her smiling and laughing for the first time in years.

              * * *

              Hospital Nacional, Panama

              Hospital Nacional, Panama

              Mamá had to go back to her job at Farmacias Arrocha. She’d taken time off after the Day of the Dogs, but couldn’t afford to miss any more work.

              On the three days a week when Omar had physical therapy, he took a taxi to Hospital Nacional and back. He got to know many of the nurses and orderlies by name. There was one nurse, an Afro-Latina woman named Leticia, who told Omar he reminded her of her younger brother, who had gone to New York for university. She often brought him chips or brownies from the hospital cafeteria.

              There were days when Omar felt like the ugliest kid alive, with the scars on his face and his limp, and his hair that had still not fully grown in. He looked, he thought, like a gang member. Or an accident victim, which he was, in a way. Then Leticia would come along and give him a wide smile and say, “How’s my favorite young man today? Oh look at you, your hair is coming in curly like Eric Dane. And your scars are fading, I can barely see them. The ladies are going to fall at your feet!” And even though Omar knew it was half baloney, he would stand a little straighter, and his heart felt lighter.

              When he wasn’t at the hospital, he was home alone.

              In past summers, he’d avoided the house during the day, because Mamá was at work and he never knew when Nemesio might be there. He’d spent his days reading at the library, playing football in the street, taking classes at the dojo, and sometimes visiting the masjid.

              So being home alone was a new experience. At first he loved having the whole house to himself. He could limp around in his underwear, turn the mop bucket upside down and pound it like a drum, or soak in the bath for an hour, reading a sci-fi novel. He could watch football with the volume turned up, and eat as much microwaved popcorn as he liked.

              Once the novelty wore off, however, he realized he was lonely. Entire days passed where he neither saw nor spoke to another human being. His mother had purchased him a basic phone, a little flip-model with talk and text only, but he didn’t know anyone’s numbers except his mom at work and the taxi service. He found himself watching the clock, waiting for Mamá to come home. When she finally did walk through the door, he often didn’t want to talk to her. She’d end up throwing her hands in the air and walking away, and he’d be lonelier than ever.

              Beetle Season

              He lay on his back in the dark. It was storming outside, the power was out, and the house was hot. Perspiration beaded his forehead and glued his back to the sheets. The digital clock on his nightstand was dead, but Omar knew it was past midnight. The window was a meter from his bed; one of the geckos that gathered on the outside of the glass, eating mosquitoes and termites, startled him by calling out loudly: “DAP dap dap dap dap dap dap dap.”

              He could smell the sickly-sweet strawberry air freshener that his mother sprayed in her room to help her sleep. Soothed her nerves, she said. Strawberries didn’t grow in Panama, and Omar was not sure he had ever seen one. Did his mother’s air freshener really smell like strawberry, or just some manufacturer’s chemical imitation?

              Golden beetle

              Golden beetle

              It was beetle season and the creatures were everywhere, to the point that he could sometimes hear them scurrying about his room at night. There were common black beetles, striped beetles, huge brown hercules beetles, and once he’d even seen a golden beetle, gleaming in the dark. He’d once seen a TV show about Bogotá’s Museo de Oro, and the beetle looked like one of those golden artifacts, come to life.

              Sometimes a beetle would end up helpless on its back and the ants would swarm out and devour it. Omar knew the feeling.

              Sleep was a torment. No matter which side he lay on, there was pain. He spent many summer nights like this, staring up at the ceiling, trying to think of something other than the throbbing of his wounds. All too often he found himself reliving the Day of the Dogs. What if he hadn’t gone? What if he’d forced Tameem to stop hassling the dogs? What if they’d taken a different route? Why had no one helped him? Was he stupid for trying to fight those two dogs alone? But what else could he have done?

              He’d told Hani that the past was gone. A lo hecho, pecho. But he couldn’t silence the self-recriminations, especially at night, when his body was exhausted and in pain. Ramadan was here, but he could not fast, and that shamed and angered him. He had not missed a Ramadan fast since he started at eight years old. He was in and out of the hospital, going through one procedure after another. A physical therapist worked with him three days a week, putting him through stretching and strength-building exercises. Omar wanted to know when he could resume karate training. The doctors said years, possibly.

              Pain stalked his days and haunted his nights. It was a strange thing, to live with constant pain. He felt stretched out, like a rubber band about to break. He couldn’t concentrate, and was irritable all the time.

              The doctors prescribed pain medication, but Omar remembered Toyo, a short, beefy man with the images of Catholic saints tattooed on his fingers. He’d been a brown belt at the dojo, one level above Omar at the time. Toyo had been tough, not only in the dojo but in life. One of those guys who grew up scrapping. Then he had a motorcycle accident and injured his back. In the wake of that he became addicted to painkillers, and when the doctors cut him off he switched to street drugs, so it was said. Omar watched Toyo waste away week by week until his skin hung on his frame like wet laundry on a line. Then he stopped coming. Some said he was living on the street. Others said he’d gone back to Santiago, where his grandparents were from.

              Omar never wanted that to happen to him, so he took the medications only when the discomfort became severe.

              Other times, when the sun was shining and his pain was dulled, he felt confident, and knew that he had done exactly what he had to do that day, and that Allah would take care of him, and guide him where he must go.

              This was not one of those times. Lying there in his bed, sweating like a runner in a relay race – except that he couldn’t run, and had no one to pass the baton to – he felt like his breath was trapped within him, unmoving, growing hotter by the moment. He needed to cool down. He should get up, rinse the sweat off and splash some cold water on his face.

              Stiffly, painfully, he swung his legs over the side, began to walk toward the bathroom – and stepped on something living. It crunched wetly beneath his foot, but before it died, it bit him. He gave a muffled groan – Nemesio’s fist-first training against crying out loud still in effect – and sat on the floor. He’d stepped on a beetle, of course, and though it was nearly obliterated, a few of its legs still twitched, and its antennae waved. Omar’s foot pulsed with pain.

              Sitting there on the floor in the lightless room, with the rain finally beginning to tire of its assault, Omar cried.

              E-Commerce For Idiots

              A Saturday morning in July. He sat at the kitchen table, poring over a book titled, “E-Commerce for Idiots.” Mamá was trying to expand her makeup business. She’d always bought goods imported from Hong Kong and South Korea, but she’d recently started her own line of organic makeup, made from sustainable Panamanian forest products. She called it Puro Panameño.

              The problem was that Puro Panameño products were expensive, because of the cost of sourcing the ingredients. Mamá’s usual customers were working class Panamanian women who could not afford these products. She had to find a way to reach middle and upper class women.

