Undulating landscape, inclining mountain range, from the tower on the edge of town the boy sat, and looked out – a shepherd for this day.
Arrived from Tebourba, and by the road stood Iser, round eyed in shock – though the sun was bright to his front. That the boy had ridden from Tunis to find them there, amidst those arid plains, alone he had come to this place named Malaha – and there he would stay. Better to be alone and free in this world, than to live trapped behind city walls.
The courtyard lay swept and jasmine blossomed there, its sweet fragrance a portal forever. Inside shady rooms rested cool from the blinding sun’s rays. They walked, occasionally by mule, on dry river-bed and upwards through valleys without knowing their eventual destination.
Soon sheep were herded before them; first, they were surrounded by low-lying rosemary in bushels massive and heavy, then towering impassable cacti, fronds reaching into clear skies. A farmhouse lay on that hillside, with dilapidated vehicle cracking target for whirring slingshot munitions – rocks in abundance, and cactus-heads exploding showers of aloe to be used as cure for sun-burnt exposed flesh.
A bird, quick in its flight and indignant of its peace disturbed once more, the echoes of an arab marriage ceremony resounding still over ochre plains. Upwards more and into olive groves they went, shady and ancient. Around them sheep did graze, but en route to which place? Patience.
Only here, cresting one final hill, reaching upon that march the foot of those mountains beheld from afar – a resevoir, and sheep brought to water. Hosni, tall and kind-hearted, occasional guide – poor in wealth but rich in life experience. So they walked aged paths together, and found acceptance from the earth therein.
That evening those shepherds lay down outdoors to sleep, upon fleece provided them by their animals, and ate together, cous-cous and curry, and above them, amidst a sky shimmering with light, meteorites plunged on their flashing descents – yet only the youngest of them was awake to see – a moment’s celestial annihilation.
All along, this song had been playing, and all along, that boy was me.