(After Chaibia Talal “Souk,” 1990)
Since Fatma and Zaineb turned fourteen, their mother let them go to the market alone. They knew Mama wanted to rest before making a big lamb and vegetable tagine for dinner and it was a chance for them to slip away from Baba’s rules, Stop hanging over the veranda railing, no TV until homework is done, and from Mama’s constant demands for help in the kitchen. The Souk was a coveted escape. Strangers pressed into crowded spaces yelling and bargaining in Arabic, French, Spanish, Berber, the shouts of the shopkeepers, “Cucumbers the size of babies’ fingers!” “The freshest sesame cookies in town!” The twins let their scarves slide back on their heads, navigating the narrow passageways steeped in aromas of cinnamon, cumin, roasting nuts, a waft of donkey dung. Between stops at the butcher, greengrocer, and tea parlor they walked arm-in-arm, giggling when they passed beautiful boys in long dishdashes and shibshib sandals, widening their black-lashed eyes, letting their glances trail as long as they dared. On the way out, there was that guy with the camera, the one who wore his tight shirt open, showing his chest, who said they looked like models, wanted to photograph them in his studio. His name was Talal. He was a professional. Fatma smiled at him, but Zaynab poked her ribs, said let’s go! and they ran laughing and tripping past him toward the shelter of home. His husky voice trailed after them. I’m here every Saturday, beautiful girls! Every Saturday.
Kathryn Silver-Hajo writes short fiction, long fiction, and poetry. Her stories and poems appear or are forthcoming in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Flash Boulevard, Bending Genres, Cleaver Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, Ellipsis Zine, Unbroken Journal, Six Sentences, The Drabble, The Ekphrastic Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Rusted Radishes: Beirut Literary and Art Journal. Read Kathryn’s work at www.kathrynsilverhajo.com and follow her on Twitter: @KSilverHajo