Written sometime in 2013



The customer walks away, leaving the merchant counting his money.

…Correction – HER money. HER hard earned money. She looks down at the bag, marveling at how oversized – and empty – it looks now that it has become her property. She strains to hear the sound coming from the bottom of the bag. Moments ago a shrill jingle of coveted items, now the unmistakably hollow clang of overpriced trinkets.

She considers going back, but stops when she remembers the conniving smile cutting across his face , like a slash across her pride; the resulting gash parts to spill: “ghaytu nas alsoug dail 7aramiya bishakl! Inshallah ma tanfa3u.” [these people are such thieves! I hope he doesn’t get to enjoy my money]

Jam3an!” [you and me both!], he yells, flashing a set of ivory at her back, as his eyes glisten with the satisfaction of a quick and expertly placed comeback.

And just like that, the satisfaction was gone. The light in his eyes – off. The smile on his face flickers and dies. He swiftly moves on from the momentary win to count his losses –

The dollar is up, and so is the fare on the buses
Electricity, water, and school fees
Rent is due, medical expenses
Unexpected bribes and unexplained taxes

With a sigh, the merchant finishes counting his monopoly money. Taught to accept heavenly will and say alhamdullilah in the face of adversity, now all he can muster is:

“What good is 80 pounds, with so many mouths to feed?

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