A Peek Inside
Timely story! Thought provoking and well written, this is a lesson in history and current worldwide events. Truth is so often more frightening than fiction, and the author reminds you of this throughout this fast paced thriller!
--Review from Marsha at Amazon.com
“Even the best amongst us, when pushed
over the edge, belong to tribes.”
- Tarek Fatah, Canadian Muslim Congress leader, to BBC Radio News, July 2006, following arrests of six Muslim men on suspicion of planning to bomb
the parliament and decapitate Canada’s Prime Minister.
What would turn a teen into a mercenary against his own country?
Find out in Over the Edge
Qiyam-Dasht District, Tehran, Iran
Last night Hani Zafar slipped out a rear window and tracked his mother to the shuttered bazaar.
His only companions, darkness and a hot breeze heavy with raw sewage stench. He moved swiftly through sinister shadows in the familiar alley. The hardened soles of his bare feet made no sound, but Sanji’s scrawny mongrels still sensed him. They barked and howled, warned the neighborhood someone caroused. Hani snaked his way between buildings and in no time got well beyond the dogs’ noses and ears.
After sunset prayers, Hani overheard his father tell his mother, Farah, to deliver a note to the unpatrolled bazaar. Now, across the street, Farah stopped. She stood under a sliver of moonlight on the far side of the closed market, maybe six meters away.
She took great risk coming to this potentially dangerous place alone at night. Hani reasoned that his mother might need his protection, while he counted on Allah to watch his back. Hani also depended on Allah to keep this little nighttime adventure between the two of them, unless his mother fell victim to attack.
Over on Pahlavi Street he heard the ever-present traffic hum. The chirps from night insects quieted as he passed. He wished for more moonlight so he could watch out for the nocturnal camel spider. But shit, if he did spot one it would already have bitten him and he’d be dying.
Hani dashed across an alley and hugged the crumbling outer wall of a store. Pungent odors leaked from the tobacco shop’s battened windows, the smell sucked out by the hot wind that whipped around the corner.
Hani wiped sweat from his face onto his shirtsleeve and stared hard into the night to see if his mother had moved. She had not. Tiny whirlwinds blew market trash around the dark figure in her black dish dash. Farah’s favorite purple milfeh shrouded her face under the black buknuk.
A man suddenly stepped out of the night and approached her.
She bowed her head to look at the man's feet, handed him the paper. The note disappeared inside the man’s shirt. He turned and the night swallowed him.
Hani felt his heart race. He lost sight of her. He stuck his head out further from the building’s corner, his eyes strained into the darkness. There. She had moved and pressed against a storefront, hiding under its corrugated tin awning. His father’s instructions were for her to stay until the man returned with a responsive note. The good wife obeyed her husband.
His heart swelled for his mother. She exuded a strong natural beauty and warmth that he wished she would use to make herself strong against his father’s cruelty. She should not have been sent on this mission, a vulnerable woman who used black pencil around her large oval eyes and who painted her lips bright red only to rub the color off and hide her face before she stepped outside. Almost fifteen years old, Hani understood if men saw her as she dressed within their home, without all the covers that screened her face and figure, they would desire her, which meant she committed grave sin. Hani felt it his duty to look out for her as he did now.
He held his breath. The man had reappeared and approached his mother. She moved from her hiding place. Without looking up at him, she snatched the note from the man and turned to leave.
In that moment, a large hand clamped to Hani’s shoulder and squeezed jagged fingernails into tender nerves and muscle. Hani cried out. His assailant held tight against the teen’s instinct to run. “Do you seek trouble, young man?” The accusation blasted through the night’s stillness like a sonic boom.
Hani looked up at the sneer on the holy man’s lips. His grotesque features repulsed Hani and he twisted and spat. The mullah’s long beard smelled like old garbage. Hani pressed his free arm against his nose. He refused to answer this stinky goat.
Then they heard her.
The giant’s grip loosened. Hani squirmed free.
The mullah now blared allegations toward the woman who stood frozen, alone and afraid for her child and scared to death for herself.
“Only a whore meets men in the night. Where is your husband? Your brothers? Answer me.”
His mother saw that Hani had freed himself and now she turned and ran. The dishdasha wrapped around her legs slowing her escape. She glanced back over her shoulder. The old man took long strides to stay in her wake. This mullah knew the Zafar family and the neighborhood.
But Hani knew a shortcut back to his home.
Even in the dark he could fly over Baranyi’s short fence and Magra’s trash heap. He jumped the tiny sewage stream that ran down the middle of the alley and used the empty oil drum to reach the high window from which he had left their home. Back in his room he fought to catch his breath as his mother flung open the front door to their first-floor apartment and hurried inside.
Hani walked into the kitchen. He used his shirt to wipe stinging sweat from his eyes. The upstairs neighbors would hear the mullah bang on their door and his demand to be allowed inside.
His father opened the door. The mullah rushed in. He pointed at Hani’s mother.
“You disrespect the Allah’s word? You shame your husband to meet alone with a man…and in the darkness of night?”
She did not speak. Hani walked over and stood beside her.
“You saw her.” Mullah Al-Irani’s eyes bore into Hani’s wide stare. “You hid and watched your mother commit adultery.”
Hani shook his head.
“Are you calling me a liar? Look at him pant and sweat like a sick dog. Look under his shirt at his shoulder. My marks are on him.”
Hani’s father grabbed his arm and yanked at his shirt, skinning it up over his head. The mullah’s ragged fingernails had broken Hani’s skin, left it bloody in four evenly spaced places. His mother gasped. She took Hani by the wrist and pulled him toward the sink where she grabbed a bar of soap.
“I had no idea my wife wandered into the night.” Hani’s father turned a furious face to his wife.
“Woman, do you cheat on me while I sit here reading the Glorious Qur’an?”
His father lied with vulgar conceit in order to save his own skin. To speak truth meant he’d have to reveal the secret business that brewed in their neighborhood. Business that boys Hani’s age weren’t supposed to know.
But he did know, as did some of his buddies.
A revolt smoldered in the shadows throughout their District. His father and men of their Shari'a tribe bargained and bartered with Frenchmen to get guns and ammunition. When the time came, they would be prepared to hammer the Shah’s forces. Hani yearned for a part in the rebellion. But this…he could not believe his father would put his own wife in this danger. He used her to carry his secrets to his friends so he would not be caught.
“She is a whore.” His father stepped up to her and slapped her face, then turned and nodded to Mullah Al-Irani for approval. He did not see the fear in her eyes that Hani saw before she walked from the room. Hani felt sick at his stomach.
Late in the night his mother held Hani. Sitting on the side of his bed, she swayed back and forth with him, her baby, rather than a teen. Her grip tightened around his shoulders, making it hurt where Mullah Al-Irani had clawed him.
She kissed his face repeatedly and wished him a blessed life. Over and over she told him how much she loved her only child. She reminded him that his Persian name meant happy. She pleaded with Hani to always live happy as he felt the soft patter of her tears drop onto his head.
This morning the men came and his father led her out of their home.