Saturday, April 23, 2005

Salam Pax's "Scary War Story"

Salam Pax posted this blog entry nearly two years ago, but I have used it in my reading classes because it offers the reader an up-close and personal view of one slice of life in Baghdad. The story also shows an economical and effective use of dialogue to make you feel like you're in the taxi along with Salam.

Scary War Story

Salam Pax

I was trying to get a taxi at 10:30 last night (which is a stupid and dumb thing to do in the first place – curfew is still at 11:00) so this car stops and we agree on a 2000 dinar fare. The moment I sit in the car he starts cursing and swearing at them.

Suddenly he stops in mid-sentence, turns to me, and asks angrily, “Are you a Muslim?”

He has a Muslim-looking beard, is angry, and I definitely don’t want to start a theological discussion with him. “Yes, Alhamdulillah. I am a Muslim.”

“Are you working with them?”

Oh dear, I thought, this is not going anywhere good. “No! Of course not. Why should I?”

Pause.

“So do you think if I hide a hand grenade under the dash board they would be able to find it?”

Shit-shit-shit. “Listen I really think you should be careful because they have equipment which is able to detect these things. You really shouldn’t carry a hand grenade around."

“Aha! So you know what equipment they use!”

Shit. “No, no. I said they might have this sort of equipment.”

Just then we pass a US patrol, one Humvee and a couple of soldiers on foot. He slows down and looks intensely at them. They are on my side and he leans on me to look out of the window. This is the point when I start wondering whether I will die from the explosion after this crazy throws the grenade or from the retaliation fire. He decides to shout stuff and whizzes off.

I think I was in a car with a loony suicide last night. I wanted to ask why he wanted to hide a hand grenade in his car but I was really, really scared. He just might decide to stick the hand grenade down my throat, because it is Halal to kill those who are agents of the infidel occupier.

What do you do when you are in a car with someone who asks you about the best place to hide a hand grenade?

Now you might say that he is part of that movement which calls itself al-Auda [the return] and is planning attacks here and there (I wish people would stop calling them sporadic but I will get to that in a moment). What makes this guy even more dangerous is that he is not part of the Ba’athi underground plot to re-emerge. He is one of the loonies who have taken the call to Jihad issued by the Imam of the abu-Hanifa mosque seriously. And these people just play so easily into the hands of the Auda. Anyway this Auda rumor needs some serious confirmation because I haven’t seen anything, banner or graffiti, that actually names them.

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