Sûrah XLVII
MUHAMMAD
"Now when ye must meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burden."

47
MESSENGER

Three short rings, two long intone... hence Zahra moves unhurriedly, pokes the buzzer to admit her code-observing guest—who mounts, with antipodal haste, the studio's flight of stairs, stopping at the top to blurt out his request

PISTOL

Can I use your head?

The blank expression Pistol's phrase evokes bodes ill for his bursting bladder.

PISTOL

Toilet! Bathroom! Gonna bust, I don't take a leak."

ZAHRA

Oh, yes; of course.

He charges past her, almost rudely were it not for his distress. She hears a zipper... then a pause... then a torrent of alleviation.

1. "Take a leak" is how Americans must communicate urination.

2. This one empties like a he-goat.

3. "Doin' okay?" he next will ask. He then will pace, in lieu of sitting, like a child kept after school, until dismissed—is Pistol's pattern.

4. Yet he does arrive in turn and has not shirked his duty once, although I feel he grows impatient like the others.

PISTOL

Doin' okay?

Emerging first, re-zipping second, Pistol does not stand on ceremony, does not stand, in fact, at all; instead he prowls the cloistral space, examines this and that: an open book, a lamp, a magazine, regards a throw-rug (substitute prayer mat) spread on the floor's insulation.

PISTOL

I think that's lying North-South.

Zahra tracks his observation.

PISTOL

Thought you Muslims worshipped East.

His comment, well-informed, suggests a heretofore unuttered sensitivity.

ZAHRA

You have knowledge of Islam?

He pivots.

PISTOL

Zilch; 'cept Mecca's that-a-way.

Taking note of the direction Pistol indicates, Zahra nods (in the windowless room, her guess, evidently, had been wrong).

PISTOL

This place needs air.

Inclined to stay, engage in somewhat more than trivial conversation, Pistol alters his routine and comes to a semi-skittish halt—a matter of some importance weighing upon his mind.

PISTOL

Just like a tomb. You plan to rot in here, or what? I don't think what's-his-face is buying. You could hide away till doomsday. Why not split, skip town, vamoose? I mean it's pointless; isn't it; waiting, like some cooped up hen for slaughter?

The tactlessness of this remark has a strong effect on both; Pistol reddens, Zahra blanches, Ahmed's gruesome warning looms—remindful of the target's cutthroat fate.

PISTOL

Poor choice of words.

He looks contritely at the inmate. Zahra shrugs off his apology, less offended than bemused by Pistol's exhortation.

ZAHRA

Do not fear. It will be none of you who suffer when the deed is done; I promise. It is I at whom the Sword of Allah points.

PISTOL

You mean the Arab's?

ZAHRA

What I mean is they, perhaps, are one in the same.

PISTOL

You lost me there. Seems like you want this guy to off you.

ZAHRA

What means "off"?

PISTOL

To nix, snuff, kill. You've got an aura predators check for when they're sizing up their prey, that 'I'm-too-young-or-old-or-sick look; I give up; come do your worst.'

Again the insight shown by Pistol seems atypical. Zahra ponders, disconcerted by the broader implications.

5. False or true?

6. Have I submitted like a faithful slave—let Allah's will be done—or do I harbor doubts rebellious? Dare I lurk, strike first, elude?

7. Escape to where, to what? Without belief, the world is less than meaningless.

8. Creed, for those astray, ensures our rightful condemnation.

ZAHRA

I concur. Within my heart, I do not feel this plan is working.

PISTOL

Good. Let's scrap it. I'll tell Duke; take up a collection; buy you a ticket. Just say when. You pick the place; we'll see you get there, safe and sound.

He starts to leave.

ZAHRA

If this the others wish, assure them I agree.