Chapters 43-44 Summary
Mariam takes Zalmai upstairs to her bedroom, and the boy bounces his new basketball around the room. Mariam asks him to stop, but Zalmai never respects Mariam as an authority figure, so he continues misbehaving. Zalmai is skeptical of Tariq; when they met him at their front door, Zalmai resorted to childish behavior and shoved his thumb in his mouth. Zalmai asks Mariam who the man is and tells her that he does not like him. Meanwhile, his basketball has rolled into the closet, so he screams for his toy until Laila comes upstairs to soothe him. Mariam waits outside the room and sees Tariq near the bottom of the stairs. She realizes that the story of his death was a rouse and wonders how much Rasheed paid Abdul Sharif to come to their home years ago to tell the lie of Tariq’s death.
Tariq tells Laila stories of his time in prison. One tale involves the Taliban’s forcing Tariq’s cellmate to paint flamingoes in a decent manner. Laila laughs at the image of trousers painted onto the bare legs of the birds, but she hides her smile; she feels ashamed of her yellowing teeth and the gap where a tooth is missing. Laila looks at the signs of age on Tariq—his slimmer frame, new gestures, and dull eyes. She thinks of his parents. When Laila inquires about them, Tariq sadly tells her that both have passed away. Tariq offers Laila a block of cheese made from the milk of his goat, and he tells her about his home in the foothills. Both agree that they no longer recognize anyone from the old days, nor do they recognize the new face of Kabul. Tariq tells Laila about his time spent at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Peshawar. Many children died from dysentery and other diseases. His father died that...
(The entire section is 480 words.)