Stunned and dazed, Lahcen sprang up from his chair as if he had received an electric shock. The hot blood rushed inside his head, and he felt the throbbing in his temples and ears like the pounding of savage drums. Opening his mouth, he said, “Truth be told, Lahcen Maaloul is a credulous bourricot with very tall ears and a long tail!” Noticing that the girl was not speaking, Lahcen urged her, “Do translate to Monsieur Consul what I’ve said, a bourricot with very tall ears and a long tail!”
He placed his erect forefingers to his temples to signify tall ears and remained in that posture for a couple of seconds. Then, grabbing his documents, Lahcen scurried out of the Consulate like a demented sleepwalker, swearing profanities and cynically laughing at himself.
“I’m a donkey, a veritable donkey,” Lahcen said to Omar. He cupped his hands and added, “May Allah visit the muezzin with a heap of lice and bugs. To be swindled once is the jackal’s fault; to be swindled three times and not wake up from slumber is the victim’s fault. I fled Ouled Abbou and came here to bury my shame and idiocy in this God-forgotten town of Rommani.” Lahcen laughed, stroking his fat belly. “I once went to see my wife to try and talk her into returning to me. She scarcely glanced in my direction. I begged her to forgive me. She spat contemptuously on the ground and walked away. And you know what? She is dwelling with my mother. They have both put their heads side by side against me. I fully submit to my just punishment; it’s merited.”
Lahcen was silent for a moment, then continued in a solemn voice, “If I don’t laugh and make fun of myself, I’ll tie a rope around my neck and strangle myself on a cypress tree.
“Look, there on the wall!” He pointed with the tip of his nose to two large, coloured pictures, one of a pretty blond woman, and the other of a donkey. Both were elegantly framed in carved walnut wood. “That’s my bride, Lady Brijeet Bardio, and that’s me the bourricot, Lahcen Maaloul, the ass of asses!”