Othman meandered down the street, blowing on a gravelly graze across his elbow. His thin, young adolescent face was streaked with grey tracks of sweat. His hand-me-down orange vest hung loosely from his scrawny frame and his blue shorts sat awkwardly above his scratched knees. Both were freshly doused with a coating of dust. Under his arm, he held tightly onto a deformed football, the fabric scratched and peeling.
Dusk was setting in rapidly, but Othman was in no hurry to get home. He knew the crazy men – drunks and drug addicts – wouldn’t cause him any trouble while there were still people around. He could picture his family at home: his mother would be halfway through preparing dinner – some sort of pulse-based mash with a carrot or two, perhaps – in the cupboard kitchen, her face red and covered in beads of sweat and her frizzy hair defying the grip of the scarf twisted tightly round it. His three elder sisters would be sweeping or scrubbing clothes in the large plastic basin that doubled as a bath, while his two younger brothers chased each other round the living room, which was also the children’s bedroom, arguing over the portable gaming console their father had bought them. Othman had played with it a couple of times, but it usually ended in a scramble with one or more of his brothers followed by their mother entering brandishing a wooden spoon. Anyway, the batteries had almost run out and they could only see the screen if they held one hand above it to block out the light. His two elder brothers would still be at work at the port and wouldn’t be back until late – even later than their father, who rarely ate dinner with them these days.
A commotion suddenly caught Othman’s attention; there were loud shouts erupting from the café across the road. His interest piqued, he crossed the road to take a better look. Every face in the café was directed at a small television screen in the corner where a football match was being broadcast. Barcelona was playing and had just been awarded a penalty shot! Like all his friends, Othman’s favourite team was Barcelona and they always spent at least ten minutes at the beginning of each game arguing over who would play as Messi. They had all chalked his club number 10 on the back of their vests, anyway. Othman stared through the smoke-filled interior at the small screen as Messi walked up to take the shot, the football under his arm; Othman unconsciously tightened his grip on his own ball. The café fell silent; no one could breathe. Slowly, he placed the ball on the floor and held it there for a moment before stepping back several paces. His heart pounded like the pupils’ chaotic table drumming in maths class while the teacher watched, helpless. He stood completely still, assessing his position, the goal and the goalkeeper; formulating a plan. Then, with the eyes of the world on him, he vaulted towards the ball, his feet almost not touching the ground. In one swift, graceful movement, his foot made contact with the ball and powered it off the ground. Innumerable pairs of eyes followed as it sped through the heavy, tense air – the bearer of a thousand dreams. He stood firm, his gaze fixated on the spiralling orb careering towards the goal. A horrified gasp caught in his throat as it appeared to be heading for the crossbar and, for an excruciating moment, seemed to hover in mid-air – hesitant. Then, with an abrupt twist, it slid past the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand and charged into the back of the net.
Silence, then a colossal roar. The crowd and café customers simultaneously leapt from their seats, the ground trembled and he basked in their cheers. He spread his arms wide and ran in circles, his head held high and his heart soaring. He laughed aloud, jubilation filling every pore; what a moment! All of a sudden, his sandal caught on an uneven pavement stone. He lost balance and crashed into the concrete, scraping his other elbow. The cheering faded as the café patrons returned to their seats and Othman sat dazed at the side of the road, rubbing his throbbing elbow. His shorts had ripped; his mother would not be happy. As he pulled himself up, he realised something was missing. He peered around him wildly, his injury suddenly forgotten. Where was it? It can’t have gone far. He wouldn’t leave without it! He squinted to see through the darkness with little aid from the dim streetlights. Then he spotted it, impaled on a metal fence and hanging limp and deflated, like his dreams.
Moment of Glory is just one of many stories and poems in Muslim Creative Writers Network’s charity anthology, Survival of the Hardworking. The anthology explores the concept of survival from a refreshing variety of perspectives, whether it’s aiming for fortune only to look back with nostalgia, protecting those we love, being the best people we can be or the daily toil just to stay alive. The writers and poets hail from all over the world and their contributions reflect this, producing a beautiful patchwork of stories and poetry.
All proceeds from sales of this anthology go to charities working with Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring countries. You can order a copy by visiting the website: http://talesforsyria.weebly.com.
Muslim Creative Writers Network was created in September 2012 with several main aims in mind: to connect and support Muslim writers, to bring Islamically-appropriate reading options to the attention of Muslim readers and to take a stronger, more decisive hold of our own narrative through creative writing.
Amina Hachemi is passionate about all things language. She enjoys experimenting with the use of different languages in her writing to create impact and provoke reflection. For Amina, writing is a powerful tool for intercultural dialogue and mutual appreciation. She is an editor, translator and writer. http://ahachemi.weebly.com