Other Blogs

Showing posts with label Corruption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Corruption. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

SHORT STORY: The Greatest Common Denominator

The Greatest Common Denominator; a Societal, Mathematical Aspects

By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy

It was a hot summer day. John, though carrying a heavy plastic bag full of library books and DVDs, had to walk all the way home because he couldn’t afford taking the bus. His pension was so small that after he has covered his monthly bills and paid for his medication, he ran out of money by the first week of the month. He was afflicted with a chronicle liver disease, and the water leakage from his scared liver into his abdominal cavity enormously distends his belly and made it difficult for him to breath or walk. His jaundiced eyes were sunken and circled with darker color. His skin looked clayish and clammy and on top of that, he felt drowsy most of the time because of his anti-depression medication. A look at John by those who did not know him would be deceptive. They would mistake him by a homeless or a druggie. 

John’s depression made him careless about his appearance.

In the park behind the library, John saw some people sitting to a picnic table while others clustered nearby and engaged in talking. He became curious, but his curiosity was elevated by the sight of the city’s newspaper crew in the midst of the crowd. He sat close to the scene to figure out what was happening. He heard someone saying, “I think it’s a great idea,”, and another one who quickly added, “This town is supposed to be filled with God-fearing people and all the politicians are supposed to be God-fearing, and nobody is doing anything about the homeless”, and another one who said, pointing to a mid-aged man, “This gentleman here,  God bless him, is a priest. He is doing the right thing. He is feeding the homeless. It is the right thing to do”

John saw two police cars parked next to the park’s fence and, on the other side of the street, he also saw a few people standing in the entrances of their business buildings, watching the people in the park. John then remembered reading in the newspaper a few days ago an article on this particular park and how it became a haven for homeless people, druggies and prostitutes. People wanted the police to interfere and stop a priest from feeding the homeless and the druggies, thus they would hum around no more But then where will they go? The problem is far more complicated and they are still a part of our society whether they made themselves or were made what they are by certain circumstances. They are the one sheep that went astray ─ John thought. An old man sat beside John and asked him what the matter. John told him about the homeless and the druggies. “Oh, those guys, they are scaring families away” the man carelessly said. “They do!” John exclaimed. “Yes they do and businesses around here are complaining, too” the old man said. “What is the solution should be like, then?” John asked, being curious that the old man might suggest a feasible solution. “I guess they have to stop them from coming to the park” the old man said. “Won’t this solution infringe their rights; their freedom to come to the park” frustrated, John asked him. “In a way, yes, but,” said the old man. “But what, they never bothered anyone. They may approach you for a cigarette, but if you say no, they just leave” John explained. “But they are undesirable for what they do” The man said. “We can’t jeopardize their right because we desire a different behavior from them, unless their right hurts other people’s right in the process” John interjected. “Are you sympathizing with them?” The man then asked. “No, I am not” John answered and then added, “Those people have a problem and they really need help. Any one of them can be your lost child. They are not criminals compared to heinous crimes committed on higher levels everyday and do slip by with no incriminating word uttered. The real evil-doers are the undesirables that need to be harshly dealt with; they are, in fact, the greatest common denominator” ─ “Oh, I agree with you. I do not know what is wrong with our society” the man said. John explained, “Well, in my mind, the society is either in deep slumber or it is collectively scared to locate the greatest common denominator factor and deal with it and because of their guilty conscious they had to find an escape-goat ─ and they have found it; the homeless, the prostitutes and the druggies; the least common denominator factor” the main said, “Since you have put it this way, I do not know what to say” John looked at his watch and then said, “Excuse me, I got to leave. Nice talking to you, anyways”

On his way home, John felt fatigue and out of breath. So he sat on the low brick fence of one of the houses on the street leading to his residence. A man accompanied by a huge dog emerged from the house and looked at him and angrily yelled, “Why are you sitting on my fence, you creep?” John apologized, “Sir, I am tired and I want to rest for a while. I hope you do not mind!” but still angry, the man yelled again, “Yes I do. Get the hell out of here, druggie!” ─ “Sir, please, don’t call me druggie. I am not” John protested. “Yes you are. Have you looked at yourself in a mirror lately?” the man still yelled. “I do everyday, sir. And everyday, I see my life slipping away from me because of my ailment” John answered. “Stop taking the shit you are taking” the man yelled again. “Sir, you do not understand. I take nothing but my prescribed medications. I told you I am sick” John explained. “Sick my ass; I do not want the likes of you hanging around here. Get lost or I’ll call the cops!” The man yelled. Having no alternative but to leave, John stood up, picked his bag and started to walk away but he was not quick enough, so the man pushed him. John fell to the ground. “God, I think I heart my back” John said to himself, feeling like throwing up, but the man shouted at him, “Don’t you dare throw up beside my fence, you piece of shit. Get up right now and get lost”

Lying flat on the ground in a state of agony, the events, that John saw taking place in the park behind the library, re-enacted before his mental eyes. He felt dizzy and as though coming from a distant place, he heard his own voice, “Sir, why are you so angry? I did not hurt you in any way. Sitting on your brick fence won’t hurt you. I am not a druggie or homeless. I am just a person with serious illness. I could have been you” and with eyes brimming with tears John strove to roll his body away as the contagious aggressiveness of the man made the dog threateningly bare his teeth, grunt and jump. John was sure he was doomed and before he fell unconscious because of the immortal pain he felt, he heard the sound of his ankle bone being crushed by the dog’s sharp teeth.

