Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One Fine Day

1

One fine day, it was. The sky a perfect shade of blue, trees a perfect shade of green, hydrants a perfect shade of red and her brand new Reeboks a perfect shade of pink. She had enough lip gloss on to make a car shine, enough fruit-smelling perfume to be detected a mile away. A light breeze scented with apple blossoms and fresh grass blew through her, making her feel her feet slightly leave the ground, so that she lightly floated towards her destination, more than walked. The smile on her lips was contagious; anyone passing her by could see her glowing with happiness, and found themselves smiling back at her. Her black, shoulder length hair, gleaming in the sunlight, flopped behind her head in a silver-banded pony tail. She turned right at the corner and crossed the street, entering the park. Leaves and petals showered her way, butterflies of all the colors of the rainbow played around her feet, and she stopped to try and catch one, only succeeding in scaring them away. She resumed her journey, shortcutting over the grass and small rocks and arriving at the duck-infested lake. She glanced around, taking in the usual old greenies throwing bread crumbs into the water, a couple of mothers holding onto kids with leashes strapped around them, trying to take a dive. A pair of lovers parked on a bench, half obscured by the overhanging willow leaves, not invisible enough for her to miss the gleam of the ring held behind the guy's back, as the most important moment in the universe was about to be introduced into the world. She secretly smiled to herself, turning away from the achingly beautiful scene, respecting the privacy deserved by such a moment. The tadpoles and tiny fishes in the pond played tag, a mother duck with a line of horrible looking ducklings trailing behind her passed in front of her, ignoring the soggy breadcrumbs aimed at her and her kids. She ignored the benches around her and sat on the ground, close enough to the water to be able to see the pebbles at the bottom. She gazed up at the sky for a few minutes, smiling once again as the calmness of the blue reflected that inside her. It was one fine day...
2
Indeed, it was one fine day. The sky a perfect shade of blue, trees a perfect shade of green, asphalt a perfect shade of grey and his carpenter jeans a perfect shade of beige. The air smelt weird, like flowers and stuff. He had the strange sensation of it blowing through him, like he was floating instead of really walking. And everyone was smiling, and he didn't mind smiling back one bit. He was on a mission. He was out to save the world. He was out to fight evil, to bring peace out into the sun, to save the TV generation from bad acting and fake mirth and sorrow. He was going to be a star. The next Ben Affleck, Anthony Quinn, Humphrey Bogart and Scooby Doo. Yup, he was going to blow them away, he was. He was going to be king of the screens, big and small. He was going to be rich. The chicks would be killing each other to get at him, kids would be all over him for his autograph. He wasn't going to have to load and unload the stupid dishwasher at home anymore, simply because he wasn't going to be living there anymore. He was going to buy (rip off) Michael Jackson's very own Never Land, kick him out and change the stupid name to Racket Land, Racket being his well loved nickname. He was going to be a star. And the day was just so damn fine he felt like doing something silly, like singing or something, and sooner than later he found himself doing just that, the former that is. He hummed his way down the street, checking out girls and cars all the way, and in a while found he had turned left at the parks gates and walked in. He had been on his way to the Youth Club for the acting tryouts, an errand that would acquire him to take the 3:20 bus, but a look at his watch told him he had a whole hour to fool around. And what would be nicer than a good old fashioned walk in the park? Nothing that he could think of. And so he announced his presence in the midst of the green and flora, the rainbow chromed, winged insects and the small population of people executing numerous yet unremarkable feats of feeding the ducks, holding onto kids, staring at the sky and... proposing? He halted in his footsteps and stared at the couple under the willow, some weirdo on his knees with a tiny sparkling thing in his hand and some purple haired chick holding onto her face like it was going to fall off or something. He stared at them, looked around and noticed everyone seemed to be purposefully ignoring the scene right behind them, stared some more and realized the chick wasn't going to be talking in a while; she seemed to be in shock or something, and so turned away towards the pond where the majority of people seemed to be focusing their attention. He loafed up to the edge, taking in the greenies and toddlers, and eyeing the weird black haired girl sitting on the ground and staring at the sky, smiling to herself, keeping his distance as a safety precaution. He looked down at the cloudless blue reflected on the occasionally disturbed, otherwise smooth surface of the pond and suddenly wondered if fairies really existed, as he mistook a tiny weenie tadpole for such a mythical creature. He squinted, turned his head sideways and decided, yes, fairies do exist, and he was witnessing such a fact right there right then. He turned his head sharply sideways to see if the girl had noticed anything, but she was just as he had found her, lost with the angels. What a weirdo, he thought, and looked down at her brand new, shockingly pink Reeboks. What a WIERDO, he thought again. He stole a glance back at the to-be-wed kids under the tree, but they hadn't moved either. He wondered if maybe he had been stuck in time, as even the greenies on the bench seemed to have an endless supply of breadcrumbs, but the scream of the toddlers told him he was ok. Oh let them jump in, will you?, he glared at one of the gossiping mothers. He hated kids, always had. And there wasn't anything in the acting rule book that said you had to like kids to be an actor, so that was just fine with him. A light breeze descended upon them, ruffling his collar and caressing the girl's hair, and he found himself sharing her view of the wonder of wonders above them, as he noted what a fine day it was...
3
A fine day, that would be a good way to put it. The sky a perfect shade of blue, trees a perfect shade of green, hotdog stalls a perfect shade of yellow and his No Fear T-shirt a perfect shade of purple. The weather was more or less downright gorgeous, being spring in that particular spot of the universe. He could smell some fruit-smelling perfume, it had to perfume, no fruit can smell that strong, though it's source was unknown. The climate was not windy, though everyone's seemed to be standing on end, his hair being too short to do anything but simply exist, but it felt like the air he inhaled exited through his feet, like he was flying. If his situation had been slightly different than what it was, he might have been in the mood to actually smile or something, the general surrounding atmosphere having that effect on what seemed to be like just everyone around him. Unfortunately, his situation was just what it was: he was on the run. He was a criminal, an outlaw. He was Wanted. Wanted for murder. A murder that he had no memory of committing, for the simple reason of him being either high or drunk all the time. The evidence all pointed at him, with an error margin of 0%, and his fingerprints were all over the place. The only thing he knew was the he had woken up one miserably Sunday morning with a 13 year old girl standing over his head and screaming blue murder. He was still lying in his place when the cops had arrived, more or less in shock. Whatever it was that had set him to motion, he had no idea, but he had exited through the window in a matter of split seconds, dragging the anonymous 13 year old girl still screaming blue murder, with him. He used her as a shield against the garbage cans and alley cats until he realized the alley was actually deserted, trashed the girl and took off. Whether the cops had counted on him being high, or if they were just plain dumb, or suddenly Lady Luck had decided to have a run for her money, he didn't know, but that Sunday morning he had escaped. He was on the run. For four days and four nights he had ran, sleeping God knows where and eating God knows what, each day discovering a little more about the crime he had supposedly committed from scraps of news heard in electronic equipment stores and discarded newspapers he found in the garbage cans he rummaged in for food. Apparently he had abducted the 13 year old girl and her younger brother, meaning to keep them for a ransom from their filthy-rich parents, had some way or another killed the younger kid and held onto the girl. When and how all this had happened, that was for God to know and him to find out. For the