Tomb Dwellers

By Hossein Kiyani
Translated by Fatemeh Madani Sarbarani

Volume 8, Issue 4 (Fall 2021)

Tomb Dwellers was first staged after the contested presidential election in Iran in 2009 which brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into power for a second term. The play depicts the socioeconomic situation of Iran and its relation to other countries during Ahmadinejad’s two terms of presidency. For a play to be staged in Iran, the director must get permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Hossein Kiyani, the playwright and director of the play, employed strategies to receive permission and circumvent the censorship at the time, given the play’s pervasive critique of Iranian authority. In it, a family dig twenty thousand graves for the dead of the enemy who might attack the country in the future. After Me’mar and his family are done with the graves, they ask the contractor to pay them. The contractor refuses to pay, using the pretext that the enemy hasn’t yet attacked them and therefore he cannot use the graves. After the contractor pays with a sack of rotten potatoes, Me’mar and his family begin to strategize different ways of initiating the war. When the enemy still does not attack them, Me’mar and his family lay down to sleep in the graves and after a while they disappear.

Rather than directly criticizing the government, Kiyani situates the play’s action in an unknown time and place and various images to show the socioeconomic and political situation of Iran during Ahmadinejad or during the Islamic Republic in general. Images like the imaginary enemy and the sack of potatoes respectively imply the paranoia and pseudo-populism of Iranian government officials. The potatoes refer to Ahmadinejad’s practice of giving out sacks of potatoes to his poor supporters before the election in 2009. Have been elected in 2005 on a platform of populist economic reform, he promised to put the rewards of the country’s vast oil wealth on the dinner tables of its people and root out corruption. The Green Movement supporters ridiculed Ahmadinejad chanting by “Death to potatoes!” in their protests after the election of 2009.

Ahmadinejad also used to blame “the enemy” for the economic problems (or all problems) in Iran. For instance, on September 2012, Reuters reported that “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused his country’s enemies of enacting a sinister plan to create a drought by somehow destroying the rain clouds before they reach Iran.” This vocabulary provokes the conspiracy theory that foreign powers control the local politicians, if not the weather itself. It is in light of these realities known to Iranians that the play gets its message across in Iran—and yet the symbolism apparently escaped the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Censorship in Today’s Iran

Maria Tymoczko warns that a translator needs to select and interpret the text in a way that he/she does not jeopardize the life of the author. Given the high stakes I’ve sketched above, I had reason to take her warning seriously. When I was interviewing the directors and playwrights in Iran all of them asked me not to mention their names. One of them, who directed an adaptation of Hamlet in 2017, insisted that the work was not political and did not address contemporary Iran, though for me it strongly seemed to, as I describe below. He said that it was his own interpretation and he didn’t intend it to be political. That’s why for Tymoczko the process of selectivity and interpretation is ideological. This makes my work difficult. On one hand, I’m writing about censorship in Iran, on the other hand, I am censoring my own work. If the playwrights I interviewed were living abroad it would be easier for me to analyze their works freely.

In “Post-revolutionary Theatre: Three Representative Iranian Plays in Translation with Critical Commentary,” Lazgee asserts:

However, within the Centre of Dramatic Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the responsibility for the control of theatre was given to a handful of people and those individuals with authority to censor have changed many times and each has judged from their personal tastes. Theatre censorship is in two parts, first of the text and then the performance, and usually these points are more important:

For the text:

  • It must not be anti-Islam.
  • It must not be communistic.
  • It must not contain sexual relationships or indecent words
  • It must satisfy the artistic judgment of the censor.

For the performance: 

  • There must not be physical contact between men and women.
  • The body and the hair of the actresses must be concealed and no tight dresses are allowed.
  • There should be no dance or pop music.
  • It must satisfy the artistic judgment of the censor. (19)

On May 16th, 2017, I interviewed a director, who said that during one of his earlier productions, three men from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance came to the City Theatre and wanted to review the show before the public performance. It happened while the play had been staged before and they had already approved the text, after getting permission from the Centre of Dramatic Arts which is affiliated with Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The play was partially about Taʿziyeh and there was a musician playing Sitar, the traditional Iranian instrument. The Ministry officials opposed using the Sitar in a religious play. Finally, an idea came to his mind and he put the Sitar player behind the curtain and the sound of Sitar was mixed with other instruments on stage.

In another play called The Illusion of a Kiss, one of the actors, a woman, shaved her hair. In the poster of the play, the bald woman was in the front and another woman was in the background. The composition was done in a way to suggest they were kissing each other. The image was published in the newspaper and it reached the parliament and the play was banned from going on stage anymore, even though the title of the play was The Illusion of a Kiss.

During the presidency of Muhammad Khatami (1997-2005), a reformist, censorship was based on the law and closing the theatres was not an easy job. During Ahmadinejad, the fundamentalist president, censorship was based on religion and it was more based on the personal attitudes of the censors. During the process of staging a play, sometimes directors give up and censor his/her own play and sometimes the censor officials do it. Because there are not any rules and regulation for censorship, it caused self-censorship among artists.

For this playwright/ director, in three ways we can escape censorship:

  1. Using techniques that hide the main message for the censor officials and at the same time allow the audience to get the messages. For example, through dialogues and gestures, there are two kinds of signs:  in one signified that is obvious to all and in the other signified that is known only for the audience. For example, the color green in Islam signifies purity and holy people and at the same it refers to the reformist candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi who is under house arrest.
  2. The censor official happens to be a theatre practitioner and he does not believe in censorship over certain things, for example, using words that refers to sex and sexual activity.
  3. Through symbolism, metaphor and allegory. Telling a story that in fact refers to the social situation through symbols (although sometimes the officials can figure it out and they stop the show or warn the director).

Critique of the organizations that people elect, like the government, is acceptable during reformist regimes. If the criticism attacks religious people like clergy, however, it is not acceptable.

At the end, he said as a director he knows what the red line (the borderline between acceptable and non-acceptable) is, and he avoids censorship by not talking about topics such as sex, religion and politics.

At first, the playwright/director of Hamlet was reluctant to give an interview. After I persisted he answered some questions which didn’t make me happy. In his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet I noticed a lot of references to today’s socio-political situation in Iran. For example, Polonius (Ophelia’s father) was characterized as an official who spent his time censoring newspaper articles on history, art, and one in particular headlined “the way to reform.” The playwright/director said he didn’t intend to criticize the society, and besides, censorship existed during Queen Elizabeth’s time in England too. He insisted that the setting was Denmark and the play had nothing to do with Iran and today’s situations. According to him, the censorship officials asked him to omit the parts where Ophelia is singing because singing by women is forbidden in Islam. He had to ask other actors to sing along with Ophelia so that the song became homophonic. He said he resisted against censoring the second song because there was no way he could omit the scene.

He said in two ways the playwright can escape censorship:

  1. Fantasy characters
  2. Going back to the past, and old tales

At the end, he said “I know what is forbidden and I avoid it.”

In his interview with the “Journalism is not a crime” website, Muhammad Rahmanian said in his play titled To Smoke, or To Not Smoke the censorship officials at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance cut 60 pages out of 100. He mentioned he proposed two screenplays to the Ministry of Culture but they rejected them. He said he wouldn’t give up because the ministry’s clerks always change and maybe one day he will get the permission. He asserted that he would never give up. 

Muhammad Yaghoobi has recently emigrated to Canada; in his interview with BBC Persian he asserts that Iranian playwrights aim to write absurd plays in order not to show the place of the actions so that the officials couldn’t guess that the play is about Iran. Another technique is to write about the past. In the Dance of Torn Papers and Drought and Lies instead of the problematic terms and actions (according to the officials) he makes a smart move and uses the number 25: instead of cursing or using words, such as “sex” or “girlfriend,” because it is forbidden to have relationship outside of marriage, the characters say “25.”  Yaghoobi, who studied Law at the university, explains that according to Act 25 of the Iranian Law, censorship is forbidden; however, it still is practiced by the government.

These comments are excerpted from the author’s 2019 dissertation, Translating Tomb Dwellers for USAmericans: What the Process of Translation Reveals About Counter-Censorship Strategies Among Theatre Artists in Iran, from Arizona State University, pp. 21-27.

Works Cited:

“Ahmadinejad says enemies destroy Iran’s Rain Clouds-Reports.” Reuters, 11 Sep. 2102, www.reuters.com/article/iran-ahmadinejad-clouds-idAFL5E8KBKQX20120911. Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.S

Erfan, Maryam. Interview with Muhammad Yaghoobi. Tamasha, BBC Persian. 20 Feb. 2019.

Lazgee, Seyed Habiballah. Post-revolutionary Theatre: Three Representative Iranian Plays in Translation with Critical Commentary. 1994. University of Leeds, PhD dissertation.

Hossein Kiyani was born in 1975 in the province of Lorestan, Iran. He is a PhD candidate in Drama Studies at the University of Tehran. Hossein Kiyani’s plays deploy a comic tone in their portrayal of a variety of perspectives and explore traditional and religious values, as well as historical and social situations of Iran. Tomb Dwellers (2009), Neighbor of Agha (2013), Mashrooteh Banoo (2012), All Children of Khanom Agha (2010), In the Salt-marsh (2013),and Waiting for the Executioner (2019) are among his best plays being staged in Iran. His audience consists of all kinds of people. The dialects he uses vary from classical Persian to some dialects from the west of Iran. His ideas are unique and exceptional. His language is symbolic, allegorical and metaphorical, allowing him to avoid censorship and to stage his plays in Iran.

Fatemeh Madani Sarbarani is an Iranian translator, playwright, and dramaturge. She holds a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance of the Americas from Arizona States University. She translates dramatic texts from Persian into English and Middle Eastern, Latin American and English plays into Persians. In 2008, she translated two Argentinian plays The Walls and Antigona Furiosa by Griselda Gambaro into Persian. The Walls was banned from going on stage by the Iranian government for depicting the socio-political situation of Iran during Ahmadinejad. Fatemeh Madani translated and introduced a new Iranian play Tomb Dwellers by Hossein Kiani that was staged after the contested presidential election 2009 which brought Ahmadinejad into power. The play depicts the situation of Iran during Ahmadinejad’s regime and its relation to other countries. She examined the challenges of translating a dramatic text from an Eastern culture for American audiences in her doctorate dissertation Translating Tomb Dwellers for USAmericans: What the process of translation reveals about counter-censorship strategies among professional theatre artists in Iran. In making this play available to English-speaking readers at a time of political tensions between Iran and the United States she offers to US American audiences a more nuanced perspective of the way Iranian people feel about their government and its relation to other countries.

Fatemeh received a literary translation certificate from ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures. She is fluent in Persian, English and speaks some Modern Standard Arabic and her plan is to translate Middle Eastern plays, stage and introduce them to the world.

TOMB DWELLERS
By Hussein Kiyani
Translated by Fatemeh Madani Sarbarani

CHARACTERS:

ME’MAR: Local Builder

VALISHAH: ME’MAR’s brother

MOSLEM: ME’MAR’s son

SAFDAR: ME’MAR’s son

BIBI: ME’MAR’s mother

SAMARGHAND: VALISHAH’s wife

AYAT: VALISHAH’s son

TOUTI: BIBI’s adopted daughter

LATIF: The loan shark

PROLOGUE

It is morning. All the characters are sitting under a shelter. AYAT is reading a prayer from a book and others repeat after him.

AYAT

[1]یا وجیها عندالله اشفعلنا عندالله

امن یجیب مضطره اذا دعاه ویکشف السؤ[2]

ALL

[3]الهم صل علی محمد و ال محمد

They all collect themselves, wiping their tears. TOUTI exits and comes back with a tray. She offers everybody tea. They take their cups and thank her. ME’MAR drinks his tea and picks up his notebooks and keys and gets up. SAMARGHAND grabs the prayer book, Mafatih[4], from AYAT and holds it for ME’MAR to pass under it.

ME’MAR

Yaa Ali[5], Bibi! Goodbye.

BIBI

Goodbye. God be with you. Come back with good news. Inshallah[6].

Following ME’MAR, VALISHAH, SAFDAR and MOSLEM get up.

VALISHAH

Goodbye everybody.

BIBI

Goodbye. God be with you. Come back with good news. Inshallah.

MOSLEM

Goodbye everybody.

BIBI

Goodbye. God be with you. Come back with good news. Inshallah.

ALL

Inshallah! Inshallah!

ME’MAR, VALISHAH, SAFDAR and MOSLEM exit. TOUTI takes the cups to the kitchen and comes back. She takes BIBI to bed. SAMARGHAND is standing by the gate and watches men leave. She cheers up. We can hear ME’MAR starting the van and driving away. SAFDAR is singing and VALISHAH, MOSLEM, and SAMARGHAND are clapping happily. AYAT exits. He seems pissed off.

AYAT (complaining)

At least let all these prayers and praises move a little above the earth before you begin your vulgar rejoicing. This is why God locks his blessing away from you, making bread winning such a hardship.

