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Short story

June 23, 2004
Persian original

It was dawn; the sun was not yet up. The street was empty. No roaring automobiles, no cursing mothers pulling kids around, no blacksmith’s saw. Not even the neighborhood beggar. No sign of anyone yet.

The musical sound of rain drops against asphalt and window panes was all. Rain masterfully playing any tune ears yearned to hear.

On either side of the narrow street, little circles could be seen, like city stamps on every cross section. The aroma of the lamb restaurant filled the air. Tongue-less lamb heads were artfully arranged in a serving dish on the counter, inviting hungry passersby.

Down the street was a bakery. The red glow of the oven’s fire announced the end of a cold night. Two bakers worked in synchronicity, sliding the raw dough into the oven and pulling out the browned flat bread. They moved continuously, perfectly in time with the rhythm of rain.

Four factory workers appeared, buried deep in their overcoats. They were waiting for the company bus. They stood motionless against the wall as if waiting for a firing squad. As the bus approached, they stretched their necks like waking turtles.

Everyday at this hour, the long-handle broom of the street cleaner was heard. When he approached, a cloud of dust surrounded him like the saints. But today there was no sign of him. The responsibility of sweeping the streets was given to the rain.

A young man walked toward the circular intersection, his hands in his pockets. His splashing steps interrupted the music of the rain. His toenails froze as the icy water flooded his shoes. He dug his head into the collar of his coat and breathed inside to save his body heat.

As a child he wove rugs in his village, when he grew up he herded sheep. The last few years he came to the city working as a day laborer. He came to this circular intersection and sat on the banisters waiting for the employers. Whenever a truck stopped, workers anxiously swarmed to it and climbed in the bed. The boss got out and the employment process started.

The boss meticulously examined the workers and picked seven or eight for the day’s work. The rest had to get out of the truck. The older, slender, and pale ones got off first. But he was not worried about them.

Rain came down harder. He slumped in the back of the truck recalling where he worked the last two weeks; where he left his soul and his heart. It was house surrounded by towering walls. The ceilings had more mirrors than most shrines. The windows were big enough to swallow all the light of the sun.

He stood right outside one of those massive windows. Pausing from his work in the yard, he saw her inside. She was peering out, above him and into the sun as if looking at herself in a mirror. She toyed with sunbeams using strands of her hair and mocked the sun itself with her beauty.

The young woman was unaware of his gaze, it was as if he was not even there, just feet from her. She stood on an incredibly ornate rug. Her pristine white dress a contrast to the dark weaving of the rug. It was the type of rug he’d worked on as a child. The intricate weaving had cost him most of his eyesight.

As she played, she trod carelessly across the woven flowers in the rug. For a moment he thought she was looking at him, but she was looking through him. The young man found his soul in her indifferent look and lost it again forever.

It was pouring now. The rain hit him like frozen needles.

The truck jolted, started moving, and the young man sat under lashing wind thinking of light, crystal, and mirror.

Persian original

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