The lanky boy peered in on the women's side of the striped Bedouin tent as the circumference of a burning afternoon sun tapped the west mountains of the valley. Inside the shady tent, the smell of cumin and sweet Bedouin tea wafted about. The kid observed as his five mothers as they hurried about like cloaked phantoms, preparing for the guests to arrive. He watched as Basima chopped nana, her eyes, the only part of her that Kolfife had ever seen, concentrated on the slick kitchen knife. She looked up and shot a happily squinting expression at him and he waved through. Yes, she was his mother, his first mother. She was the most beautiful or so he liked to imagine since he didn't really know what any of his mothers looked like. She shot her head back to chopping before the boy felt a sudden pull on his shoulder. He turned as his father turned him.
"El-ab" Kolfife interjected as his father looked down on him sternly, a portly man with a thick brown mustache and no hair on his head.
"You shouldn't be over here, go to the men's side an wait to greet our guests." He ordered him. Kolfife nodded,
"Yes, el-ab." He obeyed and ran to the other opening in the big striped tent, the silhouettes of camels and their riders creeping slowly over the heat waves and orange sand dunes. Soon after as the sun began to set and yellow shaded clouds gathered to wish the sun goodbye, so did the guests gather, a group of men in beige hoods, their faces hidden and... A woman.... In trousers? Kolfife stared as his father stood behind him next to the door of the men's side of the tent and greeted each man. When the woman approached he blocked the door,
" you may go on the other side with my wives or wait by the camels." He told her. She unhooded herself to reveal short, messy brown hair and deep green eyes that popped against dark skin.
"Boss," she called in, "did you hear that?" Kolfife turned and peered into the tent as a man, built like a war machine with a black twirled mustache and long black hair pulled back into a plat, made his way into the door frame.
"Nef, you know if I had it my way, you'd be in here but these sexist customs are Bedouin culture. He wouldn't come into our performance and change the act. Let's give him the same respect." The man's voice was a low growling whisper. The woman, Nef, stared with a questioning expression at her boss who lowered his eyebrows. She sighed and shook her head, putting her hood back up and walking to the other tent entrance. "Hi," Kolfife heard her say to his mothers before turning his attention back to his father and the giant man. They then all turned back into the lantern lit tent, lined with decorated red and golden silk and comfy embroidered cushions. Everyone sat around the edge, some cross legged, others leaning on their elbows. His father joined the giant man at the back wall where the sat down in almost perfect synchronization.
"I welcome you all to my tent. Whatever you would like, I can provide. I also apologize for the absence of my twelve other sons. A goat escaped today and their out looking for it. They shouldn't be long though. Let us eat before we discuss our business." He clapped his hands and without missing a beat, Basima and kolfife's other mother Hadija came in, one with a silver platter of meat and the other with a metal platter of tea. As the men ate and drank Kolfife watched on in fascination. One pale man with fiery ginger hair ate his meat with fork like spikes that extended out of the metal fingers on his right hand. Another man told a story about how his coworker next to him pulled a baby elephant out of a flash flood in under five minutes all by himself. When all was done, his father clapped his hands and his five mothers came in to collect dishes to be washed as well as pour more tea. Father finally leaned forward on his crossed legs, his eyes gleaming cunningly. It was time for serious discussion. "Kolfife, go wait for your brothers to arrive outside, they should be here soon. Don't come back into the tent." Without question, the boy did as he was told only instead of waiting for his brothers, he slipped around the side of the tent and pressed his ear to the side. "He swings and climbs on everything." He heard his father boast with a laugh, "if you have a wall, no matter how steep or slippery, he can climb it like a spider. Did you see his toes too? Long as monkey." The kid smiled from ear to ear hearing his father brag about him like this. He had never ears him sound...so...proud. And then, "Sometimes I think that's why his parents named him Kolfife." .... Wait... Kolfife felt like there was a rupture in his stomache, what? He felt a sort of Gould goup slide off the exterior of his heart and splash hard into his stomache acids. Why did his father say that.
"His parents, Farouk?" The growl of the giant man was as clear as day but Kolfife could not hear him over the gears of his mind and the unsteady clanging of his heart.
"Awhile back, a bit after I married my third wife, Basima, we discovered some Jews were stealing our water and one night, I caught them sneaking into our house trying to take our food." The ten year old's thoughts were ablaze. "Well, nobody steals from me," said Farouk proudly, "so I took a kitchen knife and I stabbed them. Then I burried them in a ditch somewhere, I can't remember where we were at the time. But when I went to take their things from their trailer, I found Kolfife, baby at the time, little trouble maker he was but Basima and I had been trying to have a kid. Now she's had three and we don't need the adopted Jewish boy." Farouk explained. Unwanted.... Betrayed.... The only father he had known who taught him that Jews were thieves and cheats. The little boy's eyes burned with a boiling anger and anxiety he had never felt before. There was a rustling in the tent and heavy footsteps that walked before Kolfife could hear his... Father... His el-ab.... No, Kolfife peered into a slit in the tent and watched as the giant man picked Farouk up by his collar and mashed their heads close. Farouk whimpered with a terrified frown.
"You disgust me. You invite us hear for what you call Bedouin hospitality and you make my close friend and coworker wait in the kitchen with your beaten wives. You then try to sell us a boy whose parents you murdered and threw in a ditch and now you don't except the responsibility when your motives are no longer relevant." The giant growled like an engine then spread his fingers out, dropping Farouk like a sack of chickpeas. "We'll take the boy for free." The man then walked out the tent, his friends standing in a wave behind him, snickering and walking casually after him out of the tent. Farouk babbled up and stood shocked. And when Nef came out from the woman's side, she stared at the giant boss who stood shocked himself, gazing at to him, an amazing site. There was Kolfife, with a sack over his shoulder, smiling from ear to ear. Ready to go. The stars shine brightly in the round sky of the desert valley.