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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Foreign Language (12/09/10)

TITLE: Of Men and Of Angels
By Michael Throne
12/16/10


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He was ancient.

“No, not like that. Look. Like this!”

The old man followed Lee’s movements as best he could, but it was clear he didn’t understand a word. It didn’t help any that he was missing three fingers.

“Like this!

Mohsen struggled to fold the box together the way he had been shown.

“I need a boxer, not some burned out old man! Look at him!” Lee was angry, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He seemed ready to explode.

Tom, the owner, stood with his arms folded. “I’ve hired him,” he said, “and he’s staying.” Tom hesitated. “Just deal with it.”

Lee watched as Tom walked into his office, then he kicked the nearest box. “Great.” He stared at Mohsen with cold disgust. “He won’t last the week.”

“Give him a chance.” It was Scott, our resident do-gooder.

Lee glared at him. “Fine. You train him.” He pulled out a cigarette and stomped off to the dock.

Scott worked with him, at least he tried. It was tough since Mohsen didn’t speak English, but he slowly went through the motions of assembling the box a number of times and Mohsen eventually caught on, though his hands were so stiff it was obvious he’d never be fast enough.

“Look at him,” James said, stopping next to me with a master box on his shoulder. “He’s a freaking old man.” He was talking to me, but he said it right at him, knowing he couldn’t understand and not caring even if he could.

And he was right.

Later that morning, Lee was still fuming. “I don’t know how Tom expects us to meet quota with an invalid like this. He looks like he’s going to fall over any minute. Hey, pick it up, Mohammad!

“Let him be,” Scott insisted.

At noontime, the stench of curry filled the lunch room. I stopped the microwave and yanked out his lukewarm plate. “Here,” I said, “take it.”

The next day was more of the same.

“Aw, come on!” said James. “If you can’t do better than that, go back to Afghanistan!”

“Iran,” said Scott.

“Wherever.”

The comments came from all of us, repeatedly, without mercy. The funniest ones came from Lee.

“Hey, Mohammad, why don’t you ask Cathy out? I hear she likes older men.”

“Leave him alone,” Scott would say.

We were genuinely surprised when Mohsen showed up again Monday.

“What do you suppose he did back in Iran?” It was Lee, standing near him with a smirk on his face. “Probably never worked an honest day in his life.”

“I’ll bet he was a shepherd,” I said.

“Or maybe a camel herder,” snorted James. “I can just see him riding one.” He did his best impression and we all rolled in laughter.

“He was a writer,” said Scott.

“What, for some foreign newspaper?”

“Probably.”

“I’ll bet he was lousy at that, too.” Lee made an impatient motion with his hands. “Faster, Mohammad.”

Mohsen nodded.

Tuesday was a bad day even for Mohsen. His hands just wouldn’t move and then he put the wrong stickers on an entire cart full of boxes.

“That’s enough!” Lee yelled, and he marched angrily toward Tom’s office.

He returned with an uncharacteristically stoic expression.

A few minutes later, James came pushing through carrying a master box and practically ran over the old man. “Hey, watch where you’re going! I nearly dropped my load!”

Several of us snickered, but Lee grabbed James' shirt and shoved him hard into the wall. The box fell to the ground.

“Let him be!” Lee’s face turned red.

“Hey, get off!”

“Let him be, do you hear?”

We were shocked.

“Yeah. Whatever.”

The shop went silent.


At noon, I took my lunch bag over to the dock and sat down. Lee came and sat near me, though he didn’t say anything. He smoked a cigarette, staring out into the parking lot. When he finished, he lit another.

“His fingers,” Lee said, finally. “You know what happened?”

I shook my head.

“They tortured him.”

“Really?”

“Yep. Wrote some articles against the government, I guess.” Lee flicked his cigarette into the parking lot.

“They tortured him because of something he wrote?”

Lee shook his head. “No. Not just that.”

He took another cigarette out of his pack.

“So, what, then?”

Lee shrugged.

“He refused to betray his friends.”

We glanced at each other in a silent acknowledgement of the truth we had suspected for years.

Our lives were meaningless.

Absolutely meaningless.


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This article has been read 660 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Brenda Rice 12/16/10
This is one of favorites so far. Good conversation between the men. Very realistic. Great message.
Mildred Sheldon12/19/10
A well written story and so very true of how we treat people who cannot understand our language. I love it when God teaches us lessons in humility which he often does because our eyes are wide shut. I enjoyed this story immensely. Keep writing.
Joanne Sher 12/20/10
Wow - so very powerful. Superbly written.
Leola Ogle 12/23/10
Congrats on a superb job and 1st place. Love your style!!!
Margaret Kearley 12/23/10
This is so powerful Michael and well deserves first place. It really touched my heart. A strong strong message. Congratulations.
Lollie Hofer 12/23/10
Congratulations on your well-deserved win. I think we all can learn a lot from your writing style. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/23/10
Congratulations on first place for a truly superb piece.
Virgil Youngblood 12/23/10
Congratulations on your well deserved first place award.
Rita Garcia12/23/10
Congratulations on you First Place Editor Choice award! I really enjoyed your writing style!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/23/10
Wow what a touching story. It reminds me to give thanks for how blessed I am. Congratulations on your EC!
Fern Brown12/23/10
Congratulations! This is a super story and very touching. God bless you as you write for Him.
Joni LeRette-Flores 12/23/10
Wow. What a moving piece.
Jasti Victor12/23/10
Michael, the title, the dialogue, the subject - each one of it was apt, proper and touching. Congratulations.
Emily Carlson12/25/10
Wow! I was really moved by this. What a powerful short and what a unique perspective. Thanks for sharing it and congrats!
Janice Fitzpatrick03/10/11
Congrats. I haven't been on Faith in a while and just saw this. Wow. Great job!! I like the way you worked the dialogue and characters. How you showed the change of Lee's heart, after he had found out the truth of the old man was well done. So much truth in this and realistic setting. Thank you for writing this!
Carol Penhorwood 06/09/11
I have a lump in my throat.