Beauty is Trouble

A very beautiful woman named Africo was living with her husband Thomasankara, who loved her so jealously that, since he had married her, he was unable to travel even one hour. Thus being the case, together, Africo and Thomasankara was ready to suffer anything whenever, wherever and however it was. Except the few neighbors of whom she always took charge, providing them with food shelters and others supplies, all Africo’s family members died during a calamity, leaving her alone all to inherit. Nonetheless, though she was alone without any relative, she was not lonely, for she remained contented because she was very hospitable and charitable, as the others’ happiness always rendered her happier and happier. In other words, she had full hope because she was charismatic, being adored by her close and far neighbors and particularly by her husband who, with her, would drink the sweetness and bitterness of life. Her wealth included animals, oils, timber, ivory, gold, diamond, silver, uranium, aluminum, gas and so on. In short, she had all the three beauties existing in the world: the physical beauty as she was good-looking, the material beauty since she was opulent, and the internal or ideal beauty regarding her sincerity.

Located in the heart of the other places, her compound was surrounded with rivers, which separated it from other places. Thus the Atlantic River limited a small part of the southern wall and quite all the western wall, while the Mediterranean was spread northwards and the Indian River eastwards and southwards. Far away, beyond the Atlantic River was living a very rich man named Merico, while near the border, just at the other side of the Mediterranean and Atlantic rivers was dwelling another man called Franco and beyond the Indian River was Cino. All these three men, having the firm belief to have the monopole of all, were inwardly vying one another in order to have Africo divorced with her initial husband and then marry her.

Sailing across the Indian River towards the east, Cino, a product manufacturer, with his greedy look, noticed Africo and not only fell in love with her but also envied the huge wealth she had. Cino Ignored that Thomasankara was her husband and frankly exposed his longing for marrying her, but she informed him that she was already taken. He was very embarrassed when he knew her husband was Thomasankara in whose presence he asked her. Despite that accident, Thomasankara did not blame him; instead, he warmly welcomed him with the greatest hospitality. He even allowed him to sojourn some few days with them at her compound. When Cino went back home, he could barely sleep though he took some medicine against insomnia. The truth could prevent one from sleeping despite any sleeping-medicine. He planned to come and conquer Africo from Thomasankara, or to ask her first to be his simple neighbour. Coming to Africo’s , Cino took many fake, polluting products with him, with the conviction that Africo was but a materialistic lady whose sole purpose was consumption and who was therefore easy to turn away from her initial husband who had no wealth but sincere love. In like manner did Merico, who in addition to having been mesmerized, was interested particularly in oil, but Franco, on the other hand, was interested more in her gold than in anything else. They were all accepted to be neighbors.

They tried to cement some platonic relationship to the extent of fully adopting Africo’s culture; as a result they were all treated in the most hospitable way by Africo glad to see the neighbors diving in her culture. In fact, Africo and her husband were devout, so they were very happy when Cino was the first outsider to declare his faith and admiration for their religion. Cino was totally now one of Africo and her husband, for he mastered in practice and theory her religion, which was the most sensitive element of her culture. Merico and Franco, at the beginning were reluctant, but, to facilitate relations, they judged it necessary to imitate Cino, who, because of his internal and external mastery of the adopted faith, had already been chosen as a priest. They were now submitted to the same regulations.

Cino was priest and yet manufacturer at the same time, but his factory could not work without the raw materials he would get from Africo. Merico and Franco were lingering in Africo’s neighborhood for the same reasons. However, after years and years, it was to be noticed that the relations were no longer win-win. Being therefore convinced that zero deal was better than bad deal, Thomasankara suggested chasing them away. Africo told her husband to be patient. She pointed out that they should not be chased overnight unless on the basis of clear evidence of violation of the rules.

Later on, as no one rebuked their mischief, they became bold to the extent of even continually harassing Africo. Then she decided to trap them by pretending to love them. Merico and Franco were so envious, greedy and enamoured of her that they started some underground activities, now plotting against Thomasankara. Merico had already secretly brought some weapons and paid some mercenaries within Africo’s closest neighbours, to kill Thomasankara and throw him in one of the rivers surrounding her compound.

