The painter of Baghan

We were six: me, my wife, our two children, the children’s uncle, and his wife, Mehri, who was seven months pregnant. We were heading towards Alamut. One day, three streets away, a missile directly hit a three-story building that just vanished—that’s when we decided to get on our way. My wife, Pari—her real name is Parichehr, but I call her Banu—organized everything, took an unpaid leave of absence from work, and let Uncle know. When I arrived, all I had to do was carry the suitcases to the front door, and help tie them down on their Land Rover’s luggage rack when Uncle and his wife arrived. I’m a writer, that’s clear. I write stories. Though it had been a while since I had written at all. I think a few years. Later I’ll explain why. This, what I’m writing now, is a personal report. Uncle is a civil engineer, but works in a commercial firm. He knows English and handles all their international business. Mehri is an artist, though she paints just for herself; the canvases keep piling up with nowhere to go. We’re the only ones who call her a painter. She once brought us one of her pictures as a housewarming gift, and we hung it on the wall of the living room. The subject, so she says, is a cottage, but all we can see is a half open door. The rest is just colors mixed up and jumbled together, as if we’re looking at the cottage as seen through a hurricane. Our son, Babak, was twelve that year, but our daughter, Sanam, was just ten. She has a scar on her left cheek that gives her face, in Banu’s words, a certain grace. Pari works for the oil company, and I just write, or—better—I wrote, and to make ends meet I teach from morning to noon. Officially, I’m not an educator, despite the fact that I teach at a college. At one—this is my usual schedule—I take a nap so that I can get up later and write something but, as I said, it had been a year that I hadn’t written. Now I want to write what happened.

We passed Karaj in the afternoon, and near Qazvin we turned towards Alamut. I drove until then, while Uncle slept in the back seat. He had told us to wake him when we reached Moallem Kalayeh. I didn’t drive very fast because I worried Mehri might miscarry, but when Uncle sat behind the wheel, he put the pedal to the floor. He said: We have to cross the pass in the mountains before nightfall, otherwise we’ll have to spend the night in a motel.

Read the full translation of Iranian writer Houshang Golshiri‘s short story from 2015 in Consequence.