Connect with us

#Culture

Day of the Dogs, Part 15:  DNA Doesn’t Lie

The Mercedes’s engine came to life with a roar. Omar grabbed Samia around the waist and pulled her between two cars. She cried out in fear, and her cane clattered to the ground.

Published

Map of the Ashanti Empre

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

This is chapter 6 in a multi-chapter novella.  Chapters:  Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14

“I’m blind, not an infant.” – Samia

Pinwheel

Bubur cha cha
Help Us End Ramadan with 1000 Supporters!

Alhamdulillah, we're at 900 supporters. Help us get to 1000 supporters before Ramadan ends. 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.

Bubur cha cha

They ate delivery pizza for dinner, as they often did on Mondays. It was a consolation prize. We have to go back to work and school, but it’s pizza night! For dessert Samia prepared bubur chacha, a Malaysian concoction made with coconut milk, sago, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, and black-eyed peas. It normally included pandan leaves, but they were not available in Panama, so Samia substituted cilantro, as her mother had taught her.

It was delicious, with the yams and potatoes giving it texture, the coconut milk adding creaminess, and the cilantro giving it a touch of lightness and aroma.

After the family prayed Maghreb, Omar scooped a generous portion of bubur chacha into a snack container with a snap-on lid, and told Samia he was going to visit Tio Melo.

“Will you bring apple empanadas?” Nur asked. He and his mother still sat on the floor where they’d prayed Maghreb, saying dhikr on a sabha. Nur, who leaned on his mother’s lap, would count eleven, and Samia would count eleven.

“You like Tio Melo’s empanadas?”

“You always buy sweets after being grouchy.”

“After being a Team Magma, you mean?”

Nur rolled his eyes. “You’re too old to say that, Papá.”

“Oye cariño,” Omar said to Samia, then hesitated. He didn’t want to tell her about Nemesio. There was no need to frighten her. The man would almost certainly be caught soon. Wasn’t that how these things always ended? You’d see an alert about a prison escape, and a few hours later the escapees would be caught stumbling through the woods, or hiding in a roadside ditch.

“Hmm?”

“Don’t open the gate for strangers.”

Her fingers paused on the sabha. “I never do. Why are you saying that?”

“Dangerous times, that’s all. Didn’t you hear on the radio about the prison escape?”

Samia giggled. “The escaped prisoners are planning to hide in our bathroom.”

Omar gave an annoyed cluck of his tongue and headed for the door.

Pinwheel “Papá!” Nur ran to his bedroom and returned with a little pinwheel he’d made from paper, a straw and a pushpin, and had colored himself. “For the gate.”

Nur always said that the high steel gate that fronted their property looked scary, like the gateway to the final challenge in The Neverending Story. He liked to tape drawings or homemade decorations to the gate, so visitors would not be frightened off.

Omar taped the pinwheel to one of the spikes atop the gate. Right away the toy began turning, its spinning blades showing green, red, yellow and pink. Omar smiled. He hoped Nur would always retain his creative impulse, and his desire to bring cheer to the world. Part of that would be up to Omar himself. He must never let himself become the kind of overbearing father who thought that parenting consisted of breaking down his child and forcing him into an unnatural mold.

He found himself wondering what kind of parent Ivana had been. The fun kind, probably. Immature perhaps, but exciting and unpredictable. He’d always thought that Fuad’s best move would be to divorce her. Now he wasn’t so sure, even if the crazy woman had shot him.

Brains Like An Elephant

You couldn’t leave your car unwatched in this neighborhood, so he parked right in front of the shop. There were not many proper grocery stores in this barrio, and Tio Melo had always stocked a variety of vegetables and fruits, along with prepared foods like arroz con pollo, empanadas filled with chicken or beef, and cheese-stuffed yuca fritters. The result was people flocked to his shop.

Panama mini market The original shack had been torn down, replaced with a properly constructed building. In the process, the formerly long and unwieldy name had been reduced to Panama Viejo Snacks and Lottery. Omar was glad. It had always seemed wrong to have his father’s name on a store that sold lottery tickets and beer.

The old wooden bench that had sat out in front was now replaced with four concrete benches, and locals could always be found hanging out, chatting, reading the newspaper and eating snacks. Tio Melo had five employees working the aisles and registers, and Melo himself was usually in the kitchen making prepared foods, or in a little office in the back.