Africo informed Thomasankara about the three men’s misbehavior.

“I had told you before” said Thomasankara. He proposed to kill them in ambush, but Africo refused and suggested trapping them and taking all their wealth if possible as revenge.

“Tomorrow,” said she, “go and inform them that you are travelling by 8 p.m., for a three days’ trip, then come back here and hide yourself inside. I will be visible from far here in the compound. One or some or even all of them, hearing you are travelling, might come here to harass and dissuade me here. They will not come empty-handed but with the utmost of what they can give out from their wealth. As adulterers and harassers are punished to death, they would, at the end, chose between all their wealth and lives.’’ Thomasankara did not object to her suggestion.

As agreed, at dawn, he went to the praying-place, prayed with Cino, the priest, and all the neighbors. After the payer, he, having greeted all the people and started talking, told the priest about his journey.

“I have come to inform you,” He said, “that at 8 p.m., I am travelling for three days’ trip outside the rivers to look for some new partners in addition to you. Therefore, as you are the most pious person here, I need your blessings during my journey.”

“God be thanked, I will do but pray for you till you return,’’ the priest promised. “You say a three-day trip?” he asked, a little dubious, since, as he had heard and seen during his stay in the neighborhood, Thomasankara had never travelled because, as they said, he was so jealous.

“Yes and if it’s more advantageous than planned, I will linger three months there in case that trimester is more fruitful too, it may even be a three-year journey. Who know? All this is because I am poor and I depend on my wife, a situation I can no longer support.”

“Absolutely that is what you should do,” said Cino, the priest, encouragingly. “A man,” he went on, “should keep moving. That is why I am your brother today, though we are not from the same area. Movement is the sign of development. All that wants to go forward should move.”

“Thank you sir, for your encouragement,’’ said Thomasankara, getting ready to leave as if he was in rush.

Having left the priest, Thomasankara went to see Merico and Franco and told them in the same way about his project. Both congratulated him for his noble decision and advised him that it was better if he happened to stay there at least for three month before coming back. After Thomasankara left, Merico informed his mercenary to kill him on his travelling way. By nine o’clock in the morning he had finished informing his three neighbors and went home.

“You should go and bring some twigs to make fire and some pepper powder,’’ said his wife.

“Why this again?” he inquired.

“We are at war with these people, and since they have guns and tear gases which we don’t, we will use pepper as tear gas and fire as gun, for self-defense.’’ Thomasankara couldn’t help laughing because of her creativity. In the afternoon, Thomasankara went to do what she told him.

When he was coming, he passed by some group of people.

“What are you going to do with all these twigs?’’ asked one of them

“I bring them to my, my … my wife, for I shall travel during three days, and I don’t want my wife to look for twigs outside while I am not in.” Some were not happy because of his permanent jealousy and especially because of the way he had just pronounced the word ‘my wife’ by insisting on ‘my’, as if he were the only one to have a wife in the entire neighborhood. They tried to mock him.

“When have you become slave of your wife?’’ said someone sarcastically. “To be a slave to one’s wife is better than to be free with no wife,” replied Thomasankara with the same mockery, as he knew that the man was indeed single for a long time.

“What an imbecile! Look, you are not even ashamed”, rebuked the man. “You depend entirely on your wife. If you don’t know, I am alone and depend on myself.’’ Thomasankara continued his way home, avoiding further unkind words.

 

As planned, Thomasankara, since dusk, was hiding himself inside the compound. The gate was open, and Africo could be seen and recognized from far. Then Cino was the first man to arrive after 8 p.m., Thomasankara’s travel time. After hastening his prayers, he, directly, from the worship place, went to see Africo, with the firm belief that Thomasankara was absent because of the famous three-day trip. He came with his entire budget intended to seduce Africo.

When he greeted and was seated, Africo addressed him.

“Our dear man of god, you have come at such time in our compound! You should not have tired yourself, you could have sent for me.’’

“Never mind,” said Cino, “water does not become bitter without cause. I did it on purpose, for

I have the most important message of my life for you. I could not send someone lest my words be altered’’.

“Ah okay, welcome to your house.”

