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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

Amr arrives at his residence after a short visit to Monkar, his friend who was an ambassador and who retired from the diplomatic service of his country just recently. Amr is a very happy man to have arrived safe. He is neither sick nor dead; Recently, he came to know many silly and strange stories about old and retired men who died while they were going out from their homes, or whenever they have walked in the quarters of the rich or of the poor.

His servant reports to him that a rich man was found shot dead in one of the alleys in which this old man makes his daily walks. He is found dead shot at his mouth. All people in the quarter say that it is his daughter-in-law who has shot him because twenty years ago, he, the old man, did not give his approval for the marriage of his eldest son from this girl. Since her marriage, this daughter-in-law had the intention of killing him, killing her father-in-law. Some neighbors saw this woman practicing how to use a revolver.

Anyhow, the old man was killed in a very skillful way because there are not witnesses. Some persons who were there by chance in that narrow alley saw a woman completely veiled in her black dress and carrying a pistol in her hand.

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Of course, there are many other stories about the mysterious death of several other retired old persons while they are having their daily walk in the quarter of the rich.

Amr stays for several days in his house. He does not like to go out. Nobody knows why. For several days Amr is actually thinking and reflecting and contemplating. What to do?? What to do? He even prevents Abdu from showing himself in the place where his master sits.

He permits Abdu to show himself only when he wants to take his three meals. The maid-cook never shows herself except when Amr takes his daily bath. She comes into the bathroom to help Amr to wash himself, especially his back.

Amr considers his meeting with Monkar this day as an important event in his life. But really he does not know exactly why this week-end is very important for his life at present and in the future. Anyhow, after much thinking for several hours, Amr decides to make a visit in the near future to the house of Monkar for asking a lot of questions about the way of passing and occupying the time available for the retired old men. This is a serious decision and he is determined to carry it out in the near future.

es/ Come Sit Close Up Next To Me
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© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

For the moment, Amr thinks that he should go down to the main avenue of the city so as to see and observe the old men in retirement walk for the whole day in the pavements of the avenue of the city. He knows that those old retired people stay there from the morning till the evening.

As usual, and as he did it for several times so far, he goes to the bus-stop to the direction of the main avenue of the city. As usual Amr goes into the bus, takes a seat near the window. After a while and from his seat he looks around and imagines that the bus is extremely overcrowded with passengers. The majority of the passengers are old men in retirement and who are in their way to the main avenue so as to walk in the pavement from the morning till the evening.

Always, he looks at the passengers, the old and the retired to discover whether there is somebody whom he knows. He looks around him and he sees many persons whom he thinks to be his friends when he was a small boy. He can identify more than three whose face is familiar to him. He looks for a long time at these old people but nobody cares for him and nobody reacts in such a way as to show him that they are the real childhood friends.

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Amr decides not to look at these lifeless persons, and even he closes his eyes just not to see the other passengers. Unfortunately, the trip is about to come to its end and he could not in fact attract the attention of anybody in the bus. He feels a little bit depressed and in a mental state of hopelessness.

Amr realized little by little, that though he is in the city where he was born, he considers himself a stranger, an alien and even a foreigner. He all of a sudden finds before him a young lady carrying her baby in her hands. Amr smiles to the baby who does not react at all to him.

The bus continues its journey, its way, towards the main avenue. While the bus is rolling slowly in the path to be followed till the arrival to the avenue, Amr looks at the scenes that are passing before him through the windows of the bus. Amr sees many and various things down there in the pavements and in the shops and the stores. In spite of the speed of the bus, Amr is really capable to see many things. Amr suddenly sees somebody whom he knows. But he sees this person just for an instant, almost a second. The passer-by on the pavement looks like somebody whom he knows to have dies twenty five years ago. The old man seems to be of the age of eighty years or a little bit more.

Amr noticed that the old man, the passer-by, whom he saw for a second looks like his father. This is very strange. How could he see his father? Is his father resuscitated from death or what?

The old man looks like his father. No doubt, this is a miracle. Even Amr imagines that this old man, is seeing the bus coming, stops in his place on the pavement and looks at the direction of the coming bus and the place where Amr is sitting. Naturally this is something impossible. How could a dead man be resuscitated? This is not the time for miracles.

On the other hand, why should the father of Amr is resuscitated from death? Amr, thirty years ago has been present when his father, was put in the grave, in the deep dug tomb. Of course, also it is not possible to ask the driver of the bus to stop so as Amr would come down to verify whether the old man is his father or not.

Amr would have asked his father, if he had stayed visible, why his elder brother was the favorite boy and why he, Amr, was always deprived of all the privileges which were given to his elder bother. He would have asked his father why he was imprisoned in the cellar of the house for a whole night just because he, Amr, slapped his younger sister, unjustly, on her face.

Of course, the father, or the image of the father, or the phantom father, disappears from the scene and Amr becomes lost not knowing what to do. Amr does not want to believe his eyes. Amr is sure that his father died when his age was approaching the forty years. When his father died, he still remembers that he was just a beginner in the diplomatic service of his country.

Amr closes his eyes to that to avoid seeing his father again on the pavement. What a strange day? He starts to tell himself!!

However, the bus continues rolling in a very normal speed. The driver is now smiling. Maybe he sees somebody on the pavement whom he knows. Then he ventures to raise his hand just to say hello to somebody whom he sees on the pavement. Maybe he sees a friend or an acquaintance.

