Healing

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Money that separates family

Submitted: June 16, 2017

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Submitted: June 16, 2017

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Healing

Toronto, Ontario, Easter, April 16

Finally, after so much snow, the sun shone on the green patch that was the backyard of Uncle Sherrif. He courteously invited the whole family to his long weekend annual Easter barbeque. This year’s barbeque had a new addition from the family. The son of his nephew who lived in Cairo. The boy, raised in Cairo, was westernized in more ways than one and fitted in the Torontonian community without a hitch. This was partly due to exposition to western media by his father and his strong English language abilities that his father, who was bilingual himself, had taught him since he was born.

This event included an assortment of family, some blood related and some in-laws. Mido, the nephew’s son, had only been one year and a few months in Toronto and missed his friends and family and wanted desperately to find a way back home to see them and be with them for some time. Among the crowd was Marty, the elder uncle of Mido. There was Al, second uncle to Mido and Marty’ younger brother. Then there was Ahmed, Mido’s father’s cousin.

As the evening went on, family started to flock in, dropping their gestures for being hosted at this event. There was an oval shed in the backyard where the older side of the family enjoyed sitting and chatting with their drinks in hand. The young at various ages rumbled around the house between hanging at the computer’s side pushing buttons for gaming and the usual chasing and screaming. The more mid-generation crowd roamed around the TV room, picking up on anything that would help pass the time. The women were almost all the time in, around and out of the kitchen pitching in with whatever made things work for the food fest to be of delicious delicacy standard. The barbeque started to smell off. Some got up to observe the smoke and the tender meat as it started to become edible.

Soon, plates were served, and everyone rushed to serve themselves salads, rice, middle east eateries, and the barbequed chicken and meat. There were usually three gathering locations and these were the backyard under the gazebo, the kitchen table, and the main dining room. The one with the most crowd was usually the kitchen table. Mido sat there ready to serve his plate what he thought it had deserved when Uncle Sherrif asked him “So, what are you plans now Mido?”. Mido stopped before taking the first bite and said “I’m saving so I can go back to Egypt in the summer”. Uncle Sherrif replied “Oh, I see”. At that moment, Al walked in, and it seemed that he had picked up at the end of the conversation even though he had not been there when it started. “Are still thinking about going?” he said “ I think this trip will be expensive for you. You can’t afford to lose the money you’ve saved just so that you can spend a week in Egypt?” and then he turned to Uncle Sherrif “Don’t you agree with me”. Uncle Sherrif started by saying “uhh…he should know better by now”. Then Ahmed walked in from the direction of the dining room while the conversation was going on. He just listened in. Al continued “You have enough money now for you to start study. You don’t want to be spending your money on such an expensive trip”. Ahmed inquired “Expensive trip?”. Al said “He’s homesick and wants to go back to Egypt. I am explaining to him what an expensive trip it is.” Ahmed said “Why is it expensive?” Al said “Well, he has stay and has to spend money. He probably has to buy gifts and he has to spend money there”

Ahmed said: “What are you talking about? Spending money? You know how much is the Egyptian pound to the US dollar? It’s 18 pounds.”. “Yeah” came in Mido’s voice “so I can probably spend a 1000 for 50 dollars. That’s peanuts.”. Al said “You’re kidding? How long has that been going on?”. “What” said Ahmed. “You haven’t been keeping up with the news?” and added “The pound’s been falling against the dollar for quite some time now”. Al said “I see”

Before the sun started to set by sometime, Al called his flock and these were Mido, who lived in in his building, and his wife Christine so they all would go home. On the way from Uncle Sherrif’s suburban home to Al’s building near the highway, Al grilled Mido with questions. “Did you know that the value of the pound fell against the dollar?” Mido shied away from the answer at first as he felt it was some kind of trap. If he said he knew, he felt his uncle it would accuse him of being dishonest by hiding the news. If he said he didn’t know, it would be not possible as he was always on Skype with his parents and was sending them occasional amounts of money to help them. Finally, he said that he did. Al was silent but by what Mido saw in the reflection of his eyes in the rear mirror, he was sure that his uncle was not pleased. Christine sighed.

