Chapter 4: The Oasis

“Jeanie, I know this is going to sound weird but I need your help.”

“Oh don’t worry, I have money, she said.”

“No, Mark laughed, when we walk in the store, I have a friend who I’m trying to impress, would you pretend to be my girlfriend, Mark asked?”

“What, Jeanie replied?”

“The owner of the store, is a friend of mine, and I want to impress him, Mark begged.”

“Oh Mark, No, that would not be appropriate, I mean I just met you, and I don’t know anything about you, it could get really uncomfortable…”

“Its just a joke, and if you play along, I’ll buy you a double scoop of vanilla ice-cream, he interrupted.”

“Jeanie wasn’t going to take his first offer, …with strawberry sprinkles, she countered?”

“Done, Mark settled, he offered his hand to shake, Jeanie reluctantly shook it.”

The Oasis, was a party store owned by Assad, a second generation, American citizen of Arabian descent. He inherited the store from his father, who bought it back in the seventies.

Assad was a short, balding, overweight, middle-aged man, who wore several thick gold chains, and a Hawaiian-styled shirt. Mark thought Assad resembled a modern-day version of a disco-dressing pimp. A real throwback from the 70’s, a look that only Assad could pull off.

The Oasis was a party store that primary sold liquor, but over the years Assad, had built it up to a first-class establishment. It was a commercial building in a residential neighborhood, and within a residential sub-division that, was legal at that time, so his store was grandfathered in.

Assad would not be granted a permit to rebuild his store at another location or even expand it expand it outside of his legal restrictions. But it could remain where it was, and the white community, who hated it there, could do nothing about it.

Assad had expanded it by adding additional freezers in the back, pizza ovens up front, remodeled the deli counter, put in flavored coffee machines, expanded the existing soda fountains to include Frozen Slurpee’s, and now the newest edition was hand dipped ice-cream. He finally qualified as an agent for State Treasury, so he sold lottery tickets as well.

But a party story in an upscale sub-division was considered as tacky as it was convenient, no-matter how first-rate. Some believed that a commercial building had no business in a predominately upper middle class white residential neighborhood, and neither did its Arab owner.

The white community that surrounded Assad were always overly polite to his face, and they all went to his store because it was very convenient, as opposed to the nearest super-market that was easily fifteen miles away.

But Assad was no fool, and he knew he would never be accepted as one of “them,” the white establishment, who bought his goods but made fun of him behind his back. He would always be just another undesirable with money.

Some regarded Assad no better than a low-life pimp, who could afford to golf at the most expensive resorts in the world, but every member would avoid him like the black-plague because his money was just as illegitimate as he was.

The other members of the subdivision would ask John, Mark’s father, if there was anything that could be done about the store. Legally the home-owner’s association, which John was a member of, could do nothing to overturn a federal law, but being a big shot attorney downtown who had political connections, still made him look bad.

So, the same people who went to Assad’s store, spent money, shook hands, and were all smiles to his face, but were the same ones who tried to change the zoning laws to have Assad ousted behind his back, which of course was impossible.

Mark’s father himself wouldn’t even go to his store and he didn’t like Mark hanging around Assad either with the exception, that Assad gave him a job during the summers. He liked the fact that his son was willing to work, and he thought a job would be a good experience for him.

But Michigan was not California, it might have been known as a blue state, but not for its liberal views. Despite the inner-city the state as a whole, still had a nonsense, work hard; play hard, working class mentality. Those who still had a job.

Arabic business owners who were exempt from paying taxes (unlike every other hard-working, natural born citizen), since the Jimmy Carter Administration, and this secretly made them exempt to this day.

This was all done thru the Trilateral Commission though no one knows (to this day) who they are or why they can decide racial, economic policy for the United States. This exemption was supposed to be temporary in nature, and for seven years. But the owner could legally pass it that exemption on to a blood relative there after, which extended this loophole forever.

