Friday, April 4, 2014

Mahadsanid by Jon Moray

Carl Racine, a farm boy in the big city for a conference, tries to find out the meaning of a mysterious word used by the homeless people he passes on the streets.

"First time in a big city?" asked the bellman at the four-star hotel in the heart of the business district to the new guest as he stepped out of the taxicab.

"Yes sir, how did you know?"

"The eyes, I can always tell by the wide eyes," he answered, as he grabbed the wrangler's duffle bag and held the glass door open.

"Been a farm boy my whole life, this surely feels like another world to me. Is it always this loud?"

"You'll get used to it. Check-in is to the right."

"Thanks." The guest, Carl Racine, reached for his leather wallet from his denim jeans back pocket and leafed through the slots to give the help three dollars.

The burly bellman accepted the bills with a tip of his uniform hat. "Oh, just a little piece of advice, beware of the meek, they can be quite bothersome."

"I noticed an awful lot of the less fortunate on the ride over from the airport. It's a shame," Carl commented with a genuine sincerity.

It was late evening when Carl checked in, so he'd figured he would turn in and get an early start in the morning. Carl was in town for a week-long seminar on better technological business practices. He was a new business owner, taking over the farm for his folks. He wanted to introduce the business to twenty first century technology and felt the seminar would be beneficial towards that goal. Carl, age twenty-eight, humble and unassuming, was molded by his parents with old time charm. He possessed an ample supply of home grown respect and consideration for everyone he encountered. He was tall and thin, with a farmers body; rough hands, dress shirt and jeans, always jeans. His light brown hair was in need of a trim. That night he dozed off wondering how out of place he would be at the seminar.

Morning had arrived with the unnerving sounds of horns honking and guests stomping in the corridors. Carl showered, shaved and left the room for the 9:00 reception. He had left early enough to grab a bite at a diner that caught his eye the night before about two blocks from the hotel. He made a left out of the hotel and walked gingerly, taking in the street scene. A homeless man sitting on the sidewalk with his back against the storefront of a bank spotted Carl, lifted an empty coffee cup and asked, "Help for the hungry?" Carl studied the man, who was wearing a beat up parka and navy mechanics pants, dirty from what looked like soot. He went for his wallet and pulled out a dollar bill and stuffed it into the coffee cup, carefully pushing the legal tender to the bottom.

"Mahadsanid," said the man.

Carl squinted his eyes trying to figure out what the vagrant meant but just settled on a nod and continued on to the eatery.

He reached the establishment, surprised by the line for breakfast as he peeked through the storefront. He entered and stood behind a woman about nine orders from the register.

"Enjoy throwing your money away?" A voice behind him resounded.

Carl turned around and said, "He needs the money more than I do."

"Yeah, for more booze. Nice going, you just helped that bum compound his drinking problem," the man said. He was a tall, well-dressed professional, carrying a brown leather monogrammed briefcase.

"He told me he needed help for the hungry," Carl shot back.

"Well, God helps those who help themselves."

"That's true, but I believe God helps those who helps others also... probably more," Carl replied, followed by a heartfelt smile.

"Excuse me, but I couldn't help but listen in to your conversation. May I offer my opinion?" interrupted the woman standing in line before him.

"By all means, please," answered Carl.

"I think your heart is in the right place. You seem to judge on an individual basis while most stereotype the homeless as drunken drug attics," the woman said softly.

The businessman chuckled to himself and rolled his eyes. "Thank you, Mother Teresa," he replied, sarcastically. Carl looked away, embarrassed, while the woman simply shook her head in disbelief and turned back around, peeking to see how many people were still ahead of her in line.

No further words were spoken between the trio. Carl noticed most people took their orders to go but also noticed the woman in front of him took a window seat facing the street. Carl decided to eat in also. The shapely, conservatively dressed woman intrigued him as he pondered whether to pursue her company. Her face beamed of natural beauty, with only a trace of make-up lining her eyes and a splash of blush on her cheeks. She wore her dark brown straight hair at shoulder length. Carl approached the booth where she was now seated, sipping her coffee.

