A Soldier In the Garden
- A poignant and delightful short story by a young Palestinian author
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?"
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
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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