A Thousand Splendid Suns

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

"There's a groundskeeper here. I think he's lived here all of his life."

"Yes, ask him, please."

"Call back tomorrow."

Mariam said she couldn't. "I have this phone for five minutes only. I don't "
There was a click at the other end, and Mariam thought he had hung up. But she could
hear footsteps, and voices, a distant car horn, and some mechanical humming punctuated
by clicks, maybe an electric fan. She switched the phone to her other ear, closed her eyes.

She pictured Jalil smiling, reaching into his pocket.

Ah. Of course. Well Here then. Without Juriher ado...

A leaf shaped pendant, tiny coins etched with moons and stars hanging from it.

Try it on, Mariam jo.

What do you think?

I think you look like a queen.

A few minutes passed. Then footsteps, a creaking sound, and a click. "He does know

"He does?"

"It's what he says."

"Where is he?" Mariam said. "Does this man know where Jalil Khan is?"

There was a pause. "He says he died years ago, back in 1987."
Mariam's stomach fell. She'd considered the possibility, of course. Jalil would have been
in his mid to late seventies by now, but...

He was dying then. He had driven all the way from Herat to say good bye.
She moved to the edge of the balcony. From up here, she could see the hotel's once
famous swimming pool, empty and grubby now, scarred by bullet holes and decaying tiles.
And there was the battered tennis court, the ragged net lying limply in the middle of it like
dead skin shed by a snake.

"I have to go now," the voice at the other end said

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