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A Soldier In the Garden

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    A poignant and delightful short story by a young Palestinian author from Nablus: A Soldier In the Garden by Wafa Abu Shamais www.israelshamir.net It was
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2005
      A poignant and delightful short story by a young Palestinian author
      from Nablus:

      A Soldier In the Garden
      by Wafa Abu Shamais

      It was exactly one o'clock, an hour after midnight. My husband and I
      had been watching a movie on TV. As soon as the movie finished, I went
      to bed. My husband said that he wanted to catch the news headlines,
      which he told me would not take more than five minutes, and he
      promised he would come to bed immediately after. I got into bed and as
      soon as I placed my head on the pillow, my dream began. It was the
      longest dream I've ever had although it lasted only five minutes.

      It seemed I was ready then, and the dream was waiting for me to close
      my eyes so that it could start. All of a sudden and without any
      introduction, I saw myself in my parents' house with my children. My
      parents live in a two-story house, where they occupy the first level
      and one of my brothers lives in the second.

      It was Friday and our weekly family gathering. My two brothers and
      sister were present, along with their children. There were ten
      grown-ups and fifteen children. All the Friday activities, from
      preparing lunch in my mother's busy kitchen, to having lunch and
      feeding the children, to washing and drying the dishes, to drinking
      coffee and having dessert, flashed quickly in front of my eyes. How
      amazing that things that take hours, months or even years to happen in
      real life can pass by so quickly when repeated in dreams. Maybe that
      is why realities hurt more than dreams, since they take so much longer
      and we live every minute of them. Everyone seemed happy and thoroughly
      enjoying themselves. Faces of young children and adults flashed by in
      varying positions, colors and sizes, sometimes chattering quite
      noisily, and yet sometimes they were in black and white, mute. Some
      pictures flashed so quickly that I couldn't remember them later, while
      others floated in slow motion.

      I have always admired the producers and directors of dreams. They are
      great people who work hard in order to produce a winning dream. Of
      course they wouldn't be doing a great job without the help of our
      eyes, the cameramen. In movies, directors and producers deal with real
      people, while in dreams, they deal with images of real people. This
      fact alone makes dreams more interesting than reality. In my dream,
      time was passing very quickly, almost like heat lightning over the hills..

      It was around seven in the evening, and we were waiting for the day to
      cool down so that we could go to the garden which my father had worked
      so hard to create. For many years, the piece of land adjoining the
      house had been neglected, and it was ugly, almost like a junkyard.
      There were rocks of different sizes scattered all over the place; many
      dead and dry trees, and little that was thriving. There were no roses,
      very few green plants, and birds rarely visited the trees. We didn't
      want to walk in it or even to look in its direction. Moreover, we
      never allowed our children to play in it for fear of insects or other

      After his retirement, my father threw his entire being into changing
      this ugly area and making it thrive. He brought a gardener from a
      remote village and enlisted his help with this barren piece of land.
      My father had heard that this man was not only an experienced gardener
      but also famous for building pools with fountains and falls. My father
      loved that idea: the sound of water would be splendid, he thought. The
      gardener, forty years old, was the right man for the job. It took him
      twelve months, four entire seasons, to use all the verbs of hard work:
      cleaning, clearing, cutting, digging, removing, weeding, measuring,
      arranging, building, restoring. My father was very generous with him.
      In addition to a weekly salary, the gardener was offered daily
      breakfast and lunch, cold drinks, hot drinks, and fruit.

      We all thought my father was not only wasting his money, but his own
      time and effort as well. He used to help the gardener and work with
      him, carrying away dried weeds and branches, clearing out stones and
      rocks, and even swinging a shovel or ax to uproot dry plants and
      grass. Once he injured his finger, and once again he stepped on a
      nail. This made my mother angry, and many times she told him to stay
      inside and let the gardener do all the work. She would fume whenever
      he came home with his clothes dirty and torn because he had once again
      worked with the gardener. She washed his clothes and cleaned and
      complained over and over about his muddy shoes and damaged apparel.

      But my father was stubborn and refused to listen. He thought it was a
      wonderful idea when the gardener told him that the pool would look
      more beautiful if built with a certain type of stone instead of the
      brick they had planned to use. These stones were rare and expensive,
      small and reddish with irregular shapes and holes and other carvings
      in them. My father ordered them from a nearby village and the gardener
      was as pleased as if he were building his own pool.

