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THE DISASTER

a beautiful girl who was surrounded by admirers. Dalal wasn’t abashed or upset when some policemen, suppressing their embarrassed laughter, told her that Salah al-Mahshum, a man who lived in a house nearby, had filed a complaint that she had raped him. She took them by surprise by confirming his account rather than denying it. She said she did it because she was bored, because Salah had only been hugging, kissing and fondling her, and she wasn’t impressed with that and she had taught him that if you started something you had to finish it. She also said she knew that the law required her to choose between prison, or marrying him and correcting her mistake. She didn’t like prison, was frightened of it and couldn’t live there, but she wasn’t going to run away from her obligations, so Dalal and Salah were married at a wedding attended only by their families.

On their wedding night Dalal couldn’t get to sleep until the muezzin gave the call to dawn prayers and in her sleep she saw her father. He was sad, reproachful and angry, and he swore to her that he had never loved her, and she wept until her face was wet with tears and she woke up to find her husband alongside her, fast asleep like a baby with its lips pressed to its mother’s breast. She was careful not to make a movement in case she woke him up, and then she went back to sleep. She dreamed about her father again and this time he had prepared a vast bonfire and he was lifting up women who didn’t resist and throwing them into the fire until he was exhausted. He gave his daughter a disapproving look and she rushed to help him, energetically and enthusiastically. He smiled contentedly and just sat down and watched, chain-smoking cigarettes. Dalal gasped in surprise when she noticed that one of the women was her mother. She rushed over to her with open arms and as soon as her mother touched her, Dalal was suddenly a little baby again. Her mother took her home and put her in the cot next to the big bed where she slept. She then called a man on the telephone and told him off crossly for being late. Dalal started crying, and her mother tried to keep her quiet by putting a small stuffed white lamb close to her head. The lamb bleated at her softly and sweetly until she fell asleep and the sound of the bleating merged with the sound of a man and a woman breathing heavily and the creak of a bed rocking violently back and forth. When Dalal woke up in the morning she was hungry and cried. Her mother picked her up and put her face

BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015 57

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