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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

The health of the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, Ashams, the Shining Sun, the man who has been in the past put into retirement three times when he was the under-secretary of the Ministry of Death and Old Age, has been deteriorating and degenerating.

It should not be forgotten that he has been sick and paralyzed long ago and was all the time carried from one place to another on the stretcher by two well trained bearers.

Very long ago, he has been considered, by all of those who surround him, as a mummy, a dead mummy. He could not have been considered an old man in retirement or just a simple human being.

Since a long time nobody would consider it a privilege to have a look on this dead mummy. All people, without any exception, feel frightened when they have the chance of having a look on the face of this ugly mummy.

It should be remembered that at the beginning of his reign as the President of the Circle, he took the decision to stay in the Centre of the Circle night and day. However, recently, he decided to behave like all the other members of the Circle, by going to his house in the evening at exactly six o'clock.

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More recently a very stinking and repulsive bad smell has been coming out of him, out of his body, when he presides the general intellectual discussion session. It has been the custom of all the members of the Circle in the session of the general discussion to close their nose so as to avoid, as much as possible, smelling the suffocating smell coming out of the President.

All the members of the Circle know by now that their President has not taken a bath for the last several weeks. His clothes- he dresses night and day a pajama- looks like a shroud which is enveloping a corpse.

As a matter a fact, the President of the Circle is nowadays in his last days of his life. It is certain that he suffers from several diseases. Nothing moves in his body. It is impossible for him to move his hands which he has to use so often for the purposes of communication. Nowadays, it is very difficult for him to talk with others especially in the Assembly Hall. His head gives the impression that it belongs to a man who died long ago, perhaps thousands of years ago. However, the two bearers bring the President in the morning from his house to the Centre. In the Centre the bearers carry him on the stretcher to his office and then to the general Assembly Hall and then back to his office again.

The only sign which he can give and which indicates that he is still alive is the sound he produces when he moans and laments. His eyes are half closed. His mouth is for all the time closed. His face is full of wrinkles and his eyebrows are also full of frowning.

One day, early in the morning, and in his house, the two bearers come, as usual, to his bed so as to put him on the stretcher and then to take him to the Centre of the Circle. In trying to carry him so as to put him on the stretcher, they discover, with surprise and astonishment that the body of the President is actually cold and at the same time this body is stiff, unyielding and rigid.

The two young bearers of the stretcher look at each other for a long while and fixedly. It is very clear that each of them is asking "What should we do now?" Immediately, they leave the bedroom where the President of the Circle is lying dead in his bed for alerting the maids and the servants and the members of the family.

In a very short time, the villa of the President of the Circle, its garden and all the surroundings of the house are crowded by people who came to the family house when they heard about the death of Ashams. Naturally, most of the those who come to the house are relatives of the family and members of the clan, the tribe of the President. It could be said that about one hundred persons, all are men, are circulating in the small palace of the President of the Circle.

Most of those who are present insist that the head of the family should be buried today in accordance with the religious traditions and regulations and that all measures for the burial should be arranged in the shortest possible time.

It is already known that Sari, the cousin of Amr, and the famous constructor of beautiful edifices, has already finished putting the final touches of the grave in the private garden of the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, Ashams.

So the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals is immediately buried in the tomb built for him by Sari in his private garden after finishing all the necessary religious rituals and ceremonies and prayers.

The news of the death of Ashams, the President of the Circle, has reached very rapidly the Centre of the Circle. The time is almost the beginning of the afternoon and all the members of the Circle are at that time in the library reading the newspapers of today and yesterday.

The moment when the news of the death of the President of the Circle Ashams the Shining Sun is announced, all the newspapers that are held in the hands of the members and are being read by them, fall on the floor. All the old men in retirement stand up not knowing what they should do.

The impact of the bad and the tragic news is so strong and shocking and stunning that all the members of the Circle are almost stupefied and even petrified. Actually, they discover themselves at this horrific moment as being members of an association without a head, without a President.

Very few amongst them are now crying and weeping. Some others manifest and reveal in their faces a smile that looks to be enigmatic as well as sarcastic. Some others, and in small groups discuss the possibility of sending a delegation of three members to represent the Circle in all the ceremonies and the burial rituals. Also, this delegation should go this evening to the house of the defunct, the President, to present the condolences of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

All of a sudden, the little man declares himself in a manner of a coup d'├ętat, as the chief of the Circle by interim, as an acting President of the Circle.

"Listen to me all of you. I declare myself as the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals by interim. I am the acting head of the whole association which cannot be left without a head for a single minute after the death of the actual President, Ashams the Shining Sun. The constitution of the Circle stipulates that an acting director should be declared immediately after the death of the actual head. I should be the acting Director of the Circle until a new President is elected. I am sure that in few days time we should have the elected President of the Circle. Until that time comes I would be your head, your chief." declared the small man with confidence.

"I think that this is a very good and constructive idea. We should have a chief, a head for the Circle which can never exist without a head, without a leader. I think that all of our colleagues must give their approval and their consent." declared the professor with zeal and enthusiasm.

"But how could somebody declare himself as our head without making some preliminary consultations with the members of the Circle. This is a kind of a revolt within the Circle that should not be tolerated. This could be considered as a precedent in the future. This is nothing but a coup d'├ętat and this clever and smart little man is nothing but a usurper and swindler. It is impossible to accept him as the chief, the President of the Circle even on an interim basis. Our Circle is an intellectual association and the little man has nothing of the intellectual background required from the President of the Circle. I prefer to remain without a head until the legal election of the new President of the Circle would take place." the engineer reacted furiously with a lot of anger and rage.

"It is he who is the swindler and the bad man. This human being has been standing against me throughout his life. Frankly speaking I do not know why, really, I do not know why. Is it because I enjoy a happy life while in his case he has been living in a hell of family life? Really, I do not know. Is it because I am of a well known family of the Quarter of the Rich while his family has its roots in a very backward, a very unimportant small village. Really, I do not know." answered the little man in addressing himself to the members of the Circle.

"My friends, the respectable members of the Intellectual Circle, we do not have time to waste. We are already in short of time. The funeral of our President would take place in a short time and we would continue discussing something not related to the funeral. The defunct would be buried within an hour time and tomorrow begins officially the condolence visits to the bereaved family house. Therefore, we most elect the members of our delegation who would be representing us in all the rituals and the ceremonies now. The problem of the appointment of the President of the Circle by interim should be left to be discussed later on in the afternoon in the Assembly Hall." said Amr in a calm and serene way.

