Student or Learner
This is the third part of my short story "A stroll." Please, could you proofread it.
We both wore warm clothes and boots, but despite that, we could feel coldness penetrating the fabric of our jackets and slinking through the rest of our clothes to our bodies tickling them and reminding us that we were only guests in this winter’s kingdom. We were walking fast and then Enver began coughing. He told me to slow down and when his coughing had passed I told him he should smoke less if not stop smoking for ever.
“I’ve tried many times, managed to stay away from cigarettes for a few days and felt only worse, eating more and was unable to concentrate on anything,” he answered.
“Are you not afraid of getting cancer?”
“My grandfather used to smoke over 40 cigarettes every day and he managed to live until 80. You see people in our homeland are killed every day, even children who hardly began to live. If I die from cancer or some other illness so what? We are all going to die one day, even those who neither smoke nor drink.”
I asked him how he managed to smoke during the war when all Muslims were afraid of leaving their homes even for a short walk and cigarettes had become very expensive, usually available only on the black market.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many times I was beaten, how many times I was on the verge of being killed by Serbian soldiers. Both my mother and my sister are smokers. When after about eight days we had no cigarette left in our flat and could not borrow them from our neighbours I decided to go to the market and sell items from our home: books, paintings, clothes, cutlery, glasses...
Soon I learnt the secretes of the trade, how to exchange things, how to buy cheap and sell high and how to recognize customers who had enough money to pay without haggling. Within days I had earned enough to buy food and cigarettes for all three of us. Every morning I would pack things into three holdalls and cycle to the market together with dozens of other sellers, of whom the majority were women. They liked to joke with me, they treated me with cakes and coffee and even shared their food with me.
But one day three military police soldiers came up from nowhere and started to demand from people to show them their ID cards. When they took mine and read my name one of them shouted, ‘You bloody Muslim. What are you doing here? Our soldiers are dying on the front line and you want to earn money!’ He slapped me on the face and scattered all my things to the ground with the butt of his AK-47.
Some days later another group of solders approached me and when I saw them my blood turned cold. They were dishevelled, dirty and their breath smelled of alcohol. They asked me my name and hardly had I pronounced it when I was feeling a knife on my throat. The solder with the knife was pulling back at my hair with his another hand and staring like a madman in my eyes, shouting, ‘Gold!’ When I told him I did not have any gold, he punched me in the face so heavily that I fell to the ground. They kicked me all over my body and left me bleeding, yelling at me never to come back. However, two days later I was there again, and I did not care if they were going to kill me the next day. The only thing I was afraid of was the possibility of being tortured in a prison camp, left in the hands of cruel prison guards who enjoyed watching prisoners turning into animals and dying a prolonged death.
At times a drunken solder would put his revolver or AK-47 to my head and I would await for him to pull the trigger and I prayed to God to let me die on the spot and not leave me alive handicapped, but they never pulled the trigger. And I still cannot understand why. They must have believed I was already mad, because only a madman would dare to stand there in the middle of all killing, hatred and destruction and pretend that it was an ordinary market day."
Last edited by Bassim; 27-Nov-2010 at 09:17.