Chapter two




Mrs Edrisi sighed in despair, card reading was over. She tossed the deck of cards on the dining table; it's getting worse day by day. Vahhab stopped reading , scratching his nose, nothing's moved.

The old lady smiled:" Poor the man who'd marry her!"

Vahhab's eyes glimmered mischievously. "Is there a man like that?"

"At least for money!"

"One should be periless to marry such a freak!"

Mrs Edrisi closed her eyes:" They do as if you don't know people!"

"Poor the man , what if she saw heel-relief stone...?!"

The old lady chuckled:" She would see far-off!"

"A whole sum of all contradictions!"

Fed up with cards, the old lady nodded. The clock struck eleven , in the far-off distance the owl was howling, placing her ears on the window, grannie listened:" Such a throat, howls excruciatingly loud, won't it cut its throat?"

Vahhab smiled wondering what the owl does.

Grannie left, resting the door ajar.

Vahhab kept solitary vigil at nights, reading and staying up by the daybreak.

About midnight a grey cat popped through the window.

Through the cat's eyes there was a wavy spectrum of seaweed colours, Vahhab pampered the cat, soothed its backbones, purring and mewing around, up and down into the cushions, turning a page over, the cat opened its eyes. Just before the sunrise, he used to move to the kitchen . The kitchen was in the corner of the dinning room. Warsaw  Samavars with paintings on the wall, they looked crooked in the copper pans.

A cockroach was squeaking around on onion crusts. Branches of that weeping willow hit the windows, Vahhab would leave the kettle on to boil some water. Brewing tea and setting the silver tea set and then he left for the dinning room.Drinking cups and cups of tea one after another, Yavar was in the next door , the hedge of the doors creaked, twilight glowed on Yavar's salt and pepper beard, shabby and scruffy, untidy hair, bony skinny cheeks, dreamy and bewitched sleepy eyes seemed rather like sockets and holes curved into the darkness.His hunchback and loose and expressionless arms seemed like objects out of his body . He used to make a lot of noise and the cat cocked his ears, peeping around.

The cat leaped around the sofa and crept away. Yavar coughed huskily in the bright-lit corridor. The long shadow of fences over the yard.Vahhab switched off the candle on the wall , went up the stairs, his footsteps faded into the fluffy carpet.Grannie was snoring , turning the doorknob , he entered the room . Morning twilight with its mellow and pale light murkily was shading a silouette of velvet.Archs over his head and morning sunlight was shading all over the place , dressed in pyjamas, drawing the bedspread, rested and rolled into that satin and soft bed, the crimson blanket over his head , to his chin , while reading he fell fast asleep.

Around ten in the morning, while Legha was playing the piano , he woke up . For another half an hour , he lay down in bed rolling from side to side.

Two times a day Legha played the piano , Italian Caprichoes,Franz Liszt's Rhapsodies and Mandelson's Romances. For so many years she had played them with a great skill in her fingers. No stranger could believe her  skill, the spirit in her fingers and many years of practice. The stagnent maidenhood and silent youth , all were her oppressed desires , yearning in music and all this deepened her strength.Closing the piano lid , she felt young once more, while turning back , she was Legha once again, fierce and impatient yelled at Yavar for mixing up her exceptional plate with others on the dish rack , she had secluded herself with her cutlery and dishes , golden felt-tip mug, the blue china dish , Shefield bony forks. Before each meal she watched her mug carefully in a bright-lit place not to observe a speck of dirt and stains on it. If there was a guest at home , Mrs Edrisi would glare at her out of anger.

Yawning in bed , Vahhab got up and dressed impeccably in a white ironed shirt and tied , a trench coat with button cuffs . Brushing his hair , opened a central parting . In the pick of youth , he used to dress like an old man.Wearing a very strong perfume came to the breakfast  table.Grannie coughed :" What an awful smell! you're reeking like Egyption mummies, where the hell did you find it?"

