The Bloody Evidence
By R. D. Flavin
of our tradition?”
“Oh, sure,” Paula
answered. The blonde, petite, twenty-three year old receptionist
smiled, took a lengthy pull from her peach-flavored wine cooler, and then
placed the bottle carefully on the table before her. “One of the
girls at the office had it done last year,” Paula continued. “She
said it was no big deal, as far as pain goes. And she raved about
the difference afterwards.”
“This is a good
thing, then?” Jacob inquired.
I think it’ll be a good thing.” She leaned close to her fiancÚ
and kissed him on the cheek. “Everything will be fine; don’t worry.”
“You have made
me the happiest of men, my Paula,” he said with conviction. “And
I, Jacob Ibn Napor, will make you the happiest bride in all of history...”
The cat was hungry,
but patient. Crouching unnoticed in a dark corner of the tent, the
skinny, gray and white feline watched three old women yell at a young woman
who sat apart, cross-legged on a stack of richly embroidered pillows.
The cat was a stray from the filthy streets of nearby Zipporah who had
followed the women into the desert and stole into the ceremonial tent hoping
to feed on some scrap or another. In silence, it waited.
“Take that chewing
gum out of your mouth and disrobe quickly! Do it now!” Paula
recognized the voice behind the black veil as her fiancÚ’s eldest
female relative, Aunt Ghada.
neatly folded her clothes and shivered from the cool, desert night air.
A thought occurred to her which made her shiver all the more, as she realized
the office girl who told of her circumcision had the operation performed
in a sterile hospital by a trained doctor. Paula was suddenly very
nervous. She was in the middle of Oman with three old women, and
one carried a large, jagged piece of flint in her twisted, arthritic hand.
The nervousness became fear.
“Lie down, there,”
Aunt Ghada ordered, pointing to a thick, lush carpet near the rear of the
tent. Paula did as she was told.
One of the women
withdrew a small, ornately decorated box from beneath her black robe and
opening it, the tent became filled with plant aromas, like myrrh and wild
jasmine. She placed the small box between Paula’s legs and all three
women took turns dipping their fingers into the box and rubbing the scented
ointment on Paula’s temples, neck, thighs and calves. The ointment
was cold and sticky, yet made her skin tingle hot as it was applied.
Paula felt strangely
tired; her eyelids beginning to droop and flutter with unexpected heaviness.
Fear gave way to nervousness, and then nervousness relaxed into acceptance.
She began to feel very relaxed, breathing deeply, and no longer worried
about what was happening to her.
“Let’s get this
over with,” she said through lips that were fast growing numb, as if from
an injection of novocain.
of the women commanded, slapping Paula across the face. Paula saw
the wrinkled, brown hand descend and heard the sharp sound of the slap,
but felt the strike as if it was only the lightest of taps.
pillow was placed under her head and she saw Aunt Ghada lift her veil,
spit on the piece of flint, close her eyes briefly and mumble prayers over
the jagged stone. The two other women grabbed her legs and spread
them wide, gripping as tightly as their old and tired fingers would allow.
Her eyes followed
the stone hypnotically as Aunt Ghada raised it high overhead and brought
it down quickly, repeating the motion again and again.
With each stroke
something warm and wet splashed upon her, covering her face and body.
A dull calm spread over her as she tasted her own blood. Old hands
released their grip on young flesh and Paula felt the gentle ministrations
of a little, scratchy tongue.
Away!” shouted one of the women.
the blackness stealing upon her and letting go, passed out.
The stray cat
ran out into the desert night and seeing the familiar lights of Zipporah,
scurried quickly back to the filthy streets with hopes of finding tasty
garbage or a dead body, fresh and soft.
her with fever, pus, and pain. Somewhere within, she fled and took
comfort in a dream. It took a long time for her to find the right
dream, but once she had, she tried hard to stay there.
of warm, wondrous gardens of quince, pomegranate, and olive. Blonde-haired
children with eyes as dark as a starless night were at play in clear pools
and high in tall cedars. She watched their smooth, sexless bodies
scamper about and heard their cries of delight at each new game they discovered.
They played wildly during the day, slept peacefully at night, and Paula
felt a deep contentment just watching them. The dream was as comforting
as the kind words of an old friend, until one morning all of the children
lined up before her with nasty, jagged stones in their hands. Friends
don’t attack one another, Paula cried out in her dream. Her loud
screams broke the fever and she awoke, stiff and sore. Opening her
eyes, Paula recognized Aunt Ghada leaning over her, sopping up sweat from
her forehead with a handful of white wool.
“You have returned
to us,” Ghada said, as if surprised.
“What day is
it?” Paula asked, her voice thin and weak.
“The day before
your wedding, young one,” the old woman answered with an ugly grin.
“May I have some
water?” Paula asked.
Anything at all...”
“Just some water;
Aunt Ghada left
the room; her large bosoms, unrestrained behind her thin robe, bouncing
against her hips. Paula waited until the old woman was gone a few
seconds and lifted the sheet covering her, and put a trembling hand down
between her legs.
She felt a hard,
large scab the size of a beetle near the top of her vagina and it pained
her immensely when she touched it. “What have they done?” she sobbed
“What had to
be done...” It was Aunt Ghada, standing in the doorway, smiling her
nearly toothless smile, a glass of cloudy, aerated water in her hand.
