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~Abdessalami On-Line~

The Hot Erfoudian Atmosphere

Shbak, the story teller!

Stories Not To Be Read


Before the invention of the magic box called Television( ), people in "Erfoud" used to spend the long winter nights trying to solve their own problems and tackling subjects of common interest or…Telling stories. Fairy tales were really much better than Television films nowadays. They never incite people to crimes or aggressivity. They used to teach them noble ideals. Besides this, they used to widen the imagination scope and kept the mind in permanent activity. On the contrary, TV deadens that activity and creativity by imposing on us the characters features and all the other things, which the old times tales let smooth through our brains and gave us complete liberty in imagining them in our own ways just as it pleased us.

Long ago, we used to beguile winter nights with fairy tales and sometimes with parables and sagas. The latters were stories told essentially by older people in order to urge us taste the mysteries of life through others' experiences. Life, to young people, was supposed to be a dusty path they should go through. Their lack of experience made old people's stories and parables play the role of the torch that illuminated their path. They also represent the soft rain that sprinkled water on it to make it clear and easy for young travelers to follow in their journey of existence. Being young once, we used to be covetous to extract as many lessons as possible from those riches rooted in time and human nature. We obstreperously struggled to attend those precious meetings. Those famous meetings used to correspond to a sort of a school. It taught how to get ready for living and learning how to pace through the thorny problems in the gloomy life of adulthood.

Some fictitious tales really tallied with our ambitions to be unflawed Heroes who could fight against the Ghosts and all the leaders of evil-armies in the universe without being defeated. Some others dovetailed with our immediate consecrated beliefs. Some others widened our knowledge about life and its laws, so to speak. They also help us to detect and undergo the secrets of surviving through others' defects and malicious motives. Thanks to those old men's stories we had the great chance to wide-open the book of life that nobody had ever written or read. Each man brought his experiences and knowledge with him from a very far back point in time. He unveiled them to us in gracious and well chosen expressions so that we could accept them and willingly made them accessible to our hearts, brains and blood as well. They were really precious heritage. They also were the tools with which we could effectively destroy the precincts within which we underwent putrefaction and moral blindness. Still this didn't compel the hilarious stories to come to light.

I should not however forget to speak a little about the ambiance in which the telling ceremonies took place. The bright moon was there, too.It just provided the lit spot in which we could regale and enjoy the beautiful reflections of words and shadows. Darkness on the other hand was patrolling around without any penchant to participate in the meetings. Far beyond what words could reach we were celebrating the alteration of deeds through articulacy. Nobody was complaining. Everything was so quixotic and romantic. Fire was to be built every time we sat for celebrating our performances. Roles were never dictated, those who used to bring wood for fire always did it because they most of the; had a tight relation with forest.

The idea of writing these, say so, folk-stories, came to me as a kind of refuge in which I intend to shelter, with me, the reader from the modern stories which most of them have nothing to offer except of squeezing our hearts and pitting us against all the calamities of modernization and industrialization. The calamities with which we are already fed up because we do suffer them day in day out. Therefore the quest of pleasure in the past days and deeds is a long story not to be read. "Stories Not To Be Read" is a sort of invasion or say better an assault upon those who had kept assailing our minds with insults through their filthy base sensual films, series and stories for a long time. We no longer need to see young faces bedewed with tears in front of the journalists' cameras. Read and learn, this is the emblem to hold for the time being.

Shbak, this famous name you are going to come across very so often in these papers, is a real person who had really told those balderdashes. What I have done is just changed his real name into "SHBAK". This old pseudo-name hides not only a tale-teller but also a very rich life that Time had buried in the past. Shbak was once a vogue. If he had to write an introduction to these stories, he would say simply,
- "It is hard for one to keep honest and wise in these vicious days; and this is the subject of my words to you. You know, sons, life becomes as difficult as anything totally murky; so I'd like you to read these banal seeming stories with your hearts and not with your eyes because the eyes are doomed to forget quickly."
These are not wise words, yet they draw a line between the seeming and the being. According to him everything can be clear through words no matter what incredible it may be. Shbak's stories are not the only heritage we got; the oral tradition is full of treasures and precious ideas that deserve contemplating. I have translated some old parables and I wish I were right in my choice.

Sometimes I feel forced to explain the terms I guess they may cause you some trouble, especially for those readers from other cultures. Apart from this, I think, all the stories are not that hard to come to terms with. Their characters and events may seem a little strange; however they are friendly and easy to keep company with. If it happens that some stories are not well understood, do please read them again to find out where things could have been ambiguous or need some more background data. The charm of some of Shbak's stories stems from the distorted frame they were put in.

