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    #1

    The captain, part four

    This is the fourth part of my short story, "The captain." Please would you correct my mistakes.

    I did not have any contact with my aunt since she went to Sarajevo, and the only news our family received were the letters written by Bisera’s daughter who informed us that Azemina was well and sent us her greetings. I wanted to visit her, but the fear of what was going to happen when we met put me off. Finally after about two years, I took the train, and after more than five hours I arrived to Sarajevo. I spent the night at my aunt Bisera’s house, and in the morning, she and I took a rattling, dusty tram to the suburb where my aunt lived. We got off and when we passed by the line of stalls stretching from the market along the pavement, I was astounded to see my aunt behind one of them. She was selling trinkets like garlic presses, knives, torches, electrical tools, scissors, batteries...She was dressed in the same light blue coat, she was wearing on the day I followed her to the train station, about two years before. Her hair was long, unkempt and streaked with grey. Deep wrinkles lined her face, withered like a plant. She had lost considerable weight and looked much older than she really was.

    We embraced and kissed each other and I struggled not to cry. I could hardly believe that this haggard woman was my lovely aunt, who once was so strong and full of life. The only thing that reminded me of her previous life was her dark, lively eyes, sparkling with the same intensity. She gave us the key to her flat, and told us she was going to join us soon when her husband Enver returned from the mosque.
    The block of flats was old and dilapidated. It was probably built in the 50’ when the rural population moved to the cities searching for job and better life. The heavy metal door at the entrance tilted on its hinges, rusty and beyond repair. A few graffiti were scrawled on its brownish surface. Inside there was no light and we had to walk carefully up the stairs so not to slip and fall in the darkness. Bisera fumbled with the key until she finally managed to open the lock. The flat was cosy and there was enough space for two people to live in it. The furniture was old: two tables, a few chairs, a wardrobe, two sofas and a bookcase in which the only books were the Quran and a few religious books about the Prophet and the history of Islam. There was no a TV, just a little radio on the table. The walls were bare except for the prayer beads and a large velour cloth depicting Kaaba. The only items that stood out from the rest were a cooker and a refrigerator, which were brand new.

    I felt abysmal. Compared to our house and the beautiful orchard where birds sang all the time, and the scents of blooming trees and flowers wafted through the windows, this place was squalor. I wanted to rush outside, grab my aunt and take her back to our home. I could not understand that she had chosen voluntarily to part company with us and move to this smog-bound, dirty and overcrowded city. And I was angry at my family. “Why did you all lie to me?” I shouted at my aunt Bisera. She sat on a rickety chair, looked up at me and answered, “We didn’t want to upset you.” Her eyes slid down to the floor. I paced the room like an angry tiger, my mind a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings.
    When Azemina returned from the market, I said to her, “What has the miser done to you? Why don’t you leave him and return to us. We can have a good time together as before.”
    “Don’t worry,” she said, “things are not as bad as they look. He’ll die soon and I’m going to inherit his pension and this flat.”
    “How has the miser decided to buy a new refrigerator and a cooker?”
    “I asked him hundreds of times, but he always said no. I outwitted him. A gypsy man and his son were passing by and shouting that they were gathering scrap metal. I told them to come inside and pick up my cooker and refrigerator, which they did with pleasure. Enver came home and was furious. He cursed and shouted, but I sat in silence waiting for him to calm down and then go to the shop and buy a cooker and refrigerator. No cooker, no food,” she laughed and lighted a cigarette. She drew a smoke, held the cigarette between her fingers, leaned on her elbow, and crossed her skinny legs. Her transformation was complete.
    “Don’t you think you should go to a doctor and do some checkups and blood tests?
    “Now when you are here, I don’t need a doctor.”

