Samba slept for another night in the dirty streets of downtown Cairo. His step-father, Moussa, was home that night and hated nothing more than the twelve-year old boy. Whenever he was home, Moussa would shout at Samba, beat him, and take the few pounds that Samba had saved from his work in a local garage. Samba’s mother would stand in the corner helplessly watching her son getting beaten up by the ruthless old man. She was a weak woman with poor health and had seven other young children. After the usual beatings, Samba would stare at his mother with several unanswered questions running through his mind. But Samba was brave. He was gifted and full of life – hardships only made him stronger and more resilient.
Of his seven siblings, he loved Rooka – his six year-old sister, and Ziko – his eight-year old brother, the most. He was like a father to them. Every other night, after finishing his work at the garage, Samba would buy dinner and sweets for Rooka and Ziko, and he would meet them by a football court in the abandoned school building at the end of their street. They would spend the whole night eating, recounting stories, making fun of Moussa, gazing at the stars in the sky and making shapes from them. Some nights, other children from the neighborhood would join them for a heated football match that would last the whole night. On other nights, the three children would climb to the rooftop of the abandoned school building to spy on the neighbors or watch the wedding celebrations taking place at the neighbouring youth centre hall. They loved dancing to the music which filled the air. They would sometimes sneak into the crowded hall to steal a piece of gateaux or a bottle of coke.
One night, Samba’s older brother found out about the food that Samba bought for his two young siblings. Filled with envy, he hurried to Moussa and told him: “Samba is spending his money on food and sweets which he only gives to Rooka and Ziko. He knows we are in need of this money as well. You should teach him a lesson.”
Moussa was filled with anger, and that night, he followed Rooka and Ziko to the football court. When Samba saw him, he tried to hide the food but Moussa had already seen it. He grabbed Samba by his shirt and slapped his face. “You dirty pig,” he snarled. “I spend every pound I earn on your sick mother’s medicine and feeding your brothers and sisters, and here you are enjoying your time eating and drinking.” He stuffed his hands inside Samba’s pockets, searching for his money, and Samba kneed him in the groin.
Samba quickly grabbed his knife from his pocket. Pointing the steely blade at Moussa, he screamed: “If you come one step closer to me or my brother and sister, I swear I will kill you!” Bent over in anger and pain, Moussa looked up at him and his siblings. He slowly stood tall, paused, and spat on them. As he turned and walked back to his house, he shouted: “Don’t you dare come near the house again! If you do – I’ll cut off your legs!”
Rooka and Ziko sobbed uncontrollably as Samba slowly wrapped his arms around them, hugging them tightly. They couldn’t eat that night. Instead, they climbed up to the rooftop of the abandoned school. It was a little windy, so they lay on the ground beside each other and gazed up at the stars. Rooka pointed up towards the sky, “Do you see that house over there?”
“Where?” Ziko asked.
“That one on the right side of the moon,” replied Rooka. “The one with the garden and the big tree. I have an idea, we can live there. We can take a plane and go up in the sky and live there. Moussa won’t be able to reach us.” She looked back to Samba, but he had fallen into a deep sleep, with his fist clenched tightly around his small knife.
Mirette Bahgat (@) is an Egyptian short story author, blogger and a humanitarian worker. Her work has appeared in an array of publications, including The Huffington Post, Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks out for Freedom and Justice, World Pulse Magazine, and A Sea of Words-IEMED. Her writing explores issues of self-identity, spirituality, mythologies and gender. You can visit her at: www.mindfulcityliving.blogspot.com.
This story was published in collaboration with Bahati Books, an e-book publishing company that aims to bring to global readers captivating and well-written African Literature by African authors.
Related country: Egypt