The bus rolls normal speed and it seems that every one in the bus, that is the passengers, are satisfied with the driving of the chauffeur. Again once more Amr looks at the faces of the passengers, especially the old ones. Again he expects to find somebody who is a friend of his childhood. He looks at all faces. Unfortunately, he does not find a single familiar face. All of the passengers are strangers to him. What luck!! Or what a bad luck!! Amr fails to get positive results.

Finally, the bus arrives at its destination, the bus stops, in front of the Rabhane Commercial Bank. Not many, but few passengers come down of the bus at this stop. Amongst those who come down is Amr.

The weather of the city today is enjoyable. As usual it is a perfect weather for whatever activity is undertaken, including walking. It is said that the weather would be later on warmer. Yet now the weather is satisfactory in spite of the fact that it might be warmer than usual. However, this weather is tolerable and bearable if not enjoyable.

Amr, after becoming totally on the pavement, looks around him and he finds that everyone is satisfied. What a day! He never in his life has seen people as happy as those whom he sees now.

He asks why. Why are they so happy? Why? Why? Is it because of his presence? Is it because they see him, they are seeing and they would be seeing him till the end of the day. He does not believe so because he knows that his face does not attract the attention of people. He is not attractive and he does not believe that he is handsome. Yet he cannot say that he has an ugly face. He knows that when he goes in the morning to the bathroom he avoids seeing his face in the glass, because he is sure that his face is very ugly when he wakes up from his deep sleep and from his dreams and nightmares.

es/ Imprisoned Rocket
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

Amr commences walking on the pavement; he walks more slowly than usual. It is more a strolling and a rambling. He does not know the exact specific objective of his presence on the pavement of the main avenue of the city.

He remarks clearly and distinctively that the two pavements are already overcrowded and really more than usual. Where Amr is standing, many people are walking and are passing around him. He imagines that every passer-by stares at his face for a while and without any exception. He really wonders why and he wishes to stop somebody to ask him why he has looked at his face. Anyhow, he notices that most of those who are walking are old, of various ages. They are dressed up differently and even some of them are dressed up in their multicolored pajamas. Amr thinks that there are more old people and in retirement than it is visible to him. He would see among those old people some young men and sometimes he could see children either walking all alone or in company with adults.

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To the astonishment and to the bewilderment of Amr, and slowly and little by little, the old people, the retired, could no longer be seen. One could think that the old and the aged have all of a sudden disappeared from his vision, his eye-sight and his perception. Where? Nobody knows. The more he observes and notices that old people are becoming less and less before him the more Amr starts to think that he is the only old man, person, walking on the pavement.

Amr continues walking without giving any attention to the gradual disappearance of the old persons who were there before the arrival of the ex-consul to that spot. While he walks he does not stop from looking at the faces of persons who pass by him. He looks at them and he looks at them.

Gradually, Amr, the puzzled and the perplexed, realizes that the old people have totally disappeared from the pavements of both sides of the avenue. He continues to walk and while he walks he tries to find an explanation for this phenomenon, for this drastic change in the nature of the environment surrounding him.

Of course, Amr discovers that he could not find at all an explanation for the disappearance of the old people in the avenue. At last he comes to the conclusion that he himself cannot find an answer to the question for which he tries to come across an answer. He decides at last to stop someone of the passers-by and then to pose to him a question concerning the absence and the disappearance of the old people from the scene. Or he could ask the same question to a shop keeper.

First he tries to stop a passer-by so as to ask him the question. Unfortunately, nobody was ready to stop and to talk to Amr. Whenever he is about to stop a passer-by he uses to escape from Amr. All the passers-by are unanimous to avoid Amr or seven to escape from him.

After he finds himself helpless and that he could not succeed to stop any passer-by, and after some hesitation, he decides to enter into a store, a big store, for selling clothes for men, women and children. When he enters the clothing store he discovers himself face to face before three young men or even three adolescents who are dressed more or less very well, a white color shirt and a blue jeans trouser. These three young men could not be customers but employers of the store.

There is no trace at all of what could be considered as the owner of the store. However, these three, or one or two of them, could be the children of the owner or his cousins or close or far relatives. Amr does not know to whom he should address himself. At last he goes to one who seems to be the eldest, about seventeen or eighteen years old. The other two are younger and one of them could be only fifteen years old. The one chosen by Amr tells him by a gesture to talk to the younger. Amr goes to the youngest amongst them.

"I find it very, very strange not to find today in this avenue of the city any trace of the old aged and retired persons, I mean men. Normally, the street is full of old men in retirement. Many of them walk daily here in this avenue. However, now I find nobody. I do not see any trace of them today in this main avenue of the avenue of the city. It is very strange I cannot come across except the young people, only the young people. How do you explain this, my dear young man? Where have they disappeared, these old people who used to fill this avenue every day?"

"Normally, the two side pavements are covered by these old men in retirement. Can you tell me what is going on in this avenue? Has there been something that discouraged them and made them disappear all of a sudden, or what? Where are they, the aged, and the old people? What is happening in this famous avenue of the city." asked Amr with horror and terror visible on his pale face.