    Then the captain came in, back from the mosque where he used to pray every day. He immediately told me off for not placing my shoes in the line with the others. I did not like his emaciated face, his aquiline nose, his thin lips and the smell of tobacco coming out of his mouth. I did not like captains in the army either. During my military service, I had many unpleasant experiences with them and as well with other officers. They would force us to do stupid things just to keep us busy. They ordered us out on long marches across the mountains with full equipment; they woke us in the middle of the night and kept us in a state of emergency for days on end; they threw out our mattresses over and over again, and brainwashed us, pounding our brains with the slogans about our great leader and our people’s army. Because of them, I was wallowing in the mud like a pig, sweating like a racehorse and freezing to the bone. Today I was looking at one of their specimens, and I knew that he like many of his colleagues could not make the difference between his professional and private life. He would become weak and nearing death and still be obsessed with the iron discipline, commands, and rows and lines. “How can you treat my aunt so badly,” I asked him as he sat at the table across from me.
    He was smoking a rolled cigarette, which pungent smoke stung my eyes. He scowled and said, “I don’t force her to stay with me. She came freely and she can leave whenever she wants”
    “My aunt has lived in a proper home and now you don’t even give her money to cut her hair. At least you could buy her a TV.”
    “Your aunt is not hungry and she has a roof over her head. If you want to buy her anything, you know where the shops are.”
    You call yourself a Muslim and pray five times a day. I’m going to find a mosque you’re praying in. I’m going to tell people what kind of person you are... All kinds of thoughts and invectives flashed through my mind, and I struggled with myself to keep silent. I was seething with rage. I wanted to beat this stingy man and teach him a lesson he would never forget.

    As if sensing my thoughts, he said in a calm voice, “You’re too young to understand life. You’ll never know what poverty is.” He took a sip of his coffee and told me about his childhood in a poor family, in a godforsaken village were food was scarce, and families eked out their existence on arid land, scraggy sheep and poultry. He walked five kilometres every day in his ragged shoes to a school in another village, thinking more about food than his lessons. Then the Second World War broke out and brought the Nazis to the Balkans and their butchers who used to kill 100 innocent people for one killed German soldier.
    “I joined the Partisans, boy, before I was eighteen. I could have stayed in my isolated village and be safe there for the rest of the war, because Adolf in Berlin was certainly not interested in it, and would never have sent his soldiers there. But I couldn’t stay aside and watch as they were killing our people. I fought them all over our country, from Macedonia in the south to Slovenia in the north. I was hungry and thirsty, and sometimes I had not slept properly for a week. I’ve seen my comrades dying in terrific injuries in my hands, and I was unable to help them. But I did not want to give up until I saw the aggressors defeated and humiliated. I was not afraid of death and was ready to sacrifice myself. And what about your generation, boy? You shriek whenever a thorn pricks your skin...”
    To be continued

  1. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: The captain, part four

    Sometimes you forget to make paragraph breaks, but nobody is perfect.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    I had not had any contact with my aunt since she went to Sarajevo, and the only news our family received was the letters written by Bisera’s daughter, who informed us that Azemina was well and sent us her greetings. I wanted to visit her, but the fear of what was going to happen when we met put me off. Finally, after about two years, I took the train, and after more than five hours I arrived in Sarajevo. I spent the night at my aunt Bisera’s house, and in the morning, she and I took a rattling, dusty tram to the suburb where my aunt lived. We got off, and when we passed by the line of stalls stretching from the market along the pavement, I was astounded to see my aunt behind one of them. She was selling trinkets like garlic presses, knives, torches, electrical tools, scissors, batteries, etc. She was dressed in the same light blue coat she was wearing on the day I followed her to the train station about two years before. Her hair was long, unkempt and streaked with grey. Deep wrinkles lined her face, withered like a plant. She had lost considerable weight and looked much older than she really was.
    I assume that what you mean by "torches" is why Americans would call "flashlights". (You are able to put me right there, in the marketplace. Good work!)

