The Day before Ramadan Bayrami

Submitted into Contest #132 in response to: Start your story with a character saying “Are you there, God? It’s me…”... view prompt

7 comments

Coming of Age Fiction Friendship

Are you there God? It’s me Emin. I’m worried Dad might find the gift from Aunt Donna. He’s unpacking our things out the boxes from Milwaukee. I know secrets are bad, so I’m not sure what to do. Dad always tells me not to ask you for things, and that I should ask you to show me a sign for what to do. Please show me something this week. Thank you.


“We are moving to Chicago!” when my dad said that, I was sure he was joking because he tricked me so many times with stories like that, and he never tells me the truth until the very end when he's trying to trick me.


Dad says Turkish people love practical jokes. He told me the story many time of how the Turkey vice president told the pilot to pretend to crash the airplane just to scare the president. When the president's face turned white, and he really thought the plane was going to crash, everyone told him it’s just a joke. So now they still laugh at him every time he gets on an airplane. Only Turkish people would do something like that silly that's for sure.


We just moved in today and everything in Chicago looks different than Milwaukee. The houses are a lot farther away from each other and I almost don't see anyone walking outside.


We moved here the day before the end of Ramadan. I know because Dad keeps checking his calendar and talking about what he's going to eat. I'm excited to look at everything in our new house, but he seems more excited about eating tomorrow at Uncle Hamza's than anything else. Uncle Hamza used to live with us in our house when I was four years old, but I don't remember much about him.


This month Dad only eats a little bit at nighttime, and stays hungry all day. He’s not easy to talk to in the daytime, but Dad says it’s good to feel what it’s like to be poor. But I already feel poor, because at school I don’t have as many computer games as everyone else has. Well I can’t imagine not eating all day. I don’t think a kid my age could go to school that way. And I would miss the chocolate milk my mom keeps in the fridge. Luckily I still have a few years to go before my dad says I get to decide whether to join him.


Mom stays quiet about all this. She says she’s “Irish Catholic”. She took me to our favorite diner for lunch a few times this month to eat what she calls brunch. She told me to eat extra, and not tell dad about it. Sometimes at lunch she complains about my dad., when her face gets red and her cheeks look like a balloon ready to burst, suddenly then she will say my dad is a good man and that I shouldn’t trust any other man no matter what. Then she looks at her mobile phone by herself for a while until she gets back to normal.


She seems happy we are moving to Chicago, they finally decided after arguing a lot about it. I would listen from my bedroom door and could hear most of it.


We’ve always lived in Milwaukee, our part of town is called Cudahy. That’s where all my mom's relatives are. My mom’s family is really different from my dads. Mom is the only one that doesn’t drink beer. When I meet my aunts and uncles that’s mostly what they do, and talk really loud and play poker after dinner.


The craziest one is Aunt Donna. When Aunt Donna comes over, she only comes to our biggest parties, she gets grabby. Last time her arm came out and grabbed me when I was walking past her. She held onto me and looked at everyone and said “He’s growing! I think he’s getting bigger”, and rocked her head back and forth and everyone laughed loud. She said the girls will like me when I’m older, and squeezed me in tight. I felt her boobs all over me, it was so embarrassing. 


My parents say she owns an Irish bar. I think there’s a lot of dangerous people there since we have never been there even once. I want to avoid Aunt Donna, but sometimes she gives me 20 dollars, and my mom says I need to say hello.


The worst thing is my dad makes me buy things for other people when I get money like that. I don’t know why he does this because most of the kids never buy me anything back. He says the gift I receive from God of knowing who to trust is way more valuable than the toy I gave away.


Anyways, yesterday Aunt Donna surprised my mom and came over to visit in the morning and suddenly gave me the best gift in my life, and said she’s going to miss me. That was a surprise for me too. I really don’t want to have to sell her gift or give it away, so I haven't told Dad about it yet.


In Chicago in our new house, everything is white. It doesn’t have wood paneling or smell moldy like our old house. We lived next to Lake Michigan and sometimes it would get foggy in the middle of the afternoon. My mom says that makes things “humid”. A word she says that I don’t really understand. She says Chicago will be a lot sunnier and she smiles every time she says that.


I hope I can make friends in Chicago. When I think about going to the cafeteria the first day of school and not knowing where to sit, I turn red just like mom and I feel dizzy thinking about it. When I worry like this, Mom tells me to pray to God for help and things will be ok. Dad also tells me to pray, and then to pick a page in the Quran and think about what it says and ask him about it when he gets home from work. It feels like almost the same thing to me.