      The age difference between my father and the gardener was about forty
      years, but they got along well. There was respect and understanding
      between them. The only condition that my father had placed on the
      gardener, who was otherwise given free rein to build pools and
      fountains, walkways and places to sit and relax, was that the big
      olive tree that was in the garden remain undamaged. That tree was more
      than five hundred years old and a heritage to my father from his
      great-grandparents. It was huge, with three large, spreading branches
      and evergreen leaves, a symbol of life and hope and the ability to
      survive and withstand challenges by man and nature throughout the
      years. Despite all life's hardships, severe weather and natural
      catastrophe, that tree had survived. It had lost many branches over
      the years but stood very high and added greatness to the house.
      Furthermore, its olives were magnificent. They were quite large, half
      green and half black, and very delicious when pickled. When the
      harvest was good, my parents would have some pickled and the rest made
      into oil. The olives along with the oil would then be distributed
      among all the members of my family, in portions large enough to supply
      all of us for the entire year. Had the olive tree been in the way of
      building the pool, my father would have changed his mind about
      building it.

      Every Friday when we gathered in my parents' house, I used to have a
      look from the window at the garden. The gardener would be working, but
      the improvements and changes from week to week were quite small and
      hard to discern. Work was very slow, and my brother used to joke that
      it would take the gardener so long that we might all be dead, and my
      father out of money, by the time he finished. I envied the gardener. I
      thought my father had spoiled him. My father was a very polite man
      with great patience and caring for people regardless of their status,
      position, career or age. When talking to a child, he was as sweet and
      pleasant as a child could be, and when talking to a doctor, he
      excelled with his medical knowledge. One would admire him when he
      addressed a simple man like his gardener in a low and soft voice. My
      father was a great man, and he had an appealing charm: people both
      liked and respected him. The secret, I think, was his special
      combination of self-esteem, serious features, a hidden smile,
      experience and wisdom.

      Work in the garden seemed to last forever. There were occasions in
      which the gardener was absent for various reasons. Once he was sick,
      and once he took his child to the doctor. Other times, he couldn't
      come because of the closure, which made leaving his village to come to
      the city very risky. Once or twice, their work stopped because of
      curfews imposed either on his village, or on our city. He didn't show
      up on rainy days either, because building and rain did not match. And
      then on hot days, he was very slow and took many naps under the olive

      The gardener was a jack of all trades. He was the builder; he was the
      electrician who wired the lights and lamps, and the plumber who
      installed the water pipes for the fountain and the waterfall that ran
      down the wall. He also suggested building a barbecue place shaped like
      a cottage, with two chimneys on the roof, a fan in one corner, and a
      hole for the charcoal in the middle, and he also added a small
      building for keeping tools and other supplies.

      The entrance to the garden was a huge arched gateway built of soft
      rectangular stones. The garden itself was arranged into three levels,
      a higher one for small trees and bushes, then the pool, and then a
      flat area with roses and other flowers surrounding a patio with seats
      and tables. The gardener left spaces with arched tops in the walls,
      and in them my father planted creeping plants that cascaded down the
      wall tracing lovely patterns with their green leaves and varied
      flowers. Right in the middle of the second level was the beautiful
      pool with the fountain in the center that sprinkled water upwards.
      Tiny rivulets then trickled, in a slow and soft manner, through the
      holes in the stone and down the wall to the pool Sprinklers sprayed
      water in an arc right in the center, colored spotlights caught and
      reflected the water that was running up and down, and what we thought
      would be a monstrosity turned out to be a magnificent, living piece of

      Meanwhile, my father was busy planting plants, flowers, small trees
      and bushes. He now spent his time and money on sand, fertilizers,
      seeds, containers of varying sizes and shapes, and the right plants
      for his garden. The plants were very beautiful,, some of them really
      rare and expensive, and their flowers were breathtaking. My father
      bought books on keeping gardens and flowers, so that he might take
      good care of them and learn more about where and when to plant them,
      how often to irrigate, and so on. He was so happy, and found great
      enjoyment in his new endeavor, becoming almost an encyclopedia on
      jasmines, gardenias, daffodils, roses and many others.

