The dragon kite
By Reza Ordoubadian
November 20, 1999
He took two steps forward to the worn-out wooden counter and hopelessly
stared at the array of kites arranged on the top shelf of the back wall.
Inside, the dingy, windowless store looked like a dungeon, the door directly
leading a customer to the toothless man who sat squat behind the counter
and sold "necessities" to the young students. "I could fly
the one with the dragon on it," he thought, and his gaze moved swiftly
passed the kites, focusing on the multicolored candies that had been carelessly
spread on chipped metal trays, flies feasting upon them. Two fly-papers
had their catch, too, never replaced since early summer.
"Gimme one rooster," he said bravely, pointing at a large
rooster candy atop a stick handle. "No, the one with the rainbow colors!"
"That'll be half a shahhi," the toothless man said with a
He gave the man a ten-shahhi brass coin and received nine and one half
shahhis back. He liked rooster candies; they were life-like, lickable,
and he would always tear a clean piece of paper from his writing book to
hold the candy because they made a mess in his hands. Once, he had used
his white handkerchief, which got him in trouble at home. That was early
in the year; he knew better now: He could get rid of a piece of paper so
easily, no trace of color to betray, and he would make sure to wipe his
mouth carefully before throwing the paper away; then, twisting his tongue
all around his mouth, especially his teeth, he would rinse off as much
of the trace color as he could. As a matter of fact, he was very proficient
at it now; neither his mother nor any one else could see through his secret.
He sucked on the rooster candy, wiped his nose on his right sleeve, but
he could not bring himself to leave. Those kites were so very beautiful,
and he let his eyes feast on the kites that had already been assembled:
Small, square, with many colors, some had as many colors as his rooster
candy. A few had tails made of paper link-chains, and some had a string
of multicolored silk tails with a knot at the end to keep the cloth from
"I could fly the one with dragons on it," he thought again.
That was his favorite. "The new moon-face is pretty, too." It
reminded him of his mother; the moon-face kite had a painting of the moon
with the face of a woman on it. The cheeks were very red, like his mother's
cheek when she put on make-up.
"How much for the moon-face?" he asked, trying to sound older
"Are you buying today, now!?" the old man snickered.
"You won't take it for free, now, would you!?"
The old man was right; he couldn't, but his pride was at stake, and
he asked firmly, "How much?"
"Four and one half shahhis."
The boy pondered the price and asked for half a shahhi's worth of black
ink to be put in his ink-well. As the old man was pouring the ink, the
boy looked desperately at the kites: dragon or the moon-face? He could
take either one. As a matter of fact, he would take any kite that would
fly, although he preferred, well, maybe, the dragon kite. There wasn't
really a dragon on the kite, only a delicately painted abstraction of a
twisting snake, but for the boy exact word did not matter much; it was
his dragon kite! Some nights, he would actually sing for the kite as he
prepared to go to bed. He even dreamed of it: Once, he was flying the dragon
kite, which was as large as the school building and had a tail of multicolored
paper chain-links that reached the copper-colored mountains near where
his two 'prune-faced' old aunts lived. The pull was so tight that he thought
he would be lifted high up in the sky and would fly over the mountains
to the Caspian Sea, where rain drops are made; he awoke in terror, unable
to sleep again that night.
He paid the man for the ink and still would not move. The wily old man
knew what he wanted, and he teased him mercilessly.
"Now, do we want the moon-face or the snake kite!?" he laughed,
showing his toothless gums. "I'm not afraid of him," the boy
thought. He wanted the kite, and he had the money to pay for it; but if
he bought the kite and went home with it, his mother would say in her shrillest
voice, "You did get a kite!" She would say, "It is awful,
just awful. How are you going to explain this to your father!?"
The boy would think, "Well, we won't tell him," but that would
never do; his father always found "things" out, and he knew everything!
The boy could hear his mother's voice saying, "What would the neighbors
say, now!? What would they think of you!?"
"I could fly it at school-nobody will see me there," the boy
"And, the principal? He knows your father!" she would counter.
No, there was no hope, and he must have that kite. Imagine letting the
string slowly roll from your hand and the wind lift the kite up; faster
and faster the string will roll, and the kite will rise near the sun, glittering.
