By George Keyes
A MORNING’S HAND
Afaaf opened her eyes. It was morning, or was it really the middle of the evening? As she wondered, she turned on the wooden bed, not yet fully awake, a hundred of birds playing in the backward, and those earthly sounds from the ravine reached her as if they were a concerto of heaven. She glanced around and realized she did not see her lovely Parvana.
“Parvana! Parvana! Where are you?”
She hopped out of bed and quickly she made her players. She came into the narrowed corridor. She jogged to the kitchen, to where she found the room empty.
“I’m here, child.”
She came into the adjoined room. “Isn’t morning?”
“I let you to sleep a little longer.”
“You helped me to wash those clothes last night and carried water from the river. I shall make them ready to delivery. Have you forgotten?”
She looked what she was doing starching the second bundles of blankets and the pillows.
“Oh, Mom. It didn’t matter.” She went to her, and she gave her a hug. “I am here to assistant you as your daughter and I am the only being around.”
“Oh, you are so sweet, my little one.”
“Have you collected the eggs?”
“Well then I will do that.” She regarded to what she was doing. “Let these blankets. I will do that when we finished eating our morning breakfast.”
Her mother touched her long charcoal hair, and she made her to hold for a few minutes.
“Let’s Our Allah to strength you for beauty and a patient path, dear one.”
“Well, I go now to collect the eggs.”
Afaaf moved to a small room nearby the kitchen where a container filed with water had been collected last night. She washed her face, arms, and she changed into a white tunic when she reached her room. She wrapped her head and neck with an old scarf. When she had finished, she was greatly surprised to find Parvana underneath the wooden counter. She was uneasy as she looked at her with those lovely eyes of hers.
“Now I know why you did not awake me.” She bent over to her as she caressed her swollen belly. “Soon you will be a mother, and you and I are going to take care of them.” Parvana whined as she moved to right side. “I know. You can stay here if you want to and I will bring your morning meal, okay?” Parvana starred at her. She positioned to her two feet legs and then got up and walked around a little. “Alright. C’mon. I’m going to collect eggs for breakfast.”
As Parvana and Afaaf walked along the dirty pathway to the chicken coop. Afaaf breathed the morning air, deeply and happily, opening her arms, making hops, which it seemed close to her heart.
“Isn’t a splendid day, Parvana?”
“Oh, you feel it, too.”
Reaching the chicken coop, she examined Chin, Telan, and Stoo. None of them had lay eggs or someone had stolen them. She was sure the place was a good place from elements and from predators. She inquired to Chin and the other chickens what had happened last night. They were in the second level of the coop and they seemed frightened. She found Henu the roaster at the corner.
“What is going on here, Henu?”
Afaaf climbed the second level of the chicken coop to see. It was empty. The suspended level was flooded with sunshine. She was looking for something. It covered with glasses and extras gathering egg boxes and with protections at both sidewalls. Below she ambled around. How would she ever find who stole the eggs? Then she remembered that hold her mom had fixed. Afaaf’s mother found more holes but she had fixed them as well. Mom’s jobs were unbreakable. Therefore, she began to worry. If she could find the mysteries of the eggs, she would able to collect some flowers along the ravine. It might be a hundred of down there.
Afaaf heard a hiss sound came from beneath the wooden platform and went to the opposite side. The surface of the terrain and the tiny wooden floor stood haft open. Carefully, she looked in. There was a family snake. “You’re the thief! How did you able get in here?” Fearlessly, she dropped to her knees. “I am going to take you, and we are going to eat you for breakfast. Believe me what I tell you.”
She tried to grasp the snake.
Snake snapped. At the same time, the snake changed positions. He was full. His tongue moved in and out. Afaaf paid attention to his movements. He smelled danger. He hissed again. She removed her scarf. His yellowed eyes stared at her. Parvana now began barking. Breathing in and out heavily, the snaked rising. Afaaf was attentive. She looked everything but she was ready.
The snake did not want to know would be next, and he tried to get away.
“No, you would not, my dear thief.”
Afaaf sounded her scarf. The snake did not understand. Then the girl’s green eyes grew smaller. Back in her head, she had caught a glimpse of Parvana, as she was ready to help. In the upper left-hand corner of the wooden flat, it was at that moment the snake wanted to escape. Afaaf made another sound with the scarf. The snake opened his mouth. Confused, he hissed. Afaaf sent the scarf. Skillfully, her arm stretched out. She grabbed the snake by the tail as she had seen mom and carefully she controlled it by squeezing his head.
By the time she tossed the reptile aside, it was dead. She moved directly below. She saw the disturbed of the ground. She fixed it.