              Mamá thought an ecommerce website would be the key, so here Omar sat, in a kitchen that looked like a storeroom, with boxes filled with raw ingredients, bottles, shipping labels and packaging stickers. His mother, who had the day off work, sat on the floor, cutting boxes open. She wore black sweat pants and a colorful Kuna blouse, hand-woven with a striking mola in the shape of a fish. Bits of cardboard clung to her long black hair. Her face was tired and sweaty.

              Eventually she’d have to lease a proper manufacturing space, but they were a long way from that. Orders were barely trickling in. It was deeply discouraging.

              Omar was trying to figure out how to place an advertisement on a social media website, and target it to a specific group of Panamanian viewers. He sat back and exhaled loudly, running his fingers through his curly hair, which had finally grown back after being shaved in the hospital.

              His mother looked up. “You want something to eat?”

              “What do we have?”

              She gave an apologetic head tilt. “Tuna, crackers, peanut butter, rice, bananas. The usual.”

              Omar grimaced. If he ate any more tuna he’d grow fins. Between the funds Mamá had invested in these new products, and the cash Nemesio had stolen, they were broke, with hardly enough money for food.

              Staring through the barred window, watching a man selling single cigarettes in the street outside their home, his eyes wandered over their little yard, with its neat flower beds that his mother had planted, and the wide acacia tree that shaded the house in the mornings. Though his eyes were on the tree, his mind was elsewhere. He still received phone calls from reporters wanting to interview him. He’d always declined, partly because he didn’t have the energy, and partly because it was intimidating. What if his tongue got tied? What if he ended up looking foolish?

              War or Death

              Suddenly his eyes focused on the tree, and what he was seeing there. His mouth fell open in astonishment. His mother, busy with her work, did not notice. Omar closed his mouth, opened it again. “Mamá,” he said. “The tree. Look, Mamá.”

              “Is it the neighbor’s cat again?” she said testily. “The silly thing can stay up there for all I-”

              “No,” Omar broke in. He grabbed his cane and stood, pointing. “It’s a harpy eagle.” He gaped at it. The national bird of Panama. According to Brother Mamdooh, his biology instructor, there were only two hundred breeding pairs in all of Panama.

              Harpy eagle

              The harpy eagle

              The eagle perched on one of the upper branches of the acacia, partly hidden in the foliage. It was looking off to the north, so he saw it in profile. The creature was massive, maybe 100 centimeters tall, with a gray head and a long, hooked beak, and wearing a tall gray crest. The upper body was charcoal gray, the belly white, and the massive black legs sported curved black talons the size of meat hooks.

              He’d seen photos, of course, but had never imagined he’d see one in person. It was a bizarre looking creature, and made him think of a child wearing a dark cloak, a hood and a mask. A chill ran up his spine, and he shivered.

              His mother leaped to her feet, scattering a pile of small metal canisters filled with pigments. She looked where Omar was pointing, then put a hand to her face, half covering her eyes. “La curandera del bosque,” she breathed. The sorceress of the forest. “Don’t look at it!” She reached out and put a hand over Omar’s eyes.

              He pulled away, grinning. “What are you doing?” He looked back at the harpy and now it was gazing directly at him. It gave a loud squawk, and Omar had the sense that it was in fact speaking to him, communicating something.

              His mother cried, “No!” then ran to the window and pulled the cord to drop the blinds, cutting off the view of the eagle. She said, “La ilaha il-Allah,” then sat at the table, closed her eyes and began to chant, rocking back and forth. She spoke in Ngäbere, the language of her people, and Omar could only understand a few words.

              He sat beside her, gripped her forearm. “Mamá! What’s wrong?”

              When she opened her eyes, they were liquid with fear. “The águila arpía is the curandera del bosque. She is the queen of the forest, while the jaguar is the king. When the curandera speaks, it means war is coming, or death, or both.”

              Omar shook his head. “We’re Muslims. We don’t believe in all that. Second, I’ve already been to war. I faced death and survived.”

              Mamá’s eyes, locked on his, went wide with surprise. “You might be right.” She jumped up again, and opened the blinds. The eagle was gone. Omar watched with amazement as his mother dashed into her bedroom and came out with her sneakers. She almost never wore these. She slipped them on, tied a scarf around her hair, and ran outside. Omar followed as well as he could, limping and leaning on his cane, and found her walking around the base of the tree, looking at the ground. Then, to his further amazement, she reached up for a branch, dug her sneaker toes into an old knothole in the tree trunk, and began to climb.

              “Mamá! You’ll fall.”

              She made no reply, but continued to climb, and in fact she moved with swift agility, as if she’d been clambering up trees all her life. Her small form moved higher, until she reached the branch where the harpy had been sitting. After a moment she cried out in triumph.

              When she dropped to the ground she held up a single long feather, gray with black stripes. Her face bore a wide smile. “You were right. La curandera left this as a gift, in honor of your courage. But it is also a challenge.” She held out the feather.

              Omar took it. The feather was half as long as his forearm. “What’s the challenge?”

              “You must overcome your fear. Then your status as a warrior will be acknowledged by the jaguar and eagle throne, and you will be ready for the crown.”

              “What crown?”

              “You are nobility, remember? My father is king of the Ngäbe.”

              “Oh yeah. But isn’t there, like, a whole gang of people in line in front of me? And aren’t you exiled?”

              His mother gave a noncommittal grunt. “Yes, that is a problem.”

              “What am I supposed to overcome my fear of, anyway?”

              “That is for you to decide. I want you to wear the feather around your neck always. It will protect you.”

              “We don’t believe that, Mamá. Only Allah can protect us.” Seeing the look of dismay on his mother’s face, he added, “I’ll frame it and hang it on my wall. Not for protection, just decoration.”

              She seemed satisfied with that.

              All this reminded Omar of something. “When I was in the hospital, I had a dream of an old woman who sang over me and gave me something bitter to drink. A Ngäbe woman.”

              “It was not a dream. She was a krägä bianga. She healed you.”

              “The doctors healed me.”

              Mamá shook her head. “The krägä bianga healed you. The doctors helped.”

              Like Father, Like Son

              “How do you people get my number?” Omar’s mother said into her mobile phone. “He’s not interested. Do you know how many-”

              “Let me.” Omar took the phone. The man on the line was from La Prensa. He wanted to conduct an in-person interview and take photos.

              “Will you pay us?”

              “No. We don’t do that. We feel it compromises the integrity of the interview.”