“Thank you,” said the priest, smiling.

After a while, Cino stretched his hand towards her, handing her his budget.

“Why do you give me this?” said Africo, as if surprised.

“I give it as tribute to you, for your hospitality since I have come.’’ They conversed deeply, form ordinary subjects to taboos. Then at a given moment, Cino intended to hug Africo. Immediately, but Africo pushed him away.

“Please, please…,’’ said Cino “I know it is forbidden, but this is the first and the last time I am breaking the rule, if only you could accept me, I wouldn’t care if I am entirely jailed or should go to hell, for you equal paradise. Listen to me…do you know I have had a crush on you for more than six years, since I have been here? I would like to marry you at the very beginning but Thomasankara was a stumbling block and pitfall…. But now he is travelling, let us do what we want.’’

“No, I cannot betray my husband at all,” said Africo. While Cino was insisting, there was a cough heard from somewhere, probably, inside. Cino stopped.

The cough was heard again, it was surely inside and might probably her husband. All in rush, when trying to escape from being discovered by whomever, without any prudence, Cino hit the wall with his head, and fell bleeding and almost fainting. He was about to cry, but dared not, for he feared to be caught with someone else’s wife, which would surely result in his losing his prestigious status and his being killed at the end according to the law by the Interpersonal Court of Justice merciless in cases of adultery. Seeing that Cino was in panic, she tried to ensure him.

“It is my husband,” she put, “don’t be afraid. He doesn’t know that you are here. He has just a cough since some weeks.”

‘‘Ohhh ohhh, it is finished for me,” desperately said Cino, “how can I leave with his seeing me, for before him is the unique way out. Why didn’t he travel after all?’’

“He is very jealous,” she said. “I don’t think he can spend a night or even one minute without me.” The priest was shaking, convinced that there was no way for him.

“Wait, I have an idea”, she said. “Put off your clothes, and then I will give you some worn-out clothes, without trousers. If he sees you so, he will think you are the non-violent crazy man who usually comes here and stays with me.’’

‘‘Ah, if you can save my life in this way, I will never forget you. And I promise, if you succeed in it, I will give you all you want.”

“He will take you a crazy person. Go home,’’ she encouraged him in these terms. Dressed as a crazy man and shaking, he directed himself toward the living room, and traversed in front of Thomasankara who pretended to be asleep. He went outside, and started running in full speed, though it was very dark in the night. Then he stopped, speaking alone in the night. When he went on the main road, he remembered that he forgot all his money and could not claim it. Angrily advancing, he encountered someone and was about to scream out of fear, and then hid himself, trying to find out who it was. He acknowledged the person in the end; it was Franco, also going to see Africo.

When Franco, with uncountable money, arrived in Africo’s palace, all what happened to Cino happened to him too. Once outside, as he turned down on the left, he started murmuring alone, and then suddenly kept quiet as he saw a person in the night, coming toward him. He was first frightened but later knew it was Merico.

“Ah!” he exclaimed, “I am not even alone. Even Merico is involved; ah I am fine, for if they caught him the case will not be a humiliation for me. He will bear the entire burden, for he is the most powerful.’’ Later he saw Merico coming, and knew he went through the same scenario.

The three men were speaking, the ones hearing the others, but no one seeing who it was really, as darkness was so profound, without any moon-light, that one could not see even the road.

However, when Merico moved forwards, he saw someone. It was Cino indeed, but he did not recognize him because he would not believe that Cino, the priest, could be involved in such matters.

“Come and help me please, please,” said Merico, addressing Cino whom he had not yet recognized. “Please,” he went on begging, “otherwise, shame will be on me, and I will be killed.’’

“Who is there?’’ inquired Cino.

“It is me’’, Merico said.

“You whooooo?’’ asked the Cino, impatient to know who it was.

“It is Merico.”

When they saw and recognized each other, the crazy-man dresses they were given by Africo, they were so surprised that they could not look with the eyes but the mouths to see if it was not a dream. Suddenly, they heard a noise under a tree, it was another person murmuring. They kept quiet to know whether or not it was Thomasankara pursuing them. It was not he, fortunately. It was Franco, asking for help too.

