From The Teeth of the Comb


Arts & Culture

Hans Thoma, Mond (detail).



I turned into a swamp of inactivity, and because of this no one was able to see the gems in my depths. 



An enormous garbage bag, seeing the social pyramid shimmering in the sunlight, wanted to reach the top. He made great attempts to climb up, but every time he would slide back down. After many failed attempts, his efforts finally brought success. He sat regally at the top of the pyramid out of breath from the fatigue and the intoxicating joy of victory. The thrill of his accomplishment caused him to forget the suffering he had endured.

But within moments, the apex of the pyramid had pierced a hole in the bag. Soiled water mixed with garbage poured down the four sides until the whole structure was covered in a monstrous pile of refuse whose terrible smell spread far and wide.



“It’s rare that anyone gets away from me,” the quicksand said in a voice filled with confidence.

But the quicksands of life answered her scornfully, saying: “How many people keep flailing and thrashing in me all through their life, and they neither get away nor drown entirely!”




The fingernail clipping looked up at the crescent moon with sadness.

“When will our Lord know our sufferings?” she asked herself, “When will he come down from his ivory tower and hear our complaints? How great is the distance between us and him! How must the world look from his position! No doubt it’s beautiful … terrifyingly beautiful!”



Two cars stopped at a stoplight, an old model and a new one next to each other. The new one looked at the old one with amazement. Her eyes had rarely seen this kind of car which no longer existed.

“I pity you,” she said. “You were made by a primitive hand lacking a scientific, creative touch and the power of inventiveness! Look at me … I’m a miracle in motion.”

Feeling insulted, the old car answered her, saying: “You may enjoy the benefits of advanced technology on the inside, but your body is weak and fragile and can’t take even the smallest shock. My strong body has the power to withstand any shock.” Going on, she added in a deep voice: “You’re like a modern human: a weak body and an utterly complicated inner life full of complexes and negativities and bad tendencies. Me, I’m like a premodern human possessed of a pure and simple soul, living in the heart of nature, eating from its goodness. Humans back then were built strong with a constitution that could resist disease.”

But the new car didn’t even hear the last sentence. As soon as she saw that the light had turned green, she started off as fast as possible, leaving behind her old colleague who was trying hard to keep up with the rest of the new model cars.


Translated from the Arabic by Osama Alomar and C. J. Collins.

Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1968 and now living in Pittsburgh, Osama Alomar is the author of three collections of short stories and a volume of poetry. He is a regular contributor to various newspapers and journals within the Arab world. His book The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories is out this month.