From Chapter Five of Akbar Golrang's Parpin Flowers — a tale describing the destinies of several Iranian families, beginning immediately after the First World War, and continuing up to and into the 1980s.
One year after Saleh disappeared, Ali and Jasem were on their way home from school, when they saw a foreign boy about their own age. He stood watching a boy chasing a pickup truck, trying to catch hold of the bed while a group of other boys applauded. Then Ali and Jasem watched as he approached the bare-chested children who waded in the shallows of the Shatt, among the old boat hulls. They had nets, which they dipped into the water, trying to catch fish. There was a troubled expression on the boy's face. Ali and Jasem read one another's thoughts.
“Hello there, pal. Are you lost?” asked Jasem.
The foreign boy stared at Jasem, then dried his eyes with the back of his hand.
“What's your name?” asked Ali.
The boy smiled, extended his hand and answered with a stutter, “My n-nem Jim … is my na-name.”
Ali didn't understand what he should do with the outstretched hand, but took it in both of his, and shook it firmly. “Hello.” Ali turned to Jasem. “Jasem, he talks just like us.”
Jasem started laughing and, without thinking about what he was doing, started jumping up and down in joy.
Ali thought that Jasem was acting as though his pants were on fire.
“Did you say what your name is?” said Jasem.
“Is my name, Jim? Your name what is?”
“Ah, he talks just like us. He says his name is Jim. My name is Jasem.” Jasem laughed heartily. “Should we take him home with us?”
Ali turned to Jim, “My name is Ali. Do you want to come with us?”
Jim stared uncomprehending at Ali.
“He doesn't understand when you talk to him like that,” said Jasem, then turned to Jim and said each word slowly. “If … I … talk … slow, slow … can you understand what I say?”
Jim nodded happily, “Oh yes, yes.”
Jasem turned proudly to Ali and said, “Did you notice that I understand his language?”
“I can do that too. I can talk slow, slow enough so that he understands my language,” said Ali. He turned to Jim and made a gesture on his belly, while sticking his fingers in his mouth and said, “Are you hungry?”
Jim nodded quickly. “Oh yes, yes.”
Both of them grabbed Jim's hands and dragged him home. Jasem had become elated. As they made their way home, he whispered in Ali's ear, “What do you say we do our secret handshake?”
“Your hand is sticky. I'd be afraid I'd lose a finger or two,” said Ali.
“In that case, swear that it will be just you and me who gets to play with Jim.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that whether you say yes or no, you promise not to say a word to Heydar about this. If he finds out, he won't let us play with him.”
Ali hesitated a moment, then agreed with Jasem and wanted to shake on it. But suddenly he felt as though Heydar was there and pulled back his hand.
“Are you totally crazy? Sooner or later he'll find out about it.”
“I don't care.”
“But I do, damn it. I'm telling Heydar about it.”
“Yeah, but it was us who found him. What does Heydar have to do with it?”
“I'm giving my half of him to Heydar, so that he can play with him too.”
When they got back, Safia wasn't home. Dear Bibi screamed, “Why have you brought this heathen to our home? Wasn't it enough that his forefathers murdered the Professor? Throw him out!”
“Yes, but the child is not guilty. Let them play awhile together,” said Heydar-Mamma.
“Phooey! Throw him out before I beat him to a pulp.”
“They just want to play in peace.”
“I'm going to Safia to tell her about it.”
Heydar-Mamma realized that she couldn't calm Dear Bibi down, so she took her by the arm and led her into another room, to try and get her to think about something else.
“It's a kind of solidarity. You know, boys will be boys. You know what I mean?”
“Sure,” answered Dear Bibi ironically.
“Yeah, sure,” agreed Heydar-Mamma quickly. “It's actually true.”
To which Dear Bibi answered, “Bullshit.”
It became dead silent in the room. Finally Dear Bibi became so irritated that she went out into the yard and screamed, “It was those bastards that came to the hut and took the Professor and tore him to bits!”
