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کتاب: عطر سنبل، عطر کاج / فصل 20

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  • زمان مطالعه 15 دقیقه
  • سطح سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

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متن انگلیسی فصل

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

With the Iranian Revolution and my family’s financial upheaval in the background, I had entered adolescence. At an age when most of my classmates were discovering the Nordstrom shoe department, I had watched my parents cut up their credit cards. Being unfashionable didn’t bother me, but I was afraid I couldn’t afford to go to college. I needed some funds.

Job prospects for fourteen-year-olds have never been rosy, so I settled on the old standby, baby-sitting. At a dollar per hour, I soon discovered, this was not going to get me anywhere. Some of my luckier friends baby-sat for families who rounded up to the nearest hour or threw in an extra two dollars for good measure. I always ended up with people who, after arriving home at midnight on a Saturday night, would spend fifteen minutes calculating exactly how much they owed me. “Five hours and twelve minutes, so that’s five dollars and … twelve divided by sixty, that’s about twenty cents, or is that thirty? Hold on, I need a piece of paper …” After having baby-sat for every frugal family in town, I eventually hit the mother lode. My high school French teacher told me of a newly transplanted Parisian family that was looking for a French-speaking baby-sitter. Even though my French at the time was limited to asking whether Jacques was at the pool with Anne, I volunteered. I was told that the family had only one child, an eight-year-old daughter, and that they lived in Big Canyon, a gated community full of rich people.

I arrived with high hopes and a French dictionary. After giving me a tour of their large house, including the twenty-foot Buddha in the living room, the father asked me whether five dollars an hour would be sufficient. These people had clearly not researched the going rate for baby-sitters, and if the twenty-foot Buddha had not enlightened them, I was not about to start.

No diapers, no cooking, just one eight-year-old who would probably go to bed easily and five dollars per hour. This was too good to be true, but I knew it was true because if anyone deserved a break, it was I.

As soon as the parents left, the daughter plunked herself next to me on the posh leather sofa and immediately started hugging me and stroking my hair. I didn’t want to get on her bad side early on in this lucrative job so I smiled as I tried to untangle her arms. The more I tried to extricate myself, the harder she clung. I had no idea the French were so affectionate.

I’d been wrestling with the child for half an hour when the lights in the living room went out automatically and the glass cabinets along the walls lit up from underneath, illuminating an extensive collection of Buddhas. I felt like King Tut, except that I was alive and trapped in the mausoleum with a deranged koala. No matter what I did, I could not get the kid off me. She refused to go to bed. She refused to eat dinner. She refused to budge. With thirty Buddhas watching me, I was suddenly enlightened as to why these people were so generous with the baby-sitter.

When the parents arrived three hours later, they found their daughter snoring on the sofa. She had finally fallen asleep and I had not dared move her, lest she wake up. Normally, parents might be upset by this, but not these people. God knows they were probably relieved to have gotten away from their daughter for a few hours. The father handed me a twenty-dollar bill and asked whether I was available the following night. I didn’t know how to say in French “Not for all the tea in China would I return to this freak zone,” so I just told him I had to study for a test.

My three traumatic hours of baby-sitting the Cling-on convinced me to retire from the field. I decided to switch to house-sitting, a far easier yet potentially lucrative line of work. I let all my friends and neighbors know that not only was I available during all vacations but I was also good with plants. The latter wasn’t exactly true, since I didn’t own any plants and had never actually taken care of any, but I figured if the soil is dry, I water.

My first job consisted of watering the indoor plants belonging to a family a couple of streets away from us. Monday morning, before school, I rode my bike to their house and started watering every plant, just as I had been instructed. All of a sudden, I heard music coming from one of the bedrooms upstairs. I froze. I stood in the kitchen, watering can in hand, unable to scream or move. After a few minutes, I put down the watering can, slowly tiptoed out of the kitchen, and ran out the front door. I could barely ride my bike home with my entire body trembling.

My father was in Iran trying to sell our house and I knew my mother would be of no help. I thought about calling the police, but how would I know whether anything had been stolen? Plus, I didn’t know how to reach the family, so I decided to do nothing. After a few days, I imagined all their plants dead. Overcome with guilt, I decided to risk my life and enter the house again. Grabbing our fireplace poker, I rode my bike to their house. As I opened the front door, I yelled, “DAD, KEEP THE DOG OUT. I DON’T WANT HIM TO BITE ANYONE. YOU KNOW HOW MEAN HE IS.” I ran in the house and dumped water on all the plants as fast as I could, even the ones that I had been instructed to “gently mist.” I continued my conversation with my imaginary dad. “HOLD ON TO HIS LEASH!” I screamed.

When the family returned a few days later, I told them they wouldn’t have to pay me: I had come to the house only twice, because there might have been a robber in the house the previous Monday, listening to music in an upstairs bedroom.

“What time were you here?” the wife asked.

“Seven-fifteen in the morning,” I told her.

“You heard the clock radio,” she informed me.

She paid me in full but never asked me to house-sit again.

Shortly thereafter, another family asked me to take care of their indoor cats for ten days. Except for the goldfish we bought every year for the Persian New Year, I had never owned a pet, but I accepted the job.

These people had four cats, Ketchup, Mustard, Relish, and Mayo. I should have known better than to get involved with people who would name their cats after condiments, but common sense is an acquired trait.

My first day on the job, I rode my bike to their house and did everything as I’d been told. I emptied the litter box, opened up the stinking cans of cat food, gave the cats two scoops of dried food, and filled up their water bowls. I didn’t really play with the cats, because like most houses overrun with indoor cats, this one was no treat for the senses. As I was leaving, I noticed that the door to the patio was wide open. I shut and locked it.