time being he had to try and stay on the street. Disguised as himself, the only addition he was smart enough to come with a heavy raincoat with a hood, something he had nabbed from somewhere and someone, making him look as suspicious as ever, he roamed the streets, trying to 'keep low'. Being as bright as he was, he was always so close to getting caught it was like he had spent the past 5 days simply running all over the place. He needed to lie down. He needed to die or something, and he was running out of ideas, as many as there had been in the first place. At the moment, all he could think of was the jungle, but where he would find one of those he had no idea. I mean, jungles had trees and tigers, no one would dare looking for him in one of those. The idea that the tigers would just about eat him as well never occurred to him, of course, he just needed to find the jungle and then all his problems would be solved. Maybe he could like, hitch hike or something. But no, his picture was all over T.V., even a blind man would recognize him. He could hide in a train or plane or ship or something, anything heading for the Amazon or Africa. They DID have tigers in Africa, didn't they? They did. He was sure of it. But how to get to the train or plane or ship? His mind came up blank. He was tired, and he really did need to lie down or die, either was welcome. Suddenly he saw it. The jungle! It was like a dream come true, it was, a whole lot of trees and stuff right across the street from the corner. He ran, ran like hell, ran all the way down the sidewalk towards the corner, screeched to a halt, and obediently waited for the traffic light to sign 'Walk', and then ran across the street and into the park. Once he was inside he was instantly on alert, watching for any striped creatures prowling around, only stumbling across butterflies and bees and annoying insects of the like. He flitted from tree to tree, looking around all the time, and suddenly came upon a couple on a bench under some hairy chair, nearly knocking them both over. They barely noticed him, holding hands and smiling at each other they way they were. The girl looked like she was crying or something, but what naturally caught his eye was the something gleaming in the middle of all the fingers. A ring or something, an engagement ring, yeah. In the midst of his distress and his 'on the run' status, his instinctive nature made his fingers twitch, his eyes fixed on the 3 dimensional rock glinting in the dim light. A bee stung him and he squealed, making all three of them jump nearly out of their skins. The couple noticed the intruder for the first time, the way he was acting making not noticing a little hard. Bee stings hurt, yes they do. But whenever you're faced with the winged beasts, you headed for water, that's what you do. And that's what he did, headed for the water. He crashed through the undergrowth, materialized unceremoniously by the side of the pond and dived in. Just like that. The pond itself was about 4 feet deep or something, so he was greeted by the bottom of it sooner than expected, making avoiding the impact quite impossible. He was in pain, but he made it to the surface alive, and he splashed around a bit, until he came to face the small crowd around the pond. Everyone was drenched of course, and he took in the girl with the black hair and pink trainers, sitting on the ground with a look of mild surprise on her face, the guy standing a few feet away from hair, soaked to the bone with a look of murder on his face, the greenies on the bench holding onto brown paper bags, looking up at the sky searching for the responsible rain clouds, and the two women with the kids, one of them already moving towards her child, scooping him up and away from the mad man in the water. No tigers in sight. No cops either. That couldn't be too bad, could it. He guessed it couldn't. And besides, it really was quite a fine day...
4
It was one fine day. The sky a prefect shade of blue, trees a perfect shade of green, picket fences a perfect shade of white and their identical flower-carpeted bandanas a perfect shade of flowery stuff. They were wearing identical tops, too. As well as identical pants, socks, trainers, watch, even, ahem, underwear. They were one. One was 'they'. They both inhaled the fresh air at the same time, experienced the same hovering sensation, both felt the same good humor tingling in their bones. Both saw the purple shirted guy in the over-large raincoat dash across the street two streets away. Both noticed the purple shirted guy's destination was none other than the park, and both agreed that that very park would be a very destination for themselves. They were one, one was 'they', Muriel and Casey, just Casey to the outside world, as Muriel was Casey's other half, who showed up every now and then when the situation required some guts or swears, as Casey was quite mild mannered and cold feeted. The doctors called it Schizophrenia, her dad called it messing around. I mean THEIR dad. Their dad was one sour lemon, a mouth full of swears with a bad attitude, their mother was a soulless shadow, who didn't even HAVE a shadow. Casey was Muriel, Muriel was Casey, and both thought that a walk in the park would do both of them good, maybe even good enough to forget that morning's thrashing from their fight over who would wash breakfast's dishes, Casey or Muriel. They passed an amazingly red hydrant and stood admiring it for a while, soon shifted their attention towards one very yellow hotdog stall, and debated whether to buy two hotdog sandwiches, one for Muriel and the other for Casey, but after consulting their pockets realized they had about enough money for half a hotdog sandwich only. Their dad was not in the habit of giving them regular allowances, what they usually had for a shared ice cream was what they scavenged from under the coat rack. They moved along, looking at their reflection in the passing cars, and once lifted a finger to the 4 day old bruise around their right eye, wondering if it really did look as clear as the dark glass made it look. Muriel thought it did, Casey didn't. Casey forgave their dad for everything he did to them, for all the things he called them, for every kick he aimed or coffee mug he threw at them. Muriel didn't. Muriel hated their dad, and she never forgave a single insult or beating he had ever given them, nor their mother for being what she was, a shadow-less shadow. And she was going to do something about it someday. Boy was she going to do something. They crossed the street and entered the park. Casey's eye fell on the butterflies and she gave a squeal of pleasure. It wasn't everyday she got to see something simply beautiful, even butterflies. Their days were dark and hard, hers and Muriel's, in their so called home, and simply beautiful somethings just didn't venture over their fence and into their world. They dived into the flowers, careless of who might see them, and spent about 6 minutes in laughter and mirth, rolling over and chasing the insects and tiny birds. And then Muriel heard it: splashing! Splashing meant water, and water meant more fun, if more fun was really possible. And so she dragged Casey off the ground and they both headed towards the source. They passed an empty bench under a willow and the pond came into their sight. Ponds were supposed to have ducks, Muriel encouraged Casey, ducks are easier to catch than butterflies. Yet when they got the side, no ducks were in sight. Only people. They looked around, disappointed. A couple of old people, gender unknown, were sitting on a bench. A guy with spiky hair and beige carpenter jeans was on another. Some purple shirted guy that looked suspiciously like the one they had seen 15 minutes ago was lying on the ground, like he was drying himself, as drenched as he was. And then a dark skinned girl, a bit wet but sitting on the ground with a faint smile on her face. And no ducks. The pond's surface was quite disturbed and there was water on ground around it, like someone had jumped in or something. Casey sighed. Muriel told her they could go back and play with the butterflies if she wanted, but Casey said it was ok. She always said it was ok. Everything was ok with her. Getting yelled at was ok. Getting laughed at in school was ok. Getting her hair pulled, kicked around, smashed against the walls and threatened to get her throat slit, everyday from sun break to sun set, all that was ok. Poor Casey, Muriel thought. Casey was looking at the dark skinned girl by the water. They didn't have any friends, Casey and Muriel. What little friends Casey had had once upon a time had disappeared when Muriel showed up. Casey thought Muriel was the only friend she needed but Muriel thought otherwise. She was always trying to get Casey to talk to people, but only succeeded in scaring them away. They both looked at the girl. She looked ok. She looked nice. She looked very nice. They looked at her for a while, and then Muriel stepped towards her, dragging Casey with her. It wouldn't kill them to try, she consoled Casey. What's the worse that could happen? Nothing that hasn't happened before, that was for sure. 