SAMARGHAND

(stops clapping as the van moves farther away and the sounds become less audible.)

Take it easy, son! Clapping isn’t a sin. On the contrary, it brings them good luck.

AYAT rushes in.

SAMARGHAND

What’s wrong?

AYAT

Then, why don’t you have a celebration instead of praying?

SAMARGHAND

We will when they come back with good news. Inshallah.

AYAT

Mother, I’m saying the way you are doing things just causes yourself harm and makes all your efforts in vain. I’m just working ghorbatan indallah[7].

AYAT takes his shovel and pick and exits.

SAMARGHAND

You have your own thoughts! I have counted everything. Listen! How about taking a break today? Let’s wait for them to return and see what we’re supposed to do.

AYAT’S VOICE

What we are supposed to do is finish the work. That’s all!

SAMARGHAND goes to bed and sleeps. Light fades.

SCENE ONE

BIBI KHAGHAN, an old absent-minded lady, wearing a pair of glasses with no temples which are tied around her head with rubber band, is matching nuts and bolts and putting them in a separate sack. SAMARGHAND is sleeping, having covered herself with a blanket, at times moves around.

BIBI (anxiously)

Touti! Touti! Where are we?

TOUTI enters with a sofreh[8] and sits next to BIBI.

TOUTI

We’ve been living in this desert for almost a year: you and me, this Samarghand and her husband and son, and Me’mar Hani and his two sons.

BIBI

What are we doing here?

TOUTI

We’re working, Bibi. Me’mar Hani’s got a contract for some work.

BIBI

Who is Me’mar Hani?

TOUTI

Me’mar Hani is your oldest son from your first husband, late Mash Jabrail, God bless him.

BIBI calms down.

BIBI

What was the contract for?

TOUTI

Fifteen to twenty thousand graves.

BIBI (surprises)

Fifteen to twenty thousand eternal homes? Has there been a flood, a famine, or an earthquake? Why do we need that many graves?

TOUTI

No, Bibi. Thank God. None of these disasters has fallen yet.

BIBI

Then what? Has he been that miserable that he is digging so many graves?

TOUTI

No, Bibi. If you are patient and don’t make a scandal, I will tell you. Isn’t that what I do every day?

TOUTI gets up and starts putting food on Sofreh. She goes to the kitchen several times and comes back, ignoring BIBI.

BIBI

If somebody wants to talk to someone, she comes and sits next to her, looks into her eyes, holds her hands, and gives her heart to her. She doesn’t run around like a collared dove whose chick the crows have taken, doing a million other things.

TOUTI

What else can I do, Bibi? Shouldn’t I cook for your children? They’ll be here any minute.

BIBI

To hell with my children when I want you to sit next to me.

SAMARGHAND

(from under the blanket)

You are making her stop cooking the little thing she cooks every day. Leave her alone! Let her do her work!

TOUTI sits by the water barrel.

BIBI

Who is this lazy bear under the blanket?

TOUTI

You daughter-in-law, Samarghand. Valishah’s wife.

BIBI

Has she just delivered a baby?

TOUTI

No.

BIBI

Is she sick?

TOUTI

No.

BIBI

Is she dying?

TOUTI

No.

BIBI

Is she mad at us?

TOUTI

No.

BIBI

Is she crippled? Does she have a fever?

TOUTI

No.

BIBI

Why is she sleeping, then? It’s time for the noon prayer.

TOUTI

(being playful says softly)

How am I supposed to know, Bibi? Ask her yourself?

BIBI goes toward SAMARGHAND.

BIBI

(to Samarghand:)

Did you just have a baby? Is noon prayer time a good time to have a baby? If you just gave birth, then where’s the baby? How could you find a midwife in this desert?

SAMARGHAND

(to Touti:)

Are you happy now that again you brought her to hover over me and disturb my sleep?

BIBI

Oh, no! It seems that it’s a human being not a bear!

TOUTI

Mrs. Samarghand, now go back to sleep if you can.

SAMARGHAND

I will! If it’s just to show you, I will sleep. I will very well sleep.

She goes back to sleep.

TOUTI

Who cares. Sleep till you get rotten.

SAMARGHAND

Don’t worry! I’ll move around.

BIBI

(trying to sit down)

How did this sleepy head become my daughter-in-law? How could I let that happen?

TOUTI

Go and sit down! I’ll come and explain everything to you.

BIBI

Who cares about this sleeping broth? Tell me about Me’mar Hani. Where is he now and what does he do?

TOUTI

All right. Only if you don’t interrupt me with your questions.

(she dries her hands and sits next to BIBI KHAGHAN.)

TOUTI

Me’mar Hani is the apple of your eyes from your first husband, late Mash Jabrail. Me’mar is a mason and a man of God. He has put brick on top of brick and made a lot of houses all around the country. Bibi, Me’mar Hani is very smart. He can design houses that no architect can beat. But the more he has worked, the more trouble and debt he has found himself in. That’s why after working for thirty five years he has no money, nor does he have even a small house. Instead he has given a lot of checks and promissory notes to all kinds of people. That’s why he has come on this contract to dig thousands of graves in this desert.

BIBI

For whom?

TOUTI

For the enemy’s soldiers in case, God forbid, they attack the country and get killed, inshallah, their bodies won’t remain on the ground, get rotten; and their graves will be known.

BIBI (surprised)

So that’s what we were praying for this morning? For killing the enemy?

TOUTI

That prayer was for getting money from the contractor. He hasn’t paid us anything yet.

BIBI

Strange!

SAMARGHAND

He deserves it. He deserves it.

SAMARGHAND picks up the aftabeh[9] and goes to the bathroom.

BIBI

What’s her problem with Me’mar Hani?

SAMARGHAND

For thirty-five years, Me’mar Hani has dragged that miserable Valishah like an orphan child from one city to another and has made him work like a workhorse and has never paid him a penny.

TOUTI brings tea for BIBI.

Not even once has Me’mar Hani acted like a brother to give Valishah the chance to pick up the trowel or put bricks on top of bricks to let him learn some masonry, so he could get out of working in the mud, and all the hard labor, and to make a bit of money. He has stuck himself to Valishah like a thorn and doesn’t let him go and be able to provide for himself. Once you get stuck in your brother’s mud, you have no way out. You have to wait there until the doomsday.

(She exits the bathroom and goes toward the water barrel.)

SAMARGHAND

Aren’t you tired of telling her story of Me’mar Hani and Mash Jabrail every day and leaving Valishah out?

TOUTI

I do that because her doctor asked us to remind her everything so that her memory gets better. Why do you do that?

SAMARGHAND

(matching nuts and bolts together)

Nothing. We’re both beating a dead horse. Her memory will go away and never come back. My cries will go nowhere but return to me. The miserable Me’mar Hani and the stubborn Valishah will be like this forever, a slap on the face. That’s all.  I smell something burning.

TOUTI

It’s burning. Bibi.

TOUTI starts to get up. BIBI grabs her skirt.

BIBI

For God’s sake, Touti! Don’t go!

TOUTI

I’m not going anywhere.

BIBI

Yes. You’ll go. Tomorrow, if not today.

TOUTI

I won’t leave you until your death, God forbid.

BIBI

You swear? Will you give me your word?

TOUTI

How many times do I need to swear? Let go of me, Bibi. My food is burning.

BIBI

To hell with food. Is it more important than me?

SAMARGHAND

Leave her, woman! Leave her, woman! Of course, food is more important. You are sticking to her as if you have caught the thief of your properties!

BIBI grabs SAMARGHAND as if she has captured the thief of her belongings.

BIBI

(to SAMARGHAND:)

I swear to God you’ll be the one who separates her from me.

SAMARGHAND

What do we have to do with you and this girl? You be hers and she be yours. Let her go and do her work.

(Greedily)

The food is burning.

BIBI

I don’t care. Let it burn and you starve to death, so that we can have peace.

TOUTI

Bibi, I don’t care if she’s hungry. It’s a waste of God’s blessing.

BIBI

(looks at SAMARGHAND)

OK! Only for God’s sake, I’ll let you go.

Touti rushes toward the kitchen and Samarghand starts unscrewing nuts and bolts she has just matched.

SAMARGHAND

God, save me from everybody! From Bibi, from Touti, from Valishah and from yourself and myself.

SAMARGHAND gets up and sits next to the bed. She starts making clay beads.

TOUTI

Thank God, it wasn’t that bad. Bibi, enough with working. Let’s go wash your hands and face. It’s almost noon.

AYAT enters holding a pick. His clothes are dusty.

AYAT

It’s prayer time. They called it already. Salam alaykom,[10] mother.

SAMARGHAND

Alaykom salam. How many?[11]

AYAT

One and a half.

TOUTI

Oh, my Goodness! I was so busy that I forgot to turn the radio on to let everyone know of the azaan.[12]

AYAT rolls up his sleeves and takes off his shoes. 

AYAT

That’s fine Ms. Touti. When in this whole year haven’t you forgotten to listen to the radio and inform others of the azaan?

BIBI

Who are you anyway?

AYAT

This’s Ayat, Bibi Khaghan. Ayat.

BIBI

Ayat who? Seyed Abbas’s Ayat?

AYAT

No. Valishah’s Ayat.

SAMARGHAND

You’re Samarghand’s Ayat. Reminding you of this for a thousand times.

BIBI

Is this girl your Moazen?[13]

AYAT

No Bibi. What are you saying?

AYAT approaches the water barrel.

BIBI

Hey, where are you going? It’s our turn.

AYAT

Sure! Please, go ahead! Please!

AYAT sits down. TOUTI takes BIBI to the water barrel and washes her face and hands. She gives her a mirror and combs her hair. SAMARGHAND brings her head out of the blanket and looks at them.

SAMARGHAND

You’re not doing a bride make over. That’s enough! My son needs to make his ablutions.

AYAT

I will mom. Don’t show temper mom. I’m not in a hurry. See how sweet they are!

SAMARGHAND

(with a lump in her throat)

But they’re sitting like one is the bride and the other one the beautician.

TOUTI ignores SAMARGHAND and gives BIBI a towel. AYAT approaches them slowly and apologizes.

TOUTI

Excuse me Mr. Ayat. Are you fasting today?

AYAT doesn’t want to say anything in front of her mother and appear pretentious and dishonest.

SAMARGHAND

La ilaha Ella allah![14]

TOUTI

I’m asking to see if I need to add more water to the food.

AYAT walks toward to the water barrel.

SAMARGHAND

You add your water! I will eat it! What do you want from my son. Why is everybody asking him this question? (To AYAT:) I hope you’re not fasting, son.

AYAT

I am, if God accepts it.

SAMARGHAND

OK! Fast then, until you become like a kite and the wind takes you away.

AYAT (to TOUTI:)

 But if it is too much trouble please add a bowl of water I’ll eat that for my iftar.[15]

SAMARGHAND

No, son! She’ll cook something else for your iftar.

BIBI

She will not! She’s not your or your son’s servant.

SAMARGHAND

Are you saying that she’s only your and your son’s servant?

BIBI lashes out at SAMARGHAND.

BIBI

What did you just say, lazy bear?

SAMARGHAND

What’s your problem, old woman?

AYAT

Mother, that’s enough!

SAMARGHAND

No! the thing is that she acts as if nobody knows how much work she and her sons are making this poor girl do for them and how much trouble they drag her in.  She has been working like a newly-bought ass since morning.

TOUTI becomes upset and leaves. AYAT chases her for a while and stops.

AYAT

(to TOUTI:)

I apologize for what my mother just said and I appreciate what you do for this family.

BIBI

Thank you, son!

SAMARGHAND

Shut up! What are you saying?

AYAT

I’m thanking Ms. Touti like a human being. What’s wrong with that?

TOUTI

(comes back from the kitchen)

Mr. Ayat, I don’t expect anything from you and your family.

She goes back to the kitchen.

SAMARGHAND

See!

AYAT

That’s why they think it’s your duty to wash and cook and scrub and do everything for them.

TOUTI

It’s OK. I’m living in this house too. It’s not fair that everybody works in this family and

(points to SAMARGHAND)

I just relax and fan myself.

SAMARGHAND

What a sharp-tongued woman!

(To AYAT:)

Did you bring some clay for my beads?

AYAT

No, mother. I forgot.

SAMARGHAND

If Touti had asked you, you would have brought six carts of clay.

She exits. AYAT is making his ablutions. TOUTI enters with some potatoes. AYAT lets her wash the potatoes.

AYAT

You’re working more than others. I wonder why they don’t appreciate it. You know what hurts me? That we’re not supposed to fight with our parents and our family. I think this is your fault too. You shouldn’t let them treat you like that.

TOUTI leaves, ignoring AYAT. BIBI walks toward AYAT.

BIBI

Let’s see if you can make her run away from us. Finish your ablution and say your prayers. What do you want from her?

AYAT

(shows his hands)

I will, Bibi. After my hands get dry.

