Rows of Dwindling Crowds
Harder and faster the young boy peddles, past stalls of dried mulberries and walnuts, smoky dens and cafés, oil dripping kebaberies and butcheries, packed shisha bars and restaurants. His speed attracts attention. The lad, gasping for sandy air, wears a tattered orange turtleneck, with pierced holes through the cuffs and torn Levi’s. He seems to be in a bit of a hurry.
Nearing the end of the shopping parade he clenches his rear brake, hovers his right converse above the cobbled ground as he rounds a corner, then reiterates the circular motion of his legs eagerly. Shadows lengthen before him as tufts of clouds drift in from the west; the sun concealed behind them. He gazes up at the flat topped clay houses: he is nearly there. He listens to the quiet echoes of footfalls and whirring as he drifts past. His nostrils are overwhelmed, tickled so to speak, at the local herbs and spices as housewives prepare their dinners. On a sudden incline in the boy’s path he recognises Ahmad Zahir’s Laily Jan murmuring on an old radio cassette wistfully; his father’s favourite.
The merchants have finished up their haggling for the day and set themselves down, sipping thermo mugs of sugary black tea. Youngsters scramble into fast food vendors: the old gentlemen blow cordial rings of shisha into the atmosphere. Struggling up the cobbled street, the boy wipes a bead of sweat from his brow and stops being nosy; his father wouldn’t like it.
He screeches to a halt, leans back on the saddle and flicks the bell twice. Lead hail falls from the murky skies above, carelessly popping open the skulls of the dwindling crowds on their evening strolls. Kebabs, fast food vendors and curling wisps of shisha incense line the street; and corpses. Steels birds touch on the ground, big men in strange costumes bundle down from them, they chase the older generation of men from the café and shoot fire from their hands. Screams and shouts and shrieks echo across the lead-linen cobbles.
A havoc of scrap and rubble litters the paving slabs of the bakery, where the boy’s father works, two blown bicycle tires, bottles with peeled labels, torn magazines, red ink blotted newspapers, scattered bricks, shards of glass and two bundles of clothes.