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Chapter 8. An Unwelcome Visitor
The Zemunke Residence, 1984
“I am afraid I have some troubling news.”
Mr. AlHaadi announced to both of Maskat’s parents, showing up in the same beige suit he wore every day and a sweaty forehead.
“What happened to my little baby boy??!”
Mama screamed with terror. She hadn’t slept for two days waiting for her son to come back.
Professor Zemunke held her tightly to comfort her.
“Let the man speak Umm-Maskat” he told her.
“I do not know where your son is yet, but I do have some troubling complaints about his recent behaviour”
Mr. AlHaadi said with grave look to the ground.
Zemunke welcomed him through the big Omani door and into the courtyard dining table. Mama brought some tea and mandazi.
Mr. AlHaadi combed his mustache with his finger as he took a sip of tea and started talking.
“As a Fiqh teacher, I am responsible for my student’s behavior and try to help them match their own with the prophet, peace be upon him”.
“Naturally, some students come to me with anything that might be out of the ordinary. Of course, the aggressive episode that your son displayed with one of our students was troubling. However, another student called Leila came to me with further evidence that is of a much bigger nature.”
He said, pausing to take another sip.
“Evidence of what?”
Zemunke demanded, his heart racing.
“Evidence implicating Maskat with the big fire that tore down three shops in the market a few weeks ago. She saw him passing through her house and running away moments before the fire and explosion. We have reason to believe that he was involved.”
Mr. AlHaadi said shaking his head.
“It is a shame, Maskat is a good boy I know you have raised him well, but it seems like the devil has gotten the best of him. I am sorry to say that he has steered so far off from what teachings of the prophet, and we can’t punish him as a school, but I have come to let you know….”
“How dare you come and say this! I can’t even find my son and you want me to punish him. How dare you! Get out of my house!”
Mama blasted in her full powerful voice that rang in the courtyard. “Get out!”
Mr. AlHaadi was startled. His forehead started sweating again. Zemunke quickly stood up and asked Mama to calm down.
“I do not want this man in my house Zemunke! I can’t take it anymore”. Mama said.
Zemunke courted Mr. AlHaadi outside. “I am sorry it is a hard time for us, we are a little overwhelmed and worried sick. When we find him, I will speak to him about this.”
“I understand, I just wanted you know.” Mr. AlHaadi said nervously. “Someone from the town might come asking for retribution for the shop and the fire. And Azizi’s parents will not back down after their son is healed.”
“You are a great man of honor Professor Zemunke, but your son’s behavior has been one of aggression and destruction. I am sorry for the shame and worry that brings you. I am sure that we can help him find his way back” Mr. AlHaadi said and headed out of the centuries-old house.
Zemunke stood outside the Omani door and realized that he did not want to go anywhere. He was afraid to walk to town for the shame of having failed to raise his son, and he was afraid of walking back in the house for the shame he felt for not being able to find his son and the weakness Mama must see in him.
He just wished the earth would split beneath his feet and swallow him into her deep scorching core.