And there came a day in Fallujah when the temperature was below fifty-five celsius and the electricity was working longer than two consecutive hours. When Bahia was twelve years old she sat snipping the ends off green beans on the front steps. Kathem Al Saher played on the radio as her mother sang along and prepared dinner while full-throated shouts and giggles rang out from their small back yard.
Badiha wanted to be back there playing with the rest of them, but she felt at her age she had to start behaving like a sensible woman. One dreamy eye blinked as she swatted away a fat fly that buzzed too close to her smooth, soft cheeks.
No one in the neighborhood paid attention to her anymore. Kids used to call her loppy-loop and Cyclops because of her missing right eye and at one time she had thought she was a monster; she was afraid to look in the mirror, especially at night. But when Badhia went to school she learned she wasn't the only child who had parts missing. A few kids had no arms or legs and there were rumors about a girl born with two heads and/or seven fingers. The doctors told her parents the deformities could have come from the pieces of shells that sat uncollected on the ground around Fallujah and their residue may have leaked into the well water.
The night before Bahia had dreamt of narrowly escaping an unexpected kiss from a boy with no facial features except for lips, but in the morning the dream had faded. On this particular day her abdomen ached, but Mother made sure she had all the woman supplies she needed. Little Sister said she smelled funny. Too much silence startled Badiha out of her thoughts.
She could no longer hear the normal screams and yelps. Panicking and spilling the beans in the dusty front yard, Then she ran to the other children. She was not surprised to see them chasing a dark haired boy with narrow legs to the back fence that separated the yard from the main road. Cornered, the boy kicked at the children with his large bare feet.
Over and over the children quietly and harmoniously chanted in sweet childish voices, " inta sharmoot shaz, inta sharmoot shaz, inta sharmoot shaz."
"You stinky little goat asses," she screamed at them.
Badiha pushed through the children, grabbed the boy pulling him toward the front of the house. The boy pulled away and and ran down the dusty front road.
Mother ran from the kitchen. With her hands on her hips she widened her large brown eyes looking around to see what was happening. "Where are those green beans?" she asked. "I want to finish cooking while the electricity is on." Badiha could hear the whirling sound of the fan.
Little Sister came bouncing in wearing old jeans and a torn military cap.
Defiantly she asked, "What you doing with Umair? You do the same thing."
All three of them jumped as the front door suddenly sprang open. Badiha's father stood there dirty and sweaty, holding the basket of beans. His loud harsh voice filled the little house.
"Who left this food I work my ass off to pay for out...?"
Father stopped yelling when he saw Badiha in her hijab.
"My little girl is sprouting up like beans up a pole," he said softly.
"Thank you Daddy." Little Sister grinned and glowed with pride. 10-14-10