"I propose Amr, who is an old consul and who served in the diplomatic corps of our country in several foreign countries in the four or the five continents of our planet, to be a member of the delegation. I propose also to have within the delegation a journalist, a writer and the headmaster of the secondary school for representing the Circle in all the ceremonies of the funeral. I should point out that the delegation should leave the Centre now, at once, so as to go to the house of the defunct. Tomorrow in the afternoon, the delegation would go to the house of the bereaved family to offer condolences to the members of the family of the deceased President and also to the members of his tribe who would be present there in the house." proposed the little man who was really exercising his powers, his right and his prerogatives as the chief by interim of the Circle.

"Listen to me my friends. I myself, I am going to the house of the bereaved family in my capacity as a friend of the family and not as a member of the delegation of our Circle." declared the engineer.

Back Yard
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

The death of Ashams, the Shining Sun, the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals and the man who was put in retirement for three times before becoming the head of the Circle is not in reality the source of happiness and joy for the majority of the inhabitants of the Quarter of the Rich as well as all the quarters of the city as it was thought while he was alive.

It is now a well known fact that nobody at all likes this horrible man. All people in the quarter felt relieved because of the disappearance of the man who had been the source of worries and vexation for the community in general.

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During the last twenty five years he was suffering from a severe case of total paralysis. But in spite of all of that he was very successful to remain as the administrative head of an important Ministry, that of the Dead and the Old Age, for more than a quarter of century.

The Ministry of the Dead and the Old Age throughout this period in which Ashams was the general secretary was in complete paralysis because it was under the control of a paralyzed man.

Worse than all of this, that is his story in the Ministry, is his story in the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. As it is already known by all people without exception inside the Circle and in the community, mummy, a semi-dead human being, has become the head, the President of the only intellectual association in the country. All people ask: How could this event take place? This is a riddle which nobody can understand.

Nobody could believe that Ashams is really dead not until he is finally in his grave which should be finally and firmly closed and covered by marble bricks.

All people have been thinking that his death is nothing but one of his tricks for which he has been very well known, very well famous not only in the Quarter of the Rich but also in the City and in the desert where his tribe has always been living.

Ashams is already buried in the magnificent and splendid mausoleum which Sari, the cousin of Amr, has built for him in the garden of the family house of Ashams, the Shining Sun.

It should be mentioned here that all the religious heads of the community have absolutely refused to administer for the hated defunct any of the required and the traditional rituals. All of these religious heads think that God would not accept their prayers because Ashams has been all his life really a sinner, a transgressor and an offender of all the religious precepts of the community.

Silent Night
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

Ashams, the defunct, is considered by the wise men of the community as a cursed and a damned man. All people look at him as if he is the Devil himself. For them, the members of the community, who have been watching him all his life, he represents evil, wickedness, vice, immorality, corruption and malfeasance.

On the next day, the first day for condolences in the house of the bereaved family, it has been noticed that nobody came to offer the necessary duties of condolences with the exception of the delegation sent by The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals headed by the small man.

On the next day in the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals a new member is admitted to fill the place left vacant by the death of the actual President so that the number of the members of the Circle would be fifty. The new member of the Circle is the most famous baker of the Quarter of the Rich and is the owner of famous bakery of the Ambassadors. The new member is seventy five years old and has become recently very famous and celebrated in the Quarter of the Rich for his success in the campaign for the promotion of the consumption of the bread especially amongst women.

It is a well known phenomenon that most of the old women of the Quarter have become very fat because of the over consumption of bread, to the extent that there are some women who cannot leave their homes because of the size of their body that has got larger in size than the openings of the doors and even of the windows. Even in their houses, these women remain for all the time of the day in one place in the house because of the difficulty they face in moving from one room to another. The present situation is only the result of the excessive consumption of bread produced by the Bakery of the Ambassadors whose owner has been admitted today as a member of the Circle.

The horrible battle for choosing a new President of the Circle started early in the morning in the Centre of the Circle. It seems, as it is evident from what the members are saying and are whispering to each other that there are only two candidates for the post of the President of the Circle. They are the little man and the engineer.

Step Beyond
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

On the other hand, a considerable number of members of the Circle are asking Amr to present himself as a candidate for the post of the President of the Circle. On his side, Amr is thankful for these members who think of him as a possible candidate for the Presidency of the Circle. Of course, Amr declines all such offers by saying that he really lacks the required experiences in the field of the administration of the intellectual association. If he compares himself to other two candidates he finds himself a very weak and an unqualified candidate.

Therefore, and after the refusal of Amr to present as a candidate, the battle becomes very difficult between the remaining two, the little man and the engineer. However, the little man and because of his kindness, his generosity and his graciousness, is really more popular among the members of the Circle than the other candidate, the engineer, who is actually hated and despised by all the members, without any exception.

At ten o'clock in the General Assembly, all the members of the Circle meet for the main purpose of choosing the new President of the Circle from among the two declared candidates. The choice would be carried out on the basis of a secret ballot.

On that day, nobody is absent because of health reasons. The session in the Assembly Hall is an important one. All the fifty members of the Circle are sitting with nervousness in their seats with the exception of the little man who occupies at present a seat at the top of the oval table, as an acting President.

The small rectangular table, the two bearers and the stretcher, on which the defunct used to lie down, do not show any trace of being present in the Assembly Hall after the death of the Ashams, the ancient President of the Circle.

The little man is exercising his functions as the acting President of the Circle until the appointment of the new President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. Whatever is the case, the engineer is totally vexed and annoyed by the little man. With much hesitation he tries to protest against the presence of his adversary, his opponent, at the head of the oval table around which sit all the members of the Circle. Whenever, the engineer tries to speak all the members of the Circle make some gestures by their hands indicating to the engineer to shut up his mouth.

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Somebody enters into the Assembly Hall carrying with him a box containing small square shaped white papers for those who vote for the little man and small square shaped red papers for those who vote for the engineer. Each paper, either red or white, most he put in a small envelop.

Behind the little man in the corner, a hidden space has been established with a black cloth curtain installed in the entry of this mysterious place. A table has been put behind the curtain on which a small box is placed in which every member would put his chosen small paper, with a red or a white color already put in the envelop.

