Once up on a time…


Adapted from an old local public story
(Last part)
Last week we left off with the first part while Almaz’s husband, Simegnew, was ringing the gate bell. Then Almaz would walk over to the gate to answer the knock. Meanwhile Arabu (Ali) was grinding shiro in the inner kitchen… Here follows the second and last part…
By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
“Why is all this delay, lady?… Should the big man wait for hours like a stranger till somebody comes to open his own gate?…” Simegnew looked with weary eyes at his wife who left the wicket ajar. He was carrying long whip hanging on his broad shoulder.
“My dear, I am sorry for being late to answer to your knocking… I was in the inner kitchen cooking and making injera. You know how busy your lady is! … Did you have a good time out in the farm?” She opened the wicket wider for him.
“Everything is fine except the weariness of your man.” He released long breath and walked into the compound with his muddy boots.
At home he took a seat on a big and dwarf stool. Almaz gave him a jug full of water which he scooped and rubbed his rough hands with. Then she served him injera with red sauce of lentil. There is also cheese and yoghurt placed on the injera that was spread over the tray. Simegnew was so hungry that he ate his fill and drank a tin full of tella (local beer). When he was about to leave for his farm, Almaz said that coffee was ready, and he should drink the abol (the first cup) …
Simegnew walked out, put on his boots and seated himself under the veranda at a medeb (cow dung smeared seat made of earth). Almaz placed before him a small coffee table, which contains clean cups, fresh mint and smoking incense… There is also a coffee pot with mouther tilted down near the coffee table. While sipping at the black coffee, Simegnew heard the sound of the stone mill far inside the kitchen. Shurrrrr… shurrrr… shurrrrr…. “Who is there inside grinding?” he inquired.
“I have a hired lady labourer giving me a hand in grinding the shiro. I am too tired to do it all by myself. I told you I should have one such maid,” Almaz replied.
Simegnew did not comment anything. After having his second cup of coffee, he grabbed his whip (he uses to lash the team of oxen with) and left for the farmland. The moment the big gate closed behind him, Ali who was grinding the shiro gushed out a sigh of relief. He took no time before he threw away the dirt netela he shrouded his neck and hands with and walked out of the compound. Almaz bade him farewell with her pretty face gleaming with smile.
The other day when Almaz was at Arabu’s shop to do her shopping, Ali took hold of her slim and soft hand as usual and kissed it. “Almu, konjo! Do you know how Ali loves you? …Don’t you understand that?” He caressed her smooth long hair. Almaz smiled with a look of tacit agreement.
“Almu, please smile. Let me see your milk white teeth… Almu, konjo…” He tried to hug and kiss her on her lips. But she resisted. “I want you to stop that nonsense, Ali! … People are watching what you are doing here! …”
“I can’t, Almu. I am in love with you. … I will come today… wait for me at home, please! This time I will have to come earlier… eshi (ok)? … Please, I am in love with you, Almu!”
“No, if you want to come, I want you to do it after 11:00 AM. I have many things to accomplish at home. I don’t think my man will come home today.”
…Hours later, while the two were having coffee and snack at home, the gate bell tolled. Ali sprang up and ran in to the inner room. He shrouded himself with netela and started grinding the shiro… This time, after having his lunch and coffee, Simegnew stayed at home for a long time. This was unusual. Most of the time he would leave after he was served his lunch and coffee. Then a couple of hours later, he grabbed his gun from the wall it was hanging on. He pulled the trigger which produced a simple click sound. He was whistling while fondling and wiping the gun. His wife was very alarmed. She crossed herself and stared at him… “What are you going to do with that Satan thing, my dear?”
“Nothing… I have a plan to go somewhere for a long trip. I just want to check this friend of mine that will accompany me during such time. Sometimes the gun needs dismantling and oiling… otherwise, it gets stuck…” Long whistle… Then, he bounced up to his feet… squinted his left eye…put his index finger against the trigger and took aim at the vacant air… Then he placed the gun back to its usual place.
Ali was listening to their chat. He stopped crushing the shiro when he heard the click sound of the gun. He was alarmed. His heart almost stopped beating. He has already started shivering. His entire body streamed with sweat. Then, when he lost their voice, he started grinding the shiro. This time the ground shiro was piling up. Poor Ali was so tired that he could hardly grip the small stone and push it against the big mother stone beneath… Now he was hearing stifling voices of the couple. “You know how much I love you, honey…” It was Simegnew… “Yes, I know my dear. I love you too. I have no one but you!” Almaz’s soft and weak sound came next. Then, long silence mingling with interval breaths … Ali was very sad. He said his prayer to Alah… pleading to snatch him out of that cottage…
The other day when Almaz was at the arb bet, Ali seemed quite different. He was cool and gentle. This time he did not come out of the balcony to touch her hand as usual. He was solely looking at her with blurring sight. He was dumbfounded. Almaz was confused.
“Ali?” she called staring at him with her bulging out eyeballs.
He looked at her silently. His mouth was closed like a sealed box.
“What happened, Ali? Are you sick? …Come on, give me your hand. Let me see your face…” She stretched her hand out for him.
Ali remained silent. Almaz walked closer and touched him by his shoulder. “No!” he jumped and screamed. It seemed he was touched on the sore part of his body…
“What’s wrong, Ali? … Are you sick? Tell me, please. Why are you so dumb? Say something, please! … I need you to come home. I shall wait for you at home… My husband will be away till tomorrow. We have a free full day… Can you hear me?” she shouted.
At last Ali cleared his voice and said, “… Do you really want me to come home again?… Do you think I am that much fool. I want you to know that I am not the other Mamo qillo. I think you must have much shiro that has not yet been crushed… Have you not yet finished that shiro to be ground? Do you need Ali to come for the third time and crush it for you?! … look at this!” he stretched out his palms that were spotted with blisters. “Go and search for another fool! …Dear Almaz, this poor Ali wants to live longer. Please, leave his shop now. Go back to your man…”

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