Ava Fathi, excerpt from
"On Silence, My Inheritance"

I snuck out that night and paid the sign a visit. I got right up in her face, real nice and personal, and used a word I had learned from my older cousins. Fuck. I felt bad almost immediately, glancing back and forth between the house and the sidewalk for a witness to my crime. When none appeared, I puffed up my chest and said it again. Fuck. You. Her face was level with mine, frozen and serene.

There was laughter in the curve of her lips.

I started to kick, punch, and claw at the board, the wooden post. I pushed with both hands until the soil gave way, and the sign came down. The woman watched, impassive, as I smeared the dirt off my sneakers and into her teeth.

The next day at breakfast, I thought my parents would be angry. In fact, I was counting on it. I wanted them to yell, so I could stand on my chair and throw a tantrum. Instead, Maman looked at me with guilt etched onto the lines of her face. It was there in the downward slant of her mouth, the crumpled skin of her forehead. I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable. Baba wasn’t looking my way at all, which was almost worse. He cut his omelet into bite-sized pieces, knife shrieking against the plate.

“Baba, Baba, Baba.” He ignored me. Frustrated, I leaned across the table and waved my hand in front of his face. “Why do we have to sell the house? I don’t want to move.”

“Neda, please.” That was Maman. They were holding hands, now, white-knuckled over the floral tablecloth. “Give your Baba a break. He’s trying his best—”

He stood abruptly up from the table, chair skidding against tile. He smiled a strange smile, all teeth and no joy. “I’m heading off to work.” He pressed a kiss to Maman’s hair.

I almost said liar. The past few weeks, he had been sitting in his home office and staring at an empty computer screen. My mouth opened, the accusation thick and ugly on my tongue, but then he circled the table and kissed my forehead, and I said nothing. He kissed my forehead, noisily breathing in the Johnson’s Baby Oil, and I couldn’t.

I mean, really, what was there to say?





From The Malahat Review's fall issue #216