And that was the real reason, Dearborn, Michigan had acquired the second largest concentration of Arabs in the World, second only to the actual middle-eastern countries they were native too, like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Pakistan, and Afghanistan, who were were still secretly at War With.

Many cultures came to the United States, but not all of them owned their own businesses, and the Arabic population, was the most alien to America culture, and not the most friendly or hospitable by comparison. They were very guarded and suspicious. Not the ideal trait(s) when dealing with the Public. Yet despite all the racism, cultural differences, and language barriers, they thrived where every other failed. And nobody could connect the dots.

Assad had the second generational disposition, and he wanted to be liked, despite the fact that he would never be accepted. So he played the game. Assad was good at remembering names, and if it was your birthday he would give you a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack on the house. Servicemen always got discounts, and he even refused to take their money if they were in uniform. He helped the elderly by carrying the heavier groceries to their cars.

Assad had a real knack for making you like him when he wanted to.

As far as Assad was concerned, no matter what they thought of him behind his back, as long as bought his shit, that was the only thing that really mattered. Assad didn’t really care anymore for Mark’s father John, then John cared for him. But he loved Mark.

And Mark thought Assad was cool as ice, God only knows why but the two of them became the best of friends, despite their age, race, culture, and background differences.

For one thing, no-matter how old Mark was, Assad never treated him like a child, Assad always treated Mark as if he was actually more mature than his actual age.

For example, Assad would openly curse in front of Mark, when they would watch wrestling or the baseball game on TV, usually when he was losing money on a bet.

He started out only cursing in Arabic: Muqit al’um, but then as he got older, he would openly curse in English as well. Baseball could be complicated, so Assad would explain the finer points of the game, so Mark understood what was going on.

Assad even promised to take him to a game during the season’s opener at “Comerica Park,” if his dad let him. As Mark got older Assad would tell him dirty jokes, make fun of the obnoxious white customers, and even let Mark flip thru all the girlie magazines he sold on the rack. One time he even let Mark try one of his illegal Cuban cigars (yes illegal, Cuba had pissed off the current President again), so he placed another embargo on them, and they both smoked one together in the back.

But the absolute best was when Mark spotted Assad and four of his identical looking brothers-in-laws, drunk off their asses, celebrating a wedding, and loading four kegs of beer into the back of their expensive SUV’s.

They were also passing around a fifth of Jack Daniels, and talking gibberish behind the dumpster as Mark approached them from behind. Mark, who was riding his bike on his way home after a hockey game that had run very late, because the

 

He walked up behind Assad who had his back towards him, and surprised them all by standing next to Assad and wrapping his arm around him. Mark said something smart-ass, like, “I hope I got my arm around the right guy.”

Assad instantly translated what Mark had said into Arabic and everybody started laughing hysterically. Mark thought Assad had translated what he had said directly but Assad had giving his own interpretation and it was more like, “Oh yea, this is that crazy white mother-fucker I was telling you about earlier, and then he handed Mark the bottle and put his arm around him in return.”

Everyone was drunk off their ass, and Mark had to even help Assad keep his balance as everyone came up to kiss Mark on the cheek, which is how his family greeted each other in their culture.

The group then introduced themselves in Arabic, while Assad roughly translated what they said, Assad had made Mark feel like family. Mark even helped them load the two remaining kegs into each of their new SUV, and Assad invited Mark to come with them to the reception, Mark said he was coming home late from a game and he only stopped to check on the store because he thought someone might be breaking into the back. Besides he was probably in trouble as it was and if his dad caught him coming in any later, he’d get a beating.

“Fifteen minutes, Assad said.”

“I can’t, Mark replied.”

“I’ll let you drive, Assad shrugged.”

That was too good a deal to pass up. Driving a brand new SUV, at thirteen, was worth a beating.

Assad was so drunk that Mark was glad to be driving, so after he out his bike in the back he threw him the keys and they were off. Mark slowly followed the other two Mercedes SUV in front of him.

