Four short stories by Hassan Zerehi

1: ABDY

Hello, is this Mr. Ahankah? 

I laugh and say: “That's right.” Though it's not the first time that someone calls and pronounces my family name Ahankah instead of Ahankhah, but I don't know why this time it seems to me so funny? Maybe, it's because of the extreme politeness of the caller.

Ibrahim used to say: “A miserable person is miserable.” When he wants to choose a surname, instead of saying: “Write, Diamond-seeker, Gold-seeker, or jewelery-seeker, he goes and becomes Iron-seeker. Is it really a surname or the other, water in mortar or…

From the conversation I realize that he's a doctor. He's calling from the hospital. He says: “A young woman who doesn't know English can't distinguish her name from the name of her country, has come to the hospital for delivery. I am her doctor. Iran says you are the child's father. It means I am the father of the child.

We have got lost in the biggest forests of the world. We are sure that we die. Ibrahim cries loudly and swears at himself, at his mother, at himself, me and his mother.

I am very afraid. I want to cry so much. But the fear and cry and Ibrahim's curses calm me down.

We have gone to Minab to take pictures. We need the pictures for grade six transcripts.

One should walk seventy five kilometers to the end of the world to reach the photo shop of Ali, the photographer and know that the world revolves around pictures. So he knows that no one can manage without pictures.

Ali, the photographer says the same things to me and Ibrahim: “The world revolves around the pictures. You have something to do in the government's offices, they ask for your pictures. Anywhere you go, your request gets bogged down without a picture. A wise person must always carry a picture. With picture you have less problems.

I, still, follow the advice of Ali, the photographer, that fat kind man, with that sincere and fatherly attitude, with his pleasant chattering, and any time it's necessary, from my own wallet take out a red and white envelope which contain some passport pictures and pictures in smaller sizes.

While shedding tears, Ibrahim looks at me and says, “ What did we need the pictures for?” If they want to give us our transcripts, they can give them to us without pictures. In fact, we don't need the transcripts at all. If we're supposed to become the victims of the wolves and hyenas, what do we need the transcripts and the pictures for.” And he starts crying. In the middle of crying, he says we are lost in the middle of the greatest jungle of the world. I think to myself a person who for the first time has associated the two words “lost” and “grave,” has been in a situation like mine and Ibrahim's. He had got lost, and known whose grave is in this getting lost. I want to cry with Ibrahim. I want to tell him that I know we are not going to survive from this great jungle and this approaching night. We are tired and hungry. Since there is water, we don't feel thirsty. I'm afraid Ibrahim gets worse. So I don't cry or say anything. Instead, I shout at him not to cry like a woman. Whatever is written, it'll happen to us. He looks at me, he looks at me with eyes bulging with tears, he throws his kind frightened brown glance at me and says, “You sound in a way that one imagines you know how to get out of this,” and continues begingly, “By god, if you know tell me. If you know where we are tell me, do you know which side is north? Do you which direction we are taking, do you?”

I didn't know.  

The father said: “ With the New Year caravan we go to Minab. I go, too. I go to take pictures in the photo shop of Ali, the photographer, and get to know my father's friends in there, so if one day I chance on this city again, I won't be a stranger.

Iran said: “Can you take Ibrahim with the caravan of your father?” I looked at her and said why not.

We have gone. We have taken pictures. We were supposed to come back with Noor-Mohamed's pick-up truck. The father and the caravan have left the city. We know. The green pick-up truck of Noor-Mohamed, the only pick-up truck of our region is not going to be repaired for a few days. There is big problem with it that can be fixed with a part which comes from Tehran. And we know that to fix this kind of problem can take weeks and months. I and Ibrahim have started out and got lost in the thick rows of the trees in the south side of “Jumahleh” river.

