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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 most important thing in the arrival of Amr back from Qammar Quarter and its coffee-shop, the Al-Kaif, is that nothing has changed in the house, or the villa. After crossing the door-steps, Amr looks around in the interior of his villa and he finds that nothing has changed. The villa now looks to be the same as it has been in the morning when he left the house to go to the Qammar Quarter.

The master of the house becomes exalted to find his house full of the light of the sun standing in its summit and full of the refreshing fragrance of the plants and the flowers of the garden.

The master of the house does not pose any question to Abdu when they are walking together towards the salon. The two, the master and the servant, kept silent. Nevertheless, Amr could not hide his happiness, delight and gratification to be back in his house. Before reaching the entrance of the salon, the servant speaks to his master in a low toned voice.

"Sir, there was a telephone call from your cousin Sari." said Abdu, the young servant politely to his master.

"What does he want, my cousin, Sari? Tell me what does he want, my cousin?" asked Abdu artfully.

"Your cousin said that he has an important subject to discuss with you. Nonetheless, he did not give any hint as to the nature of this subject." answered Abdu.

"An important subject, This is very strange! What type of a subject could this be? How could it be to have to discuss an important subject with a retired old man who could die at any moment? I cannot believe this. There could not be any important topic between us, me and my cousin. This is very strange. I think I should have some rest before going to the house of my cousin, Sari. It is now more than twelve o'clock. I think I should have a rest for half an hour there in the veranda of the western part of the house. Is there an easy-chair? You know I want to take some rest, I am really tired. I had quite a hard day. I really wish I could tell you what I have seen there in the Qammar Quarter. O! what a horrible and what a tiresome day. What I have seen is something unbelievable, something horrible. What a day, what a day, which I would never forget in my life." said Amr to his servant Abdu.

"Yes, master, yes, you could find there two easy chairs and you can choose one of them." said Abdu to his master.

At quarter to one, Amr is ready to visit his cousin, Sari. Of course, he notices that he should change his clothes. The costume which he has on him is funny, very old and looks big in size. He should change this old costume, So he goes into the bedroom and tries to choose a dark colored suit with light cloth which should suit the hot weather prevailing in the quarter and even in the whole city.

Amr leaves his house and walks to the house of his cousin. In few minutes time he arrives at the villa of his cousin, Sari. Naturally, his cousin is outside waiting for him. Maybe Sari was told by Abdu that his master is in his way to his house.

As soon as Amr arrives to his cousin's house, he feels at home and he immediately begins to talk to Sari, his cousin who was very anxious to talk to his cousin, the ex-consul to Chilnega.

"I would like to talk to you about a subject very important for me." said Sari.

"I am lending my two ears. I am listening to you attentively. Would you please tell me your story or what you want to tell me." asked Amr.

"Listen to me my dear cousin. I have been observing the way you live after your return from your post as a diplomat in Chilnega. You are living an isolated life. You do not have contacts with anybody. None of your relatives has come to see you and even none your old friends and acquaintances have come to visit you. I could observe that you are living like a monk in a very ancient monastery which is surrounded by high walls. Isn't it so? Do you agree with me or not? I think you do. I would like to tell you that a lot of things, which we call events, are taking place, many developments of all sorts are taking place." said Sari, the constructor of the magnificent edifices and the beautiful buildings, to his cousin, Amr, the ex-consul and diplomat.

"please cousin, go on, and tell me what you have. I am all ears, I am listening to you. Please, my cousin, do not wait, start telling me." requested Amr, the cousin of Sari.

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"I think I have already told you something about this subject previously. I made some indirect references to the things I am going to talk to you about. I have told you that it has been noticed recently that the number of old persons or in retirement who died during the recent years has been increasing steadily and in an accelerated way. I am sure we have referred to this fact, to this observation, or to these events, previously. But the phenomenon which surprises me is the rise in the demand for building and constructing new mausoleums, new magnificent tombs and new splendid sepulchers which I myself have to design and to build" said Sari to his cousin Amr.

"I agree with you. This is very natural and normal. These sad and tragic developments in the daily life of the inhabitants of our quarter and of our city as a whole are for your advantage. No doubt you are the only person in the quarter of the rich who benefits from these daily tragedies that strike the various families in our community. You can notice, my cousin, because of the very frequent death which strikes an increasing number of people, you would be richer and richer. In other words, my cousin, you are a lucky man. Death is benefiting you. Isn't it so my dear cousin? Your wife would become more and more nine and gentle and your son might change his position concerning marriage." answered Amr sarcastically while his cousin was listening to him with an open mouth.

"Please do not talk like this, please my cousin Amr. Just listen to me and try to understand. Do not be sarcastic. I am already rich, richer that anybody else in the quarter of the rich or in the community. I am already a rich man. I think you know that. But I should tell you that this is not the subject for which I have invited you to come and take lunch with me in my house. Listen to me now. Nowadays, a lot of old people and others who are in retirement, and who are still living and are mostly in good health, are asking me to build for them, even in their life-time mausoleums or magnificent tombs or huge sepulcher before their death. Each one of them wishes and wants his tomb to be constructed in his private garden of his residence, his villa, in our quarter. The trend in the future would be to bury the poor in the public cemetery and the rich in the cemetery of the private house, in the gardens of villas and palaces. However, my dear cousin, and my dear neighbor, what I have told you just now is not the thing for which I have invited you to come to my house. There is something else which I would like to talk to you about." said Sari to his cousin.

