Diaries & Jallad

A novel: Chapters 8, 9 and 10


Diaries & Jallad
by Kaveh Afrasiabi

PARTS: (1,2,3) (4,5) (6,7) (8,9,10) (11,12)


"Valley of Lepers," K. whispered under his lips the title of his next story before entering the living room; to his own surprise, he found little difficulty in sitting next to his sister and watching television, perhaps because the content of the program, a round table on urban problems, interested him, or perhaps because he was plain curious about the identity of the female caller, who was hammering in the importance of a rail connection from Shiraz to Isphahan over the proposed national east-west highway system to connect Shiraz not only to Ahwaz but also to Baghdad and Karachi. "This will connect with the existing railway system by the proposed extension from Qom through Yezd, to kerman, to Zahedan, as well as with the existing rail facilities to Karachi," the caller said.

"Who is she?" K. asked Fakhri; she, half her attention focused on a magazine she was reading, shrugged. One of the experts, calling this "an admirable but unworkable idea" sounded K's question. But whoever she was had hung up.

"Where is mother?"

"In her room. She's with a fortune teller," Fakhri answered, "you should let her look at your palm. She's great, was on the mark about everything in my past."

"Really?! Like what?"

"Well, she said I am separated and that my child lives with his father."

"Interesting. What did she say about your future, anything?"

"Not that much," said Fakhri with a slight hesitation, glued her eye to the TV, "she says I should patch up with Mamal."

For a moment K. was unsure whether Fakhri was delighted or sad, or both, when she uttered the word patch up, asked her instead about Fariborz.

"He was here all morning," she replied, "add this to the list of things you miss by sleeping all day." K. ignored her last comment, got up and headed toward the kitchen, paused at the door, turned around and, looking like a man who has just been hit with a huge discovery, said, "I just had a de ja vu. What you just said reminded me of that Winter when we were left alone and you played mother for me all the time."

"So what?"

"Nothing. Just a recollection," answered K. and then, grinning and pointing at the book shelf, said, "I never forget what you once told me when I asked you where do these books come from? Do you remember what you said?" Fakhri shook her head negatively. "They grow in a garden, like spring grass. That's what you said."

"I said that?"


"Well, I'm your sister. What do you expect?" she said smilingly. K. was about to praise her for her profound insight when the phone, placed on a table a few steps behind him, rang; he picked it up. A man's voice was asking about Jaafar, told K. that he was interested in looking at the apartment.

"Sorry. It's been rented," said K and then hung up, stood silently for a moment so as to hear the voices piercing through the closed door an arm away, took one step closer to hear better. "Inshallah it is a good omen. There is nothing brighter than God. He is hidden by His brightness. And if you saw your son walking under a light, it means he will achieve a salvation both in this world and in the other world," said the fortune teller. "Yes, but it was not a bright light. It was not dark either. And I don't know if it was a material light really," voiced his mother. K. shook his head in amusement and went inside the kitchen. The very sight of the pile of cutlets, decorated with vegetables on a plate, sparked a sense of bodily pleasure that was entirely wholesome. Too bad there was no sangak bread around and he had to be content with the tasteless bazaari bread.

In the middle of his eating, K. heard the exchange of good byes and the related niceties that extended from the hallway to the courtyard. The fortune teller was adamantly refusing money. "God Himself compensates me for my services," she said, then repeatedly invited K's mother to visit her cottage, kolbeh, in the old Hang Street "right next to the fruit seller." Suddenly K. noticed something familiar about her voice, compared it with the tone of voice of the caller on TV and felt a chill in his back by concluding that the two voices were indeed somehow identical; dropped the fork and neared the window to got a glimpse of their visitor before she stepped out; his mother was blocking his view; still, his partial glimpse at her veil-covered behind was sufficient in changing his mind and persuading him that he was dead wrong and that the caller's voice was vastly different, for she sounded much more urbane and articulate than this one. K. was about to return to his seat when, suddenly, his eyes belatedly registered the image of the tip of a white umbrella in the fortune teller's hand -- he nearly collapsed. His heart was so agitated that he leaned with both hands against a chair, messaging his heart.

A moment later, K., rushed out, surprising his mother and sister, now chatting in the living room. Opening the front door swiftly, K. looked at both sides of the street and was dismayed to see no sign of her -- except, in the distance to his left, two motor coolies were hauling away a heap of garbage, piled in front of the old house, into their lorries.

