Hannan didn’t realize how late it was or even that it was late. Today was different. It was an extraordinary moment in every respect. Her mother was no longer the woman she knew, and the neighborhood wasn’t the same one that she had always found outside her doorway.

At dawn, before foot traffic picked up or the rusty metal barriers of the shops were raised, her mother had quit her bed, which was located to the left of the door. Hannan remembers that this was after the dawn call to prayer. She also recalls that the Primus stove in the kitchen began to hum melodiously. She didn’t see the washbasin filled and set on the Primus stove; instead she detected these procedures from what she heard and smelled.

The sounds of her mother nicking something on hard metal gave Hannan goose bumps. Her mother was “cleaning” the Primus stove, and the smell, which was strong enough to make a person sick, overwhelmed their home for some minutes. Then it faded away when the kerosene caught fire with a pop, which was followed by a brief echo. Next she heard a monotonous descent into a void as the basin was filled with water. Something heavy suddenly collapsed onto something else, and there was a quick “whoosh.” Then the roar continued with its familiar rhythm, which Hannan knew only too well. The basin had settled on the Primus stove after a drop of water from it had slid into the fire.

Her mother was in the small yard, on the bare ground, moving about barefoot.

She didn’t wake her or at least didn’t mean to wake her the way she did every morning. She tried to perform her chores as quietly as possible. It was still too early to rise, but young Hannan, who slept like the angels, her innocent face resembling those of the heavenly maidens, woke as quickly as lightning. At least this is what her grandmother said one day: “Hannan, you sleep like a heavenly angel and wake up like demons at the slightest sound!” Ever since, the grandmother had kept repeating this anecdote to Hannan’s mother whenever she thought Hannan wouldn’t hear her.

And the little girl did hear, especially when her grandmother hissed feverishly, “Watch out! You two need to do that during the daytime.”

Hannan looked at a corner of the room and saw by the dawn’s meager light that her grandmother, like all the other household effects, was resting tranquilly. She was just a mound that emitted regular, heavy breathing.

Hannan closed her eyes once more and—like the heavenly maidens—fell asleep again, because it was still early. She was dreaming about another kind of doll—not one of the rag dolls her grandmother kept making for her. She wanted a doll that closed its eyes when it slept and sang when it woke!

* * *

That morning Hannan clasped her cloth bag and rushed off to school. This was the same bag she always carried when she left the house. It contained her notebook, a pencil, and half a pita spread with dry za‘atar. That was all Hannan’s bag normally contained, but today, which in no way followed a normal day’s routine, something new had turned up.

Her grandmother had approached her and said, “Take good care of what I’m about to give you.”

Hannan was eager to know what it was and wanted to ask, but her grandmother immediately said, “What do you think about this doll? I made it especially for you yesterday.”

Then she brought the doll out from behind her back.

It resembled all the dolls she had made for Hannan, but this time it was a large red rag doll with large blue button eyes, stuffed with cotton, not with scraps of cloth or straw. Before Hannan could think of anything to say, her grandmother surprised her by saying, “Take her with you to school.”

Hannan was so wild with delight that she couldn’t keep herself from leaping about. She kissed her grandmother, who stood there motionless, and then swept outside, thrusting the doll into her bag. This was the first time she had been allowed to take a doll to school. What a splendid, beautiful day it was! Today her schoolmates would learn how lucky she was to have a grandmother like hers who bathed her, fed her, told her stories, and made beautiful dolls for her. But then Hannan remembered something that diminished her happiness: My grandmother’s dolls always tear when I play with them. They only stay beautiful when they sit on the ground.

Even so, Hannan was able to hold onto her delight, because she had a new doll today, a doll she could show to all her girlfriends at school.

* * *

Her neighborhood was still the same neighborhood, but today it was transformed; it had become a vast space, because Hannan had received permission to play there longer—even as long as she wanted.

When Hannan returned from school she found her grandmother standing at the door. She raced to her and threw herself into her arms. She was happy that the doll hadn’t fallen apart, even though her girlfriends had played with it too. Hannan exclaimed, “Oh, how I love you, Grandmother!” Her grandmother smiled and continued hugging her.

“I’m hungry!” Hannan declared. Her grandmother rose and placed her fingers on the young girl’s head.

“Give me your bag and take the doll. I’ll bring your food out here. Don’t come inside. Play in the neighborhood!”

So it was a really different day, a beautiful day, when Hannan could do what she wished, because the whole neighborhood was her playground for as long as she wanted. She wasn’t forced to sit still in the cramped house.

Her grandmother brought her some food, which Hannan ate impatiently and quickly, because she wanted to rush off to the neighborhood’s alleys where she would find children playing and share in their games. Girls would be playing hopscotch with squares marked in chalk on the ground. What a magnificent day it was! What a fantastic neighborhood it was! And who was responsible for all these wonders? Her grandmother!