"Then what is it? I am really getting nervous. Tell me what you want to tell me. I you please tell me what you want to say without any unnecessary introduction. I you please, go on and tell me just now." asked Amr from his cousin Sari, the constructor of the magnificent edifices and buildings.

"Do not be in a hurry, my dear cousin. I am going to tell you everything. You know, you are now in retirement. You have nothing to do nowadays, practically nothing, like all old people in our society. You have a lot of time to waste. Why are you in a hurry my dear cousin? You are in retirement. Isn't it so?? So don't be in a hurry. And be patient with me. Do not forget that I have invited you. So don't be in a hurry." said Sari to his cousin while he is looking at him fixedly.

"Listen to me my friend and my dear cousin, Sari. I would like to tell you what I have done since the morning till noon, or midday. However, and before that, you should complete telling me your story. Isn't it so?" answered Amr.

"Since several months I have received orders for the construction of mausoleums for persons who are still in life, they are still living. They are living like any other person who is still in life. Those people give me the target date for the delivery of the mausoleum which should be ready to receive the corpse of the dead person concerned. Something which I cannot understand is how one can foresee in advance the death date of somebody. For me this is a riddle, a mystery, which I cannot understand." explains Sari to Amr.

"Really, this is a riddle which astonishes me, which bewilders me. I as a man in retirement, is it possible for me to foresee, to know in advance, the date of my death? Look here. Should I ask you to construct for me in my private garden a superb and magnificent mausoleum." asks Amr.

"Certainly yes, you are now in retirement. It is officially declared that you are a retired civil servant of the government. According to the actual tradition concerning life and death, you should by now order somebody to construct for you the mausoleum. It is better to order it early, the sooner the better. You know this is a wise principle. Listen to me my cousin, I am ready to build for you the most magnificent and impressive tomb."

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"Just ask me to start designing for you this mausoleum, your tomb, your sepulcher which would be the landmark of the city. This tomb has to be built in the garden of your villa. As I can see the situation now, you have enough space in your garden to construct the most superb mausoleum not only in our city but also in the whole region. People or more precisely tourists would come to your house just to see your tomb. Perhaps in the future, visitors from other countries would come to see the mausoleum which I am going to design and construct for you in the garden of your house. "

"Your tomb would be a beautiful architectural and artistic structure and land-mark. Certainly, the tomb would not have a value at all if it remains without your corpse, without your dead body. Do not worry, nobody is eternal. Every human being is destined one day to die. So in your case you would die one day and your body would be put in the tomb which I would be constructing for you." said Sari to his astonished cousin, Amr.

The ancient consul looks at his watch and remarks that time is passing very fast. If he does not interrupt Sari, he will continue talking for hours and hours. Amr thinks that it is now his turn to tell his own story, the story of his visit to the coffee-shop in the Quarter of Al-Qammar this morning. His cousin should listen to his story, the story of today.

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

Sari stops talking and he immediately gives the chance of talking to Amr. The latter becomes very glad because his cousin would be listening to him when he speaks about the clients, the men without identity. Amr with enthusiasm starts to tell his cousin and gives him a lot of details about the story of his visit to the Quarter of Al-Qammar, the quarter of the poor. Then he tells his cousin Sari what happened to him in the Al-Kaif coffee-shop.

"When Amr finishes telling the story of his visit to the coffee-shop, his cousin, Sari, asks him to continue going to this coffee-shop because these visits would increase his chances of being accepted as a candidate for the membership of "the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals." Amr promises is cousin Sari that he would for sure resume the visit of this coffee-shop, Al-Kaif, because he is determined to be in the final analysis a member of the most famous Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

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Amr leaves the house of his cousin Sari. Really, he has become very confused of this visit. He feels that he would die before his tomb is finished.

"Amr arrives at his house after finishing a visit to his cousin's house. He remembers immediately the advice of his cousin, Sari, to continue going to the coffee-shop of the Al-Kaif in the Quarter of Al-Qammar, the quarter of the poor. Certainly, the retired consul, Amr, remembers that his final aim is to increase his chances to be a member of "the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.""

Very quickly, Amr takes his dinner. He finishes his dinner in less than an hour. After that, he goes to his bedroom to prepare himself to sleep. He is very anxious to go tomorrow to the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif. He sleeps early in his bed with the main intention to wake up early and to go to the Qammar Quarter.

During his sleep, Amr has been dreaming continuously. Most of his dreams had the main theme of his visits that he has already made to his cousin Sari, seeing wife Saba and his son Fahman and his visits to the main avenue of the city and his visit to the Al-Kaif Coffee-shop. Amr realizes that all his dreams reflect the abnormal events and characters that he has seen in all of these places. He wonders why he should witness all of these strange phenomenons.

Early in the morning, Amr awakes from his sleep. Really he slept very well for almost six or seven hours. When he gets up he finds the light of the sun filling the bedroom and discovers that the day would be more or less hotter than usual. He is planning to put on the same old suit of clothes of yesterday.

