Life Sentence

Taşlıçay, Ağrı, Turkey © Google Maps

Baba and Uncle Ham talked, the smoke from their cigarettes braiding with the steam from their coffee.

“It will save her honor,” Uncle Ham said.

My honor was all anyone had talked about since the incident. Büyük Mahamad had been escorted to jail, his handcuffs loose, the officer’s arm on his shoulder as if to say Don’t worry, this will all be taken care of. I’d been taken to my room, where I’d stayed while the men decided my fate.

Baba was less sure. He stared into the blackness of his cup.

“It’s the only way I tell you,” Uncle Ham continued. “He gets out of jail, she gets her reputation back, and you’ve got one less mouth to feed.”

“She’s only fourteen. The legal age is sixteen.”

“A simple matter to fix.” Uncle Ham waved a hand. “Give me her birth certificate and I change that.”

147 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

To read more about the inspiration for this possibly mystifying story, read I was a Turkish child bride. We need to be protected from rapists, not married to them


  1. Whoa. An amazing story in a small amount of space. Women getting the shaft is nothing new, especially in fundamentalist cultures. Really powerful.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. What an awful fate it would be.

  2. Dear Karen,

    Sold to the highest bidder. I loved the image of the cigarette smoke braiding with the coffee steam. Wonderful image. Powerful story, subtly and well told.



    1. Thanks so much Rochelle.

  3. Sadly, I understood exactly what was going on before reading your note. Such a terrible tradition, and yet so many cultures have some version of that kind of “honor” for women now or in their not-so-distant past. Makes me wish we were moving faster in the opposite direction toward equality and justice.

    1. I hear you. I’m glad the story came across–I stewed on how to fit it into 150 words. Thanks so much for reading.

      1. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one squeeeeeeeezing it down to 150 this week!

  4. Dear Karen
    You’ve written a gem of a story. It has great description, strong characters and a powerful storyline and you tell it more by implication than by direct explanation. The technical skill with which you’ve constructed the story is consummate.
    What a heart-wrenching tale, though! The worst life sentence I can imagine.

    1. Thanks for your very kind words Penny! What a world when the rapist gets released and the victim gets a life sentence.

  5. Hard to imagine being this girl. You tread skillfully the path beside the gulf between cultures.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  6. What?! That is not fair. Why was the woman seen as the ‘burden’? Instead of making sure the offender pays for his crime, they’re trying to get him released. Arrrghh

    1. It’s so unjust! I can’t imagine. Thanks for reading Ade-Oluwa.

      1. You are welcome.🙂

      2. You are welcome. 🙂

  7. Not mystifying at all, Karen, clear as a bell ringing. Loved the opening sentence – a homely scene for an un-homely solution. Powerful stuff.

    1. Thanks Kelvin, so glad you liked it.

  8. peterkirsch

    Oh Karen…
    Just heartbreaking. But artfully done.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Peter! Still hoping one of these weeks I can get you to join us on Pegman.

  9. I, too, loved the braiding of the smoke and steam – such a wonderful image. As for the fate of the poor girl… shaking my head in sorrow…

    1. It’s a sad situation. Thanks for reading Dale!

  10. Such a subtley told story with a powerful emotional message. I admire the way you have honed it so that no words are wasted. Excellent story Karen.

    1. Thank you Francine!

  11. […] things light this week…  Thanks to both Josh and Karen for hosting this weekly […]

  12. I heard a story yesterday about girls in Kenya, some as young as five, who are raped then pretty much tossed out because they aren’t virgins anymore. It made me boiling mad. So many thoughts ran through my mind. You captured this in your simple, yet not, conversation between two callous men.

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