It must be a strange place, or perhaps a strange situation; a cliff, ten to fifteen meters high, shaped in such a way that whoever sees it will say, “It’s so steep!” Meaning it is impossible to climb up or down without proper equipment. And this is critical to our story. (Critical?)
At the bottom of the cliff there is a watering hole. And on top, Borzu Alvandi, with a streak of clotted blood stretching from under his eye to the corner of his mouth, has hunkered down behind a rock to take cover from the Iraqi sharpshooters. There are a few corpses on the ground a short distance away. Other than Borzu, it seems there are only two other soldiers still alive. (Seems!?)
What a beautiful village! What a charming oasis! Rows of houses reclining at the foot of a perpetually dry hill, and the hill reclining at the foot of a perpetually snow-covered mountain chain . . . Naz-Gol Jabbari, Borzu Alvandi’s betrothed, is softly, discreetly tapping her big toe on her slipper to the beat of the local music being played on horn and tambour and she’s peering at the end of the asphalt road, hoping to see the village’s only truck that has gone to town to fetch Borzu.
The women ululate, dance, sing under their breath. The men, brandishing sticks, two by two, swagger and spar rhythmically to the music. Safdar’s son Hashem waves his stick in the air for his opponent and eyes Naz-Gol. (He wants to endear himself to her.)
Naz-Gol’s heart is pounding and her big toe is dancing to the beat of the tambour. The young girls are tittering and giggling and choosing their future husband from among the boys. Mado is feverishly beating his tin drum. (Mado? . . . Oh, Mado!)
Naz-Gol wouldn’t mind stealing a peek at Safdar’s son Hashem now and then, but she knows Borzu’s mother Mah-Tala is not taking her eyes off of her. She is constantly showering her future daughter-in-law with words of affection. “My darling, my bride, may God take my life, how you have suffered these past four years waiting for my child to return . . .”
What a beautiful day! What enchanting moments! What a crowd! What excitement! . . . The day is a day to remember.
Life in the village is so tedious and mundane that the smallest bit of news disrupts everything and throws everyone into frenzy, as if it were a bomb, an earthquake or a flood. These days, three people are at the epicenter of the villagers’ attention. First is Borzu’s father Ali-Fath Alvandi whose position as head of the day’s festivities is exclusively secure. Second is Seyed Akbar Pazidi, who is in charge of the village’s defense mobilization outpost where the youth undergo short-term military training before being sent to the front. The return of the noble and revered Borzu Alvandi doubles his responsibility to ensure as grand a welcome reception as possible. And third, without doubt and discussion, is Naz-Gol Jabbari, Borzu Alvandi’s eighteen-year-old betrothed who has spent four years counting the warp and weft of the carpet she’s weaving, waiting for her future husband to return.
Perhaps we should add a fourth person as contributor to all the major and minor news and events of recent years: Mado, who in his own way is a man worthy of attention.
“May your father’s spirit be mired in shit, you vile bastards!”
Borzu’s friend Joon-Baaz Eskandari shouts these words in a thick accent at the Iraqis and trails them off with a groan. Borzu, with a world of sorrow and sadness, moves toward him. Borzu Alvandi is perhaps the fittest and least injured member of the squad. He only has a cut on his face and a little contusion or numbness in one leg, and only in the area of the knee. He’s not suffering from any great physical pain. His pain is rooted elsewhere: a world of sorrow and sadness over a mistake that resulted from uncertainty at the three-way junction. (Uncertainty?)
Borzu Alvandi will suffer from this sorrow and sadness from now until the end of the story. After the Iraqis’ cat-and-mouse game comes to an end, he will be captured and he will spend four entire years in profound sorrow and sadness as a prisoner of war. After the release and glorious return of the beloved prisoners to the motherland of Islam, Borzu Alvandi will come back with the same profound sorrow and sadness, and everyone will spit and say, “Damn! . . .” They will all think Borzu Alvandi’s condition is a result of torture at the hands of the Baathists. (Torture?)
Joon-Baaz is in pain, a bullet is lodged in his shoulder. A few feet away, Javad is staring into the distance without blinking. Is Javad thinking about Borzu’s mistake? Is all this the cause of the strange situation? Where did this canteen riddled with holes and hanging from bootlaces between the earth and the sky come from? (A canteen riddled with holes?)