She let the chicken out of the chicken coop. She came into the barn and opened the door of the only cow, an old childless cow for which her, mom and herself do the work on the field. Now she eager to tell her mom what she found. She ran top the cottage and into the washing room. She was not there. Without losing a beat, she went up to the sunny kitchen. Her mother was stretching out the wet flour to make sheba bread.
“Mom?” she cried. She tossed the snake on the rocky counter. “I found this hungry fellow in the chicken coop.”
“I reckon you didn’t find eggs.”
“Well, we will have him then.”
“I will be in the washing room.”
She moved to the earthly oven and she examined the lentil soup and sent Afaat to the eating room. The poor table suspended up with two massive rocks stood before the fire as it had made her father before the war so proud. Her mother brought the dishes, breads, and tea. She sat in the floor, looking at her.
“We are blessed, Afaaf.”
“I know, mom.”
Afaaf enjoyed her breakfast. She ate every bit of her lentil soup. She kept some breads and half snake to Parvana.
“I left some piece for her.”
“It’s good, mom. She needs to eat for many.”
“I wonder what happened to the other dog.”
“I wonder it, too.” She looked at the window. “Well, mom. I go to finish the washing.”
“I will take a moment to pray with your father and your brother.”
“Can I go with me?”
“No, child. You do what you have promised me. Besides, I do not want you to see cry.”
“We’re going to make it, mom. See, one day, we are going to see both of them.”
“Truth. You’re the special one, and I want you live.”
“Now I must go for my player,” Afaaf’s mother said.
“I go to get your scarf.” Afaaf got to her feet and walked to a corner. She too the scarf and gave it to her. “Be careful, and God goes with you.”
Afaaf’s mother went down the widen pathway and she would come to the slope. It was pleasant here, and she had taken a moment to complete the landscapes. Then she returned her walk. She halted in front of two crosses. She cleaned the weeds and removed the grasses. The flowers that her daughter had dried out. She found no site for lovely flowers. She removed out the dried ones, and kneeled. “Next time I shall bring flowers. Well, yes, Afaat is growing, and tomorrow she would be 13 years old. She does not want anything but I shall a honey cake.” She leaned over, and she had a moment of silence. “For in all of these and more, I ask you to take care of her.”
She enjoyed the prayer. She filled her heart with a strange hope. When she got home, she dashed to the washing room to tell Afaat she had a message from her father and brother. She was her busy and almost the blankets had been finishing. Most importantly, she was singing; she was the singing the song whose father always loved. She back up., and she began to listen to it.
A MOMENT OF HARD WORK
Afaaf had finished washing the abrasive fabrics like blankets from the curtains and pillows. Toward the morning, she starched the clothing and the blankets with iron. When the sun was in the middle of the sky, she finally finished the last pieces. She took a moment to feed Parvana, and then reported it to her mom.
“No, Mum. You need to the baking pitas. I will be on time to collect the beans.”
“You need to make two journals, Afaaf.”
“I am going to use the old wheelbarrow.”
“Through these roads?”
“Our God shall carry half of me.”
Afaaf’s mother helped her to carry clothes to the wheelbarrow. They were more what the wheelbarrow could handle but all clothing had been loaded nicely in. Afaaf kissed her mother. Parvana led the way. The girl walked on position to the wheelbarrow. She lifted the handlers and began moving on. From her village to Al-fah town was approximately five miles. Later, they passed a bridge crossing a brook. Afaat slowed down. She took a little break. A few moments later, she went on. She passed this isolated road.
Hours later, she recognized the sight of Al-fah and the noises of children and horses and peoples. She made a momentary stop. The hill before her would be a challenge. She remembered her mother. To the Aatabou’s house, it was better to get another road moving out the plaza. She pulled the wheelbarrow making angles right to left. She climbed the hill and made a stop on the hilltop. She stood breathless. The Aatabou family house was on her right. They were well off and they had helped her mother after her father killed in the last war.
She leaned the wheelbarrow to the porch of the house, and she walked the stairs. She knocked. A sixty-sevent-year-old Basimah Aatabahou opened the door by herself. She greeted Afaaf. “Are you alone?”
“Is it your mother alright?”
“She is. Thank you.”
“Hasn’t she forgotten about the breads?”
“Good. So, have you brought the clothing?”
“Well, bring them in.”
Afaaf carried the clothes into a spacious room. Two servants took them from her. She was unable to admire the spacious Mediterranean house as it was the first time she allowed her into the house. Exhausted and happy, Afaat received 100 rials.
“Don’t worry. I have made an effort. Your effort has been rewarded, Afaaf. You are a good daughter. Has your mother said anything about me?”
“I have been saying you can work for me? Not a servant, of course, rather a companion to my daughter. She is in a wheelchair.”
“Mum has said nothing on such, Mrs. Aatababou.”
“Was she not?”
