Magic Man

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Photo: JK Monument, Brasilia; Maurilio Quadros on Unsplash

 

“Why is he up there?” Santiago shaded his eyes against the glare.

“To be close to the angels,” A-avó said.

“Isn’t he already dead?” the boy asked softly. He didn’t want to offend his grandmother, whose age seemed close enough to dying.

“Ah,” A-avó shook her head with sorrow. “He is with Jesus now some years. But he kept many from joining Heaven too early.”

The boy’s eyes lit with curiosity. “Did he do magic, A-avó?”

“In his way,” the old woman nodded. “Magic enough to me. Your O-avô would not have lived if it weren’t for President JK bringing medicine to us who lived in the country. The malaria and the tuberculosis would have taken your O-avô. As they had taken mine.”

Santiago thought of how it would be for him to grow up without the man he loved. “Obrigado,” he bowed to the statue.

“Good boy,” A-avó smiled.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Brasilia, Brazil

 

Flecked History

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Photo: M.Bin HMQ; Wadi ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia

 

“He is an infidel,” Abdul grumbled about his employer. “Ad-Dawasir history shouldn’t be fouled by non-believers.”

“So were your ancient ancestors,” Umm Habib noted, her fingers flying as she shaped the dough with the practiced moves of innumerable meals prepared.

The adolescent startled. Such accusation would’ve necessitated a fist-fight if it hadn’t come from his grandmother.

“Many Taghlibi remained Christians well after The Prophet came,” the old woman’s face remained placid. She didn’t need to look up to sense the anger flashing in the boy’s hereditarily flecked eyes. But youngsters’ dark moods and opinions were like moving water. Truth remained.

She plucked freshly baked bread from the earthen oven with bare fingers, tips hardened by life’s constant flames. “That history is long passed, but it bears remembering some of our ancestors even fought against Muslim, and many stayed Christian …” she paused, considering. “Before finally embracing The Prophet’s teachings and Islam.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Wadi-ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia

 

 

Nostalgia

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Photo: Hadera, Israel

 

The bus rumbled on the narrow road, slow behind the loaded tractor wagon. A mix of diesel fumes, damp earth, and faint notes of orange blossoms wafted through the open crack in the heavy window.

They were going to be late. Again.

She sighed and glanced at her youngest sister, automatically feeling for the change-of-uniform she carried at the bottom of her school bag for the eventuality that her sister’s car-sickness would get the upper hand.

Across the narrow aisle, a woman coughed wetly into a handkerchief and shifted the plastic baskets that crowded the small space under her feet. Those will be packed full on the ride back from Hadera, their area’s shopping center and nearest ‘big’ town.

Finally, past Gan-Shmuel, the snailing tractor turned into a field and the bus picked up speed. Houses marked the city’s boundaries. She nudged her other sister awake. “We’re getting off soon.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Hadera, Israel

Note: Depicting a very true (almost daily) childhood memory …

 

Kultuk

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Nikiski, USA (Photo: Elijah Hiett on Unsplash)

 

“The spirits of water and sun fought with the spirits of snow and ice well before the white man came to this land aiming to tame them.” The old man spoke softly, punctuating his words with silence. “Our people did not fight the spirits. Birth and death. Light and dark. The Tinneh accept them as they do life.”

The elder’s story was met with quiet nods of respect. There was no need for sound when another was speaking. A log crackled in the fire and the hush of waves sang on the shore instead.

“Our Tinneh ancestors have lived here ever since Walrus and Whale were born from the womb of Water Spirit. The white man calls this place Nikiski. It is a fine name, but not as fine as the name it already has. Just like the seal that swims unseen, Kultuk still lives under the new name’s ice.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Nikiski, Alaska

 

 

Golden End

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Santo Tomas, Spain (Ricky Rew on Unsplash)

 

It was a golden end.

To the day. To their journey. To what they managed to do together, for the first time in a long time without bitter exchanges that gouged their hearts and left them both scarred.

The trip to Santo Tomas was an impromptu thing. The healing they’d invested in was not.

“We could go, you know,” he’d mentioned as she’d browsed to pass the time while waiting outside the therapist’s office. It was always an awkward time, sitting together in the ante room, aware that what came next was lancing boils and airing out things too noxious to attempt alone.

“Can we, though?” she’d replied, layering many meanings.

“I think so,” he’d said.

His hesitation, more than anything, was what had her agree.

The therapist’s hesitation, too. She wanted to prove the woman wrong.

