|The cartNow a donkey pulls the cart.
When he laughed that morning, his teeth appeared blacker and the wrinkles on his forehead creased more sharply. He had triumphed now. He would lead the cart himself, and it would not be wearisome because the donkey would pull it from the market anywhere that was required and he would load it with more merchandise. The donkey was stronger than he was, and would never protest.
Since that morning, Fatima had kept on urging him to look for another job, to look for a cart that he could pull his merchandise around on.
A whole week has passed since that morning and I have not been looking, nor will I ever look. I have spent a long time flogging myself to death. Now I have the opportunity to rest a little and spend some time in thought. When there was no donkey for the cart. I used to pull it myself every day from the market to any part of the village. I would do that so many times a day, that when night came I would return exhausted to the little hut, and fall fast asleep till morning, oblivious, oblivious to the cries of the children, and to the warm body that clung to me and tried to make me wake up a bit.
Sweat used to pour from every pore of my body when I pulled the cart up the sleep road opposite the market, and I wouldn’t stop to rest or to think. Mawlay Al-Hajj used to watch me, for the cart was his; but he had grown old and was no longer strong enough to pull the cart.
But now it is the donkey that pulls the cart, and Mawlay Al-Hajj walks behind it holding a whip, without getting tired or sweating. The donkey does not protest, and is stronger than I am, and is able to carry heavier loads.
If I had thought about it earlier, I could have bought the whole cart. I could have sold my wife’s bracelet and some of the furniture; the hajj would not have objected. He had grown old and was no longer able to pull the cart, so why shouldn’t he sell it. But I didn’t think. I went to work with him, pulling the cart and giving him 70% of the daily earnings. It was absolutely stupid. I used to take my wages and spend them day by day; but he was clever and over a period of two years he was able to save some money, buy a donkey for the cart, and thus get the better of me. The cart would revert to him! As he laughingly gave me the news, his teeth seemed blacker than ever, as if I was seeing them for the first time, and his forehead creased more sharply. He appeared to be gloating over me, and a great cloud of gloom descended over my countenance as I cast my last look at the cart. The hajj had joked, “Don’t be sad. You’ll see it every day in the market!”
I used to pull it for long distances, and in the silence of the road, its iron wheels used to grind over the pebbles while from the cart there came a long whine. sometimes the sound of it used to remind me of a water wheel, and in summer, when the sweat was pouring off me in profusion, I used almost to believe that it was a water wheel.
But now the cart is pulled by the donkey.
When I first took it out one warm morning in March, its nails were sticking out, and its wheels turned laboriously. Those first few days were very hard going, but then I poured some oil on it; my hands grew accustomed to the wooden handles; I banged in the nails that were sticking out, and it became the most beautiful cart in the whole village. It never used to tire me, except on that steep hill. There I had to exert every effort to keep our balance, and it seemed to be more obedient as if it wanted us to clear the steep hill from the market quickly so as then to descend easily into the village which appeared from afar to be plunged in silence.
But now the cart is being pulled by a donkey! and Fatima is pushing me to look for a job or find another cart.
Its colour was faded when I took it out that first morning. But after a month I painted it green. It looked beautiful in its new colour, and even Mawlay Al-Hajj did not recognize it at first. But now he says that it is his cart. It was easy for him to take it out of my hands when he bought that donkey and hitched it to the cart right in front of me. Then he went off with it, leaving me alone, gazing after it as it disappeared in the distance, grinding over the pebbles and emitting sad moans.
Should I leave the matter like this? Should I look for another cart, for two new wooden handles, while the green cart keeps on passing in front of me throughout the day, pulled by the donkey?
Finally, he seemed to finish thinking. A week had passed since the cart had been taken from him, and he had spent that whole week doing nothing but think. When he kept, his dreams were filled with carts which thronged the whole village as well as the market square. But he was always scanning them in search of the green cart. One night during that week, in fact, he woke up soaked with sweat. He had been dreaming that he had been pushing the cart. How could Fatima want him to leave Mawlay Al-Hajj in possession of it and look for another job?
His eyes finally revealed that he had thought of something. A fierce resolution appeared in his eyes. He jumped up from his casual sitting position with a sudden violence that startled Fatima.
Then he opened an old wooden box and took out an axe.
Fatim was alarmed and asked worriedly, “Why the axe?”
“Don’t be frightened. I’ll kill the donkey tonight.”
Mawlay : A term of respect whose original meaning is “My Lord”
Hajj : A title given to any Muslim who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
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