I really didn’t like Siamak Vossoughi’s The X-250, which makes me sad, because it’s one of those subtler stories that you feel like a fool for not “getting.” There are four principal characters in the story: Vasos (the Greek), Mr. Rezai (the Iranian), Mr. Rezai’s daughter, and George (the Irishman). And no, you don’t get much description of the characters beyond those traits. A running gag emerges between Rezai and George where George tells Rezai “No war on Iran!” whenever George needs a signature or something. As a friendly gesture, Rezai and his daughter start saying “No war on Ireland!” back to him. This small short story ends with George making a false excuse during work (claiming he needs to sign off on an imaginary “X-250”) so he can tell the 11-year-old daughter “No war on Iran” and make her smile, just as he hopes to one day make his own unborn daughter smile. Isn’t that nice? Well, maybe, and then again maybe not.
I say I feel like a fool for not “getting” this work because it’s a minimalist story. Not only is the story 5 pages long, but it’s also sparse on details, and it asks a lot of the reader. That, I feel, is a strength of minimalism. Stories like this can fill in details with what the reader brings to the tale, allowing for a more personal and interactive experience. To do this, minimalist works need a solid base, a coloring book so the reader can draw in with their own crayons. So: when, exactly, does this story take place? Is this the 80s, when America is fighting a proxy war against them? The 2000s, when Iran’s part of the axis of evil? The present day, when America’s trying to strike a deal with them? The 60s, when they’re “on our side” and relations are good? Rezai compares the threatening “America of the newspapers” to the welcoming “America of the job,” but we have no idea what the America of the newspapers is like. Maybe this story shouldn’t have been minimalist if it means making “timeless” a story that characterizes its players through something that changes over time (prejudices towards nationalities). So is it nice that George wishes the little Iranian girl for no war? Or is it ironic? Or hopeful? Or what?
Where the minimalism does work best is the conversation between Rezai and his daughter. Daughter, 11 and innocent, wonders if Iran and the US will go to war, and Rezai has to explain, “When a person is young like you, they know that war is bad. But when they get older, some people go back to war because it is the old thing, and they can’t see the new thing any more,” (Vossoughi, 29). The story doesn’t need to say, “Rezai has been through some shit,” because his weighty wisdom implies it. This is also where Rezai gets to be a character, instead of a symbolic nationality.
It’s a short read, but you won’t be missing anything if you skip it in this collection.
Interested in this story? Buy it and many others here!
Also, check out Siamak Vossoughi’s other work here! He says it’s his job “to write with love for Iranians and Americans,” and that’s not a bad goal to support.