'Hello', said Muriel. 'Hello', said Casey, a little shy. The girl looked up at them and smiled. She smiled. No one had ever smiled at them before. Muriel felt Casey's heart flutter, and grew more bold. She moved a little bit closer, and strangely the girl didn't flinch or edge away. 'My name's Muriel, and this is Casey', she said, pointing to herself and Casey. 'Hello', said Casey again. They both looked hopefully at the girl, and the girl just looked back at them, smiling all the time. Well, that couldn't be bad, could it? I mean, she was still sitting there looking at them, she hadn't ran off screaming or anything, had she? Yet, Muriel was a little lost on what to do next. She consulted Casey, and Casey was as useless as always. So they simply sat down next to her. And looked at her. And she looked back. They smiled at each other for a while, and then Muriel tried again: 'What's your name?' The girl didn't reply. She just looked interestedly at their lips, her smile maybe faltering a tiny bit and then returning again. Muriel raised their eyebrows and cocked their head a little sideways, a questioning look on their face. Maybe she didn't understand English. Her features didn't look foreign though, she was just dark skinned. Maybe she was African or something. And then the girl did something. Her smile widening a bit, she looked them in the eye, shook her head, and made an odd wiping gesture over her ears and mouth. She pointed to her throat and shook her head again. And continued smiling. It didn't take any amount of genius-ness to realize the girl was deaf and dumb. Muriel and Casey stared at her, lost for words. What use would words do anyways, she couldn't hear them. Muriel and Casey were confused. Maybe they felt sorry for the girl, but the girl didn't seem to feel sorry for herself. If anything, she was more interested in them than they were in her. She was looking at the 4 day old bruise under their right eye, the 7 day old bruise on the edge of their bottom lip, the numerous bruises around their neck, and the two or three visible bruise and marks on their arms. Then she looked back into their eyes, her smile softening a bit and a look of understanding coming over her face. She then moved a little closer, put her arm around their shoulders and looked up at the sky. Muriel and Casey were in shock. The looked right in front of them, not daring to breath, afraid of blowing the strange girl away and never finding her again. 'I think she likes us', Casey whispered to Muriel, not really believing it herself. Slowly, they brought their own arm up and put it around the girls shoulder. She turned to them, smiled again, and then continued her sky gazing, looking as comfortable as comfortable gets. Muriel and Casey did not complain. They just turned their face up the sky, and in a while all three were lost with the fairies. The guy on the ground was fast asleep. The guy on the bench was staring at the totally WEIRD two girls on the ground by the pond. He had been staring at them ever since that other girl with the bandana had shown up and started talking to the one on the ground. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but the one with the bandana seemed to be repeating things twice. He saw the girl on the ground make the strange gesture, and instantly understood. He saw the arms around the shoulders. And then all was silent. He thought to himself for a while, and then looked into the water, his eyes searching for the fairies he had seen earlier. Maybe the weirdo in the purple shirt had scared them off, they way he had shown up like he had, making the ducks and mothers with their kids disappear. He looked down at his watch, remembering his appointment. If he moved now he would barely make it on time. But he didn't. He just sat in his place, looking from the pond to the girls to the sky. And thinking to himself, in spite of all the weird things happening around him, what a fine day it was...
5
Such a fine day, it was. Sky a perfect shade of blue, grass a perfect shade of green, ambulances a perfect shade of white and his mangy coat a perfect shade of brown. He trotted down the road with no specific destination, but kept an eye open for unwatched hotdog stalls or overturned trash cans in order to secure a light dinner before the evening at hand. The former appeared upon turning the corner, glowing yellow tinted with orange in the setting sun, and giving off delicious smelling wafts that made his empty stomach rumble. Drooling hungrily, he positioned himself at the blind angle of the seller but with the target in full view, planning his assault. He skillfully estimated the distance between himself and the stall, the stall and the seller, himself and the seller, the height of the stall itself and the angle of the hotdogs from the seller. He then arranged his route of attack and escape, noting the distance between his current position and the most proximal traffic light and zebra crossing, detecting a distant park which would be a likely refuge for him to eat his meal in peace once the suicide mission was accomplished. His plan ready, he snuggled down low on the pavement, waiting for the right moment, which came along just then as the traffic light signaled Walk, and a flow of pedestrians crossed from the opposite side and added to the number already on this side. Through the many legs criss-crossing in front of him, he watched as the seller took down a few orders, began filling the buns and adding ketchup and mustard; the moment he had bent over to rummage for salads, he pounced. His distance estimation was accurate as usual, and he landed right on top of the open hot pan containing the target in question. As people screamed all around and jumped away, the seller's face re-appeared from below, a comic look of astonishment upon it, as the 19 hotdogs were reduced to 13 in a flash, and the ketchup and mustard went flying in the scramble to get off as he secured the booty in his mouth, bounded off the counter in a turmoil of lettuce and mayonnaise, landed on the pavement between a screaming school-girl and a blind man, and, swerving between super-red hydrants, skidded down the pavement towards the traffic light. The whole process lasted about 9 seconds, so the light was still signaling Walk, blinking, and about to switch to Stop as he swiveled around the pole and galloped along the zebra crossing with mixed shouts of surprise and fury sounding behind him. The second he landed on the pavement the lights changed, and the traffic moved forward, blocking the way between him and his pursuit, as he grinned back at their angry faces in triumph and turned to enter the park. The receding sunlight rendered the surroundings dark and shady, so he didn’t have to look long for a place to lay and dine. Snuggled in the bushes behind an empty bench, he lay down his dinner, savouring the warmth and inhaling their delicious smell, then hungrily gobbled down the first 3 all at once. As he worked his way through the meal, scattered lamps obscured in the trees came on, the one nearest to him glinting on the faded silver fastenings of the scuffed leather collar around his neck, the name Trevor faintly printed and just visible. He was, of course, a dog. Not exactly a stray, as the collar showed, but with no home to belong to anymore. Once belonging to a little boy with mousy brown hair, in a white house with flowers out front in a town far away from here, he had been given the collar, the name and the home. But the boy was gone, victim of a quick and merciless leukemia, and the family moved in an effort to leave the pain behind, along with the dog that had so faithfully loved them all, his little master most. Waiting weeks on end for their return in vain, he finally took to the roads, at first searching for them himself, and then abandoning all hope in the scrabble to survive on his own on the streets unknown to him, all the time moving farther and farther away from the place he belonged to once, but no more. As the last hotdog disappeared, Trevor licked his fangs and rolled over in content, raising his legs in the air and doggy-paddling, a habit he had had from the days the brown haired boy was around to laugh at his antics, throwing him a doggy biscuit as a treat. Back on his legs, he set out along the line of bushes, searching for an appropriate tree to raise his leg against, which he found deep in the greenery, and, bladder relieved, he then scanned the area for a warm place to spend the night. He paused, however, his ears raised, as they picked up the sound of distant voices. Looking around, his tongue hanging out, he followed his hearing until he came to the edge of a clearing, and, looking in from behind the dense shrubbery, saw a lot of people of different ages and sizes, all collected around a couple of benches facing a small pond, drawn together and talking in low tones....