House in Clouds 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

Indeed, Abdu, the ephebe, and the servant of the house is now quite aware that his master is awake in his bed and is waiting for his morning cup of coffee. After being aware that his master is awake and is still in bed he rushes to the kitchen and comes back into a flash of an eye with a tray in his hand. The cup of coffee is ready to be served to his master.

In additions to the coffee, the servant brings to the master the daily newspaper. The master of the house begins to have his coffee. He appreciates the taste and the fragrance of the cup of coffee. All of a sudden he is surprised by the size of the daily newspaper. It is almost three times of its normal size. It is of about one thousand pages. No doubt, this is a special issue, edition. There is something happening in the country. Maybe, it is the Death of an important person in the country, perhaps a member of the ruling family or perhaps the death of the prime minister.

Still he has to find the truth, He should be patient. One thousand pages; this is a surprise! In order to know the reality, he finishes having his coffee hastily. He puts the empty cup of coffee aside and takes the daily paper. It is very heavy and Amr finds difficulty in carrying it in his two hands. It was impossible for him to manipulate it.

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Amr goes through the voluminous daily paper. As usual, most of the paper is allotted to the subject of Death in the community. Perhaps, only two pages are allotted for international and regional news and events and one page only is allotted for publicity and advertisement.

The rest of the paper is totally assigned for Death in the community. After spending some time in going through the whole daily paper and especially in the section of death, Amr discovers that most of the pages are devoted to the death of a young man in very mysterious circumstances who was discovered dead in his car outside the boundaries of the city near by the highway leading to the seaport.

While the master of the house is completely absorbed in looking through the daily paper, his servant comes and reminds him gently and politely about his intention to go to the Al-Kaif coffee-shop. Of course, Amr is completely absorbed in reading the various sections of the paper. Amr gets excited when he hears the name of the Al-Kaif coffee-shop. Certainly he is going to the coffee-shop today. Therefore, it is better to give priority to go to the coffee-shop Al-Kaif rather than waste the time in reading the daily newspaper of Death. Amr leaves the newspaper on the bed and stands up to make himself ready to go to the Qammar Quarter, the quarter of the poor people of the city. He puts on the same dress of yesterday, the same necktie and the same pair of shoes. After finishing dressing up he looks at himself in the mirror and he gets satisfied because he discovers in front of him a somewhat an unknown person.

Like yesterday, Amr walks to the bus-stop. He waits there for a while. Maybe he waits there for three minutes. There, the bus is coming from the north. It is almost empty. There are few passengers, very few passengers. They are mostly as yesterday old people who go down town to walk in the main avenue of the city. There are passengers of other age groups who are going to other quarters, to other directions. Nevertheless, the main direction of Amr is the Qammar Quarter, that of the poor. He hopes that this is the bus which he should take. He stays in the bus for a long time, more than yesterday. At last the bus arrives at its destination. The bus stops. It is indeed the heart of the centre of the Qammar Quarter. Amr descends. With him some of the passengers also leave the bus.

The moment he goes out of the bus he looks at his watch. It is about to be eight o'clock. It is going to be eight. The street in which the bus stops is not at all busy or crowded. Here and there on both pavements few pedestrians could be seen either walking or trying to cross the street. Few cars could be seen that are not running fast. The long street looks to be quiet and calm.

It seems it is not time for people here to open their shops and their stores and workshops. Anyhow, some people could be seen here and there. It is sure that most of the coffee-shops are open especially the Al-Kaif coffee-shop.

As usual, Amr looks around for exploration purposes. At least he wants to locate his coffee-shop, that of the Al-Kaif. Where is it? Still once more, he looks around and tries to see and to locate Al-Kaif coffee-shop. In this part of the Qammar Quarter, there might be more than ten coffee-shops and all of them look similar to each other. This is what he has been told by a passer-by who could have been a blind man.

Room on Roof
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 best solution for Amr is to walk around nearby those coffee-shops so as to discover his. The coffee-shops start to pass before him, one, two, three, etc. All at once he stops in front of a coffee-shop. There is the waiter whom Amr thinks to be the young man of yesterday who stands at the entrance of the coffee-shop. It seems that this coffee-shop has just opened. Still, in few seconds about four clients take their seats in the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif. There is the waiter, the young man, who is still standing at the entrance and Amr immediately thinks that he recognizes the waiter.

For about a quarter of an hour, Amr roams in the street looking for the Al-Kaif coffee-shop. He walks and walks so as to find the coffee-shop of yesterday. However, all of a sudden he stops before his destination and tries his best to examine the waiter especially his face. He could not at all forget the face of the waiter of yesterday.

For a while he stops and contemplates the face of the waiter. It is he. It is he, the waiter of yesterday. Amr feels relieved and even happy to be standing before the coffee-shop of yesterday. As expected, the waiter is really amazed and even stunned to find the old man of yesterday whom he judged to be a fool, insane or at least an imbecile or an idiot. At last, Amr decides to talk to the young waiter who is trying to ignore him.

"Don't you remember me, please don't you remember me?" Amr asks the waiter. He talks to the waiter politely and with a lot of courtesy.

"Certainly, I do remember you very well. I would never forget you. How could I forget you? You came yesterday to our coffee-shop. So I cannot forget you, you are the …" answers the waiter without completing his last statement.

"Therefore, I am very happy and gratified to be before the coffee-shop of yesterday. Yes, yes!! It is the same coffee-shop of yesterday." said Amr to the waiter. Amr has a smile of victory on his fleshy face.

