A Family Matter
Joseph E. Fleckenstein | Alankrita Amaya
Masoud decided it was time to exit the café and return home. He had grown tired of smoking the water pipe. Besides, his mother would soon have lunch ready. Approaching the house where he lived, he spotted his father standing outside the front door. His father was always serious but this day his demeanor was both serious and sad as well. Masoud immediately knew that there was something drastically wrong.
When Masoud came closer, his father whispered, “Your sister was raped.”
The message was clear and immediately understood. There was no need for additional words. Both father and son realized it was an unfortunate mistake on her part. She should have been more careful. The responsibility fell to Masoud, the eldest of the two sons. He told his father, “I will do what is necessary.”
The father added, “Be certain to avoid disruptive acts within someone’s home. That would be unacceptable.”
The father lowered his gaze. Dejected, he slowly entered his house.
Masoud climbed the stairs to the second floor and the bedroom he shared with his brother. He went directly to the chest of drawers and began rummaging through the clothing. First he opened the bottom drawer and then the two higher ones. He looked over at his brother who was watching television.
“Where is my khanjar? Did you see it?”
“Yes, it is there in the bottom drawer. I saw it the other day. Look again.”
Masoud returned to the bottom drawer and, disturbed, grabbed all of the drawer’s clothing in his arms. He threw it all on the nearest bed. There in the rear corner of the drawer he saw the khanjar, the traditional Arab knife with the curved and double edged blade. An effective implement for stabbing or slashing. It is customarily intended for special occasions and today here will be one. Withdrawn from its sheath, its suitability was confirmed. Yes, it has kept its edges and it was ready for service. The younger brother became curious about Masoud’s strange and agitated behavior. He asked, “What are you doing? You expect me to put all of that stuff back?” Masoud did not respond and headed for the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs Masoud’s mother was waiting for him. She suspected her son’s intentions.
“Masoud I want you to come to the dining room. I will bring you some goat cheese and bread. We must talk. I will have a good lunch ready a little later. Today we are having mutton and rice.”
“No, mother. I have things I must do.”
“Masoud, your sister Sidra is a good girl. I don’t want you concerning yourself with her.”
“Where is Sidra?”
“I sent her for some desert. She will be returning shortly.”
Masoud became suspicious. He was aware that mother’s will protect their daughters despite the resolve of men in the family.
“I am not hungry. I don’t want anything to eat now. Maybe later. Save some mutton for me.”
Masoud exited the house, his khanjar well hidden beneath his outer clothing. Both he and his mother knew he would be going to the Al Hadid Road. It is the most direct route to the small town of Gigam where most of the family’s relatives live. There Sidra may hope to find refuge with one of them. Perhaps she expects to find a sympathetic widow. As the door closed, Masoud’s mother put her hand to her mouth. Quietly she began sobbing.
In the street Masoud wrapped his fingers around the knife’s handle. It felt firm, sturdy. He had never used the weapon before. This day will bring new experiences, ones he can relate to whomever might inquire. He told himself he will be admired for his steadfastness. His family’s honor will remain unsoiled.
On the Al Hadid Road, Sidra was walking as fast as she could. But she had departed in haste forgetting to change out of sandals. She had to stop constantly to remove stones and the soles of her feet were becoming bloody. It was midday and the sun was unforgiving. She had to slow her pace. Sidra began to believe she might be safe after all. Ahead she could see the house of her aunt. And the aunt was out of the house, standing near the road with folder arms. Their mother must have telephoned.
The hot weather was slowing Masoud as well. But he could still make better time than his sister. He would jog for 100 meters and then slow to a walk for another 100 meters. Far ahead he, too, could see his aunt’s home. He knew the house well. When he and Sidra were youngsters they had spent many hours in that house. There were many people in the streets, some going north and others the opposite direction. Ahead, he spotted a young woman in a blue dress. He knew it could be Sidra. She has few dresses and one is the same color of blue. The woman is also not wearing her usual headscarf. The slut! It will be easy to overtake her now. Yes, the knife is ready for the occasion. Frightened, Sidra turns now and then to watch behind her. She spots her brother who is now running toward her. She screams and turns to run toward the aunt. People in the street turn to look in her direction. One sandal goes free but she continues running as best as she can.
Masoud expects his sister will plead and beg but his plans have already been made. His hand grasps the knife and removes it from its sheath. It must be quick. Bystanders will watch but nobody will interfere. They will understand this is a family matter.