Keep Digging

            My grandfather had a hard life growing up. Living in an orphanage until the age of 18, he continuously worked odd jobs that never lasted very long. Supporting his family was one of the hardest things my grandfather ever had to do, but he was a hard working man who rarely complained. As my grandpa used to say, “You got no point bitching, if you don’t do anything to fix it.”

            My grandfather loved to tell people stories. He always felt that because of all of his experiences by the time he turned 62, he had a right to preach about life. Perhaps bestowing his wisdom on others was his way of coping with his own hard life. He would often go so far as to brag that his sermons were as powerful as the Sermon on the Mound. I was eight when my grandfather began preaching to me.

            A long time ago I used to work on a farm. You know, a regular ol’ farm. And on this farm was
a barn. A regular ol’ barn. And at the end of the barn was a horse stall. A regular ol’ horse stall.
And in this horse stall was a huge pile o’ shit. A huge regular ol’ pile o’ shit. So, that’s the setting, got it?

“Yeah, Papa,” I giggled, hiding my eight year old hands in front of my dimples, “I got it.”

Okay, so one day a little girl came to visit me at the farm.

A little girl like me Papa? Could you make me the little girl in the story?” I asked.

Sure,” my grandpa hesitated, “like you sweetheart.”

So as I said, one day my granddaughter came to visit me at the farm. And I took her around the regular ol’ farm. And the regular ol’ barn. And the regular ol’  horse stall. And that regular ol’ horse stall with that huge pile o’ shit. And that’s the end of the tour, the grandfather said to the granddaughter. Now I have to go do some work, the grandfather said to the granddaughter. So you keep yourself busy, but if you get bored, you come find me. So the grandfather went to work on his daily chores.

One hour passed and the granddaughter never appeared. Then three hours passed and the granddaughter never appeared. Soon, five hours had passed and the granddaughter still hadn’t shown up, so the grandfather decided to go lookin’ for her. So he went to the regular ol’ barn. And he went down to the regular ol’ horse stall. And then he saw his granddaughter or what used to be his granddaughter. In place of his precious granddaughter was a creature covered from head to foot in, of all things, horse shit! So the grandfather could only stop and wonder why, of all reasons, she was covered from head to foot in horse shit.

“What are ya’ doin’ ?” shouted the grandfather.

“Well Jesus Papa!” she shouted back, “With all this horse poop there has to be a horse in here somewhere.” And one day, she found her horse.

Papa, I don’t want to be the girl in the story anymore.”

Why not?” he asked.

Well, she’s covered in horse poop.”

Yeah but, the story’s not all bad. It just depends on how you look at it.”

“I have to pay how much?” my exasperated twenty four year old self spouted out. “I have to pay how
much?” My question barely squeaked out the third time as I handed the teller at the university my credit

“Shit.” I mumbled underneath my breath. “I’m going to have to borrow money from my parents.”

The lady’s broad smile stretched across her face as she handed me the card and my receipt.
“Have a good day,” she smiled.

“Thanks,” I grumbled back. I stuffed my credit card back into my pocket and walked away grumbling to myself. I began calculating my expenses in my head. Parking passes, textbooks, flash drive, class, not including gas, food, and other living expenses. I began walking up the stairs to my first class. I nervously crossed the threshold, took my seat and listened as the professor began explaining all the requirements of the credential program, courses, seminars, observations, the piles upon the piles of

After pausing just long enough for my brain to be reset to overload mode, the professor began
explaining the testing requirements, the courses required in addition to the program, and all the
requirements, forms, and observations that must take place after completing the program. The professor’s
voice became a small high pitched buzzing in my ears as the weight of my decision bared down on me. I
slowly breathed and reminded myself that I wanted to be here. I thought about the path that lead me here
and the people I had met along the way. The shy Chinese foreign exchange student who I tutored in
English. The at-risk teen who identified with the character in the story we read together. The kid who gave up hope for life but felt the need to express himself through poetry. My little students learning to read and struggling to overcome 2X2.

            Then it hit me. The blinding light of absolute divinity and brilliance. I’m going to be digging and digging through a lot of shit and soon I will be completely exhausted. But it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that I know there is a beautiful black mare, sparkling ebony in the sunlight, proud and strong, waiting for me. It’s mine and I only have to dig to reach it. I thought of my grandfather and I felt his story reemerge in my mind. In comparison to the grand span of my twenty four year old life, these tiny challenges will only be a small portion of the challenges I will face throughout my entire life span. So, what am I really complaining about? It’s time for me to put on my overalls and get digging. Because when it comes down to it, “You got no point bitching if you don’t do anything to fix it.” Thanks Papa, thanks for coming across my path. I’ll make ya’ proud.

Death of the Dreamers

It really is horrifying to awaken

to the realism of your adulthood.

To watch the news and read the papers

only to be told that the dreamers and heroes

of you childhood

have left this world for a better one.

Or none at all?

Or perhaps they pass out of this plane of existence

knowing that in some way,

their death signals the rebirth of another dreamer?