The three men could not help one another. They were, now, thinking about a common solution.

They were now friends in hardship though they used to hate one another in ease.

As they were all thinking about a solution, Merico said “I have a solution. My house is the nearest. I will go, and silently tell my slave to bring me three clothes and trousers and three spades for all of us. If we get decently dressed, we are safe. Then we, shall revenge. We will then go back immediately to Thomasankara’s house and knock it down and kill him and his wife Africo, because she may unveil our attempt. In the morning, people will say, ‘criminals did the killing’ because no one dare-says we can be criminal.’’

“That is an excellent solution,’’ approved the other two men, shaking their heads. Then Merico went home when everyone was sleeping and did what he said. Merico, after having taken the three clothes and the three spades, came to join the other two men, and, side by side like soldiers, they went to Africo’s house in order to demolish it.

Thomasankara had regretted having made these three men entrapped. He was accusing his wife Africo of putting him in a very dangerous situation, believing that sooner or later these persons rich and powerful will try to seek revenge. Africo was reassuring him when they heard some noise from the house-basement. Thomasankara got up to see through the window what was happening.

“I have told you,” he started blaming her. “Oh oh we are dead. The men are demolishing the house. They want to kill us.’’

Africo came to see what the men were doing and, addressing her husband boldly, she said

“Bring the tear gas and the gun,” she was talking about pepper and fire. Thomasankara and his wife were now armed, he holding the fire and she, the pepper powder.

The three men had dug a hole where they could enter one by one. Cino was the first to put his head inside, and as he admitted his head through the hole, while bending down in order to put his two arms forward inside the house, he was met with a flame of fire in the forehead and the head and with pepper powder in the eye which made him blind awhile in a fraction of a second. Suddenly, he dragged himself out.

“Wow”, he cried. “The entrance to the hole is too small. I can’t enter it. It is too small, too small.’’

“You are liar and a coward,’’ Franco objected to him. “ Look, I will go and kill them. If you are womanish I am not. I am a man.’’ He put his head and was met with the same by Thomasankara and Africo. He expelled himself immediately, holding the burned head and confirming what Cino had said.

“Really, Cino was right,” he said. “The hole is too small to enter.’’ He stopped awhile. “You, enter, for you are the thinnest of us,’’ he ordered, addressing Merico, who having smelt the burning hair and noticed the wound, refused categorically to go in, asserting that it was not the hole that was small, but it was what was inside that was untouchable. They went back home, believing they would be destitute and killed the following morning if only Africo complained against them before the impartial Interpersonal Court of Justice, since she had any undeniable evidence including budgets, and clothes.

It was midnight, and the mercenary Merico had hired had patiently been waiting for Thomasankara since the afternoon, in order to shoot him who did not come to pass. The gunman was perching in a tree with a very sophisticated weapon made by Merico. The tree where he was hiding stood near the road indicated by Merico, by the river, not far from Africo’s home .The man was tired because of having been hiding for so much time. Suddenly, he saw three men coming in silence from Africo’s house. It was Merico and his two mates, but he did not recognize them in the darkness; as he was exhausted, so were his eyes. They were approaching silently and with his tired eyes, the perching man took Merico for Thomasankara. Toward Merico’s house, they were going to take a bomb to undermine the house and kill Africo and her husband by whom they were defeated with fire and pepper before the morning. Suddenly, when they drew closer the tree, a big noise with flying fire from tree-branches rose. It reached the men in a fraction of second, smashing Merico’s head, tearing off Cino’s bowls and penetrating Franco’s chest. In a second, all the three men were ever-sleeping, without even having time to utter a cry. When the gunman came to see, believing he had killed Thomasankara, he saw that as a matter of fact he had made a deadly, dreadful mistake in his obligation of result, killing his client Merico alongside his two mates. He ran away, throwing the gun beside the three men lying still. A minute later came Africo and Thomasankara to see what went on. They found the three men lying in a mat of blood as if in an abattoir. They were amazed without word, and the other neighbors were coming too.

“These people who are coming may say we did it,” said Africo, ignoring that her husband was the target.

Sanou Niapégué