      It was amazing how few plants failed to thrive, maybe two or three in
      all. When my father touched the dead soil, it turned into life, and
      soon the plants grew large and the flowers bloomed. He spent hours and
      hours in that garden, planting, uprooting weeds, and watering with
      great generosity. He bought four tables and a dozen nice chairs, and
      placed them in different locations. He also bought a large swing and
      placed it on one side.

      The garden was a garden to me, a playground and park for my children,
      but heaven to my father. It was his world: he had changed from a TV
      addict to a nature addict. So many times, he would go to the garden
      alone. He would put on the lights and let the water run and then just
      sit in one of the chairs for hours, relaxing his body and calming his
      mind. My mother, quite the opposite, really didn't like to go to there
      at all because it required going down a flight of stairs and her bones
      are weak and her joints hurt. But going to the garden had become a
      habit for my father: if we couldn't find him in the house, then he
      would be in the garden lost between the roses, planting a new plant,
      or carrying the hose and watering the plants.

      We never thought that the garden would become an attraction to our
      children, but they loved it also. We began to spend our Friday
      gathering in the garden, we took lunches there, made barbecues and
      even made coffees and teas. Even my brother became convinced that it
      was a great idea, and the garden became his favorite place for private
      time with his wife and children.

      Oh, the garden. I can talk forever about the garden. There we had
      lunches and sometimes dinners, discussed family matters, political
      issues, work and children; we even received visitors there. We used to
      spend hours and hours talking, laughing, gossiping and watching our
      children running about and playing with water. It was a great pleasure
      for my father to sit there amongst us talking to us and watching our
      kids scream and shout and play around him. Had they been playing and
      making noise in the house, he would have been annoyed. But there in
      the garden, and inside his heaven, things were different.

      He would talk and we would listen to him. We loved listening to his
      stories from the past, his tales from the present, and also his vision
      for the future. He was a great storyteller, and a great future-teller,
      and fascinated everyone with his talk, his presence, his sense of
      humor and gentle ironies. The garden seemed to reveal even more of the
      hidden, greater parts of his personality. Relatives and friends
      invited themselves to his garden and spent enjoyable times amongst
      nature, the nice smell of flowers, and cool air beside the pool. His
      generosity as a host was fascinating. He once invited the gardener,
      and the two of them spent hours by themselves talking and discussing
      various matters of our hard life, the closures, the separation wall,
      work and unemployment, concerns for our children, and many other
      things that I would never think of discussing with my gardener. The
      garden inspired him and revealed his kind heart, sensitive feelings
      and humility.

      One whole year flashed swiftly and yet in slow motion before my eyes.
      And the one year, the twelve month span, the four seasons, the hard
      work, the indelible memories of my father and his garden all went by
      in my dream and took only seconds.

      Some of us were still in the kitchen finishing the dishes, and others
      were talking while drying and putting them away. The men were relaxing
      in another room, the kids were running to and fro, and my father was
      taking a nap despite all the noise. It was around 6 o'clock when I saw
      myself offering coffee. We were all in the sitting room then, and I
      was seated next to my father when I asked him to tell us what had
      happened the night the soldiers took over his house. My father didn't
      seem to like the idea, but upon my insistence he finally agreed, and

      "It was 9 p.m. and your mother and I were about to finish our
      dinner when the door bell to the main gate rang. Your brother and his
      family were outside and we were in there alone. It rang again, and I
      had to answer it since your mother went to the bathroom. Before I
      opened the door, I spoke on the intercom: 'Who is it?'

      Then the answer came: "Soldiers, open up quickly and without
      noise." I pressed the button to the main gate and told your mother to
      hurry up, and then I went down the stairs and put on the lights to the
      entrance. There was banging on the main gate. Then I remembered that
      the door was locked from inside which meant I had to go back down the
      stairs and open it myself. So I went down the stairs again, and
      unlocked the door. Then the door was pushed open by a soldier pointing
      his machine gun directly at me, and I was quickly surrounded by six or
      seven soldiers who ordered me to go up to the house. I went up the
      stairs with one soldier in front of me holding his machinegun and
      pointing it up the stairway in case someone was on the stairs.

