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The touch

  • Published at 04:10 pm August 11th, 2018
Rahad Abir

Flash fiction by Rahad Abir

Finally, dad leaves me with them. Their butcher hands scrutinize me, slap my slouching neck. Da-a-ad, I moan in misery. Dad looks, his fingers rub my shoulder, and he walks away without a word. Those fingers! I still recall that first touch that helped me out, to see the light of the world ...

When mom was in labor, I heard, he stayed awake all night. He stroked her lovingly: You’ll be fine, you’ll birth a beautiful baby.

He was pleased because she bore him a boy this time. In the first few weeks, he checked on me like crazy. Soon I grew close to him, began to enjoy his company more than anything. Though mom and I lived in a house that was small and shoddy, in a poor state. Dad lived with his other wife and children in a fine and fancy house. 

Dad, a tall and muscular man, spent most of his time farming. Yet every day he bathed me, fed me, and brushed my hair with his own hands. You’re my golden boy, he would say.You’ll bring fortune to me.

One day some visitors came, had tea with dad. Then, Saturday afternoon, a truck roared onto the farm. Dad guided me onto it. The truck took off. It stopped from time to time until more boys squeezed into the truckbed. Soon I couldn’t even think of sitting, just stood like a statue. My beefy, burly body felt suffocated. Dad, happy with hope, sat up front by the driver. 

Every second seemed like a minute, every minute an hour. It was a never-ending, barbaric journey. My body wanted to fall apart, but the way things were even that’d be impossible. Other boys shared their tales. They’d traveled from far, far away before boarding the truck. They were smuggled in, remarked one older boy. What for? asked one. Where’re we going? To be sold as slaves perhaps, another groaned. 

Next morning the truck stopped dead in Dhaka. And there I saw hundreds just like us. A slave bazaar? We were kicked and prodded to climb down. I limped, and all at once collapsed. Dad and some guys tried to put me on my feet. I can’t, I cried in pain, mouth foaming. They hit me, yet my legs refused to hold me. A doctor arrived, checked me. 

How long was he in the truck? He demanded to know. 

Twelve to thirteen hours, dad replied. 

No way. With his heavy body, three hours standing still is the maximum. His legs are likely fractured. He’s unfit for sacrifice. 

What?! Dad was crushed. 

A bunch of folks drew dad aside. They whispered, handed him folded notes. 

That’s one fourth of his value!Dad protested.

That’s the best you can get now. This bull can’t be sold for sacrifice. We’ll have to sell his meat in the shop.

Dad, money tucked into his palm, eyed me. A tear there? Maybe ... 

My voice failed. But I yearned for another touch of his fingers, saying, You’ll be fine.

Rahad Abir is a fiction writer. He is the 2017-18 Charles Pick Fellow at the University of East Anglia.