Call It Sheer Bloody-Mindedness

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I was sitting in the Red Rose Café when I heard the news. Saint Guevara had fallen into one of the many holes on Green March Boulevard. There are two things I have to clarify before I continue telling this story: one pertains to the name of the café and the other to the name of our hero.

The Red Rose is one of the newer cafés in our town, which until the ’80s ranked as one of the smallest towns in the country, boasting less than ten townsfolk. It’s also closely related to Saint Guevara, the hero of our story, although it’s his son Omar al-Mahdi who runs and funds the place now. Al-Mahdi Omar—the old man had found it amusing to give his two sons the same name but in reverse order—is Saint Guevara’s firstborn and lives overseas, in Belgium to be precise. His name carries special meaning for the Saint. It reminds him of days of yore, when people stood up for their rights heroically and didn’t recoil at the thought of getting their hands dirty.

When Omar al-Mahdi was born, the Saint went to register his son’s birth at the town registrar’s office. There, he got into a fight with the authorities because they wouldn’t allow him to give his son the name he had chosen for him. The same thing happened when the Saint went to register the name of the café. The powers that be felt it was unseemly to have the café’s rose be red. Feeling cagey about the act of defiance he was plotting, the Saint stomped out of the building bent on having the luminaries over the entrance of his café parade its full name—adjective included. That was the thin end of the wedge, as regards his campaign against protocol.

Backed by neighborhood associations conversant with civil rights matters, he filed a lawsuit against the officialdom. They told him the town had no need for political enlightenment. In other words, he should swear off preaching his left-winged articles of faith. The Saint then threatened to wallpaper his café with the pictures of Guevara, Lenin, Omar, Al-Mahdi . . . From that day on, he was nicknamed “Guevara.”

Guevara had been bursting with ideas for his new business, and before long, it took off. The premises, which had once been in pitiable conditions, turned into a trendy café with terracotta tiles, fancy chairs, stylish tables, a state-of-the-art coffee machine, and a color TV. In a jiffy, Guevara’s café became the grooviest spot in Echemmaia. It even had a small library with umpteen books and magazines. The Saint banned gambling and smoking inside his café and painted the entire interior red: the curtains were red, the chairs and tables were red . . . It was his way of giving the finger to the detractors of socialist ideology.

Saint Guevara had been a member of the socialist movement during the ’60s and was now a retired teacher. He had almost been arrested five different times. Although he never abjured fealty to his socialist beliefs, he became more acquiescent and godly with time. After going on a pilgrimage to Mecca, his fellow countrymen started referring to him as “Saint Guevara.” The nickname stuck and Saint Guevara he remained.

So, back to the topic. Saint Guevara had fallen into a pothole and had to be carried to the local hospital. There he was visited by tons of people, many of whom worked as activists in cultural associations with legal expertise. They were all fans of Saint Guevara, because he let them use his café to organize meetings and supported all their activities, even if they ultimately led him to fly in the face of the authorities’ dictates. He knew that the authorities were already pretty weary of his constant bickering with them, but he couldn’t be bothered.

In the end, everyone agreed to issue a lawsuit against the town council in the name of Saint Guevara, since the council was responsible for the hole in the street that had almost sent everyone’s favorite activist to a premature death. They collected enough evidence to bind the council over to stand trial. The news spread like wildfire, and for the first time in the history of the region, the world at large began filing lawsuits against town councils in order to get them to cobble together budgets for paving and keeping local roads in good repair so as to avoid further accidents.

Two years later, the judge ruled in favor of Saint Guevara, and he decided to donate all the money he received in compensation—which one could presume was no chicken feed—to the orphans of the town. He also subsidized the neighborhood associations so that they could keep lending their support to all those in need and worthy of it. God bless the pilgrim Ibrahim al-Maghrabi Esquire, aka Saint Guevara, whose picture still hangs from the pinboard found in every neighborhood association’s headquarters! Later on, the café lost its original name and a great deal of its original charm. It had to close its doors on several occasions, but that’s yet another story.

 

The Author:

Abdul Jalil Laamiri is a Moroccan citizen born in 1962 who teaches Arabic language to high school students. He was awarded a diploma by the Cadi Ayyad University of Marrakesh for his knowledge of Arabic Literature. He completed his studies at the Mohammed V University of Rabat. In addition, he was awarded a certificate by the Ecole Normale Superieure of Marrakesh to enter the teaching profession. He is a fervent believer in teamwork and likes to carry out research in the fields of education and literature. His short stories have been published in several magazines, journals and websites not only from Morocco but also from all around the Arab World.

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Choose your own adventure

The Motorcycle Diaries documents how El Che once contemplated

a) becoming a saint.

b) opening up a red café to defy conservatives.