Cairo, Egypt, April 18

Al’s impatient and irritated came screeching over the phone to his mother’s ear as he called at 10:00 pm, a rather late time for a woman in her eighties. She could hardly understand what he was saying from being drowsy on one hand and his screeching voice on the other. His frantic words chased each other without hardly catching a breath for pauses between syllables. “The dollar is now 18 pounds. Is that true?”. “I don’t know,” said Al’s mother. “I don’t follow that stuff. But if you say so, then it must be true”. “Ok” said Al to her answer. “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go to the bank and wire all the money from my share in the inheritance to my account in Canada. How much is there anyway after the interest of the last two years?”. Al’s mother. “I’m not sure. It’s the way you left it. I’m not awake to focus on this”. “Oh, sorry, Mom” said Al “Did I wake you up? I’ll call at a better time. Please go to the bank and find out what the balance in the account is now”

The phone rang in Dougy’s house late in the afternoon next day. “Hi, Mom. What’s up?”. Al’s and Dougy’s mother Sue came over feeble. “I got a phone call from your brother yesterday”. “Ok” said Dougy waiting for more. “He wants you to take me to the bank to wire his share of the inheritance to Canada”. Dougy answered “It’s ok, Mom. We’ll do what he asks. Why does he want it now?” “I don’t know. We’ll talk about it later”

 

 

Skype

Hey, kid. How’r you doin’

Fine

You know what happened? Right?

No.

Your uncle called your grandmother and wants her to wire his money to his account in Canada. I don’t understand why he wants to do that now. She says that he says he has something to do with the value of the dollar against the Egyptian pound. How would he know that?

I told him. Well, I didn’t tell him. We were at Uncle Sherrif’s at Easter and Ahmed brought it up and then he knew.

Well, that figures. I’m going to have to go over to the bank with your grandmother tomorrow to see if we can wire the money. I don’t think it’s going to be that easy.

Ok.

Ok.

Early the next day, Dougy took his mother over to the bank. They patiently waited while a bank employee was free to talk to them. When one was free, he gave them the information that in order transfer any sum of money in Egyptian pounds, it needed to be exchanged for dollars, then the wiring can happen. When asked if they could exchange the amount into dollars through the bank, the bank that they currently are not engaged in this activity and they had to seek other means of acquiring US currency. Dougy said that finding the counterpart amount for that large a sum in Egypt was not possible as the government was tight with letting go of US dollars. For Dougy and his mother, the question that remained was what to tell Al.

A few days later, Al called his mother again during a more decent time of the day. She told him what had happened. Al still insisted on what was the total amount that was in the bank. His mother told him that she had forgotten to ask that question and promised that she would do that the next time she went to the bank.

After a hard day’s work, Dougy reached his home to find an email from Christine, Al’s wife, waiting for him. The email explained a plan by which it was possible to acquire the money on intervals instead of a lump sum. Dougy replied by saying it would be difficult to acquire any amount in dollars except in limited amounts that the government allows exchange offices to deal with.

Cairo, Egypt, April 20

Al was mad. He called up his mother and asked her why was it so difficult to wire the money. It is the bank’s responsibility to do this. He also asked why till now he hadn’t received the bank statement he had asked for. His mother told him that Dougy was busy and she relied on him to drive her to the bank. She told him that once he was free, she would go and issue the statement. Al said “Didn’t you ask in the bank how much money there was in the account?”. His mother replied: “I did but I can’t remember the exact figure. I’d rather wait till I go the bank till I have the exact amount”.

Sue hung up with Al and called Dougy. “He insists” she said “that I issue a bank statement.”. Dougy said “So what? You don’t have to be worried about anything. Once I am free, we will go to the bank and issue a statement for him with last year’s balance”.