* * *

If Hannan had realized that the neighborhood wouldn’t look the same when it grew dark, she would not have felt quite so ecstatic.

The sun had set, and the alleys had emptied of the other boys and girls. Hannan wasn’t used to seeing the neighborhood so dark. Fatigue had also sapped her energy and weakened her small body; she was far from the alley where she lived.

At first Hannan felt bewildered.

Then she was overwhelmed by fear. Why hasn’t Mother or Grandmother come to take me home? Have they forgotten me? Then she started to race home as if a devil was chasing her.

At the final bend, before she turned the corner to her alley, Hannan tripped and fell on her face. Dust coated her eyelashes, and her doll struck a rusty sheet of metal and was torn to bits of cotton and cloth.

Then Hannan wept, and the tears flowing down her cheeks made muddy streaks.

* * *

When Hannan was within a few steps of her house, she saw everything.

The streetlight illuminated the alleyway like moonlight. Her grandmother was hunched over beside the door, her back against the wall. Her mother was crossing the threshold as if escaping from a hand that shoved her from behind. Then the shadow of a man emerged from the doorway behind her. He was looking in every direction!

Hannan didn’t see the man’s face; so she wouldn’t be able to recognize him if she saw him a second time. But she remembered all the particulars of that day: how her mother had risen early and hadn’t banged around the way she normally did every morning, how she had lit the Primus stove to heat water to bathe, how her grandmother had given her a new doll and she had been delighted, and how she had been even more delighted when her grandmother allowed her to take the doll to school.

Hannan also remembered how much fun she had had playing outside till late and all the delicious food she had wolfed down; it had been unusually rich and tasty food, not what she ate every day. The food was different.

Hannan remembered everything.

But what was responsible for all this? Why did these things happen on this day? Who was the man who had left their house behind her mother and looked every which way in the dark? That was something Hannan didn’t know, although she was certain that her new doll had been torn limb from limb and that it had lost an eye.

Hannan entered the house that evening after a long, eventful day, grasping a torn doll that had only one eye.

The other button had fallen in the mud of the alley when she fell . . . and so she wept.

Translation of "Al-Duma wa-l-Mala'ika." Copyright Elias Farkouh. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by William Maynard Hutchins. All rights reserved.

ما كانت "حنان" لتدرك أن الوقت تأخر· وأنها أيضاً تأخرت· فهذا اليوم يوم آخر· زمن مختلف لا يشبه في شيء تقويمها العادي· ليست أمها هي المرأة التي تعرفها· ولا الحارة هي تلك التي تواظب على الخروج إليها·

ففي الفجر، قبل أن يستيقظ دبيب الأرجل على الأرض، أو تنزلق مغالق الدكاكين الصدئة نحو الأعلى؛ غادرت الأم فراشها المركون يسار الباب· تذكرُ "حنان" أن الوقت كان بعد الأذان، وتذكرُ أن هديرَ البابور، في المطبخ، طفق يتناغم· لم ترَ برميل الغسيل يُملأ وينتصب على البابور، إلاّ أنها عرفت كل تلك الخطوات عبر السمع والرائحة·

أصواتٌ تحزُ شيئاً على معدن صلب، فتقشعر منابت الشعر تحت جلدها: أمها "تنكشُ" البابور· رائحة تهجم لدقائق على المكان فتهيّج غثياناً في النفس، ثم تزول: اشتعل البابور· فرقعةٌ لها صدى قصير، ثم سقوط رتيب في فراغ: يُملأ البرميل بالماء· ثقلٌ انهدَّ فجأة على شيء فأصدر "طشيشاً" سريعاً، ثم تواصَلَ الهديرُ بانتظامه المعروف لدى "حنان": استقر البرميل على البابور أخيراً، بعد أن انزلقت منه قطرة على النار·

وأمها في المساحة الصغيرة، على الأرض العارية، تتنقل حافية·

لم توقظها· أو لم تتقصّد أن توقظها كما في كل صباح· حاولت أن تنجز عملها بالهدوء الذي تستطيع· فالوقت ما زال باكراً على النهوض؛ لكنها "حنان" الصغيرة التي تنام كالملائكة· وجهها بريء كبنات الجنة، وإفاقتها سريعة كالبرق· هذا ما قالته لها جدتها يوماً : (حنان· تنامين مثل ملاك الجنة· وتفيقين كالعفاريت على أي صوت!)· ومنذ تلك المرة، واصلت الجدة تحكي القصة لأمها حين تعتقد أن "حنان" لا تسمعها!