      Your mother was paralyzed when she saw the soldiers. She
      couldn't even speak when one soldier asked her who lived here. I had
      to answer, and only then did I get a close look at the soldiers'
      faces. All of them had their faces disguised with green, blue, red and
      yellow paint. They all had huge helmets on their heads, machine guns
      in their hands, and bombs and bullets on their belts. They were also
      carrying big bags on their backs. Their military clothes were so huge
      and loose that they looked fat and short, though I knew they weren't.
      They looked and acted like soldiers in real, live combat, right here
      in our house.

      The chief asked about who lived in the flat upstairs. I told
      him it belonged to my son and his family. He wanted me to go up there
      with him. 'But my son isn't in. He is out." He refused to believe me,
      pointed to me to lead the way upstairs and insisted I open the door,
      even though I told him I did not have the keys. At this point, it
      occurred to me to tell him that I was responsible for what I was
      saying, and that there was nobody inside the house.

      That seemed to convince him and he then pointed for me to go
      down to my house. Your mother and I were then ordered to stay in the
      hall while the other soldiers inspected the house. They opened all the
      doors and checked all rooms. Then they led us into the living room,
      and told us to stay there. We were not to answer the phone or make any
      calls, and if we needed to use the bathroom, we were to knock on the
      door and ask their permission. One soldier then closed the door.

      We were frightened because we didn't know what was happening
      outside, or what the soldiers were doing. There was no noise outside
      except the sounds of them setting the trigger on their machine guns as
      they got ready to shoot. There were, of course, no beds in the room,
      and sitting in the chairs for a long time was quite tiring for both of
      us. The room was small and stuffy and, wanting some fresh air, we
      knocked on the door to ask for permission to open the door, but there
      was no response.

      It was one hell of a night. We were sleepy and exhausted but
      so afraid of what they might do that we couldn't close our eyes.
      Helpless, frightened and bored, we would sit for a while and then get
      up and walk a bit to stretch our aching joints. I remembered that I
      had read about human shields, but never imagined I would experience
      being one myself. The telephone rang four or three times and we knew
      it was one of you calling to make sure we were alright, but we dared
      not answer. I felt I was suffocating and at one point unconsciously
      opened the door, forgetting that there were soldiers outside. To my
      surprise, one soldier was lying on his back on the floor, with his
      hands on the machinegun on his tummy. Suddenly he woke up and jumped,
      stopping at the threshold with his rifle to the ready. I went back to
      my chair and sat down slowly as he looked at us and then closed the door.

      We stayed there till six in the morning. It seemed at that
      point that they had left, quietly, secretly, without informing us.
      Although we were drained and exhausted, we still couldn't sleep. Your
      mother started to clean the bathroom since it was in bad condition
      after they had used it. It smelled and was dirty and the floor was
      wet. And it wasn't until you girls stopped by around eight that we
      finally learned that the reason for taking over our house and keeping
      us hostages was to safeguard the way for a group of soldiers who
      wished to pray, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the
      street, where they claimed there had once been a religious place.


      As my father finished his story, I thought I heard a sound
      outside, so I went to the balcony and looked down into the street. It
      was very dark but I could see the lights of a vehicle approaching. It
      seemed to be a truck, and after it passed the gate to the house, it
      stopped. I couldn't see it then, but I could hear the brakes, the
      opening of the doors, and the clattering of metal objects. Then I
      realized that it was a military vehicle and that soldiers were coming
      out of it and back into to my parents' house. "Not again," I said
      silently as I turned to go warn my family. We waited for the banging
      on the gate, but there was none. My nephew, who had been playing in
      the entrance to the house with the other kids, came running up, and
      entered the room breathless, speechless and pointing. I quickly went
      down the stairs to make sure the other kids were alright and as I
      reached the entrance, all of a sudden I was face to face with a
      heavily-armed soldier.

      He was alone, which seemed odd: I had been expecting a group
      of eight or ten. But he looked just as my father had described the
      others, right down to the stripes of paint on his face. He was holding
      his machinegun at the ready, and I was very frightened. I stood there
      in front of him, waiting for him to speak. I thought he was the chief
      and he was waiting for the other soldiers to follow him. I took a
      quick look at the gate and to my surprise, it was still closed. How
      did he get in? Could he have jumped over the wall? I didn't think so.
      The wall was twelve feet high. We both stood there for what seemed
      like forever, inspecting one another and guessing what would come
      next. Then, finally, he spoke:

      "I was sent by my chief to get the bread."