That night Al called his mother and inquired one more time about the money. “Mom,” he said “There is something you are not telling me. Did you take the interest of the account? It’s okay if you needed it. I just want to know how much money there is. You know this is my inheritance and I left the money there so in case you needed some for an extreme emergency, you’d find it. You already have your share and it is really plenty, so you don’t need take any of the interests from my money. When will you get the bank statement?” She told him next Wednesday because this is the only day that Dougy was free.

Cairo, Egypt, April 27

On Wednesday, Dougy and his mother went to the bank. Dougy dropped his mother at the bank door then went to find to parking spot for the car in the busy streets around the bank. By the time he had found one, his mother was sitting with the bank manager asking for the bank statement. The manager was a courteous gentleman who helped them both immensely. He told them that in order to issue a bank statement upon the client’s request, there would be a charge. The bank statement was issued with last year’s balance. Sue mumbled words about heartbroken she was about the treatment of son to her near the end of her life. Dougy scolded her and told her not to make a scene at the bank.

The bank statement was ready and Dougy had decided to scan it and send it to Al. He went a printing office where he had it scanned then sent it late that afternoon.

The phone rang in their mother’s house. “Mom,” Al shouted. “Two hundred thousand Mom, why Mom, why so much. You took all the interest Mom. Again! Again Mom! Didn’t we agree that you wouldn’t do this again. Why, Mom, why?”. Sue, shaken, answered back. “You told me I could take it.”. “When you needed it Mom, not every month. Now I have nothing left except the principal. Why did you need all that money Mom? You have your own money and you have a pension. Why do you need my money, Mom? Why? I am very upset.”. “I needed it for my cataract operation which you allowed it. Then life got to be very expensive with inflation being so hight in Egypt so I had to take from it. I needed my other account in case I needed to go the hospital, or even my funeral.” “I can’t talk now, Mom, I am very upset”

Cairo, Egypt, April 28

Dougy found this email sent to him, Sue and Marty:

I am upset with mom. Our inheritance was distributed fair and square. Each one of you took his share and I, not wanting Mom to stress, decided to keep mine in an Egyptian bank. That way she wouldn't feel insecure. By taking my interest, she is destroying my inheritance (the principal). I would rather bring the money here and send money to mom if she needs it.

This is not the first time she has done this to me, Dougy. 3 years ago, you were there, sitting with us in her bedroom, when she admitted that she was wrong, and that wouldn't happened again. Now, the account has no interests. Please tell her to be merciful. This is absolutely wrong.

Thanks

Al

The next day, Dougy received a phone call from Al.

“Hi.”

“Hi”

“Did you see what she did? She took all the interest. This money plus the money she took three years ago. That’s total of two hundred thousand. “

“Hmm”

“Why do you think she needed that money?”

“I don’t know.”

“What did you think about my email?”

“Yeah..”

“Did you tell her she was wrong?”

“Yeah…I told her.”

“What did she say?”

“she said she will never touch the account again”

“That’s what she said last time”

“Well, this time she means it. She took a solemn vow never to touch it again ever”

“We’ll see. I’m really upset”

“Yeah..”

“Ok. Talk to you later.”

 

Skype

Hi, kid

Hi

What’s going on?

Nothing

Did you get invited over to Uncle Al’s for dinner like last weekend?

They said the would invite me. He called and said that Christine was sick and she can’t cook. He told me they would put off to the next day. I said ok. I waited for a phone call to tell me if I could come or not but so far no phone call.

I am sure Uncle Al and Christine have their excuse.

Whatever, I’ll just go get take out.

Ok. Kid, talk to you later.

 

Cairo, Egypt, April 30

Al wrote Dougy another email asking him if he had read the email he sent him to their mother. Dougy ignored the email. A follow up email arrived asking the same thing. This time Dougy replied

We are shielding Mom from this email (I believe you received a visit yesterday from Marty) because it is too hurtful for a mother to read this from her son. It is just a rephrasing of what was said over the phone but in no way is it lighter on the ears. So, Mom doesn’t need to hear this a second time. I did synopsis the money situation that you said in the email to her while removing the heavy blame part. So, now Mom has pretty clear idea of the money situation. Until we resolve the money transfer dilemma, she has taken a solemn vow to herself never to touch the account again. The essential message of the email was delivered to her. Now, it took us over here quite some time to rectify her emotional state. She is now accepting some things she had a hard time coming to terms with earlier. Her mood is greatly improved. Life has set in rules and she is adapting to them. Resending the blame message will only make matters worse. As far as the money situation is concerned, here is what follows. We are working on as many solutions as possible to make the EGP to US exchange work. We’ll let you know as soon as we have substantial progress. We are keen that Al gets the money in the account. So, please let Mom have peace. She gets EVERYTHING now!

