this is a blog for short stories and other things which we may call short writings. for now the writings are mine, but if you are willing to add yours short stories or comments, please do.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Swearing at the President

by: Hassan Bahri

“That ‘ s him! Sitting on the balcony as usual. Great! "
"Who? Don’t tell me Maussaub?”
"Yes, that’s him. That’s his apartment on the third floor, behind that white building."
"And I suppose you want to stop walking and invite yourself in, as usual."
"Come with. You know he’s squats on that balcony, watching people go past, just waiting for friends to turn up."
"But it looks as if he’s got company up there already."
"So what. They’re just having a drink. "
"And we’ll be parasites, I suppose. I don’t want to..."
"Don’t worry we’ll take something in, we can split the cost."
So five minutes later we were there, carrying a bottle of Arak and some fruit.
"Good evening."
"Hey! Fancy you turning up! And what a surprise, the great novelist is with you! This is a big moment! "
As we carried our chairs out onto the balcony, our host went to fetch glasses and ice.
"Good evening."His guest welcomed us, smiling.
"What? Have you already introduced yourselves?"
"No we’re waiting for the host to do that – in his own inimitable fashion!"
“ No problem. Let me introduce the stupid prisoner, for one entire decade, the one you were just asking me about. And here we have the greatest novelist on the street where he is living, and this; this is the self-admiring poet. And me, I’m just the host."
We laughed and everyone was in a hurry to get drinking and numb our skulls, though we knew the outcome was entirely predictable. The poet would recite a poem, half of it, we were sure, stolen verses from, TS Eliot or some such poet. And when everyone was tipsy, every thing would appear dazzling to us. The prisoner, who thinks his experience in prison is unbelievably interesting and deeply fascinating, in spite of the fact that there are no women in his stories, would reiterate, as usual, his memories of his fellow prisoners. The novelist would take up a thinking posture, smoking and watching the others trying to create a fictional world for himself to exploit, before he would start blathering and making wise and witty comments. Between now and then the host would try to stoke up all these hypocrisies.
And as the bottle emptied everything would become heavenly and beautiful and we would just speak for the sake of speaking and laugh only because we felt sometimes we had right to do so or because when we talk we release some of our blocked energy, or just because we are hedonistic creatures, and to talk and shout like that is a pleasure by itself, and pleasure is utmost aim. It is always like that, but when there is a woman siting with us, she would fuel everything and every body would trie just to attract her attention, and All our hypocrisies would reach their height and then...

But that day was different. As soon as we had drunk the first glass, our host said, as though he was broadcasting:
"The poet was recently in prison for six months. Why ? Maybe he is ashamed to tell us. Anyway I know why, and I promise you my lips are sealed - at least until we finish the next bottle”

"He is a poet! I bet he let his filthy hands stray onto somebody`s wife."
"Damn you ! You’re a novelist and he’s a poet and there is always a deep mistrust between you. That’s not what I was getting at. I’m thinking of something that comes under the category of economic rather than moral misdemeanour in the penal code and surely not a deed of pride like that ..."
"O.K. O.K. I’ll tell you about my time in prison, ..."
"You mean ordinary prison, prison for criminals?”
"All right, yes if you must know, . but stop blathering on and listen, this is an unbelievable story, and it’s not about killers, or drug-dealers or..."
“You’re sure? Because otherwise ,we’d prefer to listen to one of your stolen poems."
"All right, all right. Listen this happened after I’d been in prison for a while. It was hot, the middle of the summer . They’d just let us out into the yard and there in front of us were two gaolers standing over a young man collapsed in a heap on the ground. One of the gaolers shouted at us to stand in line.

"Do you see this vile scum , this dirty dog , this intellectual?” he shouted, kicking him on the back with his great army boots. “He cursed, God forgive me, our leader, our great president ..."
and the two of them started beating him with cables.

"He swore at our great president. Now all of you will take turns to come out here and spit on him, to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget."

And we stood there, waiting, not unenthusiastically I might add, lined up in a long queue - criminals, drug-dealers, smugglers, me and others. You know none of these people ever stand in a queue for any thing good, only to do evil to others. And the young man was just lying there, like a lump on the ground, submissive, with the sun was burning down and the noise of the street just behind the outer high walls of the prison calling every one of us to do what ever we had to do or could do in order to return once again to the streets outside... I was at the end of that queue. Every one was sucking and chewing, preparing a big mouthful of spit, preparing to ejaculate it on that scoundrel lying on the floor like a big lump of meat. Who knows maybe Big Brother was watching us and would reward those who did a good job!. Everything was compelling us towards this act, everyone had his reasons and was ready to pour out the violence accumulating inside him . So there I was, collecting my own spit as carefully as possible and thinking about all these things, determining to profit from all these possibilities - maybe they would release me before my term, may they would allow me to have a job again, maybe they would turn a blind eye on my prison record because of good behaviour, when the gaolers spat on him again, kicking and jeering. "You so-called intellectual! If you are so vile, and disgusting and stupid, how are the students you teach going to turn out? If was it up to me, I’d kill you... "

My turn had been delayed, so I was compelled to swallow my carefully collected mouthful of spit, and begin anew, milking another one ...After a while my turn came and I found myself standing over him. He was still cowering on the ground, a lump of flesh, naked from the waist up, the baking sun streaming down onto his bald skull. His head was bent and every thing about him was pitiful. I aimed at his face, poked at him with the toe of my worn-out slipper, to make him lift his head up, and as he did so I spat on his face...Don`t look at me like that, I am telling you what happened, I feel guilty about it to this day but I’m confessing it to you now, confessing because I’m sure you’ll have it in your hearts to forgive me, to understand. Believe me when you’re in a prison like that surrounded by criminals, you’re ready to do anything. In such inhuman conditions you can`t expect me to behave humanly, OK?...".
"Sorry, but we can’t help identifying not with you but with that poor bastard the teacher. We’re more like him, after all, he pays his taxes like us, he’s….We can`t put ourselves in your place, I’m afraid."
"What happened to him ? Did they release him ?"
"Every day he had to walk up and down on his own, repeating with a loud voice over and over again “I am disgusting, I am insane, I am an idiot ........" They kept him under surveillance the whole time and forced him to keep saying these words aloud like some kind of mantra . They beat him everyday and made him clean the toilets with his bare hands ...".
"That’s awful! Just try saying " I am an idiot " to yourself for one hour and you’ll really become an idiot...".
"You`re an idiot already without having to say it. Do you remember what you did last Friday?" "It`s good that Nadia doesn`t know anything about her future husband."
"Don`t worry, he behaves like an angel in her presence."
"You know her, if she knew what I was really like , she would think twice before tying her future to such a good for nothing as me!"
"But she thinks she’s met a novelist with a big head."
"A big empty head !..."