"Sir, do not be nervous. Be serene and tranquil. Try to calm yourself. Really I cannot understand what you are talking about. Frankly speaking I cannot understand what you are saying. Can you try to express yourself in a very clear way? Listen to me I cannot understand what you are talking about. Nothing is extraordinary in the Grand Avenue, nothing now. There has not been any change. These people whom you see there are the same who have been passing this avenue for the last several months and years. There has been no change. Just look outside. I see practically the same people every day and at the same time. You understand what I am telling you." answered the young man, or the adolescent with astonishment and surprise.

"O!! my son, I am sure, I am certain that there has been a change, a drastic change in the whole scene that we are seeing before us. Can't you see these changes? I am surprised you are pretending not being able to see the reality. I think there is something wrong in your vision, your eye sight. I am sure of that" answered Amr with a tone of absolute certainty.

"Tell me, if you please. Why do you think that this avenue is always overcrowded with old men in retirement? Why do you believe in this? I am completely stunned. I cannot understand you at all" said the young man, the employee of the clothing store.

"You know, my son, this is what I believe. This is what I am sure of. This is what I have been seeing here for the last few days. I have been here for several times and I have been seeing these old people here, in the avenue. I do not have to tell you the details of what I have been seeing here. You have to believe me. I am not lying to you. What for should I lie to you? You should think of this point. Why don't you ask your other two friends? Maybe they would support what I am telling you. Have you been here regularly during the last few days?" said Amr.

"Sir, listen to me very carefully. I do not have to argue with you matters that do not concern me. I think you are imagining things that do not exist at all in the real situation. In other words, you create things that do not have actual existence in the real life. Do you understand me? I am not an educated, a learned person. I have finished only the middle secondary level, the junior secondary level. In spite of that I can understand you. I can understand your behavior and your feelings."

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"Listen to me carefully and try to understand me. Do you understand me? The old people stay most of the time or continuously, in their houses with their families, with their children, their sons and daughters and their grand children and all their relatives. Old people, persons in retirement, do not go out of their homes except rarely. I think you already know that the members of their families take care of the old persons, members of the extended family. I think you already know this fact."

"I don't have to tell you and to explain to you. These are basic principles in our daily life and all of them have their roots in our traditions that have been passed to us from previous generations. I think you understand all of this. I think there are basic principles which I do not have to repeat to you." answered the young man, or the boy, or the employee of the clothing store.

"Listen to me, young man, I do not think that we are communicating with each other. You do not understand me. I agree with what you say one hundred percent. However, what you say applies only to the families of the poor people and the lower middle class people, the social class you come from. You do not come from the quarter of the rich. You come from the Al-Qammar Quarter. There in these poor families to which you belong you find the extended families where the old man, or woman, is taken care of, within the poverty of all, by all the members of the family. Anyhow, what you say does not apply to the quarter of the rich. Within this quarter there is no system of an extended family where the old people are taken care of and are respected."

"The old man in the rich family, lives a horrible lonely life. All people around him are excited vultures and ferocious beasts who are watching his death so as to inherit his fortune and wealth and to devour his flesh even after his death." said Amr to the abhorred young man, the employee of the clothing store.

All of a sudden, Amr leaves the store of clothing and leaves the three young men or the three boys. Amr starts to walk in the avenue of the city. He walks and walks and between now and then he looks around him.

Sometimes he stops for a long time and sometimes for a short while. Amr stares at the pavement of the other side of the avenue. He looks for a long time and he examines what he sees on the other side of the avenue, to the other side pavement. From a far distance, he looks at the other side of the avenue, at the other scene before him. He sees in front of him passers-by who are all, or mostly, young. But where are the old and the aged and the retired? Why are they absent? Where are the old people now?

No doubt, they are now sick, indisposed, in their houses, in their palaces and villas. Amr is really speaking to himself while he goes to the bus-stop. He decides to go back to his house. Almost in one quarter of an hour, the bus is standing in the bus-stop nearest to his house. However, he arrives at his house completely irritated and furious. He feels totally tired and even exhausted.

Amr finds himself in a total confusion. He feels disturbed and annoyed. Amr tries his best to remember all what has passed before him during the day. He wants to remember all the events that took place so as to be able to judge his behavior and his comportment not only in the Avenue but also what he has exchanged of ideas with the boys of the clothing store. He really wants to recall all that so as he could pass a judgment on the final results of his efforts down town in the famous avenue of the city.

The eternal, burning and shining sun is still in the heart of the spacious, vast and extensive sky. It is sending joyfully and cheerfully light to all in the city and in the quarter of the rich.

Amr, the ex-consul, arrives at his house and is completely relieved and satisfied to be in his home. His stomach is almost empty. He orders Abdu to prepare for him his lunch before the normal midday time.

Of course, the maid-servant is ready for the order given by her master. She has prepared a very special dish to be offered for the lunch meal of her master.

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Amr asks Abdu to stay with him while his lunch is being prepared in the kitchen of the big house and then in the dining room. Of course, the servant has no choice at all. He is accustomed to obey his master without any hesitation.

It is a very strange, an uncommon and a bizarre way the servant remarks that his master looks at him so often, so frequently. He wonders what his master wants from him. As far as he can remember, Abdu does not recall at all that his master gives him such an attention.

