Page 44 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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Corolla, Ahmed ran into the garage
excitedly and out of breath.
“Did you hear what happened in
Tunisia?” he said.
“What the hell do I care about
what’s going on in Tunisia?” Marwan
retorted, continuing to rock back and
forth in time with the sound of the
“Couldn’t you once in a while
humor me by at least feigning inter-
est about what’s going on outside your
garage?” Ahmed snapped. “Ben Ali’s
gone. He’s gone! That thieving bas-
tard and his family ran off like roaches
when you flip the light switch in the
“Great,” responded Marwan.
“Now what? Who else is going to run
the damn country?”
“The people will run it, you don-
key. They’re going to have a democ-
“Ahmed, if the people in Tunisia
are anything like us, what do they
know about running a country?”
“Don’t you get it?” Ahmed was ir-
ritated. “Our leaders aren’t any bet-
ter than us. They aren’t any smarter
than us. They don’t have any more
right to rule us than we have to rule
“Wait a sec. I thought we were
talking about Tunisia.”
“Exactly — we’ve been
Ahmed responded, lowering his voice.
“Maybe it’s time to get rid of the
thieves who run this country.”
Marwan stopped pulling on the
socket wrench. “What do you mean,
“Mohamed, Yousef and a few of the
other guys have been talking,” Ahmed
said. “And we’re not the only ones.
We’re talking about maybe doing
“Really?” spat Marwan. “What the
hell are you guys going to do? I’ll tell
you: you’re going to get yourselves
“Maybe,” retorted Ahmed. “But
we’ve had enough.” And he left.
A couple of weeks went by. Mar-
wan didn’t see as much of Ahmed as
he did before. In fact, there were
some days when Ahmed’s shop didn’t
open at all. It worried him. True, he
used to give Ahmed a hard time about
all that nonsense he used to spew in
between drags on his cigarette. But
Ahmed was a good man. And Marwan
was starting to worry about what he
was up to.
A few days later, while Marwan’s
head was buried under the hood of a
Honda Civic that was hopelessly be-
yond repair, he heard noise from up
the street. It sounded like chanting,
and it grew stronger as the seconds
went by.
The street that ran past his shop led
to the city square, and that’s where the
crowd beginning to pass was headed.
The slogans they sang and those painted
on the banners were not going to be re-
ceived well. Hell, Marwan couldn’t re-
member a demonstration of any sort in
his lifetime — and he was 30.
As the demonstrators passed, Mar-
wan saw Ahmed among them, pump-
ing his fist in the air.
Marwan disappeared once again
under the hood of the Honda. And he
was deeply troubled.
The next morning, Marwan went to
his garage. As he began to turn the
key in the door, he suddenly stopped
and turned to look at Ahmed’s shop.
He pulled the key out of the door and
walked over. The light inside was on.
He pulled on the door. Locked. Mar-
wan looked at his watch: it was 8:55,
just five minutes before the store
should open. He tapped on the glass.
He tapped again, harder this time.
Ahmed suddenly appeared from
behind the counter. He was limping.
He turned the deadbolt on the door
and opened it.
“Good morning,” he greeted Mar-
“What the hell is wrong with your
leg?” Marwan asked.
“I fell on the steps at my house,”
lied Ahmed.
“Right. I saw you yesterday,
Ahmed. Marching with those lu-
natics. Are you trying to get yourself
“Marwan,” Ahmed sighed, “Do
you even know what happened in
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 1 2
Ahmed always had an
opinion about everything,
and spoke a little too
loudly about things better
left undiscussed for
Marwan’s taste.
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