What Pegman Saw: Syria

Syria © Google Maps


“Are these seats taken?”

He glanced at the seat between us. “No.”

There was something unrecognizable in his softly accented English. I studied his clothing and face for a clue.

“My parents are coming. My husband’s parents too.” I rested my coat and bags on the adjacent seats. “Do you have family coming?”


Again, the unrecognizable accent. And so, I chattered on about the show, about my daughter, about his son. We talked about the honor. And though he sometimes smiled, it seemed that every word trailed off in sadness.

“You must be very proud. Will your family be coming to the finals?”

He shook his head.

“Do they live abroad?” And in his nod, I sensed a choked-back sob.

I tried to fathom where could be so far, what could be so sad. All around us, excited parents filled the auditorium. I turned to him. “Where do they live?”

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. I went five words over the limit this week, which is 155 words more than I wanted to write. This felt like one of those homework assignments where you want to yell at the teacher. Oh well. Done my duty to Pegman this week.

To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.



  1. Well, you’ve created a mystery there, Karen. A hole where this man’s family should be, a tragedy too awful to discuss, but forever bubbling under the surface. Nicely written with some sad undercurrents.

    1. Oooh, I love the way you characterized that–although you give me too much credit. Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. This is great. I like how you let the post location answer for itself. I imagine the feelings of those who are forced to flee their homeland are intense and conflicted. You do a wonderful job depicting this in just a few words.

    1. Thanks so much. It was harder to capture than I expected. As someone whose kids went to the same elementary school that I went to, it’s hard to fathom the loss for someone leaving behind family in a war torn country.

  3. I felt very moved and the short piece had such a nice build.
    also very curious as to the situation…..

    1. Sometimes 150 words are not enough. I tried to capture the story of man I once met, but words can’t do justice to my blithe ignorance and his profound sadness. Thanks so much for reading.

      1. yes – the profound sadness was exactly what was felt.
        I recently met a man who relocated from Afghanistan – with three kids and a wife – and he might do an interview for me – well he said he would and we already took a photo – but yikes – getting uprooted and yanked from the homeland – ugh!

      2. I would love to read/see the interview when it comes out. Will you be sharing it on your blog?

      3. Hi – yes – and honored that you want to check it out – I will be sure to come and let you know when i get it up.
        oh and I will have my post for what pegamn saw in very soon.
        I actually wrote one for last week’s location (Russia) but I am playing catch up from the holidays still….
        (and happy new year by the way)

  4. I like the delicacy and understatement of your story. I find it believable that displaced people from war torn countries are so traumatised and cruelly separated from their families, that they can’t talk about it. Well done.

    1. Thanks so much! I can’t imagine what it would be like to live so far away from one’s home and family, and the heartache of being unable to return.

  5. Lavanya

    Your gift for understatement once again shines through this story. Very relevant topic with everything that’s happening.

    1. Thanks Lavanya, very kind of you. Sadly it is very relevant.

  6. I read this and re-read it several times. You unfold the stranger’s mystery and his profound sadness with consummate artistry.

    1. Penny, you’re very sweet. Thanks so much!

  7. How awful to join an auditorium filled with people whose families intact, untouched by the scourge of war. All were there to be delighted and proud. What could one say when not filled with the same joy? A beautiful and sad story.

    1. It would be! We take so much for granted. Thanks for reading.

  8. Wonderful. I like you simple complexities K.

  9. Dear Karen,

    You’ve captured a mood here and told a story between the lines. Very well done.

    I relate to what you said about your daughter’s going to the same elementary school you did. My three sons went to the same high school as I and even had a few of the same teachers. 😉



    1. I thought I commented but I didn’t! Thanks for reading. Very cool to share that connection with your kids 😉

  10. Oh, you did an excellent job of showing his profound sadness. Short answers, this line “though he sometimes smiled”. You left me feeling a bit empty. In a very good way. ( I turned him ~ I think you need a “to” in there.)

    1. Oh thanks for catching that–and thanks for reading!

    2. You’re welcome on both counts!

  11. When I first read this yesterday morning before, Karen, I wasn’t sure what it was about. I am glad my ability to comment on my phone WordPress App failed again. I cheated, something I don’t like doing in this writing prompt or the other (FridayFictioneers) I do – the only two!) and read others comments first, yesterday afternoon, to get a feel. I read your story again this morning and I am intrigued (and surprised) by Josh’s extensive comment and praise (although I have seen inklings of it for your pieces before)… I am not sure what to say, after everyone else. I liked your story, don’t get me wrong, just am undecided how I feel after reading it. Hope this makes sense and helps.

    1. Kelvin, Thanks so much for your honest feedback. I can see where it was vague and I’m grateful for your sharing your thoughts about it. Always glad to see when and where I get my ideas across. Thank you for reading!

      1. Karen I feel so foolish. After posting this comment I worked backwards through the WPS stories this week then came to Rochelle’s story where she called Josh your hubby. I am so sorry- about my previous comment about Josh’s comment. Of course he will comment this way. And his comments are far better than any I might offer. You are both writers. Supporting and encouraging one another. Quite rightly. Makes me a teeny bit jealous as my wife isn’t really a reader. And when she is in the reading mood she struggles to keep up with the words and stories I write. I’ll reconsider my involvement here so I don’t tread on yours or Josh’s toes.

      2. I hope this doesn’t keep you from joining in. I always enjoy you stories and your comments.

  12. A man so far from home, maybe not even knowing if his family is safe. He is sad but with a quiet dignity.

    1. It would be difficult. Thanks for reading!

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