After his bout with Francesco, Radouan felt depressed and disappeared into his house in Riad Zitoun Jdid , where the youth Mokhtar cooked supper for him and he slept soundly for many hours. Awakening about two the following afternoon he promised Mokhtar he would return later with a sheep for The Feast, drove to Bab Dukala, parked his car and phoned Delphine that he would pick her up around seven that evening.
Everywhere preparations were underway for Aid Kabir. People hurrying to buy sheep were selling their jewelry, watches, TV’s, stereos, old clothes, and even their underwear - bad luck not to have a sheep! Outside the city walls: great mounds of charcoal, clay pots, tajine cookers, bunches of mint and herbs for tea, oranges, and sharp knifes to slit the throats of the sheep.
Arriving at his house, Radouan wheeled his motorcycle out the front door and went off. Everywhere sheep, oblivious of the fate that would soon befall them, were being carted about and in every derb and courtyard tethered sheep bleated mournfully.
Finally, outside the walls, he found a countryman with a small herd and began negotiating with him. He would need two sheep for his father’s house, one for Nick at the riad and yes, one for the orphan four white rams, which were then shackled and lifted gently into two carts on beds of fresh green fodder. The first he delivered to Mohktar who tied it to the old lemon tree. Then on to the riad where he released another one in the garden and had a drink with Nick who was crazier than usual and ranted on about the coming sacrifice.
Arriving at his father’s house with the last two sheep, he left them in the courtyard, and after a bath, prayers and a change of clothes, tooled around on his bike to Delphine’s hotel where he picked her up and they sped off toward Jamaa el F’na. The big square was a mob scene of jugglers, acrobats, competing musical groups, actors, story tellers, drummers, dancers, herb sellers, snake charmers, tourists, false guides, and hopeful gigolos.
Cutting through the crowd to the Cafe France, scene of so many important turning points in his life, he parked his bike and steered Delphine inside where they ordered tea and had ice cream. And there in a far corner Radouan noticed his friend J. W. peering around his journal and nodding with approval, but too shy to come over and be introduced
As the sun set they mounted the stairs to the roof and sat watching as dusk turned to evening and the sounds of drumming and music mingling with the smoke of cooking fires soared into the night sky. Delphine was enthralled and thought it romantic although the strong undercurrent of chaos frightened her and made her suspicious. For Radouan it brought back countless other evenings before the feast: homecoming relatives, the relentless problem of feeding them all. Scenes of his childhood and lost youth spent on this Square added to the sadness he already felt. Far away the whistle of the night train to Tangier sounded. It had always made him want to escape, but to where? And now here was Delphine sitting across from him - another year, and another girl.
After the sun set and it had grown dark, they bought food at one of the stalls in the Square took it back to Delphine’s hotel and spent the night in bed eating, watching TV, and making love.
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006