#author Gentlemen’s Agreement and Other Stories. Excerpt from “The Window”


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Gentlemen’s Agreement and Other Stories

The Window
“He still failed to understand why there were so many police; their numbers made him feel uncomfortable. For the first time, he felt less confident about his position as a stranger in the small town, and he wondered if the shopkeepers he regularly saw merely tolerated him. He now wished he had paid more attention to his surroundings rather than losing himself in his work and the internet.

From his chair he looked across the room towards the sounds outside but he could see nothing except for a glimpse of the ivy-covered fence. The police must be finally going home, he thought, and turned his attention back to his computer.

Suddenly his body jolted as it was struck by the blaring and vicious sound of a man’s strident voice coming through a loudspeaker directly outside his window. The man separated his sentences into phrases, each one inflected, ending on a higher note, to reinforce his message.

Greg, shocked and uncomprehending, stood up, his heart beating faster and louder because of the closeness of the loud and angry voice. Saliva filled his mouth and he tried to breathe steadily, but his breath only became ragged as his defences tried to support and protect him. He looked through the window and the tiny gaps in the garden fence, and
glimpsed the black, white and red of flags. Greg wished his eyes were playing tricks: that the tricolour he had seen in history books and documentaries had not come to life. He frantically searched for other colours but saw none.

The man railed about his fears for his work, home and town, his wife and his children. Greg wanted to listen to what the man was saying so he opened the window, but the voice screamed even louder making it difficult for him to distinguish the words. He closed the window wondering why no one had told him the demonstrators would be stopping outside this house. It was quiet upstairs, and he was unsure whether the owners were in. Greg cocked his head to one side as he listened. The sickening feeling in his stomach validated the pertinence of history and the taste of fear in his mouth taught him what it was to hide in a darkened room, peering through small holes, and praying not to be seen…”

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About S.A. Aslam

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