Excerpt from Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faïza Guène, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

by Faïza Guène

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow
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    Jul 2006, 192 pages

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Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow
by Faïza Guène

It’s Monday and, like every Monday, I’ve been over at Madame Burlaud’s. Madame Burlaud’s old, she’s ugly and she stinks of RID anti-lice shampoo. She’s harmless, but sometimes she worries me. Today, she took a whole bunch of weird pictures out of her bottom drawer, these huge stains that looked like dried vomit. She asked me what they made me think of. I told her and she stared at me with her bugged-out eyes, shaking her head like those little toy dogs in the backs of cars.

It was school that signed me up to see her. The teachers, at least when they were between strikes, decided I’d better see somebody because they thought I was shut down or depressed or something. Maybe they’ve got a point, I don’t give a shit, I go, it’s paid for by the government.

I guess I’ve been off like this since my dad left. He went a long way away. He went back to Morocco to marry another woman who’s gotta be younger and more fertile than my mom. After me, Mom couldn’t have any more children. But it wasn’t like she didn’t try. She tried for a long time. When I think of all the girls who get pregnant their first time, without even meaning to…. Dad, he wanted a son. For his pride, his reputation, the family honor and probably lots of other stupid reasons. But he only got one kid, and it was a girl. Me. You could say I didn’t exactly meet customer requirements. Trouble is, it’s not like at the supermarket: there’s no customer satisfaction guarantee. So one day, The Beard realized there was no point trying any more with my mom and he broke it off and left. Just like that, no warning. All I remember is that I was watching an episode from the fourth series of X-Files I’d rented from the video store on the corner. The door banged shut. From the window, I saw a gray taxi pulling away. That’s all. That was over six months ago. She’s probably pregnant by now, that peasant woman he married. I can see now exactly how it will all go down next: seven days after the birth they’ll hold the baptism ceremony and invite the whole village. A band of old sheiks with their camel-hide drums will come over just for the big event. It’ll cost him a fortune – all his worker’s pension from Renault. And then they’ll slit the throat of a giant sheep, to give the baby its first name. It’ll be Mohammed. Ten to one.

When Madame Burlaud asks me if I miss my dad, I say ‘no’, but she doesn’t believe me. She’s pretty smart like that, for an old lady. Whatever, it’s no big deal, my mom’s here. Well, at least she’s here physically. Because in her head, she’s somewhere else, you know? Somewhere even further away than my father.

Ramadan started just over a week ago. I got Mom to sign a slip saying why I wouldn’t be eating in the cafeteria . When I gave it to the principal, he asked if I thought he was a complete and total idiot. His name is M. Loiseau. He’s fat, he’s stupid, and when he opens his mouth it reeks of cheap wine, and he smokes a pipe. At the end of the school day, his big sister picks him up out front in a red hatchback. So when he wants to play the big boss, he’s kind of got a credibility problem.

Anyway, Monsieur Loiseau asked me if I was taking him for a complete and utter idiot because he thought I’d forged my mom’s name on the slip. How stupid is that? If I’d wanted to fake her signature, I’d have given her a real one. On this thing Mom just made a kind of squiggly shape on the page. She’s not used to holding a pen. That jerk didn’t even think about what he was saying, didn’t even ask himself why her signature might be weird.. He’s one of those people who think illiteracy is like AIDS. It only exists in Africa.

Excerpted from Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, by Faïza Guène. (c) 2006. Reproduced wither permission of the Publisher, Harcourt Books. All rights reserved.

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