By Bub 

Younis Abdullah returned to his apartment to find his family had been murdered. Mother, wife, son, all gone. He had felt a rush to his head, for an instant not unpleasant, then dizziness, then everything went black. If Younis had been home instead of buying fish-shaped crackers at Price Club he might have been able to spare all their lives in exchange for his. Gaddafi had done this. Younis had protested the regime, even gone so far as to publicly burn the little green book. Now he had paid the price. He later wondered if it was worth espousing such seemingly righteous ideals literally at the cost of everyone he loved. If all of his political goals could have been realized, in exchange for losing his family, would he still have chosen to pursue them? He did not know. But these internal challenges he now found fanciful. It was too late to examine his life. Everything was gone. It was taken in the name of evil - that is what he came to accept as true. That simplicity made it remotely bearable. He was right, and he was wronged. And he took his only solace in that.

He fled to Egypt and was welcomed there and even celebrated for his liberalist credentials. He followed his passion and enrolled in a graduate program at American University in Cairo, and was even elected chairman of a local branch of a new liberalist political party. He took these roles very seriously, and seldom thought of his family that was murdered. Only on summer days when the temperature breached 40 degrees Celsius would unwanted memories intrude of laying blacktop in Libya to raise enough money to afford the down payment on his wife and his first car together. When he flipped past a cartoon on television between news stations, he would briefly think of the times when his mother called him in sick from school to stay home and watch Zeina & Nahool with him and snack on boiled dough balls that they would dip in date syrup. And at least once every other night he would miss the smell of his son around eight o'clock when he would normally have put him to bed after playing a game of hide and seek. Otherwise he made his best effort to focus on his studies and his role in his new community.

Then his blood stopped working. First, he began suffering from depression for suppressing his emotions about the trauma he had experienced. He began to imbibe in the alcohol that his new home in Egypt offered. Finally he became sedentary - he was functional, he did the things that were expected of him - but any time when nothing was expected of him he sat in the same chair and felt depressed while not acknowledging it and usually drank. Then one day he went to get out of his chair to attend a scheduled political meeting and he fell to the ground - blood had clotted in both of legs and all the way up to his abdomen and when he got up those clots stole the blood that was meant for his brain and he lost consciousness.

He went to the hospital. They performed surgery and removed the clots. There turned out to be hundreds of them. He took two weeks to recover, but he did and he was released. Younis went back to his school and to his political party ready to resume a life with meaning. Things were so bad that his own body had turned against him, or at least given up in light of the circumstances. But now he was better and was expected to continue life like it was the same thing he had imagined it was.

He tried very hard to do that. He completed his study in Egypt and was hired on at the university as an Assistant Professor. He even took a position at a liberal arts college in Missouri, USA as a Visiting Scholar. He taught an introductory course in macroeconomics. He even liked it in America though some of his students were openly hostile to him due to their xenophobia and racism. He had to look up the meaning of the term 'nigger' after he discovered "sand nigger" etched into his classroom podium. He was not as offended or humiliated as the perpetrator had intended.

But his blood kept clotting. The doctors told him it was terminal. He only had four months to live. He sat alone for a day and then decided to spend the rest of his fleeting life doing the one thing he unequivocally enjoyed - kicking a soccer ball against a wall. It was his main form of entertainment for many years as a boy. He loved the freedom of it. There was no structure. There was one rule - kick the ball against the wall. It could be as rigorous or mild an activity as he wanted. He appreciated the constancy of the ball's reaction to the various velocities of kicks. It was fun. He enjoyed it. He enjoyed it so much he continued to do it for days without stopping. The local people became enchanted with him. Fans would spontaneously appear and give him Gatorade and candy bars and other items purchased from the nearby gas station. Soon the media was alerted and local news station vans arrived to provide on location coverage at noon, six and ten. Mayors from towns in three counties visited to view the spectacle and either condemn or praise Younis. An area art class made a giant paper-mache puppet of Younis that they brought to the the site to cheer him on. Numerous calls were made to the Guinness World Records company, though they declined to send out a field representative.

Younis was oblivious. His condition was deteriorating. Once people became aware that he preferred Diet Coke to water that became all they offered. He only interacted with others when he was ready to intake nourishment to attempt to carry on his futile chore. He slowed down. His carriage drooped. His eyes sunk into his skull as if he'd died already a long time ago. He began to dizzy, then hallucinate. A Goldfish cracker was flying through the air, thrown toward his open mouth as Younis took his dying gasp. He felt a rush of blood to his brain, then the cracker bounced off of his forehead. Everything went black and he collapsed. He died of dehydration, kicking a soccer ball against a wall, hallucinating that he was watching cartoons with his son and wife and mom.


  1. I really enjoyed this, Bub. It makes me happy that I have a no Goldfish Cracker policy at my home. It also makes me happy that I have never played soccer outside of gym class. Soccer is a dead man's game.

  2. In the dimension I come from, goldfish are actually made of gold and we don't keep them as pets, we use them as a global currency.