BIBI

Go! They’ll get dry on the way. Don’t be such a Muslim.

AYAT enters the tent and starts praying. BIBI KHAGHAN stares at the bird net on top of the water barrel and sits.

AYAT

Allahu Akbar[16]

(He starts praying.)

BIBI

I wish I had a cage and locked you inside. You’ll betray me one day. I swear the moment I finish these nuts and bolts you’re gone.

TOUTI leaves the kitchen carrying a piece of food. BIBI starts matching nuts and bolts.

TOUTI

Bibi, I just washed your hands. Come on! Eat this food. They’re late this time. They usually come back before noon every time they go to talk to the contractor.

SAMARGHAND enters with some clay.

SAMARGHAND

Does it hurt you to bring me some food?

TOUTI

I thought it’s bad if a mother eats in front of her fasting son.

SAMARGHAND

How shameless! Like she’s a clergy!

We hear the sound of van and SAFDAR is singing. Others clapping. SAMARGHAND exits. The van brakes. Silence.

MOSLEM’S VOICE

What happened, Me’mar? Again, you braked before you clutched?

ME’MAR’S VOICE

No! It stopped suddenly. Dammit!

SAFDAR’S VOICE

Get off! Let’s push it!

ME’MAR’S VOICE

Let’s park it here and walk. It’s close.

MOSLEM’S VOICE

Here? In this slope? With that brake and gear?

ME’MAR’S VOICE

God is great.

(He pulls the hand brake.)

SAMARGHAND’S VOICE

What happened, Valishah? Did you get the money? How much? Why aren’t you getting off?

VALISHAH’S VOICE

Are you blind? Both my door and Me’mar’s are stuck.

MOSLEM’S VOICE

Both doors?

SAMARGHAND’S VOICE

Hurry up! Come on open their doors!

They open the doors.

ME’MAR’S VOICE

You broke my door.

VALISHAH’S VOICE

It’s so hot.

SAMARGHAND screams.

VALISHAH’S VOICE

The van’s running away. Watch out, brother!

TOUTI is watching them from behind the fences. AYAT is praying.

AYAT

Allahu Akbar?[17]

(With the gesture of his hand he asks what is going on.)

TOUTI

The van moved.

AYAT

Allahu Akbar…

(He shows pulling the hand brake with the gesture of his hands.)

TOUTI

Maybe it’s not working.

BIBI

(to TOUTI:)

Do they only have this son?

TOUTI

Yes. They couldn’t make any after him.

BIBI watches AYAT with enthusiasm.

BIBI

Just look at him! He’s a handsome and religious guy. He prays and fasts.

(Softly)

And I think he likes you.

TOUTI

Don’t tease me, Bibi! What does he have to do with me? What do I have to do with him? What do we have to do with each other?

BIBI

He should wish it. Who better than you? You’re beautiful, smart, and a good housekeeper. What else does he want?

TOUTI

I want to go and check on them.

BIBI

Don’t change the subject, Touti. Do you like him?

TOUTI

I am going to go help them.

She is leaving.

BIBI

Wait! Answer me!

TOUTI

What should I say?

BIBI

What do you mean? Do you like him or not?

She exits. BIBI, gets up and goes stands next to AYAT who is praying.

BIBI (threatening)

I’ll curse you a thousand times every day, if you marry her before I die. Beware of an old woman’s curse! Don’t try to make her fall in love with you as long as I am alive. I’ll haunt you both in this world and in the other one.

AYAT

Allahu akbar!

BIBI

What does Allahu Akbar mean? Do you mean Okay, Bibi or not?

AYAT

Allahu Akbar!

BIBI

Marhaba![18] May Allah split you in half, if you break your promise!

Light fades.

SCENE TWO

All characters are sitting around a rectangular sofreh which has images of expensive luxury food. TOUTI collects the dirty dishes and walks toward the water barrel. AYAT wants to help her but TOUTI refuses. VALISHAH shakes his legs on sofreh.

SAMARGHAND

I asked you a thousand times not to shake your fucking legs on sofreh.

VALISHAH

Thank God! This was the best dinner I have ever had.

SAMARGHAND

Are you talking about that “half a loaf which is better than none[19]?” 

VALISHAH

Half a loaf plus this fancy food is the best food ever.

(He points to the images.)

Right, Me’mar? Right, Moslem? Right, Safdar? Right, Bibi?

SAMARGHAND

Don’t even think of luxury food because I’m going to save this money for Ayat’s wedding. We can spend some for going to Haj, Karbala or Syria, God willing. We’ll put the rest in the bank and just use the interest till the end of our life.

SAFDAR

Enjoy it if you think we’re getting that much money!

SAMARGHAND

Safdar, everybody’s share is mentioned in the book. I also wrote the numbers of the graves Valishah and Ayat have dug so far in my notebooks.

(She shows her neck wallet)

They won’t be ripped off. Touti, why don’t you bring the watermelon?

AYAT

(gets up)

I will!

AYAT brings the watermelon and starts cutting it.

VALISHAH

I hope this watermelon turns out as ripe and sweet as our one-year project in this desert was.

AYAT is cutting the watermelon and handing it to others.

SAFDAR

First, we must pay our creditors to get rid of them.

MOSLEM

Get rid of them? We’ve already gotten rid of them for eleven months and two days.

SAFDAR

They’ll find us finally. A debtor is like a murderer. He overthinks about his debt and the creditors until he betrays himself.

MOSLEM

(hits SAFDAR in the head)

Shut the fuck up, brother! What will remain for us if you pay the creditors? We have to buy a van and work. In two months we can pay them back, no matter if you drive it or have it rented.

SAFDAR

What if in the first trip you have a car accident with your beautiful driver’s license and kill like ten people? I say, buying a car, any kind of car, is a waste of money. Even if nothing happens to it, the price goes down every day. That’s it. We have to pay the creditors and then we’ll see what we can do with the rest of our money.

SAMARGHAND

(to AYAT:)

Thank God that you and your miserable fucked up father haven’t borrowed any money.

MOSLEM and SAFDAR chuckles. AYAT turns his face.

VALISHAH (embarrassed)

What do you want to do with your cut, Me’mar?

ME’MAR

I’d let the elderly talk first.

VALISHAH

Sorry, brother! Please, go ahead!

ME’MAR

Bibi Khaghan, what do you wish to do with this money?

BIBI

What?

VALISHAH

He’s asking what you want to do with your cut.

BIBI

What?

Everybody tries to explain to BIBI what they want to do with their shares so that she will understand them.

AYAT

Leave her alone! You’re scaring her. Bibi Jaan[20] what do you want to do with the money Me’mar got from the contractor?

BIBI

What?

TOUTI explains to her.

BIBI

What money? Mine or yours?

TOUTI

She’s asking hers or yours.

ME’MAR

Damn! I totally forgot.

He grabs his jacket and goes toward Bibi and Tout

VALISHAH

You might want to leave your coat here. It seems heavy.

MOSLEM and SAFDAR stretch their hands to grab the coat. ME’MAR sits next to BIBI and gives her a little money.

ME’MAR

Here, Bibi! It’s your money for matching bolts and nuts.

BIBI

Give it to Touti!

TOUTI takes the money and counts it. SAFDAR and MOSLEM are playing cards. VALISHAH and SAMARGHAND are talking.

TOUTI

It’s more than what we used to get.

ME’MAR

I bargained. Before it was 6.5 tomans per each nut and bolt. This time he gave us 7.

BIBI

Was he OK with that or did you force him?

ME’MAR

What force? Me’mar Hani never forces anybody. He was so satisfied with you that he sent three five-kilo-sacks more. He promised to give you eight this time. they’re in the truck.

BIBI

How much is three five-kilo-sacks?

TOUTI

Almost 2.3 stones.

BIBI

2.3 stones? I won’t be alive that long.

ME’MAR

God forbid!

VALISHAH

(notices that ME’MAR is upset)

What happened, brother?

ME’MAR

She’s saying she won’t be alive that long to do three sacks.

VALISHAH

Why not, Bibi? It’s the beginning of our pleasure. We’re getting rich. You didn’t answer my question. What do you want to do with the money?

 BIBI

What should I say? I wish I could save some money for this girl.

AYAT

Afarin![21] That’s it.

MOSLEM

Do you want us to find you a little dowry, and an old religious man and throw you a wedding party?

MOSLEM sits next to VALISHAH. He grabs VALISHAH’s hat and tasbih[22]. VALISHAH puts on SAMARGHAND’s chador. They both get up and dance although VALISHAH seems reluctant in the beginning. VALISHAH imitates a pregnant lady as if he is pregnant and then carrying baby.

SAFDAR

(picks a bucket and plays drum and sings)

What night is tonight? It’s the wedding night…

AYAT

(grumpily and softly)

Shame on you!

MOSLEM

What do you say? Don’t you want to get married?

BIBI

What’s marriage? Damn it!

MOSLEM and VALISHAH sit down.

SAFDAR

Marriage is what you did five times and enjoyed.

BIBI

Me marrying five times was not because I enjoyed being with different men. I needed to do that because I was poor. Tell them Touti!

TOUTI

(while collecting the dishes)

When Mash Jabrael, her first husband and Me’mar Hani’s father died, he didn’t leave them any money. That’s why Bibi had to get married to the first person who proposed to her. He was a man of God, named Ali Hasan Hamoomchi. He raised Hani.

ME’MAR

He wasn’t a good man of God. God bless him! He was all the time cursing and beating me up for seven years. Once he was trying to choke me in the basement.

VALISHAH

I was so lucky being raised by you after my father died, then.

ME’MAR

Of course!

SAMARGHAND

At least if he had left you something you didn’t need to get married again and let Me’mar Hani raise Valishah.

TOUTI

At the time there wasn’t enough bread for people. It was famine and drought all the time. Poor peasants couldn’t fill their…what was that? Tapos?[23]

VALISHAH

Yes, tapo.

(He shows a big tapo with his hand.)

Yes. There was tapo but no flour.

ME’MAR

Or when there was flour, there wasn’t any tapos.

TOUTI

Exactly! They couldn’t fill their tapos with flour. For the same reason a woman whose husband was crushed or collapsed or died because of the illness, didn’t have any choice rather than getting married to the first suitor— single, married, old, widow didn’t make any difference. For example, after that building fell on Me’mar Hani’s father… is that right?

VALISHAH

My brother’s father was a local builder in Ahwaz. The building fell on him. My father was crushed under the stable ceiling. We were trying to save the sheep and the cows when my father passed away. It was too late to save him. Let’s not open the old graveyard! Me’mar, what do you want to do with your money?

ME’MAR

After I give you your share…

(he shows a big share with a gesture of his hand and throws it toward VALISHAH and he grabs it.)

and we separate

(VALISHAH returns the imaginary money back to ME’MAR.)

VALISHAH

Don’t say that, brother! We’ve been inseparable for forty years. Don’t think that I was your orphan son only when I was a kid. I swear to God I’m still your son. If you leave me, God knows what will happen to me.

SAMARGHAND

How pathetic! You have a wife and –observe and enjoy- a grown up son, Mashallah.[24] Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?

VALISHAH

No! Me’mar and I had an agreement that we wouldn’t separate until we die. Even after that we’re going to lay in a double-decker grave.

ME’MAR

Yes, our double-decker grave. But she’s right too.

SAMARGHAND

What a surprise!

VALISHAH

She’s got no right to say that! Only you have the right because you raised me. I owe you for that. Only the angel of death can separate us. No! Even he can’t do that.

He put his head on ME’MAR’s lap. SAMARGHAND turns her back to them. 

SAMARGHAND

I hope you die and Ayat and I carry your body out of this desert!

VALISHAH

I won’t even give you my dead body.

ME’MAR, MOSLEM and SAFDAR encourage him to go on.

SAMARGHAND

Even if you give it to me, I throw it in front of the desert dogs and wolves.

VALISHAH

I swear to God even dogs and wolves are better than you.

SAMARGHAND

I hope all I’ve done for you and all the years I’ve wasted with you becomes an infected blister and kills you.

VALISHAH

First of all, you sleepy bear haven’t done anything for me. Second of all, black dog’s barking brings no rain![25]

SAMARGHAND

God! Send a sudden flood and wash him away from the earth!

VALISHAH

Come on, Me’mar! Punch me in the face for not listening to you and marrying this two-headed serpent instead of Looch Ali Ghadam’s daughter.

SAMARGHAND gets up. VALISHAH stands up facing her.

SAMARGHAND

Why Me’mar? I myself will punch you so that you shit from your mouth instead of eating with it!

VALISHAH

Go ahead! Beat me if you’ve got any balls!

TOUTI enters with some cups of tea.

SAMARGHAND

Who asked for tea?

ME’MAR

Me! Fatherless me!

SAMARGHAND goes toward barrel and washes her face and hands. TOUTI offers everyone tea.

VALISHAH (frustrated)

You didn’t let Me’mar say what he wants to do with his money!

ME’MAR

I want to do two things. First, I want to buy dowries for my daughters!

