Seamus O’ Hanlon was a very lucky man, the luck of the Irish of course, born in sight of the Blarney Stone, full of joy with his life: a story to tell at every given opportunity. The night before he’d had a good old round of luck in his poker game with the boys. They only played for 1 riyal notes mind, not wanting to fall out with friends. Nonetheless, he’d won a fair few games and as he counted the notes that he’d stuffed into the pockets of his shorts the night before, he could see that he had a decent amount, maybe a hundred and twenty notes, all in ones, which was a bit of an unwieldy wedge in his wallet but he was planning on spending it, so no concerns there.
It was the Eid holiday, so Seamus knew that the mall would be fairly quiet at 10 o clock in the morning. The locals would have had a very late night celebrating Eid with family and friends, eating late into the night and sleeping in, so he didn’t expect there to be many locals in the shops at all. Maybe a few Westerners enjoying the holiday with a bit of consumerist gratification. A couple of people wanting to escape the blazing heat by shopping maybe. Seamus still banked on the fact that the mall would be quiet. Quiet enough to venture out with the kids to get them some new trainers without having to worry too much about crowds. He could take the kids and give the wife a lie in, get some trainers for the kids with his poker money and earn some brownie points with the wife at the same time. Yes, it was a good plan.
He had a quick scan at the news before he left. Same old nonsense on the TV about terrorism and fear. The war on terror with no real explanation of what the terror was, only an implication of blame. Seamus couldn’t believe that some people at home listened to that nonsense. He felt lucky to live in the Middle East, happy and healthy and, he wouldn’t exactly describe himself as wealthy, or affluent, but comfortable financially, yes, with a nice little tax free income to soften life’s financial burdens...
The kids couldn’t find their decent sandals, so he threw their old scuffed flip flops on their feet. They were only off to the Mall, it wouldn’t matter. He was a bit hung over from the night before and he didn’t want to disturb the wife either, so they left the house in a quick flurry without brushing his daughter’s hair. His son’s t shirt was on inside out too but Seamus didn’t really mind. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, it was hot. Not too hot yet, the early morning sun was just comfortable and the kids were happy in their flip flops and their scruffy clothes for playing in.
The mall was as quiet as he’s anticipated; he’d been right about Eid. It was a family day, a day for charity and food and celebration. He found the shop he wanted for the kids’ trainers and they quickly tried them on. The two kids were blonde haired and drew the usual friendly good natured glances from shop keepers. As he walked up to pay, Seamus noticed a woman in an abaya in the shop. She had noticed his daughter and was giving her a crinkly smile; the kids were used to seeing women in abayas after living in the Middle East for the last three years, so his daughter smiled back at the woman and greeted her in Arabic.
Seamus went to the till to pay; he knew his children were safe in the shop, especially under the watchful eye of a friendly Muslim woman. He reached the counter with the shoes and smiled to himself as he realised his poker earnings would pay the bill. The shop assistant asked for the money and Seamus smiled again as he counted out the one riyal notes. It took a while to count the hundred and twenty five but he reached the total eventually and handed over the cash to the slightly bewildered assistant who was more used to cards than cash and certainly not used to being paid in one riyal notes. He was ready to go and turned to find the kids. The lady in the abaya had found what she wanted and was behind him in the line. She’d seen him pay in ones and gave him a friendly smile. He saw her glance at the children’s feet and at his son’s inside out t shirt and felt a momentary twinge of embarrassment because although the abaya is not the most beautiful garment in the world, being basically an all over black sheet, even with Seamus’ unpractised eye, he could see that her abaya was rather wonderful, with intricate embroidery in gold thread decorating the front. He looked at the kids in their flip flops and gave the woman a sheepish smile, lifting his carrier bag as if to indicate that he was really a good father, buying new shoes for his kids.
He smiled once more as he left the shop, ready for home and a grateful wife, ready for a dip in the pool with the kids maybe. This was a lucky, sunny life. He was a little startled when the shop assistant grasped him quickly by the shoulder outside the store. Seamus wondered if he’s miscounted the notes. The shop keeper was in fact grasping the notes, all one hundred and twenty five, in his hand. Seamus hoped the boys hadn’t been teasing him with forgeries. The shop assistant caught his breath; he’s obviously had to run to catch up Seamus and the kids. Then he explained that the lady in the abaya had paid for the shoes. He was returning Seamus’ money and he thrust the notes back into Seamus’ hand with an enormous grin.
Seamus grinned back but felt a little puzzled...why had the woman in the abaya paid for his children’s shoes? Then he looked at his kids, two blonde haired kids in their playing clothes and scruffy flip flops, his son with his inside out t shirt and his daughter’s unbrushed hair. The shop assistant was repeating a word that Seamus couldn’t quite understand, until his daughter piped up “Eid, Dad, he’s saying Eid”. Seamus smiled at the man, said thank you and shook his hand. It was Eid, the day of charity. The woman in the abays thought that he’s been saving his one riyal notes until he could afford to buy new shoes for his kids. Her charitable act of Eid was to buy the shoes for him. Seamus smiled again as he stuffed the notes back in his pocket, ready for next week’s poker game...