"Sir, listen to me attentively. It is better for you to look for another coffee-shop. I am sure you will be finding a better coffee-shop than this one. It is better for you and for us that you look for another coffee-shop. Sir, you should continue walking in the street. You would be surprised to discover many others that are better than this one. I cannot understand why you prefer this one while there are many others some of which look better than this one." said the waiter in speaking to Amr while at the same time he remembers the unbalanced behavior of Amr yesterday morning. No doubt, the waiter is determined to convince Amr to go and look for other coffee-shops in the Qammar Quarter."

"No, no, do not try to convince me to go elsewhere. It is here, in this coffee-shop that I am determined to enter and nowhere else at all. You should understand this point. This is my position now. I want to stay here in this coffee-shop for the whole day. Do you understand what I am trying to communicate to you." said Amr to the waiter.

What could Amr do in facing the negative position of the waiter of the Al-Kaif coffee-shop? It seems he seems he is prevented to enter the coffee-shop. There the waiter is standing like a barrier an obstacle to prevent Amr from entering the coffee-shop. Therefore, Amr has no other choice except to force his way inside the coffee-shop.

As a miracle, Amr finds himself, and by his own effort and force in the middle of the coffee-shop. Amr stands in the hall of the coffee-shop and looks around him.

In looking around, Amr becomes stunned, dazed, and amazed to see clients, human beings each with an identity of his own, and each of them has a face decorated with their eyes, their nose, their ears and their mouth. All are normal human beings. Nothing is abnormal or extraordinary in all of them.

Amr discovers that all the fifteen low tables of the hall are occupied by normal clients who are playing the dominoes, the cards or the trick track. Some of these clients are smoking cigarettes and some others are enjoying having the end of the tube of their narghile, the water smoking apparatus, in their mouth. Everybody is enjoying his time and the game he is playing. Those who are only watching the games are also enjoying their time fully. So everything in the coffee-shop is normal. And all the seats and the tables would be very soon occupied.

This is the story of every day here in the coffee-shop as well as in other coffee-shops of the Qammar Quarter of the poor. The waiter, as usual, is active and he walks from one table to another either to take orders or to serve the drink which has been asked by the clients.

Amr enters the hall of the coffee-shop. While he walks he looks around to see whether his entry would cause something in the place. Maybe he thinks that all the clients would consider his entry as an event, an important event.

Unfortunately, his presence does not attract the attention of anybody. All the clients consider him like any other client who comes to the coffee-shop.

All the clients are occupied by their games, by their cups of tea or coffee or by their water smoking narghile and by everything that concerns them only. Nobody says anything as a comment either in his entry or on his stature and his personality in general. Nobody looks at him while he is standing in the middle of the hall of the coffee-shop.

Amr sees that there are few seats, low straw seats that are vacant. Therefore, and like yesterday he chooses s seat in a table where there are two clients who are playing the dominoes. One of these two players begins to clean his throat several times. Strangely enough his face becomes red. Then this player, this client spits on the floor without looking at anybody.

Another client, in another table, coughs several times while he smokes a cigarette, and then he spits on the floor. Some red blood is mixed up with the green-yellow material he spits of the floor.

At this moment, the waiter passes by and he, by chance, tramples the phlegm of the client and he crushes the spitting. Of course, Amr observes all of this and he cannot do anything about it. He keeps silent but looks at the two feet of the waiter and the way they tread on, step on, all parts of the floor of the hall of the coffee-shop. Actually in observing and in seeing all of this taking place in the coffee-shop, Amr is about first to vomit and later on to faint and fall down on the floor covered by a layer of dirt and poison.

Amr is not accustomed to see such disgusting, loathsome, sickening, nauseating, repulsive and filthy scenes. The waiter passes again in the same direction as before around the table of Amr. But he never gives any importance or attention to what is found of the floor of the hall of the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif.

Amr has been, before his retirement a member of the diplomatic corps of his county for the last twenty five years. Therefore, he tries to behave as much as he could in a diplomatic manner. He does not have the slightest intention to change the status quo concerning the floor of the coffee-shop. He tries to forget the spitting on the floor, the red, the yellow and the green phlegm, and to concentrate his attention and his effort on the human beings surrounding him.

As he can notice, all the men in the coffee-shop are poor and of old age. Most of their faces and their foreheads are full of wrinkles. Moreover, the same wrinkles could be noticed all around the mouth of each of old man. It could be seen that almost all of these mouths do not contain teeth at all. They are toothless. It could also be noticed that the heads of all the clients are either bald or are covered by some grey or all white hair. Amr gets interested to look at all the clients who are present in the coffee-shop.

The waiter passes by Amr who benefits of this opportunity to ask for a cup of coffee. The waiter, since the entry of Amr in the coffee-shop tries to avoid coming nearby the client whom he thinks to be insane or an imbecile or an idiot. While Amr waits for his cup of coffee to come he occupies his time fully in looking at all the clients who are sitting around him, or who are, more or less, his neighbors.

Amr is surprised to discover that one of the two neighbors does not move at all, as if he is really made out of stone or marble. The old man who does not move at all carries in his right hand three pieces of dominoes while he reposes the left hand on the table on front of him. Then Amr looks at the face of this motionless man, or the statue and discovers that his eyes are completely and fully open and that they never make a single wink or blink. The eyes are continuously open.

