“There must have been a hundred kites in the sky that day?” Baba said. “Is that about right, Amir?”
“I guess so,” I mumbled.
“A hundred kites, Homayoun jan. No _laaf_. And the only one still flying at the end of the day was Amir’s. He has the last kite at home, a beautiful blue kite. Hassan and Amir ran it together.”
“Congratulations,” Kaka Homayoun said. His first wife, the one with the warts, clapped her hands. “Wah wah, Amir jan, we’re all so proud of you!” she said. The younger wife joined in. Then they were all clapping, yelping their praises, telling me how proud I’d made them all. Only Rahim Khan, sitting in the passenger seat next to Baba, was silent. He was looking at me in an odd way.
“Please pull over, Baba,” I said.
“Getting sick,” I muttered, leaning across the seat, pressing against Kaka Homayoun’s daughters.
Fazilal/Karima’s face twisted. “Pull over, Kaka! His face is yellow! I don’t want him throwing up on my new dress!” she squealed.
Baba began to pull over, but I didn’t make it. A few minutes later, I was sitting on a rock on the side of the road as they aired out the van. Baba was smoking with Kaka Homayoun who was telling Fazila/Karima to stop crying; he’d buy her another dress in Jalalabad. I closed my eyes, turned my face to the sun. Little shapes formed behind my eyelids, like hands playing shadows on the wall. They twisted, merged, formed a single image: Hassan’s brown corduroy pants discarded on a pile of old bricks in the alley.
KAKA HOMAYOUN’S WHITE, two-story house in Jalalabad had a balcony overlooking a large, walled garden with apple and persimmon trees. There were hedges that, in the summer, the gardener shaped like animals, and a swimming pool with emeraldcolored tiles. I sat on the edge of the pool, empty save for a layer of slushy snow at the bottom, feet dangling in. Kaka Homayoun’s kids were playing hide-and-seek at the other end of the yard. The women were cooking and I could smell onions frying already, could hear the phht-phht of a pressure cooker, music, laughter. Baba, Rahim Khan, Kaka Homayoun, and Kaka Nader were sitting on the balcony, smoking. Kaka Homayoun was telling them he’d brought the projector along to show his slides of France. Ten years since he’d returned from Paris and he was still showing those stupid slides.
It shouldn’t have felt this way. Baba and I were finally friends. We’d gone to the zoo a few days before, seen Marjan the lion, and I had hurled a pebble at the bear when no one was watching. We’d gone to Dadkhoda’s Kabob House afterward, across from Cinema Park, had lamb kabob with freshly baked _naan_ from the tandoor. Baba told me stories of his travels to India and Russia, the people he had met, like the armless, legless couple in Bombay who’d been married forty-seven years and raised eleven children. That should have been fun, spending a day like that with Baba, hearing his stories. I finally had what I’d wanted all those years. Except now that I had it, I felt as empty as this unkempt pool I was dangling my legs into.
The wives and daughters served dinner--rice, kofta, and chicken _qurma_--at sundown. We dined the traditional way, sitting on cushions around the room, tablecloth spread on the floor, eating with our hands in groups of four or five from common platters. I wasn’t hungry but sat down to eat anyway with Baba, Kaka Faruq, and Kaka Homayoun’s two boys. Baba, who’d had a few scotches before dinner, was still ranting about the kite tournament, how I’d outlasted them all, how I’d come home with the last kite. His booming voice dominated the room. People raised their heads from their platters, called out their congratulations. Kaka Faruq patted my back with his clean hand. I felt like sticking a knife in my eye.