              Omar thought. The memory of the harpy eagle, and the challenge it presented, was still bright in his mind. He must overcome his fear, his mother said. He’d avoided publicity so far, but he had an idea. Maybe there was an opportunity here.

              “I’ll do it.”

              Spanish newspapersThe reporter came to the house. He was bearded and middle aged, and spoke to Omar with great respect. There were the expected questions about the dog attack: Why did you try to help your schoolmate instead of running away? What went through your mind when the dogs attacked you? Do you regret intervening like you did? Are you angry at the owner of the dogs? Have you spoken to him?

              From there the questions became more personal. Omar’s childhood and parents. When Omar explained that his father had been killed trying to stop a robbery, the reporter seemed pleased and excited. Omar stiffened with anger. The reporter must have sensed this, because he began to stammer. “I mean, it’s a tragedy of course…”

              Finally came the question Omar had hoped for. When the reporter asked him how he was spending his time this summer, he said, “I’m helping my mom with her organic makeup company, Puro Panameño. It’s the best makeup in the world, made right here in Panama.”

              Two days later, his mother came home from work with two copies of La Prensa. She layed one out on the kitchen table and they looked at it together. Omar’s story was on the front page. The headline read, “Like father, like son: a family of heroes.” Thumbnail photos of Omar’s face and Papa’s face stood side by side. Omar broke into tears. Why had they done that? He went to his room, and did not read the article. Later, he wasn’t even sure why he’d cried. It just caught him off guard, he guessed.

              Nevertheless, when a female reporter from El Siglo called on the house phone the next day, Omar spoke to her and let her interview him over the phone.

              That same day he received a call from TVN Noticiera Estelar, one of the most popular news shows in Panama. This was the first news outlet that actually offered to pay him.

              The day before the interview Mamá pressed a suit that she had purchased for Omar for this occasion. Where she found the money he did not know.

              Off With His Head

              That night he could not sleep at all. His left leg throbbed and ached, and his many scars itched like wildfire. The doctors said the itching was a normal product of healing, and that he must not scratch the wounds, but the sensation drove him mad sometimes. Finally he could not take it. Rising in the dark, he took one of the pain pills the doctor had given him, downed it with a glass of warm tap water, and went back to bed.

               

              Red boxing spiderThe Spiniflex hatchlings were beginning to eat their way out of his body. The pain was blinding, as if he were the centerpiece in a bonfire. The Ruby erupted out of his skin, and blood cascaded from his body, falling in rivers from his chin, his fingertips, his elbows… He fell onto his back, writhing in pain.

              The Ruby spiders massed on his chest, gathering in a V formation, their cilia-covered bodies glistening with his blood. He saw that some had the heads of hedgehogs, and others of flamingos, but no matter what their eyes were all insect eyes, black and mirrored, and all focused on Omar’s face.

              The largest spider stepped to the point of the formation. On its back it bore the shape of a red heart, the kind from a playing card. Pointing one hairy arm at Omar’s face, it cried, “Off with his head!” Its voice was thunderous, rattling Omar’s teeth. At the command, all the spiders produced axes. They were all hooded now, like executioners, and they advanced on Omar’s neck, coming to chop off his head.

               

              He fell out of bed, panting as if he’d run a race, his stomach heaving like he might throw up. He remained on his hands and knees on the tiled floor, gasping for breath, his body drenched in sweat. When would the dreams stop? He shouldn’t have taken the pain medication. “Hasbun-Allahu wa n’em Al-Wakeel,” he said out loud. Allah is sufficient for us and is the best Protector. He felt a sudden urge to call Samia, which was ridiculous. It was the middle of the night, he didn’t have her number, and they weren’t even friends. Not really.

              He rose, washed his entire upper body at the small bathroom sink, and changed the sweat-soaked sheets. His body hurt, but he could tolerate it. He would be okay. “A giant,” Samia had called him once. “You may be short,” she’d said, “but you’re a giant.” He’d be okay. And he’d never read that damned Alice in Wonderland book again.

              Next: Day of the Dogs, Chapter 6: The Curious Sensation of Pity

              Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

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

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              Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

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              #Culture

              Day of the Dogs, Part 4: You Are the Miracle

              Even with one eye I can see you lying here all tight and angry. Do you have any idea what you did? You saved my life. How many people could have done what you did?

              Goat standing on a cow's back

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

              This is chapter 4 in a multi-chapter novella.  Chapters:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 |
              Chapter 5

              Krägä Bianga

              “Fear no one.” – Samia

              Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

              MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

              The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

              Hospital IV bagLIGHTS IN HIS EYES AND PAIN EVERYWHERE… warmth pouring into his veins like liquid honey… his mother’s face close to his, saying his name… darkness…

              His mother and a doctor talking… everything blurry… his face hurt. He tried to touch his face, but his mother grabbed his hand and stopped him… sleep…

              Someone sobbing… why?… pain everywhere in his body. He moaned then fell into darkness…

              A nightmare, hands dragging him down into a well, and at the bottom of the well, sharp teeth and claws. He struggled, until a warm hand took his, and he settled into silence…

              An old woman in a red Ngäbe dress standing over him, singing. Her skin was walnut colored and deeply seamed. Her long ebony hair hung free, falling below her waist. She spooned something into his mouth and he swallowed. It was bitter, but as it slid into his stomach he felt it nourishing and strengthening him. The woman’s night-black eyes stared unblinking into his as she whispered a single word in a language he did not understand. His eyelids came down like shuttered doors, and once again he was asleep…

              The next morning he was somewhat aware. It was the third day after surgery. His mother and a doctor spoke at his bedside. He tried to eat something but could only manage a cup of pudding.

              “There was a woman,” he said, and his voice sounded like radio static. “Singing.”

              His mother touched his forehead. “A krägä bianga. A healer of my people.”

              “But we’re Muslims.”

              “Hush,” Mamá said. “She is a krägä bianga, not a curandera. Medicine, not magic.”

              That evening, Omar’s mind was completely clear for the first time. The doctor spoke to him personally about his surgery and recovery. He was able to eat some solid food. Samia came for a visit as well, and he learned about what had happened to her. At some point, as Samia was speaking, he fell asleep.

              The Old Nightmare

              The fourth day, the old nightmare returned. The spiders.

              Red boxing spiderTHE SPINIFLEX RUBIROSA LARVAE WERE IN HIS BODY, and they were hatching. They ate their way out, chewing through muscle and cartilage, fat and veins, destroying his body as thoroughly as if he’d stepped on a landmine. There was no point calling out for his mother. She was nowhere to be found.

