(Lars) #1

brazenness, he walked straight up to me and
said, “Why are you still here? GET OUT!”
I showed him the book I had clenched to
my chest and said, “Here! Since you can’t find
anything else, take this book and give me the
beating I deserve with it.”
He grabbed the book and threatened to
hit me with it. I was afraid the pages would
get torn and I wouldn’t be able to finish
the story! I ran out of the shop as the book
whooshed past my ear. It fell into the slimy
water in the gutter by the road. I kneeled
down to rescue the book from the swampy
water and said, “Thank you very much! I’ll
return the book as soon as I have read it.”
I could hear him exclaiming behind me,
“I’m going to pay your grandmother Bibi
a visit!”
I used to call my grandmother Bibi.
Others called her that, too. Bibi was the kind
and simple woman who had raised me. She
loved me so much. She also wasn’t afraid to
discipline me when I deserved it. If she were
to hear that Mash Assadollah was upset with
me, I would be done for! And I was so afraid
of her punishment that I didn’t dare go home.
I went out to the field behind our house, safe
from my impending comeuppance, and read
the rest of the book.
A stream flowed through this field, which
was full of big, tall trees with overgrown weeds
and mint sprinkled all around. I used the clear
running water to clean the slime off the book,
trying not to get the pages very wet. I dried the
pages with a handkerchief Bibi gave me that
I always carried in my pocket. Then I settled

down to relish the rest of the book, from page
22 on, and find out what was to happen to the
boy that ran away from home. But my efforts
were thwarted by the fact that the next ten
pages of the book were missing!
I was totally confused. I checked again
and saw that, yes, it indeed was the same
book. Mash Assadollah must have used the
next ten pages to wrap goods for other cus-
tomers. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t
think of how to bridge the gap and connect
the story up to page 32. The situation of this
boy had totally changed!
I felt my face droop. I got up and tucked
the book under my arm and marched straight
back to Mash Assadollah, who was taking big
blocks of hard sugar out of the burlap bag
and inspecting them. Grandmother’s copper
bowl was on the counter next to the scale.
He was lost in his thoughts of the sugar and
didn’t notice me. I coughed a few times to get
his attention, but he didn’t hear. Finally, I wet
my lips and spoke. “I hope your sugar hasn’t
gotten too moist, Mash Assadollah. I would
be so ashamed.”
When he heard my voice, he vented a poi-
sonous, angry glance and said, “What else do
you want from me? You have your book! Go
away! Mind your own business!”
I said, “Could you please tell me who you
gave the other pages to? And that copper bowl
there by the scale belongs to us.”
This was the last straw for Mash
Assadollah. He fell like an ax onto my arm,
grabbed my wrist and said, “Why don’t you
leave me alone?”
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