Mr. Mazud Nageesh sat at his desk, pondering the information before him. His wife Leila, attending the Zar ritual at Sheikha Shakira’s house was a further complication.
Ah! Women and their issues certainly screwed a peaceful life! They were essential to men’s comfort, and they continued the bloodlines, but by Allah’s Exalted Name in Paradise…they troubled a peaceful man!
Mr. Nageesh thought through his options. If he ignored the activity of the women, winked at their Zars, his own leadership of the village could be called into question and he could be removed from office. Things could go worse than that for him.
Then, there was his marriage. Leila had been a good if stubborn wife for over thirty years. The man was supposed to rule the house, but any man married that long knew who actually ruled. It was always the women who had real power. At his age he longed for peace and quiet, and if at times he walked on eggshells around the women of his household, well, it was only because he was a wise man.
But Leila was at the zar, and playing her tamboura. It would not be possible to ignore her presence at Sheikha Shakira’s house. Perhaps there was a way around the behavior of the women, but at this time, he didn’t know what it was. The situation was like a sour pickle and however he held his mouth, it would be bitter.
There didn’t seem any way out. Sighing deeply, he resolved to contact the proper authorities in the nearest city for guidance. But he would sit on it for a while, think of some options, and as long as he did something, what was the reasoning to rush? Better to run into a lion’s mouth where religion and women were concerned than mess with the authorities.
Ah! Allah the Merciful! What was the difference between lions, women and religion? You got chewed up all ways!
Leila caught wind of her husband’s plans. It was easy, for thirty years of marriage gave sharp insight into the workings of any married man if you were paying even a little attention. A few questions, a few mumbled responses, a bit of shouting and Leila had her answers. Her stupid husband would meddle in women’s affairs for the sake of his position and now only grief and trouble would follow.
Ah! Allah listen to the women’s plight! Even if you are a Man-God.
Perhaps cousin Shakira was right. Perhaps Goddess Nut was where she should take her concerns. Allah seemed to be doing right well by the men, and the women’s suffering didn’t abate.
Leila went to Shakira and together they sat and drank sweet mint tea, Shakira pouring it high into the pot three times so it would foam properly.
“So, this is what I know, cousin, though it took a bit of work to learn Mazud’s plans.”
Leila sipped her mint tea, her eyes looking at Shakira’s face over the rim of her tiny glass.
Shakira’s concern was obvious, her brows crinkling with concentration. Shakira called upon Nut silently, for she was needed to address all women’s concerns.
Mother Nut? Help us!
“Leila”, began Shakira, addressing her cousin in a lowered voice. “Who has he talked to? Is it anyone local?”
“Ah….from what I could get from him, and what I heard through the wall when he spoke on the phone in his office, he first talked to the old mullah, that ancient fart in the next district, what is his name? Imam Kaleel? Yes, that is his name. He is half blind with age and clinging to life. Allah push him over the cliff.”
They both laughed. Allah could at times be reasonable.
“Then the Imam will go to others for advice.” Shakira sipped her tea, deep in thought.
Yes, there would be trouble, no doubt about it. The zars would be too much of a target for the men to resist. This would have to be addressed, and soon.
“Well, cousin”. Leila’s voice cut into Shakira’s thoughts. “What do you propose? Surely there is something we can do? It is too good a thing to lose to the men. What should we do?”
“Let me think a while, Leila. Let me think.”
Shakira knew how important this was. The zars must continue. But how? The mullahs had supreme power, but the women needed the zars for so many reasons. Things were worked out in the zars. Health was restored by the zars. Her precious Ali had come to her at a zar. Shakira shook her head to clear her thoughts.
Ah! Mother Nut! Come to me at night in my dreams! Come to me with some answers!
The Goddess Nut did speak to Shakira. She came to her in a dream but her answer was not in the form she expected. In her dream, a smiling Nut spread herself over Shakira, caressing her with her sweet breath, dripping the milk of her breasts into Shakira’s mouth, and perfuming her skin with the scent of her hair. Nut rubbed her strong limbs on Shakira’s and made her sound her joy cry in her sleep! Shakira awoke suddenly, thinking of Ali and his lovemaking! Ah! Ali was no where to be found, but Shakira was given a vision by her dream. Still, her holy place felt a faint sweet ache left over from her sleep, and she knew then Nut had visited her. She knew Nut was wise and would lead her in this troubling time. She would turn to Ali and confide in him.
So she did. As soon as she saw him, she decided to throw it all at his feet and implore his advice and help. Even though he was spirit, he still was a man, and men sometimes were wise in these issues. Well, at least she hoped Ali would know what to do.
But first she would make an effort to appeal to him. Ali, like any man, liked the efforts of a woman attempting to please. He may only be spirit, but he still was enough of a man to remember the old ways.
So Shakira made a sweet feast of stuffed dates, and Turkish delight candies, and sugared almonds and candied fruits and golden raisins stuck together in a rich nougat and roasted her best beans for coffee. She washed her long hair and rinsed in rosewater, and dried it in the sun on the roof of her house, where it sparkled like gems in the sunshine. She rubbed almond oil into her heated skin on the roof, and rubbed some into her bush of black hair beneath. She hennaed the palms of her hands with designs and the tops of her feet, and dressed in a white, embroidered cotton gown that was fine enough to show the dark rings of her nipples beneath. But just for good measure, she also applied the brick red henna to her nipples first to make sure that they looked like two eyes looking seductively out at Ali from beneath the thin lawn fabric. Ah! If this didn’t make his ney rise from his loins, then all the art in Persia was dead, along with its manhood!