  2. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: The captain, part four

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    We embraced and kissed each other and I struggled not to cry. I could hardly believe that this haggard woman was my lovely aunt, who once was so strong and full of life. The only thing that reminded me of her previous life was her dark, lively eyes, sparkling with the same intensity. She gave us the key to her flat, and she told us she was going to join us soon when her husband Enver returned from the mosque.
    With one subject and two verbs no comma is needed. But the comma tells me to insert another subject (even though it's the same word). Damn punctuation rules!


    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    The block of flats was old and dilapidated. It was probably built in the 50’s when the rural population moved to the cities searching for jobs and a better life. The heavy metal door at the entrance tilted on its hinges, rusty and beyond repair. Some graffiti was scrawled on its brownish surface. Inside there was no light and we had to walk carefully up the stairs so not to slip and fall in the darkness. Bisera fumbled with the key until she finally managed to open the lock. The flat was cosy and there was enough space for two people to live in it. The furniture was old: two tables, a few chairs, a wardrobe, two sofas and a bookcase in which the only books were the Quran and a few religious books about the Prophet and the history of Islam. There was no TV, just a little radio on the table. The walls were bare except for the prayer beads and a large velour cloth depicting Kaaba. The only items that stood out from the rest were a cooker and a refrigerator, which were brand new.

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    #4

    Smile Re: The captain, part four

    I did not have any contact with my aunt since she went to Sarajevo, and the only news our family received werewas from the letters written by Bisera’s daughter who informed us that Azemina was well and sent us her greetings. I wanted to visit her, but the fear of what was going to happen when we met put me off. Finally after about two years, I took the train, and after more than five hours' journey I arrived to in Sarajevo. I spent the night at my aunt, Bisera’s house, and in the morning, she and I took a rattling, dusty tram to the suburb where my aunt lived. We got off and when we passed by the line of stalls stretching from the market along the pavement, I was astounded to see my aunt behind in one of them. She was selling trinkets like garlic presses, knives, torches, electrical tools, scissors, batteries...She was dressed in the same light blue coat(,) she was wearing on the day I followed her to the train station, about two years before ago. Her hair was long, unkempt and streaked with grey. Deep wrinkles lined her face, withered like a plant. She had lost considerable weight and looked much older than she really was.

    We embraced and kissed each other and I struggled not to cry. I could hardly believe that this haggard woman was my lovely aunt, who once was so strong and full of life. The only thing that reminded me of her previous life was her dark, lively eyes, sparkling with the same intensity. She gave us the key to her flat, and told us she was going to join us soon when her husband Enver returned from the mosque.

    The block of flats was old and dilapidated. It was probably built in the 50’s when the rural population moved to the cities searching for job and better life. The heavy metal door at the entrance tilted on its hinges, rusty and beyond repair. A few graffiti were scrawled on its brownish surface walls. Inside there was no hardly any light and we had to walk carefully up the stairs so as not to slip and fall in the darkness. Bisera fumbled with the key until she finally managed to open the lock. The flat was cosy and there was enough space for two people to live in it. The furniture was old: two tables, a few chairs, a wardrobe, two sofas and a bookcase in which the only books were the Quran and a few religious books about the Prophet and the history of Islam. There was no a TV, just a little radio on the table. The walls were bare except for the prayer beads and a large velour cloth depicting Kaaba. The only items that stood out from the rest were a cooker and a refrigerator, which were brand new.

