‘My Father’s Antenna’ by Fouad Laroui
From Words Without Borders:
The rumor started to spread in the beginning of autumn, just after the first rains. Soon it became a certainty: the Belbal family had acquired a television set. To tell the truth, the villagers didn’t really know what a television set was, but that only served to enhance the tale. The watchman at the clinic was the first to recount how workers dressed in blue overalls had appeared one fine morning before the Belbals’ door and how they had unloaded an enormous crate from an old truck. The truck came from the city, the workers weren’t from around there. What an undertaking! Mister Belbal was there, anxious, bustling about, giving instructions that no one listened to. His three boys ran around the truck, shouted, and jumped up and down with excitement. Behind the windows, a feminine element, equally excited, could just be made out. Tijani, the clinic’s watchman, stopped, eyes bulging, adjusted his jellaba and stammered a few questions. But it was a waste of breath.
The workers heard nothing, blasé as they were at having perhaps already delivered a television set, somewhere else, some other time. They pursed their lips in a gallic pout, cigarettes dangling from the side of their mouths, they grumbled, hurrying about their business, they chewed out Tijani, who was blocking their path, they scolded the fluttering children. They finally put the crate down on the sidewalk, demanded a tip, and left with a scornful screech of the tires.