      -"What bread?" I asked.

      -"Our bread.".He answered.

      -"But we don't have your bread. There must be a mistake." I said.

      - "No, it is here, and you have it" , he said affirmatively,
      and then continued: " See, we ordered bread from the Super Bakery. You
      know, the bread that is mixed with olive oil and thyme. We ordered the
      bread a long time ago, and when we didn't get it, we went to the
      bakery and they told us that it was delivered to this address. So, you
      see there is no mistake.

      I thought then I said quickly:

      - "Maybe you would like to see the owner of the house. I am only
      visiting my parents, and I have no idea about any of this."

      - "OK.". He said.

      He nodded and moved his machine gun in a sign that meant "go ahead",
      so I turned and started my way upstairs. After I climbed about ten
      steps, I turned my head back carefully and had a quick look at the
      soldier to check whether he was following me. To my surprise, he was
      right behind me but he had changed. How could that have happened?
      There was no sound, no voice, no strange movement, but now his head
      was bare, the colorful paints had disappeared, and his machine gun was
      nowhere to be seen. He looked about forty.

      My legs kept moving up the stairs but my head was still turned back
      and I felt my eyes grow wide with surprise. The two things that hadn't
      changed were his military suit and his boots. He was a soldier with no
      weapons. I reached the front door and entered: everyone else was in
      the sitting room, waiting for us. I stepped into the room followed by
      the soldier. The room was still, and children seemed to have
      disappeared. My father was right in the middle of the room sitting in
      his usual chair. The soldier went directly to him but before he could
      speak, I said,

      "Dad, this soldier says he has come to take his bread".

      Father: "Bread? What bread? Why do you suppose we have your

      Soldier: "Well, you see, it is not exactly 'bread'. It is
      'land'. You know, your piece of land.

      Father: (adjusting his hearing aids) "My peace of mind?"

      Soldier. "No, your land; the little garden. I am here to take
      it. I was sent to take it. It is the last piece of land that is not
      with us. We have to take it."

      Father:. "You mean, to 'confiscate' my land?"

      Soldier: "No. Confiscate is a wrong choice. The better choice
      is give and take. You are ordered to give, and we willingly take."

      Father: "Do you want me to give you my land, just like that?
      I bought it with my own money .I have worked with my hands to make it
      a beautiful garden. My blood dripped on its soil, and my sweat got
      mixed with the water I used to irrigate its flowers. It is part of me.
      It is me. You can take me, but not my land."

      Soldier: "I understand what you're saying. But I have to do
      my mission. Let us think of a way. I suggest a little game between
      you, the owner of the land, and me, the soldier.

      The soldier quickly took out a pack of cards from one pocket and a
      red marker from another. He drew a line right in the middle of the
      room and two lines maybe four feet from that one. Then he started to
      explain the game.

      Soldier: "This is our playground, and each one chooses his
      own area. We have two rounds. I flip a coin to decide who will start.
      In the first round, each one stands on the starting line in his area,
      then throws the card to the other area. Then we measure the distance
      that the card has covered away from the middle line. The one who
      covers more distance is the winner of that round. As a result the one
      who wins the two rounds is the winner. And the winner takes the land."

      Father: "Well, I am not ready. I want to change my pajamas.

      Soldier: "No, no need to change. It'll all be quick."

      Father: "It is not fair. You are fully prepared, and I am not."

      Soldier: "You have no choice but to play."

      Father: "What is the name of this game?"

      Soldier: "`I always win' is the name of this game."

      Father: "Who set the rules of this game, and who is the judge?"

      Soldier: "There are no rules. There are only my rules, and I
      am the judge."

      Father: "What if we get even? You know, get equal? Who wins?"

      Soldier: "I still win."

      Father: "What happens if someone breaks the rules of the game?"

      Soldier: "A committee will be formed after I take your
      garden, and everyone has the right to object afterwards."

      Everyone was watching silently and in great amazement. My father stood
      up and stepped behind the line near his chair. The soldier gave my
      father some cards. I thought he was going to divide the cards evenly,
      but the soldier took more cards and stood behind the line opposite my
      father. I noticed that the area where the soldier stood was smaller
      than my father's and realized that his cards would cover more
      distance, since the distance between his starting line and the middle
      line would be shorter.

