The war goes on. It seems endless. But it should end some day, because everything ends some day. And this war is something. And something is included in everything. There is something in everything.

She opened the door a crack. “The war will end,” I said.

“Shut up!” she said. I could see only her eyes, her head a tad slanted. She was still sleepy.

“Why don’t you open the door?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

“But why?”

“Because this is my house and I decide who gets in.”

I thought this was fair. “This is not fair,” I said and I knew it would not be beneficial to add anything else to that, at seven in the morning, but I shifted my orange towel from under my left arm to under my right arm and said: “We have to help the ones in war, don’t we?” That was the worst thing I could possibly have thought of.

She opened the door and stood Amanda-like in the door, looking at me, pathetic with my towel under my arm and the plastic bag of my shower things on the floor at my feet. “Okay,” Amanda said. “But why don’t you entertain me first?”

After I stripped to my underwear and danced blindly in front of her apartment with my orange towel draped over my head, twisting around like a dervish, I got to use the shower. I don’t know what had gotten into her that morning and I thought it would be beneficial if I didn’t, since there was always a tomorrow and I might have to do shameful things to get into the shower or, worse still, go to the other neighbors: the man who lived with his son and father and grandfather in an apartment, or his wife who lived next door to them with her lover, or the couple no one talked to because no one knew what the language they spoke was called.

Once out of the shower, I saw Amanda flossing on the sofa. It could be that she had had her breakfast or it could be that she was depressed again. She can’t stop flossing when she is down. I sneaked out with a humble, under-the-breath “thank you.”

I meet Roy every day, during my unpaid one-hour lunch break, from one to two in the afternoon, in Once Upon a Tart café. He is an accountant somewhere and he believes he will be promoted CEO before he turns 35. “That’s a good age to become a CEO,” I told him over a steaming coffee the first day he told me about it.

“What do you do?” he asked me. I explained to him that I was a Steam Turbine List Checker. He asked me for more details and I told him that everyday, they gave me two identical series of lists of steam turbine parts names and numbers and I had to check to make sure they are actually identical.

“Are they often identical?” Roy asked.

“Yes, they are,” I answered.

He took a sip of his coffee. “Why would they have you do that, then?” he asked.

“What if they aren’t?” I took a sip of my coffee.

“Fair enough!” he said and took a sip of his coffee. “Is that the only thing you do?” he asked.

I took a sip of my coffee. “I also sell steam turbines,” I answered. “For each steam turbine I sell I will receive a five-hundred-dollar bonus.”

“Great,” he said, taking a sip of his coffee. “How many have you sold so far?”

“Zero,” I said. “Do you want one?”

“Hmm! How much are they?”

“Depends on its power and characteristics; but let’s say somewhere around 13.5 million,” I said.

He took a sip of his coffee. “Good. I’ll let you know when I need one.”

That is what I told Roy that day. I thought it would be beneficial not to tell him about the war after what I had told, and I did not. I told him a week later.

Back home I cooked some beans and watched TV. Amanda had told me she wanted to watch the war the night before, and I had told her I would cook beans. But I wasn’t sure if she would show up after what she had done in the morning. It could be that she was too pissed off to show up. I was dozing off on the sofa when she rang the bell. I opened the door.

“About this morning,” she said. “I’m not sorry.”

“Can I use your shower tomorrow?” I asked.

“You can,” she said.

“The beans are hot and the war is still on!” I said.

She came in. Blue jeans and black T-shirt. When I came back from the kitchen with two plates of beans she was standing at the closed bathroom door.

“I like it,” she said, pointing to the sign I had put up on the door. The sign read: “DON’T DISTURB. WAR IN PROGRESS!”

We went in. She sat on the same small blue stool she sat before. I handed her the plates, drew the curtain and sat on the toilet.

The war was on. Small boats with tiny soldiers sailed the bathtub, firing every now and then at each other. There were small helicopters flying over the water trying to shoot the boats. The water was clear enough and you could see the two submarines circling the bathtub menacingly, dodging torpedoes fired by the other. There were even two battleships pouring heavy, but inaccurate fire on each other every once in a while. Tiny half-inch frogmen in black suites, swam right below the surface, not too deep.

Amanda was looking unbelievingly. “It has grown! Where did the ships and helicopters come from?” she asked.

“I don’t know. They were there one morning. They must have brought it during the night.”