The Acting President of the Circle, the little man, asks that each member in the Assembly Hall should enter into the hidden place, when his turn comes, so as to give his vote for the candidate he chooses, either the white, the little man, or the red, the engineer. With a highly and an unbelievable discipline in the Assembly Hall, each member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals does not hesitate at all to exercise his right of voting either in favor of the little man or in favors of the engineer.

Woman with Hat 9
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

In a quarter of an hour the whole operation of election on the basis of the secret balloting comes to an end. No incident takes place during the operation which has been strictly watched and controlled by the little man in his capacity as the acting chief of the Circle and one of the two candidates.

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The ballot small box is carefully carried by two members of the Circle, the doctor who is almost blind and the officer of the national army who is limping. The two old men are ordered by the little man to commence at once counting the voting papers.

Of course, the whole operation of counting the votes does not take a long time. So in few minutes the doctor declares the uncontestable and the irrefutable results of the election. The doctor declares the victory of the little man who is elected for the post of the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals in unanimity.

It is very clear that all the members of the Circle have voted for the little man with the exception, of course, of the vote of his opponent, the engineer.

Naturally, the result of the voting and the secret balloting does not please the engineer who is hopeful to be the next President of the Circle. As a result of his disagreement and exasperation he stands up on the top of the oval table and looks at all the members of the Circle including the little man.

All of a sudden, the engineer begins to shout and to cry in a loud voice. All the members of the Circle are shocked and all of them get dizzy. The grimace and the frowning which appear on the face of the engineer are sufficient signs of his discontent and more important of his disappointment regarding the final results of the election of the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. The engineer has become extremely violent, furious and about to attack anybody who might be standing before him or who comes to argue with him in order to calm him.

An old national champion of wrestling who joined the Circle two years ago and who still has and retains some of his wrestling skills goes to the engineer and finds no difficulty in controlling him. In spite of the engineer's heavy weight, the wrestling champion is able to carry the engineer and to throw him outside the Assembly Hall. Finally the wrestler is able to throw the engineer outside the main building of the Centre of the Circle.

Inside the Assembly Hall, the newly elected President of the Circle sits calmly and majestically at the head of the oval table. A hidden smile appears on his face, The little man asks all the members of the audience in the hall to remain seated inside the Assembly Hall.

Follow Me
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

"Listen to me all of you. We must discuss the incident that took place a little while ago in the Hall. All of you have witnessed the aggressive behavior and the strange conduct of a member of our association, the engineer. This man should not have the honor to be a member of this prestigious association, the Circle. I propose that we should throw him there, outside the door of the Centre of the Circle. I declare to you that starting from this day; this engineer cannot continue to be a member of our honorable Circle. It would be a shame to our Circle if this old man, the engineer, continues to be a member of our association of intellectuals." said the new chief of the Circle, the small man.

"Excuse me to oppose you, not to agree with you. It is extremely unfair to throw him outside the doors of the Centre of the Circle. It should not be forgotten that this man, I mean the engineer, is one of the important founders of our Circle. It is he who has established and put the foundations for all the traditions of our association. It is he who proposed and devised most of the activities which we undertake daily and regularly in this Centre." said the professor of the University.

"Let me tell you, my colleagues, that this silly and ridiculous engineer behaved in a very scandalous and unacceptable manner. I think that, and I am sure you agree with me, he should be immediately expelled from our association of intellectuals and without any delay." answered bluntly and straight forwardly the new President of the Retired Intellectuals.

"The decision would be a horrible disaster for him, for the engineer, if he is thrown outside the doors of the Centre of the Circle. I warn you that if we throw him outside the centre he might commit suicide this evening. We should know that the engineer would suffer a lot because of this separation, or dismissal, from the Circle." said the ancient prime minister of the country who collaborated with the engineer in the establishment of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Amr the ex-consul could not do or say anything with the exception of only observing what is going on in the meeting in the Assembly Hall. Certainly, and there is no doubt, that Amr prefers the little man to the engineer. He has been disturbed as well as stunned because of what he has witnessed of the regrettable behavior of the engineer which he exhibited before his expulsion outside the Assembly Hall.

In observing all of these tragic and deplorable developments, Amr is shocked and starts to ask himself if the engineer has really become a mad man. Whatever is the case, Amr thinks that the engineer would come back tomorrow to the Centre of the Circle to resume all his activities as before.

The day in the Centre of the Circle is coming to its end. All the members of the Circle are preparing themselves to leave the place and go home. All of them think that the day in the Centre has been full of events that could not be forgotten especially the reaction of the engineer to the final election of the little man as the President of the Circle.

As for Amr, he thinks that the story of the engineer has not come to its end. Amr is determined to know the destiny of the engineer without any delay. Instead of his home he decides to drive his car to another destination, to the other side of the Quarter of the Rich, where the engineer lives in a villa.

From a distance, and before he finally arrives at his destination, Amr sees that the villa of the engineer is enveloped in complete darkness and obscurity. This is at least an indication that nobody is there in the residence. "But where is the engineer now, where is he?" Amr asks himself with a feeling of horror, dismay and panic.

The car of Amr advances now slowly towards its destination. Amr, while driving carefully his car, he does not stop to examine the black picture, the painting, tableau, which presents itself in front of him. Amr, as he advances more and more towards the villa, becomes more and more sure and certain that nobody is there in the beautiful villa and that the place is completely empty, unoccupied.

The moment the car arrives before the house of the engineer, a boy, or almost a young man, appears on the door-steps of the main-gate of the magnificent villa. The car of Amr stops there where the place looks to be practically deserted with the exception of the young human being.

"Can you tell me, if you please, why this sumptuous, extravagant and luxurious villa is full of darkness? I cannot see any trace of light in the whole place? What is happening here? Has it been deserted or what? As much as I can remember this house was full of life when I passed by it some days ago, last Friday. What is going on, tell me, if you please." Amr asked the boy who is standing in front of the main-gate of the villa.

"It is very strange on your part to ask me such a question. I am wondering why you ask me such a question. It seems you are not aware at all of what have been going on of tragic events in this house. Are you from this Quarter of the Rich or not." answered the young man in astonishment and bewilderment.

Baby Plant on Table 7
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

"Is it possible for me to see and at this moment the master of this splendid little palace? It seems to me, as I can see and observe now, that this house is deserted. Nobody could be seen inside the house. Has it been abandoned by all its residents, the members of the family and the members of the service and house management staff? I cannot see any trace of life inside this magnificent house." said Amr in a tone that shows his surprise and his amazement.