Why does the master look like this, in a bizarre way, on his servant Abdu? Only once a day the looks of the two, the master and the ephebe, cross each other. However, at this moment, Amr says nothing. He keeps silent and does not show any incitement, stimulation or encouragement for his servant to talk with him.

So Abdu keeps standing and does not initiate any talk or conversation or dialogue or anything like that. But whatever is the matter or the situation, Abdu remarks clearly and notices that his master, Amr, disturbed, annoyed or troubled.

Amr leaves his armchair and he goes out of the sitting-room. At this moment, Abdu knows that his master is going to the dining room. He follows his master politely, carefully and from a distance.

The dining room is still dominated by the total silence. One can hear between now and then a very low noise due to the continuous manipulation by Amr of the fork and of the knife on the crystal plate and sometimes of the spoon and the noise of the movement of things in the house outside the dining room. Also, from time to time Amr coughs, and then, sometimes, he cleans his throat but without finally spitting somewhere.

Amr continues taking his lunch and tries to recall what has happened to him in the avenue of the city and in the clothing store. He tries to remember what the boy of the store has told him about the people who come daily to the avenue.

It is really very difficult for him to remember everything. It is really very difficult. On the whole, he believes that his day cannot be considered as a good day. He does not know exactly why. He eats, he chews what he has in his mouth then he swallows. He keeps quiet and silent and from time to time he looks at his servant, the ephebe, Abdu. He coughs, he cleans his throat but he does not spit.

In spite of all, Abdu keeps silent, calm and serene. He keeps his eyes most of the time well open, just to be able to see and to observe any new developments in the physiognomy and in the behavior of his master. Abdu does not see anything abnormal in his master. It is only exhaustion and hunger from which his master has been suffering, nothing else, and nothing else.

Abdu looks at his master's face and nothing else. He feels that he could go and seat himself on a chair at one of the corners of the dining room. He is not tired but he feels that it is better for him to be seated rather than remain standing for a long time. Of course, Abdu sits down with a lot of timidity, shyness, reserve and reticence.

Abdu is sure at that moment that his master does not mind, does not object, if he sits down. Does it make any difference whether he stands or whether he sits as long as he stays there before his master, the never-failing source of human warmth, passion, fervor and affection?

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Abdu does not remember that he has ever sat in front of his master whom he adores, venerates and respects. He always keeps standing and far from his master by an enough distance that allows Amr to see his ephebe easily and to communicate with him a little bit afar and silently and quietly.

The meal is about to be finished. Amr has tasted all the dishes offered to him. But the master is unceasingly and perpetually silent. He does not address any single word to the young man standing far from the dining table. Not even one word was said to the servant. Perhaps, these were feelings that could not be communicated in words.

At last, lunch comes to its end. Before he stands up Amr takes some water to drink. Then he looks at Abdu. He tells his servant and as expected and as usual, that he is going to take his daily siesta which he takes in the months of Spring and Summer seasons. He wants to take this siesta in the veranda and in the sofa which is usually placed there for such purposes. He asks his servant not to disturb him at all during his siesta.

The servant, Abdu says in a very low voice, 'yes, master'. Then he goes to the sitting room and from there he goes elsewhere in the house of his master. While Amr is walking to his destination he hears the telephone set ringing. Amr takes the telephone by his right hand. Amr and for several times asks who is speaking and who is on the end of the line. Of course, the answer is very quick and somewhat instantaneous. On the other side of the line is Monkar, the ex-ambassador asks Amr to come to his house as soon as possible for resuming the discussion concerning the various ways and means for occupying and filling the free time available for the old people in retirement.

Naturally, Amr could not say no. He kept silent for a while and then he tells Monkar that he would come to the house of the Ambassador the day after tomorrow, on Friday.

Amr has made up his mind that he should go tomorrow, Thursday, to the quarter of the poor, the Al-Qammar Quarter so as to visit one of its coffee-shops. Or, indeed, he has the intention of visiting the same coffee-shop of Al-Kaif.

Thus on the nest day morning, he makes himself ready to go to the Al-Kaif coffee-shop. He dresses himself up the usual suit which was bought on sale. He puts on his feet the same pair of shoes, the same neck-tie and the same white shirt. He likes to look the same as he was seen in his first visit.

He wants to have peace with the waiter of the coffee-shop and its owner. He wants to have tranquility and peace with all the clients in the coffee-shop.

After being ready to leave the house, he calls his servant, Abdu, and tells him about his real destination. Abdu does not say anything at all. He keeps silent and jus listens to what his master tells him.

Abdu keeps standing at the doorsteps while his master goes in somewhat quick steps to the bus-stop. Amr knows exactly where and how to go. He goes to the same bus-stop, then he takes the same bus, and at last he is there at the bus-stop where he should get down to the coffee-shop of Al-Kaif. Thus at last, the bus makes a stop and Amr comes out of it. He smiles in finding himself again in the Quarter of Al-Kaif.

Amr looks around. He knows very well where to go. There is the coffee-shop, that of Al-Kaif. He should go there and as soon as possible. He looks around again and becomes instantaneously optimist. He has the feeling that his day would be full of good news and would be a source of joy and happiness for him.

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Amr walks to the coffee-shop which he had frequented several times before. When he arrives there, he stops at the entry of the coffee-shop because he sees before him something unbelievably strange and bizarre. He finds inside the coffee-shop that all the seats, the law straw stools, are occupies by old men of various ages and who have all of them beards, beards of various sizes. All the old men are doing nothing except to look at each other's faces.