 

Cairo, Egypt, May 3

After many days of silence on Al’s part, he phoned his mother. “You took all the money Mom. Now I have no money left. Why did you need so much? You live by yourself, your rent is cheap, you pay peanuts for utilities and food. You don’t have any serious medical problems. Then why did you need three times more that what you spend from my money? How am I supposed to trust you ever again when you, my own mother, doesn’t let me know she’s taking my money? Mom, I trusted you. This is wrong and you have to admit this is wrong.”. “Yes.” Came his mother’s feeble voice. “It is wrong and I am sorry that I took the money. I misunderstood. I thought you meant whenever I needed it, I can take it. Al…Al..”. “Sorry, Mom, I’m too upset to talk”

Dougy got the call from his mother. His heart fell to the pit of his stomach as hardly understood the words that came through the sobs over the phone. “I didn’t think money would do that to people. What have I done? He told me I could take the money if I needed it. I just took the interest because I have expenses at the beginning of the month, and my pension comes in too late to pay those expense…I can’t take it….” And he heard her gasping for breath. Dougy hung up and rushed to her house.

His mother’s house was one block away. As he rushed, he wondered what it is that had happened and what it is that Al said and whether or not he could fix it. He turned the key of the door and jumped in quickly, hoping the worst hadn’t happened yet. He found his mother couched in bed, her eyes swollen with tears. He stood and told her “What happened?”. “Al” she said. “He said such hurtful things to me. I don’t know what to do…I am so.. tired…I didn’t think…he could.. do this.”. Dougy stood there paused for a minute. Any action he took could backfire. If he consoled her, it might dig her deeper into her grief. If he rebuked her, she might see the last son she had just as cruel as his other siblings. He remembered the many times she had scolded him when he was younger, pushing him out of his apathy and fear, and decided to do the same. “What’s the matter with you?” he yelled at her. “You have to be stronger than this. So you took the money, so what? He is a kid. Your kid. He always will be your kid. You are his mother. You will always have this over him. He cannot shake you, no matter what.”. His mother started to stop sniffling. “He can’t do that to me.” She said. “I’m his mother.”. She started to straighten herself up in her bed slowly. “Yeah,” said Dougy more encouraged. “That’s right. Shake it up. You’re stronger than this.”. The phone range and Marty’s voice came over from Toronto. “So, what’s going on.”. “She’s ok.” Said Dougy. “She’ll talk to you.”. Again, she lamented to Marty what had happened. Dougy told her off that attitude again. Marty said that he will talk to Al and ended the phone call. Dougy told her that he would get her a glass of water. Dougy got the glass of water and sat on a small chair opposite his mother’s bedside. “There you go” and he patted her on the forearm. By now, her tears had stopped. “There is nothing in the world that can you make feel like this. So, we’re having a problem. We’ll deal with it. Of course, he has the right to be upset. It is his money. But he has no right to mistreat you. We’ll get through this together.”. Dougy had to leave his mother to tend other business and family matters. He told her that he would check on her by phone.

That was the night when Dougy had the first dream. He dreamt that he and Al sat at a table. They were exchanging words. He dreamt that Al blamed for what had happened. Al said “You knew that she was taking my money and yet stood and did nothing. Didn’t I tell her three years ago with you in the room not take the money. The money is not yours, not yours.., not yours….” And with that Dougy woke up with perspiration on his forehead.

