Monday, October 26, 2015

Steel Dog-40


The Abraham wore a white linen robe and white tiara, nothing fancy about garb or manner or the earnest smile.  He was half a foot taller than Quentin, large hands clasped in front of his chest and a long shaved chin at the base of what was probably a homely face in youth but now, in his late forties, had weathered into handsome wisdom.  Europa lay on that face and body.  Thrace and Dacia came to mind, but those were reflexive guesses.  It took only a few busy genes to determine nostrils and eyes and the deep brown hair.  His voice was deep.  Quentin didn’t know if he had ever heard any man with a lower timbre.  The Abraham greeted the first of the celebrants in Farsi.  The devout replied with standard greetings—phrases of prayer, judging by the easy, unconscious rhythm.  Farah clung to Quentin’s arm, and he expected her to say the proper words too.  But she spoke quietly when others were loud, and Quentin wasn’t certain what he heard, her mouth never quite opening, dark unreadable eyes staring into the air before them.

A single room filled the one-time warehouse.  Plastic tiles pretended to be stone.  Lights and space heaters dangled from the high ceiling.  Maimun pews were benches without backs or kneeling pads.  Busy hands had moved the benches from their usual positions before the altar, setting them beside long tables rented for this occasion.  There weren’t enough stoves for so many mouths, and the Kurosh was not an event where participants brought little offerings.  It was the Abraham’s duty to supply the feast, and he’d hired a local caterer to broil lamb and goat and pork and chickens.  When the smell of meat hit, Quentin smiled.  Seating arrangements?  Farah was happily chatting with another wife, in Farsi.  Yet she anticipated his question.  Without breaking free of her conversation, she steered him toward one table.  “There,” said her gestures, and he walked to what looked like a purely random spot, one oval plate and old silverware lacking any owner until he touched the fork, making it his own.

Not knowing rules, Quentin stood quietly, which was what the other husbands as well as fathers and brothers did too.  Perhaps everybody was taking directions from him.  Soon every celebrant was standing somewhere.  Men controlled the central tables, the women held the edges, with the children, while the tall Abraham stood on the low stage before the altar.  Possessing the solemnity appropriate to any faith, he offered a prayer in Farsi and then Mongolian followed by other languages, lulling Quentin into a state of numbed patience.  Several guests refused to drop their gazes at the mention of God.  Some even continued to whisper and laugh.  Then the Abraham concluded with perfect Queensland diction, praying, “Oh Lord, in times of scorn and rage, please show us the way to find a moment of peace and a mouthful of bread, and to remind us what we love and who we love, and please give us the vision to see a better day.”

Quentin refused to cry.

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