Mado is wandering around the village, going from alley to alley with a broken mirror hanging around his neck and wearing ill-matched shoes. The empty tin can he uses as a drum and a plastic horn comprise all his worldly belongings.
No one pays any attention to Mado, not that he himself gives a damn about anyone. It’s a mystery how he gets by. At night he sleeps in the hollow of the massive old oak tree next to the Bi-Sanam Shrine and his meals are made up of scraps the villagers occasionally give him out of pity. Otherwise, he’s always munching on nuts and raisins that he swipes from the grocery store owned by Hashem’s father Safdar. (Once in a while, Borzu Alvandi’s mother Mah-Tala saves some lamb shank soup for him.)
Mado is beating his drum and blowing his horn. (Of course, he’s making the sound of the horn with his mouth. His plastic horn is not working, for the time being.)
Three soldiers are still alive. Still. Borzu, Joon-Baaz, and Javad. The sharpshooters have killed the rest of the squad. Soon, Joon-Baaz and Javad will be martyred, too, and Borzu will be left alone, all alone. So much so that even the splendor and grandeur of this crowd—the entire village—scrambling to catch a glimpse of him does him no good. His loneliness cannot be filled. This sort of isolation is vast, alien, crushing, and peaceful—peace in the vein of utter stupor and lassitude. A sort of psychological bulwark to escape the reality of having caused the death of several human beings.
Perhaps, perhaps only Naz-Gol, Naz-Gol Jabbari, can score a small, fragile, and painful, opening in the surface of this situation . . . I said perhaps . . . Do you know why Borzu Alvandi is alone?
A few of the mischievous village kids are chasing after Mado and hurling rocks at him. Mado sticks his tongue out at them and shouts vulgar profanities about their mothers and sisters . . . At times like this, he runs to the shrine and stands next to the platform near the ornate casing of the tomb and yells, “Motherfuckers! . . . Here . . . here . . . whoremongers! . . . Fuck you . . .”
Once when he did this, the kids tied him to the old oak tree and let a bunch of leeches loose on him. No one ever found out how long Mado remained in that state. When Borzu accidentally found him and pulled the leeches off his skin, Mado cried for the very first time. (Some say the scars on his back and chest are from those leeches.)
From that day on, Mado developed extraordinary respect for Borzu, a respect that in Mado’s own way was summarized in joyful prancing and playing around Borzu, just like some of the village dogs.
Sometimes Mado idled around him so much (without beating his drum, blowing his horn, or cussing) that Borzu felt obliged to joke with him a little and cheer him up . . . And it was thus that Borzu became Mado’s partner in playing Peshkeleh-Ghar and Walnuts, partner to Mado who up until then would not agree to stop swearing at people, much less play the local village games with them.
And all this took place before Borzu Alvandi signed up at the village defense mobilization outpost to go to the frontlines of the Iran-Iraq war.
Borzu was born on a beautiful autumn day in 1964 to a poor and populous family in Baloutan village. He didn’t attend elementary school in his own village, because they didn’t have a school. To receive an education, every morning Borzu walked several kilometers over the hill reclining at the foot of the snow-covered mountains to the school in the neighboring village.
But Borzu Alvandi wasn’t all that interested in school. This, his father Ali-Fath Alvandi realized early on. (From fifth grade until the second year of high school, Borzu failed three years and twice was promoted through leniency alone.) At the time, he was more interested in playing Peshkeleh-Ghar and Walnuts. A few times, he and Joon-Baaz Eskandari stole hens from the neighboring village, roasted them, ate them, and then played Peshkeleh-Ghar to their heart’s content.
Are eight men enough to form a reconnaissance patrol team in the war zone? How about five men? Or thirteen? I don’t know. I don’t even know what equipment they would need in addition to their firearms. Other than what I have learned by reading a few memoirs written by soldiers at the front, I don’t know anything about war . . . In 1987, when I was in my second year of high school, I wanted to enroll in the army’s first-aid relief training program with Hassan, one of my classmates. But my father made such a stink when he found out . . . My cousin had to spend two hours and twenty-five minutes pacing up and down the dirt road in our neighborhood with me, trying to talk the eldest son of the family out of his decision. I remember the core of his argument was that my probable death and martyrdom would break the family’s back. And stupid me, to avoid the imminent tragedy of the family’s back breaking, I was duped into not going to the front . . .
