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Shahrzad Toutoun-chi
Iranian Writer & Literary Critic
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Photo: Masoud)








Research: Literature

Payman
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Short Story
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Shahrzad Toutoun-chi: Payman

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With the butt-end of his gun he hits me in the face.
I keep on turning this way and that on the bed. My eyes are fixed upon the door that continually keeps on opening and closing. The nurse places the white bed sheets near the bed, bed that are close to one another and they are fenced all around.
His footsteps keep on echoing round the rectangular shaped room.
I say, “Payman, turn back, you poor devil, step back. I am burning. The Arab places his feet upon the mines. The wind brings along with itself the smell of smoke.” He says in reply, “Hide your head, the dust on your feet hide boils”. I brush the dust away and another boil bursts and the blood and the puss flow out so strongly that they pour over my face. I walk on fours. There is the sound of something falling. I touch it but it is slippery; maybe some water has fallen over the floor from the mug. I wet my hands and rub them over my face. A drop, bitter and salty, wets my dry mouth. The handkerchief over my neck gets wet. Drops of blood keep falling here and there. The handkerchief, black and white in color, gets red. Morteza is going away. I shout and stretch out my hands toward him. “Come on. Return back. Why the hell do you go on staring?” he places his hand over my shoulder and says, “Why do you shout? I am here.”

My streams of tears pour over the dust. I pull up my sleeves well unto my elbow and point it out to him, “My hand will get amputated at this place.”

He laughs and says, “The left hand is hand of Satan.” His chin keeps on moving over his fingers. My hand touches the inkbottle, it drops and the whole bed sheet becomes inky colored. It is navy blue, absolutely wet. The nurse arrives and removes the empty inkbottle. She touches the edge of the sheet and looks up. She puffs her mouth and says, “ Look the sheet was brand new.” When she utters these words the puffs of her mouth disappear. I reply, “My hand accidentally touched the inkbottle….”

She puts her hand on her waist in an angry gesture. She purses her lips, looks at me and says, ‘you want to pour it over a second time? not at all. Right now you are going to take a compose.”
She waits. And then hands over to me a small tablet with a glass of water to swallow. She then goes out of the room and turns off the light.

The window is shut and nothing is visible. I know where the matchbox is; accordingly I stretch out my hand and grab it. Then I say, “What is the use of this damned light? Half-burnt matches shine on the ground like shining little worms in night. They keep on moving over the papers over the floor. Morteza says, “It is darkness after all.” The window suddenly breaks.

Payman suddenly wakes up in horror and screams, “Mother.” He comes to his senses with my shaking. He sits up half dazed. I hand over a glass of water to him and he drinks it sip by sip. I pass my hands over his hair and say, “My son, surely you miss your mother a lot.” He retorts, “No, at present I have many things to do. Now I will tell you what they are: leave some of the works to me.” Tears keep pouring from Payman’s eyes who says, “I know this is not the first time that I wake up in horror when I hear my mother’s voice in dreams; but rest assured that my heart is here.” I place my hand over his shoulder and lean my body against his and say, ‘I know, nowadays the young fight in this way. Your mother is proud of you even if you dream of her and scream in your sleep.” His eyes are drowsy with sleep and he stretches out at full length.

A small light is visible from the distance. A gale of wind is blowing. Morteza’s head is lowered down and he sighs loudly. He slings and adjusts the R.P.CHI over his shoulder. I cannot see Morteza’s hands clearly. He enters the defenses. A big scorpion is over the sleeping bag belonging to Morteza. I crush it with a stone. 

Morteza says, “Bravo.” I pick up the crushed scorpion and say, “Are you laughing at the dead? Turn back, there is another one of them."

Morteza digs a pit measuring a small human being. The expression of his face undergoes certain changes. It becomes serious: “We have distanced ourselves from others, and my provisions are giving out.”

I say, “May be this is the Last Supper.”