      We were waiting for the soldier to flip the coin to decide the
      beginner, but the soldier suddenly said "I'll start". The soldier
      threw his card which flew swiftly in the air, swung, flipped, and went
      down quickly into my father's area. It was a strong throw. Then the
      soldier jumped forward in a steady manner. I thought I should go and
      look for a measure. But the soldier simply placed his hand in his
      inside pocket and took out a tape, and from another pocket a small
      notebook. He was prepared and fully equipped. He measured the distance
      from the red line in the middle away into my father's area and said as
      he wrote down in his notebook:"1m. and 50cm." Then he gave a signal
      for my father, saying, "It is your turn."

      My father got ready and threw the card as hard as he could. It was not
      a bad throw for a man in his eighties, but the card flew so softly
      that I could see its real size, color and all that was printed on it.
      I heard my sister exclaiming: "Oh, look, the card has our flag on it".
      The card was flying in slow motion, and there were pictures of people
      and faces of famous leaders. There were children, old men and women,
      and young people, too. Some I knew were still alive, while others had
      died years before. The people on the card were moving in great
      harmony, as though in a pageant. The card was landing slowly, like a
      feather floating in a fine breeze, when the soldier suddenly jumped to
      the other side of the room waiting for it to land. I thought that the
      card would hardly cover any distance at all but, to my amazement, the
      soldier measured a total of 1m. and 40cm. Then he pronounced himself
      the winner of the first round and I ached for my sad, determined father.

      The soldier told him to switch areas, so my father took the opposite
      side facing the big window in the room. After both men got ready, the
      soldier said he would start since he had won the first round. It was a
      very strong throw. Although the card flew high and started to flip we
      could see the soldier's own flag in addition to another big flag on
      one side of the card. Oh, my God, he had been cheating! He was using
      help from outside: that other flag belonged to a super source. As the
      card went swinging through the air swiftly and freely, I could see
      pictures of his leaders and other famous people from abroad, and I
      realized he had also been cheating on weight

      Not surprisingly, the card landed right on the edge line, and he
      jumped up and down happily. I imagined him as a soldier from the
      middle ages wearing a gown, with a belt around his waist and a sword
      in one hand and a shield in the other. As he moved to the other side
      to see the card, he threw his body in the air and flew in a circle
      with his loose gown and landed just like a parachute coming slowly to
      the ground. Right after he landed on the other side, he measured the
      distance which was 1m. and 90cm. Everybody gasped, and opened their
      mouths. But no one said anything. We were totally amazed. Then the
      soldier recorded the result in a self-confident tone.

      It was my father's turn and he got ready and stood behind the line.
      The soldier was clearly the winner so far, and my father had to get a
      distance of 2m. just to break even. It was a big challenge and I was
      doubtful, but my father seemed calm and confident. He got ready, bent
      his body forward, took a deep breath, and threw the card, which
      launched itself like thunder. My sister swore she could see fire
      coming as the card struck the air, a silvered line of light passing so
      swiftly in front of our eyes that we could hardly follow it. The card
      didn't loop to the ground, but flew through the iron bars and out into
      the garden. Again everybody gasped in amazement.

      The soldier barked angrily, "To the garden!" and quickly headed out
      the door. We all followed, a few paces behind. "But who won, father or
      the soldier?" No one seemed to hear my question, no one else seemed to

      When we reached the garden, the chairs were arranged around the pool
      in a semi-circle and everyone sat down. But the soldier seemed to have
      disappeared. Where did he go? Then he suddenly appeared behind us and
      far away, wearing a loose white gown. He had grown taller and thinner,
      and his hair was long and light. The garden grew larger as he strolled
      in a haze from one place to another .He was surrounded by white clouds
      and white birds flying around him in a fascinating slow motion. For a
      while I thought he had become prophet Jesus with the white crown over
      his head. It sounded like he was preaching and talking to a group of
      people .Was he really Jesus? I couldn't tell. He was moving in a
      peaceful and glorious way and the garden kept getting bigger and
      prettier, with groups of people in white walking quietly, heading

