Chapter three






Mrs Edrisi was sitting next to the velvet cushion, looking into the garden. She was doing a piece of embroidery on that green table cloth. She was doing some maroon six-petal daisies, the feathers of peacock and some iris flowers, her fingers were really skilled, her hands full of grace.

Legha was dressing up in a long and green robe , wearing white wooden sandals, her fingers were wrinkled of the spa bath. Her wet hair braided, ribboned in pink. She used to do some exercise after breakfast.

For thirty times she stretched and joined her legs, lowering her head between the stretched legs and arms stretched moving along the room . She called it butterfly movement. Turning around her waist, she did some muscle breathing exercise, with each movement hands up, with no direction in the air moved along a curve. She took a deep breath , her belly inflated with the navel out, like new-born babies.

Yavar was sweeping the pavement of the yard. His cigarette unlit in the corner of his lips. He opened the fountains, listened to the music of the fountains. In the front the pigeons with bloated throats, left their feathers on the paved-stones . Somebody was knocking at the door, knock, knock and  knock.It repeated for several times.

He left the broom , quite pale , walked to the corridor, opened the door in the corridor, kneeled with his hands posed for praying:" May God help us!"

The old man lowered his head. Legha shouted and took hold of her skirt , big thighs and red knees appeared. One sandal out:" I'll kill myself", half crawling  burst into tears , her tears were dropping over her nose, twinkled, her pupils looked much bigger, the knocking at the door repeated. Vahhab was still in his sleeping gown, climbed down the stairs. With shabby hair, a sticky ringlet of hair over his forehead marked his restless nights and sleepiness . The lock of hair was stiffened over the parting, he tied his robe:

" Our game's over! Try not to show fear ( He went to the study and touched the leather binding of the books), they would take whatever we have."

The old lady responded:" I'll go and open the door."

Startled back , Vahhab looked into the mirror then straightened his hair:" Do I look good?"

Yavar buttoned up :"Your look doesn't matter, as if they were raiding into the yard."

Mrs Edrisi lifted her head:" Then I'll go."

She opened the door in the corridor ; a cold breeze was penetrating.

She climbed down the stairs outside in the courtyard. The moisture on the lilacs was evaporating gradually. The water drops were dropping down the fir tree. She opened the gate, took hold of the door knob, it was cold and wet.

The one who was shorter leaned against the door.In a pale green uniform, dusty and creased , his fingers on the trigger, his hair scruffy rough like a cloth-brush, brushy waxy beard had covered his lips, all over his chin and cheeks.

He was watching the edifice in triumph . Mrs Edrisi turned and looked at the same point. The attic had become tattered, the hatched roof and the gable hazy in the fog, chimnies, draughty windsweepers, brown hatches and lace curtains, as if they had been forgotten over the years.

The firing-squad members sneered ; the one who was in the front, with thin lanky neck which much looked like the stem of a cherry and the second who was shorter and muscular.

The skinny boy looked at his worn-out boots:" How many people are living here?"

While smoothing her throat, Mrs Edrisi replied:" Four, does it matter?"

The second firing-squad member kicked to the fences:" We're supposed to ask and you're obliged to answer, understood?"

The shawl slipped over her shoulders and arms:

"No problem, there's nothing to say!"

The slim boy looked at her:" How many rooms do you have?"

Mrs Edrisi answered hesitatingly:"I guess twenty ."

They both laughed along, the man with broad shoulders asked:" How long have you been here?"

Mrs Edrisi lifted one hand:" For four generations."

"Then you don't know how many rooms you have?!"

Mrs Edrisi smiled:" Rooms are for living not for counting."

The short man said:" Not an excuse ( he stepped in) we'll go for further observation."

They went into the manor house, the march of boots on the stairs was echoing. One by one they came in , Legha was peeping , she jerked and ran away to the back room. Vahhab got dressed , buttoned up disorderly, as if one shoulder looked broader, holding hands, leaned on the wall. Yavar's lips moved in silence. Startled while facing them.

They entered the anteroom . They examined the walls and and the ceiling. The skinny boy whistled :"All accessories!"

The broad-shouldered turned around, pulling a thread of moustache:" Just four, (clapped hands and laughed), how many were we in each tent?"

" The number of these rooms."

The shortie nodded:" The number was adding up day by day, isn't it stupid to miss such horrible days?"

The other one sighed:"Just right at the dawn the skyline was clear, the wild birds used to sit over our shoulders, we shivered in cold."

The broad-shouldered pointed to the painting :" Is it a replica?"

Mrs Edrisi paused :" It should be the original."

The man got closer and touched the paint :" I had seen the replicas, never thought one day I could see the original. The waves look vivid, the seagulls flow away in a flock, just like us ( suddenly became firm) the possession of such items should be clarified. Belongs to the museum."

Mrs Edrisi objected : " people's posssession is not your business."

They both burst into laughter; the thinner blushed:" It's a part of our duty."

They went to the window, shoulder by shoulder, they stood. In the cloudy sunlight they looked vulgar and despicable. The broad-shouldered poked :" Such a garden has no borders!"

The scrawny pointed to a tree:"Silver leaves!"

The broad-shouldered nodded:" I hadn't seen such a tree before."

"Grows in cold places."

Mrs Edrisi followed them :" Would you like to chop it off for your museum ? Fourty-two at least, as old as my elder daughter."

Somebody who was hiding back at the partition said:" The silver fir tree is not over thirty."

The firing-squad band turned back, the broad-shouldered pleaded:"Who's voice was that?"

There was the hustles and bustles, a short breath , a short sigh, the broad-shouldered peeped in. Legha leaned on the closet, pushed the door knob." Don't get closer!"

The young one looked at the other in surprise, his finger on the trigger:"Why? Is she armed?"