He replies, “This is the end of the journey. Whatever is, is right here. There is no other place.”

I told him not to distress himself; we shall fall short of nothing, not even a drop of water. The moment he tries to say something I interrupt him, “Even if we fall short of air or oxygen, we shall inhale once in turn, respectively.”

He returns back to the subject he was talking about and shows the pit that he had dug: “This is for me. I put a sign over it so that we may not forget it. If it becomes necessary we shall stay here.”

I retort, “Are your bones due to break.” Morteza’s eyebrows arch and distance themselves, his eyes widen and his face assumes a kind expression. He at once pulls the blanket from under my head, goes on turning it round and round, my head falls over the ground and he says, “Should I scream at the top of my voice and challenge….” He then bursts into laughter.
I retort by saying that they too may challenge you. I massage my head with my hands. The footsteps of the nurse approach, one, two, it grows nearer. She flings the door open. Streams of tears run down her cheeks. She closes her eyes. I pick up the hand tissue but my tears pour over it so much that it is torn into shreds.

She said, “I have brought a letter which is addressed to Payman.” I answer back, “That is it. The letter is for me. She does not insist, but hands over the letter and disappears.”

Morteza knows what it is about. I tell him, “Payman stay where you are. Look I have a good luck. He catches hold my so tightly that it pains on which account beads of sweat alight over my brow. I tell him that with this same hand I am ready to wrestle with him. He accepts the challenge. We go on wrestling and finally I win.

He says, “This is another wrestling.” He calls me an idiot. “Only Morteza and I are here. You do not know what happened.” I look from afar. My eyes keep burning, and in a moment he had gone. I pick up a piece of crumbled paper from the floor. At first I was not inclined to read but I could not resist my curiosity. The paper was badly crumpled so I started perusing from the lines that were still easy to be deciphered. But my eyes grow dim and I cannot read any more. My eyesight has grown so bad that the doctor says I am to operate in a couple of days hence.

The handwriting was that of a child that had scribbled, “Dear uncle, when you return home don't forget to bring me a few bullets because I want to make a necklace out of them and hang them over my neck.”

The letter falls from my hands. I pick up another white sheet of paper and write, “There is no time for letter writing." And I scribble Payman's address on the back of the envelope.

The blowing of the wind moves the sands in the desert. I call Major Abollahi by his name from behind his back. He firmly stamps his feet upon the ground and stands attention.

He sees Morteza and me sitting and stretching our legs. He bursts into deep laughter and we too fall into a deep laughter, too. He says, “The people were led astray on account of their blind faith.” And I reply, “Yes we followed blindly and you too were cheated and deceived.”

He stands near the bed with a glass of water in his hand, which he hands over to me and says, “Why don't you mention yourself. It appears you don’t at all see…”

As usual I did not allow him to launch upon his explanations. So I said, “You are just like my son. Even if I return ten times more to the battlefront it is because of you; I want to see all of you grow sound and healthy and remain alive. Now you volunteer to do anything. Cast a look at yourself, see how young you still are, and so don’t ruin your future.”

He pulls the blanket over my face and says, “Don’t worry, and rest yourself.” I throw away the blanket. He waves his hand and goes away. I peruse a few more lines of another letter. It was written, “ My dear Payman, your father shall come to the war front one of these days. He has promised to obtain leave for you from the commander so that you may come to Tehran for a few days. I got my eyes operated. All I wish and desire to see is you. I place your letters over my eyes and kiss them.”
I throw the burning matches over the papers. The amount of burnt papers black in color goes on increasing. This is the last letter that I pen to Payman’s address. I write down the name and address of the hospital and my room number over the envelope. I wrote, “Payman is in a state where the dead see as the living, taste and live as the living.”

The nurse throws open the door that faces the window. The creaking of the door echoes with that of the nurse, “What are you doing.”

She goes on coughing and with the heels of her shoes she goes on extinguishing and putting out the burning papers.
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Research: Short Stories
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