Assad was impressed at what a good driver Mark was and Mark told him that his parents had a cabin up-north and a jeep with four-wheel drive, and his dad let him drive in a large circle around their property.

Once they were at the hall where the reception was being held in, Mark followed Assad to his table then he was introduced to the bride and groom, which was a huge honor, and then they made their way to the buffet line. They ate together and Mark was even served wine, Assad was filling Mark in on the background of some of the more important people at the wedding.

After he ate, the band began to play and Mark had drunk enough to walk to the center of the floor, and dance with two extremely attractive Mediterranean girls who were both several years older than himself. They were already on the dance floor but that did stop him from getting in between the two of them.

Well before long, fifteen minutes turned into two hours and It was way past midnight, Assad and his crew where playing cards in the back, and Mark was sobered up enough to hug Assad from behind and told him he had to get home.

Assad looked at the clock and told him to stay and play poker with them, since he was already in trouble anyway. Assad said that he would even stake him, and handed Mark a fist full of hundred-dollar bills. Mark had never seen so much money on one table in his life.

But Mark refused, shaking his head, “Obviously you forgot about our gun trigger city prosecutor with a bad temper who would love to beat my underage ass for coming home drunk for embarrassing him publicly.

“Okay, just let me finish this hand and then I’ll drive you home, Assad said.”

Unlike Mark, Assad had never stopped drinking,

“Assad your drunker than I am, Mark said, you can’t drive, you shouldn’t even be walking.”

Assad nodded his head like, you know you might have something there, most times Mark acted more like an adult that he did, “The car’s open.”

Mark kissed Assad on the cheek and said, “Hey, thank these guy for me, you throw a great party.”

Assad laughed, waved him off and spoke Arabic, everybody at the table cheered and waved goodbye as he left.

Never had Mark felt so adult in his entire life, all thirteen years of it. After that, at least in Mark’s eyes, Assad could do no wrong.

Mark called his parents and told them what happened and that he was going to be late, and then he tried to sneak thru the back door unnoticed but his mom was waiting up.

He had used mouth wash multiple times earlier before he left, but if either parent smelled alcohol even on his clothes there would be hell to pay. His mom was at the table but she was talking on the phone, so Mark waved from a distance, and told her that he was going to put his clothes in the washer, in an effort to avoid her.

Are you hungry Mark she asked while she put her sister on hold?

No, I’m fine Mom thanks.

Are you sure?

Yea.

Okay, well pull out the knob.

Then he snuck past her and scurried upstairs almost tripping, as he stumbled his way to his bed. He didn’t wake up until almost noon the next morning.

It was no secret that Assad sold some of the best all-natural hand dipped ice-cream in the county. So, Jeanie’s instinct about ice-cream were spot-on.

“What up Assad, Mark said giving him the peace sign sideways like some flaky hipster.”

“Hey, what’s up Mark, Assad said, briefly looking up, from his newspaper, and then he did a double take when he saw Jeanie with him.”

Assad had never seen Mark come into his store with a girl before. No, this was a woman.

“Hey, who’s the princess, Assad asked, as he stood up and walked towards them.”

Then he eyed Jeanie up and down as if appraising a slave-girl before a purchase. It was no secret that Assad loved white girls, especially white women with big tits and big asses, not unlike black men. And Assad’s appraisal was not distracted by Mark’s friendship or Jeanie’s age.

“This is my girlfriend Jeanie, Mark said, and Jeanie this is Assad; coolest Arab this side of Mecca.”

“Hi, Assad, Jeanie said shyly, and when she raised her hand to wave, when she did, the sleeve of his Jacket which was too long, overlapped and dogeared over the length of her hand.”

“Girlfriend, Assad, said doubtfully, I don’t believe it!”

But it’s true, Mark said, and then nudged Jeanie for validation,”

Jeanie, as if on cue, immediately hugged Mark dramatically, and even raised one leg off the floor, bending it at the knee.”

Assad laughed, “Whoa, whoa, when did all this happen, he asked?”