Vahhab knitted his eyebrows:" It's the perfume of deep oceans, extracted essence of whale's abdomn, a gift of Buenos Aires."

Mrs Edrisi nodded:"You call it a present?"

Aunt Legha frowned:" Much better than a man's smell!"

Grannie Chuckled :" Don't exaggerate it. A man has a job , a love affair, a riding horse, a hunting game or at least a kinda drinking habit in a pub (sighed) I wish there were a man here."

Legha crumpled the napkin :" If you'd like a man here , I'll go and get a room in the town."

"Dear, nowhere is free of men . One would crawl into your room one night!"

With a twist around the corner lines of her lips, Legha blushed. Hiding her face in her hands, ran towards the door. The sound of crying covered all over the house.

Yavar came in , smiling and peeping , asked the Grannie:" Anything you would like?"

Mrs Edrisi smiled:" Come in!"

"Miss Legha's annoyed!"

Grannie said , her hands clinging :"Then if you could find her a suitor, it would be...."

Stealthily Yavar tiptoed to the door:" Ooooh! Heaven forbid, never ever! Haven't found a suitor and she hates me!"

Mrs Edrisi pointed to the wooden stool:" Get sit down!"

He hesitated , blew the dust over the stool and finally sat down on the clean stool.

Mrs Edrisi said:" Oooooh! Leave it dear ...!You'll dust off the stuff later!"

"There won't be enough time , such a big manor house needs more servants."

Mrs Edrisis's lips wrinkled in the corner:"Come on ! We're single-handed , when the wages are low they come and see Legha and they flee! Nobody's as faithful as you . Remember old days , those were the days .Once we cooked twenty rice bowls, what was the name of that chef ?( Scratching her forehead)....pity I don't remember the name!."

Yavar lifted his chin haughtily:"Ebrahim Beigh!"

" Ooooooh! Good!...I wish he had quit such horrible habits, he used to aim the knife at you as if stabbing!"

Yavar was bitting his lips:" Mr Edrisi sacked him for his dirty look at women!"

Mrs Edrisi placed her hair behind ears:" And you were the eye witness?!"

The air was penetrating into his cheeks, thoughtfully he spoke:"What shall I say ?! He was a Tatar with the habit of dancing with a knife!"

Quite irritated Mrs Edrisi said: "Such nonsense! My Grannie was  a half-breed Tatar , never seen such habits among them! Rahila was as decent as her."

Vahhab moved:" Where was she from?"

"Around Cremea , with a glamorous voice like nightingales , her voice got a move on the windows."

With a sparkle in his eyes, Vahhab asked:" What did she sing , Grannie?"

" It's a shame I cannot recall , Legha has taken after her in playing music."

Vahhab grinned:" The only talent she's got!"

Mrs Edrisi said :"She might have some other abilities not flowered yet!"

Vahhab sneered :"It's apparently late now, you've counted on her a big deal!"

Mrs Edrisi's face coloured: " You two bear a resemblence!"

Quite irritated,looking at the table , Vahhab complained:"Grannie!!!...We have nothing in common."

The old lady sighed:" A mere bagatelle ! At least Legha's touching her life in hatred, how about you?(scowling)

as dry as dust!"

Yavar stared into flower patterns of carpet, twisting a hair of his moustache:" Poor indigestion, it's the yellow bile, some jejebu and aloe vera would help."

Vahhab looked at the snowy landscape of the painting over the wall. At the end of poplar trees, dark and cold , the footprints of Rahila which were left seemed fading.

Mrs Esrisi's and Yavar's eyes met. The old lady shrugged her shoulders . Looked at the cards:" The knave of hearts, it's a good sign(lifted her eyebrows) a letter might come. Who is it from? Only God knows, the soldiers of the new government might have written letters to Legha. What were they called?"

"Fire-squad-band they're called."