SAFDAR and MOSLEM

Ya Abulfazl![26]

They sit on their knees and listen carefully to what they had already ignored.          

ME’MAR

Maryam, Rezvan, Somayeh, Atefeh, Sedighe, and Masoomeh.

VALISHAH

Poor Hagar!

ME’MAR

Oh, yeah. And Hagar!

SAFDAR

You’re taking all the money, then.

MOSLEM

He’s not. His stupid flunky sons-in-law are, only if I let them. After you give their dowries, what will you do with the rest of the money?

ME’MAR

I want to save some money for Bibi’s funeral and have a respectful ceremony for her as she wishes.

MOSLEM

(hold ME’MAR’s hand and turns to BIBI:)

Bibi, did you ask him such a thing?

BIBI

What? Who you?

MOSLEM

Why are you putting words in her mouth, Me’mar Hani? If she wanted, she would tell us.

VALISHAH is getting mad that MOSLEM is holding ME’MAR’s hand.

VALISHAH

Let go of my brother’s hand!

MOSLEM

What’s your problem?

VALISHAH

Are you saying that my brother is a liar? That Bibi didn’t ask for that?

MOSLEM and VALISHAH start fighting.

ME’MAR

Stop! My hand is not broken.

They stop.

TOUTI

Me’mar Hani isn’t making it up. Bibi wishes that.

VALISHAH

(to MOSLEM:)

There you go! Did you hear that?

(to ME’MAR:)

Sorry brother.

(to MOSLEM:)

Son of a bitch!

MOSLEM

Well, she’s not dead yet. We’ll figure it out after she dies.

SAFDAR

She won’t die until she kills three more husbands.

BIBI cries.

TOUTI

Let’s go for a walk, Bibi! It’s good for you.

(To others:)

Tea is ready. The Samovar[27] is still on. Grab more tea if you want.

TOUTI help BIBI to get up. They exit.

MOSLEM

I don’t understand why she’s standing up for Bibi this much. She isn’t even family.

SAMARGHAND

Lucky her!

ME’MAR

She may be a stranger to us but to Bibi she’s like a daughter.

(VALISHAH and SAMARGHAND are talking.)

Bibi was like her mother and now she’s returning her favor.

AYAT

No children do that these days. Excuse me, mother. Excuse me, father. Excuse me, uncle. I’m younger than you and shouldn’t say this but weren’t you ashamed of talking about the money and your dreams and not asking her if she needed anything? She has feelings too! It’s so brutal that nobody is giving her anything. After all, she has been working here, cleaning up, cooking food for us all these years. That’s why God sent you to this desert to dig graves and beg for a penny!

ME’MAR

Don’t make me say something that makes both of us say nothing!

Everybody looks at ME’MAR shocked.

SAFDAR

(to AYAT:)

Why didn’t you ask her what she needs?

MOSLEM

He couldn’t because he’s shy.

SAFDAR

If you couldn’t do that, your mother and father could. If you’ve asked me I could do that too. Why are so mad at us? Just go ahead and propose to her and leave us alone!

ME’MAR grabs his bag and goes toward the barrel. He picks up the aftabeh and enters the bathroom.

VALISHAH

I’ll go talk to her.

SAMARGHAND

Sit down! If you go and say anything to this girl, I’ll choke you.

VALISHAH

Why? What’s wrong with her? And how do you want to choke me?

SAMARGHAND

I’ll put a pillow on your face and sit on it.

SAFDAR

A terrible way to die!

MOSLEM

Why, auntie? You really hate Touti that much?

SAFDAR

Auntie is looking for an excuse to kill uncle and take all his money.

SAMARGHAND

Don’t talk nonsense! What money? Me’mar hasn’t told us yet how much he got from the contractor. Valishah, has he told you? Huh? You were with him today. Moslem! Do you know, Moslem?

SAFDAR

Of course we know. It’s obvious that he got three payments from the previous contract and one payment from the new one. Right, Me’mar?

ME’MAR laughed. SAMARGHAND and MOSLEM go toward the bathroom.

MOSLEM

Did he pay you more? Maybe, he gave you all the payments in advance.

(He turns to other)

Sometimes they do.

ME’MAR laughs. SAFDAR joins SAMARGHAND and MOSLEM.

VALISHAH

How lovely! I know why you’re laughing.

ME’MAR laughs.

SAMARGHAND

Why is he laughing? Did he lose all the money or give it up?

SAFDAR

We were together all the time except in the contractor’s office.

MOSLEM

I can’t interpret his laughter. He laughs a lot.

VALISHAH

But I can, Moslem. I have lived with his laughters for forty years.

MOSLEM

(to SAFDAR:)

What’s he talking about, Safdar?

SAFDAR

Nonsense! Laughter is laughter. They all mean the same.

VALISHAH

They’re different.

SAFDAR

OK! What is the difference between his laughter this morning and this one?

VALISHAH gets up and joins the others.

VALISHAH

Should I tell them, Me’mar?

(ME’MAR laughs.)

Here you go! He said tell them but slowly. He doesn’t want you to be surprised. His laughter this morning meant that he was very happy to go get the money and this laughter means that this contractor didn’t pay him a penny like the others and asked for something new. Am I right, Me’mar?

ME’MAR exits the bathroom.

ME’MAR

The new contractor said he won’t pay us until we finish the work entirely.

ME’MAR goes toward the barrel. He throws his bag. MOSLEM and SAFDAR open it and look for the money. AYAT joins them.

Light fades.

SCENE THREE

Near sunrise. Everybody is sleeping in the tent. The tent is open. Dogs are barking in distance. Night birds are singing. SAFDAR gets up slowly and picks up a small bag. He grabs ME’MAR’s jacket form under his head and takes the van keys out of it. He leaves the tent slowly. MOSLEM is watching him. He puts on his shoes and get ready to leave. Suddenly, he feels thirsty and goes toward the barrel. When he gets up he sees MOSLEM standing behind him.

MOSLEM

God damn you coward sneak! Safdar!

SAFDAR

I was going to beat up the contractor. If this is coward, what the brave people do, then? Tell me and I’ll do that.

MOSLEM

Why are you taking this bag with you, then?

SAFDAR (cries)

I’m taking my stuff in case he gets killed and the police send me to jail.

MOSLEM (cries)

Are you saying that after you kill him you’re going to turn yourself in to be executed?

SAFDAR

I’m not that stupid. But you know how unlucky I am. They’ll find me immediately.

MOSLEM hits SAFDAR on the head and SAFDAR kicks him.       

MOSLEM

Stop this nonsense, Safdar! A person full of rage who wants to murder doesn’t think about the consequences. 

SAFDAR

To hell with the consequences. I just wanted to leave this desert forever. If you’re in, Bismillah.[28] If not, hit the sack!!

MOSLEM

Go if you want to. But you can’t take Me’mar’s van.

SAFDAR

Why not? Do you think it’s your father inheritance? He doesn’t even own this broken van.

MOSLEM

I know he doesn’t own anything but his birth certificate. Although, I’m not sure about that either. But, that’s not a good excuse.

SAFDAR

I’ll take this van and leave this graveyard and nobody can stop me.

MOSLEM

I can!

SAFDAR

How?

MOSLEM

(searches for something in his pocket. SAFDAR thinks he’s looking for a knife but MOSLEM takes out a joint)

With this!

SAFDAR

You asshole! Have you robbed the factory? I thought we smoked all of them last night. How many are left?

MOSLEM

Enough to keep you here.

SAFDAR

(while sitting down)

You know that there is nothing in this job.

MOSLEM

What job?

(while sitting next to him)

If we listen to the contractors who are being switched and saying different things every day, we won’t get anything. But if we put our brains together, we’ll succeed.

SAFDAR

If we had any brains, we would have left a long time ago.

MOSLEM

To where? Nowhere is better than here. Coming here was a smart move. At least, the creditors can’t find us and they let us go eventually.

SAFDAR

You wish! How naive!

MOSLEM

The creditor is always hopeful and the debtor is fearful. As long this hope and fear exist, there is a risk. If you’re that afraid of the creditors, why did you borrow that much money and give everyone promissory notes?

 SAFDAR

I didn’t have a divine knowledge! I didn’t know I ended up being like Me’mar. But your situation isn’t any better.

MOSLEM

But between you and me, you’re a copy of Me’mar.

SAFDAR

You’re his certified copy, and you’re not aware of that. You know what? Misery and poverty are genetic. Children inherit that from their fathers. Nobody can stop this chain.

MOSLEM

Bullshit! If we were smart enough, we could have saved ourselves.

SAFDAR

As Me’mar always says “what you’re saying makes an ass laugh and a camel dance.” How?

MOSLEM

Right now we have twenty thousand graves which are ready for accepting bodies.

SAFDAR laughs.

MOSLEM

Why are you laughing?

SAFDAR

Ready for what?

MOSLEM

Accepting the bodies! That means we can find a buyer soon.

SAFDAR

What buyer? Who wants to buy twenty thousand graves from us? Those who requested the graves in the first place all escaped. 

MOSLEM

You’re right. They escaped and didn’t give us any money. So, we own the graves now.

SAFDAR

(hits his forehead with his hand as if he has signed and sealed a document)

OK! They’re all yours. Enjoy them!

(He gets up. MOSLEM stops him.)

MOSLEM

Safdar, do you know that there is a town in thirty, thirty five kilometers whose graveyard is getting full and they haven’t made a new one yet.

SAFDAR

None of my business!

He wants to leave but MOSLEM stops him.

MOSLEM

I’ve asked around. There are thirty or forty thousand people in this town. Among them are two families, who hate each other and fight all the time.  

SAFDAR

What families?

MOSLEM

They used to be together. But now they can’t get along simply because both of them want to have the last word.[29]

SAFDAR

Are you thinking of sparking a fire and making them kill each other to fill the graves?

MOSLEM

Yes! Yes! But I’m afraid.

SAFDAR

You’re afraid! Huh! Let’s have another joint maybe the fear goes away.

MOSLEM wants to light another one.

VALISHAH

(in sleep:)

Don’t!

MOSLEM stops. He wants to light it again.

VALISHAH

(in sleep:)

Don’t! Don’t pull my blanket, brother!

Light fades.

SCENE FOUR

It’s morning and the tent is open. BIBI KHAGHAN is still sleeping. AYAT rushes in.

AYAT

Yallah![30]

TOUTI

Come in, Mr. Ayat. Is it noon already?

AYAT

Bibi Khaghan is still asleep. Strange!

TOUTI

She doesn’t feel well when she can’t remember. Even my stories can’t help. Then, she gets nervous and becomes senseless for a couple of hours. “As if the darkness surrounds me” she says.

AYAT

I had no idea she was that sick.

TOUTI

You never asked, Mr. Ayat. How Samarghand is doing? Is she really working or pretending that. Or maybe you’ve come to bring her some sugar-water.

AYAT

She’s fine, thank God. She used to work hard but since the contractors started breaking the deal and didn’t give us any money, she became depressed. She sleeps a lot because she doesn’t want to overthink.

TOUTI

I wonder how they still trust the contractors and dig graves after what they went through.

AYAT

The human being is the only creature of God who has so much hope and patience. Besides, when someone starts a project he doesn’t want to stop it without being paid.

TOUTI

Like you.

AYAT

I’m working ghorbatan elallah.[31]

TOUTI

What does it mean?

AYAT

It means to please God. To get closer to God.

(He gets closer to TOUTI.)

TOUTI

I know the definition. Someone works ghorbatan elallah, who isn’t poor. You, by God’s grace, are living in extreme poverty.

AYAT

Poverty isn’t a flaw. Sin is.

TOUTI

Of course, it’s not a flaw. But you have to think about the future. You’ve been digging graves in this desert for a year and you haven’t been paid yet. Maybe you’re confident that your mom has your back and will give you money.

AYAT

I swear to God I don’t want money.

TOUTI

Why not? Do you think it’ll spoil the reward? Like there is any reward in this job.

AYAT

There will be, Inshallah.

TOUTI

I don’t think so.

AYAT

Why are you saying that, Ms. Touti, after all the conversations and meetings we’ve had and all the washing, cooking and cleaning you’ve done?

TOUTI

When did you have any conversations and meetings with me? You did that between yourselves.

(Enters the kitchen.)

I just did washing, cooking and cleaning. Yes. That’s what I do here.

TOUTI sits by barrel and AYAT joins her.

AYAT

I’m still mad at them because of what happened yesterday. If they’re ignoring you, you shouldn’t lose faith in the reward and repayment.

TOUTI

I don’t know, Mr. Ayat. You’re wiser than the rest of us. But the more I think, the less I find any relationships between digging graves for the enemy who hasn’t attacked us and getting a reward from God. 

AYAT

If that’s the issue, I can explain more. But if you don’t believe in reward and repayment, I can’t change your mind.

TOUTI

OK! Explain it! Maybe I understand. If not, at least we had a topic to talk about and be entertained.

