Excerpt: & # 039; The sergeant ordered that his skin be skinned & # 039;

<pre><pre>Excerpt: & # 039; The sergeant ordered that his skin be skinned & # 039;

Gray wolves and white doves by John D. Balian is the "story of a boy's pursuit of identity and belonging".

In this thriller, Balian, an American immigrant doctor of Middle Eastern descent, tries to tell a story against the backdrop of political and social upheavals in the Middle East.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 24:

TAlthough Jonah was concerned about this older brother, he was deeply concerned with the temporary joys of youth. During the summer he had made friends with Arto, a relative of Father Abram who was Jonah's age and had a similar attitude. They often went to the Bakirkoy slums to rent mopeds that they drove at full throttle, like two daredevils, through the dangerous maze of alleys full of cars, carts, children, and stray animals. There were no traffic lights here. The dirt roads littered with ditches and potholes contributed to the thrill. Her youthful illusions of invincibility somehow protected her from serious harm.

During one of those ruthless excursions, they saw Levon running down the street.

"It's strange," Jonah said to Arto. "Father Abram's wife never lets Levon roam the streets alone."

Another hundred meters away, Levon shouted in Armenian: Azad is here! He motioned for them to return home.

Arto and Jonah angrily motioned for the boy to shut up. But he continued to speak Armenian in his high voice. & # 39; He is here! & # 39; he cried.

& # 39; fool & # 39!; Jonah muttered through clenched teeth. "Stop screaming and speak in Turkish!"

But Levon was too far to hear his brother.

The xenophobia and racism advocated by the Turks and their government were far from understated. Official banners and graffiti scattered across the city ordered: & # 39; Vatandash Turkche konush! Compatriot, speak Turkish! & # 39; Passionately nationalistic in peaceful times, the outbreak of war made the Turks even more severe. Given the hostile political climate, the last thing Jonah and Arto wanted to do in the crowded streets of Bakirköy was to draw attention to their Armenian ethnicity.

They hurried back to Father Abram and found Azad drinking tea at the kitchen table. Jonah hugged his brother tightly. Azad smiled and looked good.

"The first three months were tough," he said cheerfully.

& # 39; How was it? & # 39; Jonah asked.

"Yes, tell us," said Father Abram.

"Our sergeant pushed us to our limits – and beat anyone who couldn't keep up," Azad said. "If we didn't drill in the snow, we peeled potatoes, cleared streets, or collected firewood." He turned to Father Abram's wife. "I was wearing the wool hat, gloves, and socks you sent me, and hid them under my uniform, but they weren't enough." He turned back to the others. "One night when I was on guard and saw Mount Ararat in the distance, I got frostbite."

"Another Armenian saved me," he continued. "His mother, a pious Christian, had brought him to Jerusalem as a little boy, where he became a Hadji or Muksi." Azad looked for Jonas understanding before continuing. After entering the army, the Turkish sergeant ordered the skin to be removed to remove the tattooed cross – an indiscrete representation of a badge that was said to offend the fatherland and Islam. As a result, he now has an ugly scar on his right forearm. He advised me to keep my Armenian identity secret and to make sure that nobody found out about my time in the seminary in Jerusalem. He was with me when I got frostbite and my legs became so numb that I couldn't move. He ran to get help while I was hallucinating on the now-covered roadside. I woke up in a hospital bed with my feet together. How they hurt! The nurse who treated me gave me a shot of penicillin – right here! & # 39; He winked at Jonah and pointed at his butt.

“When she asked me how old I was, I told her I was twenty, but she said I don't look old enough to report. She assumed that my father had falsified my age on my identity card – like all the other farmers in the village – so that he could bring me home earlier to order the land, harvest the crops, take care of the cattle and everything , & # 39;

& # 39; Good & # 39?; Jonah asked.

& # 39; She was right. I am too young This needle hurt! & # 39;

Everyone laughed.

Father Abram looked at Azad and his curiosity brightened his expression. "But it got better, no?"

Azad smiled broadly, got up and saluted crispy. "Sir, I'm going to report to duty," he said with mock seriousness. "Today we will speak conversational English." He laughed heartily and sat down again. "I am the general's personal English teacher."

"You have already benefited from your training at the seminar in Jerusalem!" Father Abraham remarked with satisfaction.

"How are your feet now?" asked the priest's wife.

"They are fine. They are well healed."

"How about Cyprus, the war?" Jonah insisted.

“The general stopped me. I don't know what excuses he made. Fortunately, I am not in Cyprus. I'm on vacation for a month. & # 39; Azad chuckled. "Apparently the general doesn't want to learn English well."

"Doesn't he know you're Armenian?"

"I'm sure he does," Azad replied seriously. "I guess he helps me because I'm Armenian."

& # 39; What do you mean? & # 39;

“It turns out that his mother is Armenian. I heard it from his daughter. By the way, she is very pretty; I think she is in love with me. In 1915 the general's father was a Turkish military governor. He picked a pretty teenage girl from one of the deportation caravans to keep as a domestic worker. He later decided to promote her to the harem and make her one of his women. & # 39;

Excerpt from Gray wolves and white doves (Rs 295) by John D. Balian of Tranquebar Press with permission from Westland Ltd.

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