              The spiders burst out through his skin, blood pouring from a thousand wounds, and through a crimson curtain of pain Omar saw that they had the bodies of spiders, but the heads of vicious dogs. Dewed with his blood, they growled, thousands of tiny dog voices joining into a single rumble.

              He rolled onto his back and saw that he lay on the muddy, putrid stretch of beach below the Panama City seawall. The ground was littered with rotting seaweed, plastic bags and used diapers. Above the seawall, the city was burning. Flames engulfed the tall towers, pouring from shattered windows. Smoke darkened the sky. Not a soul could be seen. The metropolis was dying.

              The Spinifex hatchlings advanced up his body toward his face, intending to eat his eyes. Their little dog eyes were solid ruby red, as if filled with blood. Omar thrashed, slapping his own face and crying out in terror.

              Where was Mamá, where was Papá, where were Samia, Halima, Hani, anybody? Anybody anybody the Ruby was killing him…

              Eighty Seven Bites

              “Hey. Wake up.” Someone touched his shoulder.

              Omar’s eyes flew open and he gasped as he shot up to a sitting position in the bed, looking around wildly. His racing heart began to slow as he realized that he was still in the hospital, of course.

              Samia sat in a chair beside his bed, wearing a fluffy gray robe and an orange hijab, and still reading Al-Ghazali’s thematic commentary of the Quran. One side of her face and head were completely bandaged, so he could only see her mouth, nose and one eye. Her skull had been fractured in two places from the attack. The doctors had shaved her hair, she had told him, but she wore her hijab on top of the head bandage, which made her head look about the same as usual.

              “You’re still here,” Omar breathed.

              “Where am I gonna go? Skydiving?”

              Omar’s mother slept next to Samia in a chair, her head tipped back against the wall, her mouth slack. She wore black pants and a dark blouse rather than her traditional dress, with a gray hijab. She looked exhausted, with purple circles beneath her eyes.

              He groaned and sank back. He hurt everywhere. It was not the pain of the Ruby hatchlings burrowing out of his body, but of the wounds from the eighty-seven bites he’d received in the dog attack. It must be almost time for his pain medication.

              He’d been here for five days. When he’d first arrived at the hospital, his organs had been on the verge of shutting down due to massive blood loss. He’d been in surgery that entire first day and halfway through the night, they told him.

              It hurt even to breathe, as he had a tube in his nose to prevent his nasal airway from collapsing, as Dr. Medrano had explained to Omar and his mother. A jaunty, heavyset man with thick black hair, Dr. Medrano had smiled and rocked back and forth on his heels as he detailed Omar’s injuries and the surgeries that had repaired him.

              A stent had been placed under Omar’s left eye. It drained out of his nose to keep his tear duct system from collapsing as well. He’d lost a piece of the upper half of his left ear. He had lines of stitches everywhere, like Frankenstein’s monster. Several parts of his body, including his face, had required primary reconstruction during surgery, to repair or replace flesh and skin that had been torn away. Much of his body was still purple and swollen with bruising. He was receiving aggressive antibiotic treatment to prevent infection from the many deep punctures. His left forearm might never recover to full strength.

              He would require multiple follow-up procedures, including secondary face, hand and calf reconstructions, as well as fat grafting to fill in depressed areas, cartilage grafting to reconstruct his nose, and ongoing scar treatments.

              Goat standing on a cow's back“Hey,” Samia said, interrupting Omar’s morose mental review of his Frankenstein-like reconstruction. Samia had been in his room daily, when she wasn’t in her own. “Remember we were talking about unlikely things? You know what else is unlikely? A goat standing on a cow’s back. But I saw that once.”

              Omar turned his head to look at her. The girl was certifiably crazy. He felt a laugh begin to form inside him, but it hurt to laugh, and it came out sounding like a cross between a chuckle and a moan.

              Bruises

              The sound awakened his mother. She stood with a soft exhalation of, “La ilaha il-Allah.” She came to his bedside and bent over him, gently stroking his cheek, taking care to avoid his injuries. “¿Cómo estás mi amor?”

              Omar began to reply, but then, seeing his mother’s face up close, noticed something. The discolorations beneath her eyes were not the result of exhaustion. They were bruises. Her cheek was bruised as well, and she’d made an effort to conceal it with makeup. She’d been beaten.

              Tio. Omar’s face settled into a hard mask. He seethed, wishing he could leap out of this bed and go thrash the little rat, taking the man apart limb by limb. For a moment these thoughts surprised him, as he had never been inclined to fight back against Nemesio in the past. Something had changed inside him.

              Beating up Nemesio was not the solution, however. Omar had bested him that last time because Nemesio had been drunk. But the two of them fighting sober would turn into an all-out brawl. He needed another solution.

              Mistaking his expression, Mamá said, “Don’t worry, baby. You’ll be back on your feet in no time. You’ll be as strong as ever. And these scars will fade.”

              Omar nodded tightly, saying nothing.

              “I’m going to go to the cafeteria,” Mamá said. “Can I bring you some guava juice?”

              The doctor had prescribed a post-op dietary regimen for Omar, but it was so bland it was like eating paper. Normally Omar would have said yes to some tasty tropical juice, but he was too angry right now.

              “I don’t want anything.”

              Mamá hesitated, looking between him and Samia. “Okay,” she said finally. “I’ll be back soon.”

              When she was gone, Omar spoke to Samia without looking at her. “You should leave now.” His fists were curled into balls beneath the blanket. Seeing the bruise on his mother’s face had brought it all back, pushing his rage to penetrate his very bones. His nightmare of a life just went on and on. Oh, you need something to break up the routine? life said. How about a dog attack? Okay, now back to the daily mess.

              It wasn’t only his foul excuse for an uncle he was angry with, but everyone who was supposed to have been responsible for him, who was supposed to have cared. He resented his mother for not being strong enough to protect herself, or him. The principal and teachers at his school had surely seen the bullying directed at him year after year, and had done nothing. Even his father he blamed for dying and leaving him. Why had his father done that? Why had it been more important to stop the mugging of some stranger on a bus than to survive for his own family? And lastly, Omar blamed himself for being a victim. His father would have expected more from him.

              He had to do something. Life could not continue like this. He heard Sensei Alan saying, “The only failure is the failure to act.” But what could he do here, in this bed, with his body torn half to shreds?

              Fear No One

              “I’ve been reading Surat An-Najm,” Samia said, hefting her book. “You want to hear?”

