The medina is crammed with people, a symphony of shouting and selling. The heat. Not something any factor sunblock can help this ginger with. I buy a fez and you scowl, wandering off towards another stall, following the spices. Seeking shade, I’m distracted by a vibrant necklace made of I-do-not-know-what-fabric, a string of pompoms the cat will enjoy if you don’t. When I find you, you have one just like it around your neck, but you take mine and thank me, tell me you’ll give it to your mother. You paid less. Professional haggler, always getting what you want when you want it. You ask me if I’m going to take that stupid hat off because you want a picture. A nice one. Killjoy. We continue walking through the medina, the vendors shouting anything that they think will attract our attention. Handsome man. Pretty lady. Cheap as chips, fish ‘n’ chips. I could kill for some; have had enough of tajine. You purchase fabrics, food, and fuck knows what else; no fezzes as souvenirs. A woman in a hijab grabs your arm and covers your hand with an intricate pattern in henna. Her hands move quickly, as if she’s perfected the art through muscle memory. When she’s finished, you hold out your hand and marvel. She holds out hers and waits. The compulsory extra. You tell me I should’ve given her more, that I have no respect, but I gave her all the money I had on me. As it’s drying, you want me to take a picture. Three men with a monkey appear, beckoning you to stroke it. As you caress its fur, I’m thinking about tics and rabies and other diseases I can’t imagine. Please don’t let them…You let them put the monkey on your shoulders. It’s touching your hair and your skin and you’re not smiling, not laughing, but you’re frowning at me. Why haven’t I taken a picture yet? I take your picture on my phone before the monkey jumps off, and one of the men holds your hand—not in a threatening manner, but as if to say if you want her back, you need to offer us something. I take your other hand and pull. He holds on. We’re going, except you’re not. Your eyes are narrowing and your face is red and it isn’t from the heat. I unclip my white plastic watch—something cheap to see me through the holiday—and offer it as a form of payment. Convince them it’s worth more than it looks. They leave in search of their next photo opportunity, as do you. I follow to the rhythm of cheap as chips, fish ‘n’ chips, cheap as chips, fish ‘n’ chips, cheap as chips, fish ‘n’ chips. A man grabs my wrist, offers me a camel for my beautiful woman. You’re at another stall, looking at more fabric, demanding opinions that you’ll ignore anyway. When I haven’t given you what you wanted, you look at me, you don’t see his hand wrapped around my wrist, and you ask me when I’m going to take that fucking fez off. Feisty, the man mumbles. He offers me two camels, and I have to admit that I’m fucking tempted.
Santino Prinzi is the Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK, a Senior Editor for New Flash Fiction Review, an Associate Editor for Vestal Review, and the Flash Fiction Editor of Firefly Magazine. His debut flash fiction collection, Dots and other flashes of perception, is available from The Nottingham Review Press