At the same time, there is on the face of this man-statue an extremely mysterious smile hidden in the middle of the wrinkles that cover the face, or are lost in them. The mouth of this man is a little bit open as if he is giving away the last breath of his life. The man is certainly toothless since a long time. In spite of the fact that the man is dead, already dead, it seems nobody has come or is coming to his aid and to help him. Extraordinarily, the client facing the dead man continues to play the dominoes as if his partner is still alive. Or because this partner does not realize that his partner is not in a position at all to play with him or that his partner is really dead.

Amr finds himself in a strange and extraordinary situation. He is really shocked and has never imagined that he would be facing such a phenomenon. Never in his life as a consul has he had the chance or the opportunity to face such an impasse and such a deadlock. Certainly, the situation is beyond his capacity to offer some help or to offer a solution to the whole problem.

The waiter goes around carrying the trays of coffee, tea, and water bottles and yet he never notices that one of the clients inside the hall of the coffee-shop is most probable dead. Sometimes, the waiter goes around the table of Amr and the dead and looks at everybody. Yet, he does not take any action either to call the police or the Civil defense or a doctor so as to take some action.

Amr comes to the conclusion that what he is seeing cannot be considered as a normal event, accident or episode. All at once, the waiter comes to the table, talks for a long time with the other client-player and then he talks with Amr and at the same time he talks with the two.

Surprisingly enough, the waiter all at once talks with the two man, the other player and Amr, in a language which Amr does not understand at all. Amr wonders whether this is not the language of birds which some people among the inhabitants of the quarter of the rich and of the poor use sometimes to communicate amongst themselves something secret which should not be known by others. This language of the birds, or more specifically the language of sparrows, has become recently in fashion and many rich and poor people want to learn it. The language of birds is becoming in fashion and would gradually be replacing the two world languages, the French and the English as a second language used in the region.

By now many of the inhabitants of the various quarters of the city spend some of their time in raising their heads towards the sky so as to be able to listen to what the flying birds tell each other especially in the morning.

So many people, especially in the quarter of the poor, are trying to master the language of the birds. They want to use it in their daily life especially in business.

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

All at once the waiter realizes that Amr, whom he thinks to be insane, idiot, imbecile, etc. does not understand the language of the birds. He immediately uses the mother tongue prevailing and in use in the community.

The waiter hesitates a lot whether to talk or not to talk to the client, who is Amr, who sits in his low straw seat and is letting his mouth open and his ears moving in their place in an extraordinary ways. Normally ears do not move.

"Listen to me, in a very short time, a group of men in charge of the burial of animals, like dogs, cats and donkeys as well as lost and unknown human beings, would come here. They would be in charge of the burial of this dead man. Of course, and as you already know, because I presume that this is not the first time you see a dead man in your life, this dead man should be taken first of all to the main mosque of the quarter. There, as you already know, all the necessary rituals would be carried out for the dead to prepare him for the final burial in the cemetery where there is a section allotted for the unknown persons."

"As you know, and according to our traditions, the dead must be buried as soon as possible on the same day in which the person concerned dies. It is not permitted to let the dead person free in the world. The dead should be in his tomb on the day of their death. I think that this is a reasonable tradition and should be followed and respected." said the waiter to the stunned and amazed Amr.

"Listen to me young man. Why don't you wait for the family, his family, to come to the coffee-shop and to take him and be responsible for carrying out all the rituals for the final burial of the defunct? Certainly, they would, that is the members of his family, take him to his house so that he could be seen by his children, by his wife and all his relatives. This is the tradition here, isn't it so, or what?"

"Or have things changed recently, I mean in recent years. You know when you talk to me I feel as if you do not belong to this world. This is very strange. And, then, this bird's language which you master, it gives me the impression that I am living in another planet." said Amr to the waiter as well as to the man who continues playing the dominoes by himself.

"I would like to tell you that the defunct is an old man who has been in retirement since a very long time. Or, really, he has been in retirement all his life. He never had the chance to work. I cannot give you the number of years during which he had been retired. It happens, like most of the old clients of the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif, he is without a family. You should not ask me why or how. Look at these customers. Most of them are in retirement and they live as if they are all alone in this life. None of their relatives or the close and the direct members of their families, I mean children and grand children, recognize them, speak to them or even know them. This is a very strange situation. Isn't it so?"

"But this is the common rule nowadays in our community. Of course, this is more common in the poor quarters. Usually, it is only days after the death of somebody here that his posterity comes to enquire about him." explains the waiter to Amr.

"This is impossible, impossible. This is unbelievable, unreasonable, irrational, and foolishness. This man, this defunct should have children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, aunts etc. etc. His family, though all poor, should be responsible for all the requirements for his burial. Please answer me. I know that this is the tradition here. Any deviation from this tradition would be discovered and criticized. People of the Qammar Quarter of the poor would speak about it in a bad way. People in this quarter of the poor would fabricate rumors, unbelievable rumors that do not have any foundation in reality." replied Amr bitterly, nervously. Amr becomes unnecessarily irritated while he is sitting on the low straw seat with no back to lean on in case one feels tired and needs to relax."