“What about then? I will take well your mother and you.” What do you say?”
“What mum has said, Mrs. Aatababou.”
“Well, she has said no. Not in direct way, that was my impression.”
“Well, no, Mrs. Aatababou.”
“Mum needs me. It is very important for me to help her. I am the only she has.”
She smiles at her. “Certainly. You go now. Night will fall soon. Say hi to your mom for me.”
She held, and she looked at her. “If may I say, Mrs. Aatababou? She can visit me once day. I will be very happy to show my cottage. It isn’t much but the view is remarkable.”
“Would you do that?”
“My daughter would love it very much. I will tell it to her, and next time when your mother brings the breads you will have my reply.”
“I will be waiting.”
Good Crossing the bridge back home, she saw below swimming along the brook a fish. She did not hesitate. She managed to go down. She saw a dozen of kids and families washing and bathing the brook. It did not estimate her. After a while, she was able to catch a couple of fat trout and ells. Happily, she tossed them wrapped up with leaves.
“Mom will be happy, Parvana,” she whispered excitedly. “What a banquet!”
She moved on. The sun slipped off from the canopy. Then shadows fell across isolated and vast brown land and sharp black hills showed still ghostly figure. She took this road and stared down into the golden sand. She saw all palaces, destroyed and ruined, with dead eyes looked at her.
Everything looked at her. The sandy hills dissolved into the horizon. There was no fear. She knew Allah was with her.
You and I have the same
Mean of life in growing
Fearless and fiercest
Afaaf smiled at her thoughts. You have everything. Life! This view. Do not be afraid. Why, I can trust you with my life and what I see? Freedom! Once day your womanhood shall has something. It is not easy to breathe sand, and make everything so sweet.
She was at last of the middle of her village to the path she was able to see her home. Parvana barked. She saw her mother waving her hand toward her in the middle of the slope. Afaaf smiled at her mother. She stopped the wheelbarrow and left it against the rock.
“I did it mom.”
“Afaaf, my swarthy daughter. Welcome!”
She gave her the money. “Here, mum. We’ll see more of his lovely time, if God permits.”
“Of course, if God permits. You have done well.”
“She gave me extra, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she did.”
“Did Mrs. Aatababou told you about her daughter?”
“Yes. She did, and but I refused it. Did she ask you again?”
“She did, Mum, but I told her you need me.”
“It’s wonderful to hear it.”
“But also I told her about her daughter and my place, humble and clear, we will welcome them.”
“It cannot happen.”
“Well. She has accepted. Tomorrow, she would give you her daughter’s reply.”
“She is going to love this place.”
Afaaf heard more from her mother. Had she forgotten about the fishes?
“Mother!” She backed up. She lifted up the fishes. “Look!”
“Daughter, where did you find them?”
“Down the brook, mother! They were too many carry on.”
“It will take us weeks to satisfy our needs.” She paused.
“I will take some money to make a honey cake.”
“I promised to your father you will have a honey cake for you birthday, and if God permits, you will celebrate it with your new friend.”
“It will be then.”
A HEAL OF BEAUTY
Afaaf and Parvana trailed from parcel to another in the back of the house. They jumped over the bushes who would play for hours or walk in distance to catch birds. It was not easy to amuse Parvana while her belly was full. She seemed to lose her energy per minutes. And this late afternoon she had enough and stopped. She watched Afaaf and then returned away from her. Afaaf wanted to call her, and she wanted to ask what was going on but she did not. She remained there as she wondered what she was going to do next. She glanced around. She felt so lonely. It seemed everything around her and tinier had disappeared. There was no extra moment she could hold on. She tried to find a thing to focus her mind. She looked at the house where her mother was cooking and eventually there would be the announcement to eat.
There she was.
“Afaat, dinner is already. C’mon.”
She breathed. Only with great effort, she started to walk to the house, when this leaf had been falling from a tree. The falling of leaf was solemnly silence but Afaaf was able to hear the falling.
Slowly, she looked in the direction of the leaf. This angelic face appeared. Shy, with high cheekbones, and comely, he stepped of the shadows.
“Who are you?”
It was not question of who appears
Before you but of who and why this appearance.
“Does it matter?”
“For me, yes.”
“I am Caleb.”
Rapidly, she ran to her while she was calling her.
She appeared at the threshold.
“Daughter, what it is?”
She took time to breathe. “He’s here! He is here!”
As if he did not move, he was in front of them.
“Finally, we will able to see you. We’re very happy.”
“I am, too.”
“Would you join at our modest table?”
“I’ll glad to accept it.”
Afaaf’s mother stepped aside as she let him to move into the house. She followed by her daughter, Afaaf.
At this moment under the counter, to where the kitchen attached the outdoor room, Parvana welcomed her first babies.