The days were hot and heady. It was a summer of sport, a summer of war. Our Boys were holding firm and there were blood red crosses in windows, on cars and white shirts worn with pride. There was singing, the sounding of car horns. And tension. Heads were bowed and shaken, prayers were said, drink was taken. And in the middle of it all, on an estate at the edge of the city, Mo, a corner shop keeper, and questions...
Who was he, this Mohammed Nazar and what was he doing there? Was he One-of-Us Mo, an entrepreneur who’d staked it all on a Mini-Mart as the recession bit? Foolhardy Mo, who’d moved in among poor and angry whites? Good Paki Mo, Bad Paki Mo? He was certainly Single-minded Mo, ostracised for selling booze, his mother and father strangers now, his cousins silent too. His family didn’t often pray but they lived where they always had, in the ghetto, and they didn’t understand what Mo was doing. He was trying to get by was all and more, trying to be, but how? Mo thought he knew. In his shop window, he’d hung a flag with a cross on it.
Then a bloody hot-blooded night. A bad result. A roadside bomb in Lashkar Gah. Our Boys over there, from round here, coming home. And they came for Mo too as he stood in the doorway of his Mini Mart, a pack of them with bandy legs, howling and barking like dogs – oo are ya? oo are ya? oo the fuck do you think you are? – and he thought he knew, he was Mo with a cross in his window, and he stood before the cross as they put through his window and punched him to the ground. When he was down they kicked his head, like a football. They told him they were kicking him back to Pakistan. And as he lay in his blood on the floor, Mo wasn’t sure who was asking the questions and by what right or why, why all sorts of people were always asking questions and more, just what it was they wanted to hear...About the author: Charlie Hill is a writer from Birmingham. He has previously published short stories in Ambit and Stand. His first novel was described by the Times as 'wonderfully observed' and by the Observer as 'funny and linguistically dexterous...an inventive work that shows much promise'
Photo of St George slaying the dragon by Widdowquinn