See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s different tales.
This is a multi-chapter novel. Chapters: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17
“This really throws the mango.” – Ivana
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Omar threw himself atop Celio, overlaying the outdated man together with his personal physique. Blazing warmth washed over his again, making him groan with ache. Once the blast handed, he fell again into the mud, letting it soothe his again. The warmth was nonetheless intense, however he had no power left with which to pull Celio additional, and even to maneuver himself.
Unlike the day of the canine assault, he didn’t go out. He lay shivering regardless of the roasting warmth. His physique was lit up with ache, scorching and popping like a jumbotron on the fritz, inflicting his jaw to clench as tightly as a wrench. In spite of the blazing warmth from the burning automotive, he was chilly all the way down to his bones. SubhanAllah, it was so chilly!
Beside him, Celio moaned nonstop. Why had he intentionally pushed off the bridge? He couldn’t have recognized that Omar would handle to save lots of himself. Was it an expression of blind religion, possibly impressed by Mama Tada, the cult that some Ngäbe adopted? Or was he merely mad, as many Panamanians believed?
The rain had stopped, however Omar’s tooth chattered and he couldn’t catch his breath. The world felt wobbly, as if the earth have been a grapefruit hanging on a slender tree limb, bobbing within the wind. The sirens grew loud, however he couldn’t carry a hand to alert them to his presence. What in the event that they didn’t see him and ran proper over him?
Celio, Omar knew, was a lot worse off. He was badly burned, particularly on his legs, almost definitely, since his pants had caught fireplace. And he wasn’t even a liar. Or was he? His ideas degenerated into disconnected streamers as his thoughts spun just like the grapefruit. What grapefruit? He couldn’t bear in mind.
Two police vehicles rolled into the sector, adopted by an historical fireplace truck that regarded like one thing Henry Ford may need invented. Voices spoke on crackling radios, calling for ambulances.
An officer leaned over him, telling him it will be okay. He was an enormous man with pores and skin like an overripe avocado, jaw muscle mass that bunched as he spoke, and sort eyes that swam like stones in a shifting stream. Omar had the sensation the cop would have given his shoulder a pleasant squeeze, if it had been protected. He appreciated the person’s presence, and needed to inform him, however couldn’t coordinate his tongue, lips and throat.
Ambulances arrived. He was lifted onto a stretcher. An IV went in his arm and he was stunned he didn’t really feel it. A paramedic slipped an oxygen masks over his face, and draped a blanket over him. He needed to say, “It hurts, it hurts,” that means every thing. But nothing got here out.
In the ambulance, the EMT knowledgeable him that she would depart the tourniquet in place on his leg. “Looks like you saved your own life,” she added.
Hospital, vivid lights, individuals speaking. All this once more. Was this a repeating sample, to destroy his physique each fifteen years? Would it occur once more at 45, and 60, and 75, and 90, and… 122?
Warmth flowing into his veins. He remembered this. This was the nice half.
He was a cyborg on a faraway world. All organic matter had been faraway from his physique, and his chassis had been stuffed with superconducting synthetic blood, reworking him right into a strolling ultracomputer.
A liquid methane tidal wave roared up from the ocean. It lifted him up, and slammed him into the facet of a constructing. His torso cracked open, and the superconducting blood caught fireplace. He turned a flaming torch, carried away on a sea flotsam. Even as he died he thought, Why didn’t I see that coming? My algorithms ought to have predicted it…
* * *
He was a soldier in a military of spiders, however as he checked out his crimson and black compatriots arrayed for battle round him, all he might suppose was, Who are we going to battle? And why? He didn’t wish to battle however solely to relaxation and stay in peace. He raised his voice and stated as a lot, making an attempt to elucidate nonviolence to his arachnid brethren, however they turned on him and tore him aside.
* * *
He was stranded on a planet the place it rained nonstop. His ship was crushed and burned, and provided no shelter. Every inch of his physique was soaked and wrinkled, and the water was rising on the limitless plain. A small white spaceship appeared within the falling rain, hovering above him. He noticed that his canine Berlina was piloting the ship. Since when did she understand how to do this? Tio Melo waved from the co-pilot’s chair, whereas Ivana stood half out of the sunroof, dancing within the rain. The ship turned within the air, the rockets ejected jets of flame, and the craft shot off, leaving him to drown within the rising tide.
* * *
He was semi-awake a number of hours after the preliminary surgical procedure, with the desires merging and altering in his reminiscence. He was a spider on a wet planet. A cyborg who refused to battle. A pilot pursued by a tidal wave. The ache remedy pulled at his eyelids, and he crossed dimensions into the land of clouds and desires.