She watched him jog by sun-glow. Her heart warmed. They were going home.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Santo Tomás

 

 

 

 

Good Fortune

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Photo: Xinhua County, China (Wikipedia)

 

It was the busiest time.

His loneliest.

He sought good fortune in small things. Mostly because it was absent from the big ones. There was always some disaster to contend with: illness, sorrow, loss.

He was born unlucky. His mother pushed by the side of the road because he’d come so quickly. He was blamed for his rash emergence. For her illness. For her early death. Blamed in the not-so-subtle ways that used words like blades.

“You always were impatient,” his grandmother would say. “Show too-little respect.”

He knew his grandmother resented his emerging like a peasant in the dirt when she had clawed her way out of the rice-fields. He had no response.

“Be grateful that you have enough to eat,” she’d frown. “Unlucky boy.”

Xinhua offered work. He fled.

The letter said that his grandmother had died.

New Year approached. His good fortune was to spend it alone.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Xinhua, China

 

 

 

A Visit From Paul

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Milford, Delaware (Photo: Ray Hennessy on Unsplash)

 

“He comes to visit,” a man’s voice jarred her out of her reverie.

She’s been watching a waterfowl in the sparkling water. It’s been staring back, she felt.

“The bird?” she turned. The speaker was a frail-looking man who still managed a bearing that stated “military.”

“If it is that.”

She glanced at the crane. The oldster sounded neither confused nor joking.

“Tell me,” she rose to make room on the bench.

The man extended a hand to shake. “Smith. US Navy.”

“Marcia,” she returned.

They used to build ships in Milford, he told her. Built the four-masted Albert F. Paul, too. Launched it from the Abbot shipyard in 1917.

“174 footer, she was,” Smith sighed. “I would’ve been onboard, you see, if I hadn’t been injured. Would’ve gone down with my mates when the Germans torpedoed her in 1942.”

“The fallen seamen,” he lifted his chin toward the bird, “they visit me.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Delaware

 

What Could Not Be Untold

 

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Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa (Photo: redcharlie on Unsplash)

 

“Is that where we’re going?” the boy pointed at the road snaking below. He squinted, hoping to see a car. They’ve walked long. He was tired.

“There,” his father’s finger angled higher, at the cliff. Beyond.

The boy scrunched his lips but kept quiet. Time with his ntate oa was precious. Also, at eight, he did not want to be seen as a baby who should’ve been left home with the women.

The father nodded approval. His son was growing to be obedient and mindful. It was good.

“What’s there?” the boy adjusted the Basotho blanket over his shoulder. He hadn’t been  happy to be told to bring it earlier, but was now that the sun hid.

“Rocks. Earth. Bones. Your ancestors’ homes.”

Khotso nodded. His father was a man of few words, and Khotso knew he was being trusted to understand the power of what could not be untold.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Free State, South Africa

 

 

Up In Smoke

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Minsk (Photo by Anton Rusetsky on Unsplash)

 

“These stacks look like a hand,” Bella rested her chin on the window’s ledge and gazed at the golden hues of sunset over Minsk. It was beautiful.

“A hand with six fingers.”

Bella scowled into the glass. In her mother’s tone she heard challenge, dismissal, and disdain. It stole the luster off the previous moment’s calm. She resented the coldness with which her mother marred everything during this visit. It felt like a smudge she could not wipe.

So she was surprised when her mother came to kneel on the bed by her, close enough to touch. Close enough to feel the trembling. Her mother rarely cried.

“Six fingers for the six millions,” her mother whispered. “And these clouds like burning souls against the evening sky. Everyone my mother had known. Our whole extended family. Burnt. Dead. Gone. This city will never be free of them, Bella. They speak on.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Minsk

 

A Long Walk

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Aosta Valley, Italy (Carl Borg on Unsplash)

 

It had been a misty sunrise. The light rode soft atop the milky white outside.

He thought it was an omen and that she ought to stay in. “You won’t see where you’re going,” he fretted.

She told him the mist would clear. She could read it in the air. She could smell it in the tang of pine. She readied her day-bag and rushed through her chores.

Still he fussed. “What if not?”

She understood. She also knew he hadn’t grown up in these mountains. His roots did not go deep into this land, while her family traced their ancestry to the Ligures. Her people lived in these environs even before the Celts had arrived.

He feared what she did not.

In more ways than one, she realized.

It was another reason that she needed to take a long walk. Exactly so she could see where she was going.

 

 

 

For What Pegman saw: Aosta Valley, Italy