      Suddenly, he appeared again right in front of us. We were astonished
      at how he could do it and this time, too, he was different. He was
      shorter, with dark hair and there was something odd about his nose. He
      was holding a stick with a star at its top in his hand. He moved his
      stick upwards, then hit the air gently, and we were surprised to see a
      huge theater. The lights on this theater no longer looked like the
      lights of the garden; they were heavenly, and had no source, or size,
      or shape. They were pure white, somehow both foggy and transparent,
      and very clear. A woman in a loose white gown stood in the middle of
      the stage; she seemed to be singing but we could not hear her. The
      soldier then went behind us and moved his stick and another huge stage
      appeared in front of us and the garden grew even larger. On the second
      stage, people were dancing elegantly in magnificent slow motion. They
      were also wearing loose white gowns.

      The scene was breathtaking, and we sat in silent amazement. In one
      corner I saw our children, who were playing but somehow making no
      noise. They looked like little angels, with crowns of white flowers
      and white long gowns. The whole garden was happy, peaceful and silent:
      the singer was mute, the dancers flew in the air and touched their
      feet to the ground without a sound, and children were active but
      noiseless. Everyone was busy looking in the direction of his or her
      choice and all were charmed and overwhelmed by the view. The soldier
      approached the wall and let his stick touch the little arched window,
      and the little window changed into a huge cave. It was dark inside but
      the door was alight and in the doorway stood all sorts of birds and
      animals, looking very healthy, shiny and clean. Sheep, cows, goats,
      chickens, pigeons and many, many creatures all walked about in a
      submissive way as if expecting and waiting to be slaughtered.

      The scene was captivating, and then the animals and the birds
      disappeared into the garden, where now appeared trees bearing shiny
      fruits of various colors, sizes and shapes, glossy as though light
      came from within. The pool suddenly grew larger, and the water from
      the fountain grew richer and its splash was splendid as it mixed with
      white light. There was white everywhere now, and water was falling
      down in small falls in some places and sprinkling softly in others.
      The sound of water was like soothing music, relaxing the body and
      calming the mind. The garden was no longer a garden, but kept becoming
      ever more spacious. It became Eden. Suddenly, there was a huge ball of
      light emitting a dazzling light to every space and every corner in the
      garden. It was glorious, unlimited in size and dazzling in grandeur.
      We all kneeled and prayed "God is Greater" for such glory.

      As I was occupied and taken by my thoughts and the surroundings, I
      looked around and saw a huge, dark, endless wall cut through the
      garden and destroy everything. The view changed utterly, the lights
      and the white clouds all disappeared, the sky got darker, and our Eden
      had changed into Hell. The garden became a bare, ugly place, lifeless
      and jeering. The wall had separated me from my family and I could hear
      them cry, but couldn't reach them or see them. I felt lonely and
      trapped. What had happened and who did it? Was it the soldier who had
      changed our heaven into hell? He must be possessing great strength and
      almighty powers.

      I don't remember what happened then, some time must have passed, but
      then I recall waking up slowly to the sound of someone in pain. I
      followed the source of pain and to my surprise I saw the soldier. He
      was clutching a huge root from the olive tree, and his body was
      dangling from the roots, not far from the ground. The big tree had
      shrunk in size while its roots remained huge and steady in the ground,
      and it had been cut in half from the top on down. The soldier was not
      wearing white anymore, but was back in his uniform, swinging his body
      backward away from the roots and then hitting his face and body
      forcefully against the roots, soil and rocks. I could see blood coming
      from his forehead, hear his groans, and feel his terrible pain. He
      could have spared himself all the pain and suffering by letting go of
      the roots and jumping the short distance to the ground, but he kept
      swinging and banging himself into the tree.

      I could focus on nothing else, and then the top of the tree turned
      into a huge screen and a flash of light spotted onto the leaves and
      branches as though from a projector. On the screen then flashed many
      pictures of the soldier committing atrocities. He was a killer
      exploding the head of a child in one, and torturing an old man in
      another. One picture displayed him demolishing houses and making whole
      families homeless, while another showed him driving a bulldozer and
      uprooting beautiful, ancient olive trees. Then he was taking part in
      building that huge endless wall that separated families and caused so
      much suffering. Pictures of sad, wretched people kept appearing, and
      dead bodies and crying faces.

