Although Kareem is eight, he looks more like twelve. This is neither due to his hairstyle, nor to the long trousers and T-shirt he is wearing; rather the serious expression on his face, and the way he looks at you, straight in the eye. He sells stones.
He picked them himself carefully: not too big, for they will not travel far; not too small, for they will impress no one. He arranged them on his wooden tray and priced them accordingly: regular, one piastra; medium, two.
By the time the protesters wake up, he is standing in the furthest corner of the square, holding his tray for them to buy his stones. He pockets the notes and coins, and by the end of the first day of business he has enough money to buy his mother flatbread and tahina; and to pay off the loan to Aziz for the trip on the felucca he didn’t want his mother to know about.
On the second day though, the protest turns violent and few buy his stones; many grab them and run. Kareem ties his money in his handkerchief, puts it in his trouser pocket and starts for home.
Hours later, when he comes to, long after the van that knocked him unconscious sped away, he feels for his bundle. It is no longer there. His strength gone, he falls back to the ground and closes his eyes. He now looks the boy of eight he is.