Ali Farhang was walking back from the park with his grandson Payman. They had gone to the playground, where Payman had shown his grandfather the many things he could do with monkey bars and slides and swings.
"Baba bozorg," Payman said. "Why were you in jail?"
"I was in prison because our people were not free and I thought that they should be."
"Why were they not free?"
"Because we had a king who did not care about the people. He only cared about getting rich."
"He was bad?"
"Yes. He was bad."
Ali thought about it. "I don't know," he said. "Do you know why?"
"What did you do in jail?"
"We were tortured. They tried to hurt us so we would tell who the other people were in our group."
"What did they do?"
Ali told his grandson about it. The boy did not cry.
"That's pretty bad, isn't it?"
"Why would anyone do that?"
"Because they were bad."
"There were some of the best men I have ever known in there."
"Did some of them die?"
"Yes, some of them died. Do you know how it was to see their families afterwards?"
"It was very sad. I had to go and tell them sometimes myself. How does somebody say that to a family? You can't even say that he died in a war. You have to say that it was your own king that killed him."
"I hate war," the boy said.
"Me too. Do you think it will always be a part of human life? When I was young, I did not think it would be. I thought we would put an end to the whole thing, war and kings and all of it. Do you think it will always be around?"
"Me neither. I don't know if I'll live to see it. But maybe you will."
They walked home to their house in Santa Monica, California. It was a warm night and they would have dinner outside in the backyard. After dinner, the boy's father, Sohrab, Ali Farhang's son, was putting him to sleep when the boy told him about all the different ways that his grandfather had been tortured.
Sohrab went downstairs to his father's room. Ali was reading.
"All of my life I have wanted you to tell me how it was for you in prison," Sohrab said. "You would not talk about it. But you tell a boy of eight all about it."
"You are my son," Ali said. "I always felt like I had to give you answers, not questions. I felt like if I started telling you about it, I might never stop. A father should not do that to a son. I thought if I kept them inside me long enough, the questions would turn into answers. But I have questions. I am seventy-five years old and I have questions."
"It is all right to have questions."
"It is easiest for me to ask them of someone who has questions himself, I suppose. I should've asked you when you were a boy. But being a father was an answer. It was the best answer I could have had. But a grandfather is free to not need anything himself. The boy could say that he does not care about it and it would be all right. If you had said that you did not care about it, it would have been very difficult."
"I always said that I did want to hear about it."
"You are right. But you had already helped me. It was the thought of you that had gotten me through it."
"I was not born yet when you were in prison."
"What does that have to do with it? That doesn't have anything to do with it. I didn't know that I was thinking of you but I was. I was thinking of you the whole time. I was thinking of everything I wanted to stay living for. It was enough that I stayed living long enough to be your father. That was the part of it that I wanted you to know."
"Perhaps the next time you talk to Payman about it, I can be there as well."
"That would be fine. If he asks me about it when we are at the park, I'll tell him that we should wait till we get home to talk about it. I'll tell him that we should make some tea and sit down before we talk about it. I'll say it's because they didn't give us any tea when we were in prison and it makes me feel better to drink some when I talk about it. Yes, that would be fine. Sohrab, it's good to talk to the boy about it. He has some good answers."
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