      I took a quick look at the soldier's face: it was dripping blood but
      showed no emotion, and he was still hitting his face against the tree.
      It came to me that he was torturing himself out of guilt for all he
      had done. Overwhelmed, I felt both sad and sorry for him. He was a
      man, a magician, a saint, a soldier and a victim. He was all in one.
      We cried for ourselves and for the soldier screaming endlessly in pain
      and guilt. There was complete silence, and then he cried out the word
      "Yahoo" and kept repeating it, over and over again. I thought perhaps
      it was his name.

      We were all half-awake and half-asleep, going about in circles with
      our heads somehow revolving in the sky over the garden. Our bodies
      melted and became invisible. Our souls flew like feathers and we all
      became part of the garden, the flowers, the birds, the water, the
      olive tree, and part of Yahoo. All melted together then, we turned
      into a huge white, foggy ball that flew up high and disappeared in the
      grand space.

      Suddenly, there was a huge sound that awakened everyone in the
      garden. It seemed to be coming from the main gate to the house. My
      father went to open the door, and came back followed by two soldiers
      who looked just like Yahoo had when he first came in. One of them was
      a General and the other an ordinary soldier. The General spoke to my

      General: "Where is the soldier that came to your house ten
      minutes ago?"

      Father: "There he is." (pointing to him) "Yahoo, you have

      General: "What? Yahoo! But your name isn't Yahoo. What took
      you so long? And where are your helmet and weapons?"

      Yahoo: "Something happened. I cannot explain, sir."

      General: "What happened? What are you doing here among these
      people? Where is the bread you were asked to get?"

      Yahoo: "But, sir our bread is not here. They never had it
      .They are decent people, sir. They have been kind to me."

      General: "Can't you see? These are nasty people. You look
      tired, soldier. What is that blood on your face?"

      Yahoo: "We have been very bad to them. I have seen myself
      paying for what we did to them. I was in great pain. They were crying
      all the time."

      General: "No, they can't be good .They have taken our bread.
      They must pay for what they did."

      Yahoo: "Why don't you stay here with me, sir?"

      General: "What? You must be crazy. (addressing the soldier
      standing behind him), "Soldier, get him ready and let's go."

      Yahoo: "But sir, I can't go .We are in the middle of the play."

      General: "Well, I am going to end this play right now, and
      this is going to be your last scene. Soldier, (again addressing the
      soldier behind him), "drag him and follow me. I'll be waiting in the

      The soldier grabbed Yahoo by his collar and dragged him without any
      difficulty towards the gate, then pushed him into the vehicle. I
      followed them without being noticed, and overheard the conversation
      between them.

      General: "Soldier, make sure Yahoo stays in the vehicle. Chain him."
      (The soldier carries out his orders, and follows the General to the
      front of the vehicle).

      Soldier: "What do you intend to do with him, sir?"

      General: "Get rid of him. He is a sham and shame to our
      people. He was sent as a soldier to get our bread, but turned out to
      be a sympathizer with the enemy."

      Soldier: "What do you mean sir?"

      General: "He must be killed."

      Soldier: "What is his crime? You know, sir, just for the

      General: "From a soldier to a sympathizer to a first-degree

      The General then moved forward to the front part of the
      vehicle where Yahoo was sitting with his hands chained. Yahoo looked
      up at the General and said:

      Yahoo: "I am ready for death."

      General: "Aren't you afraid?"

      Yahoo: "No."

      General: "Do you confess you crime? Just for the record."

      Yahoo: "I am not guilty. I am tolerant."

      The soldier who was recording their conversation interrupted

      Soldier: "Sir, what do you want me to record as the cause of
      his death?

      General: "Write down 'friendly fire'."

      Then the General pointed his gun at Yahoo and shot him in the head.
      Yahoo died immediately, but there was no blood..

      At that point, I woke up terrified. What had happened? Was it a
      dream? Was it a nightmare? Or was it real? I could not tell. I looked
      at my watch, and to my utter amazement it was five after one. Oh, my
      God, only five minutes had passed since I went to bed, closed my eyes
      and started my dream.

      My husband entered the room and said, "Are you still awake, darling?"

      "Well, I do not know". I said. "I really do not know ".

      wafash2000 @ yahoo.com Wafa Abu Shamais



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