Finally, all that I hope is that the reader may find within this amalgamation of stories something s/he would not have found somewhere else. I wish these stories would help, eventually, at torturing idle time. I should not close without wishing Mr. Shbak long and happy life. And thanks to him for all these stories that represent a part of my own personal childhood history.

To begin with, here is an exclusive story that Shbak told and forgot. But the collective memory still preserves it in a safe side; the key of which I keep for my own pleasure! I feel like sharing it with others, so I launch it on the web hoping that you (the reader) can extract its beautiful and mysterious sides as easy as I did. Bonne Appétit !


Around a big fire one winter night, we sat telling stories. The heavy darkness was encircling us as well as fear . The wind was blowing angrily as if protesting and complaining about building a fire within the large quiet dark spot of saint night. On the other side of the river dogs were barking incessantly. They kept on barking until we got frightened for we were only lads. Shbak, an old man wreathed in his heavy red "bernous" far from the lighted circle of fire, began to laugh at us. He felt our fright growing inside us when Jillali, who was telling a fairy tale, stopped at once and went deep inside himself listening to the dogs barking through his fear. He seemed chewing up the sour idea of running away. The wind made our fear grows by bringing the dogs' barking from afar. In that deadly silence and tense atmosphere we could hear Jillali swallowing his fear with difficulty. Meanwhile Shbak stealthily came crawling up to us. He lit his Pipe of "kif" and began to smoke with two deep eyes gazing at the heart of the blazing fire… Then he threw the ashes of the pipe near the fire-place and started hitting the pipe against the back of his big finger-nail. We were all staring at him as if beseeching him to chase fright out of our little hearts that have already been prepared to faint. He seemed to have understood our eyes' message and he began to speak… He said,

"Don't be afraid my boys! These are just dogs barking over the shadows of each other. There's no real reason for their keeping barking like this all-night-long. They usually bark at night because during the day they are busy doing something else like searching for food or what else. Moreover they wouldn't be heard during the day because the adults are busy with their work whereas children like you have no time for fear because they are busy playing. Their barkings have a great effect on people at night. It's a sort of ritual or a kind of habit; so forget about it…"

He stopped for a moment to see whether his words had lowered our tension or not; and, at the same time to prepare his pipe anew; then he resumed,

"Once upon long ago, when I was just a lad of twelve, my father sent me to guard and look after our palm-trees which seemed to have been a target for thieves of "dates"(*).It was a very dark autumn night .The forest was quiet and frightening. I sat beneath one of the highest and the most prolific trees we had, staring at the darkness without being able to see anything .The silence was so heavy for a little boy like me to bear; but I wasn't afraid of anything on earth. After a while I heard as if someone was crawling through the grass, a man?? An animal?? A reptile?? A ghost?? I really couldn't make my mind and I was completely in the dark. All of a sudden I stood up full of valor ready to face the danger that was surely coming. There passed a moment I didn't hear anything and I returned back to my seat murmuring with the name of Allah. I thought it was only Satan who came to disturb me that night; and I thought there was no one but only my imaginations. I didn't expect any danger for I personally have no enemies, and those who steal dates didn't know the palm-trees were ours. The whole forest was like my own home and all the animals, reptiles and ghosts were my friends; so I wasn't afraid of anything on earth. Suddenly I heard a dog barking in the vicinity. Gradually the noise seemed moving towards me. It was dark, I didn't see the dog but I felt it was very close… Although I didn't move, the dog smelt out my presence. It approached crawling in my direction, but as soon as the dog had known me, he began to weep. He pleaded me to forgive his bad behavior. He knelt at my feet and continued to cry loudly. I lit my oil-lamp and I saw tears pouring on his cheeks. After all he deserved excuse because the poor, after recognizing me, he showed deep regret… but, still the problem was not cleared up. Even though he knew me, I didn't, and this, I think, is natural for there were many dogs in the fields; and all of them are alike".

Hardly had SHBAK finished his story when there were no more barking dogs at all. After the fire had begun to lose its flame and we had no more wood to supply it with, we said our farewells before we parted. Everyone went home trying to forget about that dreary night, but as for me I kept wondering whether Shbak hadn't had the impact of the thing he smoked and... if a dog had ever cried./.

* dates = fruit of the palm-trees (very common in N.Africa & the golf)
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