"It seems to me that you are behaving as if you are not from our society, our community. You know as a general rule and for all the old people in retirement, sometimes, they do not have any relatives who could ask about them in case they die. Of course, they are mostly the poor. You know, the moment an old poor man dies, he becomes automatically without a family. Nobody asks about him. He becomes completely unknown. Nobody recognizes him." said the waiter to Amr.

Amr does not believe at all in what the waiter says to him about the destiny of the old people, persons, in the quarters of the poor. He thinks that the waiter exaggerates and does not say the truth. Most people who die at old age find at last some of their relatives who would carry out all the rituals necessary for their final burial. The Qammar Quarter is not as bad as the waiter tries to describe to Amr.

Suddenly, a new client enters the hall of the coffee-shop. The new arriving client sits immediately in the seat that was occupied by the dead client who had been carried away by three persons of the local authorities on a stretcher which was with them. Amr saw them by his two eyes taking the dead man to the mosque of the quarter. Amr would not forger at all what he saw just half an hour age.

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

But now what does he see before him? Amr rubs his eyes several times. After each rubbing he tries to look at the person who seats himself in the unoccupied seat. Still he does not believe his eyes. What he is seeing unbelievable, completely unbelievable! It could be considered as miracle, or a riddle, or a mystery, or an enigma, or a puzzle, or what?

Amr rubs his eyes once more and tries to see or to look at the person seated before him. Amr says to himself, 'Impossible, impossible.' Then he says 'what a miracle, what a miracle.' The only arriving person is completely an identical copy of the person who was dead in front of him and who was carried away from the coffee-shop few minutes ago.

This person, who just entered into the coffee-shop, is an identical copy of the dead person. However, is it possible? Could this new client be the identical twin of the dead man? Possible, it is possible, it is possible. Both could be twins. Yet it seems that the client who starts to play the dominoes with the other client looks more or less younger than the other twin, the dead. Still, he could not be younger. This is only a judgment, an opinion, a proposition, a hypothesis, and nothing else. This new comer has to be asked to elucidate several points concerning the nature of his personality.

Amr doubts now in everything. Especially, he doubts the validity of his vision, of his power to see and to identify the reality. Therefore, he rubs his eyes again and again. Then he looks at the new comer. This is a hopeless case. He sees before him the same thing as before, the twin of the dead. What a riddle!!

Then he looks at the new client who plays the dominoes with the old player who was playing with the man who died. "This is he. He could be the man who was carried out as dead man. However, this one could be one or two years younger. Has he been resuscitated, brought back to life? Has he been returned from the dead or what? Is it possible that a miracle has taken place? How could this be possible?"

Amr continues to be in a state of some mental disequilibrium because of what he is witnessing around him. He is afraid to lose all his power of reasoning, to become a fool. He hopes that he can overcome this state of mental confusion.

"Excuse me my brother and my neighbor. Can I pose to you a simple and a direct question? I want you just to provide me with a simple answer and nothing else. It is only you who can give me the correct and the required response." asked Amr politely and gently and also with some courtesy.

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"Why not, I am ready. Why should you ask me only one question? You can ask me several questions, or as much as you want, as much as you wish. I am ready to answer any question and I hope that I can give you the satisfactory answers. Certainly, you might be posing questions which I cannot answer. Maybe, maybe!!! So I warn you from now. I am not supposed to answer any question. However, I warn you, my dear friend, I would not be able to answer all questions. You should hurry up now. Very soon I would be playing the dominoes with my friend and for long hours. Here I am ready for your questions."

What the new player, the new client says surprises Amr a lot. Amr keeps silent not knowing what to do next. He looks around him just to ask for help. But why should he ask for help? Is he in danger or what?

Is this man, the twin of the dead, endangering his life? Is he threatening Amr? And why should he ask for help, and from whom, from the waiter? How the new client could resume the game, is he the same person who was dead before him? Has he been resuscitated from death?

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Baby Plant on Table 5
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

"If you please, allow me to ask you the following silly and funny question." said Amr.

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

"Why nor, you can ask any question you like. Just ask me if you please." said the new player.

"Are you, if you please, the same person who was seated in the seat you are occupying now, but who was carried away to the cemetery just half an hour ago? Amr asked hesitatingly and nervously.

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"Look here Mister; I cannot understand at all what you are saying, not at all. I am here in this low straw seat for the last ten years, ten years. I occupy this seat daily and regularly since I retired from my work as a manual worker when I was fifty years old. I am here every day except on Fridays. On this day, I stay at home to see my twenty five children some of whom are married and each of the married ones has at least fifteen children. I cannot tell you the exact number of my posterity. We are already a large tribe."

"My wife is still capable every day to prepare bread for all the members of the family. Every day we need two sacks of flour, or in fact a ton of flour. We need a huge amount of onions, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, tea, sugar, etc. My wife every year in the season of olive harvest prepares two tons of green olives to be stored and later on to be consumed for the whole year."

House in Clouds 1
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

"You know, how could I die and I have a wife whom I consider as a true heroine. My wife every day can feed a whole army. I am a lazy person after my retirement, but my wife is not lazy."

