Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Devout frenzy"

Read this, it's funny:

By Nabil Shawkat, from The Daily Star.

Gods were everywhere. They were hiding under my bed, in the bottom of my closet and under the kitchen sink.

Ever since my wife started taking pottery lessons in Maadi three months ago, I couldn't look anywhere in the apartment and not find a new carved image. So you can imagine my relief when Ali Gomaa, the Mufti of the Republic, issued an edict a few days ago condemning sculptures as a throwback to idolatry. Most of my friends called the Mufti a Taliban-inspired scholar and a man with no respect for art and creativity. I took his side.

"How many times have I told you we don't make gods in this house?" She didn't hear me. My wife was bending over her pottery wheel, her hands caressing shapeless clay, hair gathered in a plastic bag to protect it from the mud that flew into her face and neck.

Finally, she looked at me, sheepish now when she saw the flames shooting from my born-again Muslim eyes. "These are not gods, I swear, look." She said. "They are just little jars with human faces. This one is a gift to Helen. She's getting married next week." I wasn't convinced. Jars or no jars, I've had it.

Carved images of cats and dogs and alligators, jars looking like dragons and fish, vases resembling three of my favorite dictators - she made these to placate me - were all over the place. Not a single nook in the apartment was free from carved images. I stumble over statues on my way to the bathroom. I knock down Zeus on my way to the phone. Isis and Osiris sit on my reading table, eyes flashing with light once you turn on the switch. I considered calling the Taliban for help. "Have you forgotten your meeting with the Women for Isis tonight?" I decided to be subtle.

Women for Isis were throwing a charity ball that night. It was about helping underprivileged children improve their hieroglyphic writing skills, or weave baskets, I cannot remember. I really should be phoning up Gomaa about it, but later perhaps. I needed time alone.

By the time my wife re-emerged, washed and made up and in her best Pharaonic outfit, looking like a corrupt tax collector's wife from Thebes, I had located the mallet. It was a gift from Frankie in the Bronx. He had used it only once before, and wiped it off afterwards with a towel he later threw in the river along with the big bag.

I kissed my wife at the door and went back to perform one of the most sacred things I've ever done in my life. I swung the mallet and four-to-five inch women, glazed and painted in earthy colors, fell to pieces, arms and legs splintered into shards and heads rolled over the Persian carpet we bought last summer.

I swung again and missed Isis and Osiris, but got the art deco lamp right where it hurts. I'll get better with practice, I said to myself. I rested the mallet on my shoulder and walked around the living room in a state of ecstasy I haven't experienced since the cat.

I was five then and we lived in the fifth floor. "It was his cat, and he was just playing, and cats have nine lives anyway," mom later told the neighbors. The cat didn't make it. Apparently it had exhausted eight lives before this one last fall. How was I to know? Cats survive worse falls, as far as I know. A month earlier, a two year old child in the same building survived a similar fall, and I was just standing by and not even looking when it all happened, I later told everyone. He's an army general now, chasing terrorists in Sinai and scaring everyone else in the process. But when he was only two, he knew who was boss.

My wife walked in on me as I dealt the last blow. I had just found a dozen green gods under the kitchen sink and was hacking them to pieces. Yellow liquid spouted from their metal heads, foaming and writhing like a fountain of hell. "What are you doing darling?" She was standing a safe distance away, half hidden by the doorframe. Restoring harmony and discipline, what else? I said nothing. When the mufti ruled statues as un-Islamic, who was I to contradict him? Besides, I needed shelf space.

"Why are you breaking Stella bottles?" she said. "You just ordered them yesterday." The mallet froze in my hand, froze in midair. With their little shiny tops and their hip shaped form, I had mistaken the bottles for prehistoric deities. While imposing the ban on statues, I have inadvertently enforced the ban on alcohol, the last thing I really wanted to do.

At the door, grasping the contradiction of my religious beliefs, my wife was shaking her head. She doesn't drink. I have married a maker of idols from Texas who doesn't drink and she was now waiting for an explanation. I searched for words and found none. "You know something," I finally said. "We'll keep the Isis and Osiris lamps. They're just lamps for God's sake." Something in her look told me I wasn't replacing the Stellas anytime soon.


brian the sailor said...

You are certainly trying to kill me! Crying on my keyboard could result in electrocution.

Seneferu said...

Glad you liked it:)