The reduce on his again had been stitched. The reduce on his foot was contaminated, and was being handled with an aggressive course of antibiotics. The thigh wound was deeper and would take time to heal. His hair and eyebrows had been burned off. His higher physique, particularly his again and palms, had suffered first and second diploma burns, however they weren’t too dangerous. However, his pants had caught fireplace and melted into his pores and skin in spots, so his legs have been extra badly injured, particularly his knees.
The medical doctors grafted synthetic pores and skin onto his knees. Omar didn’t bear in mind this, however was informed later. They initially needed to make use of one thing referred to as porcine collagen sheet – pig pores and skin – however Samia informed them no, completely not. So they used an artificial pores and skin fabricated from nylon mesh and one thing referred to as silastic. It would adhere to the injuries till his physique repaired its personal pores and skin. His medical insurance didn’t cowl this, however Mama stated to not fear, Puro Panameño would deal with it.
Only quick household have been allowed to go to. Samia by no means left his bedside, even at night time, when she slept in a chair beside him, with a child blue hospital blanket pulled as much as her chin. Mamá took Nur to highschool within the morning, introduced him to the hospital within the afternoon. Omar embraced Nur when the boy climbed onto the hospital mattress and talked about his faculty day, however he didn’t have the vitality to be enthusiastic and even keen on what Nur needed to say.
After a couple of hours within the hospital within the afternoon every day, Mamá took Nur to her home to spend the night time. Omar knew his mom would have appreciated to spend extra time at his bedside, however time spent together with his mom was at all times awkward, for causes neither of them might clarify or cared to discover. Also, Samia felt, and Omar agreed, that it will not be good for Nur to spend all his free time within the hospital. It was higher to let the boy go residence together with his grandma. Though she hadn’t been the perfect mom to Omar, she was a caring grandmother who liked Nur together with her entire coronary heart, and Omar appreciated that.
Celio Natá was within the intensive care unit, with no guests allowed, and all Omar knew of the person’s situation was that it was crucial. This info was equipped to Samia by a ground nurse. Omar overheard however was barely in a position to course of it.
With the medical doctors and nurses, and even the police who got here on the second day, eager to know the small print of what had transpired on the bridge, Omar was mute. They’d converse and he’d shut his eyes. Part of it was the ache remedy. It made him really feel he was strolling underwater.
An even bigger half was that he felt on the sting of one thing penumbrous and horrible. Nur was a Spongebob fan, and Omar had watched the Spongebob Squarepants film with him a couple of instances. In it, Spongebob and Patrick have been framed for stealing Neptune’s crown. They vowed to retrieve it, embarking on an extended, perilous journey. They have been already underwater, after all, however they got here throughout a deep and impassable undersea trench, stuffed with opaque clouds, lava geysers, and the growling of beasts. Spongebob was compelled to acknowledge that his quest had failed.
In Omar’s thoughts he stood on the sting of that trench, making an attempt to maintain his steadiness. He stored seeing Nemesio’s physique torn in half – his personal uncle, who had bullied and haunted him all his life. The stench of roasting human flesh crammed his nostrils. He noticed Celio burning and heard his screams, and remembered the agony of the flames melting his personal pores and skin.
For some cause he additionally stored recalling the canine assault twelve years in the past: the tooth penetrating and tearing; the layer of blood coating his physique, the recent style of it in his mouth; the ache that penetrated to his bones, just like the radiation of an atomic bomb; and the thunderous gunshots that killed one of many canine. He even remembered his personal father’s dying as if he had seen it, although he had not. He considered Melo, his father’s father, who had deserted not only one household however two. And his mom, who’d failed to guard him when he wanted it most. And even Hani, who’d as soon as been a buddy, and had change into a bully and spouse beater.
Did life at all times come all the way down to this? People betraying those closest to them? Pain and ugliness? Who would need this life?
The Black Knife Strikes Again
On the third day, two police detectives in low cost fits entered the room. One had unnaturally pale pores and skin – a rarity in Panama – and yellowish eyes behind a pair of spherical spectacles. His tie was noticed with mustard, and an unlit cigarette dangled from his mouth. He regarded like a person entrenched in a lifetime of dangerous habits. His accomplice was a match black man in his thirties with semi-straightened hair that billowed in waves to his ears.
The pale detective held up a newspaper. The headline blared, “THE BLACK KNIFE STRIKES AGAIN!”
