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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 22.
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Chapter 22.
January1989One cold, overcast day in January 1989, three months beforeLaila turned eleven, she, her parents, and Hasina went towatch one of the last Soviet convoys exit the city. Spectatorshad gathered on both sides of the thoroughfare outside theMilitary Club near Wazir Akbar Khan. They stood in muddysnow and watched the line of tanks, armored trucks, and jeepsas light snow flew across the glare of the passing headlights.
There were heckles and jeers. Afghan soldiers kept people offthe street. Every now and then, they had to fire a warningshot.
Mammy hoisted a photo of Ahmad and Noor high over herhead. It was the one of them sitting back-to-back under thepear tree. There were others like her, women with pictures oftheirshaheed husbands, sons, brothers held high.
Someone tapped Laila and Hasina on the shoulder. It wasTariq.
"Where did you get that thing?" Hasina exclaimed.
"I thought I'd come dressed for the occasion." Tariq said. Hewas wearing an enormous Russian fur hat, complete withearflaps, which he had pulled down.
"How do I look?""Ridiculous," Laila laughed.
"That's the idea.""Your parents came here with you dressed like this?""They're home, actually," he said.
The previous fall, Tariq's uncle in Ghazni had died of a heartattack, and, a few weeks later, Tariq's father had suffered aheart attack of his own, leaving him frail and tired, prone toanxiety and bouts of depression that overtook him for weeks ata time. Laila was glad to see Tariq like this, like his old selfagain. For weeks after his father's illness, Laila had watchedhim moping around, heavy-faced and sullen.
The three of them stole away while Mammy and Babi stoodwatching the Soviets. From a street vendor, Tariq bought themeach a plate of boiled beans topped with thick cilantro chutney.
They ate beneath the awning of a closed rug shop, thenHasina went to find her family.
On the bus ride home, Tariq and Laila sat behind herparents. Mammy was by the window, staring out, clutching thepicture against her chest. Beside her, Babi was impassivelylistening to a man who was arguing that the Soviets might beleaving but that they would send weapons to Najibullah inKabul.
"He's their puppet. They'll keep the war going through him,you can bet on that."Someone in the next aisle voiced his agreement.
Mammy was muttering to herself, long-winded prayers thatrolled on and on until she had no breath left and had to ekeout the last few words in a tiny, high-pitched squeak.
* * *They "went to Cinema Park later that day, Laila and Tariq,and had to settle for a S............
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