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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 20.
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Chapter 20.
The ailments that would hound Mammy for the rest of herdays began. Chest pains and headaches, joint aches and nightsweats, paralyzing pains in her ears, lumps no one else couldfeel. Babi took her to a doctor, who took blood and urine, shotX-rays of Mammy's body, but found no physical illness.
Mammy lay in bed most days. She wore black. She picked ather hair and gnawed on the mole below her lip. WhenMammy was awake, Laila found her staggering through thehouse. She always ended up in Laila's room, as though shewould run into the boys sooner or later if she just keptwalking into the room where they had once slept and fartedand fought with pillows. But all she ran into was their absence.
And Laila. Which, Laila believed, had become one and thesame to Mammy.
The only task Mammy never neglected was her fivedailynamaz prayers. She ended eachnamaz with her head hunglow, hands held before her face, palms up, muttering a prayerfor God to bring victory to the Mujahideen. Laila had toshoulder more and more of the chores. If she didn't tend tothe house, she was apt to find clothes, shoes, open rice bags,cans of beans, and dirty dishes strewn about everywhere. Lailawashed Mammy's dresses and changed her sheets. She coaxedher out of bed for baths and meals. She was the one whoironed Babi's shirts and folded his pants. Increasingly, she wasthe cook.
Sometimes, after she was done with her chores, Laila crawledinto bed next to Mammy. She wrapped her arms around her,laced her fingers with her mother's, buried her face in her hair.
Mammy would stir, murmur something. Inevitably, she wouldstart in on a story about the boys.
One day, as they were lying this way, Mammy said, "Ahmadwas going to be a leader. He had the charisma for it-Peoplethree times his age listened to him with respect, Laila. It wassomething to see. And Noon Oh, my Noor. He was alwaysmaking sketches of buildingsand bridges. He was going to bean architect, you know. He was going to transform Kabul withhis designs. And now they're bothshaheed, my boys, bothmartyrs."Laila lay there and listened, wishing Mammy would noticethatshe, Laila, hadn't becomeshaheed, that she was alive, here,in bed with her, that she had hopes and a future. But Lailaknew that her future was no match for her brothers' past.
They had overshadowed her in life. They would obliterate herin death. Mammy was now the curator of their lives' museumand she, Laila, a mere visitor. A receptacle for their myths.
Theparchment on which Mammy meant to ink their legends.
"The messenger who came with the news, he said that whenthey brought the boys back to camp, Ahmad Shah Massoudpersonally oversaw the burial. He said a prayer for them at thegravesite. That's the kind of brave young men your brotherswere, Laila, that Commande............
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