“I’m Detective Sosa.” The cop’s voice was gradual and drained. “My partner, Detective Ramirez.” He jiggled the newspaper. “This is the narrative, unless you tell us otherwise. Celio Natá murdered Nemesio Bayano, and tried to kill you too. If he survives, they’ll crucify him.”
These phrases penetrated Omar’s fogged mind, and even in his stupor he couldn’t let this stand.
“He saved my life.” The phrases emerged cracked and dry, like a person crawling out of the desert. “Nemesio tried to kill me. Celio saved me the only way he could. I’d be dead without his intervention.”
The black detective nodded as if he’d anticipated nothing else. “That’s your story?”
“It’s the truth.”
Sosa took the cigarette out of his mouth and checked out it as if making an attempt to determine why it wasn’t working correctly, then returned it to his mouth. “Truth is overrated.”
Omar’s mom was permitted to see Celio after that, and returned with information that Celio had extreme burns on a lot of his decrease physique. In order to see him, she’d needed to put on a robe, gloves, cap and masks. Mamá was positive he would survive. “My brother is not a man who simply dies,” she insisted. “He is king of the jaguar throne. Allah will have to pluck his soul personally.” Omar didn’t inform her that it didn’t work that manner.
Save the Darien
The subsequent day the hospital allowed Omar to obtain guests in restricted numbers. He had no real interest in talking to anybody, however Samia insisted. He knew she was involved about his frame of mind, and the unusual fugue that had overtaken him.
Nadia and Naris Muhammad got here in first, Nadia in shalwar khamees and hijab as normal, and Naris in denims and a t-shirt bearing a picture of the map of Panama bursting with bushes, and a slogan that stated, “Protect our legacy: save the Darien.” Omar hadn’t seen Naris in a 12 months and a half. She regarded drained and skinny, with strains parenthesizing her mouth. He felt concern, however regarded the sisters impassively.
Naris was too self-controlled to stare at Omar’s accidents, however Nadia gaped overtly. Omar knew he regarded like a goblin. His eyebrows and hair have been gone, exposing his mangled ear. His pores and skin was uncooked and peeling the place it wasn’t bandaged.
“It’s like a circus out there!” Nadia exclaimed when she’d recovered from her shock. “You wouldn’t believe it. News vans, camera crews.”
Nur was in school, however Samia stood beside Omar’s mattress, one hand on his arm. “I haven’t told him.”
Omar’s eyes flicked to Naris, who stated, “Sorry I haven’t been around. We’re trying to save the Darien. There’s so much corruption. These people want to sell Panama’s future for a suitcase full of money. They don’t care that a road through the Darien would be disastrous for the nation.” Her tone was bitter. She appeared to appreciate this, as she compelled a smile and stated, “Trying to get Nabila down here to make a film about it.”
Omar was acquainted with the problem. The Darien forest was the final outdated development forest in Panama, and served as an impassable barrier between Panama and Colombia. A highway would pace the destruction of the forest, and would carry a bunch of ills, comparable to permitting Colombian medication and arms to infiltrate Panama. There was additionally concern that hoof and mouth illness, which had traditionally decimated South American cattle, would have a hall to go into North America.
Nadia was carrying a meals tray. She set it down on the small desk beside Omar’s mattress. “I made you gulab jamun. I know how you love it.”
In fact, Omar didn’t look after the Fijian Indian candy, a finger-shaped cake fabricated from evaporated milk and sweetened with syrup. It was too gummy and cloying. But he’d by no means had the center to inform Nadia, and he or she’d gone on making it for him all these years.
Saints and Devils
“Why a circus?” Omar stated lastly.
For a second they have been stymied, then Nadia laughed. “Oh, right!” She drew a folded newspaper from her purse and handed it to Omar. The headline screamed, “FORMER TEENAGE HERO AT CENTER OF COMPLEX DRAMA.”
The story went on to put out every thing that had occurred, and all of the unusual connections of Omar’s life. The incontrovertible fact that he’d gained the Manuel Amador Guerrero award twelve years in the past for saving a teenage lady’s life, and that the lady was now his spouse. That he was the son of a person who died a hero whereas stopping a theft, and that the escaped killer, Nemesio Bayano, was that hero’s brother.