However, and to his surprise and astonishment, Amr sees that in the inner corner of the hall of the coffee-shop there is a man of about eighty years old, hanged by a rope and his body is swinging right and left as if the hanging has taken place just few minutes ago, or just before an instant.

After looking at the scene for a while Amr comes to the conclusion that this hanging is nothing but an act of suicide. This old man has just committed suicide. However, the strangest thing in the whole situation, affair, is that this act of suicide does not attract the attention of anybody at all. The situation inside the coffee-shop indicates that nobody really knows, or realizes that somebody has committed suicide in the Al-Kaif coffee-shop. Instead of looking at the man who committed suicide all the clients are preparing themselves to start the games usually played by them. Or some of them are waiting the water smoking narghiles.

The waiter of the coffee-shop is going and coming back to the counter in an unbelievable speed. The waiter carries the cups of coffee and the saucers or the cups of tea or the glasses of water to the customers who wait for the waiter patiently. The waiter as usual takes orders from new comers who know perfectly well where to sit. To the waiter and to the clients, with the exception of Amr, everything is normal in the coffee-shop.

The waiter does not have time to stop and talk. In exceptional cases he stops for few seconds to talk to new clients. The waiter goes around continuously without being tired or becoming exhausted. Normally, the waiter carries five trays all full of cups of coffee or tea.

By now, some of the customers cough and some others spit on the floor and some others clean their throats and they then spit the phlegm. The waiter does not see at all that Amr is now standing at the entrance of the coffee-shop and that he is stunned and is about to faint and fall down on the floor. The waiter pretends that he does not see Amr while the latter sees everything and is completely bewildered and is about to faint.

Amr asks himself so many confused and complicated questions regarding the man hanged in the corner of the main hall of the coffee-shop. He looks for a long time at the body of the hanged old and retired man which is no more moving but is totally in a stationary state.

At last the waiter sees Amr standing at the entrance of the coffee-shop. The moment he sees Amr he gets frightened, very frightened because he is still under the impression that Amr is a fool, is an insane and an unbalanced idiot or imbecile. So the waiter does not give any attention to this client who is still standing at the entrance of the coffee-shop.

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Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

On the other hand, Amr is surprised because of the hanged man in the corner of the hall of the coffee-shop. However, the waiter takes the decision for preventing Amr from entering into the hall. But in spite of all circumstances and special considerations, Amr could enter and he makes his way into the coffee-shop.

Amr enters into the coffee-shop and without any fear or hesitation and begins to look for a seat in the hall. He looks around, he looks around, and without the help of the waiter he comes across an empty seat.

Unfortunately, this seat available for him is there just near the oscillating hanged body of the old retired man. Before sitting on the low straw seat he calls the waiter who comes to Amr with much hesitation.

"Who is he, the hanged man behind me, you know, this one (he points with his hand to the hanged man), this old man?" asked Amr innocently by turning himself backwards towards the hanged man.

"For the first few moments, I and my master, the owner of the coffee-shop, thought that he was a very poor man who wanted to get rid of his life, his life of misery, suffering and wretchedness. We thought that he committed suicide because his children did not have anything to eat. So he committed suicide. However, very soon we have discovered that we are completely wrong. This man, the eighty-fine-years old man is actually the richest man in the quarters, all the quarters of the city. He is the richest with no exaggeration. Several clients of our coffee-shop could identify him. You know, several of these clients have worked as servants, guards, cooks and gardeners in his palaces in the quarter of the rich."

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"He is a rich man, no doubt. Somebody say that he was, before committing suicide, a member of the most famous, prestigious, exclusive, renowned, celebrated and legendary rich people club called the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals."

"You know he started coming to the coffee-shop since one week only, or to be more exact and precise since five days only. It is said that his act of suicide in this particular coffee-shop has been ordered by the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. Of course, this rumor, or this pretension has surprised everybody in the coffee-shop. Unfortunately, Sir, I cannot give you more information and more explanation concerning the relationship between the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals and the suicide of this man who is hanged behind your back."

"Nobody here in the coffee-shop can tell you the secret behind the suicide of this victim. My boss, the owner of this place does not know the reason behind the death of this old rich man." answered the waiter.

"Why is it necessary to let him hanged like this all the time? I cannot understand. Where are his relatives and the members of his family? I remark that nobody gives any attention to this hanged man." asks Amr while he remains sitting on the low straw seat.

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"We had in the past a number of cases of old men who committed suicide in the hall of the coffee-shop and at the same corner. It is certain that nobody amongst the many clients of this coffee-shop knew the hanged man although some of them worked in his palaces."

Amr does not stay for a long time in the coffee-shop. He decides to leave it and go immediately to his house and with no delay. Rapidly, gives some money for the cup of tea which he has taken and then he hurries to go to his house.

On the doorsteps of his house he sees Abdu waiting for him. The two do not talk to each other. Amr in this case, goes directly to the salon. There he decides to go through the daily newspaper which he has seen in the morning. After spending some time in going through the paper, he finds out that the number of old men in retirement who die by committing suicide has been increasing from one day to the other exactly in the same way as the increase in the death of old men by natural reasons.

