Writing Young Love: The general’s daughter

“Baba, what’s a sar lashkar?”

“Some guy in the army,” my father mumbled through his Etela’at.”Why?”

“The new teacher is asking what each of our father’s do?” I said. Which was the truth, but that’s not why I was curious. When Roya said her father was a sar lashkar, the substitute teacher’s air of authority over her had suddenly crumbled to a friendly-dog submissiveness.

Roya had always ignored me except when she brushed off her skirt every time I sharpened my pencil, even though I never got any pencil shavings on her. So I always ignored her back, even though her eyelashes were so long they reminded me of grasshopper legs. Every school day I looked forward to out-disliking her. But the sar lashkar incident brought a sense of loss, like a ball going over the school wall. Irretrievable.

“What did you say I did?” said my father.

“I didn’t know. The ones who didn’t know are supposed to find out for tomorrow.”

My father closed his newspaper. He was frowning.”You tell your new teacher that your father is a sar amaleh.”

“For God’s sake,” my mother jumped in.”He’s only six.”

“Is sar amaleh better than sar lashkar?” I asked.

“Much better,” said my father snapping the paper open again. “We are kaargars, and kaargars are the most important people in the world.”

Anticipation kept me up the whole night. I couldn’t wait till tomorrow when Roya would find out my father was a sar amaleh. All morning, getting me ready for school, my mother tried to fix what my father had done.”Your father is an economist.” She would say. But the word was too hard and she knew it. Then she tried university professor. Even worse. The pride in my father’s voice as he had said sar amaleh just wouldn’t wash off the word.

When my turn came up, I stood up proudly and said,”My father is a sar amaleh which is a kind of kaargar who are the most important people in the world.”I had no clue that sar amaleh was that much more important than sar lashkar, because as soon as the teacher heard my words, she turned red as though in shame, and stopped asking the rest of the students what their fathers did. I sat down satisfied that no classmate could ever top sar amaleh.

During recess Roya, dragging the entourage of girls who always surrounded her, walked up to me, her long eyelashes moist, a lump in her throat.”I didn’t want to say,” she said.”But my father is a sar amaleh too.”

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