‘The Accident’ by Janet Olearski

cement flowing at construction site

RAJIV: I thought I’d start this off with something along the lines of “Falling barrel kills workman.” Then, I’ll write something like, “Police are investigating the tragic death of an Indian labourer at a building site in Khalifa City.” I thought the barrel thing was quite interesting. I mean it’s not every day a barrel falls on your head. No, I’m not being funny. Well, I suppose I am. I could perhaps try to write it more sympathetically. In this job you have to bear in mind that people will read what you say about their relatives, so you have to get the story across without overdoing the morbid details. But that’s what makes my job intriguing … finding out the morbid details.

FOREMAN: (Translation) His name was Sunni. He’s been part of this crew for six months now. To tell you the truth I could never find him when I needed him. I couldn’t find him that day either. Until I found the missing barrel. One minute the barrel was on the edge of the roof. Next minute it was on the ground and Sunni was underneath it. I don’t know how the barrel got there. I don’t know why the barrel was on the edge of the roof. I’m only the foreman. It’s nothing to do with me. Maybe first you speak to the owner.

MOHAMMED AL QABAISI: Yes, I own the land, but it is not my fault. You need to know anything, you ask Mr Mahmood the Engineer.

MAHMOOD: Mahmood with you. Yes, I heard about the accident. It wasn’t my fault. I’m only the engineer. I was in my car driving back from Dubai when the accident happened. If you don’t believe me, then you can check the speed cameras. Ask the men on the site, not me.

RAVI: Sorry. Not speak English.

BODU: I have a doubt how barrel was on end of roof like that. I working on other roof, not that roof. Ravi working on that roof, I think. No, I did not see him. I’m just thinking he is on other roof because he not on my roof.

HABEEB: Sunni? What I think of Sunni? I’m thinking he owed me 525 dirhams.

RAVI: Sorry. Not speak English.

KAMIL: I didn’t see nothing. I working put seal on roof. No problem with barrel. Ravi taking care of barrel. Ask him. Barrel was good. What I am think of Sunni? Nothing. Always talking on phone. Not pay attention to nothing. 

MARISOL: I call Sunni maybe twenty times, but he never answer. I got his baby. What I do now?

CHANDAN: (translation of phone interview) I miss my dad. I want him to come home.

BRIGADIER HAMAD: We have arrested the man responsible. Ravi his name. Sorry for him. He gonna pay lotta money for Sunni family, and he get deported. Or, maybe get death sentence.

RAVI: Sorry. Not speak English.

About the Author:

Janet Olearski is originally from London. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Wasafiri, Constellate, Far Off Places, Litro, Bare Fiction, and elsewhere. Her work also includes the story collection A Brief History of Several Boyfriends, a novel A Traveller’s Guide to Namisa and, as editor and contributor, The Write Stuff anthology.