For Sunday Scribblings...

The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all. ~ Proverbs 22:2

The offerings given for the sake of God are [meant] only for the poor and the needy, and those who are in charge thereof, and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and [for] those who are over burdened with debts, and [for every struggle] in God's cause, and [for] the wayfarer: [this is] an ordinance from God - and God is all-knowing, wise. ~ Quran, 9:60

Baahir sat on the low plaster wall and let his heels bounce gently on the warm beige stucco. He had a game of it, bouncing each foot a set amount of times to match the resonant and uniform thuds caused by the strange hand-cranked machine that was here to dig a new well. The seismic shocks rippled out from the site, rolling along the ground and racing up the wall. Baahir smiled and felt the well’s birth pangs in his chest (for that’s what he thought they were.)

“Water muddy water, up from bottom deep, lapping over bucket, and I drink and drink and drink,” he chanted. He licked his bottom lip and then quickly regretted it; the machine was kicking up dust and the winds had placed a fine layer of powder on his face.

Tiny feet slapped upon the warm stone, and a shock of kinky brown hair heralded his sister’s arrival as she lifted her head and peered at the workmen from her hidden vantage point behind the wall.

“They done?” she asked as she tugged her rainbow colored shirt back into place.

“No, Alia,” Baahir replied. He reached over and tried to pat her hair down, but gave up after a while. Nothing could tame her hair. Not even their mother. Baahir felt a sharp pang of remorse. How much time had passed since the Bad Day?

Baahir helped his sister up so that she could sit next to him. “Do you remember mama?”

“Some,” Alia said. “I remember her laugh but her face is going away.”

The boy put an arm around his sister and pulled her snug against his side. He remembered mama’s face. He remembered the morning she tried to braid Alia’s hair. Mama had said, I will have strength or I will perish trying. Mama always said that when trying to get Alia’s hair into place. Who knew mama would finally be right? Who knew mama would run with each of them uncomfortably pressed into her ribs as she fled towards the scrubby bushes behind the house?

Her heart beat fast. Baahir remembered that, and he could even smell her sweet sweat as it spread across the fabric between his body and hers. She had no air for prayers. She panted and he watched the ground speeding under him, marveling at her feet as they propelled her forward. The jostling hurt badly but neither he nor his sister would protest. They sensed that something was wrong. He felt her wrappings billowing out behind them, around him, his world a prism of mama’s favorite reds and golds mixed with the lighter oranges of her hijab. Their father always pampered mama with beautiful things that he found on his business travels.

The brush was right before them, prickly and sticky, the wild part where civilization... where home... ended. Baahir was afraid mama would run right through it and he tried to hitch himself a little higher up to avoid the nasty leaves and twigs. Mama’s breath left her in a puffed oof then, the same silly sound his sister made when he shoved her between her shoulder blades. Mama didn’t sprawl forward like Alia would do; she staggered a few steps into the scrub and then he felt something impact again. He was dimply aware of a loud crack rending the air. Then they fell, he and mama and Alia, and the scrub swallowed him painfully. He was smothered and frightened. He instinctively curled against mama and pushed his face into her body. He heard her heart beat slowly and then become still. He knew no more.

“Baahir? Baahir!” Alia protested, squirming next to him in the hot sunshine. Her brother was practically squeezing the air out of her. “Ow Baahir!” She pushed his arm off and he slid off the wall.

“Is it the dream, Baahir? The sleeping one where mama doesn’t wake?”

The boy rubbed his face with his arm, the angry tears mixing with the dust to form gritty streaks. This was their life now. He was powerless to change it, just as he’d been powerless to save mama. His sister would forever have wild hair because mama had said she would die if she couldn’t tame it.

Loud voices shouted in a foreign language. Alia skittered back over the wall and snaked her way toward the front of the building. Baahir followed, protectively pushing her closer towards the cooler shade provided by a wall. They peered around the corner.

The Ewni’ceph man was there and he was talking loudly to the well digging supervisor. They spoke in the foreign language, bantering back and forth while pointing in the direction of the well.

Alia tapped Baahir on his shoulder. “They give us the shots and some extra mash?” That’s what usually happened when these people showed up at the refugee camp.

“No, I don’t think he’s here for that. No women or doctors with the Ewni’ceph man.”

“He's here to make them dig faster,” she said, and offered her brother a smug grin.

Baahir gazed at the man. He didn’t like the way the man’s eyes looked. They were dark and tired, resigned and sad.

A third figure, a girl much better cared for than Baahir and his sister, carefully picked her way through the loose rubble.

“He speaks English and says ‘I’m sorry, but we’re pulling out of this area. There’s nothing more we can do. I’m so sorry.’ The Ewni’ceph peoples will leave now.” She made eye contact with Baahir; the look spoke volumes.

“What do we do?” Baahir said. “We can’t follow them and we can’t remain here.”

“We do what’s expected of us,” the girl said flatly. “We do what they wanted us to do all along, because it’s why they took our homes and families. We do as they want because all that we have, all the riches of life, are gone.”

“What do we do?” Baahir questioned again.

The girl shrugged. “We die. It’s not as if anyone cares about the rich or the poor of our peoples.”

Baahir shook his head. “We walk through the to the next camp.”

“The road is paved with the dead,” the girl replied. Alia began to cry.

The Darfur Genocide in Darfur, Sudan began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) groups in Darfur took up arms, accusing the Sudanese government of oppressing non-Arab Sudanese in favor of Sudanese Arabs.  .  There are various estimates on the number of human casualties which range from around 70,000 to several hundred thousand dead, from either direct combat or starvation and disease inflicted by the conflict. There have also been mass displacements and coercive migrations, forcing millions into refugee camps or over the border and creating a large humanitarian crisis and is regarded by many as a genocide. These refugees faced starvation, disease, and rape, while those who remained in Darfur risked torture, death, and displacement. Over five million people have been affected by the Darfur conflict and life is still bitter for so many children. There is a peace treaty now in place, but that does not change the fact that atrocities happened.

Due to the lack of funding in 2009, UNICEF had to scale-back measures and plan strategies for handing over lifesustaining and life-saving programmes to the government, despite its limited capacity to fund and manage activities. I wrote this short story to reflect how urgently UNICEF needed donations. The organization is still in need of your support worldwide.

6 responded with...:

Old Egg said...

A heart rending piece and I assume Unicef had to withdraw because of lack of funds (sorry I see you said that in the afterword!)

Of course we all hoped that things would improve when the two Sudans were separated, but the enmity continues.

Thank you for putting a personal touch with the children's side of the story.

TMTW said...

Thanks Oldegg. There's still so much suffering happening there and it seems that many news agencies don't feel the need to cover it anymore.

Jae Rose said...

What a powerful scene..focussing in on the bond between these siblings relationship gives this piece even more power and should make us all feel humble..Jae

Deborah ~ Westlander Poetry said...

A really profound and illuminating piece of writing ... thank you.

TMTW said...

Thanks. :0)

Archna Sharma said...

Beautiful writing and such an important piece. Our media is carefully filtered and these raw accounts are not reported. I've read stories of the Sudan and the Congo in Adbusters, which is full of alternative(and necessary)news. Thank you for shedding that light here.

A pleasure to visit.