grey-floral-designAcross the square a man was pushing a handcart on which balanced a pyramid of fragile sugarcane cages secured with bits of string, each with a live chicken inside. A little boy with a mop of black hair, wearing an oversized blue t-shirt on which the jaws of a great white shark advertised Jaws II, approached the man from behind and mimed being a chicken. Quickly Nicolette dropped the used film into her bag, fed another in her camera and slipped the strap around her neck. She focussed across the square. The boy was still miming being a chicken, cluck-clucking and laughing, and the man turned, hand raised as if to strike the boy, but his movement overbalanced the cart so that it tipped, crashing the cages to the ground. The chickens squawked in fear, some escaping the broken cages and flapping amongst the crowd. The man swore at the boy who ran, laughing, to a safer part of the square. Nicolette’s camera whirled.

Music seeped into the street from a radio inside the café and a beggar approached Nicolette but DJ drove him away with a torrent of abuse. A waiter came to refill their cups. Nicolette saw Jean-Paul on the other side of the square come towards them; he saw her looking his way and waved. She watched the boy in the Jaws t-shirt steal some apples from a stall and run to a barefooted little girl. A dog howled. She zoomed in on the two children. The girl put a hand out for the fruit, but the boy spat on his hand and cleaned her face before giving her an apple. Nicolette pressed the shutter. Read More


grey-floral-designLouis sat up with a start – something had wakened him. The sky was just beginning to lighten, and beside him Marius snored. The goat was up, ears pricked forwards, looking towards the doorway.

Then he heard it again – an animal snort, just outside.

‘Father, wake up,’ he whispered.

Marius woke, instantly alert. He looked at Louis, then the goat, following their gaze to the doorway. He rose and went outside.

The goat and Louis followed.

Tied to the tree was a mule, and sitting cross-legged beneath the tree was Imez, his father, and an old man. Unlike Imez’s father, this man was not draped in indigo, nor was his face covered. Instead he wore a white burnoose frayed at the edges, the hood of it pulled over his head. The old man held the reins of two camels.

Louis ran to the mule. ‘It’s ours, Father, look – you can tell. Look at the ear.’

Imez’s father rose and salaamed. ‘As-salamu alaykum’ he said.

‘How do you do,’ answered Marius, holding out his hand. The men shook hands, and Imez joined Louis. The boys stroked the mule as Louis watched and listened to the two men. Through a mixture of sign language and a few words of French Imez’s father was explaining the return of the mule.

‘Gwafa, my father,’ explained Imez, ‘stop thief.’

‘But how did he know it was ours?’ asked Louis.

Imez shrugged. Gwafa spoke to his son, pointing to the old man still sitting under the tree. Imez nodded. ‘Merzoug stay,’ he announced, also pointing to the old man who nodded and smiled.

‘I don’t think—’

‘He stay,’ Imez repeated.Read More

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