AYAT

I’m so disappointed with you, Ms. Touti.

TOUTI

What for?

AYAT

For… Forget it! I thought you were different. I counted on you.

TOUTI

Why?

AYAT

Because…Astaghfirullah.[32] Cut it out, Ms. Touti! Everybody knows…

TOUTI

What does everybody know?

AYAT

Nothing!

He starts to leave.

TOUTI

Tea is ready. Would you like some?

AYAT exits.

AYAT’S VOICE

Thanks. We have tea in the graveyard.

TOUTI enters the kitchen and comes out carrying a tray with a cup of tea. 

TOUTI

Mr. Ayat!

AYAT gets back quickly.

TOUTI

You certainly didn’t come to get annoyed with me and go back.

AYAT

No! I just came to let you know that my parents are arguing because of you.

TOUTI

Why because of me?

AYAT

Don’t be upset if they argue and if, God forbid, they disrespect you. And accept my apologies in advance.

We can hear SAMARGHAND and VALISHAH arguing.

SAMARGHAND

Valishah, I swear to God if you say a word to this girl, I’ll cement your lips together.

VALISHAH

Fine! Even if you cement all my nine holes, I won’t let you ruin his life like you did mine.

SAMARGHAND

Ruin his life? She’ll ruin it, if they get married.

VALISHAH

What’s wrong with her? Give me one reason he shouldn’t marry her.

SAMARGHAND

You beast! She doesn’t have a family, a dowry or a wealth. What other reasons do you want?

VALISHAH

Her family is Bibi Khaghan and she can buy dowry for her. We’ll help her as much as we can. What else do you want?

SAMARGHAND

You, pathetic loser! How can Bibi Khaghan pay for her dowry? From matching nuts and bolts? Or when this cursed Me’mar Hani is going to get money from the contractor so that you can pay for your son’s wedding?

VALISHAH

You can blame whoever you want. But never talk behind my brother’s back or I’ll go crazy on you!

SAMARGHAND

Drop dead! Other men are hen-pecked, you’re brother-pecked!

SAMARGHAND and VALISHAH enter. They become shocked when they see AYAT and TOUTI.

VALISHAH

Thank God, you got here before me, son, to talk to Touti.

VALISHAH kisses AYAT and he is going to kiss TOUTI.

SAMARGHAND

Valishah!

(To AYAT:)

If you have talked to this girl and promised her anything, I’ll grab a knife and rip my stomach and be done!

SAMARGHAND is going to grab a knife by the barrel.

TOUTI

Keep it down, Samarghand! Bibi is asleep.

SAMARGHAND grabs TOUTI’s hand and brings her closer to herself.

SAMARGHAND

What did he tell you? What did you tell him, you menace!

VALISHAH

After we’re done with the graves, I’m going to have such a big wedding for my son that no princes have ever had! I have a dream to see your wedding!

SAMARGHAND

(holding the knife behind VALISHAH’s back)

Shut up, you miserable wimp! I won’t let you do that with the graves’ money as long as I’m alive.

VALISHAH

How do you want to do that? With your salary, doctor? I swear to God, Samarghand if you don’t knock it off right now, I’ll kill you and I’ll pay your blood money myself.

SAMARGHAND

Don’t bother! I’ll kill myself.

SAMARGHAND lays down on the floor pretending she wants to kill herself. TOUTI and AYAT are trying to stop her.

TOUTI

Samarghand! Stop braying in front of the poor old woman. If you want to make a fuss, get out! Scream as much as you want in the desert!

SAMARGHAND

Drop dead! It’s all your fault, shrew!

VALISHAH

Get off her! Let her kill herself! Kill!

(to TOUTI:)

I hope you become my daughter-in-law. Don’t listen to her. After all, she’s a mother-in-law. She has to do that, or people might wonder! Me’mar and I will go to town tomorrow and will bring a kind and handsome mullah[33] to marry you two.

(To AYAT:)

What do you say?

(To TOUTI:)

Is that fine with you?

BIBI KHAGHAN wakes up. She is nervous, breathing fast.

BIBI

Touti! Touti!

SAMARGHAND and TOUTI sit next to BIBI. TOUTI hugs BIBI.

TOUTI

What is it, Bibi?

BIBI

Thank God you’re here. I had a dream that some people covering their faces kidnapped you. Thank God you’re here.

TOUTI

I’m here.

(She hugs BIBI. Light fades.)

SCENE FIVE

It’s daytime. TOUTI is reading prayer from a small book (Mafatih). BIBI is repeating after her while she’s matching bolts and nuts. TOUTI’s voice becomes softer as the stage lights go on. We can hear the van getting closer and then it stops. MOSLEM and SAFDAR get off and close the van’s door. Both are exhausted. They enter and go toward the barrel and wash their hands and faces. BIBI and TOUTI look at them and then continue what they were doing. ME’MAR HANI rushes in and looks at MOSLEM and SAFDAR.

ME’MAR (furious)

Why did you leave work without telling us? What are they offering in that wrecked town which makes you two wanderlust freaks go gadding about in there all the time?

MOSLEM

They’re offering efficiency and courage. You’re welcome to join us if you want. You might like their offers and take some. Maybe your life ends well.

ME’MAR

My life ends well if I do not see yours end wrong.

MOSLEM

Why would you care about our misery? Go and die happy whenever you want.

He throws the key.

ME’MAR

I never saw my father. But I swear to Prophet Muhammad if he was alive I wouldn’t talk to him like that.

SAFDAR

(to MOSLEM:)

He’s right. Don’t talk to him like that! Do you want him to curse us and our life becomes worse than what it is now?

MOSLEM

You shut up! Our life won’t get any worse. Because this is the worst situation ever: living at the end of the world for a year. Digging thousands of graves for free and having no money in your pocket. And like wretched dogs looking for buyers. None of those motherfuckers willing to buy the graves and pay. And hearing your coward father nagging you all the time. Could it get any worse?

ME’MAR

It could. When one loses hope in God and instead expects his people to show mercy on him.

MOSLEM

What else should we have done? Have we not prayed and cried enough every Friday night, Thursday morning, Monday evening, Wednesday sunset after your bastard nephew? Have we not prayed to be able to pay back our loans and success in work, all the while ignoring the blisters on our hands? Have we not asked this poor old woman to pray for us day and night and nothing happened?

(He points at TOUTI and BIBI.)

Look! Obviously, they’re still praying for our happiness and no God is listening to them….

ME’MAR

I don’t have anything to say to you. You’re not a Muslim anymore, Moslem. Even looking at your face is a sin!

ME’MAR covers his face with hands.

MOSLEM

Don’t take your hands off your face, then! I don’t want to ruin heaven for you and I don’t want to see you in hell with us. They might send you there, unluckily for us.

MOSLEM enters the kitchen. ME’MAR grabs SAFDAR’s hand and drags him toward the barrel.

ME’MAR

Did you have a car accident? Did he hit his head on something?

SAFDAR

He’s right, Me’mar. I think the same but he’s got the courage to talk about it. 

ME’MAR

Talking nonsense doesn’t need courage. Everybody can talk like this. God gave us tongues and the ability to talk but one should think about the consequences. You’re the one who is afraid of God. Tell me why are you going to town every day while you know there is a lack of gas in the town. What’s in it for you? Why don’t you talk to me?

SAFDAR

We’re looking for buyers for this useless graveyard.

Silence.

ME’MAR

Buyers?

SAFDAR

Yes!

MOSLEM enters with two cups of tea. He gives one to SAFDAR.

MOSLEM

(to ME’MAR:)

If this graveyard has any owners, why is nobody coming to pay us so that we can leave this hell that is surrounded by dogs and wolves? Why are we begging for money?

ME’MAR

I swear to God if you weren’t my son, I would report you to be sent to jail and be hung!

MOSLEM

Why? For working in this graveyard for a year and not getting paid?

ME’MAR

No! Because you’re becoming a kafir[34] for not being paid. I’ll go to town and sell the van and pay you. Maybe you’ll leave us alone and believe in God again. 

SAFDAR

No idiot will buy a van with no title. Besides, who’s going to buy this crap.

ME’MAR

I’ll find someone. You don’t need to worry about that.

MOSLEM

OK! Do whatever you want. Now, leave us alone.

ME’MAR

To do whatever you want?

MOSLEM

Yeah. Like you.

ME’MAR

I’m not my father’s son, if I don’t punch you in the face.

ME’MAR wants to attack MOSLEM. SAFDAR holds him.

MOSLEM

Don’t let him come closer or I’ll kill him and you would be responsible for that.

SAFDAR

Why me?

MOSLEM

Because from the moment we got here you stayed there and didn’t say a word. Tell him that this is not only my problem.

SAFDAR

Me’mar, please, don’t do that! We haven’t done anything yet. We haven’t found any buyers yet.

MOSLEM

We will, inshallah.

ME’MAR

Over my dead body!

MOSLEM

Your dead or alive doesn’t make any difference.

He grabs the tea tray and enters the kitchen.

ME’MAR

Bring him, Safdar! We should give him the sacred soil and water. Maybe he won’t die a kafir.

SAFDAR enters the kitchen. ME’MAR fills a bottle with water.

Light fades.

SCENE SIX

Day time. ME’MAR HANI is sitting next to BIBI and helping her with the nuts and bolts. Suddenly, BIBI looks at him surprised.

BIBI

Who are you?

ME’MAR (smiles)

Your oldest son.

BIBI

How are your children?

ME’MAR

They’re fine. They ask about you all the time.

BIBI

Do they bother you, or you are the one to order?

ME’MAR

They don’t bother me, and I do not order too.

BIBI

OK! Thank God. How about your wife? Is she caring or does she neglect you?

ME’MAR

God bless her. She died eight or nine years ago.

BIBI

Oh! You’ve been single for eight years? How could you tolerate that?

ME’MAR

To be honest, I wanted to remarry but it never happened. 

BIBI

It’ll happen one day. Inshallah.

ME’MAR

Inshallah. Pray for that, BIBI.

BIBI

Inshallah. It will.

ME’MAR

Inshallah.

BIBI

Inshallah.

ME’MAR

Inshallah.

BIBI

Inshallah.

ME’MAR

Inshallah.

BIBI looks at ME’MAR as if she is not sure what ME’MAR means.

ME’MAR

I’m tired, Bibi.

BIBI

Of what?

ME’MAR

Of being alone. When Hava[35] was alive I didn’t know how important that woman was to me. I found it out after she was gone. Too late! Nobody can be Hava for Adam.[36] Neither mother, nor brother and children… Because these people are from your blood. They’re too close to you and you can’t tell them what’s going on in your heart. You can’t even distance yourself from them and talk about your feelings. Because kinship makes you timid and uncomfortable. I want such a woman, Bibi.

BIBI

I hear you. You need someone to be your friend.

ME’MAR

Exactly! You’re very smart.

BIBI

But you can’t find her, even if you spend your whole life looking for her. These kinds of women are rare.

They look at each other.

ME’MAR

What should I do, then? What on earth should I do?

BIBI

If you want a woman who could be your friend and fellow in life, you need to be as patient as Jacob. But if you’re just looking for a wife, you can find seven or eight women, like catching tadpoles from a puddle.  

ME’MAR

Seven or eight? If I mention that to Moslem, Safdar and my daughters, they’ll drag my father out of his tomb and burn him in front of me. Do you think I want to buy dowries for my daughters with the grave money? No! I want to get married. I want a young and beautiful woman.

BIBI

With that money you can’t even find an eighty-year-old whore!

ME’MAR

Well! How about I stay here and match nuts and bolts with you?

 BIBI

Good idea! I swear to God, it’s better than digging graves. It brings bad omen and curse. I said that before and I’m saying it again.

ME’MAR

What can I say, Bibi? What can I say…

Both continue matching nuts and bolts. TOUTI enters with a tray. On the tray there is a cup of tea and some money. TOUTI put the tray in front of ME’MAR. ME’MAR takes the money and starts counting. He drinks the tea very quickly.

TOUTI

If you continue doing that, she’ll be out of money soon. 

ME’MAR

God is great. Bibi is working well, Mashallah!

He puts the money in his pocket. TOUTI brings a notebook. She seems embarrassed.

TOUTI

Let me write it down!

ME’MAR

I’ll write it down in my notebook.

TOUTI

No, Me’mar! I have my own book.

ME’MAR (gets up)

Go ahead!

TOUTI (reads)

So far, you’ve borrowed three hundred twenty-five thousand two hundred sixty tomans from Bibi. Plus fourteen thousand which I just gave you…

(She is calculating.)

 ME’MAR

(looks at his notebook)

How much did I borrow?

TOUTI

Three hundred twenty-five thousand two hundred sixty tomans plus fourteen thousand equals three hundred thirty-nine thousand two hundred sixty tomans.

ME’MAR

I think it’s less. How did you calculate it?

TOUTI

How did you calculate it?

ME’MAR

I’ve been working with numbers all my life, girl. I know how to count.