Aaaaaaaaah! A man got shot in his boat and fell screaming into the water. BOOM! One ship fired a cannon shot which landed near the middle of the tub making small ripples that capsized a tiny boat carrying two soldiers who fell into the water. Another boat went to their rescue.

“Eat your beans,” I told Amanda who hadn’t even started eating. She ate a spoonful while still staring at the battlefield. “Chew,” I said. And she started chewing.

The blood from the dead soldier had already dissolved in the water. His body was floating near his boat.

“Who are they?” Amanda asks.

I told her that the ones in the dark blue uniform hitting from right to left, were IBlues because of the little i on their ship flag and the other ones were UKaks because there was a small u on their flag and they were in khakis. I also added that the UKaks hit from left to right which, judging from the looks on her face, didn’t prove to be a beneficial remark.

The UKak boat carrying the two rescued soldiers was heading toward their battleship when an IBlue helicopter caught sight of it and started chasing it. “Oh, my God,” Amanda suddenly shouted, “it’s going to get them.” She grabbed my wrist, my plate tilted and the beans spilled on my crotch. And they were still hot.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

I brushed the beans off of my pants with my hand shouting “ouch”es and “ow”s. Amanda had one eye on the war and one eye on my crotch. “The chopper’s going to get them, oh, God!” The IBlue helicopter was trying to shoot the UKak boat. The four tiny UKaks were shooting back at the helicopter with their tiny machine guns, but in vain. I pinched my pants crotch, holding the fabric away from what was underneath. The air in the bathroom smelled like fume and sulfur. There were now a number of bodies floating on the water.

She held my arm. “Are you all right, Ryan? Oh God, we have to do something!” The IBlue helicopter was very close now and the UKak boat bobbed up and down in the ripples caused by its missiles. But all of a sudden . . . BOOM! The helicopter exploded. The corpse on flames crashed into the water. The UKak battleship cannon barrel was smoking. “Yaaaaay!” Amanda screamed, jumping with joy. She hugged me and we jumped up and down.

The next morning I didn’t have to do the pre-shower dance, and Amanda was not flossing. After the shower she asked me if she could bring her friend over to watch the war. I usually do not like strangers in my house. But the thing was that she had the shower. I had my war and she had her shower and there is always a tomorrow. So I saw it beneficial to answer yes. Amanda said she would bring drinks.

At Tart, I told Roy about the night before. “Man, that’s awesome!” he said. “Do you know where they come from?”

I did not know where they came from. I did not know where they had come from in the first place. “I don’t know,” I said. “From the vent maybe?”

He thought for a bit. He took a bite of his sandwich and chew it carefully. I took a sip of my coffee. Roy swallowed his bite and wiped his lips on a tissue. “Can I come and watch?” I pressed my lips together, but not very tight. Only very slightly.

There was barely room for the four of us in the bathroom. I had fit in two chairs next to the blue stool and we used the toilet seat as the table. Penny was Amanda’s friend from high school who was in a black dress, black pumps, and full breast health. Amanda placed the two bottles of Shiraz on the toilet seat and by the time I brought the glasses and food, Roy had already seen it beneficial to seat himself on the stool as close as possible to Penny. The war was going on behind the curtain and we could hear screams and all kinds of firearms being shot.

Then I drew the curtain.

It was hell. There were far more floating bodies than the previous night, four helicopters and more frogmen and boats. The battleships kept firing with their little flags flying in whatever breeze that was blowing in my bathroom.

Roy opened a bottle and we drank.

There were all kinds of fumes in the air. Aaaaaaah! Someone got shot. Amanda had buried her face in her hands sifting the scene through her fingers. Aaaaaaah! Three UKak boats sank an IBlue boat. An IBlue chopper shot into the water and moments later two  frogmen’s bodies came up floating on the surface.

“Oh, my God! This is unbelievable.” Penny had gotten to her feet and was standing there stupefied. She handed me her empty glass which I refilled. Roy had gotten up, too. He was mesmerized. Water splashed out of the tub.

I saw the grimace on Amanda’s face and set my hand on her shoulder.

“Fill this to the the brim, man,” Roy said handing me his glass. “This is awesome, don’t you think, honey?” This he said to Penny. I filled his glass.

“Oh, my God, look over there. It’s sinking, it’s sinking!” Penny shouted pointing to the UKak battleship. The ship was sinking fast and hoards of men were descending miniature ladders to board rescue lifeboats. Others dived into the tub and swam towards the closest boat. It must have been a submarine torpedo.