Cairo, Egypt, May 5

Al sent an email to Dougy with a specific request. The request was to take his mother to the bank to have an ATM card issued for his bank account. Apparently, when the account was set up, an ATM card had been issued and Al had it. But since it was with him in Toronto, he had no need to use it. The problem was that that in order to set up internet banking, this card and its pin number was needed. Al tried to find way to have the internet banking operation but because of this problem, he couldn’t. So, he asked Dougy to take his mother to the bank to do this. Dougy complied.

Toronto, Canada, May 13, Mother’s day,

 

Cairo, Egypt, May 13, Canada’s Mother’s day.

Marty phoned his mother to wish her happy mother’s day.

Cairo, Egypt, May 20,

A week passed since Al’s request and the ATM card was ready. The problem was that activation had and pin number assignment had to be done in Egypt by the client himself. Dougy and his mother tried with the teleoperator to convince her that the client was in Egypt to do himself and she had the power of attorney to replace him. The teleoperator insisted that that was not possible. Dougy sent the information in an email to Al.

Hi,

I hope you guys are good. Unfortunately, I wish I had better news. We tried our best to get the card activated, which is a necessary step, before a PIN is designated to the card, which is necessary for the internet banking. This can only be done by phone. Mom tried to use her power of attorney to do this but received the reply that only the client himself should activate the card. I thought of doing it myself, but since these calls are recorded, there is a chance of illegal action that can be traced back to me. It still can be done from your part of the world. So, I’ll send you the necessary information and you once you have it activated. Should the phone call go smoothly without any problems, the bank teller/operator will inform you that the card is activated and you should go to the nearest ATM machine to choose your own PIN. I will take over from here and let you know what it is once you tell me that you have done those steps.

After sending this email, Dougy had his second dream. Dougy dreamt of giant ATM card, the size of billboard heading down on him as if a falling airplane from the sky. It crashed to the ground and became pixels that spelled the words PIN several times in space. It seemed that Dougy was chasing them trying to collect them. Then Dougy woke up.

Cairo, Egypt, May 27

Dougy waited for an email to arrive, confirming that the card had been activated so he can assign a PIN number to the ATM card. No such email arrived. Instead, an email from Al with a very odd request, totally unexpected and for no understandable reason.

Hi Dougy,

Could you please take mom to the bank and withdraw the interests for the month and give it mom's servant. She is poor and I imagine with high inflation, she is even poorer. I am doing this because it is not right to know people are suffering and not do something about it.

Thanks

When Dougy replied and said that he would take care of it. A few hours later, Dougy got this email

Listen Dougy, given the fact that traffic and parking in Egypt are terrible, I don’t think Mom needs a car. I think taxis are best for her. Can you find out the price and possibility of selling that car that I bought for them.

As you know, I am still very upset at your mother's behaviour towards me and that account. I didn't want to talk to Uncle Sherrif about, but when I did he shared my concern as to where she spent that money. She sure withdrew a lot and spent a lot of money per year, given that she is a retired person, with no obligations or dependents,

I have a problem because I can't talk to her about it. If I do, she says be merciful. Uncle Sherif and I want to know where she spent this money. Can you find out? Please talk to her and find out what's going on.

Thanks

Early the morning of the next day, Dougy got his third dream. He felt as if he was going through a maze where he was lost. The maze was already shaking and twisting with him. As he went through that maze that rocked with him, images of his family started to appear one by one, as if by surprise, from behind every twist. He saw the smiling image of his dead father, then his mother, young and old, then his brothers as kids, then as adults. Some pictures made him smile, some made him angry, and some brought him to tears. Then he felt tha he and all these images were falling off a cliff. He woke up.

