A Thousand Splendid Suns

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

survived the fire, but his store did not. The fire took the adjacent fabric store as well, a
secondhand clothing store, a small furniture shop, a bakery.
They told Rasheed later that if the winds had blown east instead of west, his shop, which
was at the corner of the block, might have been spared.

They sold everything.

First to go were Mariam's things, then Laila's. Aziza's baby clothes, the few toys Laila had
fought Rasheed to buy her. Aziza watched the proceedings with a docile look. Rasheed's
watch too was sold, his old transistor radio, his pair of neckties, his shoes, and his wedding
ring. The couch, the table, the rug, and the chairs went too. Zalmai threw a wicked tantrum
when Rasheed sold the TV.
After the fire, Rasheed was home almost every day. He slapped Aziza. He kicked Mariam.
He threw things. He found fault with Laila, the way she smelled, the way she dressed, the
way she combed her hair, her yellowing teeth.
"What's happened to you?" he said. "I married apart, and now I'm saddled with a hag.
You're turning into Mariam."
He got fired from the kebab house near Haji Yaghoub Square because he and a customer
got into a scuffle. The customer complained that Rasheed had rudely tossed the bread on
his table. Harsh words had passed. Rasheed had called the customer a monkey faced Uzbek.
A gun had been brandished. A skewer pointed in return. In Rasheed's version, he held the
skewer. Mariam had her doubts.
Fired from the restaurant in Taimani because customers complained about the long waits,
Rasheed said the cook was slow and lazy.

"You were probably out back napping," said Laila.

"Don't provoke him, Laila jo," Mariam said.

"I'm warning you, woman," he said.

"Either that or smoking."

"I swear to God."

"You can't help being what you are."

And then he was on Laila, pummeling her chest, her head, her belly with fists, tearing at
her hair, throwing her to the wall. Aziza was shrieking, pulling at his shirt; Zalmai was
screaming too, trying to get him off his mother. Rasheed shoved the children aside, pushed
Laila to the ground, and began kicking her. Mariam threw herself on Laila. He went on
kicking, kicking Mariam now, spittle flying from his mouth, his eyes glittering with
murderous intent, kicking until he couldn't anymore.

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