Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
about this
how to submit
current issue

Gone Lawn 54
worm moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Capitol Reef Wash, by Kathleen Frank

new works

Mehreen Ahmed

Rainfall on Soho

Ulfaat gazes at petrified moths through flour jars. While some are flapping wings, others are quite not. The air-tight jars make it harder to get in than out. The air-tight jars make it harder to get in than out. The jars' openings are cleverly cling-wrapped to stop moths from getting in. Somehow, fledging wings appear to grow inside the jars where trapped moths gather in death throes. She removes the wrap and opens the lids; they fly out in trepidation, happy to be released.

Her flour shop on the cul-de-sac of Soho Street can close down if a complaint is lodged. She can’t sell moth-ridden flour to her customers any more than she can bread up the flour herself. Whichever way she braids the dough, the dough is spoiled one way or the other. A tinkle at the front door alerts her to a customer walking in. He asks to buy a kilo of flour. She bites her lips and disappears to the back of the store. He notices her rather long, pale face but doesn’t ask.

Well, of course, she isn’t going to tell him about the moths. Moth eggs may have been lain in this sack too. If any is cocooned within the sack, it’s just not her day. She fetches a sack of flour to the front hoping for none to be found. The man pays and leaves. Ulfaat wonders what if inspectors come around and shut her down. What if this customer finds moths and reports her to the consumer’s affairs? She sits down at the till and thinks of her baby.

One knows when relationships go pear-shaped. One notices when poetry stops flowing. Effusive words of ‘oneness,’ ‘inseparable,’ ‘entwined,’ and ‘kindred spirits’ all take a sour turn south replaced by, ‘do this,’ ‘do that,’ ‘what do you do around the house all day, sit on your fat ass?’ ‘years of shitty life I’ve had with you—you! Who couldn’t follow a simple instruction—you are stupid—bloody stupid,’ stings her beating heart; she suffocates under the weight of such prosaic rhetoric.


In the heart of it, poetry blossomed once. In her twenties then, she was writing in full swing. She never thought she could ever write a book. She never thought she could flesh out flat characters right. She felt she was committing herself to an ever-doomed project. The more she wrote, the more needed to be written. She sought direction.

Just like her book, a marriage based on poetry was a mirage. One monsoon morning, after she’d bathed, she’d brushed her wet hair and let it down to her waist; she stood out on the balcony of her father’s house. He lived two houses down the road. He saw her from his top-floor window. His name was Irfan. He waved through the foggy rain. The clouds descended; the winds and the rain chimed a tune, while she held on to the verandah rails and steadied herself.

He had seen her through the rains; her cascading hair of sinewy vine maple branches, wavering in the winds. As a neighbor, he might have seen her once or twice. Her subtle beauty revealed itself in the new foglight. The doorbell rang. She opened it. He stood outside. Monsoon had brought her a message—a harbinger of a sort. He was soaking wet. She asked him to come inside. He extended his arms, she took it. ‘I’m writing a book,’ she told him. ‘A book?’ he asked with a frown, then kissed her pouted lips—a cigar-flavored kiss, with a faint blend of her musky odors did all the trick. Magic was born.

Ulfaat found out later—much, much later…

By now she had married him happily one summer’s day. By this time her book had been shelved, covered under many layers of cobwebs. He promised her panting heart the world. He was taking her places. She embarked on a joy ride; a full-on journey had ensued. Where to? she had asked herself. Did it matter? Not really. She would follow him to the end of the world; so be it, so be it!


She reaches the tipping point of a long struggle. Feeling accosted, she breaks down before a chili river—a red, hot curried fish. Her runny nose and tears from onion cuts are indistinguishable from her powerlessness. He says it is delicious, perfect. But she knows it’s too hot; she likes it because he likes it. She tells him that chilies don’t irk her.

No, the chilies are a menace. The red, hot river is causing a dent in his intestine. The poisonous chilli river is killing him; that she is killing him; that he is struggling to chill. Why? Is there another woman then? she thinks. He must be in love with another woman—wooing, and cooing her as he had done her that monsoon night. It is the chilies, he says. She must stop this nonsense.

She stops. Chillies are a far cry, now. Her baby lies in her crib. He eats dinner another night, he asks why the curry is bland. Ulfaat tells him. He laughs out loud and says, ‘You crazy bitch, you think I’m not strong enough to stomach hot curry?’ Ulfaat says, ‘I don’t know, you tell me, isn’t the hot chilli drilling a hole in your stomach?’ He rises abruptly from his chair. Dinner half-eaten, he picks up his plate and drops it on the hard floor—through the many floral china shards, the bland gravy flows all over the kitchen tiles. But it doesn’t stop there. He picks up a kitchen knife and lunges towards Ulfaat, who is still eating dinner. He walks up close and holds the knife around her neck. Her baby cries out; he startles and drops the knife.

Calm prevails; he reverts to his charming self. He even asks her forgiveness and begs her to not ever to leave him. Chilies or no chilies, she thinks he has condemned her, one way or another. Her formidable husband irks her more than the menacing chilies. She nurses the baby. The baby has colic. The husband has a hole. Ulfaat stands steadfast in between to reach a goal.


One night Irfan doesn’t return. Ulfaat sits by the window feeding her colic baby. She has an early start the next morning. The case of moth infestation in the jars is resolved. The old supply chain has to be cut. Fresh flour is arriving at her shop in the morning through a new supplier. The phone rings at three AM. Irfan’s frantic voice asks her to come to the local police station.

Three AM, Ulfaat picks up her sleeping baby and walks into the police station up the road. A man is injured in a brawl. He is recovering in the hospital. Fingers point at Irfan, who beat him up in a bar. He is looking at a month at least in prison time unless the charges are dropped.


She needs a Genie—a pop-out sprite of goodness from someplace—lamp, bottle, jar, or whatever. Irfan has a mental disorder, most likely, schizophrenia. His mind needs to clear the vile melancholia. The injured man is better. He drops the charges when he hears of sickness inflicting Irfan. Psychiatric care is given to Irfan before his release from prison.

A reasonable man, Ulfaat’s Genie, appears at her shopfront one rainy evening. This man stirs an odd emotion in her heart and her gut. Fresh sacks of moth-free wheat and mud-red rice flour arrive early morning. He buys a sack of red, rice flour. On his way out he turns around, and winks at Ulfaat, and then he grins. She doesn’t let her sadness steal her smile. She brings her best, a bold smile to her lips, to which he nods and steps out. He plods along the wet parking lot. The rainfall can’t be sweeter on her Soho block.

Mehreen Ahmed is an award-winning Australian novelist/short fiction born in Bangladesh. Her historical fiction novel is Drunken Druid's Editor's Choice. Midwest Book Review and DD Magazine have also acclaimed her other works. Her recent publications are with Litro, Icefloe, Popshot Quarterly, Panorama Journal. In addition to the awards, she has also received botN, James Tait, and Pushcart nominations.