Read by Rajan Khanna
Originally published in Clockwork Phoenix 2
I should not be so hard on Beit Zujaaj and its bumpkins. But when I look at the gray rock-heap houses, the withered gray vegetable-yards, and the stuporous gray lives that fill this village, I want to weep for the lost color of Baghdad.
Instead I sit and listen to the Shaykh.
“Abdel Jameela is not of Assad blood, O learned Professor. My grandfather took mercy, as God tells us we must, on the old man’s mother. Seventy-and-some years ago she showed up in Beit Zujaaj, half-dead from traveling and big with child, telling tales – God alone knows if they were true – of her Assad-clan husband, supposedly slain by highwaymen. Abdel Jameela was birthed and raised here, but he has never been of this village.” Shaykh Hajjar scowls. “For decades now – since I was a boy – he has lived up on the hilltop rather than among us. More of a hermit than a villager. And not of Assad blood,” he says again.
I stand up. I can take no more of the man’s unctuous voice and, praise God, I don’t have to.
“Of course, O Shaykh, of course. I understand. Now, if you will excuse me?”
Shaykh Hajjar blinks. He wishes to say more but doesn’t dare. For I have come from the Caliph’s court.
Rated PG: A miracle a day keeps the physicker away…