I've started posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 10:
The tall, wiry man with a long black beard and a stained prayer cap knitted from red and white yarn came to their Nairobi home once a week to teach Adam Islamic prayers. Ishmael was from Saudi Arabia, in his mid-twenties, the privileged and lazy son of an oil sheik, a son who had parlayed his father’s position, name and wealth into a leisurely lifestyle built around amateurish and inconsequential dabblings in theology. He had begun creating this lifestyle in Saudi Arabia, bored, but had gotten caught driving drunk in Riyadh with a busty, incoherent blonde slouched across his lap. His embarrassed family asked him to leave for a few years, giving him parting gifts consisting of a large trust fund and a choice of family real estate scattered around the world. Ishmael picked Kenya for the climate and the safaris. He had recently begun teaching Islamic prayers to local Muslim children for a modest fee, a way to earn some extra pocket money, create a potentially useful social network and perhaps, he thought, meet his first wife.
Ishmael had a long brown face with dark, lazy eyes. His nose was broad and flat. He had a hard, curling beard that started at both ears, covered the sides of his face and wrapped itself above and below his thick, wide lips. Its heavy, black mass hung down to his clavicles. Although his face and eyes had an unyielding harshness, when he spoke, his voice carried through the air in a lilting, soft dignity.
Ishmael’s loose white robe had grown light from wear, flapping helplessly in the placid breeze as he walked to the wrought iron gate of the Hueghlomm home. Although he could well afford many new robes, he clung to this one, having always been stingy in alms and spending that did not involve instantly gratifying physical pleasures for himself.
Ishmael called from outside the gate, “Mrs. Fatima! Mrs. Fatima! I am here.” His heavy Arabic accent was laced with British inflections, leftovers from a childhood of private schooling.
A thin, feminine figure appeared in the second story window. Fatima peered past the gate. “One moment, Mr. Ishmael!” Moments later, she was moving down the gray, cement steps, a proper and welcoming smile on her face.
“I seem to have lost Adam,” she said, a motherly tone.
“Ah, boys,” said Ishmael walking through the opened gate, a smile on this thick lips, nodding knowingly at the antics and ploys of young men. He followed Fatima up the stairs, carrying a Quran wrapped in green cloth at his side.
They turned into the entry and walked a short corridor, into the large family room.
“Please sit.” Fatima motioned at the chairs and sofas, inviting Ishmael to make himself comfortable. “I’ll go find Adam.”
“Shukran.” Ishmael thanked her in Arabic and reclined easily into the comfortable sofa as she left the room. He sat quietly, staring about the room, at the lovely large leafed plants, the coffee table littered with books and magazines, the tasteful and functional furniture. “Middle class,” he muttered to himself, a denigrating smirk on this face. His gaze turned to a metal wall shelf. He stood, walking towards the shelf, running his dark eyes over the items on it. He frowned at the centerpiece, a menorah. He had never seen one, and he studied it, eyes squinted in curious disdain. A wedding photo stood to the side of the menorah. A slightly younger Fatima beamed in her bright red Pakistani wedding outfit, her shoulder gently nestled against the side of Albert Hueghlomm’s black tuxedo. Her lovely bride’s outfit was emblazoned with soft, glittering patterns of gold embroidery. Ishmael looked closer and noticed Fatima’s fingers resting tenderly on Hueghlomm’s opposite shoulder. The new wife had one arm behind and around her husband in a pose that was at once both protective and possessive. Hueghlomm smiled broadly in the photograph, his teeth showing, his pasty white complexion standing out against his dark tuxedo and the burst of red next to him. Ishmael moved to look at the photo standing on the other side of the menorah. Fatima, tired and jubilant, stood cradling a newborn baby wrapped in a downy pink blanket. Albert Hueghlomm, in blue jeans, wearing a proud, happy grin underneath exhausted eyes, stood next to Fatima. He held a suitcase in one hand, a large tote bag slung around his opposite shoulder.
Fatima was suddenly back in the family room. “I can’t find Adam,” she said quietly. “Which is strange.” She put a softly closed fist to her chin, absent eyes, and said in a perplexed, questioning tone, “He knew you were coming.”
“Maybe he forgot,” Ishmael allowed.
“No, he’s very exacting,” replied Fatima. “He doesn’t forget.”
“Shall I help you find him?” offered Ishmael.
“No,” she said. “But thank you.” She crossed her arms and nodded her head down slightly. “I’m sure he’s OK. He’s just…hasn’t been himself the last few months.”
“I’ll come back at your convenience.” Ishmael smiled.
“Let me pay you for the lesson. I’m sorry my son didn’t come as agreed.”
Fatima left and brought back her pocketbook. She opened it, pulled out a billfold and counted out Ishmael’s weekly tutoring fee. She held her hand forward, the money between her thumb and forefinger.
Ishmael snapped the folded bills out of Fatima’s hands in an unobtrusive, quick blink, dropping the money safely into his breast pocket in one fluid movement. He gave Fatima a tilted nod and a thankful smile.
“Next week?” he asked.
“Next week,” she replied.
“I see your lovely photos.” He gestured toward the shelf on the wall behind him, sweeping his broad, open palm in its direction.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Why the candles?” he asked.
“It’s a menorah, a wedding gift from my mother-in-law.”
“Ah,” he said, eyes wide in acknowledgement.
They stood in ginger silence.
“You are Muslim?” he asked, finally.
“Yes,” she said.
“Muslim and Jewish.”
His face fell into repose, his eyes dropped to the floor. A moment later he pursed his lips. Both eyebrows hopped higher on his forehead.
Fatima chuckled out loud.
He looked at her, no expression. “Next week,” he said, nodding his head slightly to one side.
“A Syrian Imam married us, my husband and me,” Fatima said as she slowly moved her hands to her hips. “He told us a story before the ceremony. He reminded us of the Prophet Muhammad’s Jewish wife, Safiyah, about how a few people around the Prophet ridiculed her because of her faith. Safiyah went to our Prophet with her concerns. The Prophet told her to never mind those people and that if they continued to pester her, she should remind them that as a Jew, she is a daughter of the Prophet Aaron, a niece of the Prophet Moses and the wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Being surrounded by prophets, the people who live to ridicule others had best leave her alone.”
“Of course,” conceded Ishmael. He flashed an angry glare at Fatima’s stiff form, a glare quickly hidden behind a wide smile. “So you understand our faith?” he asked, subtle tones of sarcasm laced through his words.
Fatima didn’t reply.
“I’m surprised since the ancestors of Pakistanis are said to have been idol worshippers,” said Ishmael.
“Didn’t Arabs worship the moon god Hubal and three hundred and sixty other idols in Mecca at the time of the Prophet?” said Fatima, eyes fixed on Ishmael’s.
He stared back at her, silent. “I look forward to seeing Adam next week, madam,” he said finally. “Next week?” Ishmael confirmed, smiling pleasantly.
“Next week,” replied Fatima.