A Thousand Splendid Suns

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

know what I want," Mariam said to Jalil.
It was the spring of 1974, the year Mariam turned fifteen. The three of them were sitting
outside the kolba, in a patch of shade thrown by the willows, on folding chairs arranged in a

"For my birthday...1 know what I want."

"You do?" said Jalil, smiling encouragingly.

Two weeks before, at Mariam's prodding, Jalil had let on that an American film was
playing at his cinema. It was a special kind of film, what he'd called a cartoon. The entire
film was a series of drawings, he said, thousands of them, so that when they were made into
a film and projected onto a screen you had the illusion that the drawings were moving. Jalil
said the film told the story of an old, childless toymaker who is lonely and desperately
wants a son. So he carves a puppet, a boy, who magically comes to life. Mariam had asked
him to tell her more, and Jalil said that the old man and his puppet had all sorts of
adventures, that there was a place called Pleasure Island, and bad boys who turned into
donkeys. They even got swallowed by a whale at the end, the puppet and his father.
Mariam had told Mullah Faizullah all about this film.

"I want you to take me to your cinema," Mariam said now. "I want to see the cartoon. I
want to see the puppet boy."

With this, Mariam sensed a shift in the atmosphere. Her parents stirred in their seats.
Mariam could feel them exchanging looks.

"That's not a good idea," said Nana. Her voice was calm, had the controlled, polite tone
she used around Jalil, but Mariam could feel her hard, accusing glare.
Jalil shifted on his chair. He coughed, cleared his throat.

"You know," he said, "the picture quality isn't that good. Neither is the sound. And the
projector's been malfunctioning recently. Maybe your mother is right. Maybe you can think
of another present, Mariam jo."

"Aneh ,"Nana said. "You see? Your father agrees."

But later, at the stream, Mariam said, "Take me."

"I'll tell you what," Jalil said. "I'll send someone to pick you up and take you. I'll make
sure they get you a good seat and all the candy you want."

"Nay. I want you to take me."

Free download pdf