Omar waved to the workers as he weaved through the aisles. A chubby young man with a large portwine birthmark on his cheek, so that people called him Gorby – short for Gorbachev – was stocking toiletries.

“Hey Gorby,” Omar called out. “What’s the word?”

“Father Bayano,” Gorby replied, and crossed himself. “Tio Melo is In the office. Hallelujah.”

Omar rolled his eyes. Gorby had once made a dirty joke about what Tio Melo did in the office. Omar had told him forcefully that he didn’t like such jokes, and that people must respect their elders. Gorby had concluded that Omar was a priest. Omar tried to explain that he was a Muslim, and believed in only one God, but the more he spoke of God, the more convinced Gorby was of his priesthood.

He found the old man sleeping on a folding cot surrounded by stacked boxes of canned foods. The cramped office held a tiny desk with a laptop computer surrounded by invoices. Some of Nur’s drawings were taped to the walls, along with old internet-printed pictures of masjids, churches and temples from all over the world. These had gradually replaced magazine tear-outs of Latin American actresses. “I’m a relic,” Tio Melo would say. “I hear God calling.”

Melo’s knees were tucked like an infant’s, one arm flung across his eyes as he snored. In the years Omar had known him, his hair had gone paper white, but his physique was still lean and fit.

Melo snorted and opened his eyes, squinting. His face broke into a sleepy smile, and he sat up.

“You’re a good sight. How goes the struggle?”

This was a standard Melo-ism. He always spoke of the great struggle for social and economic equality. Sometimes he’d quote Lenin, Mao or Che Guevara.

“I was sick for a while, but I’m better now. I brought you bubur chacha.” Omar handed Tio Melo the container, the kind with a snap-on lid and a side compartment holding a spoon. The old man commenced eating and smacking his lips. He loved Samia’s desserts.

“Do you remember the first time I came to your shop?”

“Absolutely,” Melo replied, talking with a full mouth so that bits of food spilled into his lap. “Those animals tried to mug you. Your face looked like Gorby’s. I treated you and gave you an empanada and a Coke.”

“Your memory is sharp.”

Melo grinned and tapped his temple. “Brains like an elephant!”

“Then why, whenever I ask about your youth, family, things like that, do you always say you’re an old relic and can’t remember?”

The grin faded. “Those things were a long time ago.” He scraped the last few bits from the corners of the container.

Omar reached out and snatched the container and spoon out of Melo’s hands. He dropped the spoon into the container and snapped it shut. “Gotta go.”

Melo threw up his hands. “You just got here! At least let me wash the dish.”

“No need. Go back to sleep.” He exited quickly.

In the car he gripped the spoon by the end of the handle, dropped it into a ziploc bag and sealed it. He didn’t know if the small amount of saliva on the spoon would be sufficient for a DNA test. He hoped it would, because he knew without asking that if he asked Tio Melo for a proper sample, the man would refuse.

Life was full of mysteries that would never be solved, and questions that would never be answered. Well, this one would. He would have one little bit of verifiable truth. One fact. And though he didn’t know at all how he would feel about the result, actually knowing was worth something, wasn’t it?

The Price to Pay

Most of the DNA research companies mailed kits to their customers. The customers deposited the saliva into a special receptacle, sealed it and mailed it back. Results came in six to eight weeks. But Omar had done his research, and there was an American company with an office and lab right here in Panama, near the old bakery on Vía Brasil. After leaving Tio Melo’s shop, he drove directly there.

The place was closed. Their hours were 10 to 4. He’d have to come back tomorrow. Exasperated, he wondered how anything got done in this crazy country.

* * *

It rained again that night. Once again, Omar found himself sitting alone in the living room with Berlina curled up beside him on the floor, and again Samia came down in the dark and joined him. Berlina raised her head to be petted, then returned to her dreams.

“You smell like Vía Brasil,” Samia said. “It’s been on you all evening.”

Omar looked at her quizzically. “Did I tell you I went there?”

“No. The old bakery there is the only one that makes American style bread. The aroma is distinct.”

