‘Sleeping Around’ by Abdul Sulamal

 Short story selected for the 2014 New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology 

Translated from Pashto to English by N. Atal

As soon as Amir walked through the door, he started shouting and cursing, “where are you!? You honour-less scum!”

His grandfather shouted angrily from the rooftop, “what rubbish are you talking? Wash your mouth out, you honour-less scum!”

Amir replied in a rage, “who’s the one without honour, me or you? I’ll show you what’s up!”

His grandfather came down from the roof in a panic and threatened Amir angrily, “what’s gotten into you, that’s making you scream bloody murder like this?”

Amir, who was now trembling with anger, replied, “granddad! My blood is boiling; don’t come near me, in case I riddle you with bullets instead of that bitch!”

At this his grandfather balked, stopped dead and said calmly, “son! Are you all there? What has happened, that’s causing such nastiness to come out of your mouth?”

Amir came straight out with the reason. “Badray has been sleeping around with Allah Noor’s grandson, Zaywar Jan. Jandad’s son Mowla Jan rebuked me to avenge this sin.”

His grandfather frowned. “By God, our Badray – it’s your sister you’re talking about?”

Amir shouted in a rage, “she’s not my sister; she’s a cow, a bitch!”

His grandfather turned around and ordered, “well, what are you waiting for? Don’t you know how to shoot a gun, or what?”

Amir replied angrily, “I know all about it, granddad; now you’ll see for yourself.”

Amir hadn’t finished his sentence, when Badray, his sister, shouted from a distance, “Amir, brother! Why are you in a mood again? God help you, what’s happened now…?”

His sister was still in mid-sentence when Amir emptied the whole magazine into her.

His grandfather was quick to praise Amir, “nice work! Leave this bitch here; now go after that man she was sleeping with, and rid our family of this shame.”

Amir slung the rifle over his shoulder and went out of the house in a hurry, taking huge strides as he began searching for Zaywar Jan.  After asking around in a few places, a villager said to him, “when he heard gunfire from inside your house, he ran off to hide in those cornfields ahead – he’s either still in there, or he’ll have crossed them and headed into the desert.”

Amir quickly followed his trail and after walking a fair distance, he heard a male voice from the middle of the field. “Hide yourself! Someone’s coming!”

Amir immediately cocked the rifle, let off a shot in the air and then shouted back, “who are you? If you don’t come out of that field, you won’t take another breath!”

The people hiding in the middle of the field didn’t move a muscle.

Amir was enraged once more, but this time didn’t fire in the air. Instead, he pointed the gun at the middle of the field and repeated his instruction angrily.

But they did not answer, and so Amir losing patience, quickly put his finger on the trigger, and fired a shot straight into the centre of the field. Straight away the heads of a man and a woman popped up in the cornfield. The woman was trying to put on her trousers in a panic, but her top half was left exposed. The man ran towards Amir and begged him.

“May I be sacrificed, brother! Forgive me, I deserve to be killed – do what you will with me, but I pray you leave the woman to dress and return home.”

Amir pointed to gun towards the sky and emptied the magazine in one go – then he bawled at his brother, “you low-life, you’ve got a woman like Spoghmay as your wife! Are you not ashamed?”

His brother did not say a word and bowed his head in shame.

Amir said loudly, “If you’re the type to sleep around, no wonder Badray has too.”

His brother asked in surprise, “what, what has happened to Badray?”

Amir said, “I’ve sent her to the next life.  I was going after the bachelor she was sleeping around with, and send him to meet her, but you’ve stopped me in my tracks – I’m going back home.”

His brother was speechless. He put his hands up straight away and begged, “I repent, I repent, Lord! May I alone be judged for my actions, and no one else!”

Amir replied angrily, “I know you won’t keep your hands off those sluts. I’m going back to see what our grandfather says about it.”

Amir hurried back home and stopped dead in front of his granddad. His grandfather asked quickly, “what happened? Did you kill him?”

Amir replied hastily, “I couldn’t find him this time; but worry not, granddad! God willing, your pride will remain intact and I will avenge this sin myself. Whether today or tomorrow, I will surely send him to his death.”

His grandfather asked, “your father and your brother Mohammad Gul are both missing, I don’t know which nook they’re hiding in. Damn these bloody offspring, who are never here when such dark days befall us!”

Amir said, “well, I don’t know about my father, but I will go to that adulterer Gul Mohammad and blow him away.”

His grandfather was shocked, and asked, “what!?”

Amir said, a bit slowly, “I just caught Mohammad Gul messing around with another woman in a cornfield.”

His grandfather put his hands in the air, “Lord Almighty! What’s this I’m hearing? Amir, son, make sure you keep a lid on that, so that his wife doesn’t find out.”

Amir was silent for a second, then said eventually, “granddad! I want to kill both Zaywar Jan and my adulterer of a brother. If I don’t, God will not be pleased with me – what difference is there between my sister and my brother? He’s got his wife Spoghmay, while that other one was still a young unmarried girl.”

His grandfather replied, “son, you’re right, in the eyes of God they are both sinners, but…”

His grandfather stopped and fell silent, but Amir did not give him time to think, “but what? Granddad! Let me rid this house of that lowlife!”

His grandfather said, level-headed, “Amir, son – as long as you keep messing with these rotten corpses of people, the whole thing will continue to reek. It’s better to let God smite them, not you – this one shame is enough for us already…”

His grandfather pondered for a minute, but he quickly reached a decision, “Amir – do not leave this sin unavenged. Whatever you do, I want this Zaywar Jan dead by nightfall.”

Amir bowed his head and quickly set off to find and kill Zaywar Jan.


Author’s Bio: Abdul Sulamal is an Afghan writer. His previous publications include three books of short stories in Pashto – namely Old Fort, Fifty Million, and Wounded Hopes translated and published in English, Urdu, Dari, in Slovakia and in India. He is currently working on his novel (The fire of September) and a collection of dramas. He has written a number of academic, analytical, and research articles; and political and literary essays as well, which have been published in various journals in and outside of Afghanistan.

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