"What has happened?" His mother, opening the window, asked. K. threw his hands in the air, "Nothing. I just wanted her to read my palm."

"She'll be back. Don't worry," his mother said and then closed the window.

K. resumed eating. His mother came in with a tray of empty cups, put it down and reached for a jar of marmalade she had just prepared, put it in front of K. and told him to serve himself.

"You didn't see a white foreign automobile at our door last night, did you mother?"

"You must mean the ambulance -- that came in to take Cyrus Khan. He is in coma you know."

K. swallowed the bite with difficulty, wanted to say something but his mother preempted him. "His nokar was here a little while ago. He brought you something."

"Really?! What?"

"Go and see for yourself. It's in the box inside the closet in the foyer."


It was an antiquated, small electronic typewriter without a self-corrector; traces of cigarette ashes could be seen in the space between the keys; the faded black color of the side panels alone gave the indication of an old instrument that had outlived its usefulness. K. was not a bit surprised by his mother's negative response, "what a generous neighbor! With all the fortune he is taking to his grave with him, he could have at least given you a new typewriter, instead of insulting us with this." "What is that?" asked Fakhri, pointing at the tiny paper under the platen; K. turned the knob and saw a sentence: au bout de compte, Salvani animun mean; totus tutus.

"What does it mean?" She asked. "It means," answered K. after consulting the Latin dictionary on the living room shelf, "in the end, I saved my soul, yours truly," paused for a moment and then said, "well, let's plug it in and see if it works." He hooked the cord in the plug and was disappointed that he did not hear any noise instantly. Fakhri, obviously knowing much more about these machines than him, notwithstanding her part-time secretarial position for Iran Air, grinned and said, "look for the switch dummy. Turn it on first."

She was right. There were two small switchs on the back of it, one for the power and the other for Farsi or English mode; above them was the little insignia in English: Model T. The typewriter's body jerked slightly after he pressed the switch, reminding him of his dream of the mysterious hand the night before; a tiny little red light, situated on the top left, went on blinking. "It needs paper. Well, what are you waiting for, let's see if it works," said Fakhri impatiently. K. pushed the typewriter in front of her and said, "here, you type something." "O.K.," she said and then, after inserting a paper, readied her hands on the keys and asked, "What do you want me to type?" "Anything." "No, tell me a poem. Or better yet. Make up one spontaneously, fel bedaheh. Come on." Pressed by the challenge, K. wanted to conjure something meaningful and yet poetic enough to impress her, looked out at the view of small patches of cloud in the vast sky and uttered, "Ride not the clouds of egotism below the sky, look above and see the reality. The Saki has poured millions like us, and will pour again." Fakhri's tall and feminine fingers commenced typing, like so many agile children. The typed result, small and very light, was less than agreeable. "Do you like it?" K. asked Fakhri and then, seeing that she was mildly interested, added, "it is yours. You can have it." And preempting her polite refusal, he continued, as he was putting the utencils in the kitchen sink, "my pen will divorce me if I bring it to my room." "Why don't you adopt it as your temporary wife then?" teased Fakhri. "Why don't you write something spontaneously?" K. teased back. She stared at him meaningfully and then without turning her eyes from him started typing a couple of sentences, and then read: O Love, your tent has folded and I am stranded, Where's your bonfire to warm me up?

"What do you think?" she asked. "Not bad, not bad at all," K. responded, "do some more. Let me see if there is more of such surprises in your sleeves." Fakhri grinned and then, while deep in her search for words, typed for a few seconds. Giggling, she then read: Love's purity demands you from yourself. Die into love's life-giving arms.

"My goodness. That's even better," exclaimed K. She seemed equally thrilled, typed again, this time longer, much longer, indeed the entire page, with a permanent grin fixed on her face; she then proudly, like a conqueror outsmarting her rival, summoned K.'s hand to grab the verdict; he read aloud (marking the misspellings):

I was chosen to maintain love's mansion of perfection

A day later, I left it in ruins.

Love's patience grows within us a tree of expectation.

Whatever is produced in the factory of love

Is a proper garment against cold nature.

To fall in love, to drink its potion

To seek heaven's address through seditious routes.

He who is within the grasp of love

Is a bird who knows how to fly.

If I could turn my tongue against love

Its beauty would make me chew my word.