"The master of the house; What do you mean by that? Do you mean Mr. Ghalib, the engineer, the Master of the House?" said the young man.

"Yes, yes, Ghalib the engineer, the famous engineer and founder of the famous Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. I am wondering whether the master of the house is sick, indisposed and suffering from something or an incurable disease. Or what?" said Amr to the boy.

"Listen to me, Sir. It is better, preferable, not to pose to me any such question regarding the master of the house, the engineer, Ghalib, my master." answered the young man seriously and solemnly.

"I cannot understand. Why don't you tell me the reality, the story? Why do you give me indirect answers and indications?" said Amr angrily and nervously.

From the young man, the servant of the engineer, Amr comes to know the shocking and the horrible story of the engineer. The servant said that as soon as his master arrived at his house in the afternoon he looked to be miserable and in a lamentable condition. It was very clear that the master, the engineer, was suffering from something, he was having a nervous depression. It could easily be seen and without any difficulty that his face was pale and his hands were trembling.

With a lot of difficulty the engineer was able to park his car in front of his house. The moment he leaves the car, he begins to walk slowly while going towards the main gate of the villa.

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As soon as he enters his house he refuses to talk to anybody. The two servants and some maids of the house remain standing in silence, not uttering a single word. But for sure, all of them look at their master bewildered and astonished.

Evidently, for all of those members of the service staff, it is for the first time in recent years that their master comes back to the house at this time and in this deplorable and depressive condition.

As soon as the engineer disappears behind the closed door of his bedroom, the servants of the house start to talk to each other and sometimes in whispering way. They want to know and without any delay the reason for the trouble and distress from which their master is suffering.

As far as they could remember they never saw their master coming back to his house in such a lamentable condition. All the servants know perfectly well the nature and the disposition of their master. For them, as they know him, he is always joyful, happy and also satisfied.

Nevertheless, in this afternoon, the situation, that of the master of the house, looks to the servants to be different. The servants have the sentiment that their master is not at all in a normal situation. They are afraid that in few minutes time they would be surprised by an event which would take place somewhere in the house. The event would be for them like a 'coup de theatre'.

One of the servants, the maid-cook, is about to hurry up to the bed-room so as to open, and by force, the closed door. However, all the other servants prevent and forbid their friend from going to the bedroom of the master in order to open it by force. All of these servants prefer to remain where they are now and wait for further development rather than go there and try to open the bedroom by force.

However, the maid-cook, who wants to open the door at once, does not want to wait the occurrence of whatever event, tragic, or otherwise, which might take place in few minutes time. Therefore, she decides to withdraw from the whole scene and go to the kitchen so as to prepare for her master all the dishes which he usually likes to have for the dinner.

The time that is passing slowly is in fact having the effect of a heavy burden which all the servants should bear and endure. The servants remain, involuntarily, petrified in the corridor in waiting for the coming of the surprise.

All of a sudden and abruptly, the sound of the shooting, the firing, of a bullet resounds and re-echoes in a horrible way all over the various parts of the house. For a moment all the servants stare at each other looking for answers and explanation. Their face is full of fear and horror. All of the servants behave in such a strange way as if they are going to encounter and confront a disaster the nature of which they do not know at all.

At that critical and horrible moment nobody could identify the place and the location from which this terrifying sound or noise has come to their ears. Yet all of them could guess, and may be they are convinced that this is the sound of a bullet from a small revolver, a pistol.

Strangely enough, a second bullet has not followed the first one. It is certain that it is only one bullet. All the servants could not hear the sound of another bullet. Instantaneously, and after the shooting of the first and the only bullet, all the servants present hear distinctly, and beyond any doubt, the sound of the fall of something heavy on the floor of the bedroom.

In hearing the shooting of the bullet, three servants, after some hesitation, go quickly to the bedroom of the master of the house. The youngest of the servants have the courage to open with determination, the door of the bedroom. What a surprise? What a surprise? What a tragedy!!

The master of the house, who lies on the floor, which is covered by a rich oriental carpet, and who is drowned in a pool of red blood which is still deep red and at the same time steaming. Ghalib, the engineer, has a pistol in his right hand. The blood is still coming out, pouring out of his torn and bleeding mouth which was clearly the target of the only bullet. It is evident that the engineer is already dead. He has committed suicide.

The servants, who are totally shocked and extremely upset, do nothing to the defunct. They do not touch him at all. They only approach his bleeding body and they have some glimpses by their winking eyes of the corpse so as to discover some indications, evidences, which could help them discover some explanations for the act of suicide.

In a very short time and based on the alert given by the servants of the house, some members of the Police Force, representatives of the judicial and the medical authorities, have all come almost at the same time, to the house of defunct, the engineer and the member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

After the arrival of these representatives of the official authorities, and after they have carried out some preliminary investigation and examination, the dead body of the engineer is taken to hospital to carry out the necessary autopsy for the defunct, a post mortem examination.

Without wasting time and in accordance with the religious traditions and principles, all the necessary religious rituals and rites are carried out in a rapid way at the beginning of the evening. The defunct is buried in the cemetery of the Quarter of the Rich.

It should be mentioned that very few persons attend the last burial ceremony. People in the cemetery are surprised to notice that the engineer is practically with neither relatives nor close friends. There in the cemetery, nobody presents himself as being the brother or the cousin of the defunct.

The moment Amr arrives at the house of the engineer, he discovers that all the rituals and ceremonies concerning the burial of the engineer have come to an end. He discovers that the silence dominates in the house and that the villa is almost deserted because nobody is there. The whole villa is covered by the darkness of the night.

Amr also discovers that nobody has come to the home after the burial. At last, Amr realizes that the young man, the servant who was standing in front of the house, is the only person who is there in the house of the engineer.

On the other hand, it is reported that a message written in a haste on a small piece of paper has been there in the left hand of the defunct. The message states the following strange statement: 'The little man killed me'.

However, the message is not comprehensible. It is absolutely certain that the accused, the little man, has been in the Centre of the Circle when the abominable crime took place, that is; when the engineer killed himself.

