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Liza Weinberger

Grade: 10

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Scott Parsons

The Seventy-Seventh Night

Short Story

The Seventy-Seventh Night

The Seventy-Seventh Night

"Dear Shahrazad, please won't you entertain us with one of your wonderful tales so that we may drift into a dreamy sleep?" implored Dinarzad. To this request, Shahrazad happily replied, "As you wish my dear sister," and she furtively scanned the bedroom for an object of inspiration for her tale. She began…

I heard, O happy King, that once there was a beautiful woman with an even more beautiful name; Bahar.

Bahar, meaning "beautiful" in Persian, was aptly named. She was, without contest, the most beautiful woman in all of Persia. Her luscious, dark brown hair flowed seamlessly down her back in rich waves that resembled a flowing chocolate river. Her golden-flecked eyes sparkled like the sun when she burst into her infectious and contagious smile. She oozed grace and charm, and nary was there a man who was not enraptured by her loveliness. Bahar lived in Babylon, Persia, with her husband Vashan. Vashan's name meant loyal and dependable, but as you will see, he was not so aptly named. Bahar, however, loved Vashan dearly. Vashan worked as a trader, selling enchanted seeds, and often made long journeys across all of Persia. His enchanted seeds were highly desired by people all over Persia. The prized seeds were rumored to grow like the speed of a cheetah, and the grown plants produced new seeds that were able to be re-planted. Vashan was often away from Bahar for long periods of time, traveling across Persia's steep mountains and along the winding, dirt paths, vast plateaus, and dry deserts. It was not uncommon for him to be gone for several years at a time, but nonetheless, Bahar never got used to the loneliness. During these long absences, Bahar longed for her husband's speedy return. She could often be seen sitting on a chair by the side of the road watching and waiting for him to return, counting the days until he would embrace her in his strong, warm arms.

Bahar spent her days traveling to the bazaar to speak with the merchants to see if any of them had heard news of her husband's whereabouts. The merchants always answered, "We are deeply sorry, Bahar, but we have heard nothing about Vashan." Each day, Bahar walked away feeling depressed, as salty tears streamed down her rosy, wind-blown cheeks. When Vashan had been gone for four years, far longer than he had ever been gone before, Bahar grew terribly worried. She wondered aloud, "Where is Vashan? He has never been gone for four years before. I pray to you, God, that he is alright. Without Vashan, my life is worthless." Moments later, as she left her mud brick house, a wiry man in a well-worn Shalvar and Jameh, whom she had never seen before, handed her a letter from his messenger bag. Her slender hands trembled as she nervously opened the letter, sensing that it was terrible news about her dear Vashan. She anxiously read the letter:

Dear Bahar,

I will not be returning to Babylon ever again. I have found a new love here in Yazd. Her name is Aghigh, and we met when I was selling my enchanted seeds to her father. She is the most charming woman I have ever laid eyes on and we are hopelessly in love. My enchanted seeds are selling faster in Yazd than anywhere else in Persia, so I am going to set-up shop here so that I no longer need to travel.

Farewell,

Vashan

When Bahar finished reading Vashan's letter, the tears were flowing down her cheeks like a waterfall, as she fell listlessly to the ground. She stayed on the ground for seventy-seven minutes until finally, she was able to drag herself to her feet and go inside her house. That night, as Bahar lay awake, suddenly unable to fall asleep in her empty bed, she reflected on her husband's betrayal and unfaithfulness to her. Her sadness turned to anger, as her thick eyebrows formed in the shape of a "v" and her nostrils flared flames of fire. She no longer lamented her destroyed marriage, but rather, she sought revenge. With her newfound and steadfast resolve, she determined that all men would pay for Vashan's destruction of her marriage. She pledged that beginning the next day, every time she had a conversation with a man, she would be deceitful and dishonest, as her beloved husband had been to her.