Over the next thirteen years, as a result of the country’s economy, time and again our family found itself on the verge of its back being broken. My father even suffered from a bad disc and underwent surgery. But still, his back didn’t break and we survived all the losses and escaped all the crises unscathed.
My friend Hassan went to the front after completing the first-aid relief training program. Not only did his family’s back not break, he even benefited from the university admissions quotas for war veterans and was accepted to one of the best universities in Iran.
As you can see, the only opportunity I had to experience war was thus lost. How could my dear cousin have known that someday I would need war-related military information. After all, he had no idea I would one day become a writer.
Even if I had gone to war—as a sixteen-year-old first-aid recruit—it is not certain that I would have gained any knowledge about reconnaissance patrols that would come handy in writing this story. Supposing what happened to Hassan were to happen to me, what then? Once when we got drunk together he started crying and told me that the night before an operation, his trench-mate raped him. If I, too, had gone to war, perhaps now instead of writing Borzu’s story, I would be writing a bitter tale about the rape of a sixteen-year-old youth who later gives up studying developmental engineering, gets hooked on hashish and heroin, pimps his own sister for drugs, gets into a scuffle with his brother and is stabbed . . . No, I’m certain I wouldn’t write this story . . . Even if it wasn’t so humdrum, it wouldn’t receive a publishing permit from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance . . . Even though I know nothing about war, I prefer our own Borzu whose pain is a thousand times greater than the pain of being raped. (Really?)
At this particular juncture, I’m constantly wondering, what mistake did Borzu make that resulted in him suffering such profound sorrow and sadness? Why did his squad get trapped at that three-way junction in that strange and comical way? And in those mountains, how did they come under siege by the Iraqis for them to then start that stupid game . . .
Do you remember that enchanting moment? The crowd, the excitement, the commotion? . . . Any minute now, quivering, glistening teardrops will roll down Naz-Gol Jabbari’s delicate, glowing cheeks. For four years, day and night, at all hours, she has counted the warp and weft of the carpet’s design and has vowed to light as many candles at the Bi-Sanam Shrine as the strands of her lustrous hair so that Borzu, her brave broad-shouldered betrothed, will be released from captivity. For four years she has been content with that single clandestine smile that Borzu gave her as he kissed the Quran, passed under it, and with doleful eyes stole a look at her. And now . . .
Ali-Fath Alvandi, quiet and cranky, is counting his prayer beads. Next to him, Naz-Gol’s father Mundi-Jaan Jabbari is leaning against a floor cushion, with his left leg bent into a pedestal for his right hand and his other hand on Ali-Fath’s knee as a gesture of consolation. Trying to sound sympathetic, he says, “It’s all right, Ali-Fath, these Godless people spared no one. It’s an honor for you that your son has fought against the infidels, destroyed their kith and kin. Why are you brooding?” He turns to Seyed Akbar Pazidi. “Right, Seyed Akbar?”
Seyed Akbar clears his throat, but before he can say anything in support of Mundi-Jaan, Agha Morad, the village elder, walks into the room, leaning on his cane. “Greetings . . . greetings . . .” Everyone stands up before him, except Borzu Alvandi who is haughtily sitting at the center of the gathering, staring at the window’s rusted handle. In a chastising tone, Ali-Fath Alvandi snaps, “Get up, boy! Agha Morad has come to see you . . .”
Everyone is busy exchanging greetings and pleasantries. Ali-Fath keeps an angry eye on Borzu, who neither hears nor says anything. He is not the same Borzu Alvandi of four years ago. Everyone, even Mado who is oblivious to everything, realized this in the very first hour after they welcomed him home. And thanks to the auspicious presence of Mado—this deserving creature—news spread as fast as flood throughout the village: “Bozu is in a bad way . . . Bozu is in a bad way . . .” (Mado calls Borzu, “Bozu.”) No matter how much the elders beat Mado, no matter how much they swore at him, no matter how much they did anything, he just wouldn’t stop.
The canteen is suspended in the air. Riddled with holes and hanging from several bootlaces that have been tied together. Borzu Alvandi is carefully lowering it tangent to the face of the ten- to fifteen-meter-high cliff toward the watering hole. Under the scorching sun, Borzu, Joon-Baaz, and Javad are thirsty, and the Iraqis, armed with Simonov rifles, have started a deadly game to torture them to death.
