A Bowl of Olives

Arman, a Syrian refugee, spends his eightieth birthday in a tent in ‘The Jungle’, in Calais. He sits alone on a white plastic garden chair next to a suitcase wrapped in cellophane. It’s freezing cold, but his anger sustains him as he asks himself his perennial question, How could the enemy destroy acres and acres of olive groves in Idlib province, attacking our culture and pushing us into starvation? 

I should be pleased. I am pleased, but I’m too old to be a refugee, an asylum seeker, or a survivor. If the Russian air strikes had been successful, I would be dead, should be dead, buried in the rubble that was our family home. I can still taste the concrete dust in my mouth, feel it in my eyes that even my tears cannot wash away. What is the purpose of my survival? My olive trees are destroyed. Only my granddaughter, Saabirah, lives and she is with child. I have nothing but my love for her and the child to come. There was no one else alive to protect her. 

Does my hatred of Assam and Putin harm me more than them? I’m filled with sadness or, maybe, a sort of envy, that the West sees fit to fight Putin in the Ukraine but has done nothing to save Syria from the monsters of war, the barbarians, the murderers of children, the destroyers of the unborn, with their bombs, chemical weapons and terror. Envy? The thought disgusts me. 

Even as I sit here I can hear village women wailing above the freezing wind outside. Hear the children of neighbours calling out my grandson’s name, Kaashif. The frantic digging of shovels, voices from beyond the grave. They said it was a miracle that there wasn’t a mark on me; the mark is forever in my heart and for that there is no sticking plaster. They found Kaashif’s body; he was only thirteen, just becoming a man. All the time I was washing his dead body, I expected him to wake up and tell me it was all a game. It was no game. I came here to protect Saabirah and the baby. The traffickers took my money and here we are. 
You’ll be safe in England.
Is that you, Kaashif?
Yes, Grandpa. Do you remember when we picked olives and a man came and photographed us? I held the olives and leaves in a wooden bowl and you cupped my hands in your big hands. When the photographer showed us the picture on his camera, Mum was cross because our hands were so dirty. You laughed and asked how could they be clean; we are peasants. The photograph was beautiful.
Arman wipes tears from his eyes and gasps. On the upended suitcase there’s the same wooden bowl full of olives and leaves. He rubs his eyes. 
Happy birthday, Grandpa. 
Is it real?
It will always be real to you.
Where are you? Arman asks.
Unseen, but always near you. 

I hope you enjoyed this story. Please feel free to pass it on to others who may be interested. You can read my previous 500 word stories on my website www.philcoskerwriter.com under ‘Writing’.>>>More

© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

Mt. Trump meets Mt. Putin

A tale of two mountains

The two mountains, Mt Trump and Mt Putin, met in Helsinki because they wanted to be friends but they were afraid that their ‘bigness’, ‘strongness’, their ‘mountainess’, would impede this. Even so, two such eminences in the same place was scary like two dormant volcanoes suddenly blowing off at once and molten lava spilling out all over the place incinerating bad people amidst the most dreadful stink of burning flesh.
Mt Trump has big hair. Mt Putin has a bare chest when he rides horses and likes hand-to-hand fighting with men wearing white uniforms. Mt Trump has friends who also wear white uniforms and big white pointed hats even when it’s not Halloween. Mt Putin used to run the KGB but now he owns the FSB (which is not a sports car). Mt Trump is a serial liar, narcissist, misogynist, and racist and adores being a mountain. Mt Trump and Mt Putin have a lot in common. They are rich and elevated above us and we are grateful to live in their shadow.
Both the mountains are patriots. This is important. You can’t be a proper massif unless you are big enough to like war, hate the weak (aka bad), and find convenient victims on which to celebrate your mountainess. These victims can be found in places like Syria, México, the Ukraine and America as well as in mosques.
There has been a lot of trouble in the media about the relationship between the two mountains – this is a result of a misunderstanding, or fake news, as Mt Trump calls it. Mountains are mountains and therefore live on the high ground of their mountainess above the need for the oxygen that mere mortals crave. Sometimes Mt Trump miss-speaks but that’s only because his brain lacks oxygen.
When Mt Trump mentioned the idea that Mt Putin had been tampering with the American electoral process Mt Putin looked as sad as only a big mountain can look when it’s pissing down with sleety rain. I’m sorry, Mt Putin said, how could you think I would have done such a thing? What would have been the purpose? I’m a democrat, just like you. I am a mountain not a dried up wadi like Teresa May. I’m so sad, Donald, that you could think this of me. Mt Trump now knew for certain that he’d been right all along and his own government, and his bad spooks, had been trying to reduce him to a molehill with their bad lies about how Mt Putin is an avalanche in waiting. Being a mountain Mt Trump is above this, above the calumny dumped on his friend’s mountaintop.
There is trust between the mountains. All is good: no more recriminations. Love is in the air. The two mountains will live side by side doing great things while looking down on the bad people and putting bad democracy where it belongs – in the can.

© Phil Cosker 2018