"Thanks for your input. It is nice to see people with faith in humanity."

"I am sorry if I appeared nosy."

"No harm... uh... I am new to the city, in for a seminar. Do you mind if I sit here?"

"Okay, I can use the company, besides you stick out like a stray dog," she commented, eying the string tie that he wore over a western styled shirt.

"I am a Midwest farmer and this is my first experience in a big city. My name is Carl Racine. I own a business on the farm that I just inherited from my folks."

"Hi Carl, my name is Rachel, nice to meet you."

"The homeless person seemed very sincere with his request. He said ma... something."

"Mahadsanid?"

"I think that's it, what does that mean?"

Rachel snickered under her breath and smiled.

"I don't follow. Do you know?"

Rachel shrugged her shoulders and tilted her head allowing her hair to spill over her face that Carl felt was attractive. "Maybe."

"Well, would you be so kind as to let me in on the little secret?"

"I'm sorry Carl, I've got to run. Off to work you know." Rachel slid out of the booth, taking the half eaten muffin with her.

"Thank you for your company, Rachel. I hope we meet again."

"Have a nice stay in town."

Carl watched her exit the eatery with a sense of piqued interest. Her aura of mystery intrigued him. She made no reference to herself. Carl finished his bagel and headed for the seminar at the hotel, his stomach rumbling with anticipation of what the function might bring.

He passed a grocery store and was approached by a different homeless person. This one didn't look half as bad as his first encounter.

"Hey man, times are hard. Help me out, would you?"

Carl's initial impression was that of skepticism at the mans' delivery; something he really needed to work on.

"C'mon, you gonna help me or what?"

Carl remained quiet as he sized up the man that lacked manners. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Carl pulled a dollar bill from his wallet and handed it to the stranger.

"About time. I thought you were deaf or something," the man said, turning away. The encounter left Carl discouraged as he contemplated never again to accommodate a sidewalk peddler.

Carl found the seminar to be quite informative. He got over his jitters quickly and was comforted by plenty of friendly faces. After, he returned to his room and ordered dinner in. He was apprehensive about venturing out that night in fear of another negative encounter with the homeless.

The next morning was very much like the last. Carl headed to the eatery in hopes of seeing Rachel again. He was beckoned again in front of the same grocery store along the way.

"Help for the hungry?" asked a man was very much like the first, in sincerity. The man was polite and Carl could tell by his eyes he was sincere. Carl was taught by his mom long ago to see the truth in a person's eyes. He donated a dollar bill to the needful man.

"Mahadsanid," the man said, as he removed his hole-riddled, black fedora hat and bowed in appreciation.

"What does that mean?"

The man flashed a smile and shrugged without answering.

Carl motored on to try and catch Rachel, if she was at the eatery. He looked through the windows of the storefront to preview the humanity inside. The order line was three people deep and Rachel was not among them. He glanced over at the booth they had occupied the day before. Not there either. Discouraged but determined, he went inside and scanned the entire place. Back in the corner booth and with her back to him was Rachel. Carl made a beeline to her without the least care for placing an order.

"Good Morning, Rachel. How are you?"

"I'm okay, how's yourself?"

"I'm doing fine, mind if I join you?"

"Sure, but I have to split in a minute."

"Okay, I'll be brief." Carl sat opposite of her. "I got another 'mahadsanid' from a different homeless person this morning," he said, gesturing a quotation.

"Okay?" Rachel answered, expecting him to continue.

"Yesterday, after breakfast, I was approached by a not so nice homeless man who was pretty rude. He didn't even thank me. Not even a mahadsanid."

"Maybe mahadsanid is a way of telling the deceitful from the sincere," she offered.

"A thank you would've sufficed," said Carl.