    I felt abysmal. Compared to our house and the beautiful orchard where birds sang all the time, and the scents of blooming trees and flowers wafted through the windows, this place was squalor squalid. I wanted to rush outside, grab my aunt and take took her back to our home. I could not understand that she had chosen voluntarily to part company with us and move to this smog-bound, dirty and overcrowded city. And I was angry at my family. “Why did you all lie to me?” I shouted at my aunt Bisera. She sat on a rickety chair, looked up at me and answered, “We didn’t want to upset you.” Her eyes slid looked down to the floor. I paced the room like an angry tiger, my mind went through a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings.
    When Azemina returned from the market, I said to her, “What has the miser done to you? Why don’t you leave him and return to us. We can have a good time together as before.”
    “Don’t worry,” she said, “things are not as bad as they look. He’ll die soon and I’m going to inherit his pension and this flat.”
    “How has the miser decided to buy a new refrigerator and a cooker?”
    “I asked him hundreds of times, but he always said no. I outwitted him. A gypsy man and his son were passing by and shouting that they were gathering scrap metal. I told them to come inside and pick up my cooker and refrigerator, which they did with pleasure. Enver came home and was furious. He cursed and shouted, but I sat in silence waiting for him to calm down and then go to the shop and buy a cooker and refrigerator. No cooker, no food,” she laughed and lighted a cigarette. She drew a smoke, held the cigarette between her fingers, leaned on her elbow, and crossed her skinny legs. Her transformation was complete.
    “Don’t you think you should go to a doctor and do some checkups and blood tests?
    “Now when you are here, I don’t need a doctor.”

    Then the captain came in, back from the mosque where he used to pray every day. He immediately told me off for not placing my shoes in the line with the others. I did not like his emaciated face, his aquiline nose, his thin lips and the smell of tobacco coming out of his mouth. I did not like captains in the army either. During my military service, I had many unpleasant experiences with them and as well with other officers. They would force us to do stupid things just to keep us busy. They ordered us out on long marches across the mountains with full equipment; they woke us in the middle of the night and kept us in a state of emergency for days on end; they threw out our mattresses over and over again, and brainwashed us, pounding our brains with the slogans about our great leader and our people’s army. Because of them, I was wallowing in the mud like a pig, sweating like a racehorse and freezing to the bone. Today I was looking at one of their specimens, and I knew that he like many of his colleagues could not make the difference between his professional and private life. He would become weak and nearing death and still be obsessed with the iron discipline, commands, and rows and lines. “How can you treat my aunt so badly,” I asked him as he sat at the table across from me.
    He was smoking a rolled cigarette, which pungent smoke stung my eyes. He scowled and said, “I don’t force her to stay with me. She came freely and she can leave whenever she wants”
    “My aunt has lived in a proper home and now you don’t even give her money to cut her hair. At least you could should buy her a TV.”
    “Your aunt is not hungry and she has a roof over her head. If you want to buy her anything, you know where the shops are.”
    You call yourself a Muslim and pray five times a day. I’m going to find a the mosque you’re praying in. I’m going to tell people what kind of person you are... All kinds of thoughts and invectives flashed through my mind, and I struggled with myself to keep silent. I was seething with rage. I wanted to beat this stingy man and teach him a lesson he would never forget.

    As if sensing my thoughts, he said in a calm voice, “You’re too young to understand life. You’ll never know what poverty is.” He took a sip of his coffee and told me about his childhood in a poor family, in a godforsaken village were food was scarce, and families eked out their existence on arid land, rearing scraggy sheep and poultry. He walked five kilometres every day in his ragged shoes to a school in another village, thinking more about food than his lessons. Then the Second World War broke out and brought the Nazis to the Balkans and their butchers who used to kill 100 innocent people for oneevery killed German soldier killed.
    “I joined the Partisans, boy, before I was eighteen. I could have stayed in my isolated village and be safe there for the rest of the war, because Adolf in Berlin was certainly not interested in it, and would never have sent his soldiers there. But I couldn’t stay stand aside and watch as they were killing our people. I fought them all over our country, from Macedonia in the south to Slovenia in the north. I was hungry and thirsty, and sometimes I had not slept did not sleep properly for a week. I’ve seen my comrades dying in terrific injuries in my hands, and I was unable to help them. But I did not want to give up until I saw the aggressors defeated and humiliated. I was not afraid of death and was ready to sacrifice myself. And what about your generation, boy? You shriek whenever a thorn pricks your skin...”

    not a teacher

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    #5

    Re: The captain, part four

    Tarheel,
    I understand that you in the US do not have markets like we have in Bosnia, but a market in Bosnia is a special place where everything could be bought and sold, and where people exchange the latest gossip and news. It is a place where you can never feel lonely and where you can start talking with a complete stranger without feeling embarrassed.

