Abdul-welis short story: Hadnt He Come Back! [Archives:2002/05/Culture]
Translated by Saad Sharif Taher and revised by Dr. R.V Anand
From the mountainside cries echoed. No one was in the village except children and old women. Men and women who were able to work were in fields. Mysterious voices echoed. Down the valley men were carrying a coffin on which a figure of man was laying. He hadnt died yet.
The village was dimly lit by a dull sun and creaking wind. The ground was thirsty waiting for rain but the sky didnt get notice of anything. The year was another year of drought. Old women shook their heads.
– I havent seen severer than these years.
– Our days were of prosperity.
– They come back but on other mens shoulders.
Now the coffin is creeping slowly among projections of the mountain. Mens faces were sweating. Voices were still heard.
A woman asked:
– Can you hear the voice?
The air didnt carry but mysterious parts of speech. Sweat didnt satisfy the ground but the men insisted on giving the dry ground more sweat.
The mountain repeated the echo of mourning. The house was closed. Even the two children were with their mother in the dry ground. They were three. A mother and two kids who were tired of working. She sat down to wipe her foreheads sweat. And the two kids drank water. They heard to call:
– Has he come?
The two kids cried:
– It is our father. It is said that father is on his way to the village.
The two kids ran to the mountain.
The woman collected her few things and went back. In her depths were throbs of pleasure.
At last he has returned from a journey of years which she could no longer remember. Years that were the same as those of her younger childs age, the child who ran to the mountain without knowing the shape of his father. The kids stared at the coming men who were swimming in their sweat. They heard faint mourning on the coffin. The younger child asked anxiously:
– Who is our dad?
The older one was perplexed. He didnt remember his fathers face because the face has been absent since it diverted behind the steeps of the mountain years ago when his brother was lying in his mothers womb.
The men looked silently at the kids while women gathered on the roofs of the houses of the village. Breeze carried womens voices:
– He has come back.
– They say he is sick
– He is carried on a bier.
He has been attacked by Sea Devil.
She (the wife) was lighting the stove and preparing coffee for the coming husband with shivering heart. By chance she looked at herself in a broken mirror. She was afraid that she got older without feeling that. A thread of smoke appeared over her house. She must prepare a warm dinner for him. She ran to the kitchen, took out a black vessel under her old wooden bedstead. She had spared in it all the local fat she could collect. She deprived herself and the kids of it (the fat) to her husband who was about to arrive.
The kids were whispering:
– Why is he on the bier?
Because he is tired, answered the elder.
Mens voices were heard on the stairs:
– Hold it from beneath.
– Dont let it vibrate.
They might have been carrying the things he had brought. She heard her childs voice behind her:
-He is sick. Hi is carried on a bier-she didnt feel her hand touching fire. Her eyes were fixed freezingly on darkness and in her depths a mysterious fearful thing which she didnt know was bursting. The voice of men was still on the dark stairs:
– Where shall we put him?
– There, in the bedroom
– No. no. It is better to lie him on any bed.
– Over there is much air.
One of them cried:
– You wife, where are you?
She wasnt there. Hasnt he really come?
What was going on, was it a real thing? She missed every thing even her childrens officious eyes. The men went back to the village and women were talking about the crises of the village:
– What is his wife going to do?
– She may take care of her husband.
– It is said he doesnt have anything.
– Doctors have stolen all his money.
An old woman whispered:
– A women bewitched him in the city.
She (the wife) looked at the corner where they leid him.
He was brown bony, nothing of that man. It was just the eyes, which referred that the face was his. The kids stared at the lying body. The younger didnt imagine that it was his father. In his depths he had drawn another picture of his father; strong, giant and emotional. It was as the song his mother was singing while grinding seeds of barely in the evening. As for the elder he didnt know what to do. He remained astonished for hours. His father who kissed him one day was not the one lying there. Men might have been mistaken when they brought another person. But his mother was silent looking at him (the body). She might not recognize the mistake.
– Mam he is not
A voice of mourning interrupted him:
– I want water waterwater.
The mother hurried to the large water-jar. The two kids came nearer to the body even the eyes were closed. The mother didnt leave any saints shrine to visit any (sayid) to vow or any mosque to give that recited the Quran milk, seeds and fat. But he stayed on the bedstead. His eyes didnt move but got married with the roof, even his head didnt move but he didnt die.
Mohammed Abdul-weli was a Yemeni writer born in Abyssinia in 1939 and died in Yemen 1973.