|Havent you seen us yet? Come and take a look! yells a mud-smeared helper to a woman looking on sympathetically from the courtyard of the house of one of the master bricklayers. It is the second and final morning of the fête de crépissage, and the sun is already high. The Barey-ton has selected the woman, along with four others, to prepare this years closing feast. She pounds the millet with a long wooden stick. This is the basic ingredient of the chunky doughnuts cooked for the feast. It all starts at around noon, so she has to get a move on.
An excited boy has torn his clothes. He cut himself on the wall in the crush on the steps of the mosque. The girls carrying the water upstairs came so close! He doesnt care. He thinks it is fantastic to be so close to his sweetheart, Mariam.
It is teeming with people, both inside and outside the mosque. The scene resembles a termite mound. The boy squeezes through the spectators with wicker a basket on his head. Let me through, Im carrying the loam! he calls. He enters the mosque and ascends the long flight of stairs, sweat streaming straight down his back. His oldest brother is on the roof. He is permitted to apply the loam. The boy gasps at every corner. Would he see her again this time?
|On the way up he sees his father standing in an alcove. He gives him a good-natured nod, recognising the excitement in his sons eyes. This time he reaches the roof of the mosque without meeting her.
The heat of the broiling sun descends on him and immediately transforms the sweat on his body into a thin layer of salt. The animal aroma of the diluted loam reaches him. He swiftly scans the great roof. No Mariam.
Better luck next time.