Ron Morita "The Writer"
It came to him near midnight, while his roommate’s snores rose like the growling of a beast. The wall above his desk shone in the harsh light of the black lamp that reminded him of his father’s eyes, disdainful and condescending. Al crumpled the English paper written to pander to the hobbyhorse of a stiff-backed professor and threw it in the round file. After glancing at the room students called a torpedo tube—that, when both beds were lifted out for sleeping, barely allowed space for a man to squeeze past to relieve himself--he took a stack of blue-lined paper from his drawer and began to write.
He wanted to show the world as it was: vain and fighting over trifles, when all men should be brothers. While the Blind Ones partied and screwed, so that on Saturday nights Al fled the noise to sit on the grass and watch the stars, the poor suffered unspeakable horrors. All of it so that a few men on Wall Street could look out their picture windows and think how much better they were than anyone else.
Al had filled thirty pages by the time thirst drove him to the drinking fountain. Realizing how late it was, he took the square two-foot hand-woven rug and the book, which he cradled against his chest, down the corridor whose doors were all the same to the courtyard with bicycles parked helter-skelter. After brushing aside gritty dust, he laid down his prayer rug, knelt and bowed toward The Holy City. Under the flood lamp, the letters of the Koran were like golden birds. Though English was choppy, the verses he recited in Arabic rose and fell like ocean swells. Fatigue made the inside of his head feel stuffed with dates, but after returning to the torpedo tube, he couldn’t stop writing.
Impoverished, inarticulate and shunned by fellow students, the hero was depressed and on the verge of suicide when he was saved by a beautiful woman who, on a marvelous night that he prayed would never end, showed him the Truth. He traveled to Wall Street, where he begged on the streets in the name of the Forgotten and the international disgrace of the Camps. Though he gained a few coins and was invited to lunch by a nervous young woman in a pin-striped suit, the large donations that would have made a difference eluded him. Angered by the greed of the capitalists, who squandered in one night what it would take to feed a family on the West Bank for a month, he went to the library. The disease, which was stored in a dozen laboratories--including one at the University--would kill anyone who handled it unprotected. To one willing to martyr himself, that was of no consequence. Finding his voice in the urgency of the task, the hero persuaded the woman to be his accomplice and talked his way past men in white coats, who were so preoccupied that they seldom looked at his face.
Becoming a night watchman in Lower Manhattan was difficult for a non-citizen, but everything in America was for sale. Most of the offices were locked, so he contaminated the knobs. He visited the train station and a dozen hotels during the disease’s incubation period. By the time sickness drove him to bed, the streets by his apartment were gridlocked with people fleeing the city.
Outside, a car whispered past. Al remembered the numbing fear of his first party in America and the woman in a shapeless brown dress standing in the doorway. Short and fat, she had seemed on the verge of leaving when he approached her.
His words had spilled out. “Noisy in there.”
“Americans. Half of them will be deaf by the time they’re fifty.”
She led the way outside. “You sound like you’re from Eastern Europe.”
“Abu Dhabi. Every time I go back, I don’t recognize the place. They’re making it the next New York City. My name is Al, which is short for Ala. It means supremacy in Arabic.”
“I’m Rachael, from an ethnic neighborhood on Chicago’s North Shore.”
“I can’t relate to people here. It’s like I’m among green-skinned aliens, all talking the same gibberish.”
“I read a lot, so I don’t have time to master the things all girls should know. My friends learned how to put on mascara, but I always make a mess of it.”
“It’s music this and TV that. Everyone can tell me the names of the local sports stars, but not one American I talked to knew about the Trail of Tears.”
“Why don’t you tell me so that one American will?”
Al couldn’t stop. “The villagers in the Judean Hills were small farmers who had scratched out a living on rocky soil for countless generations. When the Israeli Army came in 1948, they blew up the houses and kicked out the inhabitants. The entire city of Lydda was expelled during a 90-degree heat wave. There was no water for three days, and hundreds died on the road.”
“I thought the Palestinians left voluntarily.”
“Every man, woman and child in Abu Dhabi despises America because it pays for Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. We speak of it in the streets, in the schools, and in our prayers. Americans think the men who blew up the World Trade Center and the Boston Marathon were sent by the Devil. This may sound extreme because Jesus, who is one of our prophets, taught us to turn the other cheek, but to those of my countrymen who care about what goes on outside their wealthy sanctuary they are heroes.”
She stepped back. “I better go.”
“Wait. Want to get a milkshake?”
“It’s getting late.”
His heart hammering, Al wrote until dawn shone on the stained white curtain beside his desk. There was a thump behind him.
His roommate’s voice was slurred. “Hey, man, did you get laid last night?”
This story appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Cigale Literary Magazine. It can be viewed at cigalelitmag.com/ron-morita---the-writer.html
"The Writer", Cigale Literary Magazine, Summer 2013 issue, June 28, 2013, cigalelitmag.com/ron-morita---the-writer.html
"The Winner", Penduline Literary Magazine, Issue 10, September 9, 2013,
"Restraint", The Chamber Four Lit Mag, Issue 4, October 10, 2013, chamberfour.wordpress.com/digital-press/c4-issue-4/; print version
"Flight", Sassafras Literary Magazine, Issue 6, January 1, 2014,
"The Lawyer", Empty Sink Publishing, Issue 3, January 19, 2014,
"Spirits", Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Issue 9, January 21, 2014,
"The Gold Chain", Star 82 Review, Issue 2.1, March 16, 2014,
www.star82review.com/2.1/morita-gold.html; print version: https://www.createspace.com/4662745
"What He Has to Do", Red Earth Review, Volume 2, August 2014,
www.okcu.edu/english/redearthmfa/red-earth-review; print version: Red Earth Review, C/O English Dept., WC248, Oklahoma City University, 2501 N Blackwelder, Oklahoma City, OK 73106-1493