Dougy sat in his home, drinking his morning coffee. He thought how he could have rectified this situation. He spent the last thirty years of his life by his parents’ side, after he married and had two children. These two children were the only grandchildren his parents had. Then since his father’s death, he was the only blood-relative who stayed with his mother. All other sides of the family have disappeared somehow. Phone calls diminished to nothing. The only connection that existed was Facebook. Now, Al was in a feud state with his own mother. And for all he knew, knowing Al, Al is in a feud with everyone connected to his mother. Marty chose to stay away from the whole ordeal, being at a retiring age and having seen his fair share of troubles in his day. If Al knew the truth, it would make things worse that they already are. Dougy’s mother always came through for him in so many situation, even though he learned later on in life, as he was the frowned upon, unwanted last pregnancy, that he was not her favorite child. Al was. But he had to do something. What was it that he could do? He cannot wire the money to Al because of the scarcity of the dollar and the large sum in the bank that cannot be exchanged at once. He cannot sell the car because he depended on it for his work and his mother needed to be driven around a lot. If she were to be exposed to Egyptian streets to take taxis, there is a risk to her life. He knew Al and not anything of this was going away soon. Then he thought about his dream. Al told him once a long time that he though better in pictures. That was why Al chose a career as a designer because he can draw and think in pictures very well. That was when Dougy got the idea.

Fortunately, it was a day off. Dougy rushed around the block to his mother’s apartment. When she sensed he had come into the house, she wondered what he was doing there as it wasn’t his usual routine to come to her on a day off. He told her that he was doing something. He went to the living room’s book shelf and grabbed the photo albums that were there. He started going through the picture that went back some fifty or sixty years back. He had three ideas in mind. He wanted to trace his mother’s pictures from when she was young to her most recent pictures. He wanted to trace the family pictures, the ones that he had collages that he had assembled when he was a young adult. Then he wanted to trace Al’s pictures as he participated in the family ‘s life and lives of his children. He found various pictures and started taking snapshots with his mobile phone that were relevant to those three ideas. It took quite a while to finish a bunch of pictures that might have amounted to at least thirty pictures. The pictures of his mother started when she prowled the tennis courts in Alexandria in her youth, then her pictures with her family as her three sons got older. Then the final picture was on Mother’s Day on the Egyptian calendar where she stood in front of the smartphone, dressed in pale blue, with an opaque flooring under her, and thick tree greenery behind, smiling with her cane in her hand. Dougy took the pictures and rushed back home where he googled a site where he can collage the pictures. It took another hour to get it all done properly. Then he sent in an email to Al with noting but the word pictures for the subject.

Cairo, Egypt, June 5

Al called his mother. “Hi,” came his calm voice. “How are you doin’?”. “I’m fine.” Came his estranged mother’s voice. “I just wanted to check on you. Are you doing ok?”. “Yeah.” She said. He sighed then said “I’m still hurting Mom. I don’t understand. You’re gonna have to give some time to forgive.”. “It’s ok. I understand. I’m never gonna touch the money again.”. “It’s not about that Mom, I told you before three years ago not to do that. Yet you did it again. When I tell you about it, you get upset. I don’t want to upset you.”. His mother had no reply. “I just wanted to check on you Mom, I’ll be in touch”

Dougy still had dreams. This time he and Al were back at the kitchen table. Al said “Why did you do it?”. “I didn’t mean to.” Said Dougy. “I got fired from my job. I had to feed my family. Your mother had money. I had to take it. The more I took, the less she had. She had to have money, and you had enough. So he took from yours.” Al glared across the table and smacked it so hard that it echoed into Dougy’s eardrum that he woke up.

Cairo, Egypt, June 12, Sue’ birthday

The phone rang. Al’s voice came through quietly. “Happy birthday, Mom. Everything ok with you?” They chatted what seemed like a normal conversation. “Ok,” he said. “I gotta go. One more thing. Don’t touch my money.”

Down the dungeon of memory, Dougy remembered that event in his mother’s bedroom when Al so vehemently attacked his mother for withdrawing funds from his account to which he had given power of attorney. He insisted that this account is not to be touched unless absolutely necessary. But that was not the only thing that he remembered. He remembered when he glared at him across the room because he took a gamble with his family to start a new life in Canada, and lost almost two thirds of his inheritance, and Al looked at him in contempt and told him. “You lost your money. That was your choice. Don’t come looking for me to bail you out.”. That was the last time before he drove him to the airport and saw the fading disc of the sun on his return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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