The old woman
handed over the glass of water and as Paula sipped at it, Aunt Ghada told
her some of the history of the custom. She told how initially, long
ago, a small incision was placed on top of a woman’s clitoris to preclude
her having sex for any reason other than procreation. The men of
Oman, she related, have always been very strict and prudent when it came
to matters of the bed, and it has always been considered a disgrace for
a man to live with the sordid knowledge his mother was uncircumcised and
performed sex for pleasure and not solely to bring about a new life.
But, sometimes the small incision was not enough and women were known to
still derive pleasure from the sexual act. So, as in Paula’s case,
a total clitoridectomy was performed to ensure there would never be pleasure
in the act of sex again.
“But, I thought
this was going to make sex better!” Paula cried out, thinking of the girl
she knew back at the office.
“Enough of that!
You will be the instrument of your husband’s pleasure and a clean, strong
vessel to hold his proud sons,” Aunt Ghada said reprovingly. “And
you should praise Allah you have been set free of evil bodily temptations
her eyes and slept, dreaming curses against the dashing, mustached man
who promised her romance and eternal happiness. She dreamed of revenge,
foul and delicious.
The reveling started outside of the Zipporah mosque and continued into
the desert. Din and clamor gave rise to celebration and merriment
as the wedding party swelled with late arriving well-wishers. As
the sun set behind the wedding tent, lamps and torches were lighted to
illuminate the faces of the crowd. Family and friends waited anxiously
for a cry of delight from within the tent, soon followed by the bloody
evidence that the Napors had received into their family a virgin bride,
pure and dedicated to Allah. Several feet behind the tent, in the
deepening shadows, a stray cat waited on its haunches for good fortune
to come its way.
womenfolk in her trust were well dined on stewed goat and leeks, and each
served a cup of hot coffee with a cardamon seed to chew, Ghada sought out
her husband, Muckat, and found him chewing hashish with the younger men.
I speak?” she asked, a sharp edge on her tone.
“From your lips...,”
Muckat allowed the platitude to go unfinished; his wife’s eyes quelling
any further banter between them.
“It went well,
the wedding,” Ghada said proudly.
agreed. “The musicians were good and there seems to have been enough
food for everyone.”
“We may run out
had one cup?” Muckat asked.
“Then we have
done our best; the matter is beyond us now,” Muckat pronounced in his best
“Allah be merciful...,”
“She is pretty,
Ya’qobel’s new bride.”
“Yes, and she
is strong,” Ghada said. “She conquered the fever and healed faster
than many I’ve seen.”
“I noticed a
strange light in her eyes during the exchange of vows. Is she well?”
to complain, to swear by false gods, and to hate her new husband and his
“She sounds like
you on our wedding night,” Muckat said with a wide smile splitting his
old, leathery face.
around carefully at the surrounding crowd of family and wellwishers to
see if any were watching her exchange with her husband. Seeing they
were unobserved, Ghada kissed her right forefinger and touched it to Muckat’s
right ear lobe, speaking the same words she did on their wedding night,
forty-seven years ago. “I touch you in love,” she whispered.
at his wife for a moment, then took her in his arms and gave her a crushing
hug of affection.
giggled, “remember where we are!”
Muckat beamed. “My dead brother’s only son has taken a bride and
is soon to become hatan damin, the bridegroom of blood!
Allah be praised!”
No sooner had
Muckat prophesied the eminent deflowering of the bride, when a great cry
was heard from inside the wedding tent, and the crowds began to cheer with
words of encouragement and blessing.
“That did not
sound like the American girl, husband,” Ghada said loudly, over the noise
of the cheering crowd.
“What say you?”
Muckat asked, busy accepting congratulations from any and all who approached
“It sounded like
Ya’qobel who screamed...” Ghada’s words failed to reach her husband’s
ears. He was off and rushing towards the wedding tent to receive
the bloody evidence proving the Napors had chosen well and selected an
unblemished virgin and true daughter of Allah.
All was commotion;
women were dancing in a frenzy of celebration and men were jumping up and
down in place, a torch in one hand and dried pieces of hashish in the other.
Ghada listened to their shouts and cries, their screams and prayers yelled
with all their might. But, like a lone wind wandering through wash
hung out to dry, she heard a low moaning and felt frightened, and did not
fold of the wedding tent parted and by the lights of many torches and lamps,
Ghada saw a bloody hand extend a folded sheet, bloodier still. Muckat
grabbed the evidence and held it high over his head for all to see.
your faces,” he cried, “you have kept your daughters pure”
her way through the crowd, knowing instinctively something was horribly
wrong. The sheet was stained with too much blood to have resulted
from the ordinary deflowering of a hymen. She stood next to her husband
and wrenched the sheet from his grasp, and in doing so, the sheet unfolded
slightly, and something tumbled onto the desert sand.
All eyes, as
one, turned to the smooth sand and the severed penis that lay there.
at the entrance of her wedding tent, wet blood on her lips and face, and
announced to all, “If I can’t have any pleasure in bed, than neither will
The women of
Zipporah wailed in lament and the men yelled for vengeance. Aunt
Ghada wept openly and Uncle Muckat fell to his knees in public disgrace.
the gray and white feline slipped through the sandaled feet of the crowd,
picked up the torn member in its mouth and ran off into the desert night.
The cat ignored the cries. Its hunger, like those loud, empty threats,
would soon go away.
explanations of background may be had here.
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