The father said: “You mount Heykal's camel. The camel that Heyakal took care of was the favorite camel of the father. I mounted. The father himself mounted the camel of Mahmi, and Ibrahim, too, was mounted on a draft camel of the caravan. Caravan left the wet shore in the morning. We traveled for an hour. Mahmi and Heykal and some other servants were running along the caravan with canes in their hands. They never rode a camel. At least, they never did that in our presence. Later, I realized that they were forbidden to ride the camels. Heykal was the youngest servant of our family. He was a few months younger than me. I couldn't stand him running before the camel. In that journey, in that journey to the mythical city, to that corner of the world that Ghasem used to say of all it ground is stone and cement, and we looked at each other and smiled. And we were certain that Ghasem was lying. He is telling the biggest lie in the world. Is it possible that all the ground of a place can be of stone and cement. That's really ridiculous. Covering the floors of the halls of houses requires a lot of money. Years passed until we knew what Ghasem was calling stone and cement was asphalt, something that the English had brought with them. On the way I pretended to have headache, exhaustion, and this and that, and the father ordered the caravan to stop. All of my hope was that Heykal takes a rest. We reached Minab. Mohammad Motahed, a friend of my father and one of the merchants there, took us to his house which was more like a small white palace. The servants and camel-keepers lodged in his great caravansary. The house of Motahed was much smaller than our house. But it was so white and beautiful and well-constructed, that one enjoyed just looking at it. The white tall ventilation apertures, the white lovely women with clean and colorful clothes, full of flowers, they were so thin that you could see the bodies trembling in them. These women and girls talked in a way that was more like singing a love song. It was as if one could fall in love with the way they talked. Fall in love with their joy and lightness, fall in love with placing their hands under their chins and their way of looking. The behavior of these women and young girls penetrated like a flowing water in one's existence. The father and Motahed were busy with the business affairs and I and Ibrahim, along with Heykal who knew Minab like the palm of his hand, went to the -photo shop of Ali, the photographer. The photo shop of Ali was in a remote corner of a street that according to Ghasem was made of stone and cement. We took pictures. We listened to the words of Ali, the photographer and knew that the world still revolves around the pictures. The father knew that I and Ibrahim have got tired of the long journey. He knew that our return would make us even more tired. He asked Nour-Mohammad who was hanging around there to take us with his pick-up truck to take us back. He agreed. Around the sunset, the father and the caravan started to return. I and Ibrahim slept in the white house of Motahed which was full of enchanting sounds.

At dawn, we ate a big breakfast and the servant of Mr. Motahed took us to where Noor-Mohammsd's pick-up truck was parked.

Noor-Mohammad said: “This pick-up truck can't be fixed.”

Ibrahim looked at me, I looked at him, and we decided. The servant of Motahed had left. We told Noor-Mohammed we go back home and wait for him. And now in the greatest jungle of the world, in the greatest jungle of Jumahleh river we are lost.

Ibrahim, still, curses himself, his mother, Noor-Mohammed, Minab, Ali the photographer, the grade six, and everything else that he remembers and then cries sobbingly. I can smell death. But against the disturbing agitations of Ibrahim, who is my Iran's brother, I keep calm. When one is sure of dying, how many pleasant memories he remembers. How many things not done, how much kindness not given, and how much…

Now this Dr. has called that Iran is in hospital and I, who am Ahankah, must go and see this woman who carries my child in her belly, why calls herself with her country's name. As the doctor suggests, this is because she doesn't know English, or her name is really Iran.

I want to say: “Mr. Doctor, have you heard about my and Iran's and Ibrahim's and Ahmad's heads? I don't say that. I go to the hospital. I want to know which Iran is this who has after all these years has come to Toronto, has come to Canada, has come in my earshot to give birth to her child. When I wrote the stories of me, Ibrahim, Ahmad and Iran, Mehraneh, my friend, said: “What a bout the child?” I asked which child? She said: “The child of you and Iran.”

I go to the hospital hurriedly, the incident is getting interesting for myself. From those distant years, from the years of our decapitation, I have moved so far away, that now it seems like history, like the history that we read in books. The history of the mountain of heads, the history of the eyes screwed out of their sockets and piled up to form a tower, the history of the river of blood, the history that you read and don't even frown at it. it is as no blood has ran even from the nose of anyone. It is as if they had written so you remember, you remember in way as if nothing had happened, as if nothing was significant.

The Dr. says: “Mr. Ahankah.”

I want to merge my voice with the Dr. and cry: “Mr. Ahankah” and laugh. I don't do that and I don't laugh. The Dr. guides me to Iran's room. He opens the door, and exclaims amazed: “She was here. In this very room. I myself …”

The Dr. from Yugoslavia, who has come to Canada before his country split into many countries, wants to explain that…

He can't find Iran.

We go to the dead infants section.

He pulls out a drawer, the nurse beside him says in the stingy cold of the morgue: “When he was born , he was alive. It looked and smiled.”

But now that I've got here, the head of my child and Iran, my lost Iran, has frozen. Even its smile has frozen. Any corner of its face looks like one of us.

Its eyes look like Iran. I like its nose, it's a bit big. I mean if it had lived, its nose would have become big. But I like it. by the way, is it a boy or a girl?

The Dr. says: “Mr. Ahankah!”