              He had forgotten she was there. He wiped his tears with jerky motions. “No, I told you-”

              Samia recited:

              “Or has he not been informed of what was in the scriptures of Moses, and Abraham who fulfilled his mission; That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another; And that there is nothing for man but what he strives for; And that his effort will be seen, and then he will be rewarded for it generously?
              And that to your Lord is the final return; And that it is He who makes one laugh and weep; And that it is He who causes death and gives life…”

              A Thematic Commentary on the Quran by Al-Ghazali“Al-Ghazali says,” Samia went on, “that we must recognize Allah’s power over everything, and know that no man can control another’s fate. There is nothing for man but what he strives for. If you want something, make a plan and go after it. Fear no one.”

              “Do I even have to tell you this?” she continued. “Even with one eye I can see you lying here all tight and angry. Do you have any idea what you did? You saved my life. How many people could have done what you did? How many did? Nobody. Only you. You might be short, Omar, but you’re a giant.” A tear ran down one cheek and she wiped it away.

              She finished in Spanish, something she almost never did: “Tu, hermano. Eres el milagro.” You, brother. You are the miracle. Rolling her Spanish r’s hard, sounding almost like Halima, and almost bitter. How strange.

              “Say hasbun-Allahu-wa-n’em-Al-Wakeel.” Samia commanded.

              Omar did so, then Samia stood and shuffled away slowly, one chubby hand grasping her book.

              Omar felt like Samia had taken a hammer and smashed the diamond-hard shell of fury that had encased him, shattering it. She was somehow able to see through his emotional walls as if they did not exist. Was she like this with everyone? And had she really just happened to be reading that surah, or had she chosen it specifically for him?

              Alone in his room, Omar began to think. He was still angry but it was cold anger now, the kind that did not interfere with his ability to reason. Make a plan. The only failure is the failure to act.

              Friends

              When Mamá returned from the cafeteria with cups of mashed potatoes and mac n’ cheese for him – he could only eat soft foods for now – Omar said, “Tell Nemesio to come see me.”

              Mamá looked alarmed. “Why?”

              “Just tell him.”

              “He will not come, I think.”

              “Tell him I know a way to profit from this thing.” He waved a hand to indicate his ravaged body. “I want to consult with him.” That’ll get him here.

              She studied his face uncertainly. “Your friends are here again. The doctor says you are ready for visitors now, but only two at a time, and only ten minutes each.”

              He nodded his head, and his mother and Samia withdrew.

              First in were the three Muhammad sisters, all with large black eyes and rings in their left nostrils. Nadia and Naris were decked out in colorful shalwar khamees outfits,  looking like young mahogany trees hung with bright fabrics for a festival, while Nabila wore jeans, a band t-shirt and hi-top sneakers. One or all of them wore a musky, jasmine-scented perfume that filled the small hospital room.

              Many of the teachers and students at IIAP could not tell the sisters apart, but Omar always could. Nadia was quick to laugh, goofy and wide-eyed, as if constantly surprised. Naris was solemn, and asked hard questions, or gave uninvited criticism. Nabila – she of the band shirts and hi-tops – couldn’t stand still. She danced to her own music, ran when other people walked, and rarely spoke. Even now she was swaying her hips and rotating her hands Bollywood style. She had her own Youtube channel where she showed off dance moves. Omar had heard she was making money with it.

              “I thought it was only supposed to be two at a time.”

              Nadia grinned. “We dazzled them with our triplicate identicalness.”

              “They wanted to know,” Naris said seriously, “if we were Hindu princesses.”

              “Did you tell them you were Muslim princesses?” Omar asked. Nadia giggled, while Naris looked at him solemnly, as if he’d said something profound.

              “We’re sorry about what happened to you and Samia,” Nabila broke in, ceasing her dancing momentarily. “Our family’s been praying for you. Everyone has.”

              “Thanks,” Omar said, and he meant it. “So what’s new?”

              “Árabe Unido beat FCDeeeeee,” Nabila sang, and she did a little dance that ended in a victory pose, her fingers in Vs.

              “Halima and Hani are here to see you too,” Nadia said. “And the principal, and a couple of teachers, and the TV news people.”

              Just the thought of seeing all those people exhausted Omar.

              “And if you’re wondering if Tameem is out there,” Naris added, “he’s not. He wouldn’t dare show his face. He and his coward sidekick Basem.”

              Not surprising. Tameem would never bother visiting him. “Why do you call them cowards?”

              “He was the one who said to run, wasn’t he?”

              “Didn’t you all run too?” Omar was not accusing, just trying to understand.

              Nadia let out an explosive laugh. Naris shot her sister a chiding look, then said, “Yes, but we came back. Tameem and Hani kept going. I think they ran all the way to the main road. We haven’t seen them since the Day of the Dogs.”

              When Omar raised his eyebrows she added, “That’s what we’re calling it now. You know what, I heard they were laughing about it later. If I ever see them again I’ll stick kebab skewers in their eyes.”

              Omar sighed and adjusted his head on the pillow. His pain level was increasing, and he was tired.

              “Do you want us to leave you alone?”

              Omar thanked them for coming, and asked them to send in Halima and Hani. He was exhausted just from this short visit, but he needed to see those two. His memories of the attack were a mayhem of images and sensory impressions as overwhelming as a fireworks show. Teeth and claws, pain, slick blood on his skin, the hot metallic taste in his mouth, the smell of dog fur, the sound of Samia screaming, others shouting… a knife and a gun. People standing around as if they’d just witnessed a massacre. And Halima and Hani right there, above him. He needed to talk to someone who’d been there.

              Panama Rainforest

              Halima and Hani would not meet his eyes. Hani with his long face and nose that reminded Omar of a horse; shoulder-length greasy hair, and persistent acne. Halima, as lovely as a daydream, her eyes as green as the Panamanian rainforest.

              Omar remembered his fantasy of marrying Halima one day. If she’d been out of his league before, how about now? He was a mangled mess.

              He tried to put such useless thoughts out of his head. “What’s the matter with you two?”

              “We’re sorry about what happened,” Halima said. “I’m the one who pressured you to come. If I hadn’t done that, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”

              “If you hadn’t done that, Samia might be dead,” Omar countered, then immediately realized he’d said the wrong thing by reminding them that they had done nothing to save Samia.

              “It was all Tameem’s fault,” Hani said, glancing up to meet Omar’s eyes, then looking away again.

              Omar said nothing.

              “I know what you’re thinking,” Hani went on. “I’ve been following Tameem like a robot. You and I were friends, and I abandoned you. I’m sorry. I know he’s no good. I can’t explain, man. He’s rich, and everyone admires him, and when you’re around him you feel important. But I’m done with him now. My eyes are open.”

