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Short story

By Hassan Zerehi
August 30, 2001
The Iranian

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.

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