“Today, Mark said, Jeanie is a new student who just moved to our school she lives next next door so I thought I would do the neighborly thing and show her around, Mark said.”

“And that’s makes her your girlfriend, Assad asked?”

“Hey In your country, we would have to get married by now, Mark countered.”

Assad, and Jeanie both laughed.

Assad looked at Jeanie with a straight face said, “Ms. if your being held against your will, just blink with one eye, and then Assad started blinking to show her how. He looked like a mad Arab, or a mad pirate.

Now Mark and Jeanie laughed.

“How can you not love this guy, Mark said facing her?”

“Well if this girl will have you, then you have my blessing, Assad conceded gracefully.”

Jeanie could feel her face turning red, and she tried to hide her embarrassment by whispering in Marks ear.When she finished Mark said, “We would like two double scoops of your finest vanilla ice-cream, my man.”

“Soft cone or Sugar, Assad asked?”

“Sugar, Mark said.”

As Assad was leaving Jeanie whispered in Mark’s ear again,

“Oh yea, and dip those in Strawberry Sprinkles please, Mark said as an after-thought.”

Assad gave him the okay sign as Mark got out his wallet.

After Assad handed him the cones; Mark handed Jeanie hers, and asked him how much?”

“On the house, Assad said graciously.”

“I don’t what to say, Mark replied.”

“Say Yes, Assad said.”

“And let me add a thank you as well, Mark replied.”

“Even better, Assad said.”

“Can we go in the back, Mark asked?”

“Yea, sure, and then Assad addressed Jeanie specifically, “Honey don’t let Mark, make himself too comfortable back there, and then he started blinking again.”

Mark and Jeanie both laughed and Jeanie promised Assad she wouldn’t.

Assad walked back to his stool, behind the register, where his newspaper and a.m. radio was broadcasting a news station in Arabic. It was low but discernible.

Mark took Jeanie by the hand and led her in the back where the tables were.

This section was the store was normally closed off, but he always let Mark and some of the other regulars sit there whenever they wanted. Assad removed most of the tables because he was running out of room due to the improvements.

Sitting down gave Mark and Jeanie a chance to relax.

“How long have you known Assad? Jeanie asked.”

“Well he was here before my parents moved here, so ever since I was old enough to walk to the store by myself, Mark said.

“He’s colorful, how did you two become friends, Jeanie asked.”

“When I first moved here, I didn’t know anybody so I would just hang around the store. I bought comic-books but I didn’t like the way Assad just crammed them in, so I started re-organizing them in the rack by popularity.”

“Popularity, she asked?”

“Who I liked the best, he said.”

“Plus, he had the Marvel and D.C mixed together and that was just crazy, I had to separate them because they live in two separate universes.”

“Two separate universes, Jeanie asked?”

“Comic book universes, Where only certain characters exist in one but not both. Spider-man live in Marvel Universe, and Batman lives in the D.C Universe.

Anyway, one-day Assad saw me separating them and I thought he was going to be mad, but when I explained what he was doing, he stopped me and said, “Hey kid, if you wanted a job here, all you had to do was ask.”

“Wow, Jeanie commented.”

Yea, so I started work for him on week-ends and after school. During the summertime he would have pizza for lunch and we would watch “Batman, the cartoon series together.

“Really, Jeanie sounded amazed.”

At the time he had a small color television behind the counter. The series came on every day, at the same time, we both loved Batman, so I guess that’s how we became friends, we had a lot of things in common.”

“A grown man watching cartoons, Jeanie asked?”

“Not just a cartoon, Batman.”

Jeanie rolled her eyes.

“One day a customer came in the store; went in the back of one of the coolers and took something out but decided they didn’t want it. But instead of putting it back, they set it down and left it in the isle.

About an hour later Assad was cleaning up, and singing happy as a lark when suddenly he saw that spoiled ice cream melting all over his freshly mopped floor and he lost it, even from the back of the store I could hear him cursing alternately in two languages.

“What did he say, Jeanie asked?”