Dishes

Ok this is actually a 'novel', my first, really, but due to techincal problems i can only post this chapter. Others shall follow soon, inshallah, and in about ahundred years I might even be able to post the whole thing. This is chapter 4.

Dishes

It was my strong belief that dishes had been introduced into human culture for the sole purpose of torturing those poor souls already laden with the misery of school at all it's stages, problems accompanying growing up in general, and the instability of life shared with two mischievous devils disguised as small boys. Every Monday and Thursday evening, as I stared at the stack of dirty plates, bowls, mugs, pots and pans 3 feet high I made a mental note of using dishwashing as a punishment in my prisons once I was Leader of the World. That, and carpet beating, baby sitting and biochemistry lessons. And cauliflower, of course. The perfect punishment for criminals. Except that we, or at least I, had to endure all the above mentioned with no apparent crime committed; unless our/my mere existence was a crime in itself. Exactly why we couldn’t get a dishwasher, I didn’t know. I nagged and begged and threatened all year long, but to no avail: any idea of mine always had to have the possibility of bankruptcy at the end of it. And so, every Monday and Thursday evening without fail I was to be seen brushing away, sleeves pulled up to my elbows and an apron around my waist. Sometimes I had the radio on, but not always; Mondays were jazz and blues, which I hated. Sometimes Kitty came round. She didn’t have to do any dishes at her house; they had a dishwasher. Which meant she didn’t have a clue on the art of dishwashing, so I usually set her to work at drying the dishes and putting them away, or just let her sit at the table, preferably doing my homework for me.
The amount of time I spent over the sink naturally required a few accidents to happen. Once I had carelessly stuck my hand in the soapy water where it came in contact with a carving knife pointing upwards. At first I thought it had pierced my hand all the way to the other side, and the amount of blood was enough to turn all the water red. Screaming fit to wake the dead, I pulled my hand out; knife lodged below the thumb, and considered myself martyred already. Omar ran for the first aid kit while Ayman called 911. Dad and Mama were having dinner with Dad's boss, which made things worse; there's always something scary about accidents happening when your parents are out. Moose managed to pull out the offensive agent and clumsily bandaged my hand, his face carefully averted. In the midst of those hard moments, I felt a surge of pride in him; Moose was fatally afraid of blood. Well the medics arrived and I was taken to get stitches and tetanus shots and other things. Nasty stuff, as if I wasn’t in enough pain. But the best of it was that I got two months off dishwashing. Mama was devastated, and for a while it seemed the dishwasher was visible over the horizon. I even caught her checking out different makes and types in magazines and electronic equipment stores. It seemed the sun was finally going to shine through our kitchen window. Then the twins got suspended from school for burning down the principle's office. I had no idea what had gotten into their heads, and apparently neither did they. I guess it was a prank gone wrong. They had never really gotten into serious trouble before; meaning they had never really been caught red handed in serious trouble before. Dad and Mama were furious, and the most severe punishments were handed down upon the culprits; no dessert or TV for 3 months, cleaning out the garage, mowing the lawn, dusting the tops of all the closets, and of course, the old standby: dishwashing all week long. I wondered how parents could be so cruel to their offspring, punishment or no punishment. Whatever had happened to being grounded for a week? Anyways, by the end of their punishment period there was just no question about it: all our hopes of getting the luxury of a dishwasher were burnt along with the principle's wallpaper.
Dishwashing time was also a good chance for one to spend time with one's self; to reflect upon one's behaviour and one's accomplishments, and to review one's plans for the future, near and far alike. It was during this time I decided I wanted to get married and drop out of school; just leech on to the first guy unfortunate enough to step over our threshold, preferable very rich, and live happily ever after. It was also during this time that I realized I hated Peggy What's-her-face. That I was fat and ugly and that boys are stupid also came to me then. So it really wasn’t all that bad after all, it might even be the tiniest bit fun when you knew how to take your mind off what you were really doing. I believe even Einstein himself couldn’t have come up with the ingenious ideas I came up with to get Sami Kamal expelled or Mr. Brooke permanently disabled. Unfortunately, this type of thinking required a moderate amount of concentration, so that less care went into the cleaning and safety of the objects immediately at hand. One such example nearly resulted in my death.
It had been a long day. Lunch had been exceptionally gruesome, and Mama had delicately taken it into her head to clean out the fridge. The counters on either side of the sink were laden with dishes and containers of all kinds; mostly covered with old, smelly food, either dried and stuck to the bottom or gooey and molded over. It was every dishwasher's worst nightmare. I tried bribing and blackmailing the boys into helping, but in vain. Kitty passed by to say she was going to mall, did I want to come? Observing my surroundings and the look of murder on my face, she thought maybe not, she would get me something with her, in the meantime she was running late, goodbye, and fled. I looked long and hard at the piles of dishes, willing them to disappear. They didn’t. Sighing heavily, I resigned to reality and accepted my fate. I filled the sink with hot water, poured in enough soap to wash a line of school buses and tipped in everything on the left counter, on the verge of tears from the revolt and frustration. I tried not to think about the bright world beyond the kitchen: the sound of the TV in the living room, Mama gossiping away on the phone, a knock on the door and the Warren kids came trooping in to join the twins for cartoon hour; today was a Power Puff Girl and Scooby Doo special feature. My heart ached as I scrubbed away while everyone enjoyed their freedom elsewhere. Well, I thought morosely, at least I have rubber gloves; wouldn’t want to get hold of this lot with my bare hands. I had to be careful, though; things would get extra slippery and Mama would be after my blood if I broke anything. I worked my way through the breakfast and lunch dishes, scrubbing, rinsing and stacking on the side, all the time ignoring the laughter coming through the door and cursing the fate that had destined me into this family. Rinsing a bowl I savagely wished the next person who ate out of it would choke on whatever it was they ate; stacking it on top of the rest of the clean dishes I picked up a bunch of spoons and held them under the running water, noticing how efficient they would be in poking out someone's eye or sticking down someone's throat. Sticking them at off angles between the dinner plates I reached into the water and pulled out an odd shaped object. I rinsed it and held it up to the light, and nearly dropped it when it turned out to be a broken piece of porcelain. Uh oh. That was bad news; it meant there was a broken plate somewhere down there. And, judging by the rosy coloured piece in my hand, it was one of Mama's favourite sets. If there was one thing Mama hated, it was a broken dish. Why she was so attached to her dinner sets beat me, but we were all willing to bet that she would chose them over us anytime of the day. Which meant I was in trouble. I had to act, and fast. I could get rid of the evidence; take the broken pieces outside and all the way down the street, stuff them in someone else's trash can. I couldn’t risk her finding anything. But she wouldn’t notice a missing plate, would she? No one counted their plates. I mean, I didn’t think anyone did. But a missing plate wasn’t really that hard to notice, this particular set had six pieces; one for each person. Oh whatever, let me just get the stupid thing out of here and think what to do later. Maybe I could hide the whole set and no one would remember it ever existed. Ha ha. A thousand curses on whoever had invented dishes in the first place! I tossed the broken piece on top of the clean dishes on the side, and dived into the sink in search for the remaining pieces, only to be arrested exactly 1 second later by a sound that turned my insides to ice: a grating, shifting sound. Realizing its meaning, I turned in horror and threw out my hands in an effort to catch the falling dishes, but alas: the whole pile just slipped through my rubber gloves and fell to the floor. A cascade of smashes followed, as dish after dish after dish surrendered to gravity and met its fate, sealing my own with it. The noise went on and on, seemingly forever, as I watched helplessly; it seemed there was a whole fountain of glass that had been waiting for this moment all its life. At long last the last spoon fell with a tinkle, an island of silver in an ocean of glittering glass and porcelain; my death sentence signed, sealed and delivered. The house was deadly silent, not a sound broke the air after the orchestra of doom had ceased. The TV had been turned off, and not a whisper came through the door. Now, if there was one thing Mama hated more than a broken dish, it was many broken dishes. Not to mention glasses, mugs, bowls and, of course, plates. A saucepan fell to the floor with a tinkling clang, making me jump a foot in the air. In the thick silence surrounding me, the only sound I heard was the rapid beating of my heart, certainly the last beats of my miserable life. A cold sweat collected on my forehead and the small hairs on the back of my neck stiffened hesitantly, as my ears picked up the sound of distant movement. My dread mounted uncontrollably with each approaching footstep, my doom now at hand. As my eyes fixed to the door which would be thrown open any second, my life played in front of my eyes, different memories racing by, memories I didn’t even remember living that went way back to when the world was big and peaceful and no one broke dishes and got punished for it. The footsteps stopped just outside the door. My breath clouded in front of me as the temperature of the room dropped; death was coming! I recited what prayers I could recall, praying that the end would be as painless as possible and that no one would take my prized socks after I died. Suddenly the door blew out of the way, letting in a gush of ice cold air, and there she was: 5'4 of blue dressed wrath, the fire in her eyes blazing brighter and brighter with every bit of glass it fell upon, the low rumble within her rising to a growl and then to a terrible roar of rage that rang against the walls and cabinets. Rooted to the spot and paralyzed with fear, I tore my eyes away from her, searching frantically for the smallest mouse hole that would secure my escape, but alas; our kitchen, probably evolving through years of housing four actively troublesome children, was escape proof. This was it. This was my end. Death was coming. And I hadn’t even had time to say farewell to the world. How would Kitty live without me? But no. NO! I refused to go down so easily! It was a 'flight or fight' situation, and until 'fight' proved totally unevitable, it was 'flight' I chose! At last the life sprang back into my legs, and I leapt into the air and away from her clutches just as she was closing in. I vaulted over the kitchen table, rubber gloves and all, and landed with a slippery crunch in the midst of the broken pieces on the other side. Skidding and sliding, I lunged for the door handle, my escape inches away; but just as my hand closed around the cold metal her fingers clamped around my neck, catching me before my feet had even touched the ground. It was over. I had failed. Choking, the world blacked before my eyes as I was throttled back and forth, terrible death threats and vows shrieked into my dying ears. My last thoughts were all farewells; farewell Kitty, farewell Raju, farewell Mr. Brooke, farewell world, I hope I don’t end up in Hell.