“My goodness. You could be Daredevil.” He told her what he’d done with Melo’s saliva. He thought she would ask him what he’d do if the test was positive, and what it meant to him – but she did not. The rain grew heavier, and after some time, Omar said, “I want to help the Venezuelan refugees.”

“That’s a big project.”

“Not all refugees. Just the ones by the Centro. I don’t imagine I can do anything great. Just like you said, help them get their residency papers. Maybe hook them up with someone who can fast-track their applications. Tiny ripples that build a current.”

Samia tilted her head. “That’s familiar. Where have I heard that?”

“‘Each time a man stands up for an ideal,’” Omar began to recite, “‘or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice-’”

“‘He sends forth,’” Samia jumped in excitedly, “‘a tiny ripple of hope. Those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression.’ JFK. That was from tenth grade graduation! How do you remember that?”

“I was paying attention. Plus, it was the day before the Day of the Dogs. I remember everything from that time.”

“What?” Samia smacked his arm lightly. “You always say that everything from that time is a blur.”

“Yeah… I say that.”

“Hmm.”

“I want to tell you something. The man who was here was Celio Natá.”

“What do you mean? Not the Celio Natá? King of the Ngäbe-Buglé? The Black Knife?”

“He’s my uncle.”

“Your what?

“Come.” He pulled her close. Reluctantly, he told her everything. The fact of his royal Ngäbe heritage, and the offer that Tio Celio had made him. Or the demand, more like it.

When he was done, Samia was silent, merely tapping one finger on the bridge of her nose. Omar knew this gesture. It meant she was thinking things she did not want to say out loud.

“What?”

“Why have you never told me any of this?”

“Because I’m not involved with all that. The only one of my mother’s family who cares about me is Tia Teresa. Even now, Celio doesn’t give a monkey’s butt. He wants to use me for his purposes.”

Samia grunted.

“What?”

“That man has killed people.”

Omar shook his head. “Whatever he did was what he had to do. The Ngäbes don’t have recourse to the law like we do. Just the opposite. The law is a weapon against them. Natives in these lands have never had anything but what they fought for tooth and nail.”

“Listen to you defending him. If that isn’t proof that everything he said was wrong, I don’t know what is.”

Hearing these words, Omar felt a flood of gratitude to Allah for giving him Samia as a companion, and to Samia herself for being the person she was. What would his life have been without her? He couldn’t imagine. He and Samia were the happiest couple he knew. What, he wondered, was the price to pay for that? This question – and the fact that he had no answer – worried him.

A Different Reason

“But that doesn’t mean,” Samia continued, “that your heart is pure.”

Omar went still. “What do you mean?”

“Consider. You want to help the Venezuelans.”

“Yes.”

“But you don’t want to help the Ngäbes?”

Omar’s jaw tightened. “What are you saying? That I’m a hypocrite?” He heard his own voice rising in pitch, and moved away from Samia on the sofa, creating some space between them. So much for being the happiest couple in the world.

Samia touched his arm. “I think you should examine your reason for not wanting to be involved with the Ngäbes.”

“What do you mean? What reason?

“You know.”

“No. I don’t.” He rose and walked out of the room. He wasn’t sure where he was going until he got to the front door, where he put on his slippers and went out into the garden.

Stranger At The Gate

Panama night sky The night sky was overcast, but the air was warm. The moon struggled but failed to shine through the clouds, casting only a few beams of pale light. He strolled about the garden, peering nervously into the branches of the eucalyptus tree, where he’d seen the harpy. There was nothing there. The air was filled with the scent of papaya. He would have to pick them soon, or the birds would tear them apart. Though Omar personally did not like papaya. It tasted like garbage.

Without planning to, he began practicing karate. Back stance, block, front stance, kick. Samia didn’t know what she was talking about. She’d always been like that, thinking she knew the answers to everything. Of course she wasn’t as bad now as back in high school. And most of the time it didn’t bother him, because she was an insightful and wise woman. But sometimes she presumed too much.

Normally once he began a practice session he would run through all the basic kicks, strikes and blocks. But he found himself tiring. He sat on the edge of the fountain, and splashed water on his face and arms. It felt soothing. He remembered Halima sitting here when she’d first arrived, trailing her fingers through the water. People made strange choices.

