“The Haunting of Hajji Hotak”
by Jamil Jan Kochai
from the November 8, 2021 issue of The New Yorker

Jamil Jan Kochai first appeared in The New Yorker in December 2019, with “Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.” Commenters liked it, but I’m afraid I never read it. I’m always behind!

That story was written in the second person, and it appears from the first paragraph of “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak” is the same.

You don’t know why, exactly, you’ve been assigned to this particular family, in this particular home, in West Sacramento, California. It’s not your job to wonder why. Nonetheless, after a few days, you begin to speculate that the suspect at the heart of your assignment is the father, code-named Hajji, even though you have no reason to believe that he has ever actually completed the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. In fact, Hajji hardly leaves home at all. He spends hours at a time wandering around his house or his yard, searching for things to repair—rotted planks of wood, missing shingles, burned-out bulbs, broken mowers, shattered windows, unhinged doors—until his old injuries act up, and he is forced to lie down wherever he is working, and if he happens to be in the attic or the basement, or in some other secluded area of the house, away from his wife and his mother and his four children, sometimes he will allow himself to quietly mutter verses from the Quran, invocations to Allah, until his ache seems to ebb and he returns to work.

I like this beginning. I’m intrigued. Please let me know your thoughts!

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