Sûrah III
"And afterward their habitation will be hell, an ill abode."


What pisses me off is not that she got all-out-of-joint about nothing; it's that I had to run her off by being such a jerk. In my own defense I can honestly say sex wasn't on the menu. Okay, I admit to a 'sexploitative' urge—assuming I was right and the girl is inexperienced. My ultimate goal, however, truly was professional; grist for an author's mill, she was, so to speak—conceding I've written nothing more longwinded than an end-of-term paper. Conceding I've been accused of squandering brains in the service of my pecker, a charge made by no less a pious personage than dear old dad, The Right Reverend Pinkney, pillar of the First Baptist Church in Des Moines—my birthplace—Iowa. ♫Won't you give Iowa a try?♫ I blithely did. Until questions begging answers harvested only dogma, and Franchone owned the appellation "Prodigal" among the Reverend's flock and friends—who're "Waiting For Godot" with respect to my return.

Wow. Are you noticing these literary references and cerebral turns of phrase? I swear that uptight Muslim is a genuine inspiration. Would that I had focused on Religion instead of zooming in to score. Fiddled with her Faith before corrupting her Anatomy? Typical, Franchone, laudable; spread your unregenerate doubt then your hormone-haywire seed, I can hear him sermonizing; God the Father, God my Progenitor, Advocate of the Righteous, Champion of the Chumps who delegate thinking to their resident Pastors. Dad's an honest man but he's not Jehovah's mouthpiece—nor Allah's, Brahma's, or Buddha's, not to mention Zeus. Pick a Deity, any Deity, current or historical, and what you'll find is an image in reflection of the fanatics who believe, alongside those who manipulate that belief to suit their worldly purposes.

Cynical, Franchone, blasphemous. "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." "Allah is informed of what ye do." Spare me Ministers and Mullahs with their fire-and-brimstone threats.


1. "Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers."

2. "There is no God save Allah, and lo! Allah is the Mighty, the Wise."

3. We Muslims hold these truths as incontestable, much like gravity. Heavy are the strictures that discipline flighty whim.

4. Yet to my home the crows of disbelief did flock.

5. Father failed to shoo them.

6. They perched upon his sleeves, no more discouraged than if his arms were made of straw, pecking at tradition, finding fault with holy doctrine.

7. "Diplomats" they defined themselves; "couriers of contagion" we labeled them at camp, once I shed aristocratic trappings and fled my parents' household.

8. Loathe, was I, to endure a Statesman's tolerance for apologists from the West, foreigners whose ideals were spoken loudly to distract from acts that clearly contradicted them.

9. Aggression is the tool by which Americans and their minions subjugate the rest of us, enriching fatted lifestyles through their round-the-world depletion of under-protected resources.

10. Worse is their assault on those whose faith abjures allegiance to fool's-gold consumerism.

11. Thus disposed I donned my veil with pride!

12. Indeed I sought out militants, mastered Arabic, vowed Jihad, and volunteered for Arous ad-Damm without hesitation.

13. Never did I think I would abort my sacred mission and be stranded in California, Belly of the Beast, reduced to reading Al Qur'ân in unrefined translation, while anticipating vengeance well-deserved.

14. I am my father's daughter after all, disgraced, unnerved, a scarecrow dispossessed of worth and moral fibre.

An errant glare ignites Z's darkened, alien, sublet room, the cramped environs cluttered with outlandish memorabilia—none her own; disparate body parts (from manikins) are embedded in the walls, their stiff protuberances bedecked with gaudy costume jewelry.

Headlamps flash.

Z's silhouette remains immobile as she broods, mopes, frets, or mourns, as traffic passes on the apparently busy street outside her window—transom, rather, small and high, admitting shafts of light at random. Like a cell, is her enclosure, dreary as a dungeon; Z detests it. But the choices of a displaced person, émigré, self-styled fugitive—low on funds, friends nonexistent save for a ragtag band of 'punks' whose 'digs' she has 'crashed' behooving gratitude irrespective the weird decor—understandably are limited. She is glad to have a refuge—this time lingeringly illumined—reminding her to count what pass for humble blessings.

Shrinking from the incandescent trespass on her solitude (someone, Duke or Amy, must be home), Z regards the flat with guarded disapproval. Photographs—lewd to political—crowd the gaps between extremities, most with Magic-Marker slogans touting revolution. "Anarchists Unite," "Support Our Troops; Buy Arab Oil," "Only Trust What's Officially Been Denied," are phrases scrawled amidst appropriated street signs: "STOP," "HAIGHT," "NO U TURN," "ONE WAY," and over a dresser-dummy's crotch the most salacious "SLIPPERY WHEN WET."



Duke's voice invades the partitioned space with night-life energy.



Banging metal on metal—fork to toaster—Duke sounds the dinner alarm. The Betty Boop clock in the kitchen reads 10 PM.



There is music of a sudden. Hip-Hop. FULL BLAST and INCESSANT; Duke likes VOLUME. As do all the roommates—Pistol, Amy, Judy, Greer—at any hour, on any pretext, as if sleep were nonessential. Z, the sole exception, shies away from "noise."



A spiny Mohawk breaks the plane of Z's assigned 'boudoir,' its threshold ill-defined by a rift in the makeshift drywall.


Z; you here?


Have you no eyes?


Have you no ears? I sprang for a pizza. Pepperoni. Off your butt, you ingrate immigrant. Grub's in the kitchen. Where the fuck's Amy?

Still abashed by informality—Duke's variety in particular—Z declines the invitation with a disaffected shrug.

Indubitably unfazed, Duke stomps off bellowing.