Amr still confronts the problem of filling the time available for him for the whole day. He should do something to solve the problem of the free time throughout the day and even in the evening.

But still Amr very well remembers that his main and final objective is to become a member of the most important and exclusive club in the country and even in the whole region, The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. He thinks that the frequent walk which he did in the most famous avenue in the city and his frequent and long visits in the Al-Kaif coffee-shop of the Al-Qammar Quarter of the poor would help him in the final analysis to be accepted as a candidate for the membership of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

All at once Amr remembers his rendezvous with his friend, Mr. Monkar, the ex-ambassador of his country to so many countries in the world. He remembers that his friend Monkar would tell him and in details how old men in retirement can fill their free time with constructive and valuable and useful activities. The ambassador believes that he has enough experience in this domain which would enable him to give some helpful ideas to his friend Amr.

Monkar promised his friend Amr that all the activities to be proposed to Amr would require some effort and that, while carrying out these activities, he would not he tired or exhausted. Amr is certain that his friend Monkar has a lot of experience and that he would to a great extent benefit from him.

On this basis, Amr, who has been involved during the last few days in several activities which made him lose his mind, is waiting the coming of the next day when he would go to the house of the retired ambassador. Amr kept himself quiet, calm and serene. He just sits in his sofa and commences to close his eyes just to forget everything and try not to be conscious of the slowness of time.

By closing his eyes he also does not want to see the light of the sun or even the light coming from electrical lamps. Amr is trying to convince himself that very soon, in a short time, the next day would be born, and he would be going to the house of his friend and neighbor retired ambassador, Monkar.

On the next day, and late in the afternoon, or in fact at the beginning of the evening Amr is completely ready to go to the house of his friend Monkar. He dresses up his best dark suit, his best red neck-tie and his shining all leather shoes imported from England. Indeed, all his dress, the suit, the shirt, the neck-tie and the pair of shoes are all made in England and sometimes made in France or Italy.

Amr prefers to go on foot because the palace of his friend, the ambassador Monkar is quite near, very near, and it takes only five minutes to cross the distance between his villa and the palace of the Ambassador. Amr stands in front of the palace of Monkar entirely amazed and absolutely bewildered. Amr stands disconcerted, confounded and stupefied. He never saw in his life such a magnificent gate as the one he is seeing before him. When he looks around him he realizes that he has never seen in all the countries which he has so far visited a palace similar to this in its size, in its dimensions, in its spaciousness and in its grandeur and its splendor.

It is said that in this very magnificent palace lives only one man, Monkar, the ex-ambassador, since the death of his wife by an unknown illness. Obviously, there are many of servicing personnel who take care of the management of the palace, of the kitchen and of the gardens and the garages.

It is said also that all the pieces of furniture of the palace have been imported from the various European countries, especially from France and Italy.

It is said also that all pieces of furniture are changed every six months. A special cargo plane is hired to transport the furniture from abroad. All old pieces of furniture are burnt in a special place outside of the city.

It seems that Monkar is already standing in the main entrance to the palace. He was waiting his friend, the ex-consul. The moment Amr arrives at the doorsteps of the main gate of the palace, he shakes hands with Monkar and then they embrace each other very warmly and earnestly.

Then the two, together, go into the sumptuous residence, while they are talking to each other and sometimes looking at each other. They pass by many maid servants and young men servants who are in their way to the various places of their work in the palace.

"We should be in a hurry; we are really in a hurry. After few minutes we would be going to our next destination." said the host precipitately.

"What destination? I cannot understand at all what you mean by our next destination. I cannot understand at all what you mean by that. This is a surprise to me. I thought we would be staying here in your house and not to go somewhere else. I cannot understand you, Monkar." asked Amr while he looks at the face of his friend, Monkar for a long duration of time.

"Listen to me, Amr; I am going to tell you very briefly what we are going to do late this afternoon. Listen to me carefully. As soon as we finish having our coffee-shop, which would be served at once, you would be quite informed about our common activity." says Monkar to his friend Amr.

The two old friends sit in the reception hall. The coffee is served by three maid servants, two of whom are blond and one is black.

"Listen to me, my friend, the consul. In a very short time we are going to make a visit of condolence to the house of a very important family in our quarter of the rich. This is the family of Abu Srour. Their chief, their head, died yesterday evening. As expected, he was buried yesterday on the same day of his death in accordance with our holy traditions. It is not acceptable or even religiously permitted to delay the burial of the defunct till the next day. According to our traditions, the burial of the dead should take place on the same day of the death of the defunct."

"Everything went on in the right way yesterday. The defunct was buried in few hours time after his death, We in our community, and because of our experiences in this field, have become professionals in the field of the rituals that have to be carried out for the final burial of the dead. As you know, nowadays all people speak about the burial of the dead in huge tombs, mausoleums and sepulchers. Abu Srour was buried yesterday in a very huge mausoleum that was built and designed one year ago by your cousin, the famous designer and constructor of big edifices, Sari, whose house is quite near over there in the corner of that narrow path."

