The Caper of the Amalie Clan
Rama Amalie deftly curled his long, brown fingers around the heavy, new-looking plank door and slowly, gently eased it shut on his knuckles. He eased his fingers out as he silently shut it the rest of the way. He held it shut with one hand. In the other, he held a purple velvet bag which he set down in the dust. He put both his hands over the large latch and pushed it over to hold the door shut. He hadn’t made a sound.
The light from the apartment above showed him to be young for such a nighttime adventure, thirteen or fourteen, probably. His black eyes were wide open in a look of joy and his chin was lifted as in some triumph. The fingers of his right hand were cut in several places. He looked up and down the alley very carefully. Oddly, he failed to look at the door where he had left dots of blood soaking indelibly into the new wood.
Rama picked up the velvet bag and ran quietly into the shadows of the alley. His dark skin and black shorts and shirt made him almost invisible. His bare feet hit the littered, slimy, broken pavement as he ran. He stopped at the end of the alley where it joined the long straight street that led to the beach. Again he checked, looking back down the alley, then up and down the street. His eyes were still bright with an almost hysterical look of triumph!
Darkened shops lined the near side of the empty street. Across the street and all the way down the far side was a steep slope covered with gravel and brambles. As Rama made a final check before moving on, a rat from the dingy alley raced across his feet. He sucked air in through his teeth and shivered. He held firmly to the velvet bag, crouched low, and ran across the rock and root to pull himself up. One hand held the bag, one was bloody. Rama was quickly up and over the top of the hill.
The brambles thinned out. Rama turned and sped down a steep, sandy incline on the seat of his pants to the road below. The only sound was the swish of the sliding sand as he dug in his heels to keep himself from sliding too fast and falling.
He ran silently across the road and onto the stairs to the beach. He ran down the stairs and to the right, crouched, and continued on toward a street light that lit a circle of beach by a large rock. He dove between the rock and some wind whipped trees and bushes. Swiftly he curled his legs in beside him and became part of the rock and bush. He lay there panting in loud and painful bursts. The hand with the velvet gab was dug into his abdomen, his free hand was pressed to his chest. His thin pointy shoulders heaved.
After a few minutes, Rama’s shoulders were still. He uncoiled himself from around the rock and moved to a sitting position. He edged over to the light, put the velvet bag in his lap and unfolded the cloth. One by one he lifted its contents to the light. He looked at each in a loving, tender way. In the street light his hair shown almost blue-black. It was tied back at his neck. His face was oval. His nose was long and barely hooked at the end. His mouth was thin and straight but showed a slight smile. His eyes still glowed – a wild joy showed in them
Finally, Rama closed the bag, held it in his hand again and raised his arm to the sky. He threw his arms apart and let himself fall on his back on the sand. His arms and legs stretched out like a star. His shoulders shook. He began to laugh – a low, quiet, satisfied laugh.
By Nancy H. Gray, Newark, Delaware – November 11, 2014
Peace and Poetry Press
Originally written after a trip to Beirut, The Lebanon in 1967.