Malika paced the entire market for nothing. Half the spice merchants were closed, and the few she found open had no gueddid—flavored dried meat. She called the last merchant incapable and stormed off, rummaging. Malika twisted the accelerator of her reddish Motobecane and disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.
The morning fresh air cooled her off. Malika rode along the narrow street that connects her neighborhood to the market. Without gueddid, the lentils are tasteless, she thought. Lentils with gueddid was her signature meal. Lentils without gueddid were, well, lentils. Her son Yassin would not eat them. Her husband Hassan would not like them. She sighed and stepped down of the moped. Malika pushed the house's metal door with the front wheel and parked her Motobecane inside. She went upstairs to the kitchen, pissed off, and without gueddid.
Traditional Moroccan houses have the same inside layout. Two, three, or even four floors stack around a central courtyard, framed by a square of indoor balconies. The courtyard creates a light well in the house. The staircase, most often located behind the main door, leads to the next level, with each floor looking down on the central courtyard.
Malika prepped up the kitchen. She grated onions and tomatoes, diced pumpkin, and set aside pepper and paprika. She stirred the lentils with the vegetables into the pressure cooker and covered the mix with water. The pressure cooker transfers aromas. Gueddid releases its flavor into the lentils, that’s the magic. She closed the pot on the uncomplete dish and turned on the stove. Incapable! She thought.
Dwelling on the incomplete picture, Malika turned the stove off and called for her son. The teenager, slow and reluctant, unglued his face from TV and entered the kitchen.
Malika: Yassin, my son, go get me gueddid please.
Malika: No, next week, OF COURSE NOW! Check the stores on the boulevard, they have nothing in the market. Here, get me four pieces and bring back the change. Hurry, lunch is waiting.
Yassin: Can I take the moped?
Yassin: It's sunday. Everything is closed. Mom, please?
Malika: I SAID NO! Now go.
Little Yassin was small for his age. A frail teenager, he made up for his build with excessive guts and attitude. Yassin was putting on his shoes when he heard his aunt's high-pitched voice screaming, ‘THIEF! THIEF IN THE HOUSE! THIEEEEEEF!’. A red-eyed man in rags found the door unlocked and got in. Malika’s sister had spotted him from the third floor and shouted out.
The man was coming up the stairs. Malika peeked out the staircase and ran back to the kitchen. She carried the pressure cooker to the top of the stairs. The thief saw her and turned around. Malika lifted the heavy pot over her head and threw it down the stairs. Powered by speed, gravity, and anger, the pot flew like an arrow. It hit the thief on the back of the head. He fell frontwards at once, rolling down the stairs to ground level. Stunned by the shock, he stood but lost his balance and fell again. Malika hurled herself at him, cursing.
In a desperate effort, the thief clung to the metal door and stumbled out of the house. Malika pushed her Motobecane outside, hopped on, and chased after him. Yassin followed behind. Malika spined the accelerator, closing in on the runnaway. Yassin, running behind his mother, screamed "THIEEEEEF! CATCH HIM! CATCH THE THIEEEEEEEEEEF!!!"
Strangers’ heads turned around in the narrow street. Malika was on the thief’s heels; her face burning with fury. She stood on the pedals, spined the accelerator, and leaned back. Malika charged at full speed. Like the first blow, the second hit the thief from behind. She crashed her front wheel into his back. The collision sent them both flying in the middle of the road, blocking the way. Cars lined up and a small curious crowd gathered around the scene.
Malika was on the ground, scrapped and bleeding from her temples and forearms. She felt her injuries and cursed at the thief. At once, she stood up and threw herself at him, punching and kicking. Yassin had caught up with a group of boys tagging along. The crowd got bigger. They closed in on them and pulled Malika aside.
Yassin threw a stone at the thief, hitting him straight in the head. The shock knocked him out, and Yassin led the assault. Thrilled in violent frenzy, the boys surrounded the thief and kicked the poor bastard. Curled up in a fetal position, he covered his head as hell broke loose upon him.
A siren resounded and two policemen cleared the crowd. The thief, barely conscious, got carried in the back of the police van. One policeman wanted to pick up Malika in as well, but she protested. She called the crow as her witness and scolded the cops for not showing up earlier, forcing her to do their dirty job. Men, women, and kids stood behind Malika. The policeman stepped back into the van. They assured the people that the thief will do his time, and drove off.
In the late afternoon, Malika’s husband came home to find his wife’s face and arms bruised. The old man sipped his tea while Malika complained. He nodded to each comment. When she finished, he asked.
Hassan: The thief saw you and turned back?
Husband: And you hit him with the pot?
Malika: Right on the head, son of a dog!
Hassan: And then, he escaped?
Malika: Yes, the coward!
Hassan: But...why did you follow him?
Malika: For gueddid!
Malika: I was furious.
Hassan: I don’t follow.
Malika: I searched the entire morning for gueddid, but nobody had any! They call themselves spice merchants, pfff idiots! The lentils were spoiled anyway, so I threw the pot at the thief. But then, I had no more lunch. The son of a dog had to pay!
Hassan: You chase the poor bastard out in the streets, ran him over with your moped, stoned him, shamed him, and got him arrested...for gueddid?
Malika: What was I supposed to do? Let him go!!?
Malika: DON’T LAUGH AT ME!
Hassan: Sorry ahahahaha it’s hahahahahaha
Malika: What am I gonna tell my coworkers now!!! That my husband is a wifebeater!??
Hassan: No, tell them the truth. Tell them exactly what happened, like you just told me. They’ll leave you alone for the rest of your life!
And they did.