The Freelancer: a short story
For some reason Sadik hadn’t written his report. Instead, he walked to the window, lit his cigarette and looked at the street which was narrow and rain-sodden. The flat where he lived was on the second floor, and faced a cluster of stores. To the other side of the drenched street, postures and slogans of political parties were pasted on a white painted wall.
It was 5 a.m. and all the stores were closed, except for a doughnut store which usually opened its doors so early. Then, it occurred to the reporter that a cup of coffee with some hot doughnuts was all what he needed to get the thought of the report out of his mind.
Outside, it was drizzling and the ditches were blocked and flooding. Soon, he put his raincoat on, took an umbrella, and descended the stairs. By the time he was out, it was pouring with rain; and presently, a fast sport car skidded sideways and crashed against the white painted wall. Meanwhile the reporter was still walking on the sidewalk hadn’t yet crossed the street. But he was transfixed and terrified; he ran forthwith to the crashed car, as the drunken driver pushed the door open; his forehead was bleeding and his pants were torn. He looked pale, and his eyes were glazed, and he almost fainted when he pointed to the front of the car and stammered “help me get her out of the car; she is bleeding and badly wounded.” The reporter then hurried to the other door and pulled a teenaged, slender girl who was then unconscious and indeed bleeding.
It was apparent that there were too many issues the reporter could write and comment upon; but it was not clear which side, which opinion, he ought to opt for. He wanted to be sober and impartial. He wanted to be hard-hitting and unbiased. He wanted to be honest and even-handed. He wanted to be virtuous as well fair-and-square. He wanted to be a journalist. But he didn’t want an office. He didn’t want a steady job.
He had been working freelance and was a success thus far. Newspapers were hoarding money, but he was suffering, and in pain. His words were biased and betrayed favouritism. He had maligned so many public figures and favoured so many others. Should he write solely to earn money, he would, undoubtedly, continue to be opinionated and partial. He looked on every topic with a jaundiced eye. He was quick with his judgements.
Now, he had something immediate to write on; the girl died on the spot. Her diluted blood was running from the back of her head. The drunk was bleeding himself and was about to lose consciousness; he lost it indeed and fell headlong, but the reporter, with dispatch, made strenuous efforts to prevent him from falling and being doubly injured. Now it was 7 a.m. and stores were about to open; shortly some shopkeepers began to see a bloody patch of water, two lying bodies and a young tall man. Then the reporter was taken to the police office to be asked about how the accident had happened. At 10 a.m. he was released and thanked for his co-operation.
On his way home, the sun was shining and the sky was clear. Casablanca was as usual roaring and hectic. The rain had washed the streets squeaky clean. Suddenly, cabs and cars were caught in a traffic jam; their horns were deafening and piercing. Chain stores were clustered and infested with preoccupied customers; fast and junk food restaurants were everywhere; posh and high class outlets were studded in every street like diamond beads attached by a chain. Small stores were scattered here and there. Luxurious hotels are to be found in every inch of the city. While Sadik was contemplating these sad-looking aspects of city life, something caught his attention. A woman was screaming vociferously; she was shouting after a young man who was running fast, trying to tuck a purse under his belt.
Palm trees were towering high; the sun was shining luminously, and the roads were still moist and wet. Then a procession an electoral campaign was making its way through narrow streets where poor people dwelt. The reporter was still contemplating with too much circumspection. Suddenly it flashed upon him that he hadn’t yet taken his breakfast that day. A small diner was contracted to a close corner; it was one of those quaint restaurants which served people with Moroccan cuisine, like cups of hot tea in the morning with Moroccan bread. Then he partook his breakfast gingerly and passionately. Suddenly, his attention again became engaged; a burly man was sitting on a stool and was reading a newspaper. The reporter then could make out “Two drunks and three young girls died yesterday in a car accident.”
Then he resumed his way to his flat. Near the street where he lived a kiosk stood in between clustered stores, and next to it an old man was sitting on a chair, trying to fan himself; the sun was still shining, but the kiosk provided shade for the old man to sit more comfortably. The reporter stopped there for a moment and purchased an array of newspapers, and when he was finally in his flat, he began to pore over the newspapers. They were coloured newspapers; each one with its own ideology. The movie had actually provoked debate. Each paper reacted according to its perspective.
It could be a long story if the reporter’s career was traced and summed up in a piece of work, for it would unfold a long struggle taken essentially to lay a stress on the essences the reporter had long conceived of, and committed himself to. A pugnacious student in the university and an opinionated essayist later in life were the epithets that hadn’t deserted him now when he was a reporter; this was an innate characteristic in him was apparently conspicuous, for whatever report he wrote, his words would savour of derisive, scathing tones. Was it something ineluctable and then acquiesced to, it would certainly be accounted for. Any observer, then, would do the reporter justice, especially if he knew that the reporter himself had loathed being opinionated and partial.
Then, when the reporter had read the newspapers, a gloom brooded over him for a time, and the lambent lights of a tired lamp began to flicker; his desk was placed in a dark, airless, hot and lightless room. His forehead began to sweat, his eyes to glaze, and his nose to run with blood; he often bled when it was hot and airless. It was a bit strange how it rained ceaselessly in the morning. Once he realised that he was bleeding the reporter ran to the toilet to wash himself and stanch the bleeding of his nose. Then, he went to the toilet, turned on the faucet, and stooped to let the water pour on the back of his head. Two minutes after when he thought the bleeding had been stanched, he raised his head, only to be face to face with a poster; it was the poster of a peasant woman somewhere in a mountain shouldering an armful of kindling. It was an exquisite picture, only it revealed certain realities and facts. He had taken the picture himself when he had spent a summer in a mountain resort somewhere in the middle atlas. He couldn’t forget the hospitality of those simple and humble people, a hospitality which commends itself to represent the whole of Morocco, a country which for many reasons had been depicted as a melange, and medley of contradictory features. Only In that moment did the freelancer perceive how journalism should be. He retired to his desk and began to write a report with too much carefulness this time, and the report began as follows:
Journalism is more a duty than an occupation………
By Tarik AArbaoui, The First Draft of The Freelancer: a short story published with other short stories in Voices of Moroccan Youth, edited by Lucy Lauretta Melbourne, 2011.