The Button/ Part 2–A Twice Told Story With A New Ending

September 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Reza did something, you know,” Malalai said, “that day when the air was soft and warm.” Professor Jalali had hung his jacket on the back of his chair and gone outside during our small break in his lecture. We were not allowed outside but the Professor could go outside and have a smoke or a drink of water. Reza went over to where the jacket was hung on the back of the chair, took out his penknife and cut off the Professor’s button. “No,” I said but Reza only laughed. “What do you think, Malalai? What do you think will happen?”
When the Professor returned, he put on his suit jacket. A Professor must look professional. He cleared his throat to continue his lecture on the cardio-vascular system and his left hand automatically went for the button. But, the button was not there. The hand flew nervously up to the next button that was there but that would not do—no, the hand flew back down to the missing space—where was the second button? This now too, along with the Russians and their bad teeth and their bombs and his beautiful, lost city. The Professor looked up at us—our blank, young faces. Reza was smiling. He was smelling the apricots—to hell with the Russians. The Professor looked at the students, his left hand trembling by his side. “There is something wrong,” he said. Malalai looked at Professor Jalali. She hated Reza for a moment—that boy who was not serious and only wanted to be a poet. Professor Jalali stuffed his lecture notes into his leather briefcase and snapped it shut. “I must go,” he said. “Class is dismissed,” and he fled. “We all ran to the window to see if he would truly leave the building. We saw him walking fast down the street passing soldiers lounging next to a store that sold cooked chicken.”
“What happened then,” I asked. Malalai said, “We went home.” Next Tuesday the Professor returned with a new button sewn onto his jacket. But, there are many mines buried on the road leading out of Kabul,” she said. “Many places where a boy who snips a button could step.”

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