Strong Egyptian Knees

Wasem and Oscar / marker illustration / The Artist By Night

My coworker Wassim has the best stories. He delights everyone in the lunchroom with his incredible tales of growing up in Egypt, from his cousin having a pet monkey to giving his dad an exploding cigarette. To honor these many hours of laughter and skepticism, my portrait of Wassim combines a few of my favorite stories — most notably, Oscar the falcon and Oscar the duck. 

Oscar the falcon was bought cheaply on the Egyptian black market. The bird was a bit sickly looking, but at that price, if a boy's love for a bird couldn't cure Oscar, then nothing could. Wassim didn't have a falconry glove, so in a moment of ingenuity, he instead used a boxing glove. On their first outing together Oscar was a bit unsteady and had a hard time staying upright, so Wassim tied his legs down with the boxing glove's strings. Proudly he walked the streets of Alexandria, showing off his mighty falcon. Then a strong gust of wind toppled Oscar off the glove and left him dangling helplessly in the air. Wassim scooped him up and hustled him home ... so much for majesty. 

Oscar the duck came from a carnival. Wassim and his brother had been saving their money for months, and when the carnival rolled in, they wanted to spend it on a new pet. There was a Prize Wheel set up with ten chances to win and that day, the prize was a duck. Wassim bought five wedges and his brother bought the other five, so it was a guaranteed win. They joyfully brought home their new pet. The next day, the brothers came home from school and were greeted by a unfamiliarly delicious smell. They raced into the kitchen to see what was for supper and were greeted by their beaming mother. Yep, you can imagine how that one ended — Oscar was indeed succulent and juicy.

I had no idea what to title this piece, until I gave Wassim the drawing. He said "This is amazing! I love what you did with the knees — I have strong Egyptian knees."