TOUTI

No wonder you’re broke!

ME’MAR

You were the only one in this house who didn’t ridicule me. Thank you, Ms. Touti! Thank you very much!

TOUTI

Don’t bargain with me, if you don’t want to be ridiculed!

ME’MAR

I’m not bargaining. I’m saying the truth.

TOUTI

Well! Show me your book, if you’re not lying! I even mentioned the exact date and time. The only thing I needed was your signature.

ME’MAR

(gets mad)

Are you listening to this girl, Bibi? God be my witness. I never heard such an insulting thing even from a man. let alone a woman…

BIBI

What?

(Looks at ME’MAR:)

Touti is right.

TOUTI

(to ME’MAR:)

If you don’t want to pay her back, then don’t! Why are you making such a fuss for such a little sum of money?

She closes the notebook, grabs the tray very quickly and leaves. ME’MAR is watching her desperate.

ME’MAR

Oh, God! There’re a lot of graves here. Just send your angel of death and kill me so that I gain peace.

VALISHAH who just heard ME’MAR enters excited.

VALISHAH

God forbid! Don’t say that, Me’mar! Now that our dream’s coming true. Hi, Bibi. This is Valishah.

ME’MAR

What are you so chipper about? Is Samarghand dead?

VALISHAH

God forbid! If it wasn’t for her, we still would have been digging graves like idiots.

ME’MAR

Has she found gold?

VALISHAH

No! How could she? Even Moslem and Safdar couldn’t find anything with that machine.

ME’MAR

Then what?

VALISHAH

Don’t you want to guess more?

ME’MAR

Yeah. Maybe she is OK with Ayat and Touti getting married.

VALISHAH

She’ll be. But wrong guess.

ME’MAR

Then what?

VALISHAH

This morning when we went to the graveyard, Samarghand and I started fighting as usual. Then she said I’m an idiot and I can only count till fifteen and I don’t even know how to write my name and this and that.

ME’MAR

Get out of here!

VALISHAH

What she said pissed me off so much

(ME’MAR looks at him surprised.)

and I decided to count all the graves in front of her.

ME’MAR

Did you?

VALISHAH

Of course! I was counting graves all day. Didn’t do any work.

ME’MAR

Were you out of your mind?

VALISHAH

No, I wasn’t. I was inside my mind. I kept counting and counting until I found out I was close to twenty thousand…

ME’MAR

So what, then? We’re almost done.

VALISHAH

No! We’ve been done for a long time ago but we forgot to keep track of it.

Silence.

ME’MAR

Are you sure, Valishah?

VALISHAH

God be my witness! I counted to twenty thousand. Samarghand and Ayat are still counting the rest which might be two or three thousand, I believe. 

ME’MAR

Pretends that he is holding a glass of vodka with a gesture of his hand.

You mean we’ve done one too many?

VALISHAH

(does the same thing)

Yes! Be salaamati![37]

The talk like two drunkards.

ME’MAR

Let’s go and tell the contractor we’re done before the deadline. He might pay us more for being early.

VALISHAH

Let’s go! Let’s go!

TOUTI

Bibi, pray for them to get their money. Don’t you see how desperate they are?

BIBI

Don’t feel bad for them, Touti. This is what they get for digging graves.

TOUTI

I haven’t seen you this hard-hearted before.

BIBI

You expect me to show mercy for them. Have they done that for themselves? How many times have I asked them not to dig graves because it makes people heartless and miserable.

(Angry)

Couldn’t they just match nuts and bolts like me?

TOUTI

What can I say, Bibi. What can I say.

SCENE SEVEN

SAFDAR, MOSLEM, ME’MAR and SAMARGHAND are sitting on the floor around sofreh, waiting for dinner. AYAT is asleep. SAFDAR is reading MOSLEM’s cards. BIBI is matching nuts and bolts. TOUTI enters with a knife in her hand. Everybody asks TOUTI why dinner is not ready yet.

TOUTI

They look like stones. This knife can’t even go through their skins, and they’ve been boiling for an hour. You should have asked for something else from the new contractor instead of these rotten potatoes.

TOUTI joins BIBI and helps her.

SAMARGHAND

I wouldn’t doubt it from a contractor who asks us such a thing. I swear to God if it was someone else instead of me, she would have killed herself a thousand times over. I wish I could burn myself alive!

VALISHAH

What makes you think he’ll give us money if you kill yourself? We have to put our heads together to see how we can do what he’s asked us, and get our money.

SAMARGHAND

You, deadbeat loser! Didn’t you say if we don’t bury the enemies in the graves, we won’t get any money?

VALISHAH

I did! But honestly, it’s not that bad. The poor guy didn’t even mention how many. I think four or five sluggish soldiers would be enough.

MOSLEM

What if he asks us to fill all twenty thousand graves?

SAMARGHAND

Do you have that many soldiers? Let’s say he agrees with four or five, how do you want to find four or five soldiers?

MOSLEM

Or even one? It’s not that easy. How long do we need to wait for the war to begin, God forbid, and for the enemy to attack us and then get killed? What if nobody attacks us, let’s say, in the next twenty years or maybe never and unfortunately peace spreads all around the world. Don’t you see how unlucky we are?

SAFDAR

Even if the war happens, unluckily nobody will die!

BIBI

Inshallah, may there be no war and may people live in peace!

VALISHAH

Don’t pray that, Bibi! Without war we can’t get any money for the graves.

BIBI

Inshallah, Inshallah!

VALISHAH

You want us to die because we did not listen to you and dug graves? We are starving to death.

BIBI

A mother never wants her children to die. But what can a mother do, if the children themselves want to die?

MOSLEM

If you don’t like war and you don’t want your children to die, pray that twenty thousand soldiers come and sleep in the graves voluntarily. Astaghfirullah! Let’s go Safdar! Talking to these people is a waste of breath.

MOSLEM and SAFDAR get up.

ME’MAR

I talked to the contractor about selling the graves and he said this property has a deed and you cannot sell it, regardless of what you have made on it.

MOSLEM

They own the land and we own the graves. They need to pay us for the graves and take their land back otherwise we will sell the graves and won’t give them shit! Let’s go, Safdar!

ME’MAR

Where are you going? Sit down, I need to talk to you!

MOSLEM

I want to go and hunt some rabbits or partridges. It seems that your potatoes are not cooking.

ME’MAR

They will, God willing, by the time I am done talking. Maybe, they’re cooked by now. Touti, can you go and check on them?

TOUTI gets up holding the knife and enters the kitchen.

ME’MAR

(to MOSLEM and SAFDAR, furious:)

Sit down! Sit down!

(Begging them)

Please, sit down!

They sit down.

ME’MAR

Ayat, come and join us!

SAMARGHAND

Leave my son alone! He needs to sleep.

ME’MAR sits on his knees and so does VALISHAH.

ME’MAR

It’s no time for sleep. We have important work to do and we can only do that if we are together.

VALISHAH

What work?

ME’MAR

War!

Everybody looks at ME’MAR surprised. AYAT sits and looks at him. Long silence.

ME’MAR

Not in a bad way. We just need to initiate the war.

(Silence. They are watching ME’MAR.)

Not in a bad way. God forbid, we’re not traitors or anti-revolutionary or anything like that. We are one hundred percent sure that we can beat the enemy. We only need to send the rat in to their midst and when they shoot us, our soldiers will attack and destroy them.

(Everybody is silent.)

Or we first make sure our soldiers are equipped enough and then send the rat. How does that sound?

(Everybody is silent.)

Or we will first get permission from whoever is on top and then send it. What do you think? 

(Everybody is silent.)

Or… Or… Touti, can you check on the potatoes!

ME’MAR sits back as does VALISHAH. TOUTI exits. AYAT is thinking. TOUTI enters.

ALL

What happened? Is it ready?

TOUTI

No! It’s like they’re made of steel or iron. Even this sharp knife can’t cut them.

AYAT

Maybe we can do something about it.

TOUTI

I don’t think so, Mr. Ayat. The flame is high and the water is boiling fast.

AYAT

I’m not talking about the potatoes. The war!

(Everybody looks at him surprised.)

First, we need to find the enemy’s nearest headquarters. I just so happened to know exactly where it is.

(He points to the sofreh.)

We are here…

VALISHAH

(points to the sofreh)

You mean on top of this sumac shaker.

AYAT

If we go fifteen kilometers this way, we reach this hill, exactly where this tomato is. And here is the border.

(He points to the border with a skewer.)

Then, if we go on top of this hill that belongs to us, we can monitor the important parts of their headquarters with binoculars. Then, if we shoot one bullet, only one, they will definitely send their troops toward the hill we are standing on.

They all look at each other with wonder.

MOSLEM

They’ll kill us all.

AYAT

Of course, they will. That’s why we need to find a brave person to shoot that bullet. He might get killed but the important thing is that we can fill the graves. That’s important!

TOUTI

Why not go to the top of that hill and just swear instead of shooting?

AYAT

I never expected that from you!

MOSLEM

Why not? Ayat used to go there every day and swear but nothing has happened yet.

AYAT (angry)

Shut up non-Moslem!

MOSLEM

Fuck off! You can’t even do such a simple thing.

AYAT

You do it if you can!

SAFDAR

Why not? I’ve seen him several times there giving the enemy the finger.

ME’MAR

Shame on you Safdar! Ladies are sitting here.

SAFDAR

He gives the finger and I have to be ashamed?

AYAT

Now you’re itching for a fight![38]

SAFDAR

(moves his hands.)

I’d love wrestling with you like we used to do in the past.

SAFDAR gets up, ready to attack. MOSLEM is chanting and making mouth war noises. VALISHAH gets up to separate them but falls on his back.

VALISHAH

Save your energy for the enemy. Don’t waste it like this!

TOUTI

These potatoes are more important than the enemy. If you have any strength come and beat these potatoes. We’re starving.

SAMARGHAND

Good job, Touti! Come on, Ayat! Come on! What are you waiting for?

AYAT

OK, mother!

AYAT enters the kitchen and starts beating the potatoes.

SAFDAR

Your mother has always saved you, ever since you were a kid. You never finished wrestling, sissy!

TOUTI

Mr. Safdar, you better go and help, instead of taunting him. We don’t have anything else at home to eat. We’re young and strong but Bibi might faint.

SAFDAR enters the kitchen and starts beating potatoes.

AYAT’s voice

We need help, these are very hard.

SAFDAR’s voice

What? Are you already tired? How do you want to fight with the enemy, then? Potato!

SAMARGHAND

Don’t mess with my son, Safdar! Or I’ll come ruin you!

TOUTI

You don’t need to beat up Safdar! If you’ve got any energy left, you better beat some potatoes.

VALISHAH

She’s right, woman! Get up!

SAMARGHAND

Why don’t you?

VALISHAH

Will you get up, if I get up?

SAMARGHAND

Yes!

VALISHAH

(gets up)

With your permission, brother!

ME’MAR

Please! Please!

VALISHAH and SAMARGHAND enter the kitchen. Beating gets louder.

ME’MAR

(to MOSLEM:)

Go and give them a hand! Sounds like those potatoes are really hard!

MOSLEM

What war you’ve started, Me’mar. Potato war!

He starts to exit.

ME’MAR

Where are you heading now?

MOSLEM

I don’t eat potatoes. Going to hunt something and make kabob. Even haram[39] meat is better than this contractor’s potatoes.

He exits.

ME’MAR

This boy got nothing from me. He is as stubborn as his mom, Hava, God bless her. I’m afraid he might get into trouble, God forbid!

TOUTI

What is the end of this story, Bibi?

BIBI

You’re asking me, Touti!

TOUTI

I’m not sure whether I should laugh at them or cry.

BIBI

Laugh, Touti! If you cry they’ll be stuck here forever!

Light fades.

SCENE EIGHT

SAMARGHAND is putting some stuff in a sack. There are one or two filled sacks on the stage. TOUTI opens the tent flap with her sleeves pulled up. She gets out. She seems busy, walking around.

TOUTI

That’s fine if you want to leave but you should know where you’re heading.

SAMARGHAND

Are you saying that living in this graveyard is a better option. We dug graves, we counted them, looked at them until we looked like the dead ourselves. We’re surrounded by graves. Don’t you see that? The more we stay here, the more people forget about us. I wish we could plant some trees in those graves. At least our hard work would have paid off. I was raised in a farm and I know how calming trees and plants can be.

TOUTI

Now that we’re leaving? Why didn’t you do that before?

SAMARGHAND

I guess I never thought of that and now it’s too late!  If I was that smart, I wouldn’t be here in the first place. What a shame!

TOUTI brings tea from the kitchen.

SAMARGHAND

Touti! You and me never had a chance to talk since we got here.

TOUTI

Because you don’t consider me a human.