“It wasn’t what he said but how he said it, He was like an Arabian “Yosemite Sam,”

Blah Blah Blah, I hate you, you dirty bastard.

I never laughed so hard in my life.

“So, one time after we had ice creme for desert, Assad had to go wait on a customer, but instead of finishing mine, I pretended that I forgot to throw it away, and left it out for him to find. Then I hid just out of sight behind the back door.”

“Why, Jeanie asked.”

“Because clean-ups and messes are Assad’s pet peeve, and I knew when he saw that melted ice cream all over the floor again, he was going to lose it. I just wanted to hear him do that voice again, and he did.

Mark imitated Assad: “Blah, blah, blah, white piece of shit, blah, blah, that motherfucker didn’t look retarded, blah blah, and that’s why I never had kids, Mark’s imitation of Assad was spot-on, and even Jeanie couldn’t help laughing.

“What’s his native language, Jeanie asked?”

“I don’t think anybody knows, half the time I think Assad just makes up his own words, Mark said.”

“After all this time, you don’t even know what country Assad is from, Jeanie asked?”

“I think where at war with them, Mark whispered, so it’s safer if we don’t know, and then he winked at her.

Jeanie laughed.

“Anyway, as I got older Assad started to curse more in English and less in Arabic, Mark continued”

“Your joking.”

“No, seriously,”

“Why?”

“I guess he wanted to become more “Americanized,” Mark said.

“I don’t think Assad was setting a very good example for you, Jeanie replied.”

“Whose talking about me, I was the one assimilating him, Mark said.”

“What do you mean assimilating, Jeanie asked?”

“Sometimes when Assad cursed in English he would mispronounce a curse-word, so I would help him pronounce it correctly.”

“You helped Assad curse, Jeanie asked unbelieving?”

“Well, I didn’t want Assad making a fool of himself, I mean he was going to curse anyway, so I felt he should at least pronounce it correctly, Mark explained.”

“I don’t know Mark, your relationship with Assad sounds slightly dysfunctional to me, Jeanie said.”

“Slightly, Mark repeated, you don’t know the half of it.”

“Well I was trying to be polite, Jeanie laughed.”

“I would prefer to think of our relationship as being more “cathartic,” Mark explained.”

“How so, Jeanie asked?”

Mark paused to think, suddenly he couldn’t come up with an answer.

“Maybe your right, Mark considered, Assad still mispronounces his curse words, and I never feel better correcting him afterwards.”

Then Mark stated laughing.

Jeanie just licked her ice-cream cone in a comical expression pretending to be preoccupied.

“Thank You for playing along with Assad by the way, Mark said.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the way I introduced you as my girlfriend, Mark said.”

Mark didn’t want to say anything bad about Assad but sometimes he could come off as creepy, so he was actually trying to protect Jeanie from him.

“Well I hope I was convincing, Jeanie said.”

“Oh you were, and it was very natural, wouldn’t you agree, he asked her?”

Jeanie suddenly took another bite of her ice-cream and looked away embarrassed.

“Maybe I should have warned before I bought you that ice cream, that we have a dating statute in Michigan, when an couple have ice-cream on a date, they become an item.”

“Item, what you mean item? Like sharing strawberry sprinkles as a item on their ice cream?”

“No, it’s more like they become know as an item, and this would be considered our first date, Mark corrected.”

“Boyfriend and girlfriend, Jeanie looked confused, you never asked me out, so this is not a date!!!

“We agreed on a common place to meet, money was exchanged, you’re even wearing my jacket now, Mark smiled.”

“Well here you can have it back, she started to take it off.”

“It’s too late, the ice-creams be eaten, the deed is done.”

“Deed, what deed, I didn’t kiss you, and don’t you get any idea’s Jeanie warned him, if that’s what what your getting at?”

“I’ll ask my dad for clarification, he’s an attorney you know.”

“Yea, a prosecutor with the city, Jeanie said.”

Next Chapter Here:

Chapter 5: Long Road Home

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