The IBlues, encouraged by this, started a full-fledged attack on UKaks. Their battleship set off towards the scattered UKak boats opening a hellish fire on them.

“Over my dead body!” Amanda sprang up, grabbed the shower and turned on the faucet, showering the IBlues with hot water. A couple of boats sank. The battleship fired blindly and in the meantime the UKak choppers attacked. First they brought down both the IBlues choppers and then the battleship itself.

Aaaaaaaaaaah! Tiny bodies. Drops of blood.

“I can’t hold it anymore. I have to piss,” Roy said. “Hold these.” He handed us the bottles and glasses on the toilet seat and lifted the lid.

The next morning Amanda demanded the dance again and, once more, I became the whirling dervish, except that I had an orange towel on my head and I was dancing in a Manhattan corridor and that people who happened to see me in the morning didn’t think of me as a mystic but as a lunatic.

“Is it enough?” I asked after I had danced for a good two or three minutes.

“Yeah. Go hit the shower, warboy,” she said. There was something either mischievous or playful in her voice.

“I don’t want to dance in the corridor in the morning,” I said, sounding a little annoyed. “You know what? I’m going to end the war.”

“Great, go end the war, hero,” she said with a smile on her lips and a slap on my hip as I was going into the bathroom. The smile was nothing unexpected, but the slap was. I saw it beneficial not to mention it. I took my shower and headed to work.

The four of us watched some more war at night and the next morning I got another slap on the hip and we went out to dinner in the evening, spaghetti for me and salmon for her. We were back home in time before Roy and Penny arrived.

The curtain opened. . . . Aaaaaaaaaaaaah! . . . The curtain closed.

A week passed in the same way. But their forces seemed to be dwindling. There were a little less men and equipments each night. Men fought with less zeal than they used to during the past weeks and there were less tiny people killed and injured. We then decided to do the watching every other day and added cards to it for the times they strategically messed around. We played cards and drank and ate and every once in a while got our attention drawn to an Aaaaaaaah! or some sporadic cannon or gun shot. Until we canceled the weekend war watching.

“Why don’t you pull the plug?” Roy asked me over the coffee one day.

“Why would I do that?” I asked.

“To end the war,” he answered.

I thought a little bit. “Even if I did, they wouldn’t go down the drain,” I said. I took a sip of my coffee. He checked the time on his watch. It was a pandemonium of cars honking horns and people rushing back and forth outside the cafe.

“I got to go,” he said, and left.

That night the war ended. When I closed the door behind me, I noticed it was unusually quiet. Even though the war had diminished considerably in scale during the past weeks, there had always been gunshots and shrill cries of the wounded every once in a while.

I went into the bathroom and flung the curtain open. There was nothing: no IBlues, no UKaks. They were simply gone. There were still some dead bodies on the water and there were the corpses of the crashed choppers and hulk of the battleships and boats settled at the bottom of the tub. I fished the few bodies out of the water, setting them on the palm of my hand examining them closely. They didn’t seem that real; more like plastic toy soldiers. Or maybe it was because they had been soaked for so long in the water. I couldn’t believe it was was over, that we won’t be seeing them again. I threw them away into the wastebasket, sank into the sofa and watched junk on TV. Now I would have my whole shower to me. All the time. I fell sleep right there on the sofa. With the junk on.

Roy seemed a bit indifferent about the war. “Why, the war is over? Oh!”

“Yeah, they’re gone,” I said. “All of them.”

We didn’t say much during the sandwich. I watched the people. They were all talking, making noise loudly. I thought it would be beneficial for us to make some noise ourselves. So we talked over the coffee.

“Where are you going for the summer vacation?” I asked, taking a sip of my coffee.

“To Mexico,” Roy said. He took a sip of his coffee.

“Do you think you might need a steam turbine for the trip?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” he answered. “But if I do, I’ll let you know first.” And he took a sip of his coffee.

 

Photo by tsmall

Alireza Taheri Araghi

ALIREZA TAHERI ARAGHI is an Iranian writer and translator. His work has appeared in the Gloom Cupboard and Avatar Review and his translations are forthcoming in RHINO and Asymptote. He has published a collection of short stories, I'm an Old Abacus (in Farsi), and his translations into Farsi include Samuel Beckett's Texts for Nothing and Richard Brautigan's Revenge of the Lawn. He is currently an MFA Creative Writing candidate at the University of Notre Dame and edits the online journal PARAGRAPHITI.

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