Spring 2011, Volume 10

Fiction by Ron Darian

Village Zaghoor

Quite a surprise. Gadara’s husband never took time from his meetings, his travels. He never joined her on the patio for tea.

“I tell you something, my love,” Avram said.

She smiled. She encouraged him with her open face. Just above, one of her crows soared through the shadow of her California Sycamore.

Could she ever grow tired of this? Lounging like a princess after the morning heat, when the scent of the grasses mixed with the cherry trees and the air over the patio was cool and sweet? She would have to remind Chef Artoog to prepare the kitchen staff for picking. The figs should be ripe any day now.

“Forgive for my words—you learn more quickly than me,” Avram said. “For you, I say this in English. Lav-eh?

Shad lav,” she said.

But Gadara was distracted. The sound again. She looked past her husband’s shoulder to the garden. Low voices. They seemed to come from the pepper trees beyond the gate. The other side of the fence.

She looked back at her husband. His gaze had never wavered.

“Three years ago—you like when I remind you this, yes?” he said.

Gadara did.

“I make promise for house. Car. Look after your mother and father. Yes?”

“The biggest house I have ever seen. The nicest car I have ever seen,” she said.

She loved his intensity and pride when he spoke of these things. It made the ground beneath her feet strong, the future feel like today. Of course, this was how Avram had worked his magic so quickly back in Yerevan. Why she had said yes after only a handful of lunchtime picnics in Victory Park. She had been eighteen and had almost completed her training at the clinic. He was thirty-eight and wore tailored suits, and she never thought twice about the chance to live like people in magazines. San Diego, he had said. Close to Los Angeles, to Hollywood. Like the movie stars, he said. So she built an idea of love she could fall into, a soft pillow she could bury her head under, and she did. In spite of her father’s warnings. In spite of Avram’s belly and his walrus cheeks, his bristly moustache, his thinning hair. His secrets. Because, in truth, he was devoted to her, and he could provide like the Lord Himself.

Two voices, three. From behind the trees. Maybe the landscapers. But on a Sunday?

“In Yerevan,” Avram said, “I was not the businessman I maybe tried to sound. You know this.”

“Yes, my love.” She tilted her teacup to her lips.

“I worked very hard,” he said. “But the money I maked, sometimes I did a bad thing or two. Nothing too bad, but bad.”

“Those friends of yours—I have forgiven you. I forgive you now. You are different. You are a good person,” she said.

“Here I am good,” Avram said. “Not one bad thing. Three years. I give you everything, yes?”

She took another sip of her Queen Nectar, specially ordered from Armenia. Delicious. Her husband looked worried—on her behalf, almost certainly. Had he been wearing this face since the beginning of their conversation? She set the cup gently onto its saucer.

“We do not have time,” Avram said, his eyes for the first time avoiding hers.

“Time for what, my love?”

“To understand.”

Then he did something Gadara had never seen him do. He pulled a thin silver flask from his breast pocket.

“Armenian brandy,” he said. “Don’t worry. I am not all of a sudden, eh, alcoholic.” He spun the narrow chrome cap nimbly between his fingers and took a swig. A drop of gold hung on his chin. He wiped at it with his wrist.

“You need to get drunk to tell me?” she said.

He poured what was left into the empty teacup that had been set in front of him. He pushed the cup toward his wife. “Try.”

Gadara tapped the rim of her teacup. “I have my Queen Nectar.”

“Drink. The whole thing,” Avram said.


He dabbed at the sweat on his cheeks with his hanky. “Because I am a man of my village,” he said.

“You are from Yerevan.”

“I come to Yerevan when I am fifteen. With other boys from Zaghoor. You have met some of them. As men.”

“And they are in America now, is that it? They are wanting money from you? Now that you are successful? Now that you have broken your back and built with two hands your restaurants and dry cleaner and clothing stores and golf course? Is that what these friends want?”

The latch on the wrought-iron gate clacked. Next to it a rustling from the bushes.

“They want the money I stole from them, my dear, before I left,” Avram said. “The money I needed to take you away.”

“So then you pay them back, yes? Certainly we have the money for that. To pay them back.” Gadara turned to her strikingly American home, hoping to get a glimpse of anyone through the sliding doors. But it was dark behind the glare. No movement could be seen.

“I sent them home. Artoog and Michael too. All the servants will be back tomorrow, my dear,” he said.

“Then these friends of yours are here now, I think. In our garden.”

Avram leaned across the table and pushed the teacup closer. “The money is paid, my love. Months ago. Paid four times over. But there is another debt,” he said. “The men of my village have a special pride, which is our worst curse. When a wrong is done, there is insult to the man, and to the family, yes?”

Gadara heard voices again from the trees. Louder now. Arguing, maybe.

“The man’s pride is his woman, yes? So the woman must pay with the man. For the insult, yes?”

“What are you saying, Avram?”

“This is the only way I can keep you.”

Three men her husband’s age appeared at the gate. One had wild hair and a beard down to his naval. The other two were short and fat, their dark-blue jumpsuits streaked with black. Was one of them the man from the ARCO station near the mall? Another man appeared from behind this bunch, then another, all of them crowding into the single group that now came marching slowly across the grass.

Avram was crying. He gestured limply with his finger. “In the cup is Armenian brandy—I did not lie. But there is also help. What they call the date drug. The college boys put it in the drink. The girl drinks so she does not remember.”

Avram pushed his chair back from the table and stood.

“They would kill us, my love,” he said. Then he went into the house and shut the glass doors behind him.

Gadara saw that her hands were shaking. She buried one under the pillow she was sitting on. She reached with the other. Armenian brandy. From so far away it has traveled to be sitting before her now, and about the figs she’ll have to tell Artoog about the figs and—



BIO:  A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ron Darian has spent the bulk of his professional career in the entertainment industry. He began his stage career in the original Broadway production run of Grease and then moved on to stand-up comedy, performing at colleges and clubs across North America. He has since shifted to off-screen work, having written and produced such television shows as 7th Heaven, Frasier, The Gregory Hines Show, Mad About You, and The Master of Horror and Suspense. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Argestes, The Dos Passos Review, Fiction International, Inkwell, Limestone, The MacGuffin, and The Old Red Kimono.