SAMARGHAND

Feeling’s mutual. But it’s not true. Let’s forget about the past and have a heart-to-heart chat… Listen, Touti!…I love you so much, I swear to God! You’re a good girl. You’ve got all the good things a woman should have and everyman would love to marry you. You’re amazing, beautiful, sincere… A great housekeeper. I really mean it. But I wish you had a family or someone too. Someone who could support you and give you some dowry or money. In that case, I’d have been the first one who asked you to marry my son. But right now I don’t think you and Ayat are good for each other. You should marry someone who has money and Ayat should marry someone who has a dowry. What I am trying to say is that, please, leave Ayat alone. Don’t pay attention to him. Let him forget you.

TOUTI is shocked.

SAMARGHAND

Are you listening? Are you listening? Seems like you are too much in love that you do not hear me bark!

TOUTI put the tray on the bed and helps SAMARGHAND to pack.

TOUTI

What made you think that I’m in love with Ayat? What’s he got?

SAMARGHAND

Ayat … Ayat… he’s perfect. Where can you find a more decent person than my son?

TOUTI

And by decent, do you mean someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, or steal or someone who seizes the opportunity and takes charge of his life and tries to make a better future for himself?

SAMARGHAND (hesitates)

You’re right, Touti. Why isn’t he thinking about his future?

TOUTI gives her a meaningful look.

SAMARGHAND

Of course, one takes after his parents. Touti!

SAMARGHAND sits next to her.

TOUTI

Huh?

SAMARGHAND

Those things you said about the future and seizing the opportunity…Where did you learn it? You’ve been in this family all your life like the rest of us.

We hear sound of a motorcycle.

TOUTI

It doesn’t sound like Me’mar’s van!

SAMARGHAND

Who comes here except us?

They both go to the back of the stage and look outside the fence. The sound gets closer and closer and stops. After a while, LATIF enters. He has dusty clothes. His face is covered with a chafieh[40]. He looks at the women from behind the fence.

LATIF

Yallah! Salaam Alaikum.

TOUTI and SAMARGHAND cover their faces.

TOUTI

Alaike Salaam, brother. Who are you looking for?

LATIF

The man of the family.

SAMARGHAND

The man of our family is in the graveyard with my husband. What’s it about?

LATIF

Safdar and Moslem sent me. They’ll be here soon.  I had a motorcycle and got here before them.

SAMARGHAND (happy)

Are you the buyer? Please, come on in! Make yourself at home. Touti bring some tea. Will you?

TOUTI enters the kitchen. LATIF looks at her and then goes toward the barrel to wash his face and hands.

SAMARGHAND

Say something, brother! I think I’m having a heart attack. Is this real? I can’t believe it. Is it possible that all the prayers are paying off and I’m becoming rich?

LATIF

Nothing is impossible. How long have you been here, sister?

SAMARGHAND

Ask how many graves we have?

LATIF

Many. Indeed!

SAMARGHAND

Too many, brother! Too many! Twenty-three thousand five hundred seventy-five graves. Now, tell me! How do you want to pay? Do you need all the graves or just some? Are you giving us a cheque or cash? You know. It doesn’t matter. Just buy this graveyard and pay us with whatever you can. Where is tea, Touti?

TOUTI brings tea. LATIF wants to take the cup from her hand but she puts it on the ground. LATIF picks up the cup and drinks.

LATIF

Thank you!

BIBI’S VOICE

I can hear a stranger’s voice. Who is it, Touti?

TOUTI

I don’t know, Bibi. A stranger.

BIBI’S VOICE

Oh, my Goodness! Scream! Ask for help!

SAMARGHAND

He’s not a stranger. He’s going to buy the graveyard. Moslem and Safdar sent him.

BIBI’S VOICE

Whatever! He’s not supposed to talk to you when there’s no man here. Go, brother! Go and talk the man of the house. We women don’t know what you’re talking about. 

LATIF

OK, Bibi! After I drink my tea.

SAMARGHAND

That’s fine. They’ll be here any minute.

BIBI KHAGHAN gets out of the bathroom.

LATIF (gets up)

Yallah, Bibi Khanum!

BIBI

Who are you?

SAMARGHAND

He’s the buyer Moslem and Safdar sent.

(Softly to BIBI)

Don’t say anything that upsets him or I swear to God I’ll kill myself. He’s got money.

BIBI

Please, leave! You can come back whenever our men get home.

BIBI points to the door. LATIF drinks his tea and passes the cup to TOUTI. He puts a cigarette between his lips and exits.

Light fades.

SCENE NINE

LATIF is sitting on the bed. VALISHAH, ME’MAR, SAMARGHAND, MOSLEM and SAFDAR are sitting around him.

ME’MAR

Well. Bismillah,[41] Latif khan! Tell me how much do you pay for the whole graveyard?

SAMARGHAND

You can sell your share. I want to sell our share separately. After all, whoever did a better job should get more money.

VALISHAH

I do apologize for her behavior, brother.

ME’MAR

She’s right. I can’t compare what you and Ayat did to Moslem and Safdar’s work.

SAMARGHAND

God bless your parents!

(To LATIF:)

Well, brother. How much do you want to pay for each grave?

MOSLEM

Aunt, don’t you want to let us go first? Although you’re older and greedier than we are, but we’re the ones who found him.

 SAMARGHAND

I swear, you two have already sold yours and got your money.

SAFDAR

Not that we didn’t think of that. But he wouldn’t agree. He said first he wanted to see all twenty thousand graves with his own eyes.

(To LATIF:)

Right?

LATIF nods.

SAMARGHAND

Is that right? What do you want to do with these many graves?

LATIF doesn’t show any reaction. Silence.

SAMARGHAND

Why would I care? Just buy them from us and do whatever you want with them. You can fill them if you want.

LATIF

With what?

SAMARGHAND

With dirt.

LATIF

I’m here to fill the graves but not with the dirt.

ME’MAR

You fill them with whatever you want. It’s none of our business.

(All agree.)

We’ve dug twenty-three thousand two hundred and fifty.

SAMARGHAND

Twenty-three thousand five hundred and seventy five.

ME’MAR

What are you insinuating? That I don’t know math?

SAMARGHAND

If you knew, you wouldn’t dig extra graves.

ME’MAR

It’s math. Sometimes people screw it up. Haven’t you done that before? At least, we only screwed up a few graves, some people screw up things that…

SAMARGHAND

I don’t care what people screw up. Let’s discuss our deal! Valishah, come here!

(She switches her place with VALISHAH. To LATIF.)

Our family have twelve thousand seven hundred and twenty seven graves.

SAFDAR

What the hell? You mean you own more than half of the graveyard?

MOSLEM

Even a lot more!

SAMARGHAND

How many have you dug?

MOSLEM

I did six thousand three hundred and forty two. It’s all in here.

Takes a piece of paper out of his pocket and show it to them.

SAFDAR

As far as I remember you dug four thousand one hundred and eleven graves. See!

Shows them a paper.

MOSLEM

You know mine too!

SAFDAR

Of course. One should keep an eye on what others are doing first

(He takes more papers out of his pocket.)

Me’mar didn’t dig anything. He just observed us. Uncle Valishah’s family all together have nine thousand and forty one

(to MOSLEM:)

and you have four thousand one hundred and eleven.

MOSLEM

Well, how many do you have?

SAFDAR

I’ve dug seven thousand five hundred and thirty four full graves. And five thousand three hundred and twelve and half. I helped all of you with your graves too. It’s all in my accounts. 

MOSLEM and SAFDAR fight. VALISHAH tries to stop them.

VALISHAH

Now that everybody is talking about his account, let me show you what I have. I have officially registered it, too.

He shows them a paper. Everybody is shocked.

LATIF

What’s in that paper that shook you up?

ME’MAR

According to his document, he’s done all the digging and you need to talk to him if you want to buy the graves.

SAMARGHAND (surprised)

Valishah!

VALISHAH

Yes, darling!

SAMARGHAND

(looks at him surprised and admiring)

My Goodness! How could I be so blind? You’re right. You did all the work. I wouldn’t doubt it.

She brings tea for VALISHAH and tries to help him drink. VALISHAH reclines in the corner.

MOSLEM

It doesn’t sound like auntie Samarghand. Samarghand, this is Valishah…

SAFDAR

She wouldn’t care even if he were a black dog. As long as he’s got twenty three thousand graves she loves him. I myself would fall in love with him.

MOSLEM

Me’mar, do you have any document to show him and kick his ass?

ME’MAR

If I was that kind of person, I wouldn’t be in this situation.

MOSLEM

Nothing?

ME’MAR

I might have something.

Everybody is waiting. ME’MAR takes some pieces of cigarette pack out of his pocket.

LATIF

Do you write your debt on the cigarette packs too?

ME’MAR

Why are you asking that?

LATIF

Because if you do, you would need to smoke a box every day!

Silence.

MOSLEM

Even this stranger knows about your debt.

LATIF

Valishah, where do you write your debt?

MOSLEM

On ice…

VALISHAH (embarrassed)

I… I… I don’t have any debt!

LATIF

Not less than Me’mar…

SAMARGHAND

Brother, let’s not joke about that right now… We have a business to take care of…

LATIF

Of course! That’s why I’m here.

SAFDAR

Why are you talking nonsense, then? Tell us how much you want! Let’s haggle!

LATIF

I don’t know about the grave market and I don’t haggle.

SAFDAR

Well, I ask six thousand for each grave. OK?

LATIF

Yeah. But even with that money you can’t pay your debt.

SAFDAR

I can, Inshallah. How do you know how much is my debt?

LATIF

I can tell from your face that you’ve given people a lot of promissory notes, as much as your weight.

SAFDAR

Dammit! Even my face shows it.

LATIF

Well. It seems that you haven’t seen a bad creditor yet.

SAFDAR

Not yet. Thank God. At least Me’mar’s new job brought us here to hide.

Everybody confirms.

LATIF

Fair enough! Do you have any idea how much interest you have to pay?

ME’MAR (joking)

Too much. We can’t even count it.

LATIF

You can pay your debt, then.

MOSLEM

You’re asking too many questions. What’s in it for you?

LATIF

But it concerns your creditors who paid me to find you and get their money out of you.

(Silence. He holds SAFDAR’s neck and pulls a gun out of his own pocket.)

I’m Latif Kharshotor. I get money and find debtors. I’m impatient, crazy, and I kill. I’m here to fill your graves. And if you don’t give me fifty seven million seven hundred and fifty thousand, I’ll do that.

ME’MAR

Do whatever you want. We don’t have that much money.

LATIF

We don’t know yet.

He throws SAFDAR.

SAFDAR

Are you blind? Don’t you see that we’re living here like dogs?

LATIF

That’s your plan. Because you don’t want people to be suspicious that you’re searching for treasures. I’ve seen that a lot. You people prefer to live in misery and poverty for a couple of years and afterwards line your pocket. What are you looking for? Mummies, jewelry, bronze statutes, or pottery?

ME’MAR

You’re asking for too much in order to get enough! Huh?

LATIF

And I will!

MOSLEM

You wish! Safdar, go get a sack! Let’s tie him up and put him in the sack and send him to where we found him.

MOSLEM wants to attack LATIF. LATIF kicks him in the stomach.

LATIF

You didn’t find me. I found you. Fill this aftabeh and put it by the bathroom.

MOSLEM does the same. LATIF enters the bathroom.

ME’MAR

(to MOSLEM and SAFDAR)

How many times did I tell you not to go to town and talk to everybody about the graves? Are you happy now?

MOSLEM

Don’t worry, Me’mar! I’ll send him back. It was our fault and we’ll fix it ourselves.

SAFDAR

How about killing him and throwing him in one of the graves. We can tell them he’s the enemy and get our money. God sent him to help us.

VALISHAH

This could be a blessing in disguise. That’s not a bad idea. This idiot is right. We would benefit twice from killing him.

ME’MAR

Sure! But who is going to do that? It’s not easy. We’ve got to be together.

Light fades.

SCENE TEN

The stage is disordered. MOSLEM, SAFDAR and VALISHAH are sitting in the corner with their hands tied from behind. LATIF holds the end of the rope. SAMARGHAND has fainted. ME’MAR and BIBI are sitting next to each other and looking at LATIF terrified. AYAT is sitting with tied hands. He is furious. LATIF is tying the rope.

LATIF

Hurry up! We’ve got to get there before the night falls.

ME’MAR

(points to SAMARGHAND)

She’s still unconscious. Bibi’s still speechless. Besides, I’m not feeling well enough to ride the van. You don’t want to give them our dead bodies. Do you?

LATIF

I will if I need to. Get up!

LATIF pulls the rope and they fall. TOUTI enters with a glass of juice/sherbet.

TOUTI

What are you waiting for, then? Pull the trigger and kill us all. Start with that old woman. Maybe you get more reward.

She helps BIBI to drink the juice.

ME’MAR

Don’t provoke him, Touti! He’s mad. He’ll kill and bury us right here and leave.

TOUTI

Where to? This miserable guy needs the little money he gets from finding you.

(To LATIF:)

Isn’t this why they hire you? Isn’t this how you make money? God damn the money you get from scaring poor debtors to death and ripping them off!

