The ripeness of the fruit by Kenneth Weene

Afghan goatherd

Badria wakes. The sun is not yet up. The cock has not yet called. Perhaps it was the hoot of loons, the stirring of goats in the barn, the restless wandering of the wind among the budding cherry trees.

“Does the wind taste the tart ripeness of the fruit?” she wonders.

She bends to the fire. Charcoal is dear and they have little. Badria tries to ignore the cold of her hands, the chill that sneaks beneath her heaviest robe. The fire must be used to heat water for Farzam’s tea, to heat the rice for his breakfast. For Badria’s part, cold water will do; whatever warmth lays hidden in yesterday’s rice pot will suffice. But Farzam’s tea…

“Where does the winter go?” she asks herself. “When the earth comes back to life? When the nights again are warm and the days glow with heat and desire.”

Perhaps the teacher who has come to the village knows the answer to such questions. She would ask him if allowed, but Badria is not allowed. Women do not speak to men—not even to teachers. Particularly not to teachers. It is written. That is enough.

The spark catches. The handful of straw flares. A corner of the rich charcoal smolders. While the red heat spreads, she fetches water from the well. The water is clear and cold. She uses some to wash her face. The hem of her garment serves as washcloth. As Badria walks, the wet corner clings to her leg.

She giggles. Sensation is enough to bring laughter or tears. Badria’s body sings. It is the song of life. How could it be otherwise, even at eleven years she is woman. Even at eleven years the child within her blooms.

It is written. That is enough.

Farzam will soon wake. “Where is my tea?” he will bellow. She will have it ready. He will be pleased. He will not hit her. He will not curse her father for a bad deal. He will not demand the three goats back. She will be worth the price.

Afghan girl

The baby inside kicks. Badria smiles with a tenderness she does not understand.

If it is a boy, Farzam will be pleased. Perhaps he will send her father another kid. Perhaps… Perhaps.

Water is poured into the old metal pot and placed on the fire. Soon she will add the leaves. Before he drinks, Farzam will spoon in sugar from the tin tucked on the highest shelf.

A few drops of water are added to a portion of rice. That too must be warmed.

Badria uses her right hand to dig some rice from the pot and stuffs it into her own mouth. She is hungry. It seems that she is always hungry. Perhaps it is that she eats for two. Perhaps it is that there is less food for her here as wife than there had been as daughter in her father’s home.

She visualizes that home. She sees her father, turbaned, sitting by the fire, smoking a cigarette. She can almost smell the tobacco, it is Turkish and strong. “How strange,” she thinks, “I cannot remember my mother.”

Will the child Badria carries remember her? The question makes her weep.

Badria is weeping when Farzam gets up. She weeps when she hands him his cup of tea and the tin of sugar. She weeps when she hands him the bowl of warm rice. She is weeping as he warms his hands at the remains of the charcoal fire. She weeps when he tells her, “You must give me a son or I will send you back to your father.”

It is written. That is enough.

Badria weeps. She knows she will laugh again.

 

Besides helping to found and edit The Write Room Blog, Ken Weene co-hosts It Matters Radio, a weekly Internet Radio Show (http://www.itmattersradio.com/ ) and writes poetry, short fiction, and novels. As a writer, Ken is particularly interest in exploring differing voices and cultures. The ripeness of the fruit is part of that exploration. You can learn more about Ken at http://www.kennethweene.com.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “The ripeness of the fruit by Kenneth Weene

  1. Kenneth Weene

    I love to read and to write stories that take me outside of my own culture and traditions. For years I have tried to learn as much as I can of the cultures and traditions of Afghanistan, particularly among the Pashtu, who are the dominant group. I hope this tale of rural Afghan life rings true and offers the reader some insight.