              “Hani,” Omar said kindly. “My memories are mixed up, but I remember you standing there at the end with a bloody knife in your hand. What happened?”

              “Hani killed the one dog,” Halima said fiercely. “And the cop shot the other.”

              “But I ran away first,” Hani said dejectedly.

              “You were there when it counted. Whatever happened in the past, a lo hecho, pecho. And you, Halima, are a good soul. I remember you standing beside me when everyone else ran away. The Day of the Dogs is done. Let’s look forward.”

              He began to realize that he had changed. In his mind he heard Samia saying, “You might be short, but you’re a giant.” He was not speaking as one in need, but as one who held power, and therefore possessed the ability to forgive. He felt a core of iron within himself, yet strangely enough, from that iron flowed benediction. Cowardly Tameem and Basem didn’t matter. Omar saw now how meaningless they were, how petty.

              He thought of the verses of Surat An-Najm: That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another... And that it is He who makes one laugh and weep…

              Let Tameem and Basem bear their own burdens, laugh their own laughter, cry their own tears. Omar would be his own man, in the universe of his own soul.

              A nurse came with Omar’s medication, and instructed his visitors to leave. On the way out, Halima turned back with a quizzical expression and said, “Day of the Dogs?”

              Omar shrugged. “That’s what we’re calling it now.”

              Get Out

              He was awakened by a rough thumping on his shoulder. Nemesio stood there with his short, barrel-body and gold teeth, dressed in an expensive but rumpled yellow suit, the broken veins in his nose betraying his alcoholism. His breath stank and his cheeks were shadowed with a week’s growth of beard. A fat canary on a bender.

              “What’s this nonsense ‘bout making money?” Nemesio demanded. “You thinking to sue? The dog owner is a policia nacional captain. Sue him, you bring a heap of trouble on your head. Stupid boy.”

              In spite of Nemesio’s words, the man must have thought the possibility of a lawsuit held some promise, or he wouldn’t have come. Omar was going to have to disappoint him.

              “You know,” Omar said casually. “The police captain came to see me. The one whose dogs attacked me.” This was not true, but Nemesio would not know that. “He was extremely apologetic. He said if I ever need anything, I should only ask.”

              “Ah, I see.” Nemesio nodded knowingly and stroked his chin. “You wanna ask for compensation for the attack.”

              “No. I want to ask him to investigate the fire that burned down your gas station.”

              “Whaaa?” Nemesio’s eyes bugged and his cheeks turned beet red. He seized Omar’s bandaged wrist. “Watchu talking, you little bastard?”

              Omar ignored the pain flaring in his wrist from the puncture wounds there. He kept his tone calm, and began a carefully rehearsed speech. “I seem to recall that gas prices were at rock bottom around the time your station burned. And you were always complaining about your employees stealing from you. You couldn’t have been making much of a profit. What did the fire inspectors say? An electrical problem? Did you bribe someone to say that?” This was pure speculation on his part, but he saw Nemesio’s eyes widen and knew he’d struck pay dirt. “Then you had a huge insurance payout, but you didn’t restore the station. You abandoned it. I think the police captain would find all this very interesting. And you don’t have anything left to bribe him with, do you? You’ll end up rotting in La Joya for fraud.”

              Still gripping Omar’s wrist, Nemesio raised a fist.

              “Go ahead,” Omar said. “The captain can add assault to your charges.”

              Nemesio released Omar’s wrist and stepped back, looking as if he’d just released a viper. His chin trembled and a speck of spittle dribbled from his bottom lip as he spoke. “Watchu want?”

              Man walking away, leaving Omar brought his voice to a low hiss, letting some of his rage show. “I know you’ve been beating my mother again, Nemesio.” Normally he would never dare to call the man by his given name as it would bring a terrible beating, but now he spat it like a curse. “I want you gone, today. Pack your things, leave and never come back. If I ever see you again I will beat you to a pulp myself. If you don’t think I can, wait and see. Then I’ll report you to the police.”

              “I-” Nemesio stuttered. “I don’t got nowhere to go.”

              “That’s your problem. Leave today, you understand? And don’t you dare touch my mother again. Now get out.”

              Next: Day of the Dogs, Chapter 5:  Sorceress of the Forest

              * * *

              Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

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

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              Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

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              #Culture

              Day of the Dogs, Part 3 – The Attack

              The dog spun and attacked Omar. The beast was lightning quick, and before he could get his arms up he felt the doberman’s teeth sink into his face…

              Doberman pinscher

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

              This is chapter 3 in a multi-chapter novella.  Chapters:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

              Stop Pitying Yourself

              “I believe in six unlikely things every day before breakfast.” – Samia

              Playa Santa Clara, Panama
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              Playa Santa Clara, Panama

              OMAR DID NOT FIND A SEASHELL. At one point he heard the sound of muffled sobbing, and followed it to where Samia sat in her cabana. She had her face tucked into her knees, her forehead pressing against the book she’d been reading. When Omar said, “What’s the matter?” she looked up with a startled, tear-streaked face.

              “Nothing.” She wiped her face with her scarf.

              Omar shifted his weight and looked at the ground, unwilling to either press her or leave her alone.

              “My parents are getting divorced,” she said finally.

              “Oh. Sorry to hear that. I thought you guys were a perfect little Islamic family.”

              “Yes, well. Things are not always what they seem.”

              That sure was the truth. “Will you go back to Malaysia?”

              “No. My dad’s going back. I’ll stay with my mom.”

              That struck Omar as odd. Wasn’t it usually it was the man who traveled to work and the woman who accompanied him?

              Seeming to read his mind, Samia explained: “She’s an executive for Petronas. She interfaces with oil company executives from all over Latin America. My dad owned an electronics shop back home, which is fine, you know, it’s a good, halal business. I just think…” Her mouth twisted to one side as she tried to hide her distress. “I think he was happier back home.”

              Omar pointed with his lips to her book. “What are you reading?”

              “That’s so Panamanian. Pointing with your mouth.”

              “I am Panamanian.”

              A Thematic Commentary on the Quran by Al-Ghazali“Oh yeah. It’s Al-Ghazali’s thematic commentary of the Quran. Hey, can I give you a little advice?”

              Uh-oh. Omar’s shields went up. Samia always thought she knew best. Before he could say anything, she went on: “You should stop pitying yourself.”

              He glared. “Excuse me?”

              “How long have I known you? You think I don’t see you’re miserable? I know there’s something wrong.”

              “That’s not your business.”

