Abu Massoud’s Last Dream
Abu Massoud drifts back to the dream he first had a decade and a half ago:
He goes with his brother to their father’s grave. He digs the grave and takes the key to the wheat store from his father's hand. He puts the key in the anus of a donkey he finds along the way. He pours diesel over the donkey, lights it up and leaves it to gallop into ashes. His manager suddenly appears next to him. He extinguishes a cigarette in his manager's eye and throws him out the window.
"Wake up, Abu Massoud. It’s getting late," Umm Massoud calls out.
He takes Umm Massoud to the hospital. Five doctors treat her. He watches them perform an operation on a 20-year old spinal disc. He puts a large cow on the other bed as payment. He carries Umm Massoud on his back and leaps to her family’s house. He asks for her hand in marriage from her deceased father. Her father opens the door and they chitchat about the neighbours.
"Come on, Abu Massoud. Wake up! I've already got my hands full with all the housework and the children!"
He holds a piece of wood in his hand. He fixes the bathroom door. This bathroom holds all his memories; his first spanking at the hands of his father because he harassed a neighbourhood girl. This is where he hid when he stole the pigeon from the neighbour’s roof. This small room is where he first explored the female body.
Abu Massoud’s father comes in, he takes him by the hand and they go to his aunt’s house to marry him off to her daughter. He leaps from the chair and runs away against his father’s wishes. He spends two days and two nights in the mulberry tree in fear of his father. The neighbourhood men show up carrying wooden sticks and they search for him everywhere. He fights them all off and shoves the sticks up their anuses. He kisses his father’s hand and invites him to a glass of infused 'mate' tea on the rooftop to win his blessings.
"Come on, God bless you, please show me some consideration. I swear I can’t speak any louder. You always sleep late and I always pay the price the next morning."
The first day after his wedding, he and Umm Massoud enter a room in the house he inherited from his father a few months before his death. He announces his marriage to her before the mirror. He asks her to give him a son as fast as she can. He brings the mid-wife, Umm Hassan, to help deliver the child quickly. She calmly gives him the baby from behind the door. He gives her three big bags of wheat in return. She carries them on her back and leaves. He takes the child and he leaps to his father’s grave to give him the news of the arrival of the heir who will carry his name and immortalise his memory. He stays by the grave for two nights. He forgets about Massoud who gets hungry in his lap, and about Umm Massoud was bleeding in the room and pleading for help. His guilt overwhelms him. He bangs his head against the wall three times in regret. His head bleeds and so he faints.
"Come on, Abu Massoud. Do you think you’re still a bridegroom? Wake up! Go get us some bread and meat. Today I'll cook the children's and your favourite dish."
His eyes move a little under his eyelids when his children are mentioned. He feels the scent of basil entering his nose from the window under which he sleeps in the lounge.
He continues to dream.
He buys blue paint from one of the village shops and he paints his whole house. He even transforms the big tree in the yard into a blue tree. He then gets up on the roof and shouts noiselessly, as if he were only moving his lips up and down; no one hears him announce that his second son is on his way.
The breeze that caresses his face and his uncovered toes mingles with the scent of basil that is stirred in the room with Umm Massoud's comings and goings as she tidies up the house. He inhales this breeze and sees his children as grown men, the house filled with the cheers and boisterousness of their offspring.
He leaps onto the roof of his cousin's house and throws him the 50 liras he borrowed from him before the cow delivered. The cow everyone claimed couldn't die. The cow which gave birth to male calves only and which witnessed every family event. He also throws his cousin a piece of paper scribbled with many swear words insulting his cousin's family and ancestry; insults he’s too embarrassed to say out loud in public only because he promised his school master as a child that he wouldn’t swear or curse anyone in a loud voice in the village square.
His journeys to the city didn’t change his habits or his financial capabilities. He’d return home to his wife on the village old bus carrying a radio and a big basket full of the salted peanuts he loved so much.
He enters the village. He sees the village men and women walking toward the big square, the women were ululating. The men in front were carrying a large coffin wrapped in a white cloth embroidered with live birds attached by their wings. Leading them was an old man carrying a long letter which he read aloud for all to hear. He saw himself walk ahead of them all, leap over the coffin and open it, only to be surprised to find his father inside.
"Come on, Abu Massoud. It's over already since last night. Why are you taking it so personally? OK, I wronged you and I ask for your forgiveness."
He approaches Umm Massoud at one point during the afternoon. She was sitting on a small rug breast-feeding her second son. He takes her hand and he caresses it. He presses her fingers, her shoulders and her whole body, as if trying to release all the diseases that have clung to her body over the years.
It's approaching 01:01pm.
Another basil infused breeze is carried to his nose and creates a storm in his head. He sees the door to his house slowly open and a great light streams through. Will Umm Massoud know how much he loves her? Will she know where he put the key to where he hid his savings? He never had the time to tell her. She never gave him the chance to talk during their quiet moments together. Will Umm Massoud marry someone else? Will the children remember me when they’re older? Will my grandchild carry my name? He was asking himself these questions when a fly landed on his toe and began nibbling at it. He felt as if it was nibbling on his whole body but he couldn’t move his warm body under the covers. Nor could he move his lips to call Umm Massoud to ask her to shoo the fly away from his toes.
"I never meant to annoy you. It’s the sickness and the children and the housework, and you came with your birds, bringing their filth into the house, making things so much worse for me."
You weren’t supposed to reprimand him in front of the children, Umm Massoud, to call him a loser and to say that he did nothing good all his life. “How can you become a father and still keep those wretched birds that do nothing but dirty the house and deplete our stock of wheat…"
In the morning when I awake, and only to please you, I’ll release all the pigeons forever. I’ll take the wheat in their cages, I’ll go to the fields, and I’ll sow the earth and come back with a great fortune. I’ll sell the wheat and build a house for the children on the roof instead of the pigeon coup. I’ll paint the house and the large tree in the yard white instead of blue. I’ll stop smoking; I know this has always bothered you and disturbed your sleep. I’ll become the village mayor so that you and the children can be proud of me. I’ll install a water cooler near the house for passersby to drink from and pray for my soul.
Abu Massoud tries to move his toe, now turned very cold, but he can't. Moving his eyelids is even harder. Flies begin to gather around his feet and his nose. A white light pierces the blackness that envelopes his eyelids, and white birds take flight into the skies. In his mind he whispers to his wife, "I love the children. I love you."
"Don’t you want to wake up, Abu Massoud? Get up and feed the wheat to the birds. Come on, get up and look at your birds; they’re all flying high up in the sky."
Translation by: Fadwa Al Qasem