Bismillah, or Thanksgiving in Darija


Hey all, this is my submission for the MatadorU “Next Great Storyteller Competition.” you can find out more here. Enjoy.
We have been chugging across the country since mid-morning. As the sun peaks in the sky, an elder feels his stomach grumble. With shaky hands, he rummages through his satchel, first digging out a semicircle of khobz, and next finding a shiny can of thon, tuna. With a mus quickdrawn from his billowing sleeves, he slices the bread. He runs his knife along the left and into the soft center of the loaf, and repeats the motion on the right.
His pinky sticks out from the rest of his fingers in part because it does not bend, and in part because it is houses a long curling fingernail, yellowed by years of tobacco smoke. The sandwich splits like the mouth of a singing fish; satisfied, he turns to tackle the tuna. Hands tremble as he tries thrice to pry the stubborn lid off. Failing, discouragement crosses his face and he sits back, arms folded, disgusted at the price of age. His meal has gotten the train cab’s full attention though, and his neighbor grabs the can unasked. With deft fingers he easily separates the can, revealing the meat inside. Handing the tin to its owner, he nods encouragingly. The sage gestures an enthusiastic thank-you, and sets about finishing his snack. Ever so slowly, like emptying the sea with a teaspoon, he journeys back and forth across his lap, first dunking his knife into the fish, then carrying it into the waiting mouth of khobz. For five minutes he conducts this migration, oblivious of time. We wait in silence for him to finish, rooting for his success while the hourglass of our day sprinkles steadily by.
Pinky aloft, he lifts his prize to his parting lips. We all feel the weight of it in our stomachs.

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