A Marriage Contract
A Novel Excerptby J. Kevin Shushtari
Anoush sat between his father and Baba Bijan, who maneuvered the Model-T touring car as if high were the only gear. Pushing in the clutch and using the hand throttle while steering was impossible for him. He either stepped on the brake, stalling the car, or advanced at full speed, veering around ruts in the dirt road, barely missing merchants with loaded donkeys, and swerving past caravans of lurching camels. Baba Bijan was taking Anoush’s father, Ali Khan, from the family compound in central Tehran to Ahwaz for a meeting with a wealthy landowner to finalize the details of a marriage contract. Ali Khan, a retired general, already had four wives. Ten-year-old Anoush, the eldest son of the senior wife, had begged to go along. Baba Bijan laughed as he marveled aloud at the car’s rapid acceleration, his black hair wild in the wind, bright-red silk scarf flying behind him. Ali Khan said nothing as he sat straight in his neatly pressed military uniform, fingering his white moustache, Dunhill pipe firmly between his teeth. During these rides Anoush felt close to his father, who allowed a faint smile as the eunuch, with his driving goggles covered in dust, furiously squeezed the black rubber bulb of the trumpet horn and hollered at anyone in their path. The automobile was one of perhaps a dozen in Tehran, and people stared as the cherry-red Ford with brass trim and white tires roared over the road, whipping up a cloud of fine sand.