Stroll
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

Perhaps, the message which the engineer left means that he killed himself, committed suicide, because of his failure in the election for the Presidency of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

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Of course, Amr decides, instantaneously, to leave the place of the crime, the house of the engineer and to go to his house without going back to the Centre of the Circle. The unexpected suicide of the engineer, the founder member of the Circle, could not be born and endured by Amr, the ancient and the retired consul.

This is the second incident of suicide which has been committed in the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals during a short time. Since some weeks, the Banker killed himself, committed suicide. To-day, the engineer has committed suicide and nobody knows why.

Amr at last arrives at his house. The stupefaction and the amazement are clearly visible on his pale face and in his conduct and behavior. He does not believe in what he heard as being the reason for the suicide of the engineer. He thinks that the engineer has not manifested any indication in his daily behavior and conduct that he would soon commit suicide. The life of the engineer and his conduct in the Centre of the Circle has not given any preliminary signs that he would commit suicide.

On the contrary, the engineer, through his life and behavior in the Centre has given the indication that he would be the last person in the Circle to commit suicide. He exhibited all the time confidence in himself and was well balanced in his conduct and in his contacts with the other members of the Centre.

Whatever is the case, and with the death of the engineer by committing suicide, Amr begins to think in a very serious way that at any time any member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals could kill himself by committing suicide. He does not exclude himself from this possible general rule and principle.

He, himself, might commit suicide at any time. He asks himself whether the engineer has imitated the behavior and the actions of Banker. Other members might be tempted to behave in a similar manner like the two, the Banker and the Engineer.

However, Amr tries to sleep in his house calmly and peacefully after having taken the meal of the evening, dinner. He enjoys his sleep. Then in the morning, he goes to the Centre of the Circle. There, the negative effect of yesterday's tragic event is visible everywhere in the Centre.

The suicide of the Engineer has shocked practically all the members of the Circle. Strangely enough, everyone has the sentiment, the feeling, that he could be the next candidate for committing suicide.

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As for the little man, the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, he does not say anything in spite of the fact that he could be considered as the real and the direct reason for the suicide of the Engineer, Ghalib.

The little man looks disturbed and troubled. He frowns and tries to avoid speaking or say anything. He wants to show to the others that he has nothing to do with the suicide of the engineer, his opponent and his adversaire.

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Empty Chair
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

With the death of the Engineer a place becomes vacant in the Circle for being filled with a new member. The newly chosen member of the Circle is an old civil servant, a government official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In another word he should be an old friend of Amr, the ex-consul. He was the ambassador of his country in several countries in Afrcia and in the Western World.

This new member of the Circle has a very weak and exhausted memory. Moreover, he expesses himself with difficulty and uses eye glasses of very thick lenses. Thus he could be considered practically blind. Yet his real actual age is not known and gives the impression that he has almost passed the nintey years.

The little man, the newly elected President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, welcomes him very warmly in the first morning activity of the Circle, that is the intellectual discussion in the Assembly Hall of the Centre.

Of course, all the members of the Circle are present and each is seated in his designated seat. The little man sits at the head of the oval table. Amr could not believe at all that the seat used to be occupied by the Engineer is now occupied by a new member, an ex-ambassador, a new very old man. However, and inspite of all his efforts, Amr imagines that he sees in that seat the engineer and not his friend, the ambassador.

The life in the Centre of the Circle under the new direction and administration of the new President, the little man, has undergone drastic and basic changes and modifications. The most important change is that concerning the uniform of the Circle, the pajama. It is no more the dress which should be put on during the day time life in the Centre. All the members of the Circle are asked to come to the Centre in putting on their costume of dark colors. Besides, and if possible, every member of the Circle should put on around his neck a neck-tie with the red and the mauve colors dominating among the other colors. Each member is required to shave his beard if he has any. In fact, and starting from today, it is required that each member should have a shave of his face once a day.

Regarding the library, the little man has given his instructions and orders that the library should be provided, furnished, stocked with books covering several subjects and fields of human knowledge for the daily use of the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

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The little man has given his instructions that tables of normal size to accommodate four persons with chairs instead of low straw stools should be provided in the library of the Centre of the Circle.

On the other hand, the number of newspapers provided in the library has been reduced to the minimum. Newspapers would only be provided in the lower shelves of the library. Old newspapers would not be made available from now on. Any paper can only be kept in the library for one week only. After that such papers would be thrown in the waste-baskets.

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The President of the Circle, the little man, has brought from his house the very few books he has at home to be added to the library of the Circle. He has in his house only fifteen books which he has read during the fifty years of his life.

Family in Moonlight
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

Unfortunately, none of the other forty nine members of the Circle has a library in their villas and palaces. All the books that they had the chance to collect and keep in their study rooms during their life as bachelors, have immediately disappeared from the house after their marriage.

All the wives of the members of the intellectual Association do not like books. Whatever they found of these books in the house have been gradually burnt in the fire-place or have been burnt in especially held ceremonies in which the books were publicly burnt in the private gardens of each family in the Quarter of the Rich.

In every ceremony for burning books, each invited lady is given the privilege to throw a book in the blaze and the fire. While books are being burnt by the wives, husbands at that moment are fast asleep in their siesta after having had a heavy lunch. The ceremony of burning books by the wives in the private house gardens has become one of the most important social activities of the year in the Quarter of the Rich which is exclusively organized for women only.

In addition to the drastic changes introduced in the library, the ten contemplation rooms are also provided with new pieces of furniture that are more modern and comfortable. As for the Assembly Hall, all the chairs around the oval table are changed and replaced by new and comfortable easy chairs.

The floor of the Assembly Hall is covered by an oriental carpet of high quality with green and mauve colors dominating. The system of lighting in the Hall has also been improved. The Assembly Hall as well as all the parts of the building of the Centre are being cleaned and taken care of on a daily basis.

A very important change has been introduced in the style of the daily life in the Centre of the Circle. Tea and coffee are being served nowadays for the whole day and for all the members by waiters who have been recruited especially for this purpose.

Life inside the Centre of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals goes on in a normal and ordinary way since the little man was elected as the president of the intellectual association.

The two events of the suicide of the Banker and after him the Engineer have almost been forgotten by all the members of the Circle. No trace is left in the memory of the retired men of these two tragic events.

Time passes slowly and the days of each month of the year succeed each other. All the members of the Circle enjoy the participation in all the programmed activities of the Centre of the Circle.

Every month a new member, according to the rules and regulations of the Circle, joins the association and in every month one or two members die. New members are, immediately and without delay, recruited after their death.