On the way in the car to Uncle Hamza’s house, I smell Mom’s special occasion perfume.


“Hoşgeldin Emin!” A big man with a mustache opens the door.


“Hi Uncle Hamza”. Because I’m not sure how to say hello back in Turkish. 


“Welcome to our home Emin! Be on your best behavior today. We are considering you for adoption today and will let your parents know after our party!” He then smiles really big.


There’s a boy standing behind him, and Uncle Hamza introduces me to Ethan, my cousin. Who is not really my cousin. He looks mean and a lot bigger than me.


“Bruh, do you want to see my room?”


I want to escape the smiling kidnapping Uncle, so I nod.


“Hey dad I’m going to go to Ethan’s room”


“Stay out of trouble!”, he says. I don’t know what sort of trouble could be in Ethan’s room.


I follow Ethan up a wood staircase, and then down a big hallway. He opens a heavy looking fancy door. Inside I see boxes of miniature toys covering everything in his room, but instead of looking at those, he points at a poster with a big C on it and asks.


“Do you like the Bears?” 


“Hmm, yeah, they’re good I guess.”


I don’t know what to say about them because I’m not from Chicago. It’s awkward. I like the Green Bay Packers, who my dad and my mom’s relatives like too.


“I heard you like to play Fortnite, let’s play?”


“Whoa...how did you know that?”


“Your dad told my dad all the things you like to do”. It’s getting even more awkward. But then he points at his desk, which has two computers.


“You have two computers in your room?” 


“Yeah, I can play games with other kids my dad brings over.”


I remember my dad said Uncle Hamza got rich in Chicago. Hamza didn’t have any money when he lived in our house when he first came from Trabzon. But now I think my dad might work for Uncle Hamza in Chicago, but I’m not sure as he doesn’t answer me when I ask him about it.


“In Fortnite what skins do you use?”


“I like Abstrakt”


He logs us into his computers. I see a lot of other games I’ve never played before on the bottom of the screen.


“In Fortnite, are you a builder?”


“Yeah I'll set up my hotkeys”


“You pick up all the mats. I’ll splash you with shields. Let’s go for easy kills”


“I’m fine with that”. We jump off the bus a minute later, and play for at least a few hours before dinner.


Later I think I will ask Ethan if he wants to use the gift I got from Aunt Donna and give it back later, Dad would like that.



‘One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered’


Proverbs 11:24


‘Those who do not follow up their charity with reminders of their generosity, shall get their reward from their Lord, and have no fear and no sorrow’


The Qu’Ran 2:262



February 12, 2022 04:52

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7 comments

Craig Westmore
14:49 Feb 13, 2022

Nice contrast of cultures. I wanted to know a little bit about the food that his dad is looking forward to eat. I was curious how his dad interacts with his mom's family and vice-versa. Is it friendly? Strained? I am very curious about this family and want to read more!

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16:02 Feb 13, 2022

thx so much for your comments, that's such a good point, his mom & dad are sort of described separately in the son's viewpoint, I could have written more about their interactions with their very different families in more detail, next chapter;) And good point on food. i've been suggesting others to include more specific nouns, I could have included more food details, I was hungry myself just thinking about fasting.

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08:55 Feb 15, 2022

just watched Reedsy's 'How to introduce characters' on youtube, reminded me of some of the things you mentioned. need to make sure i refer people here to shaelin's great videos!

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Craig Westmore
20:20 Feb 17, 2022

Reedsy does make good videos!

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Mae Stroshane
02:42 Feb 13, 2022

You really channel this boy's voice well! I have good Turkish friends who have a good sense of humor and generosity, stemming from their deep Muslim faith. Once my husband and his Turkish friends performed at an Iftar dinner and a Turkish friend said, "Can we hear songs in English instead?" We all laughed. Cultural adjustment is difficult and especially hard for Muslims these days. You make us care about Emin and his new life. Well done!

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10:12 Feb 13, 2022

Thanks so much for your kind words, and I'm happy someone else relates to some of these themes. Your friends sound fun! Myself coming from Wisconsin and having had limited knowledge of different cultures, when I moved overseas and encountered amazing hospitality from so many Muslim friends and coworkers , who can be so trusting, generous and have such a great sense of humor, always felt I want to help intercultural understanding whenever I get the chance.

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05:02 Feb 12, 2022

It was a challenging writing project to combine some good aspects of the Muslim religion I learned from a good friend, with parts of my childhood in Milwaukee, speaking through a 10 year old voice on what a multicultural family might experience. Thanks for having a look;)

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