Long after, Borzu Alvandi will always wonder why he wasn’t martyred, just like Sadegh, Abbas, Joon-Baaz, Javad, and hordes of others, so that he wouldn’t suffer so much . . .
I was supposed to explain how Borzu Alvandi, who was the leader of the reconnaissance patrol squad, prepared his team and set out, and how it happened that they went in the wrong direction until they reached a three-way junction that didn’t exist on the map.
I told you, I really don’t know much about these things. Besides, what Borzu Alvandi and his squad did, how they came together, and why they were out on reconnaissance patrol is not very important to our story.
Javad: “What if we’ve come the wrong way?”
Joon-Baaz, poking him from behind with tip of his rifle: “Shhhh! Do you want them to find us here in the middle of the night?”
Sadegh, with the plastic bag of nuts and raisins faintly rustling in his pocket, squatting down, shuffles a few steps closer to them: “Wouldn’t it be better if we went back? Something doesn’t feel right.”
Borzu Alvandi is thinking. Joon-Baaz whispers something to him.
Sadegh munches on a few nuts and raisins. (Nuts and raisins?)
We could add a crowd of extras to the group and it wouldn’t hurt for them to breathe too, but softly and quietly.
First we have to dig a few ditches. Naturally, as in any game, there must be two teams of contestants. Now we need some dried goat manure and a few people to squat down next to the ditches, directly facing each other as if locking horns. Then we need a piece of wood on a small mound of dirt as the target (target?) and two teams of five players each (the defenders and the assailants), with each person holding one foot with one hand and attacking the others. (Attacking?) To continue the game, we have to find a ten- to fifteen-meter-high cliff, shaped in a way that whoever sees it will say, “It’s so steep!”
Don’t forget, the cliff should be perfectly vertical. Dig a hole at the bottom and fill it with water. Then give the players on top of the cliff a canteen and some yarn or a few boot laces (the string-holders) and give the other players a few sticks instead of Simonovs and have them take position nearby (the stick-wielders).
This game must be played in the summertime and at exactly twelve noon. (Noon? When the heat cooks one’s brain?) The players on top of the cliff (the string-holders) are supposedly surrounded by the others (the stick-wielders), and because they are thirsty, they tie the boot strings or pieces of yarn together so that it will be ten to fifteen meters long and they can use it to lower the canteen toward the water hole.
In these critical moments, the stick-wielders will allow the canteen to fill with water. When it is full, the string-holders will start to pull it up. The stick-wielders will allow it to rise thirteen and half meters. Pay attention, exactly thirteen and half meters. And then, with perfect aim, the canteen has to be riddled with holes so that the water pours out. The sound that will be heard at this moment will be very pleasant to the stick-wielders and very unpleasant to the string-holders.
It is precisely at this instant that one of the string-holders must leap up and curse at the stick-wielders, but he will be shot in the shoulder and will fall to the ground groaning . . . and this is just the beginning . . .
There is a meeting at Ali-Fath Alvandi’s house. (The type of meeting that may be held in villages when a hen or a baby goat is stolen.) The subject of discussion is Borzu Alvandi’s abnormal state and possible methods of treatment.
Without getting into the details of the meeting and repeatedly explaining what Ali-Fath Alvandi did or said, where Seyed Akbar Pazidi sat, what Mundi-Jaan Jabbari recommended, how Safdar the grocer slurped his tea, and how Mado laughed and clowned around (no one knew how he had managed to get in and they finally kicked him out of the room), and even more important, without again deliberating on the sorry state of Borzu Alvandi who was oblivious to everything and just laughed or scowled now and then (he didn’t cry at all), and instead of writing this nonsensical sentence, which I can’t figure out how to end, let’s just go to the heart of the matter:
Agha Morad, the village elder, who had cleared his throat some time ago, said, “The issue is that those savages tortured him a lot.”
Suddenly the room was drowned in a silence that must be quite meaningful in such stories. The silence continued to grow more meaningful and everyone just stared at each other. Agha Morad said, “Indeed, who knows how those infidel Baathists tormented this innocent child that now he can’t remember his own name and doesn’t recognize anyone . . . I’m talking to you, Agha Ali-Fath . . .”
Ali-Fath Alvandi fidgeted a little and collected himself.