He heard footsteps walking past the garden wall. That was not unheard of, though pedestrians at this time of night were rare. But the footsteps paused, and Omar had the uncanny feeling that someone was standing just on the other side of the gate, listening. There was a narrow gap, no more than ten centimeters, between the bottom of the gate and the driveway, and Omar peered at it. Was that a pair of feet? It was impossible to tell. In the darkness everything blended into a gray soup.

He cocked his head, trying to discern the sound of departing footsteps. But they never came. Whoever it was must still be standing there. Could they be fiddling with the code box? Hacking it? It wouldn’t work – at night the gate was manually bolted – but Omar had to do something.

He leaped up, shedding his slippers – hoping he wouldn’t step on any leafcutter ants – and ran on the balls of his feet around the side of the house, past the compost heap to the garden shed in back. The long-handled tools were stacked in one corner, and though it was utterly dark inside, he felt the tools until he found the shovel.

Seizing it, he dashed to the gate. Not bothering with stealth, he slammed the bolt open, swung the gate wide, and leaped onto the sidewalk, gripping the tool with both hands.

There was no one there. He looked in every direction, but though the occasional car zipped past, the sidewalks were deserted. His chest heaved. He snorted at his own ridiculousness, and was about to go back inside when he noticed that Nur’s pinwheel, the one that had been taped to one of the gate spikes, was gone. It could have fallen off. That happened all the time. Omar looked around and sure enough, there it was on the sidewalk a few steps away. But it had been stepped on and flattened. He could see a muddy shoe print on the paper. That was… odd. Almost as if someone had thrown it down and stepped on it deliberately.

He locked the gate and returned the shovel to the shed. When he went back inside, Samia was asleep.

The Arbiter of Human Transactions

The next day he made a quick trip to the DNA testing office on his lunch break. As soon as he walked into the place, goosebumps rose on his arms. It was as cold in here as a winter day in Bogotá. This was a Panamanian thing. The hotter it got outside, the more these places cranked the AC. It was like, the colder your office, the more you proved you were high class. In fact, he noticed now, the receptionist – a chubby girl with light makeup and fingernails that were each a different color – was wearing a sweater!

He gave the woman the bagged spoon. “There’s some saliva on the spoon. I want it tested.”

The receptionist eyed the bag skeptically. “This isn’t enough. Why didn’t you use the sample container we mailed you?”

“I never requested one.” He assumed a confidential tone. “It’s for my grandfather. He’s not all there, you know.” He tapped his head. “I can’t collect a normal sample. He won’t cooperate.” That was half true, anyway.

She made a sympathetic face. “Alzheimer’s? Dementia?”

He nodded. “Like that.”

“We can test this, but it will cost extra.” She reached under her desk and came out with a sticky label. “What’s his name?”

“Señor Melocoton.”

The woman giggled. “That’s a funny name.” She peeled the label and stuck it to the bag.

“I want to compare that to my own DNA.”

DNA test sample bottle “Oh. Then you do need a sample kit.” She went down a corridor and returned a moment later with a small stoppered glass bottle and some paperwork. Omar filled out the paperwork, gathered some saliva in his mouth and deposited it in the bottle. The woman copied his name and contact information onto another sticky label, and applied it to the bottle.

“Do you want to pay extra for DNA spheres?”

Omar shrugged. He had no idea what that was. “Sure.”

She rang up the total. It wasn’t cheap.

Omar handed over his debit card, thinking that this little rectangle of plastic had become the arbiter of human transactions. Whereas human interactions in the old days had ended with a handshake, a kind word or even a prayer, now they ended by passing a plastic card back and forth.

The results would be ready in two days.

Armed and Dangerous

On the way home, Samia asked if Omar was going to listen to the news, but Omar said no, he wasn’t in the mood. He didn’t want her to hear any mention of the prison escapees. Instead, after Maghreb, he went out to the car, and turned on the radio to catch the seven o’clock news. He closed his eyes and put his head against the headrest, tuning out the usual litany of dire news from around the world. He hoped the announcer would give the good news that the prison escapees had been caught. Or even better, that Nemesio had been shot by the police.

