Dressing quickly Radouan left her flat, slamming the door behind him. At Bab Dukala he parked his car and walked to his father’s house where he found the old man on the roof, lying on a mattress and still awake.
‘You’ve come. I’ve been waiting for you,’ his father rasped weakly, ‘I was afraid you wouldn’t... it is not often we are alone together and I must speak to you of certain things.’ Leaning up on one elbow he pointed toward the sky. ‘Tonight I saw a certain sign out there which means I will soon be leaving for another world...’
‘Oh my father, do not speak of such things, speakin’ of them makes them come to pass.’
‘But you are my first born, dearest of all to me and there are things I must now tell you. Come closer and listen.’
‘But I don't want...’
‘Shut you up and listen, I’m going to tell you something important. Hidden in the earth and in the walls of our portion of this old house are certain metal boxes. When I got sick and we had to move here, you were twelve or fourteen; at that time, I sent everyone away and hid them myself. There are two steel boxes beneath the tiles under my bed. They are filled with more than enough to pay the bride prices for you and your brothers and to maintain your mother when I am gone. Most of it is in old Roman gold so the true value could be much more than the value of the metal. This treasure has been carried about by us and added to for many generations. It may be very valuable.’
An owl hooted on a nearby rooftop. It was not a good omen.
Radouan gazed at his father; sure the old man had gone majnoun. Suddenly the sadness of the past came rushing in on him; Tribal madness, the interminable centuries of blood feuds, religion and fighting, perpetuated by isolation, the useless craziness that had shaped his life and now plagued him. ‘My father. MY DAD,’ he stammered, ‘I cannot speak of such things... look the tears comin’ from my eyes. Why have you never told me this before, we could have used that money...I could have had a life! I could have paid the Reshwa to get a teaching position...‘
The old man’s eyes glinted and he spoke softly ‘Do not worry about me, my son, and DO NOT FEEL SAD. I have had a full life and I am not afraid. We all come to this. I am only sorry I may not live to see you happily married to a good woman.’
‘You will. You will. You are strong, you will live to see it! I am goin’ to marry Hafida!’
‘Inch Allah! my son, Inch Allah! But there is something else I have not told you. A few days ago there was a sudden rainstorm…I haven’t told you this because I haven't seen you…it was in the late afternoon of the day you went to see Hafida…‘
‘'Well, I was up here on the roof and there it was, a kaous kozah arching over the big square… from the west it came down in the area of the Prefecture on Riad Zitoun Jdid, just near that house where you are keeping that orphan. ‘
‘Radouan was astounded. ‘How do you know about the house in Zitoun Jdid?‘ he muttered, not daring to meet his father’s eyes.
‘How did I get you off the hook when you put those policemen in the hospital?’ he chuckled. ‘You think I have lived my whole life here in the Medina and don’t know everything that goes on ... I am happy you bought that house! It is an omen of things to come. You could never have known that Chaiir el Hamra lived and died in that very house.’
‘I did know, my father… that is why I bought it. And the boy was starvin’... a country boy lost in the city. I found him on the street passed out. He’s an orphan. His name is Mokhtar.’
‘Ah, The Chosen One,‘ his father smiled, ‘it is good to help orphans...‘ The old man’s eyes twinkled. ‘But let me return to the arc en ciel…it was not the usual kaous kosah…never seen the likes of it before…looped and coiled in the sky like a serpent with many colored scales ending in a shower of gold right over Chaiir Hamara's house. Before I could call your brother it had vanished. So I spoke to your mother about it and she spoke to an old woman she knows who said it was a very rare sign, auspicious, and means that soon you are going to be very rich. Perhaps God is favoring you for saving that orphan perhaps the chosen one is going to bring you luck.‘
Radouan whispered hoarsely: ‘Look my father, in the East the sky is brightening, see the morning star riding high. Soon it will be dawn and I must go. Let me carry you downstairs to your room. Day after tomorrow is the big feast... today you must rest up and I must go buy sheep... but first I will go to hamam, and then pray.’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006