Agha Morad continued, “Did you send your brave, handsome son to the front this mad and muddled?”
Everyone replied, “By God, no . . . by God, no . . .”
Agha Morad coughed. “Did your son not write to you while he was at the front?”
Everyone turned and looked at Mundi-Jaan Jabbari (because Borzu Alvandi only wrote to Naz-Gol Jabbari).
All together: “He did . . . he did . . .”
Agha Morad: “Was he this dazed and confused in his letters?”
Again, everyone turned to Mundi-Jaan Jabbari.
“By God, no . . . by God, no . . .”
[I better end this idiotic scene quickly.]
One of the meeting participants: “Agha Morad, your words are wise. Still, what is done is done . . . What would you recommend we do?”
While stroking his white beard Agha Morad will present them with three options:
1. The Bi-Sanam Shrine
2. Naz-Gol Jabbari (Whenever someone goes crazy, the villagers conclude that one remedy is marriage.)
3. He himself (Meaning for Agha Morad to write a prayer on a small piece of paper and pin it to Borzu ’s shirt so that it will be with him at all times. Thus, God will either cure him or protect him against further misfortune.)
Smiling and content, they will all collect their shoes and hats and head out to follow these recommendations. Borzu Alvandi is napping.
Place: Up the walnut tree
Time: A long time ago
Borzu is shaking the walnuts off the branches for crazy Mado. When Mado is happy, with his eyes wide and his mouth gaping he makes a sound that resembles a howl. And now, while gathering the walnuts, he sees Naz-Gol carrying a copper tray piled with washed laundry on her head and he makes the sound that resembles a howl.
“Bozu! . . . Bozu! . . .”
As soon as Borzu realizes what is going on, he quickly climbs down from the tree.
“Naz-Gol! . . . Hey, Naz-Gol! . . .” [Borzu’s voice is muffled, muffled.]
Mado’s howl changes into a chopped, hysterical laugh. Naz-Gol pretends she hasn’t seen Borzu, but Borzu won’t give up. He runs after her and grabs the hem of her skirt. Naz-Gol trips and the tray of washed clothes tumbles to the ground. Mado claws at the walnut branches with one hand and shoves his other hand in his trousers and watches with hunger and excitement. Borzu lays Naz-Gol down on the ground behind a bush. Mado covers his eyes with the walnut leaves and makes a sound that’s somewhere between a laugh, a scream, and a groan.
They tie Borzu Alvandi’s hands, feet, and neck to the tomb casing in the shrine with strips of green velvet fabric.
Seyed Akbar Pazidi recites several inspiring prayers from the Quran.
Borzu Alvandi gazes around, lost and muddled.
The villagers walk up to the cement platform next to the tomb and light the candles they’re holding. Borzu Alvandi smiles at the sight of the glowing flames. To hearten him, Agha Morad returns his smile while stroking his long white beard.
One by one, the villagers recite the prayer for the forgiveness of the dead, kiss the tomb casing, and stand to the side. Only men are participating in the ceremony.
Perched on a branch in the massive old oak tree next to the shrine, Mado blows into his plastic horn, but no sound emanates from it. Borzu Alvandi is distracted by Mado who angrily throws the horn down, holds his fists in front of his mouth and starts making the sound of a horn. Now and then, he nods at Borzu Alvandi and howls. One of the villagers walks up to the oak tree and throws a few rocks at Mado in an effort to silence him.
Agha Morad says, “Borzu has to stay here alone for twenty-four hours, perhaps Bi-Sanam will take pity on him and cure him.” And he heads back toward the village. Naturally, the others follow him, including Ali-Fath Alvandi, who I forgot to make mention of in these ceremonies.
Borzu Alvandi tries to free himself so that he can go with them. A sound resembling Mado’s howls rises from his throat. His struggle to untie his hands and feet and neck is futile. He feels like someone who wants to shout and say something, but . . . Is this not the moment when a miracle is supposed to happen?
Under the window of Naz-Gol Jabbari’s room, Safdar’s son Hashem is crooning a love song in the local dialect. Naz-Gol is drowned in Hashem’s melancholy serenade. I wish it were possible to reflect in words the singing style of the folk love song so that those readers who have never heard it can experience its effect. But, alas, it is beyond my abilities.
My love, call me
My love, call me
Cursed love, cursed . . . hey . . .
