Monday, 4 May 2009

Short Story

Talking of Organs.

When Um Ghafur, or Ghafur's mum, wife of Maitre Saad Kadir (Abu Ghafur or Ghafur's dad, presumably at least) went with her inseparable butch companion, Ms Alia Abdul Wahid, school mistress at the Bardudia Primary School for Girls at the Toub district, in the direction of the Midan bazaar, they passed by the sprawling Defence Coffee House. It was so called not for any part it had ever played in defence of the country or indeed in anything, but simply because it happened to be situated at Baghdad's main thoroughfare, the notable Rashid Street, just opposite the Ministry of Defence, which made it a natural haunt for Army officers playing backgammon all day long. The café was, as usual, full of customers, all of the male sex, whiling away the time by playing games or chatting and shouting. As the two ladies passed by, Um Ghafur could no longer resist this irksome question which had bothered her for a good many years. She turned to her companion, the school teacher, Alia, and asked her:

'Tell me, dear - these men sitting in this smoky café day and night talking - what do they talk about all this time?'

'Why, darling, what do you think they talk about? They have nothing to talk about other than your capital (مالك )and my capital ((مالي.'

What this respectable primary school teacher meant in her local Iraqi dialect by 'capital' was the sexual organ, or what is euphemistically put in the Holy Koran as the 'farg' or the cleavage. It was a very appropriate and clever expression, for a woman's sexual organ in that part of the globe is indeed her only real asset and capital in this world. Well used, it can raise the status of the most wretched street pedlar or orange seller to the rank of a minister or a prominent lady rolling in riches. Stupidly used and abused, it would only lead her to the dagger or bullet of the honour cleanser, be that her father, brother, husband or any kinsman, however near or far. She was right in what was usually talked about in the café, but at that point in time she was wrong, for the group of middle- aged men sitting around the table facing the ramshackle pavement outside, and who attracted her attention and inspired the comment, were not discussing her 'capital' or her friend's 'capital' but rather their own 'capital'.

They met daily at this café and took up their positions, always at this corner to watch more closely any female creature passing by and make their sound comments. Abu Lutfi, the former clerk at the Passport Office who was sacked for failing to share his bribes with his boss, did not, however, attend this regular gathering for two days. His friends were worried. He might have been arrested and sent to the Aby Gharib's concentration camp, they thought, or perhaps shot dead outside his house in one of those endless 'acts of God'. God became very busy with these acts in this period of the Revolution.

'Where have you been, Abu Lutfi? You made us very worried about you. We thought of calling on you to enquire, but in the end we told ourselves- better not. You know how things are. Still, tell us. We hope all is well.'

'Oh, yes. All is well, thanks be to Allah. Nothing wrong at all. I felt as if I was catching the flu or something and decided to stay in bed until I was alright. But I was wrong. There was nothing the matter with me. No flu, cold or anything.'

'Strange! How on earth did you think you were going to get influenza? Do you have a radar monitoring the approach of germs?

'Oh, yes indeed. I have such a radar - a foolproof radar. It is my penis, pardon the expression. Like most men, I am used to waking up just before dawn. I get my sleep interrupted by my capital. I find it erect and strong like steel, eager for action. It remains so for one or two hours, depriving me totally from sleep until it gets fed up, gives up hope and shrinks and goes back to sleep. With that, I resume my own sleeping peacefully.'

'That is right, my dear Abu Lutfi. All men have the same problem. Sometimes the penis refuses to relax and goes back to sleep until the unhappy man is forced to grab his poor woman, sleeping soundly as she might be by his side, and give her one. This is what is called the dawn intercourse. It is a good one. The best. Our divines say that the dawn intercourse is blessed by the Almighty. The offspring would be strong and healthy. There is also more fun and enjoyment in it, because it has God's own blessings on it for as soon as the work is done, the man gets up, does the ablutions and makes his dawn prayer. At least that is how it used to be. But people nowadays think of nothing other than the fuck and forget all about God.'

Having heard these wise observations from Major General Hamid al-Dabshuli, twice decorated with the Rafidain Medal for Valour, Abu Lutfi resumed his narrative.

'You are right, General. So, a couple of days passed without me waking up at night at all. My capital made no attempt to arouse me. It never swelled or got any erection. I knew I was in for some trouble - some virus, some illness.'

Here, the retired civil servant was once more interrupted by Major General al-Dabshuli, who had developed a totally different means of diagnosis. 'Yes, what you say may be quite correct for you, my dear friend, but I personally can always recognise the imminent attack of a cold from my shoulders. As soon as I feel a chill in my shoulders at the back, I know I am going to have a cold. I immediately get out my woollen jumpers and keep myself warm. Like all Iraqis bent on contradicting each other, Maitre Abdul Hussain Mutlaq hastened to put a different point of view. 'No, no, no, not the shoulders. It is the legs. When you feel your legs aching, be one hundred per cent sure that you are going to get influenza. Look to your legs. This is what the old proverb says: "Fever comes from your feet". This is what I always say. Keep your feet warm and your head cool.'
'My experiences tell me,' Ali Nufal, a wheat merchant from Basrah, interposed, 'that it is not the shoulders or the legs which signal the approach of a nasty cold, but the throat. As soon as you feel a tickle there, some sore spot, take a couple of aspirins and go to bed immediately. Keep yourself warm and drink lots of hot drinks.'

