In Fiction on September 30, 2013 at 9:41 pm

English: Maarat an-Numan, Syria, main street D...


By early March we had left Aleppo and were making our way south toward Qusayr, where we had heard Hezbollah fighters were crossing the border from Lebanon. Pha’ris had somehow convinced a commander in the FSA to take us—that my reporting would glorify their cause—even though I told him he shouldn’t have said that.

“You worry too much,” he told me, that day near Rastan. The shelling was thunderous in the distance, and the sky was black with smoke.

“I’m a realist,” I said.

“You’re afraid.”

We were packed into our four-by-four with six rebels. Another truck, winding its way through the burnt-out cars ahead of us, held six more. There had been a third in our convoy just a week earlier, but they’d tripped an IED by Maarat al-Numan, and we’d spent the greater part of a day collecting body parts for burial. Hell yes I was afraid.

The man in the driver’s seat said something and the others began to laugh.

“What?” I asked. Pha’ris smiled.

“I think the American translation would be ‘candy-ass’,” he said.

We rode on as night gathered. The shelling slowed and eventually stopped, the air grew colder. The men drifted in and out of sleep.

“Don’t worry, akhun,” Pha’ris said as the silence deepened. “If we’re captured, just let me do the talking. I’ll work it out.”

I had a knot in my stomach, then, Mr. Arav. Something about that word, akhun, and the way your son said it…

I must have fallen asleep because it was hours later when Pha’ris shook me and I realized we had stopped. The doors were open and the men were in the road with their guns drawn.

I don’t know how to tell you the rest. The ambush was too fast; there was no talk. They saw my white skin, they saw a ransom. They shot the rest. I thought it was up to me to tell you.

He said, “akhun,” Mr. Arav. He called me brother.

Another week, another story for the Trifecta Writing Challenge. This week, the word was Ass. I thought I’d try something a little different with the form, so I’m interested to know whether or not you think it worked. Let me know in the comments below!

  1. Incredible intense and beautiful…I love the “brother”…we truly are all one in the universe…

  2. Oh yes, Brian. It did indeed work. You concentrated so much energy and emotion into this, never resorting to cliches or to unnecessary dialogue. Power lies in the spareness of the piece. Truly wonderful writing, Brian. (and I loved the use of ‘brother’ too)

  3. Did it work? Yes it did, Brian. The voice you captured in this is genuine; one of our times. Great write. Thanks for linking up!

  4. Very striking. I could imagine being in the situation, and how terrifying it would be.

  5. Wow, very moving and real. Excellent.

  6. Wow! I held my breath throughout. Very gripping piece. Well done!

  7. This is great.

  8. I have read lots of books about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. and know of many situations such as you have so eloquently described here in your story. The word “brother” elevates this story from a spine-tingling kidnapping story to something more universal and profound. I thank you for the consistent excellence of the work you provide for us to read at Trifecta. You are a true talent and the respect with which you are held is most deserved.

  9. an excellent use of many words, not just the one they asked us to to use.
    You inspire, you push, you CHANGE with your words Brian.


  10. Good use of the prompt, Brian. I had forgotten all about it till I saw Kir’s comment above and I went to see what the prompt was. Story is all too true, alas. Well done… again.

  11. […] if you’re just visiting for the first time, go over and read Akhun… I promise I sometimes write good stuff, really I do :-p […]

  12. For most of us, the political, the social only resonates when we can recognize the personal. Well done. Linking you with Blogs Over Easy. The feature is my own and I love highlighting what moved me, when someone writes something that matters. Thank you.

    • Thanks LaTonya, and what a great idea. I’ve thought for a while now about starting a web collection of my favorite fiction from fellow bloggers, and I’m honored you thought of me!

  13. dang…really nicely written…some subtle humor ‘candy ass’ and then the sentiment of brother….in the midst of the shelling and stuff we are all brothers…or maybe it makes for interesting brothers….really engaging writing though…glad i popped over from latonya’s

  14. phenomenal. Another pointed by way of LaTonya. ~ M

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