(deep audible breath, similar to a sigh, damning fate and destiny and the like . . .)
It is true that Borzu Alvandi is the hero of our story, but we can sympathize a little with Hashem who has taken advantage of the village being empty (the men have all gone to the shrine to cure Borzu Alvandi) and has come to somehow woo Naz-Gol. Well, what should Naz-Gol do? Should she stay true to her old love Borzu Alvandi who has gone crazy, or should she say yes to Hashem, whom she doesn’t love, but who is wise and wealthy? (Again, the same old cliché.)
Ah, Naz-Gol! What befell your future husband in the bloom of youth? Now, wretched girl, instead of weaving raw silk, weave your sorrows! You waited four years for whom? For what? A useless piece of flesh, brainless and voiceless? See the tears your mother sheds . . . “May God take my life, my dear, my Naz-Gol, my moon, why are you so sad? Why? Look! Look! Strapping and steadfast, what is wrong with Safdar’s son Hashem? Works like a tractor, whistles like a nightingale, even better than a nightingale. And his father has a grocery store. We can get all we want on credit, and who’s going to collect? Who would send a bill to his daughter-in-law? As a matter of fact, Safdar prays and pleads for such a union. Didn’t you see how he was trying to endear himself to your father yesterday? His smile was as big as a slice of the watermelons from dear Bibi-Gom’s patch! And you want to sit next to that crazy piece of flesh and say what? It was Joon-Baaz who was martyred like a hero and buried with honor and respect. All this nonsense is worth nothing. Smile and cheer up your mother, and I’ll cook soup for the poor so that God will bring you good fortune . . . there . . . there . . . that’s a good girl . . .”
Mado reaches into his pocket and pulls out a huge frog. The frog tries to leap away, but Mado throws it at Borzu. (Borzu?)
Borzu pins the frog’s legs to the ground and Mado with his howl-like laughter stabs a small, sharp piece of tin into the animal’s white belly and slices it open. The frog flails violently and frees one leg, but Borzu howls and grabs it again. Mado patiently examines the animal’s innards and one by one takes out its organs. Borzu sniffles and scratches his face with his shoulder. The frog is floundering. The slaughter of the creature has not yet ended when Mado suddenly leaps up and stomps on its remains and crushes it. And he turns to Borzu who is laughing and says, “Play Wanut . . . play Wanut . . .”
Again news will spread throughout the village as fast as a flood: “Borzu isn’t in the shrine . . .” And again the villagers will have to grab their shoes and hats and go searching for him . . .
Soon (In two days? Ten years? Three months?) they will get tired of worrying and feeling sorry for Borzu Alvandi. And there will be a few rascals in the village who will chase after him, tie him to the old oak tree, and let leeches . . .
No, this ending is too bitter and serious. (Bitter?) How could I allow myself to inflict on darling Borzu who suffers such great sorrow and sadness the same fate as crazy Mado? In which case, would anyone come to pull the leeches off his body and untie him from the tree so that he can cry for the very first time? (The very first time?) And then to cheerfully prance and play around? . . .
What if we end the story by revealing that Borzu Alvandi and crazy Mado are one and the same, and, for instance, that Naz-Gol Jabbari is relating this story to her future son who is now one of those mischief-makers chasing after Mado (Borzu) to tie him to the tree . . . and end with Naz-Gol Jabbari wiping away the tears that have rolled onto her cheeks with the back of her hand?
In fact, what if Naz-Gol Jabbari loses her mind out of sorrow over Borzu, and Safdar’s son Hashem continues to relentlessly croon love songs under her window? Now Borzu will have to recover so that he can grieve for Naz-Gol and search for a cure for her. (He can even send crazy Mado to a mental hospital in the city.)
What if everyone recovers? Mado quiets down and stops cursing at people and a few of the good and obedient children in the village play Peshkeleh-Ghar and Walnuts with him, Borzu returns to the village in perfect health and makes Naz-Gol as happy as she can be and he visits Joon-Baaz Eskandari’s grave every weekend to recite the prayer for the forgiveness of the dead . . .
Isn’t it idiotic?
At this point, it would perhaps be best for me to express my sincere gratitude to those who helped me write this story. I would especially like to thank those who invented and popularized all sorts of serious and nonserious games so that human beings don’t idly amble around . . . if it weren’t for these games, we would all be terribly bored, wouldn’t we?