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Dangerous Business This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Ahmed’s father didn’t smell like tobacco – tobacco smelled like Ahmed’s father. This was the only memory Ahmed had of his dad.

He only knew what he looked like because of the old picture. It didn’t really seem like a photograph anymore, but an old memory put onto paper to make sure that every detail would be remembered. It was a remnant of the old regime.

Ahmed’s mother, Shariah, assumed her husband was dead; the prisoners had all been released after Saddam’s capture. This is why Shariah and Ahmed lived with Ahmed’s grandfather, his father’s father. Ahmed, at only eight years old, was still too young to work, and Shariah could not get substantial pay, since women were viewed as inferior.

Basra was a dangerous place with much uproar over the hanging of its former leader that morning. Ahmed played in front of the television, which showed a news broadcast of earlier celebrations over Saddam’s death.

The subject of the old photograph came into Ahmed’s view on the television screen. “Look! Daddy!” At these words, Shariah rushed to Ahmed’s side. It was the same man, but his face was worn, and the smile looked like it was set on the side of a weathered cliff. Suddenly, a loud knock came at the door. Many people in Basra were angry over their dictator’s death, and militant groups were rising. This is why Ahmed’s grandfather grabbed the rifle before answering the door.

***

Karim was turning 14, and it was time for him to learn how to shoot a gun.

His father took a rifle from the shelf and said, “I was given this by my father on my fourteenth birthday. Now I give it to you on yours.” Karim took the firearm and almost fell forward; it was much heavier than it looked. He aimed at an imaginary spot in front of him without realizing that was where his father stood. “Hold on, tiger. I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said with a chuckle. Karim thought about the day that he would give his own son the rifle. How he wished he would be as good a father as the one who stood before him.

***

Karim’s father greeted his son with the barrel of a rifle before realizing who stood before him.

“Shariah! Ahmed! Praise Allah, come quick! Karim’s back!” Shariah ran to embrace her husband.

As Ahmed approached, Karim said jokingly, “Who is this big new husband you have replaced me with?” He hugged his son and put him on his shoulders.

Shariah exclaimed, “Allahu Akbar! After all these years, I assumed the worst.”

***

The prison cell was heaven for Karim, even though it was only two meters by two meters. This was because leaving the cell meant only one thing: torture. The after-effects were starting to take their toll. Only a picture of Karim’s son as a baby kept him from ending his life. How much Ahmed would have grown by now. Karim felt as if he might never know, but that thought kept him going.

Karim did not know that at that moment his wife was staring at his picture, staining it with tears. He thought about her too, but unfortunately he had no picture of her, only memories. Karim thought back to the day they met. How invincible he felt at that moment. He was newly married and ready to hit life head-on. That seemed so foolish now. It was this moment that he would remember forever.

***

“Well, it’s a dangerous business stepping out of your door these days. And your assumption was wrong in a different way than you think. Death would have been a treat compared to what I went through. But let us not talk of what happened to me. Tell me what has happened to you.”

With this, they were a family again. The last piece of their puzzle returned, and they were whole.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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gosebmaster said...
Jan. 23, 2009 at 2:37 am
i like how you said that she stained the picture with tears
 
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