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HOME > Classical Novels > A Thousand Splendid Suns > Chapter 49.
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Chapter 49.
One Sunday that September, Laila is putting Zalmai, who hasa cold, down for a nap when Tariq bursts into their bungalow.
"Did you hear?" he says, panting a little. "They killed him.
Ahmad Shah Massoud. He's dead.""What?"From the doorway, Tariq tells her what he knows.
"They say he gave an interview to a pair of journalists whoclaimed they were Belgians originally from Morocco. As they'retalking, a bomb hidden in the video camera goes off. KillsMassoud and one of the journalists. They shoot the other oneas he tries to run. They're saying now the journalists wereprobably Al-Qaeda men."Laila remembers the poster of Ahmad Shah Massoud thatMammy had nailed to the wall of her bedroom. Massoudleaning forward, one eyebrow cocked, his face furrowed inconcentration, as though he was respectfully listening tosomeone. Laila remembers how grateful Mammy was thatMassoud had said a graveside prayer at her sons' burial, howshe told everyone about it. Even after war broke out betweenhis faction and the others, Mammy had refused to blamehim.He's a good man, she used to say.
He wants peace. He wants to rebuild Afghanistan. But theywon 't let him. They just won 't let him.For Mammy, even inthe end, even after everything went so terribly wrong andKabul lay in ruins, Massoud was still the Lion of Panjshir.
Laila is not as forgiving- Massoud's violent end brings her nojoy, but she remembers too well the neighborhoods razedunder his watch, the bodies dragged from the rubble, thehands and feet of children discovered on rooftops or the highbranch of some tree days after their funeral She rememberstoo clearly the look on Mammy's own face moments before therocket slammed in and, much as she has tried to forget, Babi'sheadless torso landing nearby, the bridge tower printed on hisT-shirt poking through thick fog and blood.
"There is going to be a funeral," Tariq is saying. "I'm sure ofit. Probably in Rawalpindi. It'll be huge."Zalmai, who was almost asleep, is sitting up now, rubbing hiseyes with balled fists.
Two days later, they are cleaning a room when they hear acommotion. Tariq drops the mop and hurries out. Laila tailshim.
Thenoise is coming from the hotel lobby. There is a loungearea to the right of the reception desk, with several chairs andtwo couches upholstered in beige suede. In the corner, facingthe couches, is a television, and Sayeed, the concierge, andseveral guests are gathered in front of.
Laila and Tariq work their way in.
The TV is tuned to BBC. On the screen is a building, atower, black smoke billowing from its top floors. Tariq sayssomething to Sayeed and Sayeed is in midreply when a planeappears from the corner of the screen. It crashes into theadjacent tower, exploding into a fireball that dwarfs any ball offire that Laila has ever seen. A collective yelp rises fromeveryone in the lobby.
In less than two hours, both towers have collapsedSoon all the TV stations are talking about Afghanistan and theTaliban and Osama bin Laden.
* * *"Did you hear what the Taliban said?" Tariq asks. "About binLaden?"Aziza is sitting across from him on the bed, considering theboard. Tariq has taught her to play chess. She is frowning andtapping her lower lip now, mimicking the body language herfather assumes when he's deciding on a move.
Zalmai's cold is a little better. He is asleep, and Laila isrubbing Vicks on his chest.
"I heard," she says.
The Taliban have announced that they won't relinquish binLaden because he is amehman, a guest, who has foundsanctuary in Afghanistan and it is against thePashiunwali codeof ethics to turn over a guest. Tariq chuckles bitterly, and Lailahears in his chuckle that he is revolted by this distortion of anhonorable Pashtun custom, this misrepresentation of his people'sways.
A few days after the attacks, Laila and Tariq are in the hotellobby again. On the TV screen, George W. Bush is speaking.
There is a big American flag behind him. At one point, hisvoice wavers, and Laila ............
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