My mother and their mother are standing with our heads. My and Ibrahim and Ahmad and Iran and this child's heads. The doctor says: “Mr. Ahankah, are you well?”

We answer: “We are well.”

2: AHMAD

My mother and their mother are standing with our heads.

Iran's and my head are in my mother's hands.

The heads of Ibrahim and Ahmad are in their mother's hands.

“It was Abdy's fault,” Ahmad says!

Iran's head turns toward my head and her glance is knotted in my glance.

My head smiles.

Ahmad's glance falls on me who am standing and watching them.

“What are you doing here, Abdy,” Ibrahim says.

“Where?” Iran asks.

“There, in front of you, just in front of you,” Ahmad says.

“Say something, Abdy!” my mother says.

My head turns toward Iran's head and we smile.  

Ahmad stands up. He wishes to stay in bed. He wants to stay asleep until the end of his life. He feels that he hasn't blinked even once all his life.

Where he works is located on the main intersection of Dubai.

He controls the traffic.

He always used to say: “God bless the sheik.” He doesn't want us to starve. Or else what is this? The drivers know better than anybody else when they should move and when they should stop.

The thought of me and Iran and Ibrahim doesn't leave her alone. The thought of us frightens her.

He wants to go to his work in Dubai and think only about that intersection and that job and that life.

The week when he hasn't worked he doesn't count as part of his life. He feels the weather is warmer and more humid.

The uniform of Emirates police has stuck to his body. He starts his rundown Honda.

Instead of Ibrahim, his glance falls on the sight of the car and the house and the city. He spurns himself.

He wishes to forget me and Ibrahim and Iran forever. He likes to preoccupy himself with his job and life. He must be able to get rid of us in his thoughts. He must say goodbye to us, to all three of us. He must…what must be this last must. He doesn't know. He knows that he can't bear up with our heads anymore.

He has come to work. How has he traveled from the house to his work! He doesn't know. He imagines that the distance between his house and the intersection where he works has vanished. There and here have become one. He doesn't remember that he has left Satveh.

He looks at the busy street. At cars, at boats, at some ships, hundreds of small boats. At the boatmen who shout “Deyra, Deyra, Deyra.”

He whistles on the intersection. From the echo of the whistle in the ears of the drivers, from the effect of the sound on them, he feels good. It's as if a hidden force from his breath and mouth flows in the whistle like a river, it flows into the hallways of the drivers' ears, and then like robots he sends them away. And they move away as others replace them.

The street has become like a hot black paper on which cars and people are drawn, the moving cars and people.

A little farther off, the paper has turned blue, the blue full ships and large and small boats.

And farther is Deyra. The color of its black paper is striped.

I feel sort of strange. These damned thoughts.

When the though presses you, when the though weighs you down, that hurts you.

I wish I had stayed in our village.

I wish I hadn't come to Dubai.

Then I wouldn't have become a cop.

Then Ibrahim didn't have to work as a farm hand.

Then Abdy wouldn't have been such a fool.

And Iran so beautiful.

These damned heads.

These blood-dripping necks.

These thoughts, these nightmares.

He says good morning to his night shift replacement.

The other answers good morning.

Khaled, the shopkeeper on the intersection says: “Welcome Hamed.”

“Thank you,” he answers. But he hates him for calling him Hamed. This is the first time that he feels hatred for it. It's like when a person has swallowed something twice as much as he has to and now he must throw up.

“Do you think you've done something extraordinary. We thought that you are going to be more cheerful after taking a week off!” Khaled says.

Khaled knows what's going on. He knows about Iran and Abdy. And he acts in a way as if nothing has happened.

Where do all these cars go?

Don't all these people have anything to do?

Why don't they take a nap in their houses with their air conditioners on?

Why in the street, damp and heat…?

He feels as if the sun is planted on his shoulders.

He feels warmer. He takes off his hat. He whistles. His head becomes hot and inflated. His stomach churns all upset. He has never hated Dubai so much.

What season is this?

The summer.

When it hasn't been the summer?

He laughs at his own answer.

He feels good from his own laugh. Laughing is good for him.

Khaled comes with the little bottle of a drink. The yellow carbonated drink. He gets the nicely colored drink from Khaled, puts it in his moth, and hates the “cheers” that Khaled expresses. What harsh language is this Arabic!

He says “cheers” as if he wished me to drink poison.

How many poems and songs has this Arabic. If a person is in love. If one is not sullen, how many poems and songs will he remember. It's all damned Khaled's fault. Even if he speaks with Shirazi accent, with sweet accent of Zarie, the daughter of gendarme Asqari, he will ruin it. he will remember when we were school children. He will remember himself, Ibrahim and Abdy who is me. And Iran who is my Iran.