“It wasn't him.”
“No, it wasn't him … Sorrow is not all that I feel. There's still something inside of me that shouts out for revenge.”
“I know that it's wrong, but I still can't drive away those feelings.”
“Well, let me try to explain. There is a difference between adults and children. A child is a child no matter where it is. He has eyes. He has hands, organs and feelings. Stick him, and he bleeds. If you hurt him, he might even cry.”
Dear Bibi no longer listened to Heydar-Mamma. She pulled her chador over her head and rushed out.
All of the children surrounded Jim and felt his blond hair, his skin, examined his blue eyes and indeed his whole body.
When Heydar tried to come up to Jim, Jasem pushed him away abruptly, and looked at him like a tiger sizing up a threatening new rival. Heydar struck angrily at Jasem and hit him on the neck. But at the same time, he lost his balance and fell down.
Jasem was tough and strong, but normally also very scared. This time, though, his will took over.
Heydar couldn't comprehend that Jasem dared to attack him. Heydar's lips became dry, his hands sweated, and he was speechless. Enraged, he got up to attack, but Mariam's vibrating laugh rising above the tumult, made even Heydar start to laugh.
Amena talked to Jim. Carefully, she tried to find out where he'd come from.
Heydar-Mamma thought that Jim had somehow become shipwrecked and that he should be brought to the police station. Jim stared at them with large, confused eyes, but when he came into Jasem's room, he calmed down. All of the children assembled there and taught him how to play with stones. Then they went out into the street and rolled rings with sticks.
All of the neighbors then knew that an unprotected child had been taken to Mostaffa's house. Jasem's fear for Heydar disappeared that day. He spoke freely about the fact that he was the one who had found Jim and that he wanted to keep him as a brother and look after him. Everyone imitated Jasem and made fun of him. They knew that deep inside, he wanted to be like Heydar.
“Safia, something terrible has happened; your son has brought a foreign child home!”
Jasem's mamma rose with a scream that shook all of the Safa Bazaar, and in her panic, ran home screaming. Some of the bazaar women who were real gossip-mongers pretended that they wanted to help her.
When Safia got into the house, she saw, to her terror, Jasem hopping about, while Jim and Amena beat a rhythm on a pot.
When she saw this, she cursed her son for having brought home a moocher. Then everyone turned away, ashamed, and left. She forced Jasem to take Jim by the hand and bring him back to where they had found him before there were any new problems. Jasem looked like a beaten dog with drooping ears. He took Jim by the hand and walked slowly out. Amena, Heydar and Ali could not control themselves and followed after them.
“Where are you taking him?” asked Ali, his sorrow etched into his face.
“I don't know. My mamma said that I have to leave him by the Shatt.”
Heydar walked up to Jim. “With all of our hearts, we wish you could stay with us, but … you can't.”
Jim didn't say anything. He couldn't understand their language, but he understood their pain.
“Let's take him to the police station,” said Amena.
At an intersection, Heydar walked up to a policeman who was standing on Amiri Street.
“This foreign boy is lost.”
The policeman looked at Jim, and then turned to the other children.
“Did you find him?”
“Where did you find him?”
“By the Shatt. ”
“This is not your concern. Leave him here, and you can go.”
Noticing Jim's worry, Heydar pointed his finger at the policeman.
“This man … is … police … police … he'll … take … you … to your … papa … and mamma … Mamma … Papa.”
” Thank you … thank you.”
The children saw the policeman take the boy's hand and lead him away.
Akbar Golrang was born 1945 in Abadan, Iran. In 1972 qualified as Film Director from The London Film School. 1976 Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Lund University in Sweden. 1996 Masters in Information and Library Science from Boraas University in Sweden. Worked as librarian, radio speaker, culture analyzer, screenwriter, film director, and film producer in multiple genres in London, Sweden, and Iran. Purchase Akbar Golrang's Parpin Flowers.