"I have a house of four rooms. Still frankly speaking I do not know how my wife can accommodate and feed up our army, our tribe, in these four rooms. For me, this is the secret of the family. If my wife becomes ill, or dies, then all of us, the members of the tribe, would become beggars. All the boys and the girls would have to beg to be able to live. My wife prays five times a day. Still, unfortunately, I do not. I am sure I will go to hell. I only know now how to eat and how to play the dominoes. I smoke more than anybody in our quarter. I am quite aware of the fact that smoking is harmful to the health of man. I know it is the cause of all sorts of cancer especially that of the lungs. Yet I do not listen at all to the advice of my friends. The more people advice me to leave smoking the more I smoke cigarettes. Don't ask me how I get the money which I need for buying my cigarettes."

"I assure you sir, that I never touched alcohol, never in my life. I pray to God the Al-Mighty, so that my wife stays immortal till the end of my life and after that till the eternity. So often she gave me twins, two twins are identical. My married sons have also twins. My children like me, like to engender more and more children. What a life is our life. We only produce children. Nobody died so far of my family. I think because we eat much of bread, onion, garlic and olives. Thanks to the Al-Mighty God, nobody of my family got sick so far. Thanks to God we eat a lot of garlic, onion and olives. From time to time my children drink much milk, full cream milk. The kind of food we eat provides us with immunity against all kinds of diseases."

"From time to time, and on the average once a week, my wife offers us canned beef meat in addition to a sufficient quantity of white salty cheese. All the members of the family, of all ages, like this beef meat which we eat with a dish of Hommos prepared by my wife." answered the new client.

Amr stays stuck to his seat stunned and even petrified. He could not understand what the mysterious man, the chief of the tribe, has already told him. Is all what the man tells him true, or what?

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For a while, Amr, the ex-consul of his country in Chilnega, thinks that he is really in an absurd world, an unreal world. What a strange story!! Could he believe what this mysterious man has already told him? How this man could have engendered twenty five children and all are now living? What a miraculous man.

Amr could never think that the Qammar Quarter, the quarter of the poor could have such large families, twenty five children from one mother only. What a miracle!!

And still, Amr remembers his own situation. He is with not a single child. He would die without leaving any single trace of himself in this planet, the Earth. He wishes if this man, the chief of the tribe, could give him one of his daughters to be adopted by him. He wants this daughter to be ten years old and to be later on his only heiress.

While Amr is thinking and reflecting, he sees and observes that there is another client who is already dead in the corner of the hall of the coffee-shop. What a strange phenomenon!! He sees the same three young men in charge of burial and death coming to the coffee-shop. Then, they carry dead old man to the same destination, to the mosque to be prepared for the final burial in the cemetery of the quarter.

Amr starts thinking about these deaths of old retired persons. How could they die like this, all of a sudden? These events look to him to be unbelievable. Those who die are not sick. How could they die like this, in a strange and in an abnormal way? This is impossible, unless, unless they have been killed in the coffee-shop by conspiracy.

They, the dead, might have been poisoned by the owner of the coffee-shop. But why should he kill innocent people? This is impossible, impossible and cannot be justified. A number of persons die in the coffee-shop all of a sudden without any introduction and without being ill at all.

In witnessing all of these tragic events taking place in front of him he decides not to escape, not to leave the Al-Kaif coffee-shop. He is determined to stay and to watch. He does not intend to escape but to face reality and to watch the tragic events taking place.

However, at the same time he is determined not to be one of those who die in this place. He does not want to be killed like a rat or like a rabbit or like a dog. He wants to be a witness of what is going on in his community. He does not differentiate between poor quarters and rich quarters. The people of both categories of quarters are originally of the same source and of the same social and family background.

In the remaining time of the morning and till the arrival of midday, four old men in retirement die in their seats and are taken by the same team, the group of young men in charge of burial arrangements and ceremonies.

In the afternoon of that day, three other old men in retirement die and they have the same destiny as the others who had been already buried. Amr by now, till the first part of the afternoon, becomes totally accustomed and habituated to see old men die in the hall of the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif.

Amr just sits and watches and from time to time he goes to the bathroom to the toilets there. Since the morning and till three o'clock in the afternoon he has taken twice coffee and once tea and three times a glass of water. Nevertheless, he ate nothing. It is not the tradition in the popular coffee-shops to offer anything to eat, not even a simple sandwich. So it is natural to have seen him going and coming back from the toilets.

At exactly three o'clock Amr decides to go to his house, that is leaving the Al-Kaif coffee-shop. He thinks that he has seen so far enough of the human tragedy. He says to himself, enough, enough, enough. He stands up and prepares himself with determination to leave the Al-Kaif coffee-shop without any hesitation.

For some time, Amr, the ex-consul, exchanges some words with the nice waiter. He settles his accounts. He gives a tip to the waiter and then he finally leaves the coffee-shop in his way to the bus-stop.

There he sits down on the bench of the bus-stop and he tries his best to forger all what he has seen in the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif in the Qammar Quarter. He really wants to wash out, to erase, to efface, to rub out all the memories and images of the coffee-shop and even all what happened to him since his departure from his villa in the quarter of the rich.

The breeze of the last days of the Spring season is really very refreshing. In his beautiful, sumptuous, splendid and magnificent villa, Amr tries to take some rest and to repose for a while. He tries to forget the adventure which he had in the Al-Kaif coffee-shop in the Qammar Quarter of the poor.