The wrinkles on Mrs Edrisi's face disappeared at once :" Long ago they used to write letters to me .I never read them , tore up all ( stared at the foggy branches of maple ) a young soldier was in love with me, he wasn't from here, was in the regiment , had a childish face  , dark blue eyes . One night I got up and I saw him if my father could get it he would turn him to a piece of..., I got dressed and bare-foot went to the garden , with tearfull eyes he said that he was not from this county ! Had  come around to Kick the bucket. I said you must be insane! Lifting the lantern those satanic eyes looked like a hatchway to hell. He disappeared after some months. In the midwinter I got the words that he had taken the journey to the mountains. He entered the anti-government campaign. How's the fire-squad band doing now?"

" Filthy people!"

The old man frowned and nodded :" They're not filthy, it's the smell of yarrow leaves they consume!"

"The yarrow leaves?"

"Their boots are green , their lips livid blue, they consume pure grass."

"When did they come?"

Vahhab twisted his moustache by his fingers:" Not worth speaking , never understood their attitude, inhumane , vulgar, barbaric, do they ever think? ( He touched the white flowers of the table cloth) vain , hollow mechanical man!"

Mrs Edrisi asked :" Why don't you immigrate? Intellectuals like you have all left!"

The man yawned:" No Civilisation's left. People all over the world are dead from the neck up!" ( he grasped his hands ) never take me a pig-headed intellectual. Greedy and benumbed golden beard and necks , hand in hand with martial law have been buried somewhere in the hell!My books and room would suffice."

Vahhab's words seemed tedious to Yavar, he carried on with no care :" The time we were young , we climbed down the valley at moonlit nights. The fire squad band would stay on the mountain top and set a big fire."

Mrs Edrisi asked: "Didn't you get scared?"

Yavar blinked :" Fear, what shall we call it? Their dazzling sparkling eyes like wolves."

Mrs Edrisi wrapped the woolen scarf around her arms. " I don't know what happened to that soldier? Joined them and became a devil ? He was in the first gang , must be dead now!"

Yavar pondered:" Tongue-tied, a herb they've taken , mouth-shut!"

Mrs Edrisi said:" I've heard they never pay for the things they purchase."

Yavar nodded.

Vahhab closed the book :" This is the previlige we have . Money matters , they never care for the dainty stuff, they return them."

Mrs Edrisi asked :" How can they pull the wool over our eyes?"

Yavar hesitated:" They'd come for an enquiry , they'd asked how many we are and what we do , the neighboiurs have told them about the charity hospital."

Mrs Edrisi bent down:" Why didn't you tell us sooner?"

Vahhab clicked his jaws:" So one of these days they swarm over us like bugs, they'll ruin culture and beauty. Decadence has taken its place( He stood up and the chair was knocked by the table, walked along the room)

The world is going to decline . We live at the age of Kali Yuga! Pity a city like Nisa's buried ( looked at Mrs Edrisi) I wish I hadn't been born at the present time. Several centuries ago would fit me better; the age of Achilles, Prickles, the knights of round table, queens and the empress, the story of Shehrzadeh and one thousand and one Arabian nights or saint Acquinas."

( His eyes radiant with the magnificance of the old age.)

The old lady turned up her nose:" You would have been a misanthropist at any age!( looked at the plaster moulding of the ceiling in regret) Before long it'll be our turn . Since last week I've been plagued with the nightmare of the fire-squad. As if their teeth were growing  out of grass, fuzzy hair mixed with the smell of fleecing wool, marshing their boots. I got up and went to the window, gazed at the lamp-post in the street, shifting one by one , do they ever sleep?"

Yavar lifted his chin:" Two hours a day with nightmares, got used to it."

" And manners?"

" They laugh all in a group, hairy , bushy , beardy and filthy, people call them beefy!"

The old lady got a glimpse : " a mine of rumours ( asking Vahhab ), don't you look at the papers?"

The man crumbled a piece of paper:" Vulgar , all the same. Scruffy faces holding guns, with a flag in their hands marching,  could you get it grannie? Long lists of executions, let's dispense with it!"

Mrs Edrisi stared at the lamp bulb:" No peace anymore!"




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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