“Where are you going, brother?” we used to say and chuckle in Shirazi accent.

“To Kerman,” we used to say and chuckle in Kermai accent.

He doesn't feel well at all. His head has become like stone. Like a cart full of stones. The sun is planted on his shoulders, his shoulders have become the stove of the sun.

His body has caught fire. It's been seven years. This same intersection. This same heat. His mind becomes deranged with nightmarish thoughts.

Pain and fear.

He hates me, Ibrahim, Iran, the intersection, the seven years, the sun, the summer, the sound of the whistle, and the looks of Khaled the shopkeeper, the long and meaningless Deshdashe of the Arabs. He hates me more than anybody or anything else.

He wants to blow in the whistle, damn Abdy and his love affairs.  

Chief of the police: “Hamed.”

Ahmad: “he remember that his name is not Hamed but Ahmad.”

And he answers: “Yes, sir.”

Chief of the police: “Why are you playing games while on duty?”

“Which game,” asks Ahmad of himself.

The chief of the police wity rage and anger cries: “Are you deaf?”

Ahmad: “No. I haven't done anything, sir.”

Chief of the police: “Four of my agents have reported you. The drivers, too.”

Ahmad: “Maybe there as something in the street, and I've gone to take it.”

Chief of the police: “I, too, say the same thing, my son.”

Ahmad: “There has been something.”

Chief of the police: “What?”

Ahmad: “I don't remember.”

Chief of the police: “remember.”

Ahmad: “There, it's so hot and crowded, there are so many cars that no one remembers what he's done. I don't remember. God be my witness, I don't remember. Honestly, I don't remember.”

Chief of the police: “When the cars were about to move, you would jump in the middle of the street and pick up something, and again and again and again until the end of your shift. Am I right?”

Ahmad: “There must have been something that I would have picked up.”

Chief of the police: “What?”

Ahmad doesn't want to tell the truth. He doesn't. But he says: “I was picking up nails.”

Chief of the police: “What nails?”

Ahmad: “Black nails, big nails.”

Chief of the police: “How many times, how many times during the day were you picking up the nails?.”

Ahmad: “Whenever I saw them, I would pick them up.”

Chief of the police: “What did you do with the nails then?”

Ahmad: “I threw them in the garbage bin right on one of the corners of the intersection.”

Chief of the police: “You fool, you bastard, do you think I'm stupid.”

Ahmad: “I don't dare to say that, sir. I'm stupid.”

Chief of the police: “You and your tribe are stupid. Is that a good description. Now, do you answer me or you want me to have you flogged. I have you caned on your buttocks until you fall apart, and then kicked you out of work like a dog, do you understand?

Ahmad: “I don't pick up the nails anymore. I promise. I never pick up anything again. Forgive me, sir.”

Chief of the police: “Say what you were picking up, or else get lost. Fired. Go. Do you understand, you double-crossing lying jerk.

Ahmad wants to say: “Sir, the double-crossing lying jerk is you. I pick up the heads of our murdered in the street.” But he doesn't say that. Instead he says, “I never do that again. It's been my mistake. Forgive me. Forgive me.”

The chief of the police says: “ Either you say what's going on or you get lost. I don't have the patience to deal with you stealing unprincipled perverse Iranians.”

Ahmad wants to say: “What do you have against Iranians. Why do you curse your own grandfather?” But he doesn't say that. Instead, he says: “I say.”

The chief of the police becomes kind again and says: “Good boy, just say what you have to say.”  

Ahmad: “Whatever you ask me, I will answer.”

The chief of the police: “What were you picking up in the middle of the street? Why were you jumping before the cars? Why were you stopping them? You whose duty is to ease the traffic, why were you blocking the road? Answer me now.” 

Ahmad: “To tell you the truth, I was picking up the heads of our murdered relatives.” 

The chief of the police laughs loudly: “Then, you were picking the heads of your murdered relatives. Whose heads were you picking up?”

Ahmad: “The heads of Ibrahim, Iran and Abdy, sir.”

The chief of the police: “What these heads were doing on the intersection?”

Ahmad: “I don't know what they were doing on the intersection. I don't know what they were doing on the intersection. But if you were in my place, could you stand by and watch the cars running over the heads of your relatives.

The chief of the police: “Who has cut off the heads of your relatives?”

Ahmad: “I and Ibrahim cut off the heads of Iran and Abdy, Ibrahim cut off his own head, and now there are three cut-off heads.

