How did the 3-year-old boy know that the man who stepped into the chapar – coming to him – standing above his head – was his father? Even the dogs of Gourchal didn't bark that an alien came, and when he ran his look over the resin shoes of his father, his military trousers, his rabbit-ear collar and then a tall man who was standing and staring at him just mourned bitterly and fell in front of pomegranate tree.
Hassan moved the child. He looked. There was no movement. The ear-cut dog always sitting beside the small pool had also come on by him. Now he was just a corpse on his coffin hands. He stood up and shouted:
- Ghadam Bekheir, Ghadam Bekheir! Hooo…
He kicked the door of the house. It opened wide. There was no one in.
When they caught Hassan, the child was one-year-old and now after two years he came again. He came with carriers up to Shah-Roud Bridge head and the rest path on foot to reach Gourchal before night.
The river was running over the stones tough with roar, passing by down to the head of the bridge that was further away behind some mounts, pouring into Shah-Roud.
The numb body of the boy was on his hands and when he kneed beside the balcony of the house, putting the child on the ground, he got sure that he was dead – his look at one side.
The mooing of a caw came from the stable that was under his feet. Ghadam Bekheir came out of there with a basket with no hey within. Her boots covered with dung until neck. But now the dogs of the yard were barking; it wasn't clear they were barking for Ghadam Bekheir whose man had come back or welcoming Hassan who was staring at the corpse of his son. Then he was looking at Ghadam Bekheir who was putting the basket on the lumber to come up. Ghadam Bekheir said hello just when she climbed up the slope of the stable and reached the balcony and roof of it. She came on and then saw the boy. She started mourning in a way that even the people of the village on the other side of the river heard it. She took the child from Hassan.
She spent the entire last two years alone with no one's assistance. Then she weaned the boy. She worked in the stable, watering the fresh saplings that Hassan had planted before his arresting.
As if the boy had died thousand years ago and as if no matter at all Hassan came back to start a new lease of life. Ghadam Bekheir put the child on the side of the balcony – the roof of the chapar below – in front of her feet, starting mourning bitterly. It seemed the mourning was complaining to Hassan who had left her for years and has brought another catastrophe with himself now he came back.
- Oh my child, oh my child! Where did you go now that your father has come back? Where did you go? Oh my God! My God! My little guard! God, my very dear child! My child! My child!
Her scarf fell off her head and Hassan was stirring at her. White strings filled her date-colored hair, and her curly hair had become so much tussled that indicated it has been a long time since her hair was combed – she just braided the down part of her hair. The braided hair was fallen out of her scarf and becoming spread about. Ghadam Bekheir was opening them. Hassan just said:
- He had become a man.
- What about you? Was prison good for you? Was the steeling of an armful of hay worth being away so many years?
Hassan stood up, fastening the laces of his shoes.
- What about your friends? Did you see your master wasn't good for – the master was the master of them not you – you miserable.
The look of the corpse was left on the dogs that were going around in the yard. One in the gate. One in the yard in front of manger. One went to the corner of the balcony, putting its snout over its hands and the other was on the roof of the house – where Gourchal was under its feet.
Ghadam Bekheir said:
- What have you got to do with gunmen? A band of pilferers who have nothing. Didn't you have a wife? Didn't you have a child?
Gourchal became alive. When he went the pomegranate tree had a wing no more and now like a woman with some breasts opened its wings and along with the fallen roses of the framework casted a shade over the pool of the yard.
The little child was dead. As Ghadam Bekheir just remembered what happened again, hugged the child, kissed him and mourned.
- One came, one went. Now that he came you went. Which coming and which going should I be found of? God! My child! God! My child!
Hassan stepped into the house, taking the bed-clothes wrapper and brought it into the balcony. Ghadam Bekheir put the child just there on the ground.
- Gourchal is here, but we must bring our first dead to the other side of the river, putting him under the care of Lab-e-Roudiya.
