Jul 062017

Promises to Keep

ilhem issaoui


It was an evening on the first of October. The weather was wavering between dry and cold in the farer countryside. The unwanted flood left scattered deep ponds hither and thither. She did her best to escape the mire and to reach her father, yet her weak legs and the lame on her feet ceased not to thwart her from pursuing her path from time to time, while unnoticed by him.

He would tell her stories of how his hortatory older brother used to plunge into the pool with an incomparable grace, vigour and vitality « here, he used to plunge and swim, he used to propel me to plunge as him. Yet, I was a spineless coward; I used to look for a lower pond to plunge into ». His voice was full of longing to a past amorphous. He was not the kind of a man who would beg for empathy, nay. « We used to be the inseparables. We would go catch birds, stay late at night. None to ask for us »

“Do you want to give this rifle a try?” she was reluctant; she has never tried it before. He showed her what trigger to pull and how. And there it was her first shot. He gave her the red cartouche.

He sat at a highland that she climbed with too much effort. A picturesque view of verdant meadows, high mountains, and soaring birds surrounded them.

“I used to hunt rabbits and culvers there, up the mountains; it was full, full of animals. And now terrorists have left nothing of that all.” His words were tinged with faint grief. He recalled how he used to climb all of the high mountains with his one and only son. His son who tied the knot with a French divorced young lady last year, with an eye to settle in France.

“Our home, look over there, yonder, near the mosque, it is unseen now, unseen, not even a whistle of bird could be hearkened, not even crows would be satiated to dwell in it. It was your father’s abode, where he grew, where he ate fresh eggs and dates, ten dates and an egg for breakfast. Where he and his older brother played shepherds, their dates were their cattle. Life was beautiful. Your other uncle, my half brother, destroyed it with cold blood.” A faint pathos and wrath fragranted his words.

“I told them, all of my siblings, why wouldn’t you love to give me a hand, to render the land of our ancestors a mirabilia, and benefit from it together? Why miring my path towards such dream?”

Many unanswered questions were interwoven inside his head and hers. Why would such a man as her half uncle do such harm to his history? Does not he long for it? Why such wrath and barbarism? Could the blood running through his veins be the same as his other siblings? And how about the others, why would they want to turn a deaf ear about it?

“Because he has four sons of his loines, and I not. It may seem ambiguous to you, but not to jejune minds. To them, diplomas have no worth. And I have but a son who left the country, who did his best to disown his origins. He is French now. To whom shall this land go to, when I am a bygone? I know not”

 “She wants me to sell the land in order for them to get their shares of the few and meaningless coins, my older brother’s wife. He cannot prevent her from doing as it pleases her. And my half brother delves to do his best so that I languish with all what I plant in this generous land. Who is to keep my lorn memories of childhood alive and bright when I am a bygone?” with forlorn hopes he uttered his words.

A lump in her throat was about to blast. She wished to be a man, to master hunting, to master harvesting, to master strength. Inherit the land, render it, as her father wished it to be, an empyrean.

Her father was getting old, she knows it. His wrinkled hands burnt by sun with the veins visible. She had insatiable impulses to hold his hand at that very moment, to run the catalogue of his amarulent life, saw a flower hither and thither, vow to him that everything will be quite satiable. It is noteworthy to mention that apart from his son, none of his daughters tied the knot. He was bereft of having grandsons and granddaughters surrounding him, climbing his back, pulling his dry hands, running their little fingers through his wrinkles, and with cherubic voices call him grandfather. This was his Achilles’heel.

“ what if I could” in an attempt to shatter the frigorific equanimity tinged with longing, wrath, and despondency anon, she said “what if you allow me to inherit the land, I am young, I still, I can be some lawyer or judge, master cases as such, bring back the lands we lost, harvest the land, hither shall be fruitful trees of apricots, peaches, and thither fields of aureate wheat stretching, birds of every specie, and rabbits well-fed would hide and jump beneath the lofty cactuses. I will have another house here, where my children would play, would blow dandelions just as I did, eat from what this land shall gift, delicious ears of corn, sweet watermelons, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables and fruits. They shall know about their mother’s childhood and memories, and learn how to be enamoured of the land. »

He laughed briskly. She turned red faced, with a candid yet timid voice she said to him “was I childish with my thoughts?”

With a beaming smile he replied « nay, my sweet child. You delighted me! »

This could be a winsome painting of a father and a daughter to contemplate, had it not been for the tempest of doubts that defoliated her dreams. How can she fulfill his hopes and dreams? Her brother, she knows him well, is greedy and is not endowed with preponderant views, views that butter no parsnips. He would sell the land as soon as time allows him. And she feels hapless, for how much time would it take her until she is capable of building her castles in the air she vowed to build. A heavy albatross seemed to weigh her down. She sighed, as if she carried upon her back all the burden of humanity anon.

Her heart, like a worthless muscle inside a moribund’s corpse, wept deep down in frigid silence…

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