"Time to go." Rachel got up to leave the booth but not before Carl grabbed her wrist.

"Maybe we can have lunch. You know, give us more time to talk," Carl asked, like a kid asking his mother for a chance at the cookie jar.

"Sorry, I'm booked for lunch today. I really have to go. Have a nice day."

Carl released his grip and let his hand slump to the checkered tabletop. He watched her leave with doubts of ever getting to know her. He had lost his appetite for breakfast and settled for a candy bar at the grocery store.

He exited the store about to unwrap the bar when a homeless man with a distinct limp approached him. It looked like one leg was longer than the other. "Help for the hungry?" the man asked sincerely. Another fulfilled charity request. Another mahadsanid and another evasion of what that word meant.

Carl continued his descent on to the seminar, day two. This day, Carl came away from the seminar with the notion of hiring a technically sound accountant to keep his books. Carl was intimidated by the speed of light information age. His weapon of choice to combat numbers was a pencil, not a keyboard. The emerging sunset made Carl a little more adventurous. He washed up, checked himself in the mirror and then withdrew five singles from his wallet in expectation of the evenings' charity solicitations.

The front desk clerk suggested he take a walk in the park four blocks south. He decided to investigate the greenery. The walk over was free from a homeless encounter. He entered the park on the asphalt path and decided to go right at the cross. The park was commonplace, with joggers, mothers walking strollers and children playing on jungle gyms. The summer breeze kissed the right side of his body and he inhaled as if he was in a flower garden.

He continued around the path for about a half-mile when he approached a man sitting on a park bench playing a well-worn guitar. His guitar case lay on the path in front of him. The music he played was a cross between blues and jazz with a generous amount of soul. Carl noticed his facial expressions and marveled at how he seemed to pour his heart into every note. Carl hung around to hear the song's end. The man strummed his last note. Carl exhaled and nodded with appreciation.

"That was amazing. If my ears could talk they would say bravo," Carl expressed in awe. The man acknowledged him with a smile. Carl took the dollar bills from his pocket, debating on how much the performance was worth, only to drop all five singles into the case.

"Mahadsanid," replied the man with a lazy strum of his guitar.

"You can't tell me what that means can you?"

The man laughed heartily and pivoted his head from side to side.

"Well anyway, your music really is making my stroll in the park pleasurable. Thank you."

He continued on at a slow pace, taking in the nature treats the park emitted and then headed back to the hotel.

The next two days were par for the course as far as the seminars and handouts went. Carl patronized the eatery each morning but Rachel was not there. He felt he must've said something that caused her to avoid him but he couldn't pinpoint what. He had hoped he would see her again before Saturday just to clear up any misunderstanding and to provide some level of closure.

It was now Thursday and the seminar was drawing to a close. There were a lot less attendees. The seminar ended at noon and Carl wandered outside the hotel looking for a place to eat for lunch. He was in the mood for fish and he found a place two streets down and two avenues over called The Fish Net, an internet cafe.

He entered through the heavy wood doors and was greeted by, to his surprise, Rachel.

"Rachel?"

"Hi Carl, welcome to The Fish Net."

"I didn't know you worked here, how are you?"

"Doing fine. Let me seat you."

Rachel led him to a table for two. "Your server will be with you in a moment."

"Wait, Rachel, can you sit a second? I know you are working but I was hoping I could talk with you."

"I have to return to my post to greet other customers," said Rachel as turned away.

Carl stood and quickly followed her. "Rachel, I wish I could get to know you," he said, as he grabbed her arm.

"Please let me get back to work," she said, almost in desperation.

The store manager saw the exchange between them and approached. "Is there some kind of trouble here?" he asked, concerned.

"There isn't a problem, Boss. He was just asking a question about menu options."

"Let me escort you back to your seat, sir. I will be happy to discuss the menu."

He motioned Carl to his seat and followed. Carl sat down and to his surprise the manager sat opposite.