The following day commenced Bahar's reign of lies. She walked out of her house feeling more confident than ever before, with her head held high and her shoulders back. As she entered the bazaar, she heard a merchant shout, "Bahar, I have yet to hear anything about Vashan. You have still not heard from him?" Bahar inhaled deeply and she said: "Yes, I received a letter yesterday from Yadz. Vashan is dead." As she told the first lie, her hands shook and she was overcome with nausea. She burst into tears as the merchant embraced her tightly. The merchant then inquired, "My beautiful Bahar, how did Vashan die?" Bahar paused for a second, and noticing some shining gold nuggets, incorporated them into her tale. She said, "Vashan discovered a long lost treasure trove of rare gold on the outskirts of Yadz. The gold had been missing for hundreds of years and Vashan was undeniably lucky to stumble upon it. It was exceptionally valuable because when it was rubbed seventy-seven times it reproduced to double the initial quantity. Unfortunately for Vashan, however, while he was admiring and packing up the glorious gold nuggets, a band of thieves who had also been searching for the treasure, overtook him and brutally stabbed him seventy-seven times." Bahar wiped her eyes and sniffed back her tears, stunned to realize how swiftly the lies fell from her tongue. The merchant told Bahar he would pray for her and she headed home.

The next day, when Bahar was on her way to visit the other women of Babylon, she was stopped by a man who asked for details about her husband's death. Bahar thought for a second and concocted a new story about Vashan's death, one in which he died consuming a tainted drink at a wedding reception that he attended alone in Persepolis. When she finished, she noticed that the man's face was damp from the tears he shed during Bahar's telling of the tragic fate of her late husband. Bahar continued on her way, trying all the while to conceal the devious smile that creased her face.

Over the course of one week, Bahar told eleven lies a day, to any men she encountered, totaling seventy-seven lies. On the eighth day, Bahar was on her way to the bazaar when an old man called out to her: "Bahar, you do not know me, but I have seen what you have been doing for the last week and I disapprove of your actions. All men do not deserve to suffer for your husband's unfaithfulness. Telling seventy-seven lies to innocent and unsuspecting men is not the way to seek revenge on your husband. Have you heard of The Tale of the Man Who Was Unfaithful and Received a Second Chance?" "No, I have not." Bahar replied. The old man said, "Then I must tell you this story, for it is a lesson to be learned about why you should not punish all men for your husband's betrayal."

The old man began…

Bahar, there was a man whose wife of thirty years was bedridden and dying. She was being cared for by a beautiful young nurse whom all men could not help but fancy. However, the man ignored his feelings for the nurse and remained faithful to his wife whom he loved dearly. As time passed and his wife lie comatose in bed, the man's feelings towards the nurse grew more intense. Finally, unable to control himself any longer, he succumbed to his desire and kissed the nurse passionately, all while his sick wife lie motionless and asleep. When the man disentangled himself from the nurse, he was overcome with guilt over his momentary indiscretion. However, the nurse, who was actually a witch, was determined to kiss the man again, this time holding the kiss for seventy-seven seconds in order to cast her spell on him forcing him to fall in love with her. This time however, the man had regained his self-control and refused the nurse's advance. When his wife finally awakened, he told her the truth about his kiss with the nurse. As tears formed in his wife's bleak eyes and her face became an ocean of sadness, the woman responded, "You have hurt me deeply, but I forgive your infidelity because you told me the truth. Every man deserves a chance to attone for his sins and right his wrongs."

"Bahar, do you understand why the woman was able to forgive her husband for kissing her nurse?" asked the old man. "Yes, I understand. Everyone is entitled to forgiveness and a second chance. People can learn from their mistakes and become a better version of themselves going forward. I should not blame all men for the mistakes of my husband, because not all men are unfaithful. Likewise, I can also be forgiven for telling seventy-seven lies so long as I admit my wrongdoing and seek apologies from anyone that I hurt with my lies. Thank you, sir, for helping me realize my mistakes and learn from them" replied a contrite Bahar. "You are most welcome Bahar" said the old man.

And off Bahar went to…

Shahrazad lapsed into silence as her tiredness caught up with her; she had been telling King Shahrayar The Story of the Seventy-Seven Lies for the entire night. Dinarzad spoke up and said, "Shahrazad, what a fabulously entertaining story that was!" Shahrazad replied, "Thank you, Dinarzad, I am glad you enjoyed it. This story pales in comparison to the story I shall entertain you with tomorrow night if King Shahrayar spares my life and allows me to tell it."