The chief of the police: : “Who is Iran?”

Ahmad: “Iran is our sister. My and Ibrahim's sister, my and late Ibrahim's sister. And Abdy was in love with her, he was her lover. I and Ibrahim went to the other side of the Persian Gulf, cut off both of their heads and came back to this side of the Persian Gulf. Ibrahim cut off his own head. I was taking off the street the heads of them so they don't crush under the cars' tires. They're innocent, sir, the blood still dripping from their necks.”

Chief of the police: “What were you doing with these heads?”

Ahmad: “I put then on the pavement beside the intersection before my own feet.”

The chief of the police: “Why when the cars were just about to move, you would jump in the middle of the street?'

Ahmad: “I was picking up the heads.” 

The chief of the police: “How many heads did you rascals cut off?”

Ahmad: “Two. Now they are three.” 

The chief of the police: “Were you jumping in the middle of the street all day to pick up these three heads?”

Ahmad: “They were there. That's why I was doing that, I'm not sick, you know, or God forbid, I'm not crazy to jump in the middle of the street in this dead heat, in this dampness, in this…”

The chief of the police: “Stay right here.” 

They take Ahmad to the jail of Deyra, they put him in solitary confinement. When he's alone, he looks at the gray blackish door and the dirty walls of the cell, and wants to go to sleep for the rest of his life.”

Sounds intrude from behind the door, he presses his ear to the door, recognizes the voices of Iran, Abdy, and Ibrahim. He gazes at the door. He doesn't see the door and the walls. He rubs his eyes, he's afraid he might have gone crazy. He wants to make sure that he is fine. He opens his eyes cautiously. He sees Iran and Ibrahim and Abdy are sitting beside his bed.

Ibrahim says: “What are you doing Ahmad, what are you doing here? You have wasted our time. Neither are you at work nor at your house in Satveh. What are you doing here?”

Iran says: “Why has your appearance changed?”

Abdy: “Why are you so deep in thought?”

Ahmad: “What are you doing here?”

Iran: “We have come to see you.”  

Abdy: “Have we done anything wrong?”

Ibrahim: “We have come here to play.”

Ahmad: “Play?”

Ibrahim: “Playing with the dolls.” 

Abdy: “Fighting battles.”

Iran: “Making love.”

Ibrahim goes behind Ahmad, covers his eyes with both hands, and says: “Do you know who I am?”

Ahmad: “You are Abdy.”

Iran: “Abdy?”

Ahmad: “You are Ibrahim.”

The children's play culminates to a climax. The sound of their laughing and shouting echo in the cell. The prisoners of the neighboring cells hit on the doors and the walls of the cells with anything they can get hold of. The jailers come. They come tired and sleepy. They want to know what has happened. All the prisoners protest why there are four people in the no. 22 cell. You have jailed four noisy and crazy children. They make so much noise that no one can have a moment of sleep.

One of the guards opens the door of the cell no. 22. Ahmad is lying on the bed and gazing at the ceiling.

The guards become angry at the protesting prisoner, at their lying. They close the door of Ahmad's cell. The prisoners return to their cells. This incident happens for a few nights. The chief of the police decides to come and investigate the incident himself

He remains in the cell besides Ahmad cell and presses his ear to the wall. After the midnight he hears a sound, some sounds. He hears the sound of playing and bustling and loud laughs of the children. When he listens carefully, he hears the sound of the playing of four bustling children.

He jumps out of the cell and suddenly orders guards to open Ahmad's cell. When the door of the cell opens, everybody sees that Ahmad is lying on the bed and with open eyes looks at the ceiling.

The night after, the chief of the police, the warden of the jail, and Dr. James Michael, the American psychologist, arrange a meeting with Ahmad.

Dr. James, the chief of the police, and the warden spent a night in the cell next to Ahmad's to determine whether the claims of the prisoners and the chief of the police are true.

Dr. James Michael wants to see Ahmad alone.

Dr. Michael has Ahmad to be taken to the mental hospital.

Dr. Michael believes that the murder of Ahmad's brother by the murderer or the murderers has taken place in his presence and this has driven his insane. It has driven him to a kind of insanity that is dangerous. It is possible the number of the cut-off heads increases soon. That's why it's better for him to be taken to the mental hospital so he may recover gradually from the effects of the horrible murder of his brother by the murderer or the murderers, and the nightmare of his sister's death and her lover.

They transfer Ahmad to the mental hospital. After doing the paperwork, the guards take him to the middle of the hospital's yard and let him free under the lotus tree.