              Samia sighed. “Would you listen? I’m trying to say that you’re so strong and smart. Almost as smart as me.” She grinned. “Whatever’s going on, you’ll get through it if you stop pitying yourself and just keep on working. You’ll come out on top. You’ll see.”

              “Unlikely.” She sounded like Sensei Alan, but he’d never give her the satisfaction of telling her so.

              “Is it? I believe in six unlikely things every day before breakfast.” Seeing his quizzical look, she added, “Halima told me you were reading Alice in Wonderland.”

              He wasn’t reading it. And if he recalled correctly, the White Queen believed in six impossible things before breakfast. But whatever. “That’s fine for you and Alice. You don’t have my life.”

              “Oh really?” Her voice was sharp. “Where’s your imaan, akhi? Allah always makes a way, don’t you know? You want to know something else unlikely? I’m unlikely!”

              “What do you mean?” he muttered, chastised.

              “One: My family comes from Kedah province, on the coast of Malaysia. On December 29, 2004, my father, who was not my father yet, was invited by my grandfather to go sailing on a boat he had bought. They were boarding the boat when my father received a mobile call from the wife of his best school friend. The man had been in a motorcycle accident and was in the hospital at Jitra, an inland city. My father said goodbye to my grandfather and went to see his friend. One hour later, you know what happened?”

              Omar shook his head.

              Indian Ocean tsunami

              Indian Ocean tsunami

              “The Indian Ocean tsunami. One hour later! You may have heard of it? It killed a quarter of a million people, including my grandfather, who was never found.”

              Omar made a sympathetic face, not knowing what to say. “I’m sorry,” he managed.

              “Two.” Counting on her fingers. “My father’s taxi was buried in mud, and he should have died, but the mud left his face exposed. He was able to breathe, and to lick rainwater that ran down the inside of the crushed car.

              “Three: He was rescued by a volunteer relief worker. She was my mother. Soon they married.

              “Four: My mother’s pregnancy was difficult. The doctors said she might lose the baby. I was born premature. In fact I was not breathing, but the doctors revived me.

              “Five: I have type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

              “Six: When I was five I had bacterial meningitis. My body didn’t respond to treatment and at one point the doctors told my parents I would die by morning. I remember hallucinating that the doctor was a wolf with a muzzle and huge black eyes. I tried to scream but didn’t have the breath. It was terrifying. My mother told me later that she spent that entire night making dua by my bedside. In the morning my fever broke and by noon I was walking. No one could explain it.”

              Seven.” She paused, touching index finger to index finger, then shrugged. “I don’t have a seven. But my point is, you say it’s unlikely that your life might improve? My entire existence is unlikely. But Allah does what He wills.”

              Omar hadn’t known any of that, and didn’t know what Samia was trying to tell him.

              Samia snapped her fingers. “I’m saying, the unlikely happens every day. And you know what else? Ramadan is coming. Ramadan is about not only the unlikely, but the impossible. Miracles. Angels pouring out of Jannah by the millions. The battle of Badr. Think about that, akhi. Say hasbun-Allahu-wa-n’em-Al-Wakeel.”

              Omar said it.

              “Go back to your wanderings.”

              The Gate Opens

              It was funny how people kept telling him to go away. What was he, a bad smell?

              At noon, when it was too hot to be out in the sun, the kids ate at a beach restaurant that served only fish and chips. Omar didn’t have enough money for that, but that was okay. He sat in a cabana eating the peanut butter sandwich from home. It was smashed into a trapezoid and the bread was soggy, but it tasted fine.

              They prayed Dhuhr in congregation, with Tameem leading. Omar didn’t mind. It was not about who stood in front, but about his personal connection with Allah. Though sometimes he wondered about that connection. Not about Allah, but about his own heart. The Creator felt distant sometimes, and Omar knew that was his own fault. But he didn’t know how to fix it.

              The group headed back up the road at two o’clock, wanting to make it to the highway before the afternoon rains came. As they passed the house with the vicious dog, the creature was nowhere in sight. Tameem kicked the gate and shouted, “Oye perro estupido!” and the dog came running, barking like firecrackers going off.

              Doberman pinscher

              Doberman pinscher

              This time a second dog, a tall doberman pinscher with alert ears and a black muzzle, rounded the house as well and sped toward them on the other’s heels. Drool flew from its mouth as it growled and bared its terrifying teeth. Again the kids screamed and ran, except for Omar, who only shook his head and trotted away quickly, and Samia, who was not a fan of running.

              A few houses further up the street they stopped and watched a massive silver-colored 4×4 truck cruising down the road. It might have been three meters tall, jacked up on oversized tires, with chrome running boards, and a top-mounted light bar that could probably turn night into day. On the front were bull bars that could be used to ram another vehicle.

              As it passed they saw it bore the logo of the National Police, and had a rifle mounted in the cab, though the driver was not wearing a police uniform. He was a youngish man, in his late twenties maybe, sporting shades and a cowboy hat. Spanish gangster rap battered its way out of the truck’s speakers. Heading right for the awestruck kids, the truck blasted its horn. The kids jumped out of the way, a few of them cursing the driver.

              The truck stopped in front of the house with the dogs, and the driver must have hit a remote control, because the gate began to roll quietly open.

              The two dogs came flying out, snarling, and charged straight at the kids. The German shepherd was in the lead, its large fangs flashing white in the sun, but the doberman was gaining ground. Both dogs were enraged, in full attack mode. The driver yelled at the dogs to stop, but they were so inflamed by Tameem’s provocations that they ignored him.

              The hair raised up on Omar’s arms and neck. He stood rooted, unsure what to do. Watching the dogs come was like watching a pair of nuclear torpedoes shooting at him. Living torpedoes of bone and claw, muscle and sinew, burning brain and vengeful heart. Their feet flew across the dirt, and their eyes were filled with rage.

              The Attack

              SAMIA HAD STOPPED TO CATCH HER BREATH after her brief trot and was now at the tail end of the group, closest to the dogs, with Omar just ahead of her, and Halima beyond him. All the kids froze utterly for one second, as if they were playing a game of red light green light where the losers would be shot dead. In that numb, dumb moment, the dogs covered half the distance from the gate to their motionless victims. Then Basem made a wordless whimpering sound, and Hani whispered, “Oh my God.” One of the girls screamed.

              Halima started to say, “Nobody run,” but was cut off as Tameem bellowed, “RUN!”

              Omar shot a glance in the direction of the group and saw they were all fleeing in a panic, led by Tameem and Basem. Only Halima was hesitating. He turned back toward the dogs and saw instantly that Samia wasn’t going to make it. She was jogging toward him but her run was little more than a fast waddle. The dogs were almost on her as they blazed forward with ears tucked and teeth bared. They would kill her.