إلاّ أن الصغيرة تسمع· خاصة حين تفحّ الجدة كالمحمومة:

" ـ انتبهي· عليكما أن تفعلا ذلك في النهار·"

تنظر "حنان" إلى زاوية الغرفة، فترى جدتها، كأشياء الدار، نائمة، ساكنة، في ضوء الفجر الشحيح· متكوّمة لا يصدر عنها سوى تنفسها الثقيل، المنتظم·

تغمض "حنان" عينيها ثانية وتعود ـ كبنات الجنة ـ للنوم من جديد· فالوقت ما زال باكراً· تحلم بدمية أخرى غير التي اعتادت الجدة على خياطتها لها· دمية تغمض عينيها عندما تنام، وتغني حين تفيق!

* * *

في ذاك الصباح حملت "حنان" كيسها القماشي وهرولت إلى المدرسة· الكيس ذاته الذي يرافقها كلّما خرجت من البيت· دفترها، وقلمها الرصاص، ونصف رغيف بالزعتر الناشف· هذا كل ما يحتويه كيس "حنان"· أما في هذا اليوم الذي لا يقترب في شيء من أشياء تقويمها العادي، فإن أمراً جديداً طرأ·

اقتربت جدتها منها وقالت:

" ـ احزري ماذا سأعطيك·"

تلهفت "حنان" لتعرف، وأرادت أن تسأل· إلاّ أن جدتها لم تنتظر إذ قالت:

"ما رأيك بهذه الدمية؟ لقد صنعتها خصيصاً لك بالأمس·"

وأخرجت الدمية من وراء ظهرها·

كانت كغيرها من الدمى التي خاطتها لحنان· ولكنها هذه المرة دمية حمراء كبيرة· لها عينان (زِرّان) كبيران· ومحشوة بالقطن لا بقصاصات القماش والقش· وقبل أن تفكّر "حنان" بقول أي شيء، فاجأتها الجدة:

"خذيها معك إلى المدرسة·"

جُنَّتْ "حنان" فرحاً ولم تستطع إلاّ أن تقفز هنا وهناك· تقبّل جدتها الساكنة أمامها، وتنخطف إلى الخارج دافعة الدمية في الكيس· هي المرة الأولى التي يُسمَح لها بأخذ دميتها إلى المدرسة· ما هذا النهار الجميل الرائع!·· اليوم ستعرف رفيقاتها كم هي محظوظة بجدة كجدتها· تحممها· تطعمها· تحكي لها الحكايات، وتصنع لها دمى جميلة· ولكن "حنان" تذكرت شيئاً ففترت سعادتها: (إن دمى جدتي تتمزّق دائماً عندما ألعب بها· تظل جميلة وهي على الأرض فقط·)

ومع هذا، فإن "حنان" أبقت على فرحها· فهي تملك اليوم دمية جديدة· دمية تستطيع أن تريها لكل صديقاتها في المدرسة·

* * *

الحارة هي الحارة· ولكنها في هذا اليوم شيء آخر· صارت ساحة واسعة تملك "حنان" الإذن باللعب فيها وقتاً أطول· لا بل كل الوقت!

فعندما عادت "حنان" من المدرسة، وجدت جدتها تقف عند الباب· ركضت إليها وارتمت في حضنها· كانت سعيدة بالدمية إذ لم تنفرط رغم لعب صديقاتها بها أيضاً· (آه كم أحبك يا جدة)· قالت "حنان"· تبسّمت لها جدتها وأبقتها في حضنها·

"إني جائعة·"

قالت "حنان"· نهضت الجدة ووضعت أصابعها على رأس الصغيرة·

"هاتي كيسك وخذي الدمية· سآتيك بالطعام إلى هنا· لا تدخلي· العبي في الحارة!"

إذن، هو يوم آخر· يوم جميل امتلكت فيه "حنان" كامل حريتها· فالحارة ملعبها طوال الوقت· وهي ليست ملزمة بأن تسكن، منذ الآن، إلى البيت الضيّق·

وجاءتها الجدة بالطعام· أكلت "حنان" بلهفة وسرعة· فهي تريد الإسراع إلى أزقة الحارة· هناك تجد الأولاد يلعبون فتشاركهم لعبهم· والبنات يقفزن فوق المربعات المرسومة بالطبشور على الأرض· إذن، ما أعظمه من يوم· وما أروعها من حارة· أما الفضل كل الفضل·· فللجدة·

* * *

لو كانت "حنان" تعرف أن الحارة في العتمة ليست هي الحارة، لما فرحت كما فرحت ذاك النهار·

لقد غربت الشمس، وخلت الأزقة من الأولاد والبنات· صار الجو معتماً على غير ما اعتادت "حنان"· كما أن التعب أخذ منها قواها، ونال من جسمها الصغير وهي بعيدة عن زقاق بيتها في الحارة·

