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The best game in the world

It's not easy to laugh when bombs are falling around your house. And if you are a little girl
from Syria, even less so. This short story stems from a news story about a father who devised a game for his
a game so that his daughter would not be afraid. The author of the text, Laura Carapeto, who has a degree in
in Philosophy and Journalism, gives it a twist: there is still innocence and smiles in places where anger and pain dwell.
where anger and pain dwell.


The best game in the world

The story that was in the news was about a little girl who laughed when bombs fell near her house in Syria. That was a tough period, there was a lot of news about conflict, bombs and deaths. And suddenly there was a little girl laughing. 

It was curious and somewhat outrageous: all the media on speech focused on the father's creativity or on the comparison of this game with the one in Roberto Benigni's "Life is Beautiful". No one stopped to think about what this paternal action and this game meant for the child, little Salwa. Nobody stopped to think about what this paternal action and this game meant for the child, little Salwa. Who is the protagonist here, if not her? 

This may or may not be what happened. This is what I imagine:

* * *

Dad has invented a game. I like it very much and we always play it together, especially in the evening and sometimes after dinner, when I finish brushing my teeth. Dad calls it "Plane or Bomb". It's very easy and I think it's played in every country.

He sits on the sofa, but I always stand on the cushions next to him. I have to be very attentive because if there's a loud noise, we laugh. Mum calls it explosions and sometimes bombs, just like dad. Mum says you have to stay away from those loud noises, and that's why we live in Seraqib now.

We used to have a nice house with a garden, a big playroom and a sofa for the three of us. We used to watch films, but now we live in a tiny house with no windows. I think dad calls it a bunker. It sounds like a very strange word to me, like most of the words I hear, but I don't mind, because I like to play "Plane or bomb" with them.

Once, during the summer holidays, something very big fell in our garden. I was in the living room watching cartoons. The blow blocked my ears and all I could hear was a loud ringing in my ears. I got really scared, because I thought those grown-ups with guns were going to come again. They always chase us and call us rebels, but I know it's not true, it's just me, mum and dad. We don't have any rebels hiding at home.

When the heavy blow happened in the summer, mum and dad were in the kitchen. I started crying and they heard me. Dad came into the living room, lifted me up and hugged me and mum. I wanted to stop crying, but I couldn't, I was too scared. I remember we held each other until the beeping stopped. Mum and dad looked at me. Mum went to the bathroom, I think she had dust in her eyes. Dad took me to the balcony and told me a secret. I'm going to tell you, OK, but you can't tell anyone.

He told me that they are not real noises, they don't hurt, because they are just toy guns. They are like the fireworks we shoot during the Eid al-Adha festival: you have to cover your ears but they are very beautiful, because they sparkle and the families are together to see them. Dad taught me the game and made me promise that we would always play it together. So every time a neighbour uses a toy gun, dad, mum and I laugh.

The last time, dad took out his mobile phone and put it on the internet. The next day, a tall man, he said he was from an agency, asked us a lot of questions. Then he took out his camera and took pictures of me. He told me to smile and to explain the game to him, but I was embarrassed, because it was a secret that dad had told me and I didn't know this man. Dad explained the game a little bit, but he didn't tell him our secret. The man left the house thinking that real bombs exist. Poor thing, I hope he doesn't get too scared.

Now Dad is on the Internet. They call him Abdullah, but they don't know that his name is actually dad. I also appear in my favourite dress and in many places my name also appears: Salwa.

Mum tells me that soon we will live in a better house and I will be able to go to high school and meet other children. Sometimes mum and dad talk about Syria. I think it's a lady who is very ill. They say she has had a very serious illness for nine years and she is already 400,000 cousins short. I think Syria must be our second aunt and also the aunt of the men who are chasing us. I would like her to recover soon, because mum and dad are sad for her. I want to meet her one day, we would play together and I would tell her about my friends. And if she gives me sweets, I might tell her our secret.

The best game in the world

visit Kairoos, Laura's blog



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