"You're the farmer from out of town, aren't you?"

"Yes, How did you know?"

"Rachel has mentioned you. I overheard your interest in her. Between you and me, the feelings are mutual. Your compassionate heart hooked her. The big hang up is you will be leaving. She didn't want to attach herself to you. She is a very private person and is very particular about who she lets into her life. You understand, don't you?"

"I understand, but believe me, my intentions are true. Her care for the less fortunate got me also, especially for someone in a big city like this. I just want to get to know her and enjoy her company, even if it's just talking over a meal," said Carl, almost pleading.

The boss studied Carl's eyes, looking for the slightest hint of falseness. "You know what, I believe you are as innocent as you seem. I'll talk with her. Maybe I could convince her to go to the eatery tomorrow morning. When do you leave?"

"Saturday morning."

"I guess I have some persuading to do. The server is ready to take your order." He waved the help over.

"By the way, this is a nice establishment you have. There is a kind of warm ambiance about the place," said Carl, as his eyes shifted toward the dark cherry wood paneling that covered the walls.

"Mahadsanid," the boss said, to Carl's surprise, and walked away. Carl thought to look up the term on the internet in the lounge if only he knew how to spell it but was beckoned by the server and ordered fish and chips. As he was savoring each mouthful he looked toward the spot where Rachel greeted patrons but she wasn't there. He finished his meal, paid by cash and exited the restaurant without sight of her. He headed back to the hotel but not without another encounter with one of the homeless. Another "mahadsanid" without a definition left him more curious than ever.

At the hotel he laid face up gazing at the white popcorn ceiling and dozed off thinking whether the restaurant owner would convince Rachel to appear at the breakfast eatery the next day. He managed a lengthy nap and decided again to order room service and take in a ball game on TV. The game went into extra innings and Carl stayed up for its duration. He turned in soon after with the possible morning encounter with Rachel on his mind.

The next morning was met with a bright sunrise and a cloudless sky. He had planned to get to the eatery about ten minutes earlier so he could spend more time with Rachel, if she did arrive. As he neared the café from a block away he could spot Rachel standing outside as if she was expecting someone. She caught Carl nearing from a half block away and gave a wave. Carl waved back and picked up his pace to meet her.

"Good morning, Carl."

"Good morning Rachel. What a beautiful morning."

"I was thinking the same thing. Shall we go in?"

Carl opened the storefront door and she entered with him following behind her. "What are you having? I'll order for the both of us," said Carl, as they reached the order line.

"Buttered English muffin and orange juice. You really don't have to."

"It's no bother. Two buttered English muffins and two orange juices please." Carl ordered. "What time do you have to be at work?"

"Nine. I get there to set up for the lunch crowd." Carl paid for the order and carried the eats as they walked side by side to the same booth they sat at when they first met.

"Thanks for breakfast," said Rachel, as she unwrapped the foil covering her muffin.

"Thanks for meeting with me. I really enjoy your company. Your boss seems like a really good guy."

"He is. Very much like you in generosity."

"I am guessing you are like that also, Rachel."

"I don't really like to talk about myself."

"I noticed. But can't you tell me a little about you?"

"Well, I was born and raised in this city. I am going to night school to become a registered nurse. I volunteer at a soup kitchen from time to time. And I enjoy knitting. How's that?

"You like to help people also. That is probably what attracted me to you in the first place."

"And me to you, Carl." They spent the next half hour talking about traveling and their upbringings. The chat flowed naturally until Rachel announced she had to leave, with a slight look of disappointment. She began to rise out of the side of the booth.

"Wait. How about dinner tonight? We can talk more, then I can learn a little more about you."

"I can't Carl. I have a prior engagement that I can't break. I'm sorry, but I really must be going." Carl looked dejectedly at the checkered tile floor.

"You're a really nice guy. I wished circumstances were different. Goodbye Carl. Have a safe trip back to the farm."