The story went on:
Have we ever seen such an unimaginable convergence of uniquely Panamanian characters? A poor indigenous girl, Ximena Bayano, rises above her circumstances to discovered certainly one of Panama’s most profitable firms. A younger hero, the son of yet one more hero, and inheritor to the Ngäbe-Buglé throne, comes face-to-face with certainly one of Panama’s most dastardly villains. A Panamanian legend, Celio Natá, indigenous rights champion to some and murderous insurgent to others, sacrifices himself in a fiery crash to save lots of his nephew, and miraculously survives. This weaving collectively of bigger than life characters, a few of them saints and a few devils, in a material of familial love and hatred, has captured Panama’s creativeness like no story because the fall of Noriega. In all of Panama as we speak, there’s one identify on everybody’s tongue: Bayano.
Omar groaned. This was a catastrophe. He’d by no means be capable of stay a traditional life, at the least not in Panama. He was uncovered, all of the secrets and techniques of his life revealed like bones below an x-ray. He observed the following paragraph:
I had the privilege of assembly this extraordinary man as soon as, in a cluttered kitchen on a sunny afternoon twelve years in the past…
His eyes flicked to the byline. Eric Jackson. The similar center aged journalist who’d interviewed him at his residence after the Day of the Dogs. The man was making some extent of following Omar’s life, as if Omar was an endangered animal to be examined and documented. Why ought to they care about his life? Didn’t individuals have extra critical issues to fret about?
The paper slipped out of his palms. His associates waited for him to say one thing, however he solely gazed on the tray of galub jamun. He was underwater, standing on the sting of the ditch, about to plummet into an inescapable gap. Naris excused herself, saying that she needed to be in courtroom. Nadia pulled up a chair beside Samia and chatted together with her. Omar ignored them.
A knock sounded, and Tio Melo walked in carrying a potted amaranth. He was wearing black, as if coming to a funeral, however his white tooth flashed as he grinned, greeting Omar with, “You don’t know how to stay out of trouble, do you my friend? Like father, like son.”
The outdated man greeted Nadia and Samia and sat within the final obtainable chair, holding the plant in his lap like a child. “You look like the dog’s dinner, Omar. But don’t worry, you’ll get back to your usual handsome self, I’m sure.”
When Omar didn’t reply, Melo regarded inquiringly to Samia, who after all couldn’t see him taking a look at her.
“I think he’s feeling down,” Nadia defined.
As if I’m not sitting proper right here, Omar thought. As if I’m one other potted plant. He felt he ought to be indignant with Melo. He remembered that he had deliberate to hate the person. But that required an excessive amount of vitality. It required him to take part within the affairs of the floor world, somewhat than the undersea world wherein he now lived.
“Well,” Melo stated awkwardly. “I’ll leave you alone.”
“Stay,” Samia urged.
The door opened once more and Ivana walked in, trying like a trend mannequin in a grey crepe pantsuit with a belted waist. She froze as she noticed Omar’s situation, then stood simply contained in the door, seemingly not sure of what to do. She hadn’t introduced any items, however Omar noticed the outdated photograph album in her hand, and knew why she had come. As normal with Ivana, it was all about her.
“Hello?” Samia inquired.
“Oh! It’s me, Ivana, sorry. Qué bolá?” She checked out Omar. “My beautiful love is in the waiting room, but they wouldn’t let him in. Too many visitors.”
“I’ll leave,” Melo stated once more, however Samia commanded him to remain put. Omar knew what she was pondering.
“Then I’ll go,” Nadia provided.
“You stay too,” Omar whispered. Somehow when Nads was round, every thing was simpler. Of course Samia was his spouse and he liked her completely, however Samia might be intense. Nads, then again, was a child blowing cleaning soap bubbles. You might by no means see a child blowing cleaning soap bubbles and never smile. Though Omar was undoubtedly not smiling, there was some a part of him that wanted the cleaning soap bubbles.
The Man Who Was Sitting Here
Ivana approached Omar’s mattress, shifting the desk barely to face beside him, reverse the opposite three and in entrance of the window. “I have been saying a prayer they taught us in the Catholic church when I was young. I light a candle, and I say, Almighty and merciful Father, by the power of your command, drive away from Omar all forms of sickness and disease.”
Omar checked out her. Maybe he’d judged her too shortly. He had a behavior of doing that, he knew. She’d modified within the final 12 months. Fuad’s love and persistence gave the impression to be working in her coronary heart, molding it. Or possibly it was Allah’s hand, guiding her in His time, His manner.
“You have a question.” Omar’s voice was very comfortable, and at first Ivana leaned in and stated, “What?” When Omar didn’t repeat himself she shrugged and opened the album. She pointed to the image of the younger Melo standing with Fidel and Che, the three of them laughing like greatest associates.