Ali sat on the low bed, in his usual position, hovering a few inches from the Turkish rug. He smoked his hookah, and the apple- dried tobacco floated out through the piping. Since Ali was mostly spirit, it circled in his lungs, visible to the eyes of Shakira. When Ali was pleased or aroused, he shimmered with a golden gleam, and Shakira did not fail to notice his interest. Ali never touched the food offered him, for he did not live on such substance of mortals. But his eyes widened when he saw Shakira standing before him, and she saw that he was pleased. Her nipples hardened and ached and seem to stretch their now reddened buds towards him sitting before her.
“Ya Habibi”, began Shakira, settling herself on a mound of pillows next to Ali. “There is talk amongst our mayor and men about the women’s zars. I have heard the old Iman Kaleel has been consulted by Mayor Nageesh.”
Shakira took a bite of a stuffed date, and looked at Ali siting next to her. Ah! He was handsome this morning, with his robes sparkling in gold dust and the sweet smell of the tobacco surrounding his head like a vaporous crown.
Ali continued to puff on his hookah, his face dissolving in the smoke. He did not look at Shakira, but with eyes half closed, seemed lost in his own thoughts. He did not immediately answer her, but continued to pull languidly on his pipe.
“It is more than just Imam Kaleel who has knowledge of what you women do.” Ali blew out a long plume of smoke.
“News has rolled like a stone from a hill down to the valley. Now the mullahs in the district know what goes on here, for your Mayor Nageesh is out to protect his good name.”
Shakira was surprised, but then again, Ali was spirit and would be able to gather information unseen. That was a definite advantage over mortals. He didn’t stand with his ear to the wall like Leila. She also knew Ali would not share how he obtained this knowledge. He was a spirit of mystery, after all.
And a man.
Shakira’s voice was sweet as mashed dates and cut through Ali’s smoke seductively.
“What do you think I should do? What should we women do to protect ourselves?”
Shakira could see a smile forming on Ali’s lips, even through the smoke. His smile broadened, but still he did not look at her.
“Ah, women! They do not change much through the centuries. They dig holes in the ground and complain when they fall in.”
He blew out a long stream of smoke, obscuring his face completely. Shakira could sense his mirth, for his spirit-body vibrated with his silent laughter.
“You should have asked my advice before you held your zars and I would have told you my opinion.”
Shakira’s mood changed from cajoling to anger.
Just like a man! Hah! He doesn’t remember the role his own zar played in his past. I could have left him in stupid Aya’s womb and he would still be unhappy.
Demon Ali must have sensed her thoughts for he changed his position slightly, and laid down the hose from the hookah.
“Look, Shakira. You have involved yourself and the others in a dangerous thing. The mullahs have cracked down all over the country on zars. This you well knew. Your rebellion against the men has been too open. Had you been smarter, you would not be so worried now.”
“Alright, Mighty Zar! I have played the foolish woman and now you have your satisfaction! Your wisdom is more than my own, though I am called Sheikha. What can I do to make you help me?
“Ah! You want my help? All you had to do is ask.” Ali the Demon vibrated with laughter.
“I am asking, Ali, I am begging for your help. I am lost which way to go. I am lost.”
Now Ali the Demon turned to look at Shakira propped up on the rich colored cushions beneath him. His eyes softened and he folded his arms across his chest and golden stardust rose from his movements. His voice was serious but still a hint of laughter was there as he spoke in low tones to this woman.
“You and the others do nothing. Tell them to be obedient wives to their husbands. Tell them to act sweetly and talk in pleasing, melodious tones and not to challenge them. Tell them to act as white doves and bring honor to their house. I will do the rest.”
Shakira, being an intelligent and curious woman, could not resist. “What Ali, do you plan on doing?” As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized her mistake.
Ali the Demon’s eyes grew dark, and his face scowled with thunder. Shakira had never seen him in such a state, and shrunk back on her pillows. Her heart thumped as if she had seen a horrible jinn in the black of night, and sweat rose on her skin in fright.
Ali saw her fear, could smell it with his sharpened senses, and curbed his anger as well as he could.
“Woman, it is enough for you to know I will fix what you have broken. It is not for you to question what I do. I am not your husband, but you apply the same advice here as you tell the other women. Now, I desire soft music and the perfume of your body in my nostrils and my ney within your woman’s bush. I will play the flute and you will dance for me. But you take off that gown. I prefer to see your skin glisten with your almond oil, and to see your flesh roll in the morning light. This is what you will do for me and I will take care of your mess. But ask me not again my plans. You would not want to know. Have faith in your beloved.”
Ah! Shakira knew a strong and determined man when she heard one. And since she had no power against the mullahs, she was glad to leave it to Ali. There are times when a man is a necessity in life, and this was a prime example. He might be spirit, but there was enough man in that spirit to hide behind.
Copyrighted, 2009-2014. “The Zar Tales” published by Lulu.com, 2009