              He could not let that happen. It was not even a decision – there was no decision to make. The believers are a single body. The only failure is the failure to act. He ran toward Samia and the charging dogs.

              Seeing him running toward them, the dogs hesitated, slowing just enough to buy Omar the time he needed. Samia’s eyes were wide with terror, and she looked like she might have a heart attack.

              Just as Omar reached Samia, the German shepherd leaped at her from behind. Omar tackled Samia, taking her to the ground. The dog sailed over them where they lay in the dirt. He shrugged off his backpack and thrust it at Samia, shouting, “Shield your face!” Then he turned toward the other charging dog and started to rise, bringing his arms up defensively, with a crazy idea that he could use his copper bracelet to block the dog’s teeth – then the animal was on him, crashing into him with the force of a sledgehammer, knocking him back to the ground.

              German shepherd

              German shepherd

              Pain exploded in his forearm as the dog’s fangs stabbed deeply into his flesh. He grunted in shock, but remained clear-headed. Falling back to his years of karate training, he used his free arm to deliver powerful elbow strikes to the dog’s nose and eyes. Not releasing its bite, it snarled and shook its head as if trying to rip the meat loose from Omar’s arm. He screamed as he felt the muscles in his forearm begin to tear.

              The doberman, meanwhile, had overshot. It turned and charged back. Samia lay on the ground just behind him and to the side, calling out loudly for help. Goaded by her cries, the doberman aimed not for Omar but for Samia.

              As the doberman raced past him, Omar shot out his good arm and made a desperate grab for the dog’s spiked collar. He caught it! But the dog’s momentum stretched his arm out until he felt something pop in his elbow. Between that and the spikes digging into his hand, he could not hold on. The doberman pulled free, and an instant later Samia cried out again. This time it was not a cry of fear, but a chilling wail of pain, shock and horror. Omar turned his head to look. Oh God. Samia must have begun to roll away before the dog reached her, because the beast straddled her side, and was biting the top of her head as she clutched the backpack tightly to her face.

              Desperately, with every shred of strength he possessed, Omar struck the German shepherd repeatedly in the face with his wrist, using his copper bracelet as a weapon. Dazed, the dog released its bite and stood over him, swaying. Anguished over Samia and given fortitude by this outrage, Omar pushed, flinging the monster off him. He turned and scrabbled toward Samia. The doberman straddled her, not biting once and clamping down like the shepherd had done to him, but biting repeatedly about her head and shoulders, and sometimes biting the backpack as well.

              The neighborhood Omar lived in was poor, and there were plenty of stray dogs, many of them hungry, rabid or vicious. He’d seen dog attacks, and knew what to do. He seized the doberman’s sleek black tail, and pulled it backward and up as hard as he could. The big black dog gave a yelp of surprise as it was dragged away from Samia’s weeping form. Then it spun and attacked Omar. The beast was lightning quick, and before he could get his arms up he felt the doberman’s teeth sink into his face, penetrating his forehead and cheek. At the same moment the German shepherd, recovered now, bit his calf, its teeth sinking into the muscle like the jaws of a bear trap. The pain was so shocking that he could not even draw a breath to scream.

              They were both on him. He rolled and fought as best he could, punching, kicking, clawing at the dogs’ faces, even biting the shepherd in the neck at one point. And the whole time the dogs were biting him. He felt wet all over, and knew it was his own blood.

              The blood in his eyes blinded him, so that he saw the world faintly, through a sheet of stinging red. He tasted it in his mouth, coppery and hot, along with the rank dog fur he’d bitten off. Pain burst and roiled everywhere in his body. He’d been in pain before, he’d been beaten and bruised and had even fractured bones. But nothing like this. He was baking like a piece of beef in an oven, transforming into something unrecognizable. They were killing him.

              Some of the kids must have come back to help, because he heard voices shouting and crying, men and women, but above them all he heard Halima very near, screaming, “What do I do, Omar? What do I do?”

              “Knife,” he managed to croak. “Hani’s knife.” Then louder, mustering his panic and fright, “Get me Hani’s knife!”

              The dogs continued to bite and tear at his flesh, and he fought, but his strength was giving out. His arms wouldn’t work properly. Then the doberman yelped in pain and was gone, pulled off him. The shepherd was still on top of him, its teeth deep in his upper arm. Omar put a thumb in its eye and it yelped and released his arm, then went for his throat. He turned, and felt its teeth sink deeply into his shoulder. His body went slack. He couldn’t fight anymore. Cold seeped into his body and mind. Even the pain was beginning to recede.

              Drifting Out to Sea

              A tremendous blast rang through the air. The shepherd wailed in agony and released his shoulder. Another blast, and the dog was gone. Not on him anymore. He heard terrible, anguished weeping, and realized after a moment that it was him. Tears flooded his eyes, clearing the blood, and he saw people standing over him, their faces registering horror and disbelief. Halima and Hani were closest. Hani’s knife was in his hand, and the blade was bloody to the hilt. His eyes were wide with shock.

              A man in a cowboy hat also stood over him, and Omar saw that the man was carrying a pistol, and that smoke wisped from the barrel. The man’s face was drained of blood, white as a bone. Who was he? Omar couldn’t think. He wasn’t even sure where he was anymore, or why he was lying here on the ground, burning with agony and covered in something wet.

              “Samia,” he managed to say, and wasn’t sure why he said that. Then his body began to shake. His teeth chattered and his limbs convulsed, and he couldn’t stop. He was cold, and didn’t understand why. Panama was not supposed to be cold. His heart raced and he could hear it thrumming in his ears, pulsing and crashing like ocean waves.

              He was half-conscious through all that followed. Hands doing something to him. Sirens. Someone wrapping him in something and lifting him up. Moaning rhythmically, asking for his father. A ride in the back of a vehicle, rocking. The pain going away, ebbing like the tide, to be replaced with a feeling of warmth and comfort, and a deep drowsiness. Something over his face, forcing air into his lungs.

              Then he was gone, lying on the deck of a sailboat in the Indian Ocean, drifting out to sea, borne on the back of a giant, warm wave. He would live on this sailboat, and Allah would provide for him as He had provided for Maryam, and he would be content. He would sail the world with Alice and Halima and Niko and the white rabbit, and…

              Next: Day of the Dogs, Chapter 4:  You Are the Miracle

              * * *

              Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

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

              Avatar

              Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

              Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

              MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

              The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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