The End

Monday, September 14, 2015

SHORT STORY: The Gold Island

The Gold Island
By: Aadel Al-Mahdy

In the olden times, Herodotus said, “Egypt is the gift of the Nile”. Like a giant blood artery, the Nile journeyed from the heart of Africa all the way through Egypt carrying silt and abundance of easy-to-catch fishes in its flood murky water. I believe Herodotus was right to some extent, but it is not far from the truth to say Egypt was and still is the gift of her hard-working peasants whose dark skins were scorched by Ra, the Sun God, or Aton; a name that reappeared in the Arabic language as Utoon, meaning fire.

The mighty flood of the Nile was a dangerous natural phenomenon that required the peasants’ patience until the water recessed and the silt deposited. The peasants then, under the blazing sun, seeded the land and took good care of it. Thus the Nile banks and little islands, scattered on its aquatic face like beauty marks, dressed up every year in a lusciously green lined with black soil, hence giving a yearly birth to the Nile valley.

The Gold Island is thus named because it has always been since the olden days a fertile patch on the watery body of the Nile, and along with other smaller patches, the gold island has always stood proudly like Joseph’s granaries feeding the nation during hard times. The islands contained fields of lusciously green crops of wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit bearing plants and trees. Milk, cheese and butter producing animals and first of all, humans; peasants whose families took care of the islands for ages were all part of the Island equation.

It is also said, Egypt is the mighty rock on which her enemies’ arrows get broken for Egypt  survived invasions whether from within or without. She has always repelled her enemies at times that seemed her weakest. The Hyxos, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the French and the British, all came and left, but the worst of all enemies was the one that lay within; the maggot created by corruption and decay.

This land is my body and soul. I can’t be separated from it” chocking on his hot tears that rolled down his cheeks old El-Bendari said. “The land is ours. So is the island. Look over there, that’s our cemetery! Here is where we were born, and here is where we’ll be buried” said old Umm-Afifi with emphasis placed on every syllable.

Having received eviction notices, the island inhabitants, whose sole profession is peasantry, had no other alternative but stand united against the government’s decision. So they dug grave-trenches and lay prone therein with hands crossed on the chests like ancient mummies. The poor peasants swore not to leave until death did befall them. That is how the military captain found the inhabitant.  The Egyptian corruption, using one of its tentacles; the military, steered a military boat loaded with soldier in arms towards the gold island in an attempt to evacuate it.  “Why don’t you go away and leave us alone?” said young Saniyyah. The military captain said, “But these are the government’s orders. I can’t disobey the orders and I’ll have to evacuate the island. You have been furnished notices 15 days a go” Middle-aged Tuhami pleaded, “We have been living in hell ever since. I have a wife and three kids. Tell me, who is going to feed them” The military captain said, “I do not know. Don’t ask meKa’abel-Kheir asked, The Military Captain said, “Who do you think? Ask the government, of course!”  Ka’abel-Kheir said, But we have been living here all our lives. We know no where else” A man carrying a hoe on his shoulder asked, “Do they have to build their hotels and summer resorts on the island? Can’t they build them somewhere else?” The Military Captain said with sarcasm,   “Where do you think, in the desert?” In defiance, El-Banna said, “In the desert, on the mountains, that is not our problem. Not on the island where hundreds of families already live” The Military Captain said,  “I do not know. I am just following orders. I do not have a hand in the matter”  Ahmad who is a young student caught in the events while he was on his way to school said, Of course you do. You are the tyrant regime’s executioner. But for the sake of argument and aside from the fact that the land has been in our families for ages and that possession is one half of the ownership, the island yields enough to feed its inhabitants and the whole population of greater Cairo. Who will feed the population then?” Ali, the hunchback, said, “Please don’t tell me the recreational centers and horse racing fields which are a luxury enjoyed only by the elite! Is there justice above or below" The Military Captain said, “But what do you expect me…” and before he finished his sentence a woman seen coming from the southern part of the island was wailing, beating her face, pounding her chest, pulling her hear and tearing her garment. Knowing what must have happened, Ahmad ran to comfort her. She was Sittel-Banaat, Sadoon’s wife. A drum was heard and everybody recognized the beats; the announcement of Sadoon’s death. Sa’doon was a peasant whose health deteriorated lately. His wife had to divide her time between caring for her husband, looking after the kids and tending the field. Sadoon’s knowledge of the government’s intention regarding the island made him so sad and his illness worsened.