My father saved me, but it took his and Moose's combined efforts to pry my mother's fingers loose. When I woke up a few minutes later and found myself face to face with Moose, I thought I had ended up in Hell after all. I didn’t need a hospital, which was a relief as there would have been quite an inquiry on the nature of my injuries; although my throat hurt and my tongue was bleeding a little from where I had bitten down on it in my alarm, my breathing was back to normal after a while. I locked myself in my room, not needing everyone's advice to do so. I barricaded the door with two chairs and a pile of shoes (my bed was too heavy to move). The noise went on all evening, coming through the door and floorboards. I hid in my room for the rest of the day and the next. The twins passed me a couple of burgers and a bag of chips through the door; they had ordered out since there was nothing to serve food on. On the third morning I was finally driven out, as nature's call was at its peak. I opened the door about 3 millimeters wide and peeked out. No sound or movement came to my senses. I opened it a couple of millimeters more, and still the house slept on. I carefully stuck my head out, listening for the slightest movement along the floor. Nothing. The coast was clear. I began tiptoeing down the hall to the bathroom, trying to look everywhere at once, but my urgency made me break into a run all the way to the bathroom and slam the door behind me. Two hours and three showers later I emerged, fully relieved and feeling at peace with the world now that I was rid of three days worth of toxins and dirt. Prancing confidently down the hall towards the stairs, I made my mind up to have two glasses of orange juice instead of one, and to watch three episodes of Dexter's lab instead of two, and as soon as those were over I would… I stopped dead in tracks and thoughts, realizing my mistake just as I narrowly avoided colliding with the silent figure at the head of the stairs, watching my progress wordlessly. I cursed silently to myself; how could I be so stupidly off my guard? No one would be able to save me this time; she could just pick me off the floor and throw me down the stairs. I looked at her warily, ready to bolt if she tried to grab me. She didn’t. She just gave me a look of the utmost loathing and contempt, and turned around and lumbered down the stairs without a word or a look back. I held my place, shifting from one foot to the other and watching her retreating back until it disappeared into the kitchen. Well, I thought uncomfortably, I guess that means I'm off the hook. I scratched my head and decided I would risk it, and followed in her steps downstairs. My mother wouldn’t talk to me for a whole month. I didn’t get any punishments, but after a week and a half of the silent treatment I started wishing for the dishwashing penalty again. My brothers had me covered at all times, acting from their own sense as well as on Dad's orders, but after a while it seemed unnecessary, as Mama showed no further interest in killing me. We had to buy quite a few dishes of course, and the she chose the cheapest sets possible, hinting darkly that it wouldn’t cost so much if someone stupid went and broke them all again. I quietly hinted back that maybe if we had a dishwasher then maybe someone stupid wouldn’t have access to the precious dishes in the first place. My suggestions rolled off her back unnoticed. About a year later we would finally get a dishwasher, but not after another accident claimed another dozen dishes; thankfully Moose was responsible this time. He still has the whipping scars to prove it, too.

