Zul Qi’da 11, 1423
“Yes let us have your lorry over the whole please. Go ahead! Still ahead! Right. Left. Stop!” My lorry, or verbally my brother’s lorry, is now over the large hole from which the mechanic is going to fix the dry-shaft. I put the lorry in such a way so it could leave a space for him to get into the hole beneath the lorry and to start working. But there was another car that needed some little work before he could start with mine.
Perhaps because I am not naturally a waiting person- well I never wait for the bus until it comes, as I usually walk to and fro until the bus arrives- I started jumping over the hole from one side to another, a habit which has been long inherent in me.
I was jumping from side to side of a wet pond in the school square after a rainy morning. It was enjoyable to see how I could jump successfully from one side to another without falling inside the pond which was full of water. “Good boy, come with me”, she said with a smile. She was much bigger than I was and I used to feel excited when seeing such a girl or a boy in her age in the school, because I always dreamt of arriving at that queue one day where the sixth-grade pupils used to stand. It is really funny now because 23 years passed since that moment. Such a girl was remarkable for me. As other boys and girls of my age, I considered her privileged for holding that badge over her school apron which reads “Disciplinary Committee”, the holder of which should have been among the most hardworking and well-mannered pupils. They were my example, and I hoped one day to be like them privileged in both manners and studies and finally could have the privilege of holding that badge on my body or on my arm, though I did not equally like the arm badge which read “Cleanliness Committee”.
Well, there came a day when I was very very very privileged for having the distinction of holding on my chest the “Badge of Honor” for a whole weak. Imagine, for a whole weak, the badge of honor attesting to my perverseness and manners. Indeed I was then the example for every pupil to follow. Well, many teachers, especially Mrs. Haifa and Mrs. Amina used to tell other pupils: be like Abu-Risha in everything (pupils used to be called by their family names).
“Good boy”, said the girl who approached me with a gentle smile and held my little hands. She pointed out to a teacher who was standing over there top of the stairs leading to the door of the inner school square. She was holding a stick in her hand. The girl said to me “Come with me to that teacher. She says she will give you a reward because you are a good boy.” I felt excited and satisfied although I said to myself, “Why should they bother themselves telling me that I am a good boy?” Yes I thank them from the depth of my heart, and I am indeed a good boy and everyone is proud of me. I didn’t do anything remarkable except jumping on that wet pond, but perhaps the teacher noticed something excellent for which I deserved a reward. I smiled to myself while walking with that girl and said to myself: “How bad are my friends! They told me that the teacher I am going to right now is a ‘tyrant’ and that she beats all pupils until they cry even for simple or no reasons. She is nice to recognize me and give me a reward.” On the way also I was thinking at the same time of the reward. Yes I am a good boy and a hardworking pupil and certainly I deserve a candy, or perhaps it is something else. Anyway, it is a reward which I deserve even if I do nothing.
I woke up from my thoughts as I arrived with an innocent smile and with happiness in my bright face and my head rose to look at the teacher with the childish innocent eyes that all human beings have at that stage of their lives. I did not have any reason to worry or fear as other pupils did when looking at her face. On the contrary, she will give me a candy or a rew…………..
) ………………..2 2
! Tik Tik
She held my little hands and bit them strongly with her stick. When a pupil did something bad he/she used to have 2 stick-beats on his/her hands, and this is what happened to me.
But what about the rew……a….rrrrrd… no need to continue thinking about it. It is over.
I went back to the place where I was playing but did not dare approach the wet pond looking at it silently. But, what is the mistake that I committed to deserve these sticks,,, but they said I am a good boy…….. I opened my mouth to ask myself a question, but my mouth closed back slowly and my words died at the edge of my tongue.
Old habits die hard, and perhaps this feeling of deserving a reward stayed in me for a long long time. I saw a letter in my pidgin hole, and with a smile I rushed to it saying “For sure another letter thanking me for something.” I used to do a lot of things on a voluntary basis for my university where I teach, and I can hear from time to time how people here in this university praise me and talk about me as the one who is excellent at everything, who never says ‘no’, who is sincere in his work, although I sincerely say that it has never been my intention to attract their attention to me. Such letters were usual for me because they sent me on two occasions letters of thanks for translating some documents. Certainly there are some thanks waiting for me because I am a good person. I rushed to read it ……………….
“Instructor Mohammed Yahya Abu-Risha
Peace be upon you,
In accordance with Article 42 (A) of the Teaching Staff Statutes No.1 for the year 2001 effective in Zarqa Private University, and since you have taught outside the university without a prior permission, I have decided to give you a written notice. The university will also deduce half of your reward from your salary. I hope that this [punishment] will be an incentive for you in the future to comply with the statutes and regulations of the university.
And, peace be upon you.
Half of the reward. The candy. The two stick beats on the hands. Yes the reward. I worked outside the university which denied me overtime. I was dreaming. Every lecture I taught I was thinking of the smile that will come on the face of the one whom I most love and adore when I give her the bracelet I was planning to buy by the money I get from teaching overtime lectures at another university. Another dream that I do not have the right to see real. Another smile that has been killed, and another bitter reward for my sincerity, hard work and love. The two stick beats are alive again, the same smile has been fated to die, the same aspirations and optimisms were destined to founder on the rock of despair. The same “why” and “how”, the same shock and the same bitterness. My eyes showed me everything as black and dark for seeing the murder of my smile and the killing of my small dream. I read the beautifully colored letter again and again but understood nothing, had no answer for my why.
I opened my mouth to ask myself a question, but my mouth closed back slowly and my words died at the edge of my tongue.
“Sir, your lorry is ready, but don’t forget to bring it back tomorrow to fix the brakes.”