The patients swarm around Ahmad. Ahmad takes a look at them and smiles. He feels he likes their tranquillity and peacefulness. He wants to say his life has become hard and miserable, but he's happy to be here with them. He hates the jail and his cell. But he doesn't say that. He looks at the lotus tree, at the blue sky and the sun that has climbed off his shoulders, far off. He looks. And bends his head. He feels that he must be alone with himself. He wants to take a look at himself. He wants to think or not to think about these days. He wants to relieve himself from the troubles of Iran and Abdy and Ibrahim. He wants to reach tranquillity. He wants to become friends with the patients. He wants…

I ran says: “Do you think we can't find you?”

Ibrahim says: “What do you think?”

Abdy says: “Look at him.”

And Ahmad smiles. The children say: “Do you agree?” And the play begins. Some of the patients who are around Ahmad hear voices. They look at each other. They come and surround Ahmad and the children in a ring.” And then they cheer for them who compete, wrestle, fight, the children whose laughs split the sky. Now all the patients have gathered around Ahmad and the children. However insist the guards that the patients must scatter, and leave the new patient alone, all answer together: “How sweet, how naughty and how mischievous are these four children.”  

When they open the door of the room, the knife has fallen to the middle of it. Dr. Michael says: “Murderers have cut off this poor man's head like his brother, too, in an opportune moment.

The head of the mental hospital looks at him. And the patients leave four coffins before the door of the room.

My mother and their mother are standing with our heads.

The head of Iran turns toward my head and we smile. The head of Ibrahim winks at Ahmad.

We say: “We are well.” 

 

3: IBRAHIM

My mother, their mother, and Ahmad were standing with our heads.

"Don't worry about us," we said.

"We are well," Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim's turned toward Iran’s head and smiled. Tears broke in Ibrahim's eyes.

They had returned to Dubai; Ahmad had brought the bloody knife with him. They had gone to Morad's house the night before. They had dinks and told the story with a lot of embellishments. Ahmad did the talking.

Ibrahim was silent.

Ahmad patted his back and said: "Don't be so upset. It's something that's been done. Do you think it was easy for me?"

Ibrahim did not say anything. He drank more than anybody else. He got drunk and felt nauseated until morning. It was as if his heart and guts were about to come out of his mouth.

Saturday morning Ibrahim got a ride on Mostafa's truck and went to Zaribeh, where they worked on a farm. First, Ibrahim weeded out the grass and picked up the dates under the feet of the palms. He dropped them in a basket, and then sat under the thin and tall palm, reminiscing about his childhood.

Ibrahim, Khaled and I sat with baskets full of dates. Under a palm tree, we made clay dolls, a boy and a girl. My doll's hand was broken. Iran looked at it and said: "Take her to the hospital."

We put the doll on the clay donkey that Ahmad made, and we went to the hospital.

"Mr. Dr. Vaziri, the this girl's hand is broken," Iran said.

"Her hand is cut off!" Ibrahim said.

"They have cut off her hand," I said.

"Abdi, whose doll is this? Why do you always make the girl dolls?" Ibrahim asked.

I looked at her. I smiled. Iran looked at me. She smiled. Ibrahim, Iran and I spent time in the palm grove more than other kids in the village.

"Are we going swimming?" Ibrahim asked.

"Let's go," I said. I didn't want to leave Iran. Nor could I say no to Ibrahim. When we reach Sirik river, other boys were there.

We took off our loin-clothes and jump into the water with our shorts. Don't splash the water like that. Swim properly.

The water had turned completely muddy. It was as if we had gone into a mire. We got out of the water and rolled on the ground.

Ibrahim was beside me. All the people in the village knew I loved Iran. Ibrahim knew, too. Iran knew, too.

He began to make dolls in Zaribeh. He made dolls of Iran and me. Then he took the Swiss Army knife covered with Iran's blood and cut off my head and Iran's. He took our heads and put them in the pocket of his long shirt that stretched to his feet.

Tears flowed from his cheeks.

From the other side of Zaribeh, Khaled shouted: "You, Mr. Zealot. Don't waste any time. We have a lot of work to do."

Ibrahim hated Zaribeh. He wished he was either in school or the palm grove.

"How could you?" Khaled asked.

"We couldn't bear the disgrace. We had to do something. What would you do if you were in us?" Ibrahim answered.

Khaled looked at him. He thought what would he have done if he had been in their place? What would he have done if she had been his sister? He liked Iran in a special way. It was as if Iran was his sister, or his lover, or his companion. "I don't know. It's hard. I can't say who's right and who's wrong," he said.

