On his cell phone walking back to his car, Radouan called Toni: ‘I tried to call you but your phone was off, I’m just five minutes away.’

          ‘An hour ago you said you’d be here in five minutes.  The maid is sulking.’

           Minutes later, Radouan let himself into her flat.

          Toni looked up over her newspaper. ‘You’re perspiring, your shirt is wet, go in and take a shower, and we’ll have lunch.’

          ‘Of course I’m perspiring, it’s hot... I sweat... what am I supposed to do?’

          ‘Take a shower, darling, you look tired.’

          ‘Not now. I’m hungry I want to eat.  What do you have?’

          ‘Cold Ratatouille, salad, cold orange and carrot soup.’

           Radouan’s jaw dropped. ‘Tha’s all?’

          ‘That’s quite enough... good for our waistlines.’

          ‘It’s not enough.  You know I don’t eat that rubbish Ratatouille - or salad.  Don't you have any meat or pasta?’

          ‘She will make it for you darling.  What do you want on it?’

           Radouan exploded. ‘Have you lost your mind?  Maybe you have that new disease... Mad Bull.’

           Toni smiled; his eyes were flashing exactly like a mad bull’s. ‘Mad cow, darling’ she said, ‘it’s Mad Cow!’.

          ‘Whatever… We’ve known each other all these years and you still can’t remember what I eat. Jus’ have her boil some pasta with some milk and serve it with some olive oil and salt, tha's all.’

           Toni sighed, ‘Will you please stop saying JUS' and THA'S all the time.  You know how it irritates me... and why don't you eat sauces... and refuse vegetables. Why?’

          ‘I’ve told you many times but you never listen.  Until I was eighteen sometimes we were so poor I never had meat except on feast days... only legumes and rice or semolina. When I see cooked vegetables I want to vomit.  Even thinkin’ about them... and mixtures like sauces... we never eat them except from the hands of our mothers.’

          ‘Because of maji, I suppose.’

          ‘Exac’ly... how can we trust these women, especially these maids. They get jealous and they decide to poison you.  It’s like that... simple minded… too stupid to think what will happen to them if they get caught.’

          ‘It happened to Paul Bowles’ wife, I believe.’

          ‘Yes.  Really, they can give you something now...something you’ll never taste or see... and three months later your heart will stop, or your hair will fall out.  This maid you have here she’s kharia!  I know exac’ly where she comes from and who her people are... all thieves and fake majis.  A few months ago she asked me to fuck her...’

          ‘She what?’ Toni flushed, ‘I don't believe you...’

          ‘Yes, when you were in London... you must know one thing, these maids are very aggressive.  I told her if she were the last woman on earth I wouldn’t fuck her.  So now she must be thinkin’ of ways to get rid of me.  Please be sure any photos you may have of me are locked up, especially black and white ones. She could give one to somebody who could kill me at a distance.  Really, I wish you would get rid of her.  To be safe here you have to change maids every year.  It’s very important!’

          ‘Darling, you’re so paranoid today, what’s... surely you’re exaggerating, think of Minna, she’s had the same cook, the same servants, for years...’

Radouan was defiant. ‘Listen to me and I will tell you something: in Europe you had your Inquisition which did many horrible things, but the good thing it did was get rid of witches, male and female, Majis and Sorcerers... Why do you think Europe went way ahead of us?  And then America burned their witches and went ahead of everyone. Jus’ think what it is like to live in a place where everyone is making maji against everyone else all the time.  It makes for terror.  It makes life very difficult, too complicated, and impossible to get things done.’

          Toni shrugged, ‘Of course, one knows about places like Nigeria and Mali ... but here?’

        ‘The maji here has come up from those places through Timbuktu with slaves which our Sultans have imported; now it’s everywhere.  Do what you want, you always do, but for your own safety if you want a good cook get a man and bring him from outside, from France or Italy.’

          ‘Please go and take a shower, habibi, you’re hungry. When you’re hungry you get nervous and upset, I know.  I will boil your pasta myself. Just go wash away all the bad vibrations... you can have lunch in your bathrobe if you like.’


           Over lunch, Radouan caught Toni glancing at her maid as if for the first time, and laughed.  Toni looked down at her food, ‘I can’t remember you talking about this poisoning business are you sure?’