Bound by unfair decision which he believed it was nothing but a government’s blunder based on grounds mainly prepared for serving the ones on the top, the ilitary captain looked at the peasants and shook his head in sorrow. In the island’s peasants, the Military Captain saw nothing but people who could have been his forefathers, his fore-mothers, his uncles and aunts, his neighbors who also farmed the land. He saw Egypt  ── Why is the government totally heedless of the island inhabitants? Why is it always the peasants who pay by the sweat of their brows to the lords? ── the Military Captain questioned himself, but his self-interrogation was interrupted by Sadoon’s wife’s cries and constant pounding of her head with both palms of her hands. Another woman, carrying a 5-year old crying girl who seemed to be Sadoon’s daughter, joined in, lamentation. A ripple went through the crowd and the excitement of farmers who lay in their grave-trenches elevated. They were torn apart between two choices; a choice to stay, thus heeding not a death and the carrying out of all its relative social duties, or a choice to surrender. The Military captain knew how vulnerable they have become. He felt torn inside. He felt week, angry and being used as a whip in the hand of slave drivers. He looked at his soldiers. Though they stood waiting for his command to start evacuating the island, their sad eye begged not to do so. They also had families who farmed the land.

In the western horizon where red and orange-stained clouds slowly moved revealing the birth of the moon, the sun was almost buried by the end of the day. Shortly later, shining on the machine-guns that were carried by the soldiers, the lunar light filled the grave-trenches.  The Military Captain looked again at the farmers who lay in their ground hole; their dark skin color blending in the black soil. His eyes shone with tears.

The End

Saturday, September 12, 2015

SHORT STORY: The Serpent

The Serpent
By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy

“God Gracious, have mercy on him!” the words came out of my mouth in staccato whisper while my fingernails cut through the skin of my palms. A pregnant woman held her distended abdomen in pain. An old man fell to the ground unconscious. A little girl hiding behind her mother shook like a dry leaf in the wind. People stood riveted, stunned by the scene; fear blanching their faces.

It was mid-day. The carded-cotton-like clouds moved slowly to the horizon, and burnt in the sun, the sugar cane leaves twisted into little cork screws. Tops of sparse palm trees looked like unkempt hair of an aged woman. At the top of a palm tree was a man; his eyes glazing and bulging, his dried-date tongue parting his swollen lips and his forehead beaded by glittering sweat. Around him coiled a dreadful serpent; its body massive and its head swinging violently. Its mouth opened to bare its fangs and forked tongue.

“God, look at its tail hitting the tree trunk!” breaking the silence, someone exclaimed. “I bet you, Hollywood cannot produce such a scene!” a man wearing an elegant suit interrupted. “The man is dying. Someone must do something to save him” an old woman begged the crowd.

Screams were heard, and a woman was seen stumbling down the road. “That’s Reem, Abu-Ismael’s wife. Stop her otherwise her screams will kill her husband. The serpent will be irritated” ” someone said. “Ignoramus, snakes have no eardrums” the elegantly dressed man whispered to himself. I glared at him while two men pulled the poor woman away and commanded her to be silent. “What are we going to do now” someone asked. The elegantly dressed man answered immediately, “I know what to do” ─ everybody looked at him, but he continued, looking into the desperate faces “I know someone living on the western bank of the river. He is a good shot. I am sure he will help”

"I would not recommend him. He is a bastard and would not care less unless he is getting a big portion of interest in his favor” a university student interjected. “Mind your language, young man! Haven’t you learned any manners at school” someone snapped angrily. But gripping firmly a history book under his arm, the student answered, “I have, and history as well”

“Calm down folks! There’s another alternative” a saddle-nosed man interrupted; his eyes and mustache looked Mongolian. People looked at him with pleading faces.

“I know of a man living on the eastern bank of the river. He would not claim much in return, and if you tell him that you are thinking of seeking help from the western bank dweller, he may do the job for next to nothing”

“I know him, too, and he is worse than the other one” the university student cried, but his voice was stifled by the sound of hooves clopping down the road.

Astride his beautifully saddled horse, the village mayor rode into view; his chief sentry running in his trail in a cloud of hooves’ stirred dust. A murmur rippled through the crowd.