"Abu Srour is now in his tomb. Maybe your cousin has already told you about the mausoleum which he constructed for the family of Abu Srour. It is a very huge edifice and it is built on a piece of land of an area of two thousand square meters. Probably, it is intended to build there later on, in the coming years, his wives and some of his descendants. This is really a big project which your cousin has undertaken. No doubt, Sari has gained a big amount of money out of this project of the private cemetery of the family of Srour. Anyhow, we might visit in the near future this architectural marvel, the work of your cousin, Sari, the famous architect and constructor of edifices in the region. "

"The house of the defunct would be opened for three consecutive days for receiving those who would come for presenting their condolences to the family of the dead, Abu Srour. According to our traditions and beliefs, passed to us for thousands of years from our ancestors, the house overwhelmed by sorrows, grief, sadness and anguish, would be opened starting from today for three consecutive days for receiving condolences. Any family, rich or poor, must open the house of the defunct for receiving those who would like to offer their condolences."

"I am sure, Amr, you already know all of this that I am telling you now. No doubt, you have too many homes for offering your condolences to many families which have lost one of their members who could be the father, the mother, or any of the children or of the grand children. You know that the house which we are going to visit would start to receive the visitors starting from five o'clock on the evening or around that. The family would receive the men in the evenings from five o'clock till late I the evening, perhaps till ten. Women who want to offer their condolences are received in the morning and for three consecutive days, starting from ten o'clock till midday or around that."

"During the three days of mourning and bereavement everybody in the quarter or in the community at large could come to the house of the dead and offer his condolences. Sometimes, people from outside the local community could come to offer condolences from other cities and even other countries. As you know those who offer their condolences have to take a seat and stay for at least a quarter of an hour during which they would take a cup, a sip, of local coffee and they could be offered cigarettes, if they smoke. During the short stay in the bereaved and mourning house, it is the tradition that nobody talks or even smiles. Every visitor must keep silent and try to look as if he is really in sorrow. Every visitor should look as if he himself is the one who has been struck by the hand of destiny and has lost one of his relatives. This is in fact the occasion in which every visitor wishing to offer his condolences could try to show on his face the signs and expressions of grief, sadness and distress. It is not difficult to show signs of sorrow on the face."

"Sometimes, a visitor may talk in a very low voice with his neighbor. Somebody would talk to his neighbor by telling him unbelievable stories about the private life of the defunct. Sometimes, more than two contribute in telling and in fabricating rumors about the private life of the defunct. The relatives of the defunct would know and identify without any difficulty among the visitors who would start to gossip, to chitchat and to tittle-tattle. Usually family members would consider such visitors, who like gossiping, as the devils, or the Devil himself. Members of the family of the dead would become pessimists, gloomy and depressed whenever they see the arrival of one of these men who could be the Devil himself. I am sure, my dear friend Amr, you know all of this and that what I am telling you is just a repetition. For sure what I am telling you is nothing but a repetition to you."

"You have been seeing all of these comedies I am telling you about back in your first days of your life. Before you have been exiled as a diplomat outside the boundaries of our traditions you had already noticed in the first thirty years of your life all of the tragedies and comedies of the death and the ceremonies and rituals of offering the condolences in your family and in your tribe at large."

"You know, and from own experiences, both of us, you and I could be considered by the family of the defunct, as the real representatives of the devils. I know from experience that we both of us talk a lot. We gossip, and we usually tell untrue and fabricated stories about others. I know that. In this aspect of life I am not a good man. I always tell lies about others, about the good and just human beings. I am very clever in telling lies and creating rumors about others in the community who are the real angels."

"I myself can make the black white and the white black. I am the real devil. But I want to reform myself and to commence a new life, even after my retirement and in my old age. I am now a calumniator, a slanderous, a defamer. I wish now I could cut my tongue and live with an empty mouth, without this dirty tongue. You know Amr; I think that through these visits of condolences I hope to reform myself, to change myself, to recreate myself. That is, to stop talking about the defunct, stop gossiping about innocent persons."

"I hope, Amr, you would have the same attitude and the same position like mine. I judge you to be worse than I. In the field of creating rumors you are more than a devil. You are the symbol of evil, of wickedness, of corruption, of baseness, of vice, of immorality and of malevolence. You have been fabricating rumors, dirty rumors about your own relatives, especially about one of your cousins, even though he is the symbol of perfection an ideal mother and as a perfect wife. You have been all the time saying filthy rumors about her and her children. Amr, in fact you are the dirt and the filth of all your family."

"Both of us are more or less, and in essence bad creatures, bad human beings. Although, I have only few years to live I wish I could reform myself. I want to stop creating lies about the innocent people in our society. It is better for you and for me to begin a new virtuous life. We should stop gossiping. We should stop being the devils, and without any hesitation we should reform ourselves and commence a new life based on virtue, righteousness, probity and integrity. In the coming visit of condolences we should forget our previous experiences, us being devils, and we should start behaving like all virtuous human beings. We should begin to live a life of virtue and goodness."

"I am planning to go and offer my apologies, me expressions of regret to many persons in our community whom I have attacked throughout the long years of my life. I have really living the life of a devil. As I already told you, this is also, unfortunately, your case. You are the devil. Really we are the devils and the source of evil in our society. In this respect we have to begin a new life and we have to offer our apologies, excuses and regrets to all of our victims and without any exception." said Monkar, the ex-ambassador to his friend Amr, the ex-consul.