The actual news was worse than he could have imagined. Of the original eight escapees, five had been caught. One had been found in the forested mountains surrounding the prison, dying of a snake bite. One was shot by an armed guard while trying to rob a bank. The last, Nemesio Bayano, was still at large. He’d been seen on CCTV breaking into a storage unit in a Panama City mini storage. The facility clerk had been murdered, his throat slit. Multiple units were broken into, one of which had apparently belonged to Bayano, though its contents had long since been confiscated. Another unit belonged to a police supplies company, and may have included guns. Nemesio Bayano was now considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Wonderful, Omar thought. My last name is now synonymous throughout Panama with “escaped murdering criminal.” He turned off the radio and pressed his palms into his eyes, then raised his hands and made a dua: “Ya Allah, protect my family from all harm, even the harm I might bring.” He finished by praying for the suffering Muslims around the world.

That night, he took a hammer from the toolshed and hid it underneath the front seat of the car. It was better than nothing.

Your Partner, Not Your Child

Samia found out about Nemesio. It could hardly be helped. Everyone at work was talking about the mad killer convict, and some of the workers ribbed Omar good-naturedly because he and the escapee had the last name. The only blessing was that none of them knew that Nemesio was actually his uncle.

His mother spoke to him first thing in the morning and told him that the police had come to see her. Her demeanor was subdued, and neither of them wanted to talk about it. Later that morning he had a meeting with two creatives from the ad agency that represented Puro Panameño. He wanted to do a full two-page spread in Calidad, and had asked them to come up with ideas. The two young women set up three tripods and showed him mockups, each depicting a version of a teenage girl on a skateboard, flying over Panama City, with lipstick tubes streaming behind her like a rainbow.

Omar regarded the agency women. One had green hair and a lip ring, and wore jeans and a cutoff shirt that bared her midriff. The other, though more conservatively dressed, wore dark, edgy makeup that looked like the stuff that Midnight Moon and Acid made – two of Puro Panameño’s competitors.

“Have either of you actually read Calidad?”

The women glanced at each other. “We’ve skimmed it,” one said.

“It’s the grandmother of Latin American fashion magazines. Been around since the 1930’s. It caters to a mature, upscale crowd. These women wear Oscar de la Renta and sit on charity boards. They don’t fly over the city on skateboards.”

Before the women could reply, Samia came hurrying into the room, her face tight with worry. She had her cane in one hand but was not using it. She stumbled into one of the tripods, which fell with a clatter.

“What’s that?” Samia said. “Omar, are you here?”

“Yes, sorry. I’m in a meeting, but we’re done.” He addressed the women. “Study Calidad. Don’t waste my time. And ask my assistant Belen for a sample case. If you want to sell our products, start by using them.” He waved his hand. “Take all this.”

Once the women were gone, Omar saw Samia tilting her head in his direction, her expression thoughtful. “I came here to tell you the news about your uncle Nemesio, but you already know.”

“Yes.” He didn’t bother asking her how she knew that he knew. She could read his demeanor, and even his breathing.

She nodded slowly. “There’s more. What else?”

Omar sighed. Keeping secrets from Samia was impossible. He told her about the visit from the police, and Nemesio’s vow to kill him.

Her face turned red with fury. “You should have told me! I’m blind, not an infant.” She struck the ground with her cane. “This affects me and Nur too. You’re keeping too many secrets lately and I’m tired of it. It seems like your first impulse lately is to conceal. Oh, something strange or dangerous is happening? Let’s hide it from the poor little blind wife.”

Omar was shocked. He’d never seen her so angry. But her words triggered something in him and he had to defend himself. “I would never put you or Nur in jeopardy,” he insisted.

“Really? There’s more than one kind of jeopardy. Don’t you think some of the children at school might have heard the news? They know Nur’s last name. They might have been teasing him all day today. Children can be ruthless, as you very well know. At least if you’d told me I could have discussed it with him, prepared him.”

She was right. He tried to apologize but she stormed out of the office, bumping into the door frame and cracking her elbow. She cried out in pain and slammed the door behind her.

White Mercedes

Samia was still angry after work, when they headed to the parking garage that Puro Panameño shared with the buildings on this block. Omar had parked on the third level. Normally Sama linked her arm with Omar’s while walking in the garage, but now she strode ahead, using her cane.

