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More than anything else Dot wanted a brother.

“When will I have a brother?” she kept asking.

“I am working all day,” her mother would answer.

“Why can’t you have him on Sunday?” Dot’s logic was beyond dispute.

There was no answer to that question. Mother would dismiss it with a gentle shrug and Dot felt very much alone at that moment.

She was glad to have Shasha there.

That night she held her a little closer, feeling her heart beating against her chest. She pressed her face to the warm fur.

The night enveloped them both and Dot forgot about everything else.

When she opened her eyes, the moon was peering into the room and she felt as if she could touch it.

She picked Shasha up and got out of bed.

The moon spread a shimmering carpet in front of them and she stepped onto it with her little feet, Shasha’s heart beating against hers.

She felt very brave.

(to be continued)



The moon was very very big. It was also very very bright.

So bright it woke Dot up.

She sat in bed and rubbed her eyes.

A wide beam of moonlight was falling on the carpet.

Shasha was sitting in the middle of the room, bathed in the shimmering brightness.

Dot rubbed her eyes again, and when she opened them, the room was empty.

Maybe I am dreaming, Dot thought to herself.

She blinked.

Shasha was sitting in the middle of the room bathed in moonlight, and Dot sighed with relief.

“Where did you go, Shasha?”, she asked the cat.

Shasha turned her head slowly. Her emerald eyes were half-closed and Dot was sure she could hear her purr.

She lay back in bed and fell asleep.

The next morning she could not find Shasha anywhere.

She looked under the bed first.

Then in the closet.

Under the dining table.

In her parents’ bedroom.

The house was warm and the same.

But not the same.

“Shashi!”, she called out.

The wind outside rustled the leaves.

Dot strained to listen.

Soft fur against her skin told her Shasha was back.

She danced around Dot’s legs, asking to be caressed.

“I love you Shasha,” Dot said softly to the cat.

That night the moon was still very very big, and very very bright.

Dot took Shasha to bed with her, holding her tight but not too tight.

She woke up in the middle of the night, just like before.

Shasha was gone and the room was as bright as day.

This time Dot did not blink but opened her eyes even wider.

She managed not to blink for a long time, and when she finally did, something had changed.

The cat was sitting in the middle of the moonbeam, looking at her.

“Where have you been Shasha?, Dot asked quietly.

“Tell me.”

Shasha turned back to look at the moon and Dot followed her gaze.

Then she got out of bed and stepped into the light.

She felt as if she was swimming in a warm cloud, safe and protected.

It lifted her higher and higher, rocking her to and fro at the same time.

Dot woke up and held her breath for a moment.

“Where am I?, she wondered.

Shasha purred next to her. The sun through the window was red and far away.

Dot could hear her mother making breakfast, and she wanted very much to hug her.

(to be continued)




Syria is burning… My childhood memories superimposed against the ruins of Homs, Aleppo and Damascus create a macabre landscape in my mind. I am flooded by them, the scents and sensations of those years, so very long ago, and yet just under the skin.

I can see myself on the balcony of our apartment, first in Homs, and later in Damascus. The warmth of the white concrete walls, the noise of the city with car horns, children’s screams, the mournful cry of the Muezzin, someone’s radio playing an endless song by Fairouz. It’s warm, I am young and with not a worry, soaking in the sensuous pleasure of the climate, the beauty and strangeness of the country, the kaleidoscopic colours of the souk, the generosity of our Arabic friends and neighbours. I learn to speak their language.

I cannot look at the massacres taking place now. Then, to me as a child, Assad and his party were but names and faces on posters in the mode of Communist Russia. We were apolitical, embracing this new world with trepidation and joy.

The six-day war (1967) was a precursor to the violence that would overwhelm the region, and I was already in a different country when Assad Sr destroyed the city of Hama, murdering his own citizens. The horror was incomprehensible.

Just as I was thinking of returning there, going back to find work in the Damascus school I attended all these years ago (checked the website, it existed, there were jobs…),  the unrest began.

Syria is burning, and we watch. I stopped, too many tears.

I close my eyes and listen to Fairouz instead, trying to recall the innocence and happiness of those years in the Syrian sun.

I wish the people of that country courage and a solution to the nightmare. I wish I could help.

Insh Allah…


أعطني الناي – فيروز

A’tini al-Nay

Give me the flute

Lyrics: Kahlil Gibran Music: Najib Hankash


The eldest child in Haddad’s family was a girl named Nouhad (meaning”sigh” or ” splendor”), who would later grow up to be Fayrouz, one of the most famous

Slowly, gently it appeared

Out of nowhere, out of fear

Slowly, softly it progressed

Not in sorrow nor in jest

I beheld it, and it me

Somewhere in between

A dream

And waking shock

From nowhere it appeared

Ad hoc



Art by Edward Gorey


Don’t go.

I am still here.

I want to say something.

Hear me.


For a moment.


To me.

I am.

I am you.

I am not you.

But we could be one.

Or one of many.


Listen to me.

I speak your language.

I am you.



Art: Wait for Me

By Benjamin Chee Chee

Benjamin Chee Chee, artist, of Ojibwa descent, born Kenneth Thomas Benjamin at Temagami, Ontario 26 March 1944; died at Ottawa 14 March 1977.

Solitude like armour

folds around me

with formidable force

Chain mail against the skin

sword raking my thigh

Unseeing eyes hide

under the visor

smile frozen in metal

Hand clenched




There were footsteps

In the night

Silent whispers

In the walls

Jewels spilled

Upon the floor

Sighs and sights

In broad moonlight.


Art: Wallpaper

By Edward Gorey





The outline is there

It fits




Fear grows

And subsides

Reality peeks in

And leaves

One alone

To feel

Death knell


Art by Zdzislaw Beksinski


The screen stares back

a blank page.

The curser bar palpitates


Silent metronome.


Fingers poised over keys

like a pianist.

No music.


The city hums and hums.

The trees stand no chance.

Mind drifting.

Fingers frozen.


There are handkerchiefs to be washed in the bathroom.