Ibrahim felt he was in a fire inflamed with blood. His whole body was in the fire. "It's warmer today than other days," he told Khaled.

Khaled said, "It's June. The sheik and his family have gone to Shiraz. They're lucky. The weather in Shiraz is very nice. Maybe, one day we will go to Shiraz together. Let's work for a year. If we can save 500 Rupees, we can go to Shiraz. We can go there in June. It would be so wonderful! By the way, is it cold there? It's better to take our jackets with us. Shiraz isn't like here, you know. Its summer is sometimes as cold as the winter here."

Ibrahim was in the fire. In fire and blood. He listened but didn't hear Khaled's words. He was not interested in going to Shiraz. He was not interested in saving 500 Rupees. Our heads were jerking in the pocket of his long shirt. He put his hand on his breast on the left pocket; all the same, our heads were still jerking. He wanted to tell Khaled. He was afraid Khaled may think he had gone mad. He took the heads and put them in his side pocket where they would not weigh on his breast anymore.

He wanted to forget the heads. He wanted to busy himself with work. He wanted to get rid of the knife and the blood and the head and the body of Iran. He wanted to become wiser and more patient like Ahmad. He wanted to cry like Ahmad who, embracing him in the boat, had said sobbingly: "Our poor sister, our poor Iran. What could we do? What did we do?"

"What could we do, what could we do?" Ibrahim asked. And then Ahmad calmed down, as if those tears and words had calmed him. His entire body was in the fire. Fire and blood. Fire and blood blazed more fiercely than fire and wood; more fiercely than fire and oil.

His whole body swelled with blisters. The blisters broke. Quickly, his body was covered with a thousand blisters popping up and breaking each second. But he didn't die. He burned but he didn't die. He caught fire. But all the same, he looked at his burning body and twinged.

"It's like fire is raining from the sky. Humidity has increased, too. It must be worse than any other day," Khaled said. In fire and blood, Ibrahim did not feel humidity. He said to himself, "What are you saying? Haven't you seen the fire and the blood.?"

At midnight, when he couldn't sleep, he went toward his white long shirt to take a look at the heads. He slipped his hand in the deep side pocket. His hand become wet.

He took the heads out of the pocket. His hand dripped with blood. He imagined he had chewed his fingers so much that blood was pouring out. He looked at his hand. He put our heads into the pocket of the long shirt and went to the bathroom. He washed his hands carefully with a soap, turned back and looked at them. His nails were chewed but not bloody. "Why do I imagine things?" he asked.

He went and looked again at the pocket of the long shirt. He came back. He wanted first to sprinkle his face with water. He wanted to wake up first. But he wasn't asleep in the first place. "Probably, I've been asleep and I imagined I was awake," he told himself. He in the mirror. There were blood stains on his cheeks right where Iran was stained with blood. He washed his face with soap and water. Probably, it's the bloodstain from my nails.

He went toward the long shirt, slid his hand in the pocket, took the knife and our heads. His hand became wet again. He looked at our heads. They were red and bloody. Blood kept dripping from our necks. The pocket of his long shirt was soaked with blood. The blood was running on the ground. The room was soaked with blood. The room was full of inflamed blood.

Ahmad slept. He heard his snoring. He went to wake him up. He wanted to say everywhere is full of blood and fire.

"When I woke up in the morning, I saw the room was full of blood," Ahmad said.

I saw everywhere was covered with blood. There were two clay heads in Ibrahim's hands, the pocket of his deshdashe is bloody, too. I don't know how his head... he bursts into tears. How can a person cut off his head with his own hand? How?!

My mother, their mother and Ahmad are standing with our heads.

"Don't worry about us," we said!

"We are well," Ibrahim said.

 

4: IRAN

My mother and her mother were standing with our heads in their hands.

"We are well," Iran says.

I touch Iran's belly. I feel my child is in there. She looks at me, smiles, and says: "Our child."

A storm breaks out in me. A storm breaks in my heart. My head, in my mother's hand, turns toward Iran's head, in her mother's hands. The world turns green.

We were children. We chased girls. We used to go to the palm grove. We made dolls with clay. We gazed at the clay doll.

"Are you well? How beautiful you've become."

We rubbed the doll's breasts. In that hot, humid weather, cool happiness flowed in our bodies. I fashioned my doll after Iran. When the doll was made, I passed my hand on her firm breasts. I wished Iran, too, had made a doll to think of me, and passed her hands where I would have been ashamed.

