Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Imam and the Shopkeeper

[Media prompt] Saudi Arabia has been funding mosques throughout Europe that have become hotbeds of extremism, the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir William Patey has said.
The Imam and the Shopkeeper

The young thug lowered himself onto the arm of an old wooden chair, lit a cigarette, ground the match into the carpet, and blew a ring of smoke into the air.

“So what did you want to talk about?” he said.

Lars Jünger nodded his head, staring at the young man seated on the other side of the desk, but said nothing. Outside, a gust of wind blew leaves along the street, nearly deserted despite the early hour and Christmas just around the corner.

“You know that bringing me into the office isn’t going to make things better for you, right?”

The hoodlum stood up, then sat back down again, this time on the cushion. He dug some dirt out from under his thumbnail with his teeth. He sucked on his cigarette, taping the ash onto the floor. Crossing his legs, he drew circles in the air with this bare toes.

Underneath the black hoodie, Lars could make out the collar of an off-white robe, which flowed to his ankles. He looked to be in his early twenties, no older than twenty-three. Old enough, you’d have thought, to have worked out how ridiculous he looked.

“Only one person on the tills tonight?” the guy asked.

Lars smiled. The kid knew he only had one part timer working tonight. He had made a point of mentioning it when he came in, calling him “chief” in front of the customers - not the word most people in the neighbourhood would use for the respected owner of a small supermarket. 

Whoever this punk was, he hadn’t raised a commotion at the front counter to shake him down for a few dollars.

“She's got a good body,” the guy said, stubbing his cigarette out on the desk. “She’d fetch a good price.” He was doing his best to damage the office.

Lars leaned back in his chair. Now wasn’t the time for leisurely conversation. Soon this kid would be taking a dump on his floor.

“But she needs to fix her attitude,” the guy continued. “You can see she doesn’t like us. The way she looked at me. Like, what are you doing here? As if I can’t go wherever I like. If you hadn’t come over, I would have knocked her into last week.”

Lars looked out the window at the familiar scene. The baker across the road, an art supplies store on one side of it, a photographer's studio on the other. The street light had come on, pooling light weakly onto the ground. He looked up and down the street to make sure nobody was around, then at the television monitor on his desk to check if anyone was left in the shop. Apart from the girl on the cash register, the store was empty.

Lars pulled open his desk drawer, taking hold of a Leatherneck knife with a six-and-three-quarter-inch hollow ground blade. He laid it on the desk top, closing the drawer until it clicked home in the silence.

Now the punk was confused. He looked at the knife then looked at Lars. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Lars stood up, gripping the knife loosely in his hand. He felt no doubt, no inner voice commanding him to pause. Something inside him had snapped. Ever since they had built the mosque, he had gone about his business as though it hadn’t mattered, living his life as he always had. A solid citizen, a pillar of the community. But all that evaporated the instant the kid came through the front door determined to make trouble.

“Do you know who I am?” the kid said, starting to stand.

Their eyes met briefly. Lars moved with surprising speed around the edge of the desk, moving so quickly that the thug tripped on his robe as he stepped backwards. Lars reached out, grabbing the kid by the hand, then hauled him to the desk. The guy tried to pull away, but Lars had him in a vice-like grip. Faster than anyone could have imagined, he slammed the kid’s hand onto the desk and drove the knife through it into the wood below.

“Let’s get one thing straight,” said Lars, pulling the knife free and holding the razor sharp blade against the kid’s neck. “You have to go back to whatever shithole you crawled out of. Now.”

No comments:

Post a Comment