    Reply
  2. Linda hales

    Ken- your piece accurately describes rural life in Afghanistan and the desperate plight of women in that country. Some say that this is all they know and that they are no different than their cultural sisters so they do not recognize the inequalities between men and women that they are forced to live by. That a mere child must submit to the appetites of greedy men is a travesty in itself but to be carrying the child of such a monster is pathetic beyond words. I wonder if Badria knows that it may be a blessing to deliver a girl child and be sent back to her family to live. As I said, I wonder! Given her no-win situation, she would likely be shamed and rejected by her family for failing her husband. This is a beautiful and sweet depiction Ken and I pray that the efforts of international troops in that country will actually change the mindset of this nightmare for women once and for all but I seriously doubt that the male side of this culture is capable of learning a selfless and humane mindset. They have only learned what their ignorant predecessors have taught and it bears repeating that “we cannot teach what we do not know.”

    Reply
  3. Sharla

    Ken, the imagery portrayed in your words reflects tones of happiness within the sadness of the circumstances. It is through such writings we can learn and hopefully understand how so very different life exists in other cultures within diverse traditions. Thank you for sharing such a moving story!

    Reply
  4. Louise Malbon-Reddix

    Thank you for this brief but poignant look into this culture. All of us are wearing some kind of shoes. I didn’t want to try hers on though. What a testament to the human spirit and what it can endure! I hope that she has a boy!!

    Reply
  5. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    This is a lesson in reality for many women.

    My grandmother was bought or paid for in an arranged marriage and though they moved to the United States many of the same characteristics of their homeland existed-until she became liberated.
    Your story is a sad reality that women are second class citizens in some countries but it is their way of life. Women of that culture certainly are a stronger one to endure such a life and it is sad that Badria does not realize she may be better off at home-Or would she?
    Great piece.
    Mamie

    Reply
  6. Salvatore Buttaci

    Because of Kenneth Weene’s excellent writing talent, I am able to envision every scene, hear the realistic dialogue, feel present in the telling. Any surprise that Weene is on my favorite authors’ list?

    Reply
  7. Marta Merajver-Kurlat

    Not every writer possesses the ability to lead you effortlessly into a world you may guess at but do not know. Ken Weene is among the few with such a talent. Thank you for a moving story in which every single word is loaded with meaning. Looking forward to more!

    Reply
  8. Fran Tabor

    Poetical prose!
    “She knows she will laugh again.”
    An excellent tribute to what is best about the human spirit within each of us, that element which screams “survivor against the odds.”

    More, in a few words, you show not all cultures are equal.
    Others have observed how cruel this one is for girls.
    It is worse.
    It is equally cruel to the men who deny themselves the love of all their children; it is cruel to the unborn children whose mothers-to-be are denied adequate prenatal care; it is cruel to the entire society that is denied the potential of over half its citizens.
    It cannot survive in honest competition with other, more-inclusive civilizations. It will feel threatened by them, and will as a group react like any threatened entity. Unless leaders from within can be induced change from within.
    Let us hope the brave teachers going into such areas have the wisdom to help the many Farzams to learn new, self-enriching ways.

    Reply
    1. Linda hales

      Perfectly stated Fran – you rightly take into account that the male faction of that society are also victims – much like both the bully and the bullied. Thanks for adding that dimension. Ken really hit on the right nerve with this beautiful but provocative post.

      Reply
  9. Micki Peluso

    Ken, this is an extraordinary story with incredible imagery of not just surroundings but the inner thoughts of a young child’s mind. I felt as though I was sharing her hunger, cold and her emotions. Well done. More important is the message. I’ve noted over the past ten years that many women and young girls, especially, are now allowed in some arab nations like Iran and Irag, to attend universities, study medicine, science, and are learning about the world around them–a world they cannot conceive of when compared to their own. Often, they are allowed the education but not allowed to use their skills. I believe these women, much like the suffragetts in our country’s past, will grow in size, and determination, while working toward ending the outrages of their countries. Perhaps even put a stop or damper on fanaticism and terroism. These women are tough–they have to be–now they are being educated and knowledge is a formidadle weapon. God and Allah willing.

    Reply

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