Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 4 | Winter 1985 (Seattle) /// Issue 14 of 24 /// Master# 62 of 73

For the rest of my stay I stood dutifully by while he haggled for my sardines and bread and coffee and mekrouthe. It was not only the saving of my delicate funds but to spare myself a fool’s humiliation in the marketplace that I succumbed to the boy’s expertise. It seemed a lesson in subservience to accept such protection. But when I went on, to other towns and other markets, I heard his tone in my voice when I faced the vendors. “Five-hundred millime? Bismillahi Do you think I am a fool?” In the market place he has his way with many. Everyone greets him pleasantly and invites him in for tea and gossip. If I wander through the market alone or sit down for a coffee, people ask, “Where is the boy?” as if they have accepted his protection over me and wish to remind me of it. Others apparently have their way with him. In the sea it’s true the big fishes eat the little fishes. With his thickly-carved jaw and his confident strut, he can outwit many larger fishes. But in a moment here or there, a passing glance exposes him. He hurries me through these exposes and sweeps me as quickly as possible out into some more secure area of his territory. One day, in one of the back rooms of a carpet shop, a surly young man joins our tea-drinking group and begins to taunt the boys with a huge wad of bills. He pinches their cheeks and grabs their hair, and when they turn away defiantly he waves the money in their faces. One by one he torments them. “Come to the back room and let’s discuss it.” When I meet the boy the next day he has a few bills. He tells me, “My grandfather is rich from animals. He takes good care of me.” Inside the tesselated mud walls of the old Medina, the square is amove with Berber herdsmen unloading sheep and goats from the backs of their Peugeout pickups. They come in from the outlying plains on market days to sell their animals. Their women, strong and colorful in bright handwoven barracans stroll about the Medina doing errands. They enjoy more freedom than other women.. .they don’t hide their faces, they adorn thema In this part of the world where old ways have suffered and new ways haven't sufficed, and everyone scrambles to yet a foothold, the bedouin here have fared well by hanyiny onto old ways and merely embellishiny them with the new. selves in heavy jewelry, and their step has a noticeable lightness. In this part of the world where old ways have suffered and new ways haven’t sufficed, and everyone scrambles to get a foothold, the bedouin here have fared well by hanging onto old ways and merely embellishing them with the new. The land supports but little agriculture, and animal keeping remains a necessity. These bedu live on in their ancestral territory, observing the same ceremonies, raising the same animals, and investing in pick-up trucks and transistor radios to keep apace with the market place of the here and now. On market day the trucks pull up, and the Berber men leap out sinewy and confident. I am convinced his grandfather is not among them. “We will have a meal,” says the boy, with the confidence of a lord, “and this time it is I who will pay.” His French, like his smile, is broken. Overwrought R’s tumble from his tongue in innocent corruption. Deep in the market place is a little cafe open to the air. The tables are covered with blue and white plastic tableclothes. A stoppered bottle of water sits on each table. We dine there on soup and chicken stew. The cafe men look on with wry, disapproving smiles. . .he is squandering his few millime on a wandering ajnabiyye. The boy eats with great gusto and orders the waiter about. A friend no doubt, or someone who owes him money. Someone who with a few well-placed words could dash the boy’s facade and leave me in horror. But we all play our parts. . . the gracious waiter, the courting young man, and I, the coy lady. For me this coyness is for real. Somehow on this journey I came to an unexpected little corner where I broke down, where I lost my edge and allowed a young man to take me under his wing. It’s an odd affair... I who am not weak, he who really has nothing. Together in the dust like little doves. He seems to understand what I need about the road, about the desert: it reduces me. We are sitting on the window ledge.The camel is turning its circles and stomping out coded tales of, epic revenge. At first the camel upset me and I felt a deep horror of its life. But each time we come here, it seems more reasonable and not so out of the ordinary. I begin to understand why, as the boy watches, his face grows soft and for the moment his overworked bravado comes to rest. “A camel is exactly like a man,” he tells me. “He sees and feels everything and he will remember it. If you beat him, he will remember and when you do not expect it he will have his revenge.” The evening is cool and quiet. Pilgrims appear from time to time to drink from the clay dippers. “Wait here!” The boy slips away and disappears into the market place with a well worn case. I dream awhile, drifting into the coolness of the whitewashed dome above me and breathing with the creak of the old wooden wheel. Now the boy is back at my side with a gift for my travels, a tiny, green-covered book filled with Arabic script. “The ninety-nine names of Allah are between these covers,” he tells me earnestly. “They will protect you from snakes when you go into the desert.” The gamins, running their daily circles through the market place, have nothing in this world, except that no one expects them home. So they can come here in the evening to be cool and comforted and to hope that one day the camel will become senile enough to mutter aloud an unspoken word. For the camel, it is said, knows the hundredth name of Allah. By such ruses gamins can become marabouts and camels lose their livelihood. Meanwhile, the wait, for paradise or a crust of bread, whichever comes first. Jess Piper is a writer living in Seattle. She currently studies Arabic and Islamic heritage, and is laying plans for a return to North Africa. Artist Jimmy Jet lives in Seattle, where he’s represented by the Traver- Sutton Gallery. COMMUNITY |h Primal Cream CONFERENCE CENTER CENTRAL CO- OPcrocery 12th &Denny on Capitol Hill ™ Get in touch with our raw dairy and soy products. 'Imported & Domestic Beer •Our Own Sangria •Espresso X7 RaUuian Peiiau^aeti 'The Pike Place Market • DISCOVER SALTENAS • • THE BEST CEVICHE IIS TOWIS • OPACABANA HEALING: Hot springs, roaring river, vegetarian meals — give yourself a gift of relaxation and rest. RETREATS: $30/person/day ($25 weekdays) includes three meals, cabin accommodations, hot tubs, steam sauna, natural pools. Special rates: weekly, seniors, children. 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INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS Breitenbush Community, Box 578, Detroit, OR 97342 (503) 854-3314, 854-3501 Breitenbush is 60 miles east of Salem off Hiway 22. Clinton St. Quarterly 19