Every attempt to reach Osman al-Houri has failed. Some corroborative sources have informed me that the man has retreated to an isolated village, that he does not own a cell phone, and that there is no way to reach him. Even more than that, he has evidently given up—deserted, and renounced writing, or so I am told. It is May 2019, and at the moment there is a revolution in Sudan, and people, among them a great number of authors, have taken to the streets and squares, demanding the fall of a regime that has—like many of its “siblings”—weighed down on and repressed them for decades. The Sudanese regime—again like many of its siblings in such circumstances—has shut down the internet for nearly a month now, taken to shooting live bullets at protesters and setting loose its henchmen upon them. By so doing, the regime has further complicated the means of connection with a country whose connection with its Arab surroundings (perhaps excepting Egypt) is already complicated and semi-severed. In light of this, can one even speak of literary connection, especially in a field that in our times has become ever more “elitist”: that of the short story?
Connecting What Has Been Severed with Sudan: The Short Story as it Fills Voids with Imagining
From early morning, Arrayga had been smoking ravenously, cigarette after cigarette, staring blankly at the bedroom ceiling. When she opened the third packet, Kultouma came over and, eyes welling with tears, anxiously inquired: “Arrayga, calm down. What is it, sister? You’re going like a train: puff puff puff. Speak to me, Arrayga. What’s upset you?”
Say Chicken Little was right, that the sky is falling. What I want to know is, will the moon fall too? Will it bounce softly like swiss cheese, or will it crumble like a stale cookie? Do skies bruise? Do they ache? And is the sky a metaphor for all the ills and evils of the world? A testament to how the earth can only hold so much pain and grief? But why would God send a chicken? Would you listen to a chicken? Is the chicken a metaphor for Jesus? Did the Bible mention this and somehow I missed it? Is this because in 6th grade my teacher made me promise Jesus my virginity in a gift basket? Actually, if the sky falls,
The four of them lay on the rug in a circle. They could not be still. They could not shut the hell up. They played blackjack, betting for fistfuls of jerky their dad kept stashed on a kitchen shelf. Only rarely did the girl beat the boys, though she was next to oldest. There were three of them to her one, an equation of quantity and logic, she’d always understood, but also of weight and matter. Ace and face, she threw down her cards, three lucky wins in a row. She whooped and lifted up from the floor, prepared to wrestle an accord, star-flung limbs and static-flared hair bound in constellation. Instead, this late afternoon, the oldest brother detonated the cards in a rush of edges. Red and black diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs.
When he comes in, you wish you had been killed. Not your brother.
The rusted scent of the metal chair you’re on reminds you of the smell of his blood on your hands, chest, and hair: sweetly pungent with a strong hint of iron.
You start hearing his choked gurgles, see the blood spouting from his mouth. Smelling again the gunpowder-laced air between your body and his. The gurgling stops, his eyes close, and alarm strikes your throat numb, temporarily freezing your screams. His body begins to tremble, violently.
The zaar concluded on the tenth day. With a small retinue, Sara went down to the Nile.
On this, the last day, she had to wash every inch of her body in the river’s sacred waters, and then the celebrations could begin. She stepped quickly, her body weightless now all the years of waiting and false promises were set aside. Face shining, renewed, it was as though three decades of dread had swirled up and away with the incense smoke and the dust raised by the devil’s music. Purged of its frustrations, her mind could usher in thoughts of hope, and it seemed to her now, as she stepped out of the house and back into the world outside, that divine care had granted her its protection; was shielding her from time, against oblivion.
The ride on the train from Kosti, known as “the steamer,” marked the start of the summer vacation. As soon as it began, I felt a mixture of sadness and joy—joy that I would be traveling on the westbound train again, and sadness at leaving my hometown, which rang with daytime noises and the singing of the fishermen on the river. I sobbed when I thought I would never return to the town’s embrace. Had my young heart already surmised that my departure would take me to a faraway country, much farther than my child’s mind could grasp? With my grandmother as my traveling companion, I started to discover the story of my family, the countryside, and the towns where her sisters and the rest of the family lived.