Since the coming of Amr to the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, all of those who died every month have lost their lives because of natural reasons which could be sever sickness and old age.

Every month, either at the beginning or at the end a member of the Circle dies because of natural reasons. Of course, the death because of suicide, by one's own decision and not asked by the Circle, should not be excluded.

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Sometimes, the last day of the end of the month comes without having a single incident of natural death. In such cases, when no death incident is reported, the President, the little man, would comment and say that all the members of the Circle enjoy a good health.

Not having any natural death incident in the Circle would create a lot of dangers and a number of complicated problems for the President of the Circle and for all its members. The month is now that of February. This month could be of twenty seven or twenty eight days. It is probable that February of this year has only twenty seven days.

The dawn of the last day of February, its daybreak and its sunrise, its morning, has already been born. The Sun of the last day is now filling the whole small world of the community with light and warmth.

Everything is normal in nature that encircles the surroundings of the Quarter of the Rich. Birds fly in the blue and the infinite sky. the flowers send their fragrance and the morning breeze is penetrating in all the residences of the quarter. However, things are not normal at all in the Centre of the Circle. Everybody in the Centre looks at each other. They are trying to have an answer to the question of the necessity of having somebody dead in order to justify the admission of a new member to the Circle.

According to the strict and the sacred rules of the Circle a member should be declared dead, natural death, by the end of the day. Otherwise, the Circle has to face the problem of having one member of the Circle who should die in order to justify the coming of a new member. The main aim is to keep the total number of the members of the Circle at fifty, and not less or more than that.

Little by little, the day, the last day of February, the twenty seventh day of the month, is gradually disappearing in the red horizon. It is midday, and not yet, no one is declared dead. It is now the afternoon, then the late afternoon and at last the evening.

The month of February is about to disappear totally. But still all the fifty members of the Circle are alive and in good health. To all the members, this is a catastrophic situation. One of the fifty members of the Circle should be chosen by the lottery machine so that he should put an end to his life, by committing suicide. It is the lottery machine of the Circle that condemns a certain, a particular member to die so that his empty place in the Circle would be occupied by the new member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

On that final, fatal and horrible deadly day of February, all the members of the Circle are looking at the face of each other, continuously and fixedly.

Also every member is looking everywhere in the search for a solution to the problem which the Circle is facing. Every member of the Circle is trying to read and to know what is going on in the spirit of his colleagues.

However, and as a result of this continuous search, every member does not see in the face of his colleague except the sadness, the fear and the hopelessness concerning the future of his life. Each one of these old members of the Circle poses to himself the following question: Would he be the one to be asked by the lottery machine to take his own life, to commit suicide before the sunrise of the following day, the first of March.

Most probably, every one of these members of the Circle is trying to convince himself that the result of the lottery machine would surely and certainly miss him and that another member of the Circle would undoubtedly be designated by the lottery machine so as he should put an end to his life.

However, and at the same, each one of the fifty members is absolutely sure that the lottery could choose anyone amongst the fifty members to put an end to his life.

It happens and it is clearly evident that Amr is the most panicky and the most terrified amongst all the members because this is the first time for him to attend the working of the lottery machine. He is waiting the machine of luck to determine his destiny.

The President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals, the little man, is about to announce the opening of the session of the general assembly. The little man is sitting in his chair at the head of the oval table.

"Have you ever been present in such a meeting for asking the lottery machine to determine the destiny of a member of the Circle who should sacrifice himself by committing suicide?" asked Amr a very old man whose age is more than eighty years and usually walks with difficulty and with the aid of a walking stick the head of which is encrusted by brass and silver.

"Yes, oh, I have been a member of this Circle for a long time. I cannot remember the number of years. Perhaps I have been here for the last fifteen years. Consequently, I could tell you that I have witnessed the lottery machine determining the destiny of men several times. Maybe, not less than ten times that I have witnessed this machine pronouncing the death sentence on men who were basically absolutely innocent. They have never committed a crime for which they deserve the death sentence."

"These horrible events used to take place all the time at the end of the month when the new month is about to be born and still no one dies during the whole month of natural causes. The member of the Circle chosen by means of the lottery machine to kill himself is given only four hours to execute the decision of the lottery machine. Normally, the member chosen to kill himself is given the right to choose the place where he would commit suicide. This would include his home or a popular coffee-house in one of the poor quarters of the City, or a pavement of one of the streets of the City, or a plantation field outside the City or the main street of the City."

"When the process of the selection of the name of the member of the Circle is carried out through the lottery machine, the member who is chosen to kill himself stands up and declares solemnly, 'I am ready to die for the honor and the future of our association.' This man, who is sentenced to death, immediately leaves the Assembly Hall as soon as the result of the lottery is declared. This unfortunate and miserable man goes directly to the office of the president of the Circle where he is provided either by a pistol or by a cord or by a can of petrol. As a general rule somebody from the administrative staff is asked to follow the one who chooses to burn himself or to hang himself or to shoot himself. Of course the duty of the observer sent by the administration of the Circle is to tell the President about all the details of the act of committing suicide." explained the old man to Amr who was listening attentively to the story told by the old man with an open mouth and widely gazing eyes.

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It should be mentioned that there are two or three other members of the Circle who are listening to the old man with Amr. All of these members of the Circle listening to the old man have been nodding their heads as a sign of understanding and approval.

"This is really very interesting as well as queer and bizarre. I cannot understand why one should accept voluntarily the death sentence. Why should a member of the Circle accept a death sentence to commit suicide and he is innocent and has done nothing that deserves the death sentence?" asks Amr with stupefaction and amazement.

"I am wondering how could you pose such a question and you are a member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. I am absolutely sure that this principle, that is the acceptance of the judgment of the lottery machine, is a fundamental corner-stone for the life and the continuity of the Circle as an intellectual association. This is the only special aspect which gives our association its superiority to all similar intellectual associations that are mushrooming nowadays in the country. Every member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals must absolutely respect the law of the Circle."

"I myself have witnessed the execution of the judgment of the lottery machine on very important and respectable personalities of our community. Listen to me, I have seen an ancient prime minister, a religious head who is venerated and respected by all the community, a professor of philosophy at our national university and a very famous rich man. I have seen all of these killing themselves either by a bullet, by the cord, or by just throwing oneself from a high building in the main street of the City of our country. All the members of the Circle condemned to death by the lottery machine do not show any sign of fear, of panic, or of anxiety. I tell you that all of them smile when they hear the death sentence pronounced by the President of the Circle. Usually, and in such situations there is no discussion or opposition. All of them accept the death sentence with a smile of pride and even of vanity."