Legha burst into tears, down in the partition, you could see her ankles. Her wooden sandal heels were being pressed on the floor, the scrawny looked at the old lady and said:" Has she got a contagious disease?"

Mrs Edrisi nodded:"She hates men."

The young men laughed loud. The candelabra moved. The sighs were short, something was falling down.

The broad-shouldered kicked over:

"And she detests us?"

The door opened and the smell of ambergris mixed with tiny waves was blowing over:" Legally you cannot hurt us, we are not guilty."

The slim-necked winked:" Good morning , living in such a house is the biggest crime."

Vahhab's nose vibrated, he put his hand over his mouth, something inside him was twitching:

"It's our heritage, should we have destroyed it?"

"No, you should have dedicated it to us."

" For the sake of Republic ? If it was easy you'd never resided in the mountains."

"Anyone willing can join the firing band."

" On what cost?"

" The cost of your life."

"Very kind of you! We don't deserve it! So what? what could get your place?!"

The slim figure headed forward:

" You would have been honoured if you could be in our place."

"We don't need an honourary degree."

The broad-shouldered knocked the gun stock over his shoulder.

As if your body's itching for a real punishment, go ahead but we'll  make you behave at the end."

Legha moaned and then collapsd . The old lady opened the closet , unfolded jasmine scented sheets. The aroma spread in the house, she covered her with a white sheet, the maiden sighed and fell asleep.

The fire-band turned around, inspected the first storey . They went to open Rahila's room , Vahhab pushed them away, held the door knob.

"The room's bleak , hasn't been open since twenty years ago."

The broad-shouldered twisted the new-grown moustache :" We'll inagurate it."

Vahhab shielded his breast:" Over my dead body."

His eyes flamed in the dark.

The fire-band member panicked and went back , furious and tempted turned back:

"What's the secret in the locked door?"

Mrs Edrisi explained :" It's not a secret, all perfume and dress, turned to a legend now. The room belonged to my daughter who died young( she wrapped the hems of the shawl around her fingers.)

The mysterious story of her death was never disclosed to us ( sighed bitterly) she died of ill-fate and the stuff there are Rahila's memorabalia, we kept everything untouched , even the strands of her hair over the comb.

One poked the other one and whispered some words and took out a stroll out of his pocket, lit a match , the light was faltering , he pointed to some lines in the stroll, marched on the floor and yelled:" For now there's nothing to do with this room."

They came back to the hallway, the broad-shouldered stared into the ceiling :

" Obscure and dim."

Over the arched windows the pigeons were flyng. Over the twigs and foliage was covered with dung and droppings, hovered over the winding stairs on the landing of the second storey, they opened the white doors with the white golden-bread room, the stuffy air spread around . The satin bedspread's lustrous radiant in the sunlight, its heavenly image reflected in the dusty mirrors. In Legha's room there was a wet towel hanging on the chair. The flared flappy pyjamas on the side of bed, the breeze which was blowing made it look much bigger in size.

On the bedside table the book of memoirs was turning page by page .The virgins of the rocks was the only ornament on the walls.

In Vahhab's room the canopy curtains had been drawing back . The smell of ambergris had covered the house. Rablais' "Great Garagantu" was  open on the floor. In the light of lamp bulb, a bottle of water and the sleeping pills were seen on the bedside table. The broad-shouldered entered . Backed the bedspread. The dust over the fluffy velvet spread in the room.

"What's the use of it?"

Vahhab leaned against the door:" It barricades the sound and night . Gives security to me. "

The fire-band frowned:"Not a necessity ( he looked at his comrade ) stupid ! Let's take it the store!"

Vahhab complained :" I cannot sleep without them, ( marking the table) see the pills ! I suffer from insomnia."

While drawing the curtains, they parted it ! They folded the heavy velvet , bundled it and took it, punched to the shelf, the plaster moulder was dropping down, they made a fuss and left the room.

Vahhab hid his head in his knees, under the checkered coat his shoulders were trembling.

The slim figure turned back, put the pills into his pocket, slammed the door and left. 

Yavar got closer to Vahhab, kneeled in front of him :" Don't worry sir, we'll make another!"

The broad-shouldered opened the door :" No curtains ! You'll sleep this way or you'll die of insomnia."

They went to the old lady's , the rocking chair was creaking and moved.There was a raw of small bottles on the dressing table, jasmine and pansy in a bottle of perfume, powder pad and a golden comb.

The broad-shouldered took a plastic bag out, put them all in. The rocking chair was moving , kicked to the legs of the table , looked at the comrade : "You like such stuff?"

The slim man nodded:" Such trinkets make me sick." ( glared at the chair) I dislike them."

Mrs Edrisi objected :" You don't have to like it, it's my personal stuff , I sit there in the afternoons."

The fire band shrugged :" You're not a child!"

The broad-shouldered confirmed :" It's okay."

He put the chair in the balcony , it was getting dark and cloudy, the fog was descending , it was raining, he lifted the chair but dropped it. The chair fell down and broke. He burst into laughter, a hysteric laughter perhaps ,  poked into his comrade  . As a sign of victory , tapped on his knees. Showed some lines of the dirty stroll to the lady, Mrs Edrisi pushed back to the stroll :" These stupid lines doesn't make for the chair."

The rain and fog showed her face a little bit paler. She looked at the broken chair:" I used to sit there and reminisce old days, my whole family used it before me, all fingerprints of my mother, my husband and my young daughter who died young."

She placed her head into the frame, the fire-band had gone, they slammed the door, pranced over the stairs. Mrs Edrisi came into the room. She lay down, covered her body in the blanket, hands over her eyes.




The House of Edrisis is a prominent post-revolutionary novel in Iran by Ghazaleh Alizadeh , a noted novelist, translated from original Persian to English by Rosa Jamali.





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