Infamous, Unfortunate: Men In White

1
Standing in the middle of the road, his sunglasses reflecting the passing clouds in the sky and cars on the street, his felt cap perched at just the right angle upon his head, his boots blackened and shining in the sun, he stares at the passing traffic, fingering the wireless radio attached to his thick, navy blue belt. Another day on the road. Another day in the sun. Another day in a long series of days that never seem to end in peace. The radio emits endless gibberish, intersected now and then with static. He listens with half an ear, picking up the important phrases and ignoring the rest. The morning traffic swarms around him in all directions; cars, buses, trucks, pickups, rickshaws and donkey-carts. The components of the great automobile society of the nation. His trained eye picks up unregistered vehicles, broken tail-lights, drivers with no licences. He can see through the glass of the passing buses where an illegal shama’a or two are tucked out of view behind the closed doors. A minibus with the name of a school printed all over the side, while it’s load of passengers are clearly no school children at all, tries to keep itself hidden behind a large bus as it passes in front of him. He sighs wearily; it’s so much easier to pick the law abiding vehicles from the outlaws than the opposite; they’re a much smaller percentage. But he shouldn’t be worrying about it, it isn’t his problem. Behind him he can hear the seemingly endless whistling of his colleagues, pulling over about 3 of every 5 automobiles passing by them. Licence and registration, licence and registration, licence and registration. Two things every traffic-officer says in his sleep. Picking his way between the vehicles, he walks slowly over to the car parked over the curb. Inside are two other high-ranking officers, pens poised over ticket-books, ready to fine first and listen to excuses later. The one in the passenger seat raises his eyebrows at him, silently offering him his seat as he ignores the two drivers yelling over his head at the injustice of the system. He shakes his head wearily; he has been up for the past 16 hours, he can manage these last 2 on his feet. He thinks. He leans on the car, looking aimlessly down the road. White suits; the subject of eternal hate of the Sudanese community, drivers and non-drivers alike. It’s hard to believe that anyone has been less popular than traffic-officers in all time; not even the English colonizers themselves.
2

He must have dozed off while standing up. The radio at his waist is suddenly alive and spitting with police-jargon. The officers in the car and those on the street and pavement look at him questioningly, as their radios relay the same information over the air waves. Shaking himself, he pulls himself together and grabs the radio.
‘East 200, do you copy? Come in East 200.’
’10-4, East 200.’
‘We have a 20/20 on the Shingeeti-Al-Doma intersection, 3 vehicles, massive casualties, state your position.’
‘I’m half a mile north, ETA three minutes, over.’
He’s already jumped onto his motorcycle, already revving the engine and before the confirmation on the site of the accident and registration numbers of the vehicles is patched through, he is on his way. Skidding on the dirt and almost running over a kumsari arguing with an officer, the motorcycle roars over the pavement and onto the street, swerving between cars and heading north towards the intersection. Massive casualties; every traffic officer’s worst nightmare. Already traffic has slowed down and piled up; the two lane road has expanded into five lanes. He slams down onto the siren and brings out the loud speaker. In Sudan, courtesy is not a necessity.
‘Move! Out of the way! Officer coming through!’
A couple of officers push through, whistles squealing, arms waving. He inches through the crowd, narrowly avoiding scratching the cars around him. Its impossible. The radio at his hip emits frantic police jargon, and then:
‘Al-Tayeb! Where the hell are you!’
He ignores the radio and, throwing all care to the wind, revs his engine and bolts through the jam. He swerves behind a lorry laden with cows and jolts onto the pavement. Siren blaring and red light flashing, he tears down the broken asphalt, people and dogs scattering in front of him to avoid being run down. The two minutes to the intersection manage to seem like fifteen and a long way down the road he can already see the damage. Already a patrol car is present, and the crowd milling around is almost double that already in the cars. Aren’t these people supposed to getting to work?, he thinks to himself, annoyed, as he drives past a burning tire lying in a shallow ditch. He can hear the screams now, can see the blood and feel the heavy stench of death in the air even before the destroyed vehicles appear on the street. One of them will definitely be a bus, big or mini, and one possibly a civilian car. Please don’t let there be a truck involved. He knows that particular prayer won’t necessarily be answered. People craning over each other to catch a glimpse of the damage and bodies turn and move out of the motorcycle’s way as Al-Tayeb pushes his way through the crowd. He can see a set of tires high up in the air; a truck is involved after all. He can hear Kabashi yelling through the loud speaker for people to get the hell out of the way and let them work for God’s sake. Finally through, Al-Tayeb jumps to the ground and runs through the wreck, taking in the massive destruction around him even as a junior officer chokingly updates him. Three vehicles; one TATA dispense lorry with a load of dirt, one 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer, one Daewoo 6-passenger amjad, number of people in all: 12, number of dead bodies so far: 8, the rest are still trapped under the two smaller cars, screaming, and so obviously alive. An ambulance has been radioed ETA: 10 minutes. It’s 7:10 in the morning and already 8 bodies for the city mortuary. Kabashi and another officer who’s face he can’t see, along with about 8 passer bys are all over the mashed Lancer, pushing and pulling and lifting and swearing, trying to free the dented door and pull the people out from inside. Between their legs he can see a small hand flopping lifelessly with the movement of the car. Far down the road is the amjad, flung on its back and crushed beyond recognition. A similar crowd surrounds it, police men and civilians. Apparently someone inside there is still alive, too. The truck, lying on it’s side like a dead elephant, with it’s cargo of dirt all over the road and filling the ditch by the road, is other wise untouched. The Sudanese stubborn despise towards seatbelts is enough to cause damage on its own; the driver had crashed through the windshield and the passengers flown out the window onto the road. All killed instantly. Hopefully.
‘Al-Tayeb!’
He jumps and swirls around. Kabashi is glaring at him and beckoning frantically, one hand lost amidst the tens of others wrapped around the mangled car. The screaming has diminished noticeably. He runs over, dodging the debris strewn over the asphalt, pushing through the everlasting crowd of lookers. There really is nothing we can do, he tells himself out of habit, as he dives into the crowd and starts pushing. He shuts his ears out to the piercing voices beneath him, closes his eyes to the bright red blood seeping through the cracks in the asphalt. There's nothing we can do, there's nothing we can do, there's nothing we can do…
Later, as the last ambulance hurries off, he stands alone on the street. The crowds of speculators have dispersed and the officers have driven off to their different destinations: to the regional hospital where the injured have been taken, to the city morgue and back to the station. Those who were already on sentry duty head back to their stations to clear up the nightmarish traffic. Al-Tayeb should be following Kabashi to the hospital, but his legs don’t seem to want to move. He can't get the sight of that small hand out of his head. And what was attached to the hand was worse. In all his 13 years of work, he thinks he should be used to all the grotesque sights that result from traffic accidents. Obviously it isn’t that easy. His radio crackles and its Kabashi again, surprise surprise.
'Al-Tayeb.'
Not shouting, not demanding. Just asking. It's always that way after an accident. He sighs, murmurs an OK into his radio and heads towards his motorcycle. He steps on something hard and feels it snap beneath his heavy boots. Startled, he lifts his foot and looks down at the small, ridiculous object lying on the road like a leaf floating in a vast ocean. It's a pink pencil.