She has a black mole on her right thigh. She had white tender skin. I used to call her my crystal. Her eyes were almost green. My mother hated green eyes. Whatever I looked at in the palm grove, it assumed Iran's form. At school, too.

Under the lotus tree, our gazes became intertwined. The look in her green eyes flowed into my body. I was filled with a sense of greenness and joy. I wished to stay green and joyous. I did. We were alone. The sense of that look lingered fresh in my body for a few years. I put my hand on her dear and warm hand; on that soft and tender silk. I was gazing at her brown hair and green eyes.

My mother discovered something from the clay hot stove. With fear and caution, I take a loaf of bread. My mother's heavy look falls on my shoulders. She sneers and says: "Don't let her distract you. That girl is a witch." I keep silent. I don't turn my eyes away from the bread. Iran has distracted me. I like my distraction. At nights, I kiss her in my dreams. Her kisses sweep my body and then something flows inside me. It is not my blood. Her heart merges with mine. I don't tell my mother. I like my distraction. I don't tell her I'm bewitched.

I take the hot bread and go up onto the roof. Their house is two steps away from our house. Far far away. I'm hiding from the guards. Iran's memory gives birth to a storm inside me. My veins overflow like a mad river and, in a pleasant way, destroys my entire being. I don't think about the guards and my own fears. I don't even think about people and my desires. If only Iran was mine. I want to see her. My cousin, a member of the Revolutionary Guards, doesn't want me to get killed. He says I have to leave. I want to stay and die where Iran is. "Go , and return," Iran says.

Under the lotus tree we arrange a rendezvous under the green shade of her first glance. She has come, wearing her faded blue muslin dress. Her glance flows in me. My hand is on her hand, my glance is on her hair and lips. I have to kiss her. I hate the sense of that last kiss. I hate the sense of the first and last kiss.

"Farewell," I say.

"Will you return?" she asks.

"I'll return."

I bring my head close to her eye. There is a commotion inside me. The coolness of the morning flows from her large and warm breasts onto the dead heat of my body. I become the color of a dream. Our young blood mesh together. They become one. Her kisses have the smell of spring and the taste of the cold, humid, early morning breeze at the port.

I'm in Dubai. I see people I haven't seen for years. I've become bitter. I find fault in everything. I've come to hate going away. I say I should have stayed.

The guards took away my books. My clothes, too. My mother asked why they wanted my clothes. My father said they were afraid of my clothes. Iran cried that they had no right to take away my clothes. They took her away, too. With my letters to her, our clay dolls, and our books. Iran was sent to jail. After three days she was released. Confused and depressed, with a bitter and heavy silence whose shadow spread over the port. It's still there.

"You won't believe it. She was bewitched. Her heart wasn't in her body. Her green eyes had faded away. Like a beautiful painting sprayed in black. She still goes to the palm grove every day, under the lotus tree. Her brothers have become a little unkind to me. Don't return," my mother says.

I want to go back. I hate the black color over Iran's painting. "Murderers," Ali says. I don't ask who.

Ahmad and Ibrahin have gone to the port. To Sirik. They have taken with them a gold necklace and a pink neckerchief as a souvenir for Iran. Ahmad, her older brother, has said that they want to take her to Dubai. Iran has thought about me and her eyes have become green. They say they should go that very night. Ibrahim shook his head, sadly. They have taken the gold necklace and set out in the dead of night.

Her mother and my mother have kissed Iran's forehead, their cheeks have become wet. They've said they want to talk to her before her departure. Iran suggested our lotus tree. They've gone to the palm grove in total darkness, under our lotus tree. They've told Iran to be comfortable and to lie down. With her faded blue muslin shirt, Iran has lied on the ground. The night was full of stars. It was humid, too.

Iran went to the jailhouse to bring her green glance. When she found it, a disgusting feeling had come to her. A feeling of fear and death.

Ahmad took out the Swiss Army knife. Iran wanted to open her eyes. "Close your eyes," Ahmad ordered harshly. Frightened, Iran tried to get up and run away. Ibrahim sat on my Iran's breasts, with murderous seriousness. Tears swelled in his eyes. Ahmad put the knife on my Iran's throat. Ibrahim saw her warm blood on his hand and face. Ahmad said he doesn't want a sister with a bastard in her belly.

They've told my mother to wait. She and Iran's mother are standing with our heads in their hands. "Don't worry about us. We are well," we tell them. My hand is on Iran's belly. It's my child. Iran makes me green. She smiles and says: "Our child."

A storm breaks out in me. A storm breaks in my heart. My head, in my mother's hand, turns toward Iran's head, in her mother's hands. The world becomes pitch green.