“The Zar Tales”, Chapter VIII

"The Zar Tales", published by Lulu.com, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by Lulu.com, 2010


Mayor Nageesh called to the women clustered around the door. Four entered and seeing Shakira lying in a black, formless heap, uttered loud cries. The chief Mullah raised his voice over the women moans and admonished them sharply.

“She is not dead. She has just swooned. Do not be stupid women. Take her to her house and attend her there. Do not let her out of your sight. I command you in the name of the Ankara Authorities to do this.”

The four women, Leila amongst them, gathered up Shakira from the floor and carried her from the room. Other village women stood outside and their cries rose up like a flock of startled birds. They quickly carried Shakira home and lay her down on the bed, chaffing her wrists and putting wet cloths on her brow. She revived and looked around in confusion. Trying to sit up, she was kept from doing so by hands holding her down. The women’s soft murmurs sounded like the clucking of worried hens to her ears. Then, within a moment’s revival, she remembered why she had swooned, and fell back stunned, too shocked even for the mercy of tears.

The women’s sound became like a hive of bees to her ears, irritating, annoying and she tried to cut out the noise by tightly squeezing her eyes. Then the tears came, and they rolled down her face in a steady stream. Seeing her distress, the others close to her started their own moans and tears and before long, like a nursery where one baby starts to cry, all the women were giving vent to their own personal grief.

Aiiiiiyeee! Our beloved Sheikha is to be taken from us. Our days of laughter are over. The blessings of the Zar are to be crushed into the dust. Our tears and wails are for all women, for our future is doomed!

Word passed quickly throughout the village as to the Sheikha’s sentence. There was shock and disbelief, and even those men who didn’t like the fact that their women disappeared to Shakira’s house to smoke and drink and laugh, were distressed at the severity of the sentence.

Ten years!

That evening, when the Mullahs left for the long trip back over the mountain and through the valleys and forests, the men gathered. They talked amongst themselves, sharing the hookah, the sweet scent of their tobacco rising amongst their soft babble like vaporous ghosts.

This did not portend well for their village, what the mullahs had done this day. No, it was not good at all! Their women would make lives more difficult until time had quieted and dulled the emotions.

Aiyee! Allah! In your greatness, could you not have done something else here? Could you not think farther down the road to what the men now would suffer? Ah, the fury of the women would be subtle, but constant.

Each man thought of how his life would suffer. The silence, at other times welcome from the babble of women, would be heavy with accusation. First there would be tasteless dishes, then angry words, then no comfort in bed from their heavy thighs and perfumed hands. No, all they could expect were turned backs and mouths of bitterness. The men would be punished along with Shakira, and though her sentence was long, theirs would be heavy, compounded by each house and by each torment that an angry wife could conceive.

They talked through the soft summer evening, each afraid to go home. They knew what they would face. They even talked about recalling the Mullahs and protesting the sentence on the Sheikha, for now, Shakira seemed to become even their Sheikha, not only the women’s. It was funny how things worked, but something deep in the fabric of the village had been disturbed. And now, their lives would be made less comfortable because of it. But what could they do? They had never questioned the authority of the Mullahs nor those in religious power.

Ah! Allah! Restore the peace to our lives! Restore our mundane routine with our wives! Give us back the solitude we threw to the winds when we complained of our women’s frolicking with our Shakira Sheikha!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014

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