Fiction: Umma's Agony (1)



Zubayr kicks continuously, crying, “Umma! Umma! Ayyam hangry,” and I wonder why he won’t stop because our mother is sitting by the fire, blowing furiously at it, telling him the food will soon be ready. Only that there is no food in the pot-just water- and everybody knows that except Zubayr, but we can’t complain like him because mom had told us dad has gone to work and will soon be back with plenty of money to buy rice and bread and spaghetti.

I don’t really know what Abiyy does for a living, only that he goes out very early in the morning and returns by nightfall. And whenever he comes home Ummi will only ask him “how did it go?” And if he says “Alhamdulillah,” I will be very happy because I know that there will be rice or spaghetti for us. But if he says “Ah! Alhamdulillah” I will be sad because I know we’ll either take garri or go hungry again. 

The call to Maghrib prayer has long been made and now I can see the red hot coal clearly and the tiny sparks of fire breaking rapidly away from it. But dad is not back yet and I am worried and losing the last of my resolve because dad always comes home before the call to prayer.

Mom unstrapped Faatimah from her back to breastfeed her and the tears in her eyes glisten from the fire as she looks again in the direction dad always emerges from. Zubayr is now asleep and Mulkah, my twin sister, is dozing beside me, rocking back and forth until her head hits the wall in front of her and she cries out and I can’t tell her sorry because I know it was hunger, more than anything else, that made her cry and I don’t know what to do because I am also hungry and I can’t tell mom because she is just crying all over Faatimah’s head.

And Allah knows I want to cry, too, but dad told me before he left that I am the head of the family whenever he’s gone and heads of families are always strong and they don’t cry for food and they wait patiently for the main heads of families to come home.  Or maybe dad was wrong because I am five years old and my friend, Lekan, is seven and he cries for food all the time and his dad doesn’t say anything about it and I wonder why it is okay for a seven-year old head of the family to cry and not a five-year old head of the family.

Soon I burst into tears and Mulkah changes the melody of her own cry and mom cries, too and say, “Hey! Hey! AbdulMalik, Mulkah, don’t cry my dear, dad will soon be back and you don’t want to wake your younger ones.” And soon, a commercial bus emerges from dad’s direction and mom says “you see! Dad is back.” But when the bus stops in front of the house, it was not dad that alights but a man who explains to mom that dad was involved in an accident and mom cries out and Faatimah and Zubayr wake up and cry, too, and Mulkah cries, too. But I don’t cry because I don’t know what accident is and I wonder why Mulkah and Zubayr and Faatimah are crying because they are not supposed to know what accident is… and I am hungry and I am still waiting for dad to come down with the spaghetti and bread and rice. 

TO BE CONTINUED! LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.
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