          ‘When you don't want to hear something you don't hear it,’ he smiled.  ‘All these years you’ve never really lived in Marrakech - three weeks here, two weeks there... a weekend.  Now you are coming here to live, there are many things you must know and try to REMEMBER!’

          ‘What is this business deal you’re involved in?’ she asked, changing the subject.

          ‘Never mind, it could be very important, it could make me a rich man. When it’s certain I will tell you, until then it would be unlucky to talk about it.’

          Toni frowned and pouted, ‘Why must you be rich when I am rich, habibi?  You know very well I’m rich enough for both of us... what’s mine is yours... when we’re married it will be legally yours as well.’

          ‘If you think I want to live with you like that, you’re crazy. I want my own money. I’ve always made my own money. I like it... to make money. Rich women like to be hustled because it gives them power... don’t try to make me into some TOYBOY!’

          ‘Wherever did you pick that one up?’ Toni giggled ‘I hope this business deal of yours doesn’t involve drugs... I do worry you’ll get involved in something really bad... you have no idea how much time I spend worrying about you…’

            You know how much I dislike drugs... I don’t do them and I don’t deal them.  My weakness is for wine. I enjoy gettin’ drunk from time to time... really drunk, in vino veritas... YES!’

          ‘That’s what you think, but it’s not true.’  

          ‘Not with me.  When I drink I can really see ...without the garbage of my life passing before my eyes.  These people here in Marrakech, mostly they use kif and hashish. It puts their brains to sleep.’

          Toni rolled her eyes, ‘I smoke hashish. I’ve always smoked it... in fact I can’t remember when I started.’ She lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. ‘I know you don't like drugs, habibi, but that wouldn’t prevent you from financing a big deal... would it?’

          Radouan pointed at her and wagged his finger. ‘Attention! Attention!  Right now you’re doin' the worst drug of all... You must stop... absolutely... NOW... put it out or I’ll...’

          ‘You have this vision of yourself as a Mafia stud doing deals...’

          ‘Yes what do you think...? Al Pacino I love him. Let’s go to New York and I’ll prove it... Brooklyn I'll join a gang... buy a gun... be a gangster.  I would like that... and believe me I would be very successful because I look like one. Godfather One, Two and Three... I’ve watched ten times at least...  but I know more tricks than them.’ Radouan fired into the air with his forefinger. ‘All I need is a gun.’

           Toni grimaced. ‘You’re so fascinated by all this criminality yet you sit there telling me I should get rid of my maid because she comes from a family of thieves.’

          Radouan grinned. ‘It’s my FANTASIA, ‘bibti, you don’t understand the danger, the power, the challenge of New York, Miami, Las Vegas. But don't worry, believe me, I may go away from time to time but my life is here in Marrakech with you.’ He stubbed out her cigarette.

          ‘So you’re not going to tell me about this business deal of yours,’ she said evenly.

          ‘Not ‘til it happens... it’s like poetry, you can’t talk about it while you’re writing it... really, you don't have to know everything, habibti... we have a saying you know... Curiosity killed the Goat.’

          ‘And we say Curiosity killed the Cat.’

          ‘'Bibti ecoutez moi... to be too curious here can get you in big trouble; you don't have to be a cat or a goat... curiosity doesn’t get you anywhere... because what you call Truth is impossible to know...  sometimes we see Truth in visions but…’ he shrugged.

          ‘You sound like one of those preachers on television, I hate them!  God helps those who help themselves!’

          ‘You mean God helps the greedy...’

          ‘Not at all; it means one takes action based on curiosity... then God helps you.’

          ‘Or rejects your application ... There is no way to discover that, believe me, no philosopher has ever discovered what is the correct action to take. And every action has consequences we might not have counted on. You may think curiosity is the mother of invention, but that is Shaitan the deceiver talking.  If you want to see curiosity at work just watch your maid.  She knows every centimeter of this place.  She knows when you’re going to be here and when you’re going out... like tonight she could easily stage something, invent something ...like that a thief has come and taken everything.  Because you will find her gagged, tied and beaten you will not suspect her, but that’s the price she’ll pay for sharing the take with her friend the thief who is probably her cousin, her brother in law, or even her uncle.  Believe me. I hope you have your jewelry well hidden.’

           Toni’s mouth twisted despairingly and she shrugged her shoulders.  ‘Shall we move to Spain then…?’        

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©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006