The Word is Regret

Today’s post is inspired by and written in style of “My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk


My eyes narrow imperceptibly whenever I am called that; a self-satisfying reflex. You’ve caught me on a Tuesday. Tuesdays are market days here, making it the one weekly occasion that the 3,000 residents claimed by Sadjoavato’s census appear. It’s loud. It’s exciting. There is ice-cold flavored water, infinite sizzling snacks, lines of women sitting with their heaps of coconuts, collard greens, dried shrimp, tomatoes, or beans in front of them. I slowly woke up this morning to the bustle of the market- preparations before the sun had found its stage.

Each week the meat comes a little late- but no later than 9 AM, a cow has to be sacrificed that morning. A half kilo of meat is trente-mille franc. That’s 30,000 francs. That’s tsota arivo ariary.  That’s 6,000 ariary. A half kilo of meat without bones and cartilage is trente-cinq mille franc. That’s 35,000 francs. That’s fito arivo ariary. That’s 7,000 ariary.

Let’s get to the story. I splurged on the fancy, 7K meat. A cheery mood gets you buying the good meat, the bigger coconuts, two piles of dried shrimp rather than one. That’s not a lot, you want to say to me, and your left wondering what my name really is; you’d like to end that sentence with my name to add comfort, familiarity. Don’t worry about it. Sometimes I introduce myself, the listener repeats it incorrectly, and out of the habit of being corrected, I agree, repeating it back to them with their mistake included. My name is Alyssa. Laricia? Yes, Laricia.

That’s a lot of food when you live in a hot place with no food preservation devices. I hung up the meat on my porch after I bought it- just out of the cat’s reach. Later in the day, ready to cook, I checked the meat and saw it covered in ants. To be expected.  I rinsed them off and set the meat in a metal dish.

I think they’re called carpenter bees. The big one with the low buzz that makes holes in wood and calls it home. We aren’t in agreement with their choice to move in, and sometimes that comes out in the act of me smacking the air next to them.

But this time I smacked it.


I doubt you’ll believe what I say- nobody ever seems to trust me. But I have no reason to lie to you here. She hung up the meat and let me watch it for hours. I am not a picky eater. I eat plain rice, raw cassava, sometimes I catch a cock roach and I look up and she’s just staring at the faint line of a hind leg hanging out of my mouth. It is my glorious luck that my orange eyes match my orange fur.

There’s a proverb in Malagasy “aza matoky saka fa trondro loaka”- don’t trust the cat if the fish is the side dish.

But this was meat. She sat it down in the metal dish. Then she hit the bee down with her bare paw and it landed next to the dish. I didn’t think about that till later. She saw me slowly approaching the dish- or I guess she must have thought the bee.


She ran over to us babbling about the cat stealing the meat and running underneath her house. She was looking at my mom but I knew she was talking to me. Look, I am five years old, and there are a few things I know for sure. #1. I love my mom and I don’t like being away from her. #2. I am small. #3. I am damn cute.

I knew she was talking to me for Certain Knowledge #2. Without a delay, I took a deep breath to fill the posture needed to accompany my duty, and I marched over to fulfill the request. It’s the dimple that really gets people. Once I pull out the dimple nothing else matters. I start crawling under the house toward the cat greedily consuming our raw meat. He runs away to a part that I either cannot fit or dare not go. I request a stick.


I’m not a pastor. I have already heard that Alyssa’s meat has been stolen by her cat and that Tony is helping her chase it out from under her house. Still, when I walk up to her fence, I ask what’s going on.  A true pleasure.

I am still in school, but before I started at the seminary I was leading a small church, and by all intents and purposes, a pastor. I’m the only one that calls her Green Beans. One day I called her Alicia Keys and rhymed that with green beans. People often limit themselves to jokes that make sense. Nonsense is far more reliable.

At some point we all were holding long sticks running around the house in absolutely no order. The cat so absorbed in the pleasure of the meat that its inherent fear of waving sticks was undetectable.

Sometimes when I know she is nearby I just say “green beans” in different rhythms, as if I am saying a full sentence. I’ll do it until I hear her laugh; a laugh that I can tell she holds in. It has taken as many as 4 minutes of just saying “green beans. Green Beans. Green beans.”

After some disorderly stick flailing, the cat ran from under the house and dropped the meat. Green Beans sat there washing it off and I said “do you know the meaning of ‘nanenginy”?


I’ve never heard the word ‘nanenginy’, but I can tell you before he even said it I knew the meaning of the word he was going to say.

The cat came to sit next to me while I cleaned the meat. The audacity. But he looked up at me with those amber eyes. On principle I was mad. Haven’t you learned furry things aren’t good conductors for electricity? I wonder if anger too can be measured in megawatts.

I knew what word he was saying but I asked him to explain anyways. His creativity managed him this: for example, you set your meat where the cat can get it and it is the feeling you get once the cat stole the meat and you know you shouldn’t have set the meat there.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I love this story. Especially the cat’s point of view. You are really flexing your creative writing muscles!


  2. says:

    Thank you. Made me smile. You write well. Uncle Dick


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