"And him whom Allah sendeth astray, for him
there is no guide."
|At the Lower Haight flat:
It's true that Zahra's living here has put us on the
spot; this Ahmed guy sounds creepy, could be even
murderous. But we've committed to 'catching' him; right?
'Killing' him 's out; too risky—maybe in self-defense,
if it comes to that; chances are it won't.
We lock him up; we call the cops—they'll no doubt haul his ass to
jail, or at the very least deport him—either way, our
problem 's solved.
It's not "our" problem. He's an
alien; she's an alien; let 'em nuke it out on Mars.
Why turn our household into a battleground for some
babe with a phony name? "Z" isn't "Z," remember;
she's "Zah-ra". Had to find that out ourselves.
This cock-'n-bull about assassins is a goddamn ruse.
What if we take Ahmed out and Zahra takes a
powder? We're left holdin' the bag—the 'body'
bag—which I say 's fucked.
Provided we, like, do what we all said we'd do when
Zahra offered to pack her bags and split, and we said no,
we'd help. Some "help." We sit around thinking up excuses.
Who is "we"? I took her over
there. Duke's rehearsing the plan right now. He's
stripped the studio, got the door rigged, got our
"alien" settled in. We each start shuttling 'inconspicuously' tomorrow morning. Where's the risk?
It seems to me the only ass on the line is hers.
At the SOMA studio:
Three short rings, two long;
that'll be the signal when it's us. You hear a
different ring, it's time to swing into action. One
Kill the lights.
Go into the studio.
Switch on the CD.
Now the lamp.
Make sure the dummy 's sitting
Come back out.
Buzz open downstairs.
Duck into the niche behind the
He enters—Wait—He hears the tape.
You bide your time until you see
his shadow pass.
for all you're worth!
The bolt! You've gotta throw that
Done; he's trapped; no sweat;
Call us on this cell.
We'll take it from there.
1. So optimistic, so American is this
take-charge, can-do plot. But Ahmed, sealed inside a bank
vault, could escape.
Zahra, scanning cork-lined walls of the
would-be trap cum soundstage, checks for signs of
weakness—knowing who must be contained, if Ahmed
follows one of the roommates, rings the bell (to the only
entrance), climbs the stairs, mistakes the (back-turned) manikin
for the source of Zahra's voice: "Put the groceries
on the counter, will you?" crosses the dim-lit space and
launches his attack without a moment's hesitation—so she, behind
the door, can slam and bolt it shut.
2. Improbable, this scenario.
Yet the scheme does have its merits. Zahra's
roommates, cast as lures, are incidental to the bait. Her
isolation likewise places her, alone, in mortal jeopardy—once
her whereabouts are determined; the key is Ahmed's cunning.
Zahra drags her outstretched hand along the dark
enclosure's surface as if measuring its dimensions...
3. Are they equal to the task?
...as if recalling her detention long ago
in confines similar, just as tenebrous insofar as hers was a
punishment (less deserved).
To the closet.
You heard me, Zahra.
obey! You must be taught that girls ought not bring
shame upon their families
You should be proud of me.
For fighting? Solving problems
with your fists? It is for boys to vent their spleens
with such stupidity.
In she went:
the room quite spacious
wall to wall it took her short legs several steps to pass
through darkness—rich in textures, thick with rustling wafts
clothes hung everywhere
Mother's, Father's, each distinctive in its aura—feminine,
masculine recognizable by their fabrics' feel and scent
glowing blond along a crack underneath the door, this
light-source comforting to a twelve-year-old—charged,
found-guilty, harshly sentenced. Her transgression? Playing with
boys had earned this exile to the wardrobe. Un-contrite, she
felt victorious, having made them rue their slurs
as if the dresses, suits, shirts, blouses, scarves and
neckties uttered whispers to absolve their persecuted guest
whose "shameful sin" had been to claim (amid the boys'
vainglorious quotes) that girls were NOT "unclean"—her
pending menses unforeseen and irrespective
yet almost welcome while she reexamined arguments in
rebuttal; boys were dirtier—seldom washing, always dressed in grimy shirttails, spitting;
belching, clearing nostrils left and right with nasty
snorts. How dare they label her unsanitary!
sequestered albeit safe
allowing thoughts (and hands) to roam uncensored (privately) unobserved,
as she remembered punches, kicks and scratches, plaintive
cries for mercy—theirs; outnumbered she had
triumphed; her opinion had prevailed
until she felt the damning stain inside
touched it, tasted it. Grown alarmed, she crept
on knees and elbows toward the narrow band of daylight to
inspect her fingers' color—red with menstrual blood,
besmirched—thereby confirming irrefutably
Allah's Perfect Judgment.