For a week, I barely saw Hassan. I woke up to find toasted bread, brewed tea, and a boiled egg already on the kitchen table. My clothes for the day were ironed and folded, left on the cane-seat chair in the foyer where Hassan usually did his ironing. He used to wait for me to sit at the breakfast table before he started ironing--that way, we could talk. Used to sing too, over the hissing of the iron, sang old Hazara songs about tulip fields. Now only the folded clothes greeted me. That, and a breakfast I hardly finished anymore.
One overcast morning, as I was pushing the boiled egg around on my plate, Ali walked in cradling a pile of chopped wood. I asked him where Hassan was.
“He went back to sleep,” Ali said, kneeling before the stove. He pulled the little square door open.
Would Hassan be able to play today?
Ali paused with a log in his hand. A worried look crossed his face. “Lately, it seems all he wants to do is sleep. He does his chores--I see to that--but then he just wants to crawl under his blanket. Can I ask you something?”
“If you have to.”
“After that kite tournament, he came home a little bloodied and his shirt was torn. I asked him what had happened and he said it was nothing, that he’d gotten into a little scuffle with some kids over the kite.”
I didn’t say anything. Just kept pushing the egg around on my plate.
“Did something happen to him, Amir agha? Something he’s not telling me?”
I shrugged. “How should I know?”
“You would tell me, nay? _Inshallah_, you would tell me if some thing had happened?”
“Like I said, how should I know what’s wrong with him?” I snapped. “Maybe he’s sick. People get sick all the time, Ali. Now, am I going to freeze to death or are you planning on lighting the stove today?”