Infamous, Unfortunate: Memoirs of A Kumsari

1
It’s a good thing Ibrahim is an early riser by nature, otherwise this job would’ve been a whole lot harder than it is. He doesn’t remember the last time he woke up to a shining sun; he always beats it to it. It’s a little harder in winters, ‘cause he'd be all stiff around the knees when he unfolds myself from under his jacket, on the back seat of old Zooba, but he'd look out the window and see all the people sleeping under the bus with not even a jacket to keep out the cold. That’s usually enough to get him going. Happily. Another good thing is that the old girl gets her wash and rub-down at night, before he gets his shut eye, so all he's got to do in the mornings is give her a sweep and a bit of a shine and check on the oil. Not too bad, really. It pays to do what you got to do today on time, that’s what his Ma says. She’s got a lot of good stuff to say, his Ma, and he always listens to her. Happily. He's a kumsari, the name’s Mustafa. A kumsari is a bus conductor. ‘Course the word ‘bus conductor’ sounds a whole lot fancier, and he wouldn’t mind being called that once in a while, but around here kumsari is what they go by.
Outside the bus, it isn't so cold as he though it’d be. It’s always that way, in the bus. Hotter than outside on hot days and colder on cold days. Today ain’t so cold. That’s a good thing. Too hot and too cold means a short temper for everyone. And there’s nothing worse than a bus full of short tempered people stuck in traffic full of short tempered other people. They usually take it out on the kumsari, you see. That would be Ibrahim. Happily. The sun is barely up and already people are arriving. They get all kinds of people around here. All kinds. But no matter how different they’re dressed they all look the same when they’re sitting down (or standing up, or hanging from the doors, or running after the bus). So he doesn’t know why they bother, really. Three buses down is his old pal, Jimmy. That’s not his real name, of course, he has another name, the one his mother calls him by, but Ibrahim forgot what it is. It doesn’t matter anyways. He ain’t from around here; he comes from up north, where they all talk funny. He used to talk funny when he first showed up about 5 or 6 years ago, but now he talks just like the rest of them. Or pretends to, at least. Ibrahim can see him stretching those long legs of his out the window. He ain’t an early riser by nature, so it’s a little harder for him in the mornings. Poor guy.
‘Shay.’
Ah yes, tea. Around here they get morning tea delivered, hot, fresh and custom made. The old lady that used to live in the house on the corner opening onto the bus stop, she’s the one that makes the tea. She doesn’t live there anymore; her and her nine kids got kicked out ‘cause they couldn’t pay the rent anymore, but she still brings her glasses and canoun and old, rusted teapots and parks herself on her same corner every morning, making tea and coffee and sheerya for the bus people and the people waiting to get on the buses and people passing by not getting on the buses and the shopkeepers, and sometimes a few sun boys when they behave. He’d feel sorry for her, but she doesn’t complain and she doesn’t look too bad. Ibrahim sees her kids once in a while; they don’t look too bad either, except that they wear the same things every time they come over. But hey, Ibrahim wears the same things too. He sits on a bambar and sips his tea, savouring the slightly tingling flavour of the different spices. A cup of tea and milk and around 5 spoons of sugar is really the best thing to start the day, take it from a kumsari. Or anyone else in the country. Ain’t no such thing as cereal or power bars around here, just tea and milk with 5 spoons or more of sugar. Jimmy and the rest of the boys have already collected for their morning tea and chitchat. Something it feels a little more like family than business around here. People grow on you when they’re the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing at night for 6 days a week. He supposes for some of them it’s the only family they’ll get. Ibrahim, he's gots his Ma and the girls at home, and even though he sees them on Fridays and doesn’t even spend the night, they’re still family. Some people like that Badr guy, they don’t have no one. Ibrahim thinks they get born that way. He says it’s ok, because whatever money he makes he keeps all for himself, not like the rest of them who have to split it five ways to keep everyone happy. Ibrahim supposes that’s a good thing about having no family. Of course, he wouldn’t know; he's always had his Ma and the girls at home. Happily.

Sitting behind the wheel of the bus, Ibrahim revs the engine a few times, warming it up. He loves that sound, especially after his morning tea and chitchat. Its sounds like good things to come. It’s enough to give anyone a mood-boost. Even old Abbashar. Old Abbashar, he’s the boss. The owner and driver of old Zooba. Drivers, they’re a big thing around here. Especially the ones that own their buses like old Abbashar here. There’s not too many of ‘em who have their own buses; usually it’s some guy from uptown who shows up on weekends to take his 60% of the week’s pay, minus gasoline, taxes, tickets and oil. You’d think it ain’t all that fair, but really, it could be a whole lot worse. You can take it from a kumsari. Happily. The seats are all full, and the usual 4 or 5 shama’a are in place. The new law says no more than one person besides the kumsari is allowed to stand in a bus, and the door has to be closed. Some new safety , since people standing in the open doorway have a habit of falling out into the street and getting run over when the bus makes a sharp turn, and then it’s all their fault. It takes a little coaxing, and since everyone’s in a hurry this early in the morning, no one wants to get off. The driver door slamming shut and the engine revving impatiently, however, makes up their minds, and soon there’s only one person left. With another growl from Zooba, Abbashar manoeuvres between the rikshaws and people, eases slowly onto the chipped and cracked asphalt, and then steps on the gas. Picking up speed, Ibrahim sticks his head out through the door, the morning air fresh on his face and the still sweet-smelling street brightly coloured in the sunlight. Trees and houses fly past us faster and faster, and they drive into the oncoming day, pockets empty, hearts full and good humour still reserved and shining. They're off!