“Who is this man? You played it off, but something happened when you saw him. I saw your face.”
From the nook of his eye, Omar might see Nadia and Melo leaning ahead to take a look at the photograph.
“It’s your grandfather,” Omar stated. “And mine.”
Melo made a guttural sound and sat again in his chair, the colour drained from his face, his mouth open.
Ivana’s face, then again, darkened with anger as she took a half step again. “You’re talking nonsense. My grandfather was Marcos Arron Navarro. I remember him well. Are you trying to grab my behind? Why? Still because of the shooting thing?” She was working herself up, getting madder by the second. “When are you going to -”
“No,” Omar interrupted. “The man in the photo is your grandfather. But he left your grandmother, possibly before your mother was born. Or when she was very young, I don’t know. Then Marcos Arron Navarro came along and married your grandmother, stepping into the role of husband and dutiful father, raising your mother like his own. I would guess that your mother never knew.” This was the longest speech Omar had made because the fireplace, and it exhausted him.
Melo stood immediately, and the plant fell to the ground, spilling out of the pot, soil scattering. He walked unsteadily out of the room, one hand to his mouth like an epileptic making an attempt to catch his personal drool.
Ivana blinked quickly, and stated, “What happened?” When nobody answered she returned her consideration to Omar: “How can you know that?” she spat. “You weren’t there.”
“I told you,” Omar replied patiently, softly. “The DNA. The rest is guesswork. I don’t want to talk anymore.” His burns have been starting to harm because the remedy wore off. He was discovering it tough to suppose. He pressed the button on his armrest to name a nurse.
“Then who is this man you claim is my grandfather and yours?” Ivana stated bitterly. “Where is he?”
Omar slid down within the mattress and didn’t reply. The ache was a distant forest fireplace, coloring the sky orange, coming nearer with a roar.
“Ivana,” Samia stated. “He’s the man who just left. The man who was sitting here.”
Omar noticed Ivana look to the door, then again on the photograph within the nonetheless open album, then to the chair the place Melo had been sitting. It was as if she have been evaluating the photograph to the reminiscence of the person who’d been sitting there. “By the virgin,” she breathed. “You’re telling the truth.”
The nurse entered, eager to know what was mistaken, and Omar informed her. “No more visitors,” the girl snapped, shooing Nadia and Ivana together with her hand. “Go.” She scowled on the plant on the ground. “What is this mess?” Turning to Omar, her tone turned light as she touched his arm. “I’ll be right back with your medication.”
“This really throws the mango,” Ivana blurted, then spun on her designer excessive heels and stalked out of the room.
Nadia appeared over him, the overhead lights shining by means of the fringes of her lime inexperienced hijab, making her face seem like a plum on a tree department, with daylight shining by means of leaves. She grinned. “Like I said, amigo. Life is interesting when you’re around.”
The Quality of Kindness
After he obtained his remedy, Samia leaned over him and kissed his cheek gently. “It’s good you told them the truth,” she stated, “even if for the wrong reasons.”
He turned his cheek away. “What reasons.”
“To shock them.”
“Not only that,” he stated defensively.
Gently, she turned his face again to hers. He regarded into her eyes – eyes as candy as chocolate, and as wealthy as espresso. The daylight from the window was in her face, and Omar might see his personal silhouette in her pupils. Those eyes have been like wells brimming with love, persistence and religion. It pained him to know that as he gazed into her eyes, she couldn’t see his. But let nobody say that Samia was blind. She noticed greater than anybody he knew, and it shamed him.
“I’m glad to hear it,” she stated. “One thing I’ve always loved about you, Omar, is your kindness. The Prophet, sal-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said, ‘Allah is kind and loves kindness.’ Because you are kind, I see Allah’s love in you, so I love you too. I know you’re hurting, not only from the burns but in your heart. But don’t lose the quality of kindness. Okay, buster?”
He needed to reply, however didn’t know what to say. The remedy was making him so sleepy. As the ache of his accidents receded, his connection to the waking world dissolved together with it. As his lids closed he appeared to see an after-image of Samia’s tender brown eyes. She was touring with him into the dream world, slipping underwater with him. He was moved that she would do this for him, however needed to warn her that his desires have been unusual and threatening, and that she should be on her guard from starting to finish.
Next: Day of the Dogs, Chapter 19: Ximena’s Tale
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See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s different tales on this web site.
Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – together with Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – can be found in e book and print type on his writer web page at Amazon.com.