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    #6

    Re: The captain, part four

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    I felt abysmal. Compared to our house and the beautiful orchard where birds sang all the time, and the scents of blooming trees and flowers wafted through the windows, this place was squalor. I wanted to rush outside, grab my aunt and take her back to our home. I could not understand that she had chosen voluntarily to part company with us and move to this smog-bound, dirty and overcrowded city. And I was angry at my family. “Why did you all lie to me?” I shouted at my aunt Bisera. She sat on a rickety chair, looked up at me and answered, “We didn’t want to upset you.” Her eyes slid down to the floor. I paced the room like an angry tiger, my mind a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings.
    I suggest that you delete the word "overcrowded" from your vocabulary. (It doesn't mean anything "crowded" doesn't mean.) Instead, say: "smog-bound, dirty, crowded city". (That sure doesn't make me want to visit. )

    (The truth is that's excellent, but I have to find something to pick at. )


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    #7

    Re: The captain, part four

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    Tarheel,
    I understand that you in the US do not have markets like we have in Bosnia, but a market in Bosnia is a special place where everything could be bought and sold, and where people exchange the latest gossip and news. It is a place where you can never feel lonely and where you can start talking with a complete stranger without feeling embarrassed.
    I don't think it's entirely true that we don't have markets like that, but they are not commonplace. (We do have what are called flea markets where a variety of things are sold. (Thankfully, I have never found any fleas at one. ))

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    #8

    Re: The captain, part four

    Tarheel,
    Sarajevo is a great city to visit, but I would not like to live in it, especially after the war. The majority of the native population of Sarajevo had moved abroad to the US and Europe, and now instead of them there are thousands of farmers who have moved in the city. They are still not used to live in a city, and sometimes they throw their garbage through their windows and do not care if the bag is going to hit someone. But Sarajevo is unik place in Europe because for hundreds of years the Jews, Christians, Orthodox and Muslims have lived together, intermarried and made friends.

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    #9

    Re: The captain, part four

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post

    I felt abysmal. Compared to our house and the beautiful orchard where birds sang all the time, and the scents of blooming trees and flowers wafted through the windows, this place was squalid. I wanted to rush outside, grab my aunt and take her back to our home. I could not understand that she had chosen voluntarily to part company with us and move to this smog-bound, dirty, crowded city. And I was angry at my family. “Why did you all lie to me?” I shouted at my aunt Bisera. She sat on a rickety chair, looked up at me and answered, “We didn’t want to upset you.” Her eyes slid down to the floor. I paced the room like an angry tiger, my mind a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings.

    When Azemina returned from the market, I said to her, “What has the miser done to you? Why don’t you leave him and return to us? We can have as good time together as before.”

    “Don’t worry,” she said, “things are not as bad as they look. He’ll die soon, and I’m going to inherit his pension and this flat.”
    "Things are not as bad as they look. My husband is going to die soon and leave me everything."

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    #10

    Re: The captain, part four

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    “How has the miser decided to buy a new refrigerator and a cooker?”
    “I asked him hundreds of times, but he always said no. I outwitted him. A gypsy man and his son were passing by and shouting that they were gathering scrap metal. I told them to come inside and pick up my cooker and refrigerator, which they did with pleasure. Enver came home and was furious. He cursed and shouted, but I sat in silence waiting for him to calm down and then go to the shop and buy a cooker and refrigerator. No cooker, no food,” she laughed and lighted a cigarette. She drew a smoke, held the cigarette between her fingers, leaned on her elbow, and crossed her skinny legs. Her transformation was complete.
    “Don’t you think you should go to a doctor and do some checkups and blood tests?
    “Now that you are here, I don’t need a doctor.”
    Hm.

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