Saturday 26 June 2021

'Breadwinner' by Hibah Shabkhez

They cast him out, the superfluous one, the un-needed one, the one whose crime it was to be one-too-many. He spent the days sighing under swishing trees, mourning his way along the length of rivers and lakes, reading taunts into the cackling of the geese. His were all the words and the only words in that vast, vast expanse; but supremacy must have a smarting audience, or the exultation ebbs limply away. Blind to the lucence of moon and star, deaf to the whispers of water and leaf, he yearned for laughter and tears warmer and more other than the echoes of his own. Then came the day when he was he was cast out no more, for he was needed: to work, to earn, to grind and be ground. 'Cast me out again,' he says now, looking each morning at the swishing trees through the wire-mesh on his narrow, steel-barred window, smiling to hear the geese cackle back their old mockeries. Now he remembers only the beauty and peace he scarcely saw then, and above all, the freedom, the glorious, glorious freedom! He closes his eyes resolutely against all memory of the yawning abyss, the near-hell of absolute solitude, lest it find him here too. Loves, fears, and longings, holding him together and pulling him apart, all stem from the same shadows now, from the same exile that seems sometimes never to have existed and sometimes never to have ended. 'Oh, cast me out again!', he says. But he dares not say it aloud.

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