But if that is the case,

then what use is the dreamer?

To dream,

only to dream?

When then, does the dreamer awaken?

Goodbye: Khoda Hafez

It was about seven o’clock in the morning in the year 1993 when my mother decided to sit me down at the faded yellow picnic table that we used as a dinning room table. I remember sitting there on the hard wood chair and giggling softly as the chair rocked back and forth due to its shorter front leg. I continued to giggle my high pitched six year old giggle until my mom reached across the vast table and grabbed my tiny hands with hers. She stared hard at me with her emerald.

“Allia, it’s time for you to pay attention. You have to listen now. I need you to go to your room and pack up as much stuff as you can into your little Sleeping Beauty backpack.”

“But where are we going mom?”

“We’re going to see Miggie and Papa in Ohio.”

“Oh! Yay!”

After hearing the news I hurriedly ran to my room and began packing as many toys as I could fit into my little pink backpack. Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shop, Barbies, all my toys were crammed into my little backpack. After attempting to zip it up, my mom came into my room to check on my progress. My mother was silent. She delicately pulled out all my toys and replaced the empty void with my rainbow colored clothes.

“But Mommy, why can’t I bring my toys?”

“Sweetheart, we can only take what you can fit in your backpack.”

“But Mommy, I can’t leave them behind. They’re my friends.”

“I’m sorry, Sweetie, but we have to leave them behind.”

My little lip pouted out, expressing my stubbornness, and I crossed my tiny arms tightly across my chest. My mother looked at me and smiled softly, kissed me on my cheek, and left the room.

My dad came home at around five that night, much earlier then normal. He didn’t say a word. He just looked at my mother and told her that it was time to leave. My mother helped me put on my black wool coat and my peacock patterned shawl. I never minded wearing my big girl coat and pretty shawl. I had always enjoyed playing dress up.

We walked out of the front door of the apartment and the lock clicked louder then normal. We walked down the darkly lit hallway that smelled of saffron that leaked out from the other apartments. Out on the cool night street the taxis zoomed by, a blur of yellow. A small white van sputtered and jerked to a stop in front of us. The door slid open to expose the riders inside. Aunts, uncles, grandma, everybody in my family were there and I was temporarily blinded by all their glimmering white smiles.

After 15 minutes of silent driving we arrived at the Iranian International Airport. My father climbed out of the van and began unloading our luggage. His brown skin glistened with sweat and his black hair clung tightly to his forehead. I stepped out of the van onto the yellow curb alongside my family. I began to be covered in loving kisses and soft salty tears as I told my family “Bye, Bye”. I told them that they should not cry over my goodbye. “Don’t cry. You’ll see me again.” I told them. After a few minutes they began to lumber back into the white sputtering van, occasionally turning around to stare back at me with tear filled eyes.

I turned my tiny body around and faced solid steel double doors. Though the doors were made of steel they were terribly faded and looked as if they would fall apart at the slightest touch. Above the doors was a rusted sign bolted to the wall. To Gangway. My neck craned upward as I stared at my father through my brown almond eyes. He let out a heavy sigh and pushed open the doors. There was a long hallway illuminated a sickly yellow. The linoleum at my feet was worn and emitted no reflection of the light above, giving the hallway an even more lifeless appearance. On both sides of the hallway, acting as its walls, was bulletproof glass held together by steel and bolts. I timidly began to walk along side my father occasionally tripping over my own feet in the attempt to keep up with his. My mother glided quietly behind us with her green hooded head staring at her feet, occasionally whimpering. We began to walk down the gangway.

Time stopped.

Slowly, as I peeked through my peacock colored shawl, I saw what these hideous glass walls were trying to keep out. They were people. People as far as my tiny vision could see. They were like a sea of black and brown moving and churning preparing for the storm. Surrounded by the black sea, I saw the ivory faces of these dark ghosts. An old lady with sunken eyes had white hair that pierced out from under her shawl. Her mouth consisted of pink gums and no more then 7 yellow teeth. She kept screeching at us. They were all screaming for us to take them or help them to get out. I was so scared. My knees began to give out on me and my mouth grew dry. The tears stretched down my face in continual streams. My grip grew tight on my father’s hand. Don’t let me go, please don’t let me go. My vision began to fade and slowly blurred and my grip on my father’s hand began to loosen. Oh no! No I don’t want to be left here. Please no!

I faded into darkness.

When I awoke I was on a plane flying over the Atlantic Ocean. I sat by the aisle and my mom sat hunched over by the window. I could not see her face but I could see the wet tear stains on her lap. She was sobbing terribly. I had loved Iran and at that time, I did not understand why we had left. The revolution had come, the Shah was overthrown, and Americans were no longer safe there. At that moment I understood why my mother was crying so hard. My goodbye that I had told my family was permanent. I would never see them again.

The mother cries. The daughter understands.

(Winner of the 2008 Toyon and Sherry Debrowski Prize for Best Feminist Multi-Genre Fiction)