Learning the notes of love

Can bring youth to a grey heart.

From love the living is turned sweet

However much pain it may accompany.

"These are fabulous. When did you write these things?"

"Just now."

" No! You mean?" K. interrupted himself when hearing the entrance door; it was Jaafar; with a "well, that's great" he returned the paper to Fakhri and then quickly exited the kitchen and ascended the stairs to avoid his half-brother, repeating under his lips salvani animun mean, now wondering what in the world the old man may have meant by that.


For the next several hours, K. commanded his fingers to work without a moment's interruption, writing incessantly until he was finished revising the last chapter exactly as he had outlined it quietly in his mind (during a tea break); was sad to see Moluk back with Ismaeel, yet no longer had a hidden fear of his illusory pimp-assassin making a second come back, and he could now stop thinking of the Uzbek dagger. Still, seeing how much more miserable Moluk's life had become due to the new twists of her life under Ismaeel's autocratic rule, and his harshness and reviling language, this pained him and he suffered, now pondering about the wisdom of scrapping it all and finishing off the pimp when and if he dared to show up again. Nonetheless, his suffering was somewhat overshadowed by his joyous determination that his novel was advancing steadily.

The fourth chapter would begin by heralding the birth of Farangis, Moluk's baby daughter, K. decided, but instantly felt uncomfortable with the thought that the story's romanticization of Moluk was about to end in this chapter, that she would be soon deprived of her feminine finesse, unbending autonomy, her optimism of the will and so on, that she would descend to earth and turned into a real, earthly, rather than mythical and symbolic persona; ordinary and uncomplicated -- just another ordinary rakehell prostitute. The contrasts between the new Moluk and the old Moluk were not only enormous, moreover they were untimely, coinciding with her new role as a mother. "Incomprehensible," K. yelled in his head, then thought for a moment about what it was about Ismaeel that she may have liked so much -- the abuse, danger and poverty of it all -- none of which could possibly appeal to a pampered princess; decided that it was restlessness born of boredom and the related lack of meaning in life that had caused in her a soul-sickness the full extent and full import of which he had not yet comprehended; withdrew into a vast thoughtlessness for a few minutes and then returned to the thought of Moluk's motives, needs and desires -- for danger; whispered, "it is such a dangerous relationship, dangerous from all sides" and then thought that that was indeed the essence of her life: living with danger, thriving in the chaos of life, and passing undaunted the dangerous alleys of life, staying aloof from all that presents peace of mind, just like him, irrespective of his privileged seclusion and lack of bother with anyone's wormy hands, except his own. "Wormy hand," he whispered, now thinking that in death Cyrus Khan had probably saved his soul, that the old man was like him in thinking that there was no fine and delicate dividing line between his realities and his dreams and concurred with him that this is what writing is: relief from self-delusion. He hesitated on his next discovery as his mind reviewed his description of Moluk, her shy brown eyes, her fair skin, her small nose and small mouth, her strong cheek bones, her medium brown hair, etc., all her features struck a cord of harmony and familiarity in him. "She could be my sister," he surmised, dropped the pen he was chewing and yawned repeatedly, now feeling tired and sleepy, was about to stand when his mind made a sudden and awful discovery that made him rush through the pages and find and read those physical characterizations of Moluk and, after he was done and his doubts and his fears had been confirmed, reclined on the chair wondering how he could have unwittingly made her look like a carbon copy of his beloved Shirin?

This was a harrowing discovery to say the least, one that he liked and abhorred simultaneously. The mere thought of Shirin's unforgiving reaction at some point in the future annoyed him, and yet the unreality of such an encounter, and the freak coincidence, tantalized his sense of imagination. "No, I can't make Shirin into a whore," he soon decided, now had to make the necessary alterations with the color of hair, complexion, the upward direction of nose, and the rest.