Amr sleeps now, has a nap, in his seat, the arm-chair. He forgets all that happened to him since the morning. He has now full sleep, a relaxation from the troubles he had since the morning.

Without any previous arrangement with anybody, he wakes up exactly at seven o'clock in the evening. He gets up astonished in seeing Abdu standing there, just a short distance from where his master is taking his rest. There the ephebe is looking at him in moos of bewilderment.

Abdu is really wondering why his dear and adored master has been sleeping and since three thirty or four o'clock in the afternoon. Of course, and without being told to informed by anybody, Abdu estimates that his master was having a difficult and a hard day, there in the Qammar Quarter.

But not yet, he knows nothing of the nature of these difficulties which the master faced throughout the day.

"Is dinner ready?" asked Amr.

"Yes sir, it is. Excuse me sir, somebody is waiting for you. He wants to talk to you urgently, really, he says urgently." said Abdu.

"this is really very strange. I do not have any meeting, any appointment, with anybody, not with anybody at all. Who could this person be?" declared Amr in a tone full of astonishment.

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"O!! Sir, this is a young lady, a very young lady. I think she is of the age of thirty years or somewhat less than that. She says that she is your cousin." said Abdu in a voice full of inquietude.

Amr is categorical and quick in his reaction to this news or information which Abdu communicates to his master. He asks his servant to get rid of the young lady because as far as he is aware of the net-work of his family, he, Amr, never remembers that he has a lady cousin. Amr does not have at all such a relative. All his cousins are men and not a single one is a woman.

The servant leaves immediately the salon and goes to the waiting-room. After an absence of some time there he comes back to his master with some frowning on his face which Abdu tries to hide from his master.

"Master, I am sorry to tell you that the lady who claims to be your cousin is furious, angry, and enrage. She refuses to leave the house and she insists to see you and immediately. She says that she comes from a very far place, from the original town of the family which is found on the western Bank of the River." said Abdu.

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"What does this mean? I cannot understand which bank and which town and which river? This is really a funny, very funny story, my dear Abdu." replied Amr.

"Allow me if you please to suggest to let her come to the salon. Then you can tell her yourself that she is undesired here, You tell her by yourself this statement." answered politely and in a low voice Abdu.

"Listen to me; she must leave the house at once and without hesitation." ordered Amr his servant. However, Amr is surprised to see in front of him a young lady of thirty years of age.

"Listen to me Abdu. I have never seen in my life this woman, never, never, never." shouted the ex-consul in a very loud voice.

"Certainly, you have never seen me, never, of course. Listen to me, you are right. We have never met in the past at all. Indeed, this is the first time that we meet and that we see each other. In the past we have never met. Isn't it so?" said the young lady gently and calmly and in a low voice.

"What do you want?? Tell me exactly what do you want? Listen to me. I am not ready at all to let you stay in my house. Do you understand that? You should leave the house at once." answered Amr nervously.

Takeoff 1
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

"Why not when you have all the time?" said the young lady.

"It is not a problem of time that I have under my disposition." said Amr to the young lady while he was looking at her face in trying to remember whether he saw the face in the previous long years of his life in his town and abroad. However, the young lady finally decides to leave the house from the main gate as soon as Amr finishes what he has to say to her. Nevertheless, she was accompanied by the servant, Abdu, till she was out of the villa of Amr.

The next day, Amr awakes earlier than usual. He sits in his bed and he looks at the ceiling of the bedroom. Then he looks at the scene outside the open window, He sees there the usual villas and palaces, cars and gardens of the rich people living in these magnificent residences.

As usual, he does not see a lot of people in the paths and the alleys of the quarter. Indeed, as usual, some taxis pass by in the quarter of the rich. Most of these taxis carry servants who are employed in several houses, villas and palaces. Some of these servants come by the buses serving the quarter. Some or most of the servants reside in the villas in the section allotted for the servicing personnel.

Amr, then, at about six thirty in the morning calls his servant and asks him to be served a cup of coffee and to have the daily newspaper. He emphasizes to his obedient servant the priority of having at once the newspaper. He tells his servant that he would like to take his breakfast at eight o'clock and not later on. The servant leaves his master and goes to the kitchen.

Amr after that takes his coffee and goes through the daily newspaper where there is nothing but the new of the death of several persons. However, the most important thing for Amr is that he finds himself lost, confused and submerged in perplexity and not knowing what to do.

Really he feels lost, for the first time in his life. As an old man in retirement he discovers himself lost, especially after what he has seen and experience yesterday and the day before that, He has witnessed with his own eyes the various aspects of the miserable life which the old and the retired persons live not only in the rich quarter but also elsewhere and everywhere.

Amr does not know how to fill and occupy his free time available for him throughout the whole day. As an old man in retirement Amr feels that he is totally lost. He thinks and contemplates for some time; he looks around himself as if he is looking for something which he has lost.

Finally he takes the decision to stop going to the coffee-shops of the Qammar Quarter of the poor. He definitely and categorically thinks that two days spent in these coffee-shops are absolutely enough for him to know how the old men in retirement spend their time in the popular coffee-shops. Amr would never forget that his final aim is to be a member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. He plans to be an active member of this Circle. He thinks that his two days visits to the coffee-shops would increase his chances that his name would be included in the final list of candidates for the membership of "The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals."

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