I returned the next morning to repeat my routine. The cats were meowing considerably more than the day before, but I figured they were hungry.

The next day, they were meowing loudly and screeching intermittently.

The following day, their intermittent screeches were peppered with leaps across the furniture.

I thought that perhaps if I played with them, they might calm down a bit. The problem was that whenever I went near one of them, it would arch its body and snarl. My goldfish had never done that, but I was nonetheless able to understand the international symbol for “I’m going to scratch out your eyeballs.” By the tenth day, these frisky felines spent all their time running around the house in endless circles, screeching and scratching. I chalked up their strange behavior to the absence of their beloved owners.

That night the owners called. “Why did you close the patio door?” the mother screamed at me.

“I closed it because it was open,” I replied.

“How did you expect the cats to get any exercise?” she screamed back.

“But I thought they were indoor cats,” I told her.

“The patio is their play area. Didn’t you notice their behavior? You have mentally damaged my cats!”

“You don’t have to pay me,” I told her.

She paid me, but she never asked me to house-sit again.

My next job came courtesy of my friend Chris, who informed me that one of her very wealthy neighbors, who happened to be the mother of a very famous clothing designer, was looking for someone to clean her silverware. This job paid six dollars per hour. Chris also told me that this woman, whom I will call Mrs. Cheapo to protect her anonymity, had estimated that this was at least a twenty-dollar job.

I rode my bike to her house, arriving promptly at eight on a sunny Saturday morning. Mrs. Cheapo led me to her dining room table, where she had a heap of silverware stacked three feet high. Judging by the black tarnish, people were still traveling by horse and buggy the last time these pieces were cleaned. She handed me a foul-smelling cream and a couple of washcloths.

“Do you have a pair of latex gloves I could borrow?” I asked her.

“No, the polish might ruin them.”

If my life were a movie script written by someone more intelligent than I, I would have gotten up and gone home, but not before pausing long enough to tell her that her daughter’s designs were frumpy. In the real-life version, I got up and told her I had to go home to get a pair of gloves.

I rode my bike home feverishly and returned with my mother’s dishwashing gloves. I set to work. Without taking a break, I scrubbed intensely, trying my best not to inhale the noxious fumes. I cleaned every nook and cranny of every fork, spoon, knife, butter knife, cheese server, iced-tea spoon, carving knife, and oyster fork, not to mention the pieces whose function completely eluded me. I sorted all the pieces in matching piles and informed her that I was done.

“I can’t believe you’re finished!” she squealed, staring at the shiny piles. I was used to hearing that from my teachers at school, but I assumed this declaration of surprise would translate into a fat tip.

“Well,” said Mrs. Cheapo, taking out a wad of cash, “let’s see, you were here for one hour and twenty minutes, so here’s eight dollars.”

“But I thought this was a twenty-dollar job,” I reminded her.

“Not with you, honey,” she said. “It didn’t take you that long.”

I should have hurled a few oyster forks at her, but instead I thanked her and rode my bike home. She was right about one thing. The polish did ruin the gloves.

Through my friend Marilyn, I found out that the local movie theater was looking for summer help. I was hired to work at the concession stand, where I was responsible for selling the type of food that should come with a free angiogram.

The popcorn came in four sizes, small, medium, large, and jumbo. During the entire summer, only three people ordered the small popcorn. They were European and had apparently come to watch the movie. Most patrons ordered the jumbo popcorn, a snack whose container could double as an infant bathtub. The instructions were always the same: “Please put butter in the bottom, middle, and top. No dry spots.” Not even when my relatives ended their fasts during the holy month of Ramadan had I seen people consume this much food.

The lobby of the movie theater was plastered with signs declaring our popcorn is made with REAL butter. Judging by our brisk popcorn sales, I suggested to my manager that perhaps a similar advertising campaign might improve hot dog sales. “Our hot dogs are made with REAL innards.” Just like Galileo’s, my ideas were rejected.

The most popular drink that summer was Tab, a diet soda that tasted like liquid tin. Unfortunately, our Tab machine was always broken and we offered no other diet drinks. After placing an order for the jumbo popcorn with extra butter, most people asked for a large Tab. This is when things got ugly. “What?” they would always scream at me. “It’s broken?” Then they’d ask to see the manager, as if through sheer assertiveness they could get the machine fixed. I always had the urge to enlighten them: “Look, you’re about to consume ten thousand calories of fat, so a diet drink isn’t going to make a difference. In fact, may I suggest some innards?” My summer at the movie theater taught me one thing: I had to look for a better-paying job, preferably one that did not involve selling Jujubes. A string of jobs followed, but none ever paid well. My efforts at amassing funds were not hugely successful.

Watching me trying to save money, my father repeatedly told me how bad he felt at being unable to help with my college tuition. He spent his days lamenting his inability to foresee the revolution and the ensuing economic collapse. “I should’ve sold everything and brought the money to America a long time ago” became his mantra.

As college approached, I stumbled upon a talent better than selling popcorn or polishing silver. I started writing scholarship essays. I wrote essay after essay about my life and my dreams and my goals. I wrote about volunteering as a clown in a children’s hospital. I wrote about being my mother’s interpreter. I wrote that ever since I was a little girl, I had wanted to go to college. And I wrote that my aunt Sedigeh should have been able to go to college but instead had to get married when she was fourteen.

And the funds just flowed in.

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