The Writing Disorder



New Fiction


by Sana Rafi

October 1, 1984:

      My Uncle is visiting from America. You can’t think of beating an animal in America, no sir.
      My father says, there are many things that are not allowed in America.
      Yes, and rightly so, my brother. Everything is fair. Tit for tat.
      My mother teases Uncle: Forgiveness is bigger than tit for tat, no?
      Uncle throws his hands in the air and speaks with an American accent now: Hey! I’m just saying. If you hit my car or lose my book, you gotta pay me back. Fair and square. He winks at my mother.
      It's my turn to speak now. My friend lost my calculator but I didn’t ask her to buy me a new one. She’s my best friend.
      Uncle snorts. That’s exactly where you Pakistanis go wrong. She should pay for it or make up for it in one way or the other, you see what I’m saying kid? He looks at my father and says, you shouldn’t take something that doesn’t belong to you.
      My mother sits up.
      To keeping whats yours, my father says and raises his glass. Cheers!
      Ha! Uncle coughs. Too late, too little. Cheers.
      My mother rotates her wedding ring so that the diamonds disappear. Her body leans against Uncle's suitcase, ready to go to America with him tomorrow.

                                                                                                * * *

October 2, 1984:

      My father and I wave at Uncle as he reverses his car. Just then, a collective squeal. My father halts. I step forward and we see what we don’t want to see: our Dalmatian, Foxy’s puppies, bleeding. Uncle's car is almost out of the gate.

      Uncle pulls down his window, waves at us one final time but I don’t wave back. Instead, I scream and he frowns from afar. He idles there staring. He knows what he has done because now my father is on the floor, he is screaming for me to get the driver; he is turning the puppies around in his hands and they are bloody.

      Uncle drives away. Foxy runs over.
      My father, again: get the driver, now! Go! But I am frozen.
      My father jumps into the roofless jeep with the puppies. Foxy and I follow. We rush out of the driveway. Just then, the driver appears in the garage but he is too late.

      My father hands the puppies to me, one by one. He tells me to rub them gently, to keep massaging them and I try but Foxy’s face is touching the puppies in my lap and she blocks my view of them. I cannot push her away. My father drives like he should; he drives a matter of life and death.

      I feel the weight of the puppies get heavier on my lap. They are bleeding onto my white linen pants and I am sure my mother will be angry because she dislikes Foxy and thinks that Foxy is the only one my father gives any attention to in the house. She thinks Uncle is most attentive even though he lives in America.

      Foxy’s stops sniffing her puppies; instead, she stares at the traffic jam ahead. Thick white tears dry up on her black and white face. Now, she blocks my view of my father. So, I turn to Foxy and in her ear, I say, Baba they are not breathing anymore.
      My father takes a sharp turn and says motherfucker in Urdu. He says, massage them, massage them and I say I am and my father says don't let them die or you will be responsible.
      But Foxy and I already know that her girls are dead. They are run over on their necks and hearts. Their bodies have stopped working.

      Foxy wails loudly and my father turns to look at her but it is an unbearable sight, it must be, because my father doesn’t touch her or comfort her.
      He honks continuously for a minute and screams at the fucking-son-of-a-whore truck driver in front of us. I close my eyes.

      The radio blares an Urdu song about a woman getting married and forever leaving her father’s house. It is meant to be bittersweet but I have never fully understood it. I think about getting married. I want to have a gentle husband and many daughters.
      I look down: Foxy's girls are going cold. I release my hands from under them and spread my hands over them so Foxy sees little.

      Traffic is intense. We do not move forward.

      Finally, my father turns off the car. He lifts my hands from the puppies. They are almost dangling in my lap. A throaty sound escapes from him. I go stiff in my seat.

      He opens the squeaky door and I hand him the puppies, one by one. Foxy wails and pushes her face into their faces. She jumps out of the car. As my father showers dry mud over the puppies, Foxy vigorously pushes it away.

      She is just like a human mother.

                                                                                                * * *

October 5th, 1984:

      I am outside my parents’ bedroom door.

      My mother says, There is no tit for tat in family. Silence. Foxy will survive.
      Would you survive? My father shouts.
      He has called three times now. From America.
      Why don’t you speak with him then, huh? Stay up all night and talk to him like you used to, remember? My father screams. Remember?
      My mother laughs and says, this is stupid. She opens the door and sees me inching away. She grabs my arm and slaps me with the back of her left hand right across my face. These back-handed slaps hurt the most because my mother is a lefty and not clumsy with her left hand like most people.

                                                                                                * * *

October 10th, 1984:

      I am in my school uniform, which Foxy loves. I'm ready to play with her. But she is nowhere to be seen.

      Did something happen to Foxy? Is she at the vet? I ask my mother. She rubs her hands on her apron and with a smile says, Ask your brilliant father.
      I run.

      Baba. I am panting. Where is Foxy?
      My father looks old: there is a gray stubble on his face. His eyes look so small, his ears so big. I notice that he is sitting in his usual spot, in the same position as always with his legs spread out in front of him. There is an ashtray next to him. Foxy is not yawning next to him today.
      Foxy has gone to Aunty Rita’s house in Karachi. She couldn’t stay with us any longer.
      What are you talking about, I ask. I am almost screaming, but my father doesn’t remind me to lower my voice and show respect.

      The room is bright. It is a calm, winter afternoon in Lahore.

      On my bed, I cry like the time I cried when my father didn’t allow me to go to a school trip because boys from our sister school were joining.
      He had said, I trust you but I don’t trust them.
      He would have allowed me to go if I had told him a secret that my mother and Uncle had made me swear I would never tell by forcing my hand on the red velvet cover of Koran. With one hand, my mother had held my hand and with the other, the white bed sheet around her. I remember how her hands trembled, like they were under water, pale and unearthly.

                                                                                                * * *

October 14th, 1984:

      My father sits in the sun room with Dawn newspaper. His blue dictionary lies on the Persian carpet. He chews on his yellow pencil and occasionally looks out of the window. I observe him for a moment.
      Baba what are you doing?
      He looks startled but he murmurs nothing and returns to reading.. His eyes search for the paragraph that he has underlined in red pen.

      I walk over and sit next to him on the carpet. Today, the corners of his eyes are red as he tries not to break old habits by reading the newspaper carefully with a pen in his hand, underlining nothing until he comes across a word that is foreign to him. Then, he slowly rummages through the crisp pages of the dictionary.
      He sighs and writes down the meanings. I note that “ne plus ultra” means the highest point, the ultimate.

Sana Rafi is a fresh graduate of Columbia University, NY, with an MFA in Writing. She is currently working on a novel as well as revising her collection of short stories. Her work has appeared in Cerebration magazine. She lives in California with her husband and son.

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