Death, a short story by Malika Moustadraf

The late Moroccan author’s Something Strange, Like Hunger is now out in English

For all that pure, spilled blood

I switch on the TV with the remote control, and the presenter smiles, revealing her shiny white teeth. How does she keep them so white?

– and Israel has attacked Gaza City in retaliation for the killing of two Israeli soldiers.

Her smile widens. She’s wearing green contact lenses today, the exact same shade as her tight green dress. Green doesn’t suit her . . . The dress shows off her perfectly round breasts.


‘Help me set the table.’

‘Lamb would’ve been plenty. Why did you fry up chicken as well?’

Decaying corpses –

I stick my knife and fork into a piece of meat and gobble it up enthusiastically.

– decapitated heads –

‘Mmmm, well done. The meat is delicious,’ says my husband.

The presenter is trying to put on a sad face . . . It doesn’t suit her.

Mothers crying –

‘Look at her dress, it’s très belle.’

– misery, poverty –

‘I want a glass of Tang.’

– screaming –

I pour the juice for my daughter.

– blood-soaked asphalt –

‘Coca-Cola is better, it helps digestion.’

‘But it causes gas.’

And Israel is using weapons and bombs that are banned internationally –

‘Maman, look! I’m dancing like Nancy Ajram.’

The little girl writhes around, singing, 'Ah wa nos, bos bos bos.'

I applaud her. She’s exactly like I was at her age.

‘God keep you safe, my beautiful girls,’ says my husband.

My little boy gets jealous, jumps off his chair. ‘I’m better than her at singing!’

He balls his fist as if holding a mic:

‘Why don’t you come to me, kitty cat,

I bought you some shisha and chocolate,

But you ask me for a suit and a little hat!’

I’m laughing so much there are tears in my eyes.

‘Don’t speak with your mouth full, mon petit.’

‘But you’re talking, toi et Maman!’

‘Maman and I are talking about important things.’

My little boy goes quiet, and so does my little girl.

In Iraq forty-two civilians have been killed, three of them children, and fifteen others injured, seven of whom are in critical condition, after a bomb was dropped –

‘On Saturday night let’s go to Balcon 33. There’ll be an American belly dancer performing!’

‘No, there’s a big match on Saturday – al-Raja are playing Widad – and I’ll get home from the stadium exhausted. Mind you, if Widad win, we can go wherever you want.’

‘One day football’s going to be the death of you.’

‘I know, right? A real man is someone who dies for his country, or his family, or for Widad.’

‘Reds forever! Reds, Reds, Reds! Can I come with you to the match?’ my son asks happily.

‘If you finish memorizing your schoolwork, then yes, we’ll go.’

‘I did all the exercises, I’ve just got history left. I couldn’t memorize everything, it’s too hard!’

‘Look, I’ll tell you exactly how it works: history is easy. It’s just the same lessons repeating themselves over and over.’

The presenter is still talking. Bright red lipstick doesn’t suit her . . . It makes her mouth seem too big for her face.

Two ferries full of tourists will depart today for

Spain –

– the sudden war on Lebanon –

– and Israel has refused –

– until –

– the departure of the tourists.

‘Wake me in an hour, I’m dead tired,’ says my husband, then he stretches out in front of the television . . . This short story is from Something Strange, Like Hunger: Short Stories by the late Moroccan author, Malika Moustadraf, translated by Alice Guthrie, published for the first time in English by Saqi Books