Wheels

Ahmed steps out of the house, straightening his attire and rubbing his shoes, each in turn, against the back of his trouser-legs in a desperate effort to make them shine. He breathes in the fresh morning air and looks around him at his fellow early risers; the birds twittering together among the tree branches; a couple of dogs stretching the sleep out of their lean bodies, morose looking school children standing half-asleep against lamp posts waiting for their transport, and other men and women trudging forlornly along in varying degrees of shabbiness and misery. The day is but 7 hours old, and already the young and hopeful have set out to seek their different fortunes. Alas, if Ahmed wants to get where he’s getting on time, he should pick up his pace. Walking down the street, he sometimes greets and sometimes ignores other pedestrians, in a variable range of attire, all walking in the same direction. As he approaches the top of the main road, more people flock into view, adding volume to the gathering masses; like pilgrims gathering at the doors of Mecca waiting for it to open and for blessings to rain down on them from the heavens. Everyone seems to be looking in the same direction while ignoring the presence of others. A tense aura befalls them. Despite their different mentalities and backgrounds, they are extremely alike in this crucial hour, as they take part in an ancient and traditional act. The minutes tick by, as the numbers increase and the tension becomes almost palpable in the morning sun. Ahmed, a 26 year old security guard for some fancy petrol company, has always taken pride in himself and his belongings. He was just an average Sudanese guy from an average Sudanese neighbourhood. No fancy upbringing, no expensive car and no valuable education.  He'd grown up like most of the other boys his age; attending public schools, getting results that are just enough to see him from high school into some random college. Well, it's the certificate that counts, really, isn’t it? And, like most of the other boys his age (and older, and younger), due to the poor job market, had been forced to either sit around in front of shops all day or get a job doing whatever and confine the sitting-in-front-of-shops to night times. No big dreams, no far-fetched hopes and no ambitious plans. Like most other boys his age, he was lucky enough to have access to a satellite TV; at least he now knows what he lacks; money-wise if not otherwise. He was, after all, an average Sudanese guy from an average Sudanese neighbourhood.
As the crowd  highly refined hearing nerves have picked it up even before the thing has appeared over the horizon; the BUS approaches!
It is believed that man is constantly evolving to fit comfortably into the environment fate has provided him with (or for, whichever way you see it). The average Sudanese guy from the average Sudanese neighbourhood is probably the most highly evolved being in a number of ways. When it comes to battling the public transport system, it is a matter of seconds, of luck, of life and death. Ahmed barely moves; it is crucial to remain calm under the circumstances. That way one almost always gains the upper hand and a reasonable head start. The crowd huddles together, in reality more apart than ever, waiting to make a break for it. The tired sounding chug-chug-chugging gets louder and louder and more and more pronounced as the vehicle warily approaches. The driver and the kumsari, with their own highly evolved nervous conduction system on the lookout, get ready to be enveloped by the coming crowd. And then, it appears. THE BUS. Within a fraction of a second from its appearance the crowd springs into action. They run. They run like they have never run before. The driver looks onwards in growing horror, waiting for the impact. The kumsari quickly detaches himself from the door and jumps to the safety of the still empty ground, calling out, unnecessarily, the bus’s ultimate destination this morning. Ahmed unleashes the full potential of his legs and gallops towards the prize, which has stopped a few hundred yards away, all doors and windows open and ready. Men and women, of all ages and backgrounds, uniformed and ununiformed alike, sprint together as one, closing the space between them and their goal like a predator on its prey. They reach it in less than 2 seconds, Ahmed in the lead. Now it is just about mathematics, balance and sheer luck. One must correctly judge the distance needed to be covered between himself and the door, the height of the door from the ground and the length of one’s own legs to be able to land safely inside. About a metre and 3/4 away, Ahmed leaps high into the air, arms outstretched, legs parallel to the ground and a little fanned out to maintain his balance. He is inches away from the rectangular opening in front of him. Any second now he will land. Unconsciously letting out a war-like cry he never knew he had the vocal cords to support, Ahmed flies through the air, certain of his success. He knows he is not the only air-borne one, and sure enough he can see, out of the corner of his eye, several other people caught in the same action. The door inches closer in painful slow-motion…

The door opening can only handle one object at a time, and it is obvious that only one of the flying objects aimed at it would succeed. Ahmed knows it will be him; prays that it be so. A million years later, he feels his foot hit the metal ledge; victory shall be his! Suddenly the rectangular view is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Ahmed finds himself looking at the underside of the bus, wheels and all, in a whirl of dust and shouts. What has happened? Has he failed to judge his distance correctly? Did he jump too early? But there is no time to think; he must counter-act quickly if he is to make it onto the bus (and avoid being trampled to death). In a flash he is back on his feet, already pushed to the perimeters of the struggling masses, dismissed as a casualty that must occur. Not one to pause or lament, Ahmed has already switched to plan B: when the door is inaccessible, use the windows. Without thinking twice, Ahmed attaches himself to a passing window and holds on, the outward pressure emitting from the scrabble at the door rippling towards him through the grappling bodies fighting for entry. There are already three other passengers hanging on to the windows to his left and his right, yet he does not worry. Even though his limbs seem to have failed him at first, he is now certain they will not do it again. Sure enough, with some difficulty and a bit of resistance from both the crowds and the window, he pulls himself through the narrow opening grazing his shoulder and back on the metal and ripping his shirt on a stray shred of glass in the process; a small and familiar price to pay. Ahmed lowers himself through the metal frame onto the seat below him breathing a sigh of relief at what seems to him to be the end of his struggle, but then he is arrested by the feeling of a lumpy, leathery object underneath him. Pulling the thing out from underneath him, he stares at a woman’s handbag grasped in his hand. His mind runs blank.
'HOY!'
Ahmed jumps a foot in the air, handbag and all. His neck is clutched in grip, catching him in mid-air, as the woman who is supposedly the owner of the bag claims her rightful entitlement to the seat. Ahmed chokes for air, attempting a feeble apology and a plea of misunderstanding, denying any accusations of theft or robbery. Just as he is about to perish at the hands of a 5-foot 4 mass of purple veiled fury, he is chucked aside into the now-tapering crowd, saved from further physical damage by the human cushion. The bus, in the meantime, rolls into motion after approximately 6 seconds from parking. An outsider would think that Ahmed has failed his mission; that he was unable to secure a place on the bus to take him into town.
Ahmed’s evolutionary traits seem to extend to his general physique, autonomic system and emotional endurance. Besides his highly developed vestibule-cochlear nervous system, his lower limbs learnt to reach such length and arrangement as would help his daily struggle. He is also blessed with thicker skin than his counterparts in other nations; all the more to endure not just the scorching sun and harsh sand, but also as a protective mechanism against inevitable dehydration and constant whipping. The average Sudanese guy from the average Sudanese neighbourhood has a highly expandable stomach; while able to endure hours and sometimes days without food, it is equally equipped to handle any amount of food possible, of any variety and quality, and regardless of expiry date. More importantly, he would have developed a unique keratin and epithelial arrangement of his hands and fingers so that it is able to attach to any surface, through any space and for any period of time required. It is sometimes akin to magnetism. These tools are vital to his daily survival.
Jostled by the current of human bodies filling every possible crevice in the bus, Ahmed is passed to and fro, mostly in the direction of the door. His throat is still aching from his recent encounter with the female species. He gropes blindly around for air and a place to hold onto, coming ever nearer to the exit with each movement and closer to being expelled onto the street hurrying by outside. Absently noting the clicking of the kumsari lost somewhere in the midst of the crowd behind him, Ahmed tries helplessly to find a footing in the sea of feet below him. He has reached the last layer of people separating him from the open door, and any minute now he will find himself out in the open. He closes his eyes and sends a frantic prayer to the heavens, already feeling the wind on his face. Sure enough, the next wave of movement inside the vehicle finds him with one foot on the ledge, the other in the air and his arms trapped inside. But it seems the heavens, in a rare show of kindness to the average Sudanese guy from the average Sudanese neighbourhood, have responded to his desperate cry; in the form of 4 centimetres of bare metal framing the door of the bus. Ahmed spots the gleaming expansion of iron just as the broken asphalt opens its awaiting arms to receive his blue-clad body. He wrenches his arm free of the crowd and grabs at it. Success at last! The magnetic-like characteristics of his fingers rise to their full use as he curls the tips around the tiny concavity which would otherwise be impossible to hold onto. With half a foot on the outer ledge and 3 fingers hooked into a depression in the roof, Ahmed is an official passenger riding a bus into town; his place, though not the most comfortable, still affords the maximum amount of ventilation and the best view possibly acquired from atop a bus.