Carl lifted his eyes up to hers and whipped up a half smile. She turned and made her exit. Carl barely knew her but was deeply attracted to her. He remained in the diner picking at his food without much thought of consuming. About twenty minutes later he wrapped up what was left and placed the food back in the brown paper bag it came in.

He roamed the streets with no plan of what he wanted to do in the remaining time he had left in town. He accommodated those in need and was unphased by the mystery reply. He was too down to care anymore.

The lunch time hour had arrived and Carl found himself bumped around by the crowd of people along the sidewalks making their way to eateries. His gait was slow, much too slow for this time of day, which annoyed some that were on the go. He made his way back to the hotel to bombard himself with self-pity. He got an idea to go to the Fish Net for one last encounter with Rachel, but nixed the thought several times with mental scenarios producing negative outcomes. He hadn't had much of a breakfast. He skipped lunch altogether. The growling alarm in his stomach awoke his taste buds to the thought of nourishment. The grouper at the Fish Net was tender and tasty and the fries were crisp. His stomach made the decision for him to go to the Fish Net, and his heart reluctantly agreed. He showered, dressed himself in his favorite buttoned down reddish gray plaid shirt and jeans and headed out to eat.

As he caught sight of the restaurant he broke into a run. He noticed the place was not illuminated from the inside. He checked the door and to his frustration, it was locked. The restaurant usually closes at 11:00 but this night it was closed when Carl arrived about 6:15. Carl frantically banged on the glass door with the side of his fist and cupped his hands against the glass to try to see any movement inside. Carl's last stab at an encounter with the mystery woman was met with a locked door.

"Help for the hungry?" A middle aged portly bald man with tattered clothes asked.

Carl spun around annoyed and demanded, "Would you people just leave me alone?" Carl turned back towards the direction of his hotel when the man grabbed at his arm with another plea. "Please sir, help for the hungry?" he asked, mustering up his best puppy face.

Carl peered at the man and then blinked down towards the untied faded black boots the man wore. He reached for his wallet and searched for a dollar bill without any luck. He had nothing smaller than a five. He took the Lincoln out of his wallet and apprehensively handed it over to the man. "Let me guess, mahadsanid?" Carl asked. The man nodded and bowed. Carl watched him turn and head down the street. Carl headed in the opposite direction.

"So if it isn't the humanitarian," the businessman that Carl met that first day at the diner, said snidely. "Is that wallet of yours a bottomless pit of legal tender just waiting to be picked?"

"It's you again. Haven't you ever given to the poor?"

"I don't need to justify myself to you. But I'll indulge you. I give to several reputable organizations that make sure the monies are allotted to those who truly need it. It takes the guesswork out of which one of these misfits' stories are true. By the way, look at where the bum is going with his new found fortune." He pointed past Carl and to a liquor store where the vagabond was about to enter. Carl bolted toward the store and managed to get across the street, dodging cars like an obstacle course. He got to the liquor store called Lix Liquors and pulled open the glass door with authority. His head bobbed around in search of the man and looked down every aisle without success. He finally made his way to the store manager behind the counter.

"Can I help you sir?"

"The homeless man that just walked in here, what happened to him?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. You are the first customer I've had in the last ten minutes."

Carl gritted his teeth in anger. "I saw him enter a minute ago. Where did he go?"

"Sir, I did not see anyone come in here in the last ten minutes. The bell chimes when the door opens and it has only chimed once in the last ten minutes," said the proprietor, sternly.

"I think I know what mahadsanid means - it means, 'So long sucker.'" said Carl, resigned to the notion he was a tourist who had been duped many times.

"What did you say?" asked the manager.

"Mahadsanid."

The manager smiled warmly. "You want to know where the homeless person went, follow me." The man made his way from behind the counter and led Carl towards the back of the store where there was a door with a small square wire glass window in the middle.

