Joseph ibn Battuta lives in a rooming house in Balaclava with two old men and three flea-ridden dogs and prays to Allah five times a day to relieve him of his misery.

Though he has grown used to the smell of urine embedded in the worn floral carpet, he steers clear of the dogs.

“What sort of bloke are you?” cries old Bob.

“In my country….” begins Joseph.

“Well, you’re not in your country, are you?”

Joseph takes a wide berth and serves Bob his bacon and eggs from the other side of the table.

Bob picks up a strip of bacon with cracked fingernails and tears it in half. He drops one strip to the floor for Blue and the other into his mouth.

“You don’t eat bacon either,” Bob grumbles. “What sort of a bloke are you anyway?”

“In my country…” begins Joseph.

“In your country! This is your country now!”

In his country rows of tents line the foot of a mountain and a woman all in grey carries a pile of flat bread loaves from tent to tent.  Behind her, a boy with a ladle strapped to his back,  shifts a bucket of hot tea from hand to hand.

If a dog approaches, he picks up a stone and fires.

Joseph puts two slices of bread in the toaster and heads for the doorway. Blue follows.

Joseph changes course and dashes out the back  door. Bob is laughing.

He returns with his own plate and cutlery.

Joseph’s breakfast: toast, cheese, honey.

Blue approaches.

“No!” cries Joseph, but as he raises his hand, the cheese falls from his toast.  Blue gobbles it up. Bob laughs. Game lost.

Joseph moves down the other end of the bench and begins again. Toast. Cheese. Honey.

Blue approaches. Joseph kicks. On purpose, he misses.

“Go back where you came from!” growls Bob.

Joseph washes his own dishes, but for the first time in eight months, leaves Bob’s.

10a.m. Jospeh makes the beds. Electric blankets on number 3.

The dogs doze with their masters in front of the tv.

11a.m. Joseph collects the shopping trolley. He locks the front door behind him and then goes round to lock the back door.

11.30. Joseph has money in his pocket. He buys halal cheese from Coles, apples and coke.

12 noon. Joseph sits at an outdoor table in Café Carlisle and plays with his mobile phone.  He orders coffee.

5pm. Yet another coffee and the sirens start. Even at this distance he can smell the  smoke.

Joseph has always liked playing Pac-Man. He remembers his mother laughing as Pac-Man devours its ghosts.

Mum, it’s all about patterns. You only deviate from your pattern in order to devour a major prize.

7.30 pm The waiters are cleaning up. Joseph pays $30 for $20 worth of coffees. Keep the change.

He walks. Free.  But, as he walks, a sense, a smell, a shiver, a sound that makes no sound but echoes a pattern strangely familiar.

He turns. Blue, patches bare skin. He is shivering.

There are no rocks to throw in Carlisle St. He can not shoo the dog, he cannot kick the dog, he cannot shout at the dog. This is Australia.

Joseph sits down on a bench. Blue follows.

And when the police arrive and ask him for his next of kin, Kandahar is burning. His mother is screaming.

You only deviate from your pattern mother, for a major prize.

“Who is your next of kin, son?”

Joseph reaches down and pats Blue.

“Come on boy, we’ll find you and your dog somewhere to sleep.”

Article by Author/s
Anita Jawary
Anita Jawary is a Melbourne writer, poet and artist. She has worked as a freelance journalist, teacher and academic and is now retired. Her passions are good writing, good art, and exploring the fork in the tree where the two meet, nest and gestate.

6 Comments

  1. Paula Darvas Reply

    Anita, a beautiful story reflecting on the human condition.

  2. Thank you Debbie. I’m so pleased you enjoyed this story and that you appreciate the writing.

  3. Thank you Lili. I”m so pleased you enjoyed this story. And also that you enjoyed my art work. Many thanks for your feedback.

  4. Thank you Nita for this insightful story.
    I enjoyed it very much.!!! The characters are so real and the neighbourhood familiar…
    Your illustration of Pac-Man as the heading for this story is delightful and easy to relate.
    Looking forward to reading more of your works.
    ‍♀️Lili ❣️

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