In June 2016, six-hundred missiles in six days struck the city of Aleppo in Syria.
The Far Far Away.
Once upon a short time ago – it could be today, tomorrow or next year, even a century from now.
News on Syria came just before sports. Repeated daily on the carousel of who gives a shit about people in the far-far-away. Unfeigned horrors less real than a Hollywood movie. Seán shook his head and blinked away tears teasing the corners of his eyes. He switched off the radio and exited his car. A chill, light fog crept around the carpark.Tight to the corner of a closed Polish shop a beggar sat on a thin wedge of cardboard. Seán yanked at the zip of his coat, gathering the collar high to his chin so that the tips of his ears were snug. Hands buried in his pockets, he shuffled toward the shop.
Lights on a Mercedes closeby dimmed to electronic slumber. Its owner, Pinstripe-man, stiff in black oxford brogues, gym-fit and purposeful, strode across the cobbles toward Lidl. He slotted a coin into a trolley and reversed to the top of the queue waiting for the shop to open. Angry faces stared, but lips remained closed, locked by their collective inability to cast off centuries of being oppressed.
On reaching the beggar, Seán noticed he was frail and quiet, not one of the professional scroungers who usually occupy the more lucrative spaces nearer the shop. The man cradled a brown-and-white terrier clad in a thick doggie jumper.
Seán stopped and waited until the man gazed up. His eyes were clear. Alcohol was not his armour. Seán inhaled the stranger’s serenity and relaxed.
“Is there anything you would like from the shop?”
The beggar’s gaze drifted to a half-full tin of dog food by his side. “No,” he said, “I’ve enough for her today, thanks.”
“Are you sure? What about you?”
He thought for a moment, then smiled. “A SMALL bottle of water for us, please.”
They chatted about the dog and his health.
Pinstripe-man breezed past them, back bent to the task of pushing his special offer to his oversized car boot.
Abóòd sat cross-legged on the tiled floor blowing at a wooden boat. Its sail, made from fine linen, billowed to his softest breath. A present from Tarek, his father, on this his second birthday. He wished his grandparents could see his ship. They could have voyaged beyond the city. Why did they go to market and never come home?
Aisha kneaded dough, smiling every time her only child giggled or shrieked with excitement. Every day she prepared flatbread using a family recipe as old as Damascus. Tarek claimed it to be the finest in all Aleppo, maybe the world. Even now, with only gritty, poor flour available he never complained. Some days they filled their bowls with stale water and pretended it was food. How her belly ached on those days. Seeing Abóòd cry himself to sleep.
Her face contorting into a mask of horror, Aisha dived for her son, but the explosion caught her, and ripped life from her.
Pinstripe-man lay back on his recliner, kicked off his leather slippers. Sniffed his cognac before sipping. Changed the channel on his new fifty-five-inch television to Sky News.
Images captured a reality his emotions were immune to. Grey plumes of dust swirled around, each one a grim reaper gathering the souls of the dead. Men emerged from the shroud that had enveloped the city. Blood-red eyes peered from grime caked faces. Neighbours, friends, perhaps some were strangers, they scrambled over rubble, avoided the grotesque skeletons of furniture and the shattered remnants of family homes obliterated. Four carried a filthy sheet, sagging in the middle, scraping off fragmented blocks and jagged roof tiles. A limp female arm hung to one side, swaying to the beat of mournful cries and agonised screams. Somewhere within the deathly pall, a dog barked.
An older, bearded man to their rear slipped and lost balance. In his arms the broken body of an infant clutched a wooden toy.
Bored by the news repeated daily on the carousel of who gives a shit about people in the far-far-away, Pinstripe-man changed channel.
The homeless one should be King.
Bombs continue to rain down on Alleppo.
Cruel are the warmongers who plunder from the well of happy ever afters.
NJ Morrow 2019