Dice – by Bikem Pastine, age 15

St Andrew’s College, Blackrock, Co Dublin

The low chatter of men and laughter of children blended with the calm sound of waves hitting pebbles. In my hands I carried a wicker basket full of bread and a glass container stuffed to the brim with my grandmother's famous chickpeas and rice. The sweet smell of the tomato sauce blended with the salty smell of seaweed. My grandfather was sitting right beside the sea with Mehmet Amca, my best friend Esra's grandfather. They sat under the shade of an olive tree with a little plastic coffee table and a game of backgammon open in front of them.

They talked quietly about this and that, politics and football, weather and real estate. Their fingers moved the pieces across the board almost unconsciously. They didn’t count the moves like Esra and I did when we tried to play. They knew exactly where five and four took them.

The dice rhythmically clattered against the side of the board.

Mehmet Amca and my grandfather had been friends since before my mother was born. They would play backgammon and drink chai together from early in the morning until dinner time.


“Selam, Grandfather. Neneci told me to bring you lunch,” I said as I laid my basket on the floor and kissed his hand. My grandfather’s eyes darted to the container. Even my grandmother’s husband couldn’t resist the meal. The recipe was secret to the neighbours but I had learned the ingredients over the years: it was mostly love, cumin and a lot of butter.

“Good morning Kizim. Thank you for the delivery. I also need your help. Would you like to throw the zar before you go?”

I felt my face light up and my chest puff out. Rolling the dice for my grandfather was a great honour for me. I couldn’t believe as a little seven-year-old I would be influencing the game. I didn’t understand how my grandfather could trust me with such responsibility but I wasn’t about to question him.

My hands gripped around the dice. This was my moment to shine. I reinforced the idea in my mind that I was lucky and I would roll doubles.

I fiddled with the dice in my hand and started to shake them. As I got ready to throw, I felt them become an extension of myself. My fingerprints, like my grandfather’s, became imbedded in the plastic. In that moment, I could have sworn I felt the fingerprints of my mother from when she rolled the dice for my great grandfather, and her grandmother’s finger prints, and her grandmother’s . . .

I could even feel my own grandchildren’s fingerprints that would one day do the same. I knew when Esra and I would have six-month summer holidays, cook famous lunches and have our white hair braided with tokas we’d give our wide-eyed little grandchildren dice to roll. They’d kiss the dice and be so proud when they rolled doubles.