ارتبكت "حنان" في البداية·

ثم بدأ الخوف يغشاها: (لم تأت أمي أو الجدة لأخذي إلى البيت حتى الآن! هل نسوني؟!)، فأخذت تركض إلى البيت وكأن شيطاناً يطاردها·

وعند المنعطف الأخير، قبل أن تشرف على الزقاق، تعثرت قدما "حنان" فوقعت على وجهها· تعفرت رموشها بالتراب، واصطدمت دميتها بصفيحة صدئة فتمزّقت إلى أشلاء من القطن والقماش·

عندها بكت " حنان" ، فسالت دموعها على خَدّيها خيوطاً من ماء عكر·

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حين صارت "حنان" على بعد خطوات من البيت، رأت كل شيء·

إضاءة الشارع على الزقاق كالقمر· جدتها تنتحي جانب الباب وقد التصقت بالجدار· أمها تتخطّى العتبة وكأنها تنفلت من يد تدفعها في الظهر! ثم شبح رجل يخرج من الباب، من ورائها، وهو يتلفت في كل الاتجاهات!

لم ترَ "حنان" وجه الرجل· لذا فهي لا تستطيع أن تتذكره إن رأته ثانية· ولكنها تتذكّر كل التفاصيل، لذاك اليوم:

 كيف أن أمها أفاقت باكراً ولم تصدر أصواتاً عالية ككل صباح· وكيف أشعلت البابور كي تستحم·

كيف أن جدتها أعطتها دمية جديدة ففرحت، ثم فرحت أكثر عندما سمحت لها بأخذها إلى المدرسة·

وأيضاً، تذكر "حنان" متعة اللعب حتى وقت متأخر، والطعام اللذيذ، الكثير، الذي أكلته بعجلة·

·· إذ كان طعاماً دسماً طيباً ليس كالذي تعرفه وتأكله كل يوم· طعام آخر·

إن " حنان" تذكر كل شيء·

أما لماذا كانت كل هذه الأشياء؟ ولماذا حدثت في ذاك اليوم؟ومَن هو الرجل الذي خرج من بيتهم، خلف أمها، متلفتاً، في العتمة، في كل الاتجاهات·· فإن ذلك لم تعرفه "حنان"، كمعرفتها الأكيدة لأشلاء دميتها الجديدة، وقد فقدت إحدى عينيها·

دخلت "حنان" مساء يومها الطويل الحافل وفي يدها دمية ممزقة لم يبق منها سوى عين واحدة·

لقد سقط الزر الآخر في طين الزقاق حين وقعت·· فبكت·

 




Elias FarkouhElias Farkouh

Elias Farkouh’s stories were first collected in Al-Saf'a (The Slap, 1978). This was followed by Tuyour Amman Tuhalliq Munkhafida (Amman's Birds Fly Low, 1981) and Ihda wa Eshrouna Talqa lil-Nabeyy (Twenty-One Shots for the Prophet) a year later; the latter won him the 1982 Jordanian Writers Association award. Since then he has written prolifically, his latest book being another collection of short stories, Huqoul Al-Zilal (Fields of Shadows, 2002). It was following Al-Saf'a, however, that the first principal shift in his perspective occurred. Cooperating with poet Taher Riyad, Farkouh worked in the publishing house Al-Manarat until 1991, the year Dar Al-Azmina, his own publishing house, came into being. His work in literary translation, Other Fires, a volume of short stories by women writers from Latin America, appeared in 1999. His novel Ard al-Yambous (Land of Limbo), published by Al Mouassassa Al Arabiya and Azminah, was shortlisted for the 2008 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. An excerpt from Elias Farkouh's novel Columns of Dust, which was published in 1987 and is on the Arab Writers’ Association list of best hundred Arab novels of the twentieth century, was published in Banipal 13, which featured the literature of Jordan.

Translated from ArabicArabic by William Maynard HutchinsWilliam Maynard Hutchins

William Maynard Hutchins (born 1944) was the principal translator of The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz. He has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts grants for literary translation for both 2005-2006 and 2011-2012, each time for a different novel by Ibrahim al-Koni. His recent translations include Hasan Nasr, Return to Dar al-Basha (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2006); Fadhil al-Azzawi, The Last of the Angels (Cairo & New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2007; paperback: New York: The Free Press, New York, 2008) and Cell Block 5 (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2008; paperback: Arabia Books, London, 2008);  Muhammad Khudayyir, Basrayatha (Cairo & New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2007; paperback: London: Verso Books, 2008); Naguib Mahfouz, Cairo Modern (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2008; New York: Anchor Books, 2009); Ibrahim al-Koni, The Seven Veils of Seth (London: Garnet Publishing, and Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2008); and The Puppet  (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010, and Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press). His translations of The Traveler and the Innkeeper by Fadhil al-Azzawi  was released in May 2011 from the American University in Cairo Press.  He teaches at Appalachian State University of North Carolina.