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Seda: Voices of Iran

Morteza Miraftabi (Short Storty) The Planter in a City Window

Translated from Persian to English by Reza Azarmsa

The long and continuous factory whistle echoed throughout the city. A thin muscular man, head up and walking tall, appeared from the end of the street. He passed us by on the street, carrying two green and crimson poinsettias. His hair was neatly combed and he wore a work shirt.

He ignored the old rug merchant’s concrete house as he passed it by. The merchant recently had been murdered there by his son, with own axe. The house was sealed off. I saw the mans arms blue vein and his rugged face as he glanced at the sky and then at the planter. He seemed to have a pair of burning candles in his eyes. Because of the bushiness of the plants leaves, the pot and the branches could not be seen. 

Nasser said:

“How can he do this on the block? What do people say..on the block..?”

Ali moved the bag’s shoulder strap and said, “If he does this…”

He passed by the front of the bank in which some workers had gathered to receive their paychecks. He paid no attention to the people nor to the big sign with the white lettering: “Come back tomorrow for paychecks.” As he walked, the green and crimson leaves of the poinsettias were shaking. He had taken advantage of a short lunch break. At 12:30, the factory whistle would blow again. He had half an hour.

A red-cheeked woman came up from a public bath’s stairs and passed him. A man standing in front of a big scale was selling baskets of nectarines to the vendors. The scent of yellow-red nectarines filled the air. The baskets were full of nectarines and the wide-mouthed sacks were full of watermelons. 

The man passed two long alleys and reached the brothel. He stopped in front of the green door. We stopped a little bit further down the street. There was something hidden in all our faces. Anxiously, we seemed to want to say something; but we were quiet. The man knocked at the door and looked towards the top window of the house. From where we stood in the distance, we saw the man looking up and talking. The leaves of the plant were quivering. The man’s head was moving. His shoulders were shaking with laughter.

When the man was at a distance from the house, the poinsettias were gone from his hands. We looked curiously up at the sky when the man passed by us.

In the second floor of the house, we saw the poinsettias, which had been placed in front of the window, towards the alley. A breeze was moving the leaves. A small, feminine hand had placed the plants in the window. The man crossed from the long alley by the brothel, near the concrete house of the man who had been murdered by his son with his own axe. We saw the green and crimson leaves against the blue background of the sky. We saw the woman watering the plants, watching the man walking off into the distance.


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