Ghadam Bekheir was shaking her head and repeating to herself as if she was rocking the cradle:
- Just here, I brought him in the cradle. I was rocking the cradle at one side and making bed-clothes wrapper at the other side. But what now? Oh my God! My Child! Now I must bring him in bed-clothes wrapper to the edge of the river and bury him – bury him…
- Ala La La Gol-e-Fandogh
- Babat Rafteh touye Sandogh
- I moved yesterday. I spent the night on the head of the bridge. I wore my rezin in the early darkness of morning not to be late more.
- Ala La La Gol-e-Fandogh
Hassan leant against the wall of the room at the one side of the balcony. He thought thanks God that he had built the half of the house. As if Ghadam Bekheir heard his voice she answered:
- I brought workers from Milak – they came from Nahiyeh, they came from riverside, they all worked for the blessing of their dead.
- Why didn’t you go to your brother in Milak?
- They came after me, but I had to be in here, not in Nahiyeh, not in Milak and no other places.
- You didn’t care I came back directly from Ghazvin to Aghgol.
But maybe she thought about it. Maybe she thought times and times that he was late because he had returned Makou. It had been a long time since his exile was ended, but she was yet rocking the cradle with her foot and painted balls and balls of string so as that bed-clothes wrappers to be sold well, and repeated to herself that her child is here. Now nothing – the child that is now lying with no movement under bed-clothes wrapper.
- There was no news about you…
- What news? Did you expect me to come after you? Each going has a coming. Anyway you would have come…
- But how did you know I would come back after two years?
- Year…year oh my God! My child! My child!
Hassan stood up and looked at Gourchal out of the balcony. His house was the only house in Gourchal with its chapars around it and down part – rice field on the right and the gardens field on the left. Up part of the house was just mountain and maintain. Where the rice field and gardens field finished, it was the river that embraced the properties of Lab-e-Roudiya’s people on the other side.
- I have learned to sew giveh with rezin.
- I have also learned how to erect the frame of bed-clothes wrapper.
- You have kept Gourchal alive…
- It was also the kind of the master who permanently came with my brother from Milak.
- Nobody teased you?
- For Gourchal?
- Ala La La…Gol-e-Pouneh…
Chapar: barbed bushes used for surrounding house and garden
Rezin: a kind of tire material for making shoe
Giveh: a kind of comfortable shoe made of cotton
Lab-e-Roudiya or Lab-e-Roudiha: the name of a region referring to the people of that region living on the fringe of the river
Poetic recitation: sleeping song for children with an accent specific to the Alamout of Iran
Yousef Alikhani, an Iranian writer was born in 1975 in the village of
"Milek" in the Roodbar and Alamut region of Qazvin.
He holds a Bachelor's degree in Arabic Language and Literature from the
University of Tehran. His first short stories were published between
1995 and 1996 in local magazines in Qazvin.
Dragon killing, (short stories), Negah Publication, 2007
Ghadam Bekheir was my grandmother (short stories), Ofogh Publication, 2003
Lookong for Hassan Sabba:, the Life story of the God of Alamut for Young Adults, Qoqnoos Publication, 2007
Ibn Batuteh’s Life, Madraseh, 2004
Aziz and Negar: Re-reading a love story, Qoqnoos Publication, 2002
The Third Generation of Fiction Writing in Today’s Iran: Interviews with Writers, Markaz Publication, 2001
The tale (stories) of the people of Roodbar and Alamut, in two copies, in collaboration with Afshin Naderi (to be published)
Weblog address: http://yousefalikhani.blogspot.com
Translator: Mandana Davar-Kia
University Degrees: Mastery in Translation and Interpretation (English to Persian and vice versa) from Applied Science University of Consecutive and Simultaneous Translation and Interpretation, Postgraduate Diploma with highest grade in Journalism and News Writing from London School of Journalism
Current Occupation: Editor in Chief of the English Section of Jam-e-Jam Online, English Language Translator and Journalist in www.jamejamonline.net, teacher, writer
Experience of working: 10 years teaching English, 7 years translation, interpretation, writing
Other activities: an activist of environment (National Wildlife Federation member), one of the 30, 000 people who signed the petition handed over the American congress concerning Global Movement Campaign
Knowledge of Languages: Persian, English, French
Website address: http://loony.gather.com