Cedarwood siding fitted the home’s exterior. Ali stepped through the cobblestone walkway that led to the garage. His garden— manicured with trimmed lawn and pines had turned white with snow. His eyes turned back to the forest before he entered his home; he had to wonder if there was a mother deer somewhere in those depths searching for her child.
But before Ali had a moment longer to ponder, he was greeted by his wife at the door. Mehwish smiled as she saw him. Her lips were like rose petals and when she showed joy, that expression traveled up to her doe-like olive eyes.
She tilted her delicate round chin, motioning towards the darkened stain on Ali’s coat. He smiled back at her and shrugged. It was no secret to her that her husband cared for all life around him. And if anything, it caused her to feel even more loved to have a husband with a heart as large as Ali’s.
As Ali walked down the hall to shower, Mehwish prepared the morning’s breakfast. On the stove, she fried eggs and flatbreads made of wheat. Hearing a metallic chime, she rushed to the toaster to retrieve four golden slices of toast and placed them on a dish along with an assortment of jam.
Mehwish brought the plates out to the table where her two children sat— her eight-year-old daughter Rabia and four-year-old son Sami. Hearing the water from the shower stop, she called out to him, inviting him to a warm home-cooked meal.
Ali, though, paused in front of his wardrobe. As he pulled a dark-blue polo over his head, his hand pressed against the scar that stretched across his chest. After so many years, it still hadn’t healed. And he was reminded of that day every time he saw it. But that, nor anything, was going to stop him from enjoying breakfast with his family.
Upon entering the dining room, he was immediately greeted by his daughter, Rabia. She wrapped her arms around him as he patted her gently on the head. Ali looked to his young son, Sami. The boy tossed his utensils in the air and exclaimed aloud as he saw his father. Ali smiled back at him; seeing his children’s faces filled him with joy.
“Good morning… good morning!” came from a long wooden cage.
An African Grey parrot sat perched on a large branch eating a piece of fruit. Mehwish laughed as she watched the bird sing and flutter his wings. She sat down and helped Sami eat his breakfast, cutting small pieces of flatbread and assisting his hand as he held his fork.
“His next session is tomorrow morning. I think you were right. He’s going to hit all of his goals from the last meeting. It’s been hard, but he’s getting better,” Mehwish said.
Seeing a smile spread onto his young son’s face, Ali was relieved. Sami had come a long way from the day the doctor diagnosed him with autism. It was too early to tell if the boy would speak his first words soon. But Ali saw improvements in Sami’s temperament alone and happiness was what he wanted for his children most of all.
Ali kissed his son’s forehead before turning back towards his wife. It was difficult for him to keep his eyes off of her. The beauty she had was inside and out. He was thankful to have such a caring wife and that his children could have such a loving mother. As he smiled at her, her warm cheeks glowed red. He wished to make her feel like a queen and judging by the way her green eyes sparkled, he believed it was a success.
Taking the final bite of his jam-covered toast, Ali beckoned to Rabia and the two headed for the doorway. With his grip on the door handle, he turned back to his wife.
“I love you. Take care of yourself,” he said to her as he led his daughter outside.
A yellow bus idled outside of Ali’s home. Waiting in a car across the road were the neighbors— Fariha, a single mother and her daughter, Hiba. Rabia called out to the neighbor and the two jogged towards the bus. While the newspapers mongered fear, Ali was thankful to have such good neighbors around him.
Waving to the bus driver, Ali watched his daughter and her friend leave for school. He knew that he, too, needed to set off on the road for work. Breathing in the crisp morning air, all was calm. But his eyes drifted back to the barn, not all was in the clear.
Adjusting his hardhat, Ali walked down the halls and watched through the glass into the factory. Bulbs glided down a conveyor belt, heated by blue flames until they reached a rack where workers checked for any imperfections. Watching the progress, Ali was satisfied with his team’s work.
He filled out his daily report— each shipment of lightbulbs was checked and ready to be loaded onto the trucks. While an uneventful workday, Ali was pleased that there had been no accidents and all of the day’s quotas had been met.
With his clipboard in hand, Ali knocked on his boss’s door who welcomed him with a handshake and motioned for him to sit down. Since Ali had begun working at the factory, his team had always been on time with their goals and not once was any protocol violated.
And that wasn’t over-confidence on Ali’s part but the words of his boss himself.
“This is great work. You’ve been consistent every day and even your team has nothing but good words to say about you. Tell you what. After lunch, take the rest of the day off. I’ll have the shipping department take over from here.”
Ali smiled. He worked hard and his efforts were paying off. The earlier he could return home from work, too, the earlier he could check on the young deer, he thought. And it had been quite some time since he had caught up with friends.
His boss motioned towards the door and the two men set off towards the cafeteria. Still early, not many had yet arrived. But the boss spotted and greeted his long-time friend while Ali noticed a young man who had started working at the factory just a few weeks prior.
Not being one to ease the volume of his voice, the boss boasted to his friend about Ali, “Ten years he’s worked for me and there’s not been a single complaint. I’m telling you, Ali is a superhero in disguise. He makes my job so much easier!”
Laughing and shaking his head, Ali sat across from the young worker. Saleem was his name; he was a shorter man with rounder features, a thin beard, and quaffed black hair. From the skittish and squirrel-like expression on the man’s face, Ali could tell that something was troubling him.
“It’s my mother,” Saleem said, “She’s been so sick. I want to buy her medicine but… well, there’s still a week until the salaries come in and-”
Before Saleem could say another word, Ali reached for his wallet and pulled out a thousand-rupee bill. The young man’s eyes grew wide as he took the paper note. He expressed his thanks profusely, and Ali only asked that he paid back once the salary day had come.
Overhearing his boss again, Ali became uncomfortable, “He’s an honest man. That’s what I like about him. But… well, between you and me, I think he has a heavy heart.”
Ali gulped as he heard the next words, “He was in the army back in the day. But from what I hear, he was court-martialed.”
Qalandar, Earth Needed A Superhero. © Copyright 2019 by Fraz Ahmed. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Disclaimer : –
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.