"All of those sentenced to commit suicide revive with pride the congratulations and the best wishes of all the other members of the Circle for having the privilege of sacrificing one's self for the sake of the survival of the association." answered the old man in a voice and a tone of confidence.

"I cannot understand at all what you are telling me, I just cannot understand. I am telling you this frankly and bluntly. Why not limit the process of accepting new members on the basis of filling the seats that become vacant, empty, by natural and normal death of the member? Why not wait until a seat becomes vacant because of a natural death even once a year or twice and three times a year? Why should we add a new member every month? Why should the total number of members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals be always fifty? Why not fifty one, or fifty two, or sixty or even one hundred? There are many possibilities and options for stopping to use the lottery machine for determining the destiny of the members of the Circle? Why should all of us live in a continuous nightmare every day throughout the year? This is a horrible situation." said Amr to the old man who pretends that he does not understand what Amr has been telling him. The old man just smiles while looking at Amr.

"I am sorry, really I cannot explain to you more than I did. This is the maximum of what I can argue with you. I think that I have so far told you ideas, thoughts and beliefs that are extremely clear and do not need any more explanations, elucidations, and observations as well as comments and expositions." said the old man to Amr.

"It seems to me that I am very disturbed and troubled. I have to control my sentiments and my imagination." replied Amr in trying to look calm and serene.

At this particular moment, all the members of the Circle are already seated in their seats. The little man, the new President of the Circle, has not yet arrived in the Assembly Hall. All those present are waiting for him patiently.

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Finally, the President of the Circle, the little man, arrives in the Assembly Hall. He carries in his hand a small black carton box inside of which would be put the small white papers. This is in fact what could be called as the lottery machine. On each of such papers is written the name of a member of the Circle. The number of these small white papers is fifty. This means that on one of these papers is written the name of the President of the Circle, the little man.

Also, on each of the remaining forty nine papers is written the name of each of the remaining members of the Circle. Thus, in the final analysis, all the fifty members of the Circle are included in the game of choosing by way of chance, luck and fortuity, the name of the member of the Circle who should commit suicide.

Amr, like all the other members of the Circle, with somewhat pale face, takes his seat with some visible hesitation. He looks around at his colleagues and he finds that each one is about to be seated with serenity and calm as if nothing is going to take place.

In the final analysis, there is not a single seat which remains vacant around the oval table. Amr has the serious impression and the deep feeling, that he would be attending a trial and that he is in a court house and not in the Centre of the Circle.

Worse than all of that, Amr has the feeling that he sits in the box of the accused, of the criminal, and that he would be judged for a crime which he never committed.

The box of lottery, which is placed in front of the little man, the President of the Circle, represents for Amr, both the infallible judge and the indisputable jury.

For a short and horrible moment Amr is convinced that the small piece of paper which should be drawn from inside the black carton box would have on it his name Amr, and that as soon as the result is declared, the sentence, the judgment, would be executed and he would kill himself as a fulfillment of the requirement of the judgment of the lottery machine. Nevertheless, Amr looks furtively at each of his colleagues who are seated around the oval table before him. All of them, almost, are calm and not disturbed at all.

With a lot of astonishment, Amr discovers and comes at last to the conclusion that he is the only member of the group, who is over-excited and over- whelmed by fear and panic. He is really stunned to realize that nobody in the Assembly Hall shows signs of trouble and inquietude.

Tree
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

As a result of this feeling and this observation he begins to think that his name is written on all the fifty small white pieces of paper. He thinks that there is some kind of a conspiracy against him and that some members of the Circle, with the cooperation of the President, want to dispense with him, or in other words, to kill him.

This is why the ex-consul thinks that his name would soon be declared by the little man, the President of the Circle. The ex-consul is now completely convinced that there is a well prepared conspiracy against him and that somebody has taken a firm and an absolute decision concerning the inevitability of his death.

For a moment Amr is dominated by the idea of saving his life by any means and by any method available for him. The first idea that comes to his mind is to withdraw from the Assembly Hall and then to escape from the Centre of the Circle so as to go directly to his home.

Nevertheless, and in a glimpse of an eye, he just forgets the temptation of escaping from the meeting and decides to stay there in the Hall till the end of the meeting. However, once more he remembers very clearly that the objective of the meeting is to choose somebody from among the fifty members of the Circle so as to commit suicide. He notices that the hand of the little man, the chief of the Circle, is about to infiltrate into the box in order to bring out only one piece of white paper.

Facing this theatrical situation, Amr has the sentiment and the feeling that he should say something, some words, addressed to the President of the Circle, the little man, asking him to postpone, to delay, the process of chance and lottery for some time, for at least one hour. Amr tries to say some words. But he discovers that he cannot even say a single word and refuses absolutely to be opened. For some instants he tries to do something so as to let his mouth be opened but he fails several times.

All his friends, instead of looking at the box of lottery and chance, they look at him thinking that he has become a madman or that he is suffering from a sudden disease. Amr continues to think he is paralyzed and does not know what to do. He is disturbed, really disturbed and at last discovers himself to be really dumb, speechless and unable to utter a single word.

The little man, as soon as he calmly takes his seat, he begins talking to all the members of the Circle.

Sad Man
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

"My friends, the members of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals; today is the last day of the month. Up to this day, the month of February has not witnessed so far the death of one of us. Moreover, and at the same time, the Circle must and before the end of this day, accept a new member into the Circle. And as you already know, the total number of the members of the Circle must be fifty, or in today's case, must not be more than fifty members. Up to this moment we are still fifty. Therefore, one of us should disappear, or more precisely, must commit suicide before the end of the day. I do not think that there is now amongst you anybody who opposes this important and fundamental rule of our Association. Each one of us remembers that up till now we have absolutely respected this rule of our Association. Nobody has so far opposed the application of this rule. We can remember that each of us and before joining the membership of this Circle accepted this fundamental rule of the Circle."