He knew exactly how to tug and pull to get the kite higher and higher;
there will be music in the air, the kite playing against the wind, and
all the angels in heaven will gather to hear the music and see the kite;
they will all ask who was flying that beautiful dragon kite so high in
the sky, and he will hide behind the huge stones and grape vines. Nobody
will see him, but they will know someone who really can fly a kite was
mastering the string. His older sister might tell on him, but she could
be bribed with a couple of multicolored rooster candies.
"Are you still thinking about it?" the old man asked, smiling.
"I will buy it all right," he replied, fire inside his eyes.
"I also want two lengths of reed for my pen."
"That will be another half a shahhi."
"Good, please cut the tips fine."
His rooster candy was just about gone, and he was sucking the core,
the amber-colored section of the candy. He had made a mess of it, and both
of his hands were sticky. He ran his tongue against his teeth several times:
Even though he could not see them, he knew from experience that his teeth
were clean enough to pass his mother's routine inspections when he got
home. He had wasted enough time now; if he did not get back home soon,
someone was bound to come after him, and he loathed it. Early in the year
someone took him to school and picked him up after. Other students made
fun of him, and he vowed to his father he would never go to school unless
he did it by himself. He had promised to be home fifteen minutes after
the school was closed, but that day he must have stayed at the school for
hours, or so it seemed to him.
Again, he paid the man and said, "I would buy the kite, but I'm
not going home directly!" He lied without feeling bad about it; this
was a white lie: Maybe he would go by the municipal gardens, and that would
be indirect enough.
The old man laughed, and the boy ran out of the store and into the deserted
street. He felt his heart pounding against the satchel he was carrying
high up in front of him, his shield against the world. This one was close:
He could have bought the kite, and what then? He was almost weakened enough,
after several steps, to want to go back to the store for another look,
but that could be disastrous. He ran a pace and came to an open area where
several young boys were playing. Two had a kite at the end of a string
high above the ground. His heart leaped, and the breeze of the autumn air
filled his lungs deep as it also lifted the shimmering kite high in the
heavens. His steps slowed to a dance, and his large, brown eyes widened
to take in the picture as vividly as possible. It was a large, triangular
kite, clean and unpainted. "It is plain, but it'll do," he murmured.
Now, he had come within ten steps of the kite-flyers, a respectable
distance to watch, but not to be mistaken as one of them. The boy who was
tugging at the string was just about his size, and he wore old clothes:
a worn coat and patched pants, no socks. "But he has shoes?"
he observed. The excited kite-flyer was expertly moving his wrist to allow
the thermal current to lift his simple kite even higher. He had really
come to the very end of his string. "I could buy ten rolls to give
the kite a chance to go to the moon," the boy thought. "It is
terrible he cannot even get more string!" A sudden drift of air spun
the kite, and it started dove-tailing downward; a slack set on the string
like a bowed piece of wood. The kite-flyer desperately pulled in the line
as his assistant wound the string on a piece of rough wood. "He doesn't
have a crank!" the boy exclaimed. "With a crank it is real easy
to bring it in!" The kite was now falling fast. "Tug on the line,
tug" the boy heard himself shouting. "Tug, you fool; it'll catch
the wind that way." But the words did not come out of his mouth. He
was shouting in his head. "You're losing it; watch for the trees;
watch for the trees: They'll get it for sure!"
Excited, his small body had become one muscle, mentally trying to bring
down the kite-and someone was pulling at his arm. Distracted, he turned,
and there he was: their man-servant.
"You're late; Missus is crying; come, come!" the servant said.
The young boy jolted to his world of reality; so, he had been late after
"You saw me; I was just watching-honest, I was just watching."
he pled, and there was disappointment in his voice, but not fear.
"Come, come; you're not a poor boy to fly a kite!" the old
man-servant said. The young boy moved with the servant, turned and had
a last look at the falling kite; he sighed and thought, "Next spring!
Next spring I am going to fly a kite!"
All copy rights are reserved by the author.
Reza Ordoubadian holds
a Ph.D. degree in English and linguistics. He has held a professorship
at Middle Tennessee State University and Visiting Professorship at Umea
University (Sweden). He has published numerous pieces of fiction and poetry
as well as scholarly articles and books on both sides of the ocean. He
was the editor of SECOL Review for 18 years. TO TOP
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