AYAT

Don’t talk to him, Ms. Touti! The law will support us. I’m sure the police will arrest him as soon as they get to the town. 

TOUTI

I’m sure he’s already thought of everything and knows how to get away from the law.

(To BIBI:)

Feeling better?

(BIBI nods.)

I’ll take you to the hill to get some fresh air when you feel good.

TOUTI sits next to SAMARGHAND and gives her juice with spoons. SAMARGHAND regains her conscience little by little.

SAMARGHAND

(notices LATIF and gets scared)

Is he still here?

LATIF

I’m heading out, sister. Get ready!

VALISHAH (begging)

Ayat…

AYAT gets up and LATIF points his gun at him.

LATIF

If you do that again, I’ll knock you off in front of your parents! Sit down!

LATIF pulls the men out of the stage. AYAT, TOUTI, and SAMARGHAND watch them leaving from behind the net. The sound of van starting.

LATIF’S VOICE

What are you waiting for, Me’mar?

ME’MAR’S VOICE

I want to make a deal with you!

Light fades.

SCENE ELEVEN

LATIF is standing behind the net with a suitcase next to him. TOUTI is standing next to BIBI KHAGHAN. She’s wearing a white chador. ME’MAR, VALISHAH, SAMARGHAND, MOSLEM and SAFDAR are sitting.

TOUTI

(to BIBI:)

They’re forcing me to marry someone I don’t know. They’re saying that I’m the only one who can save their lives and stop this disgrace. This stranger isn’t going to turn them in and he’ll pay the creditors some extra money.

(BIBI shakes as if she is having a bad dream.)

I haven’t accepted it yet. I promised you I’d never leave you. But they’re saying stuff that scares me to death.  They’re saying that if I don’t marry Latif, they’ll kill you and he can take me with him. What should I do? They’re saying if I agree to go with Latif willingly and don’t tell you, he’ll marry me legally and they won’t hurt you. Me? Honestly, I’m more worried about you otherwise I prefer to go with this stranger rather than staying with Me’mar and his family. At least, this guy is man enough to kill someone he doesn’t like rather than selling her. I told him if he doesn’t marry me legally, I‘ll kill myself. We’ll see how much honor he’s got. With your permission, Bibi!

She kisses BIBI and hugs SAMARGHAND.

TOUTI

(to SAMARGHAND:)

I trust her to you. Please, don’t forget her pills. Tell her stories whenever she wants…

TOUTI Fixes her white chador and picks up her bag and without paying any attention to ME’MAR and others who want to say goodbye to her, exits. LATIF follows her. We can hear the sound of LATIF’s motorcycle. Sound of thunder. BIBI wakes up suddenly and asks for TOUTI. She runs toward the net and calls TOUTI. ME’MAR HANI gets close to BIBI and wants to talk to her. BIBI looks at him and others with anger that makes him change his mind. BIBI is panting. She sits back in her place.

ME’MAR

He…He might be a good man for Touti. Isn’t it what you always wanted?

BIBI gives him a look. ME’MAR is quiet. BIBI goes back to sleep. Suddenly she shakes as if she is dying.

Light fades.

SCENE TWELVE

ME’MAR, VALISHAH, SAFDAR, and MOSLEM are carrying BIBI’s coffin behind the fence. SAMARGHAND is following them crying. Light fades.

SCENE THIRTEEN

Light on. Nobody is on stage. We can hear ME’MAR’s van getting close. The van stops. AYAT enters. He has some grocery bags and seems happy.

AYAT

Yallah. Anybody home?

(Facing the kitchen:)

Ms. Touti!

(Facing the bathroom:)

Bibi Khaghan! Where is everybody? I fixed the van. It’s as good as new. I had the engine be dismounted and the tires be changed. Not to mention the brake, gas pedal, and the clutch. It took the whole day to do all the work. Anyway, you should give it a try. It’s like a brand new model.

(He put the bags down.)

Where have you gone all the sudden?

AYAT wants to leave. He sees ME’MAR in a black shirt.

AYAT (surprised)

What happened, uncle?

ME’MAR

My condolences!

He wants to hug AYAT but AYAT steps back.

AYAT

Who’s gone, uncle? Why are you wearing black?

SAMARGHAND and VALISHAH enter crying.

VALISHAH

Bibi Khaghan. Your grandma is gone.

AYAT

Why? She was fine.

SAMARGHAND

When death comes, he doesn’t ask anything. He just takes anyone he sees on his way.

VALISHAH

Bibi Khaghan wasn’t happy with this job. Like she knew something. I wish we’d never come here in the first place.

ME’MAR

Ah! Ah!

SAMARGHAND

We shouldn’t stay here any longer.

VALISHAH

Yeah. We should leave as soon as possible.

AYAT

Mother, how did Touti take it?

SAMARGHAND

Touti? Touti…

AYAT

I’m sure she’s devastated. Where is she? Is she still mourning over Bibi’s grave? Why did you leave her alone? Mother, is that how much you hate her?

(He wants to exit.)

SAMARGHAND

Ayat!

AYAT

I’ve got nothing to do with you, mother. I want Touti.

(SAMARGHAND and VALISHAH cry.)

If I’ve waited that long, it’s because of the promise I made to that old woman.

(He exists.)

Ms. Touti! Ms. Touti!

MOSLEM and SAFDAR see AYAT outside. They bring him inside and sit him on the bed.

MOSLEM

Touti flew, man!

AYAT becomes nervous.

SAFDAR

Don’t scare him!

(To AYAT:)

It’s nothing just…

AYAT

Just what?

Grabs his shirt.

SAMARGHAND

Don’t say anything, Safdar. I’ll tell him.

AYAT

Tell me what, mother? What have you done to her? I swear to God, if you said anything that upset her…

SAFDAR

Upset? They married her to that guy!

AYAT is shocked. He wants to get up but MOSLEM and SAFDAR hold him.

AYAT

Who?

SAFDAR

To that guy Latif.

AYAT

Why?

SAMARGHAND

We had to. He wanted to turn in your father and uncle to the creditors.

VALISHAH

Do you know what would have happened, if they found us? They would kill us before we got to the court.

ME’MAR

It was a legal marriage. She seemed happy too. It’s fate…You can find somebody else.

MOSLEM

I know it’s hard. But it’s all your fault. After all you loved Touti for a long time but you didn’t do anything. If you had the courage to propose to her, this would never have happened. If you don’t catch the bird who sits on your roof, your neighbors will.

SAMARGHAND

Touti didn’t love you enough otherwise she could have been waiting for you. If she told me that she wanted you too, I would have been happy for you guys to get married. But she didn’t say a word. She didn’t even say goodbye to you.

VALISHAH

She didn’t say goodbye to anyone except Bibi and Samarghand. She didn’t even look at us!

AYAT

You sold her and expected her to say goodbye. How brutal!

(He wants to leave.)

SAMARGHAND

Where are you going?

AYAT

I have to find her.

SAMARGHAND

That monster will kill you.

AYAT

I only have two options. To find Touti or to kill myself.

ME’MAR

I agree!

VALISHAH

With what? With killing himself?

ME’MAR

No! With killing myself. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time but I haven’t been this willing before. I feel I’m stuck in the bottom of an endless well. Only death can free me!

MOSLEM

Is it you, Me’mar Hani? A man who used to talk about destiny and believing in God in the hard times?

ME’MAR

Living in misery like dogs, trying hard and not getting anywhere, isn’t what God wants. It’s what his cruel oppressive people want. I’m tired of these people. I want to leave this world and seek refuge in God. Is that wrong?

VALISHAH

No! Do we have another choice?

(To others:)

Huh? Do we have another choice? If so, let’s try it! Bibi was a blessing to all of us. Now that she’s gone our life will get worse.

(ME’MAR gets up. VALISHAH after him.)

Let’s go, brother! We don’t need any knifes, or poison or rope. We’ll lay down in the graves we dug until we die from hunger and thirst and heat!

VALISHAH and ME’MAR exit.

SAFDAR

We were digging our own graves and we didn’t know.

MOSLEM

Did you really think that we were digging for the enemy. Huh? The enemy who has terrified us so much and made us dig graves for them before even they attacked us? Of course such an enemy never existed! And as far as there’s no enemy, there’s no money. When there’s no money it means that we’ll die from hunger and end up laying down in their graves. But Safdar, I’ll never lay down. I’ll sell all these graves at any cost!

MOSLEM exits. SAFDAR follows him.

SAMARGHAND

(to AYAT:)

Ayat, don’t follow us! We don’t have any choices left except death. It’s over for us. We don’t care if we go to hell. Hell isn’t any worse than here. When you’re drowning the depth of the water doesn’t matter.

SAMARGHAND exits.

SCENE FOURTEEN

As the stage light is going on, we see LATIF and TOUTI sitting. AYAT brings tea for LATIF. He is in black. LATIF grabs the cup.

LATIF

What are you doing here all by yourself? Digging more graves?

AYAT

No, Mr. Latif. I’m filling them.

LATIF

That’s good. You spend one year to dig graves and another year to fill them. Maybe next year you dig them and a year after that fill them again. What an idle person!

TOUTI

At least he admits what they did was useless. Isn’t that enough, Latif?

LATIF

Of course! But how is he going to make you happy? That was a mistake to bring her back. At least, I could make enough money to feed her. But I didn’t know what to do with her heart. I know how to get money from people not heart! Although, it’s not been forty days since Bibi died, but I congratulate you.

LATIF passes the cup to TOUTI. He gets up and takes a bag out of his coat and gives it to TOUTI. He wants to leave.

AYAT

Mr. Latif! You did something for me that my parents never…

LATIF

Where are they?

AYAT

God knows. They slept in the graves for a couple of days with Me’mar. After they didn’t die they packed their stuff and left. They insisted that I go with them. But I didn’t. When you bury your dear one in a place, you belong to that place.

LATIF

Like something was telling you Touti will be back. No?

AYAT

Yeah. And your heart was telling you to bring Touti back.

LATIF

Latif doesn’t have any heart.  Only if I could talk beautifully like you…Two youngsters…With empty hands[42]… among these graves…May God himself show mercy on you! Bibi, God bless her, who was kind to anyone and was making halal[43] money, not from digging graves, left you. What are these people, who are making the earth a graveyard and who are humiliating you, going to give you? May God himself show mercy on you! Two Youngsters…Alone…without anything…In a graveyard…

LATIF exits. TOUTI opens the bag that LATIF gave her. Inside the bag are some golden bracelets, a necklace, and a ring. light fades.

THE END © Translated by Fatemeh Madani Sarbarani, January 2017


[1] Oh, you intimate of Allah, stand by us in the Day of Judgment! )Doa Tawassul(

[2] (Who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him, and Who relieves its suffering, and makes you (mankind) inheritors of the earth?)…May your mercy be upon us, oh the most merciful (Quran, Surah Ant, 62 ).

[3] Allah bless Muhammad and his progeny and grant them peace.

[4] A prayer’s book for Shias

[5] Shias call their first Imam, Ali, when they want to do something that needs strength and power.

[6] God willing

[7] To get closer to God.

[8] A piece of cloth that Iranian traditional families use to put their food and plates on it. It functions as a table linen. This particular sofreh has images of food on it.

[9] A bucket for washing your private parts after urination and defecation.

[10] Hello

[11] Referring to the graves

20 Call for prayer.

[13] A person who calls for prayer.

[14] There is no god but Allah (Allah is an Arabic word for God).

[15] Breaking one’s fast

[16] God is great.

[17] Ayat is going through all the motions of the ritual prayer and saying what he needs to say out loud but he is also interacting with those around him (which completely negates the prayer).

[18] Bravo! Good job!

[19] Persian expression is “sweet paste is better than nothing!”

[20] Dear

[21] Bravo!

[22] Prayer beads. Rosary.

[23] Big jug for saving flour.

[24] How awesome! Iranians also say Mashallah to protect oneself form the evil eyes and jealousy

[25] Cattle don’t die from the crow’s cursing!

[26] A holy character in Shia. My goodness!

[27] Traditional tea maker.

[28] Meaning in the name of Allah. It is used when someone wants to start doing something.

[29] Upper hand

[30] A warning that says someone is entering.

[31] To please God or to get closer to God

[32] May Allah forgive me.

[33] Clergy

[34] Someone who doesn’t believe in God. A pagan.

[35] Hava in Persian means both the Eve character from the Adam and Eve story, and air.

[36] Adam in Persian means both the Adam character from the Adam and Eve story and the human being. Here, the playwright is playing with the words Hava (Eve and air) and Adam (Adam and the human being).

[37] To your health! Cheers!

[38] The Persian expression is “your body is itchy!”

[39] Forbidden food in Islam.

[40] A specific kind of scarf that is associated with Hizbollah in Palestine and Basij in Iran.

[41] Meaning in the name of God. Here means come on!

[42] Meaning nothing.

[43] Opposite of haram. Religiously allowed.

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