"Listen to me all of you, in few minutes time I am going to insert my hand, my left hand, inside this box of chance and lottery and in few moments time my hand would come out of the black box holding only one piece of paper on which is mentioned the name of the member who would commit suicide. Of course, there is no scope, at this particular time, to escape from the judgment of this box of lottery and chance. I think this is very simple and I do not have to repeat what I have just said. It is very clear that the majority of us have witnessed in the past such a situation, such a scene. I repeat that each of us agrees to what is going on now in this Assembly Hall." said the little man in addressing himself to the members of the famous Circle.

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At the end of the address, of the discourse of the little man, the President of the Circle, each member keeps himself in a complete calm and absolute tranquility. Nothing moves in the Assemble Hall.

However, Amr, and in spite of his silence and serenity is about to stand up in order to leave the Assembly Hall. He is about to say something but hesitates a lot to open his mouth. Unfortunately, Amr discovers himself completely speechless and discovers that he cannot any more leave his place. He finds himself to be petrified in his seat and is like a statue of pure marble.

Therefore, instead of talking or uttering few words he just looks at the small carton box as well as the hand of the chief of the Circle. Amr realizes, and all of a sudden, that it is impossible to leave the Assembly Hall. Instead, he has the feeling that he is caught up in a trap and that he has to accept the judgment of destiny which would be pronounced very soon by the President of the Circle.

Now, and at the present horrible and terrifying moment, the hand of the little man, the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals is plunging his left hand inside the black carton box. Now, the fingers of this hand are trying vigorously to choose, to catch, to hunt, to grab, to seize any piece of paper from among the fifty pieces of papers which are inside the box.

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All the audience, the members present in the Assembly Hall, look at the box with much inquietude and anxiety. Some few important moments pass by before the hand of the chief comes out of the carton box of luck and lottery. Certainly, there is now a small folded white piece of paper in the hand of the little man. It is certain that in very few moments the name of the member chosen to commit suicide would be known.

Of course, the little man starts carefully, meticulously and scrupulously to unfold the small piece of paper which comes out of the box. But at the same time each one of the members of the Circle feels enormously troubled and disturbed. The little white piece of paper is now totally unfolded. It is open and invites the little man to read what is written on it. The little man is now about to announce the name written on the little piece of paper.

All the members in the Assembly Hall are in complete and absolute silence. None of the members makes the slightest movement. All the members of the Circle have become really lifeless statues of white and shining marble. Their abhorred eyes remain open and no one dares to close his eyes so as not to let the small paper escape his attention and his alertness.

A small bird, a black swallow, enters the Assembly Hall through the window. It flies frantically in the limited space of the hall. Then the small black bird falls dead on the floor after it has hit its small little head on the glass of another window which is closed.

All the members in the Hall notice the sudden and the unexpected death of the little bird. Some of them shed tears out of their half closed eyes. All of this heavy silence is interrupted by the voice of the little man, the President of the Assembly.

"I announce that the name which is written on the small piece of paper is that of Hamdan, the ancient professor of modern languages of our national university." said the President of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals who put the paper on the table and asks that it should be passed to all the members of the Association sitting around the oval table.

"I am ready to die today by killing myself by the way of hanging myself by a cord in one of the high trees of the public garden of the main street of the City. Tomorrow morning you will discover me already dead in the place which I have indicated." answers the old professor who is really one hundred years old and who has a lot of difficulty in expressing himself.

"We are very thankful to you because of your cooperation and your acceptance to sacrifice yourself so that our Circle survives in glory and forever." said the little man in addressing himself politely and gently to the old man who is one hundred years old, the professor of modern languages in the National University.

All the members of the Circle and after the end of the game of the lottery and after the announcement of the result felt completely relieved and at ease. All of them are happy in knowing that they have been saved this time from the trap of Destiny.

The member who is most relieved and comforted from among all the audience is Amr. The nightmare from which he has been suffering has come to its end. He is finally saved and would stay alive till the coming of the next lottery at the end of one of those future months.

Amr is extremely excited and could not believe that he is saved. For the moment he keeps himself almost petrified in his seat. Curiously enough, he has on his pale face a banal, stupid and dull smile.

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Fly Man
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

However that may be, Amr has the feeling, the sentiment as if he has just been born and that he starts a completely new life. He looks around him joyfully and cheerfully. But nobody is behaving like him. All the rest look at him in astonishment and surprise.

The member condemned to death by lottery, the old man, the centenarian, does not move in his place and at the same time he does not give any signal, sign or indication that he is going to leave his place to be ready to hang himself. His two bony and wrinkled hands are still put leaning on the two sides of his seat.

Actually, two members of the Circle do not leave their seats, Amr, the frightened but a happy man, and the centenarian, the old man. Amr still continues to look around himself and tries to examine what is happening in the space of the Assembly Hall.

With an utmost curiosity, inquisitiveness and interest, Amr looks at the faces of the members who are leaving the Assembly Hall with serenity and tranquility. But he looks more and more on the professor of modern languages who taught at the National University more than thirty modern languages which he masters up till now. The linguist, strangely enough, keeps his eyes wide open as if he is already dead.

Little by little, the Assembly Hall becomes empty. No one is left there with the exception of the ex-consul and the professor of modern languages. The first, the ex-consul, has the feeling that a strange event has already taken place in the Hall. But he does not know the nature of this event and whether it has taken place or not.

Anyhow, the ex-consul does not understand at all what is going on around him and he stands up and finds out that he could move himself. He is now standing near his seat and thinks and even contemplates for a while. He looks around and discovers that the professor, the centenarian is still seated around the conference oval table.

Amr thinks for the moment that the professor of modern languages has all of sudden fallen sick and that this centenarian cannot stand up and that he is waiting someone to help him to stand up. Still he thinks that the old man, the centenarian is determined to remain sitting and has no intention to stand up to leave the Centre of the Circle.

Immediately, Amr goes just near by the centenarian, the old man sentenced to death. He notices a dramatic situation which was not there few minutes ago and which can be considered as something completely new.

The professor is in reality dead since very few instants, and most probably after the announcement of the result of the lottery by some moments and after he uttered his declaration of acceptance of the verdict of the lottery machine. The centenarian is really dead and does not give any sign of being alive.

Amr is totally relieved and looks to be more or less happy and satisfied. He tells himself that this death cannot be an act of suicide. There, in front of him is a member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals who died because of natural reasons, because of old age and perhaps of a heart failure. For some time, Amr remains in his place like a statue not knowing exactly what to do. He is confronted by an unexpected tragic but appalling event.

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