K. began to work, erased some words with the liquid eraser that had sat for perhaps a year or two uselessly on the desk, and replaced them with the substitute words: instead of brown hair, black hair, long like the mare of a horse, just like the postcard picture (adorning the wall in front of him) of the angel on top of the cast iron fountain; ironically, the further removed he made Moluk from Shirin, K. felt she was getting closer and closer to him, now fantasizing about her -- that she was lying on the bed behind him totally naked, patiently watching him with the pillow tucked under her hair before she jumped on top of him and made love to him passionately; he was kissing and licking her entire body and digging inside her and pushing in and out like a tarantist Sufi, moaning and groaning until he reached a wild orgasmic climax, and then gave her a soft kiss on her wet face before putting his shirt back on and returning to work at his desk ready to go, on a roll again, rejuvenated, rediscovered, retrieved from the brink back to the stage, like the wounded shootist in his favorite western, returning for another duel with the titans -- as well as with those wretched critics of his. And by each stroke of the pen, he was drawn closer to the midst of a winning shootout with every single one of them, the words were his bullets, the thickening manuscript his invincible shield, and with the shot gun in hand, his merciless critics the walloped casualties -- and he was a mass murderer, a JALLAD, beheading all the literary bums of the world, along with all their futile theories, paradigms and beliefs, especially religious beliefs (to fulfill the good secular samaritan in him). "Their blood shall be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung." At last he finished writing, put down his favorite instruments below his bed, turned off the light and went to sleep, now thinking that he should send back to Shirin the notebook his beautiful girl had given him to read, wished his earlier fantasy had been longer, fuller with words like "will I ever see you again my darling? Why have you left me? Why?"

After a few minutes of silent thought K. asked himself why she had submitted so humbly to her parents and why she had failed to keep her original promise of shielding herself from her mother's commands, replied shortly that since she was the only daughter she had to get her parents' permission, ijaza. He was falling sleep again until, recalling vividly the short conversation with Shirin -- after visiting Saadi's mausoleum and sitting quietly on a bench, both of them lost in anxious thought, cursed himself for failing to read into her silence a confirmation of a warning which every one else had given her, and which he had always refused to believe, i.e., that unless he changed himself, his work and his whole life style, there would be no marriage. Now more irritated than sad at the image of Shirin's tearful, resigned voice when she told him "Yes, my mother is making me doubt this, is telling me that I should marry someone whose head is fully intact," K. appreciated her frankness but was still mad that she had stopped believing in him by listening to the bad advice that it was not her destiny, qismat, to be with him. Only after he had pressed her with optimistic talk about his books and potential royalties, even an improbable movie right, that could take care of the petty annoyance of life -- food, shelter, and savings -- had she slowly turned her eyes upon him and replied that she was sorry and would not let any one interfere in her affairs again. K. wished, desperately, that he could trust her and not feel a nauseous anxiety, had asked her bluntly, and childishly, as they were waiting for a taxi to take them back to town, "If you want to end it, why don't you just say so?" Annoyed by his question, she had walked away without answering, and he had followed her several steps behind, thinking, besides how to incorporate her character in his next novel, about what she was striving for in life and how could he provide the security of an honored and comfortable life for her? She had tired after a while and sat on a pile of rocks looking away. "Is it someone else? Tell me the truth. Do you want to marry someone else?" He had asked her and received the reply that she would never marry another man if they broke up, that she would live the rest of her life in isolation. He had brought a cheery tear to her face by reciting a poem of Saadi:

O women, beauty is not content to remain

In isolation. It desires that love should be

Conjoined with it; for beauty and love made compact

Together before ever time was, that they

Should never be departed.

But it was a fleeting respite; much as she cherished and respected the poetic side of him, she was not a poet herself and, in the final analysis, did not see eye to eye with him on a lot of things about life, including his dictum that "though love is anguish/we must suffer its pain." She had laughed when he had said that he wanted to go to the teacher's college, madreseh-e tarbiyat-e moalem, and become a respected educator, dissuading him by letting him know that he was not cut out to be a school teacher and was better off considering working either for her uncle who managed the Fars Plastic Plant, or for the Akhtar newspaper as an editor or something.

"I 'm a writer not a journalist." How little she understood him. The stigma of being a journalist was more than he could handle and, K. recalled, he had almost barked back by denigrating her nursing education at Nemazi Hosptial. "There is nothing wrong with being a nurse, is there?" K. asked himself as he was dosing off, "being around death all the time, gaining a slow apprenticeship with the rage of death, plunging deeper every day in the art of cynicism." On the verge of admonishing himself for his excess baggage of cynicism and death and dark-worshipping, K.'s mind used the prophet's "love death so you may live" for a rescuer, lamented, "Oh, where are you my Aspandarmaz*?" >>> Parts 11,12

* Zoroastrian angel of love and humility.

PARTS: (1,2,3) (4,5) (6,7) (8,9,10) (11,12)


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