Bawazir’s short story Devils Tree [Archives:2002/09/Culture]

February 25 2002

The old man’s feet shivered as raindrops fell on them. Suddenly he jumped frightfully from his bed, as he heard a familiar sound, which he hated because it used to bring him misery and sadness. That night he stayed up late with sleepless eyes, as if he were waiting, but nothing happened.
When he had went to bed, the sky was clear with scattered clouds, which didn’t give notice of heavy rain. But an idea had made him anxious before sleeping. Winds might unexpectedly bring black clouds, which would pour their water on his tobacco outside the village. That would make him sadder.
His life was series of sad things, since he knew that trees of tobacco — which he called devil’s trees — had purposely did a trick by which he could recognize rain while he was sleeping inside his room. He put his feet out of the window to feel rain on them.
The old man was frightened as thunder echoed loudly and lightning dazzled. He stumbled by his children’s scattered clothes and walked cautiously, lest his shivering feet should step on one of the bare bodies on the floor. He took the lantern from the small window, lit it quickly, went out and untied his donkey, saddled it and put ropes, which he needed to tie the tobacco, on its back.
The old man did it all quickly, and left the house while raindrops were disturbed by the wind. He hastened to complete his work before the heavy rain would come. He lashed the poor donkey many times. It hastened in the faint light of the vibrating lancer, held in the hand of the old man.
Donkey hoofs
Along the way, he kept silent, listening to the sound of the donkey’s hoofs as they hit the stones underneath. As the way to the tobacco was very long, he felt thought of the latest news of tobacco market. He had suffered from black years during which he had sold old possessions to settle the debts from planting tobacco. He had to pay for water and rent and other things. Prices were down all those years. Debts increased and he lost some of his furniture from time-to-time.
What would happen if the government were lenient with him in paying the rent, or helped him export his product to other countries, as some countries rejected importing the products? But it cared for nothing, but to exhaust his last days.
At that moment, the old man sighed deeply to dismiss such bad ideas. Suddenly his face shone as he looked up and saw a clear sky. The danger that threatened him had vanished.
He arrived at the site where he had planted tobacco. Happy and relaxed is how he felt as he went round it. It was safe from rain while the cold breeze was joking with the golden leaves of tobacco, bringing him magic perfumes. That sight revived him.
Being very tired, he sat down on ground, and leaned on the saddle of the donkey. He kept watching the hanging tobacco in front of him, with its dancing leaves like pure gold ingots. He dreamed of a future, imagining that he was standing in front of his green plantation while long queues of workers and carts were moving tobacco to sites where it would be dried.
He was walking among people who were proud of him, swaggering in his new clean garment. People were pointing to him surprisingly. His house became one of several stories, with different painted walls behind. His sons and the rest of the family were wearing silk clothes. His fingers were playing with gold.
Spheres of luxury
He swallowed his saliva and turned his learning to the other side. His imagination led him to spheres of luxury, which he would taste after getting much of the tobacco when prices would increase. With this idea he slept with a dancing smile on his lips and a nice night of dreaming.
His dreams didn’t last for long. He was suddenly awakened by that sound which echoed severely. Clouds blackened the sky and unexpected rain made him jump frightfully. Water prevented him from seeing.
He realized that he went far into his imagination, but, in fact, he had lost everything. Rain had spoiled the entire crop. It was a time to regret. All he could do was cry for help.
He started to shout loudly but no one heard him because of the loud thunder. Suddenly everything finished. Rain stopped, but it was too late. Everything was over, and the old man realized as he was staring at the spoiled tobacco that his dreams were spoiled as well.
Translated by: Sa’ad sharif Taher

* Abdullah Salim Bawazir is a famous Yemeni fiction-writer born in Hadramout in 1938. He wrote many collections of short stories like The way of sin in 1965 , Three Days in prison in1967
The Boots in 1987 . Devil’s Tree was published in 1962 in Talia’ Newspaper.