I’m writing this as part of my creative writing/english lit degree, and would love any criticism. Harsher the better! This is the 1st draft and I know it needs lots of work.
Mohammad and Yassen played slaps in the school house every morning, until their hands were smacked bright red and stinging. Mohammad held his hands together behind his back, and Yassen stood with his palms facing downwards. Mohammed brought his open hand down hard on Yassen’s, before the younger boy had a chance to dodge it. Yassen was always too slow to hit his brother’s back when it came to his turn. They were frustrated to be at an English Summer School for eleven weeks when they both spoke good English already.
“Boys, stop.” I said.
“I am stronger than him Mr. Philip! He is a fatty.” Yassen erupted with a milky grin.
“Shut up, I am the strong one.” Mohammad flexed his biceps, giggling.
“Why do you want to hurt Yassen?” I said. Mohammad looked confused.
“I’m not hurting him. I am helping him.”
“Look,” I held Yassen’s hand out in front of his face. It was less than half the size of my own and covered in a sore red patch. His knuckles had white scars which stood out on his dark olive skin.
“He isn’t hurting me! He fights like a girl.” Yassen jumped up and down and stuck out his tongue at his twelve year old brother. A small army of children burst into the hall after their breakfast.
Every morning it was necessary to split the brothers up. Mohammad would be made to sit on one side of the hall, slumped with his pot-belly bulging out of his t-shirt, and his three-quarter length trousers dangling just above his ankles. The other children would pat the empty seats next to them and smile as Mohammad was being separated from his brother, offering him their company. But he always chose to be alone. He watched Yassen with a careful eye; like he was always in danger. Yassen ran around on his own, murmuring things to himself like “jetpack!”, jumping and pretending to be a bird or an aeroplane. At eight years old he seemed content enough spending his summer on the south coast of England, thousands of miles from home. I sat with Mohammad as we waited for nine o’clock and the first English lessons of the day to begin.
“Why do you choose to be alone, Mohammad?” I asked.
“None of these people are my friends,” he said. “None of these people are Libyan. Just me and Yassen.” Mohammad looked around the hall at the groups of children chatting and laughing away in a handful of different languages.
“They can still be your friends, if they are not Libyan, it shouldn’t matter. They all speak English.”
“But they don’t come from what I come from. We are different.” I didn’t know what to say. The sea air filled the room, trickling into the school over the Downs. The July heat was blistering, even in the early morning, and the tips of Mohammad’s brown fringe has had been bleached blonde from the last few weeks in the Sun.
“Why do you stop us, Mr?” Mohammad locked his arms across his chest.
“It’s not good to fight,” I said, spinning a rugby ball into the air as I spoke. Mohammad’s brow rumpled.
“But if we do not do this game, it will be worse for us when we go home.” Mohammad lurched forward in his chair, snatching the ball from the air.
“How?” I said.
“You are more stupid, Mr. Philip,” Mohammad said, before jumping bolt upright and wiggling his index finger in the air. “Very! I mean very stupid.” At this point Yassen reappeared, with his tongue out once more, and his hands attached to the sides of his head imitating big ears.
“How do I say this, Mr. Philip?” Mohammad asked, pointing at a scrap of paper he held out in his hands.
“Tripoli, known as the mermaid of the mediterranean, for it’s Turquoise waters and whitewashed buildings,” I read. “Why have you got this?”
“Mermaid of the mediterranean!” Mohammad shouted. His younger brother Yassen covered his mouth with his red hands as he laughed and jumped around.
“Mr! Mr! Mr!” Yassen shouted, prodding my shoulder and gesturing for me to stand and hold out my arm. I did as he wished, and he jumped up, latching on to my forearm. “One, two, three,” Yassen heaved his head and shoulders above his hands, performing six strained pull ups, before plodding down to the floor to catch his breath.
The nine o’clock bell rang, and the mass of children scurried out of the hall to their lessons.
“I will see you at Rugby this afternoon then, Mohammad?”
“Of course, Mr. Philip. I will show you how to play really. Stupid Mr. Philip.” Mohammad let out a laugh that I wouldn’t have paired with a boy of his age. Somehow it was adult.