The discussion went on among this happy group of old friends about sickness and health, what symptoms, what remedies, how best to recognise diabetes, ulcers, blood pressure, heart trouble, etc. Someone referred to interrupted sleep, another thought it was the other way around i.e. excessive tendency to fatigue and sleep. Shaikh Abdul Rahim Agha spoke about his experiences with his stomach ulcer. Whenever he felt he must eat something outside the normal time, he knew his ulcer was starting again. All was not well. Abu Lutfi resumed his analysis.

'Oh, good people, believe you me, by the Almighty Allah who gathered us here and will re-gather us on his Day of Judgement, I tell you. All this talk about your shoulders, legs, feet, throats and what have you is irrelevant. Forget them all and keep your eyes on your penis. It is your most accurate barometer. Watch him. He is your good and free guide. He monitors and responds to anything going on inside you. Whenever I have something amiss, he shrinks and rejects any attempt to arouse him. I haven't finished my story yet. What I have learnt also was to look at his behaviour as an indicator of my condition and the progress of my illness. When I am not well, I cannot even find him to pass water. He is no longer in this world. He doesn't exist. But as soon as I see some life in him, swelling and raising his head, I know the treatment is working. My quack has done a good job. Believe you me, you can test your condition from the firmness and eagerness of your penis. Measure its length as it extends and you get a good idea of the extent of your recovery.'

'Like a thermometer.'

'Oh, Abu Abdullah, better than any thermometer, barometer or what have you.'

The truth is that not only Abu Lutfi made this useful discovery, but also his wife, Um Lutfi who, over the years of sharing the same bed, noticed the same scientific phenomenon. In her turn, whenever she was awakened by Abu Lutfi's hard instrument pressing and prodding her side, her thigh or her bottom she knew that her husband was O.K., brimming with good health. She would smile contentedly and say one or two words of thanks to the merciful and compassionate God for looking after the wellbeing of this family. But woe to her if she woke up and found nothing pressing on her side in that strategic part of her anatomy. She would then stretch her arm under the blanket and look for it because sometimes it could be concealed between her husband's legs or stretching between the big folds of his fat belly. Once found, strong, fully blown and extended to its full length, she would feel reassured and cite a verse of blessings from the Holy Koran: 'Remember thou God's bounties upon you if Him thou doth worship.' This said, she would leave his penis, that is, her husband's penis, in peace, turn to the other side and go back to sleep. If, for whatever reason, she happened to find it contracted and lying limp over his testicles like a stale and short runner bean or small mouldy piece of okra, she would be overwhelmed with anxiety and spend the rest of the night with her eyes wide open, waiting for the early hours of the morning, praying all the time for some holy saint or some descendant of the Prophet to intervene and restore her husband's willy to full erection and good health in mercy for this poor family in these unhappy days of shortages and UN sanctions and all these bastards of the Ba'th Party lurking on every street corner.

Sometimes, she could not bear it any longer and woke up her husband with a nudge into his stomach or a gentle pull of his penis. 'Darling, Abu Lutfi, apple of my eye, what is the matter with you? Something wrong? God forbid! Tell me darling, why is it so?' She would give it another pull. 'Why so limp and lifeless? Go and see the doctor.'

Abu Lutfi went on advising his friends and urging them to keep a good watch over their penises. 'Since I discovered this fact of life, I've lost sight of my capital. I don't care at all for what goes on in the rest of my body, leg, head, tonsils, whatever. These are all secondary items. As long as I wake at three or four in the morning with full erection, with my capital hard and strong, its head upright and ready for attack, I know I am all right. I am told that even some scientists in the United States started to check the health of their president by the duration of his penis's erection at night. This is a matter on which world peace depends. They brought him a Jewish consultant from Tel Aviv to monitor the state of his penis. Never mind the election, they said, watch over the erection.

The discussion went forward and backward, this way and that way, with plenty of reminiscences, references, citation of verses and proverbs, what Plato had said, al-Farrabi and Avicenna, what the old divinities and doctors had written about the sexual organs, coitus, erotic desires, descriptions of penises and vaginas, their categories and complexions. What is good and desirable in them, or detestable and unappetising. What men prefer and what women desire. Major General al-Dabshuli dwelt on the subject of length and size. Did it matter? Was it the length or width which made the difference. Shaikh Abdul Rahim touched on the subject of boys and how their anuses could be easily torn and damaged by oversized ones and unmindful fisting

All in all, school mistress Alia Aabdul Wahid's notion that this group of men were discussing her capital and her companion's capital was totally wrong. They were indeed discussing their own capitals. Thus they started their evening and thus they concluded their session. They rose to settle their account with the café owner, Said Abdul Azim, and bade each other good night.

'Have a good sleep. And you, Abu Lutfi, we wish you well. May the Almighty Allah bless your capital tonight with a good erection. He is the most powerful and all compassionate.'

The men dispersed to their own homes at Sabunchia, al-Toub or Bab al-Muadam as the case might have been . They just parted for the night like all Middle Eastern men, only to meet the following day at the same place to start all over again, drink their Turkish coffee or tea - sweet as syrup - and smoke their favourite hubble bubble. Mr. Wail Abu Lutfi appeared once more with the evening newspaper under his arm.

'Salam alykum, my friends.'

'And alykum al - Salam. Hope you are well today, Abu Lutfi. How did you feel last night? How was your capital? In good shape, I hope. Strong and alert like a python?'

'Just like a rod of iron, solid like steel, Abu Abdulla.'

'Praise be to Allah! There is no power except from Him.'

The forgoing story is dedicated to my GP , Dr. Peter Tudor Miles and all the medical practitioners in the Wimbledon Village Surgery who always ask their patients, do they smoke , do they drink, do they sleep well, any pain? How often do they pass water? What colour is their shit? But they never ask them about their sexual life and how often do

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