"I have heard about your generosity. I needed to verify your intentions when you came in here because all too often the homeless are victimized," the man said, as they continued through the door and through a dimly lit narrow corridor. Carl followed skeptically and with guarded anticipation. The man stopped halfway through and pointed towards a stairway down. "Go down the stairs and open the door on the left at the end of the corridor. You will find what you're looking for there."

Carl peered at the manager, trying to determine whether it was another hoax. He decided to venture on and scaled each steep step down carefully. He got to the door and studied its dings and dents and the need of paint. He drew a deep breath, turned the round handle and pushed open while remaining outside. He looked in and found a party-like atmosphere with dim lighting and festive music. He had found the homeless man that had evaded him and as he entered further he noticed a few more of the homeless he had encountered during his stay in town. He stopped and surveyed the party scene when a hand grabbed at his arm. He was surprised to find the hand belonged to Rachel.

"You made it, Carl," she said and led him to a round table covered with red cloth set up with two stools.

"What's going on here?" Carl asked, with a slight grin.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen," a voice boomed over a microphone from a stage behind them. It was the owner of the Fish Net, Rachel's boss. "Tonight I am pleased to announce we have a special guest. His name is Carl Racine and he is sitting at the table with Rachel." The owner pointed to the table where they sat and motioned for Carl to stand.

"Don't be shy Carl, stand, you are amongst friends," said Rachel, gesturing him to rise. Carl stood up bashfully, embarrassed by the rhythmic applause.

"Does everyone know Carl?" the owner asked the crowd. "Thanks to Carl and other generous people like him, the homeless have raised five thousand dollars this month towards hunger relief in Somalia. Mahadsanid, Carl, which means thank you in Somali." The whole club began to shout mahadsanid in unison and clapped their hands to keep the beat.

"Enjoy the banquet my friends. Enjoy the food, the music and each other. God bless your hearts," the owner shouted audibly over the chanting.

Rachel turned her attention away from the stage and towards Carl. "You see Carl, each month the Fish Net and the homeless take up a different cause. The Fish Net provides nourishment for those homeless that participate in the cause. At the end of each month the Fish Net holds a banquet in appreciation of the efforts of the meek and those lucky enough like yourself to find this club. The suspense and mystery was my idea because I had a hunch your undying generosity would lead you here."

The music started up again by the band led by the homeless musician that was in the park. Rachel pulled on Carl's shirt. "No more talk, let's dance."

"But I'm not a dancer," Carl said as he was being tugged to the dance floor.

"Neither I am I, but I like to move when I am happy."

Rachel turned back to Carl and shook her body not even close to keeping the beat while Carl's movements were closer to the realm of rhythm. They were joined by many of the homeless who now filled the square wood tiled dance floor. The homeless started jumping to the music. Rachel, then Carl followed, trying to link to their hops. They laughed and jumped along until Rachel found herself in Carl's arms.

Rachel stopped and pressed her lips against his left ear. "I think you're a great guy, Carl. You are someone I would really like to get to know."

"I guess I can stay in town through the weekend, maybe until the end of next week. My folks and I are still in transition over the farm. I don't think they would mind managing for a little while longer," Carl replied.

"And I have always been intrigued with the farm life. Perhaps I can visit from time to time." said Rachel, clinging to him as if they were on a packed subway. They broke from cheek to cheek and gazed into each other's eyes. The both drew in for a kiss at the same time. They lost themselves in the moment as the homeless danced around them in an aura of euphoria.

4 comments:

  1. Cute story and I really like where Mahadsanid finally takes you. Carl definitely comes off as a farm boy lost in the depths of the big city. The end, while sweet and appropriate, seems a little stiff - maybe loosen up Rachael a bit there. All in all a fun read!

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  2. yes, it´s like a fairy story, clever idea with the word.

    Michael McCarthy

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  3. Fun story. Puts me in the mood to write something with a moral.

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  4. You made me curious and kept me reading. Great job!

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