New Fiction: ‘The Last Stop’ by Hany Ali Said

The Last Stop

By Dr. Hany Ali Said
Translated by Ibrahim Sayed Fawzy

“I’ll be the one to bring Setty today, Baba,” I tell my father with all the vigor of childhood. I’ll bring my grandmother from my uncle’s home, as is our weekly custom. In a state of ecstasy, I sprint to my uncle’s home. When I reach it, I find the door wide open, as usual, since it’s a vintage wooden door the sides of which don’t meet, so that it stays open day and night.

I walk up “the bridge,” which is the name I’ve given to the entrance hall in my uncle’s home, because it’s higher than the other rooms. I hardly see my grandmother sitting in her permanent dark place on the right, although electricity has lit our village’s homes for five years. “Setty,” I call, and she replies as if she’s been waiting for me: “Who? Semsem?” I tell her: “Yes! Baba wants you to come over and have dinner with us today. ”

“I was just there. And as for food, I’ve just eaten,” she says, as she always does. I interrupt her delaying tactics: “Come on, or I’ll carry you on my back.”

“You are all talk,” she says, with her distinctive humor. “Well, hand me the walking stick.” I give her the walking stick and grip her hand tightly, lest she falls from the high entrance hall. She repeats: “I don’t know when your uncle will remodel this corridor.”

She sucks in all her breath and orders me to close the door, and I give a loud laugh, since I’d known she would say that. It’s our custom.

Although the distance between our home and my uncle’s is no more than a hundred meters, my grandmother had grown used to dividing this weekly walk into three stops. The first stop was Grandpa Saad’s house, where she’d ask forgiveness for the man who had hit her with his motorbike while bringing my grandfather’s pension and begin narrating this accident in detail. My eyes, meanwhile, would stray to my companions playing football, and paid no attention until my hand clutched a pound slipped into it by my grandmother, who winked and said, “Take this to buy some sweets and keep it secret.”

I take it timidly, and yet I’m extremely happy inside. My eyes stray once more to the ball that my friend Hamada has kicked, as it hits Grandpa Saad, who curses out the boys. And at this moment, I notice my grandmother’s hand holding mine, and she says laughingly while nodding to my Grandpa Saad: “Let’s flee or we will be hit.”

The walking stick precedes us as if it’s exploring our way. However, my grandmother trips over a small stone and nearly falls on the ground, saying, “Watch out for the brick, Sami!” We pass the second stop, after my grandmother has stayed a few minutes. After that, she almost can’t find her breath.

“When I die, will you recite the Fatiha for me, Sami?” she asks, and I wish her a long life. Then we salute Grandpa Mosaad, the owner of the second stop, who is more mild-mannered than Grandpa Saad. We see him as we usually do, a cigarette straddling his hand as he salutes us with a cough, spray flying over our faces. This spurs my grandmother to hurry, despite her acute slowness. As she speeds off, she shouts at Mosaad Junior, the grandson of my Grandpa Mosaad, to stop bothering me, “Let him be, boy.” At the same time, I take shelter behind her from Mosaad Junior’s insidious punches. Meanwhile, Grandpa Mosaad giggles, saying, “Kill him. Strike him. Give him more, Mosaad Junior.” My grandmother, invoking the blight of Allah upon then, whispers: “Drop dead, the both of you.”

After this comes the last stop, Grandpa Sayed’s, which arrives whilst we are moving at a slow pace. When she gets to this stop, my grandmother usually says, “Sami, have you moved your home?!” Before completing her sentence, we hear my father’s voice calling me, “Hold your grandmother’s hand and watch out, boy.” I touch the pound in my pocket, pass her hand into my father’s and jog to Um Muhammad’s shop, after hearing my grandmother greeting and hugging my father in a tender voice, “How is it going, Muhammad? Is it Okay that I don’t see you? Okay, you son of a shoe.” Her words come to an end at the moment she sits in our entrance hallway which is better than my uncle’s.

Standing in front of my grandmother’s graveyard five years after her death, I remember all these things. My voice rises with prayers that are stifled by the tears that hanging from my eyelashes. I imagine white wings around me. Her radiant appearance manifests itself among these wings. I can hardly see the cane in her hand, but I can almost hear her voice calling, “Sami, will you recite the Fatiha for me when I die?”

This time, I can’t wish her a long life. I remember her words until I nearly faint, but for a loud hubbub that overwhelms me from far away: “Confess the ones of Allah.” I suck in my tears and look behind me to find a funeral heading to the last stop. I wipe my eyes and move away, keeping myself out of sight among the dead, repeating: “Peace be upon you! This is the home of the believing people.” I grope around for the pound she has given me, yet I don’t find it.      

*

Dr. Hany Ali Said is an Egyptian professor of Arabic Rhetoric and Literary Criticism at Fayoum University, Egypt and Qassim University, Saudi Arabia. His first collection of short stories, Ṣada al-Ṣamt (The Echo of Silence), was published in 2014. His latest collection of short stories Farāshāt Kāfkā (Kafka’s Butterflies) is forthcoming in 2021.

Ibrahim Fawzy is an Assistant Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts, Fayoum University, Egypt. He earned his MA in Comparative Literature (2021) from Fayoum University, Egypt. He has participated in many translation workshops organized by Modern Poetry in Translation (MPT) and Poetry Translation Center (PTC), and he volunteered at ALTA’s 44th annual conference, 2021. His first literary translation appeared in Merit Cultural Magazine.

Translator’s note:  

Simply written, Dr. Hany Said’s The Echo of Silence (Sindbad, 2014) includes 25 short stories and short-short stories that tackle issues of silence, voice, revolution, death, and language. Dr. Hany Said uses silence as the objective correlative of death to depict significant moments in the lives of his characters. While some stories portray realistic events in detail, others are surrealist, yet with a realist core.

In The Last Stop, Dr. Hany Said recollects his childhood and his relationship with his grandmother. Poignantly written, The Last Stop revolves around the Egyptian countryside, its traditions, family and death. In addition, it tackles the stages of life, where the final stop symbolizes death. The pound represents memory; one of the collection’s themes is the contradiction between materialism and spirituality.

My translation tries to bring the reader to the Egyptian countryside and to reproduce Dr. Hany Said’s straightforward and poignant voice. Conveying the atmosphere of this story involves translating idioms such as “ʾibn al-Ṣarmah” (son of a shoe), “mūtah fī qalbak” (drop dead) and “bakāsh” (all talk). I hope I have done justice to Dr. Hany Said’s short story .

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