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Friday afternoon sunlight filtered into the room, through the open window. It was around three thirty and Faisal was at his desk, trying to study.

Screams echoed in from the next room. They reached his ears, his mind but failed to trigger a reaction.
" My fault? My fault?" his Dad, yelled in the next room.
"Yes! It's all your fault that Maruf died!" his Mom yelled back.

If only the walls of his room were sound proof, then he wouldn't have had to hear his parents fight. The screams, the yells bored into his mind, drilling a hole in his brain. If only humans had the ability to shut off all sounds, to shut the function of their ears, to go deaf at will then he wouldn't have had to endure this torture.

What is their problem, thought Faisal angrily? Can't they shut up? Why the hell did they get married in the first place? Why didn't they separate when they realized they were going to fight against each other for the rest of their lives?

He focused his eyes on his textbook, he had an exam coming, he needed to study, but this consistent screaming was disrupting his concentration.

This screaming, this fighting was the reason behind Maruf's death. Maruf had been his brother, 13, three years younger than him. Faisal's parents had shed a few tears, at the graveyard and when they had found Maruf's lifeless body hanging from the ceiling fan, five days ago. He however hadn't cried, his tears had dried up long ago.

Maruf had been the only joy in Faisal's life, other than his writing. They had kept his life sane and brought happiness in his miserable heart.

Faisal had written a lot in his life, tragedies, comedies, and dramas; every type of writing known to man. These stories no one had ever read. He had only written them to entertain Maruf.

Faisal and Maruf, they would sit in a room, Faisal would read and Maruf would listen. But the louder screams from their parents' room would leave a bigger impact on Maruf's mind than Faisal's soft words. These screams, these fights had driven him to suicide.

"What?" Faisal's father screamed with seemingly renewed vigor. Faisal tried to block all sounds from reaching his ears he really needed to study. He started reading from the textbook, and had just started to get into the flow when his Dad yelled once again, " What?"

Restlessly Faisal got up. He walked over to the window and looked out. There was a grassy field just outside, half of which was bare and the other half was built into a shantytown.

A number of children, their skins burnt black by the blazing sun, were playing with a dirty half inflated football in the bare half of the field. Faisal felt a pang of envy towards them, as his eyes followed their laughing screaming faces. They had so little yet so much enjoyment.

They had no wide screen plasma TVs, PS2s or Xboxs, nor did they have DVDs or computers, all of which he had. They didn't even have a proper football to play with. Probably their parents had saved all their lives to buy a small black and white TV, which only showed BTV. On this TV they probably watched the afternoon Bangla movie with the same zeal as Maruf had watched Spiderman 2.

Faisal had never been able to watch family movies. He thought the word family never applied in his case since when his parents were there to watch the movies with them, they were too busy fighting. Their parents' yells would usually dilute the delightful scenes on the TV and he would lose interest.

However Faisal had seen a lot in his life. He had watched while his parents fought, his knees weak leaning against a wall to support himself, Maruf clutching his side, tears in his eyes. He also watched this scene of the children playing, enjoying so much.

Faisal realized as he watched that even though he had a lot more than then those kids, he was still a lot poor then them. He had everything a teenager his age could want, but he wasn't happy. He had every opportunity open to him, to go awry, to spoil his life. But he didn't, it would make his life worse.

He had realized too that he was nothing but a tool. When he was nine his parents had asked outright, who would he go with, his father or his mother? He had realized then that he was tool for his parents to use. His mother bore for nine months in the hope that she would get his support in a divorce case. His father had provided for him in every way possible for the same reason.

School however had always been a delightful issue. It was the only place where Faisal could spend some time in peace and quiet, a place devoid of raging parents. He actually enjoyed school unlike his comrades.

He restlessly walked away from the window and plugged the headphones of his Discman into his ears. The CD playing was a compilation of his favorite songs. He listened for while, trying to let the music soothe him.

Faisal pulled the headphones out of his ears losing interest in the song. His parents' fight drifted into his ears once again.

Faisal decided to go read his brother a new story, since he couldn't study. He picked up his story notebook and was halfway to his room's door when reality struck him with a crushing impact. His brother was dead, lying in a grave in a graveyard. He was here all alone in a house with two fighting parents. He was alone.

By Tareq Adnan

Book review

I confess. I don't get sports. The only reason I ever glance at the backpack of RS is to check out what Babu, Bhola & Boo are up to, and to see what our in-house celebrity Zulquar has written about, so I can appear the interested and knowledgable friend. I don't really understand legal issues either, but enjoy Grisham, because he writes about it so that it makes sense. So when I picked up this skinny book called Bleachers, which is about American football, and noticed Grisham's name on the cover, I thought, well, this could be readable.

Readable? I haven't smiled and laughed and cried so much since The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, although this book isn't anything like Bleachers.

The plotline is simple. Coach Rake, a legendary football coach, is dying, and all his former students have returned to their hometown of Messina as a show of respect. As the clock ticks by, and the coach slowly slips towards oblivion, the boys - all grown men now - rehash old Coach Rake stories, the games, the fights, the brutal training sessions, and try to decide for once and for all whether they love the man or hate him. It's not so much a book about football as it is about life, and growing up.

The protagonist of the story is Neely Crenshaw, an ex football icon, whose glorious career ended with a knee injury. He's probably the one carrying the most emotional baggage, and it all unravels in the course of the book, and other characters, some his peers, others his predecessors also talk about their lives, and the way in which Coach Rake touched them all.

The beauty of the book lies in its simplicity. There's no thrill, no suspense, just a steady stream of nostalgia and reflection, peopled by very real and believable characters, who are bound together by their common love for the game. If a non-sporty like me can be touched by a story that's peppered with so much football jargon, it should speak volumes about how good this book is. If you're tired of adrenaline-pumping action-packed plots, this is the perfect book to help you unwind.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


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