“When did such a serpent come to the village?” the mayor asked, appraising the desperate situation carelessly. “Once upon a time, mayor” the university student said; his voice was sarcastic. The mayor glared at him, but the student continued, “It was smaller at the time. We fought it bear-handed, but we failed to kill it. We then cried out for help, but you did not respond. You were up to your ears absorbed into your own affairs”

“How dare you talk to the mayor like that?” the chief sentry said pushing the student on the shoulder. The crowd roared, and a huge man held the chief sentry firmly by the shoulder and yelled, “If you ever do that again, I’ll break your nick”

“Let me kill the bastard right now” someone pushed forward wielding his rod, but a white-bearded man intervened, “Calm down, folks! Arguing and fighting with each other never solved a problem. Does it matter now who is responsible? Right now all we have to do is unite, be of one heart, of one mind and think of a way out. Neither east nor west, or north or south is going to help us unless we help ourselves”

Some people moaned and some other shouted, but someone cried happily, “There he is someone from among us coming down the road” ─ All people turned eagerly to see a man heading to the scene. He wore a traditional garment, patched but clean. His nose was straight and sharp like the edge of a sword. Thick eyebrows shaded his grief-stricken eyes. His beard was as white as freshly blossomed cotton flowers. He was definitely old but still as strong and tall as a mast of a ship. “I heard of the incident, so I came to offer my help” he solemnly said.

“That’s Abdul-Aleem, a killer, blood-feud people use to hire” my friend whom I came to visit whispered into my ear. “But I heard he quit since cancer killed his only son” I whispered back. “That’s right” My friend said. “Save the man and I’ll give you any amount of money you ask, Abdul-Aleem” a rich man said. But Abdul-Aleem said, “I am not interested in your money. My bullet may miss and kill Abu-Ismael. Would you then claim for my blood?” The rich man said, “On behalf of everybody, I know you’ll do your maximum best. If you miss, we will then accept it as God’s will and God be my witness, no one will blame you”

Abdul-Aleem then asked for a rope which he wrapped around himself and the palm tree’s trunk that stood opposite to Abu-Ismael palm tree. Carrying his rifle on his shoulder, Abdul-Aleem climbed the tree until he reached a parallel point. He then took his gone off his shoulder and aimed.

The serpent hung its head in the air in front of Abu-Ismael’s face; its tongue frightfully appearing and disappearing, and then retreated with its mouth widely opened and its fangs totally erected. The serpent then swooped forward, but at that exact moment, Abdul-Aleem fired his gun. The headless reptilian body uncoiled and hit the ground. Someone climbed the tree and helped Abu-Ismael climb down the tree.

“Water, water” Abu-Ismael whispered as soon as he reached the ground. But soon after he had a few sips of water, his head dropped on his shoulder. Cries rippled through the crowd and Reem throw herself on her husband wailing.

Firmly squeezing my friend’s hand, I whispered to him, “God may have mercy on all of us! It is as if I haven’t come to visit you, but to walk in Abu-Ismael’s funeral”.

The End

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy

“Hail Hammurabi! He who is the first man who carved a strict, but fair code of laws on a stone in a public place for everyone to read” he soliloquized and then released muffled scream driven by thoughts racing in his head. “Good Heavens! I don’t feel well...I am dizzy... what is happening?” holding his head in hands, he whispered.

He looked at the symbolic depiction of justice that was on the marble-covered facade of the jurisdiction supreme court. The blindfolded woman seemed to be standing upside down and dancing crazily while fading away; the scales in her hand likewise. He strove to gather his strength. The court cloak, carried on his arm, felt heavier and its black color looked uglier. He flung it into the Euphrates and slowly dragged him self home.

To avoid the road leading to the butcher in his jelly-like district, he swerved and followed a different route. Opposite his bombs-stricken residence, his eyes fell on a post-war fat cat in the company of his parasitical entourage. They all plunged into the value of an American automatic-geared fortune and heedlessly zoomed away. A passer-by, who had to jump out of their way, spat on the ground in disgust.

He entered a partially damaged building and climbed up to the beneath. While lolling his tongue with fatigue, he knocked gently on the door.  The door opened revealing the exhausted body of his wife whose eyes were shiny and hair unkempt. “Did you get the money?” not noticing her husband’s miserable condition, his wife leaned forward and whispered to him, fear depicted on her face that she might have disturbed their sleeping hungry kids. “No!” he answered; worries depicted on his face. “Why?” she asked, her voice alarmed. “I went to see him, but…” he hesitantly but in a solemn voice answered. “But what?” she interrupted; her voice sounding inquisitively louder. “I found him dead” he answered; his voice shaking. “Who died?” she wondered hitting her chest with her hand. He covered his face with his left hand to hide his tear-brimming eyes, and tried hard to have a firmer grip on his shaking body and said, “Hammurabi”; his quivering voice sounded coarser than sea-salt. Perplexed, his wife’s mouth gaped, but he gently pushed her aside and walked in to the room where his sick child slept.

“Dad, am I going to die?” his sick son asked. He quickly hugged him tightly and while firmly kissing him on the cheeks, he said, “No, I hope not, my son. I hope another Hammurabi will dawn on us soon”

The End