Friday Night Story


My wife and son are at her sister’s husband’s home. I shouldn’t be here, but my wife needed some things; I needed some things- but now that I’m here, all I can remember over the heartbeat in my ears fills a handbag. So many things become trivial when retrieving them could cost your life.

I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never even helped someone get away with killing someone. But madmen want me dead. I was warned by my neighbor. His son had been paid hard dollars- American- for information about me. His father boxed his ears until he told him where the he’d gotten the money; in the face of real danger the argument we’d had over his garden was forgotten.

I’ve lived a simple, and I thought, humble life. I was never as devout as my Shia parents might have liked, and it nearly killed my mother when I married a Sunni, but you cannot decide who you love. My sin, I suspect, was more recent. My son had taken ill, adding urgency to our poverty, brought on by the commercial evacuation following the invasion. There was one job open to those fortunate few who spoke English and I took it, when the word “liberator” as on more tongues than “occupier.”

I spoke to my Captain. He was a very nice man, and kind as often as he could be. He offered me money I refused, knowing that it came from his own pocket. And I asked him for help leaving the country, perhaps going to America. I could tell that it pained him when he said simply, “I can’t.”

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