"As you said, you do not have to tell me all of these stories and to give me all the bits of information about the visit to families who are in sorrow and in bereavement. As you said I am basically the son of this community. I have been fed in my childhood by its poisonous milk. I have been brought up by my mother to be a little devil. I know all the details of the traditions of the community. I respect our traditions especially those concerning the evening visits to the house of the defunct and the offer of condolences. On the other hand, I am planning like you to start a new life regarding gossiping in a satanic, devilish and diabolic manner about the life of others."

"I become horrified when I remember how I am mean, nasty, malicious and dishonorable when I fabricate rumors and vicious stories about the life of others especially my close relatives. In this respect I really consider myself a devil not a simple and a virtuous human being. Coming back to the condolence visits, I constantly wonder why you always try and insist not to miss any occasion in the community in which the house of a defunct is open for those who want to offer their condolences. You do not miss any occasion of this sort. While in my case, I am not interested to go regularly to such places of sorrow and bereavement. In my case I am not like most people in this quarter who like to go regularly to the families that lose one of their members or relatives. I am rarely a regular consoler, comforter, except in very rare occasions."

"In my case what we are doing in this respect of our life, is more or less exaggerated. We over do it. Or, in fact, we live mostly to celebrate the death of our relatives and the members of our families or anybody who dies in the community. I consider this as a miserable life, a useless life, a life wasted for nothing, for nothing. Look at our quarter of the rich; it is becoming a very big graveyard, a cemetery. Every house, every villa and every palace in our quarter is being changed gradually into a big tomb, or a gigantic mausoleum or a huge sepulcher. Every owner of a palace or a villa either builds in his lifetime a huge mausoleum in the garden of his residence or he demolishes part of his palace or his villa to make a space for building a huge and a gigantic tomb or a sepulcher."

"The only person benefiting from this change in the way of life of the rich people is the constructor of huge edifices, my cousin Sari. You know in few years time, our quarter would be unique in the whole world. Our quarter would be changing into a big cemetery. In the near future rich people in our quarter would be living in the mausoleum constructed within the walls of the old house. Death would be the future sovereign of our quarter. People, that is tourists, from all over the world come to our quarter of the rich just to see this unique architectural phenomenon in the whole world. I, myself, although I am nowadays against the idea of building a mausoleum within the complex of the house, I am considering for the time being of building for myself a tomb of some abnormal size in the garden of my house. Abdu, my servant speaks to me about this idea before I go to bed every evening. Nowadays I am considering the idea. I would talk it over with my cousin, Sari."

es/ Enigma Chair
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"Coming back to the condolence visit, I agree to go with you and this would revive in me a lot of memories and souvenirs of the past when I was young and when I used to visit in the evening every day two or three houses in sorrow, grief and bereavement. Of course, we would be, the two, together all the time. Is there anybody who would join us? Or, would we be all alone?" said Amr to his friend Monkar who was really half asleep and was not listening very well to the presentation and the explanation of his friend Amr.

Amr looks astonished at his friend Monkar, the ex-ambassador. He shakes him several times. At last Monkar becomes entirely awake and looks at Amr. For a while, Monkar looks lost, perplexed and puzzled. Was he having a nightmare, or what?! For a moment he forgets that he has the company of the ex-consul, Amr.

The two friends stand up and look at each other. Each one of them becomes quite aware of the presence of the other. In an instant they are aware of all that they have been discussing. Certainly, they have been discussing death and graveyards.

"You will have the chance this evening to live again in the past." said Monkar.

The dialogue between the two friends and the two retired members of the diplomatic corps of their country continue while they are taking their coffee. Actually, the two are taking the second cup of coffee and as long as they continue talking they might need to have a third cup of coffee.

With this refreshing drink, Monkar is smoking cigarettes and too heavily. The cigarettes he is smoking are mostly imported and in most of the days are really smuggled from neighboring southern countries. The two old friends are waiting the proper time to go and offer their condolences to the family in sorrow and grief.

First they should not go very early, at five for example, where they would be the first to offer their sympathy, their compassion and their condolences. If they go early then this might be wrongly interpreted by the members of the bereaved family. These members in sadness would say that the two, Amr and Monkar, are really happy to see the members of the bereaved family losing their head, their chief.

On the other hand, they should not go very late when the doors of the house in sorrow would be about to be closed, that is at about nine or after that in the evening.

Therefore, Monkar wants to choose the right time for the visit. Based on this experience, the visit should be made at about eight o'clock. This time is considered at the climax time for the coming of consolers.

It is about to be eight in the evening. Amr is bewildered how he has passed just about two hours in the house of Monkar. No doubt, they have spoken a lot without self control or self restraint. They felt free to speak what they felt at that moment. Each one had his turn to speak and his turn to listen.

Naturally, they have talked about gossiping and they have touched some main topics, subjects, issues and themes that have been bothering them for a time. Amr, actually, got somewhat tired in listening to Monkar and in talking to him, to his friend, the ex-ambassador. Of course, he tried his best in not showing his fatigue and exhaustion. Amr rarely indulges himself in such a mental and intellectual exercise which is really extremely exhausting.

It takes only a short time to arrive at the bereaved house, Monkar insisted to use the car because the tradition of any bereaved family in the quarter of the rich is to have the maximum number of consolers, of visitors cars parked in all the paths and the narrow alleys surrounding the bereaved family house, villa or palace.

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