47.2 - Spring 2018

Page 70

out of earshot, and I attempted conversation with a young villager I recognized. “Amin-Allah, A salaam alaikum.” Amin-Allah, a fair-skinned Afghani boy of about twelve, rattled off some Pashto I didn’t understand, then some that I did. “Cigarette, maata raka.” It sounded like an order, but his pleading eyes turned it into a question. I dug a pack of Japanese 7-Stars out of the shoulder pocket of my cammies and produced one for each of us. “Hashish, Amin-Allah?” I questioned between drags of stale smoke. He rapidly muttered back at me and laughed. He motioned for a lighter and I gave it to him. “I’m not joking, dude!” I protested as the boy flicked the lighter and took a drag daintily, like a girl. “Hashish maata raka,” I ordered again, exhausting all the Pashto I knew. We smoked together for a while and I tried, unsuccessfully, to get Amin-Allah to sneak into his dad’s room and steal me some hash. “I know he’s got some!” I yelled at the boy’s back as he left me and threw the butt of his cigarette into the dirt. I turned back down the alley, where nearby a few older men were lounging in a buttery square of sunlight. They were strangers, but I decided to see if they could help my cause. I approached them with a wave and pulled out the deck of cards. The men’s eyes lit up when they saw the deck, and like the earlier children with the candy, a chorus of adults insisted, “Maata raka—” as they pawed at me. “No!” I said emphatically as I put the cards away and drew back. “You maata raka ME some hashish, and I’ll maata raka you the cards.” As we argued, a middle-aged, well-fed man with a thick, greasy beard and an olive turban passed through the alley toward the square. He drew near cautiously and cocked his head. “Shish?” He whispered slyly from the opposite wall. 62

PHOEBE


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