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A Cold Night

Abdullah al-Qasir stood in his bedroom and stretched. He listened for a while to the heavy rain thrashing against the windowpane, then hurried to bed like a man on the run, lay down and told his wife Bahira to hurry up.

Bahira turned out the electric light and squeezed in beside Abdullah with a laugh. He gave her a hug and said softly: “It’s really really cold tonight.”

Just then they heard a woman shouting for help and Bahira said in alarm that it was their neighbour Wafiqa, who was living alone because her husband was away and who might be shouting because a strange man had slipped into her bed and was trying to rape her because she was the only attractive young woman around. “We’re not the only neighbours,” said Abdullah. “Someone else will help her.”

“No one will help her because they’re all like you – lazy, sleepy and cold,” said Bahira.

“Well, I can’t hear her voice any longer,” said Abdullah. “Maybe the strange man has stopped her shouting and now he’s ripping her clothes off,” said Bahira.

Abdullah held her tighter and said: “Don’t stop. Go on describing what’s happening.”

Bahira began to describe what was happening but her voice started to shake until gradually she couldn’t say anything that made sense. Meanwhile, the wind howled outside the room down dark deserted lanes.

TRANSLATED BY JONATHAN WRIGHT From the collection Al-Hisrim (Sour Grapes), 2000

BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015 73

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