“Samia,” Omar said in exasperation. “Would you wait please? You don’t even know where the car is.”

“I know more than you think.”

Parking garage Omar hurried behind her. When they were about ten meters from their car, Omar noticed another car, an old white Mercedes, parked across the aisle from theirs, facing in the other direction.

The car’s windows were tinted, but the driver’s side window was open a crack, and as Omar watched, a cloud of cigarette smoke slipped out and curled into the air. In the gloom of the garage, Omar could see the glow of the cigarette clearly, but the form of the man himself was a shadow.

“Samia, wait.”

She didn’t listen. Omar seized her arm. “Wait.” This was one case when her ability to read his emotions was helpful, because she stopped immediately and held still.

“There’s a man in a car,” Omar whispered.

“It’s a parking garage,” she said sarcastically. “Of course there are men in cars.” But she kept her voice low.

There was something about this man that put Omar on his guard. There was no glow of a cell phone screen, no music. What was the guy doing? Waiting for someone, maybe?

The Mercedes’s engine came to life with a roar. The car backed rapidly out of the parking spot, and screeched to stop. Omar grabbed Samia around the waist and pulled her between two cars. She cried out in fear, and her cane clattered to the ground. Omar wished he had a weapon of some kind. Was Nemesio going to leap out and charge at him with a knife? Or take aim and shoot him? But the car sped off, heading for the ramp that went down toward the street.

“Was it him?” Samia breathed.

Omar almost said, “No,” but Samia was right. He’d been keeping too many secrets. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I couldn’t see his face.”

Ghawrath Moment

Samia was subdued after that. On their way to pick up Nur, she said, “I’m sorry I shouted at you. I was afraid. I should have more faith.”

“Fear is normal, Samia.”

“Do you know the story of Ghawrath ibn al-Harith, when he tried to kill Rasulullah, sal-Allahu alayhi wa sallam?”

Swerving to avoid a taxi that cut him off, Omar glanced at her. “No.”

Samia told the story:

It was during a lull in a battle. The mushrikeen detected a gap in the Muslims’ defenses, and sent Ghawrath to slip through and assassinate the Prophet. Ghawrath found the Prophet sitting in the shade of a tree with his sword hanging from a branch. Some say Ghawrath asked to see the sword and the Prophet agreed. Some say the Prophet was asleep, and Ghawrath took the sword. In any case, Ghawrath unsheathed the sword and held it over the head of the Prophet.

He said, “Muhammad, don’t you fear me?”

“No.”

“Who is there to protect you from me?”

“Allah.” The sword fell from Ghawrath’s grasp and the Prophet picked it up and returned the question, saying, “Who protects you from me?” At which point Ghawrath pleaded for compassion, promising not to fight the Muslims again. The Prophet let the man go.

* * *

Omar said, “And?”

“Tawakkul.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Why not?”

He considered. Why wasn’t it that simple? What is because he lacked faith? Was it because he’d already had his own Ghawrath moment – on the Day of the Dogs – and though he’d survived, it was not an experience he wanted to repeat? In the end he said,”I don’t know.”

They picked up Nur. Fortunately, Samia was wrong about Nur’s friends. Apparently none of them had parents who watched or listened to the news, or if they did, the children had not paid attention. They were only four years old, after all.

Ashanti

The DNA testing company called the next morning. The results were ready. Omar drove over on his lunch break. He parked in front of the company’s office, and as he was getting out of the car he saw an old white Mercedes drive by on Vía Brasil. He dashed to the sidewalk, but the car was gone, lost in a sea of traffic. Omar shook his head. He was acting crazy. It was probably not even the same car.

The chubby receptionist with the multicolored nails gave him two large sealed envelopes. She indicated some comfortable chairs in the lobby. “You can open it here if you like. Sometimes people don’t want to wait.”

Omar sat and shivered. It was still freezing cold in here. He should have brought his own sweater to this silly place.

Map of the Ashanti Empre

West Africa and the Ashanti Empire

He opened the two envelopes. Each was filled with papers containing colorful maps and graphs. He looked at Tio Melo’s first. The charts showed Melo’s ancestry, indicating that on the paternal side, the old man’s DNA was 88% West African, specifically from the Ashanti tribe in modern day Ghana.

