From Reading Room/8:

Barbara Probst Solomon

Back to the issue 8 page

Just as Jasem had said, his Aunt Adèle's driver, Muhammad, was waiting to meet us with her large, slightly battered Mercedes.  Now that we were in Morocco and Jasem was speaking Arabic, his hand gestures became more sweeping, his fingers rapidly moving this way and that.
            But when we get to the car there was this awful stink.  Jasem instantly translated for me Muhammad's tale of woe: Madame Adèle had instructed him to pick up the best crustaceans and seafood in her favorite fish place in Salé, but there were two tragedies to contend with—our flight arrived three hours late and the car’s air-conditioning had broken down. The Mercedes reeked of dead fish.  The stench was embarrassing; it felt sort of like the three of us were jammed into a place where an unspeakable sex orgy had just happened.  Muhammad kept screaming at us what I took to be an elaboration of his troubles, and Jasem was livid.  He didn't expect me, his July dalliance, to be greeted with rotting dead fish.  I fanned myself with Newsweek while leaning as far as I could out of the window.  Muhammad lapsed into a sort of Moroccan French, muttering, "Poison, poison."
            Jasem suggested dumping the fish in a nearby trash can, but Muhammad objected vehemently. "Poison, poison!"  Jasem acknowledged that maybe Muhammad had a point. By now the fish probably was poisonous and we shouldn't take the chance that a passer-by might think the fish was edible.  Though what retard would go near the big stink, I couldn't imagine.  Jasem said that everyone in Morocco was obsessed with poison.  "It's the common way of getting rid of someone.  Our version of the way your American Godfather uses guns."     
            "He's not my Godfather."
            "You don't like Brando?"
            "Jasem, The Godfather is a movie. Are you telling me that I have to worry about being poisoned?"
            "No.  But, from time to time, it happens."


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