by Benny Raymond
WHEN si' Smit, er, Smeeth went with the 'Peace Corps' to Fes, in Morocco in 1978, he acted no more or less like a fool than the other American volunteers. He smoked hashish, drank the 'Cigogne' beer and French cognac freely available for sale to foreigners and tourists and spent weekends with other male volunteers in the brothels of Azrou and Midelt, in the Atlas mountains. Nonetheless he soon formed a fast friendship with one of the language-teachers, a Sufi-scholar called Mahound Nagmi. This was because si' Nagmi, a devout but openhearted muslim, was also a scholar of languages, spoke fluent American and, if the truth be told, was no end taken by the rolling and literate, endlessly creative, invective profanity of the Minnesotan si' Smit, er, Smeeth.
Now you must know that this American vagabond was in his thirtieth year when he went to Morocco and hence older by at least some years than most of the other volunteers. Accordingly, he was begining to have an inkling of precisely the enduring quality of human stupidity, that inkling of doom that overcomes one inevitably and for all time on the shadow-line between late youth and final adulthood. It was positively painful, and the distressed si' Smit, er, Smeeth would regale Mahound Nagmi at length about the iniquities of "all of the LOST God damned BRAIN sonsofbitches," while the latter would scribble notes on si' Smit, er, Smeeth's Eagle Lake-Madison Lake, Minnesota, 'lakese' dialect.
One Friday morning about halfway through training, si' Smit, er, Smeeth was in si' Nagmi's room in l'Hotel Olympique, ranting in his usual dissatisfied accents. This time, unbeknownst to si' Smit, er, Smeeth, Nagmi Mahound was feeling a trifle irked. This was because for the last week or so the no-longer-quite-so-young American had been pestering si' Nagmi for information on "the secrets of the God damn Sufis"–somewhere he had heard the rumor that his new muslim friend was regarded by ordinary Moroccans from the countryside as, well, a magician. But, in any case, si' Smit, er, Smeeth was in no condition to be trusted with any such information, and indeed Nagmi Mahound quite realized that even to talk about what can be discussed of this subject would be positively harmful to si' Smit, er, Smeeth's rather not-stabilized personality.
"My goodness gracious," thought Mahound Nagmi to himself. "I simply have to do something to discourage this nitwit–before he goes off what he calls 'the deep end,' too! And anyway right now I have to begin to get washed up and dressed for the Friday prayer. Christ! What to do, what to do…?"
There is a saying among the wise, namely that problems provide their own solutions, and just like that, si' Smit, er, Smeeth, all unknowing provided the answer:
"…you know, Jesus Kee-rist, Nagmi, I swear it, I would do ANYTHING to try to bring home to these dumb BASTARDS for all time the TRUE nature of their obnoxious God-damned CONDITION! Your average so-called 'human being' is the most violence-prone somofabitch in creation! Plus STUPID too!"
"Ah, yes…." rejoined Nagmi Mahound, evidently in deep thought. "I agree–people all are in ample need of instruction. Usually, though, it is an individual matter, but…." He snapped his fingers:
"I have it!"
With that, he bent and rummaged in a dark corner of his room and drew forth his so-called "magic trunk". Si' Smit, er, Smeeth of course had heard rumors among the shoeshine-kids and the teenaged boys who kept him in hasheesh, of this particular "secret" adjunct of Mahound Nagmi's–for truly it is written, "the wrong people always hear of something first!"–and his eyes popped as si' Nagmi rummaged and drew forth odd bits of a military uniform. He ordered si' Smit, er, Smeeth to array himself in these duds, and as si' Smit, er, Smeeth stepped before the armoire to admire himself in a full-length mirror, behind his back si' Nagmi made certain gestures with his left hand.
It was a cryptic moment and thus in the mirror si' Smit, er, Smeeth beheld himself in the perfectly fitting uniform and stenciled and black-metal insignia of an Israeli Defense Force Major–of intelligence!
Out of his breast-pocket stuck a sheaf of papers, and on them were the names of the neighborhood Berber grocer, a hardwareman, some dyers, and those of several officials in the nearby mosque….
Si' Mahound Nagmi wagged a stern finger:
"Now, si' Smit, er, Smeeth, you must follow me–now is the time!" He cut off the American's excited jabbering before it could get going:
"No questions–now is not the time. 'Anything,' you said. Such love brooks of no delay, THAT is the teaching of the wise. The masjid is just across the street and so, just as soon as I have finished my ablutions, you must follow me there–and we shall see what we shall see! What a wonderful lesson, wonderful instruction for all…!"
"Christ Almighty Jesus Jew and Liberal!" blurted si' Smit, er, Smeeth in flawless lakese. In a flash he was back in his own trousers and shirt and out the door of the hotel-room of the softly chuckling si' Nagmi Mahound.
AND Indeed the last sight Nagmi Mahound had that weekend of si' Smit, er, Smeeth came as he sauntered on his way to the one o'clock public prayer. There was the back of the somewhat-insubstantial figure of his new American friend, scrambling aboard the crowded and cackling Khenifra market-bus:
Plainly a lesson had been learned–and, si' Smit, er, Smeeth was off for a weekend with his new girlfriends in the mountain whorehouses!
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 9 April 2006]