The other 12% was Arawak – the original, indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. Probably, Omar thought, Melo’s father or great-grandfather had come from Jamaica. That was true for a lot of Afro-Panamanians.

On the maternal side, Melo was 65% southwest African, and 35% European, with the European part breaking down to English, Scandinavian and French. Omar could guess what this meant. One or more of Melo’s female slave ancestors had been raped by the slavemaster.

He took a quick look at his own chart. His paternal lineage was similar to Melo’s except that the Ashanti and Arawak genes comprised a much smaller percentage, as he was 50% Chinese. On the maternal side, he was 100% Ngäbe.

His hand trembled as he held the papers. The meaning of the results was clear. The similarity between his own ancestral DNA and Melo’s was too great to be coincidence.

But while this was fascinating, it wasn’t definitive. Where was the proof?

DNA Spheres

He went to the receptionist. “Where’s the part that says definitely whether me and Melocoton are related?”

She took the papers, paged through them, and held one out. “Here. This is the thing you paid extra for. It’s everyone who is in the database and shares your DNA.”

The page was titled DNA Spheres. It depicted a small sphere within a larger sphere. The larger sphere was headed, “Samuel Sharpe.” Beneath it were 17 names in two columns, some with their birth dates listed as well. A notation at the bottom read: These individuals carry the DNA of Samuel Sharpe, who lived in Jamaica from 1801 to 1832.

Omar had heard of Sam Sharpe. He was a Jamaican slave who led a rebellion against the British. A national hero.

The smaller sphere was titled, “Direct relatives of Omar Reymundo Bayano.” There were only three names, also with birth dates listed. Omar’s eyes widened. He looked around as if expecting a hidden camera TV show to jump out. The sterile, frigid office was empty but for him and the receptionist. “Is this a joke?” he demanded. “I paid good money for this.”

She frowned. “I don’t know what you mean, sir.”

Omar pointed to the small sphere. “This doesn’t make sense. Why would you even have this person’s DNA?”

“If the name is there, it’s because that person got tested at some point.”

“I’m pretty sure you guys made a mistake.”

The receptionist flashed a practiced smile and uttered a line she’d probably said a thousand times: “The results are 99.99% accurate. DNA doesn’t lie.”

The direct relatives listed below Omar’s name in the small sphere were:

Señor Melocoton – grandfather, paternal.
Nemesio Santiago Zhang Bayano – uncle, paternal.
Ivana Soto Serrano – first cousin, paternal.

Next: Day of the Dogs, Chapter 16:  The Weapon of the Believer

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 – 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.

Help Us End Ramadan with 1000 Supporters!

Alhamdulillah, we're at 900 supporters. Help us get to 1000 supporters before Ramadan ends. 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.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Asmaa

    January 28, 2021 at 6:50 AM

    WHAAAAAAAAATTTT!!!!!!!
    oh my…
    What a revelation. I just say there staring at the screen for a while

  2. mahad mohamed

    January 31, 2021 at 7:47 PM

    Wait…. Ivana… Does that mean what I think it means?!

  3. Mariyam

    February 1, 2021 at 11:06 AM

    Ivana is his cousin????

  4. Wael Abdelgawad

    February 3, 2021 at 4:14 PM

    As-salamu alaykum everyone. Chapter 16 is not quite ready. Next week, inshaAllah. Sorry about that.

  5. Avid Reader

    February 6, 2021 at 9:56 AM

    Wa-alekum assalam wa rehmatullah.
    Gripping, I must say.
    I thought you had mentioned at the beginning of this series that it is pre-written and that you’ll be uploading at regular intervals.

    Does that mean you’re revising on the fly?

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      February 6, 2021 at 9:39 PM

      Avid, jazak Allah khayr. See my response to your similar comment on chapter 13.

  6. KJ

    February 6, 2021 at 11:08 AM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Whoa… Interesting plot twist, maa shaa Allah. So, could Ivana possibly be Nemesio’s daughter? Would she try to come between Omar and Nemesio?

    Take your time, Brother Wael. Thank you for sharing your writing with us.

  7. Namrah

    February 15, 2021 at 10:48 PM

    I’m hooked!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

..
..
.
.

Ramadan Video Series

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending