Once upon a time Afsaneh and Yousef were happily married, but Yousef grew lazy. He sat by while his wife cooked and cleaned. When she asked why he did nothing, he said he was busy thinking.
One morning, when the calf began to bleat, Afsaneh called to Yousef to tend to the calf, but Yousef said, "It's not my job. I provide for you, and you must care for me. You go see about the calf."
Afsaneh had had enough and began to argue, but Yousef only argued back. Their argument went on all day and into the night. At long last, Afsaneh said, "Enough! Whoever speaks the next word will be the one who feeds the calf from this day on."
Yousef nodded agreement, and so they went to bed without saying another word.
In the morning, Afsaneh woke, lit the fire, cooked their breakfast, cleaned the house and prepared the midday meal. She did not say a word.
Yousef ate the breakfast and sat in his chair, lost in thought.
Afsaneh looked at him and realized she could not watch him sitting idly there all day and remain silent, and so she left the house to go see a friend.
Soon after she departed, a beggar knocked on the door and said, "Please sir, I need some food and money."
Yousef was about to speak when he realized his wife must have been trying to trick him. And so he said nothing. The beggar decided the husband must be deaf and mute, so he walked inside and helped himself to a hearty breakfast.
Yousef said not a word.
Not long after the beggar departed, a traveling barber knocked on the door. He had come to ask Yousef if he wished to have his beard trimmed.
Yousef thought it was another trick, and so he remained silent.
The barber took that silence as assent. He trimmed Yousef's beard, and when he held out his hand to be paid, Yousef did nothing.
This infuriated the barber, who yelled, "If you do not pay me, I'll shave off your entire beard and cut your hair!" He waited for Yousef to say something or give him money, but Yousef sat stubbornly still and silent, and so the barber cut off his hair and shaved off his beard. He departed in anger.
Before long, word spread of the strange man who said and did nothing. A thief heard this news, and so he hurried to the house. He knocked on the door and when he saw Yousef's shorter hair and shaved face, he mistook him for a woman. The thief said, "Young lady, you should not be alone. Why don't you let me inside to keep you company?"
Yousef almost laughed, but he knew this was another of his wife's tricks. He said nothing, and the thief walked inside and began to fill his bag with vases and clothing and teapots and tapestries. When Yousef said nothing at all, the thief departed.
It grew late, and the calf began to wail. When no one came to feed it, it broke out of its stall and ran into the village.
Afsaneh was at her friend's house when she heard the sound of her calf wailing. "Fool," she said when she looked out the window. She ran outside and caught the calf and returned home.
There she saw a stranger sitting where Yousef usually sat. She did not recognize this beardless person, and so she asked, "Who are you?"
"Ah-ha!" Yousef cried. "You spoke first, so you will tend the calf from this day on!"
Afsaneh could not believe what she was hearing. "You shaved and cut your hair just to fool me!" she said. But then she looked around and saw their tapestries and teapots and clothing and vases were gone.
"What happened? Who took everything?"
Yousef laughed. "The man you hired to be a thief," he said.
"Mad man!" cried Afsaneh. She was so angry that she stormed out of the house. "I will not stay here with such a fool!"
She ran in search of the thief. She asked everyone if they had seen a man carrying a bag, and the village children directed her toward the desert.
Afsaneh ran after him and at last caught up with him at the oasis, where he was watering his camel. She had an idea.
She began to flirt with the thief, and so flattered was he by her attention that he asked her to accompany him on his journey, and as they walked, they talked.
After a while the thief said, "Marry me," for he had fallen in love.
Afsaneh agreed, but she was clever, and by the time they reached the next village, it was too late for a wedding. The village chief invited them to stay the night in his home.
After everyone was asleep, Afsaneh got up and looked in the bag, where she found all her belongings. Then she cooked some flour and water over a candle and poured the dough into the thief's shoes.
She hurried out into the desert, taking all her belongings.
When the thief woke and saw that his beauty and his bag were gone, he reached for his shoes. He could not fit his feet inside, for the dough had risen and hardened. He ran outside barefoot, but by then the sun was high and the sand was hot. He burned his feet and had to stop.
So Afsaneh made her way home.
When she arrived, the house was clean, the food cooked, the fire lit, and she saw Yousef outside hanging the laundry.
"What's this?" she asked.
"Because I was a stubborn fool, I lost my face, my fortune and my wife," he said.
They made up and agreed to share the duties of the house.
And they lived happily ever after.