The girl who sold cookies
Let me introduce Yangba to you.
We pass by her but we barely see her. However, she is always there! It´s a girl.
She is a saleswoman there, at the school gate.
Yangba sits on her stool. With the bowl in front of her.
She is seven or eight years old, no more than that.
She sells there, at the school gate.
Dèngbè a yé bia: the School of the Singer Rabbit.
She sells banana fried cookies, the makara ti Ndongo.
Yangba took the place of her mother in the world.
She lives with her father, with her father´s wife and the daughters of her father´s wife.
Her dad! She hardly ever sees him. He is a night watchman in the city.
He only comes to sleep when the day begins.
And he doesn´t know the life her little Yangba leads.
Yes, her mother died when Yangba came into the world.
And she works for her father´s wife, her stepmother.
But Yangba wants to grow up.
And lately, she ties a piece of fabric around the hip. And she wears a loose pale top.
Yangba is a beautiful name.
It is usually said: even when it is dry, the river keeps its name.
Yangba has a friend, a bird: a yellow belly kaya. It is attached to a string that, on Yangba´s wrist, looks like a bracelet.
Sometimes, it stands on her shoulder...
Other times, on her head...
That day Yangba sees the children enter the school yard, watches them play, put themselves in line near the classroom.
Then she still sees people arriving with white coats.
Everyone brings a bag in the hand or on the shoulder.
But there is a man and a woman who have, in addition to the bags, a cooler.
They enter the school. They go to the rooms. They are there to vaccinate five, ten or twenty students, maybe more.
Thereafter, a car arrives.
A huge car.
An elephant or hippo or baobab car!
A car that makes up a whirlwind of dust around Yangba.
A tall lady gets out of the car. Beautiful! With a tunic embroidered on the sleeves and chest. She passes without saying hello. And she enters the school without even looking at Yangba.
She comes to see how the vaccination goes.
Yangba stays alone, no one around. Then the lady leaves the school.
She sits at the steering wheel of her big car.
She starts the engine and drives! She reverses the car... but...
- Hé! Ouch!
The elephant or hippo or baobab car crushes the bowl with Yangba´s fried dumplings.
The lady gets out of the car.
Yangba is crying. And the lady starts shouting.
It is always like that. A grain of corn is never right before the chicken ....
The lady drives away.
After that the night comes.
Yangba doesn´t appear in her stepmother´s house.
She doesn´t want to be beaten for coming home with empty hands.
With kaya, she will sleep in her hideout which is a mango tree.
There, among the branches and mangoes, she rolls herself up in a bull´s skin that somebody had given her.
The skin still has the two big sharp horns.
It´s late at night when she falls asleep. But soon she wakes up.
By the tree, some thieves are plotting. And arguing.
Yangba is trembling with fear, she is ... really scared, and falls among the robbers, covered with the ox´s skin with horns.
The moon, that is watching everything and hears everything, becomes brighter.
Then, the five, six or seven thieves scream of fear:
- A witch! A likundu!
They run away and disappear in the night.
They leave there, on the floor, eight small diamonds wrapped in a washcloth.
Yangba climbs up the mango tree again, to hide herself in the ox´s skin.
She is rich.
She found eight small brilliant diamonds ... from the forest.
The morning came up.
Yangba wasn´t selling her cookies.
On the main street of the city, she will sell a small diamond, just one.
She hid the others. They gave her big banknotes. Elephant, hippo, baobab-notes. And so she can fulfil her dream: buy a beautiful pair of shoes.
Thereafter, she appears in the neighbourhood that is surrounded by the great river Oubangui. The stepmother wants to pick her up and hit her. But Yangba, with her shoes, runs faster than the wind and disappears. She wants to go to school so much...
In what corner of the world will Yangba be now?
In the neighbourhood, some say that her shoes made her run into the middle of the sky and the world.
Others say that she just flew to the other side of the river, holding her kaya by a string. And finally she could fulfil her dream: join the children who learn to read and write.
But I know she´s out there ... I heard that she went to a beautiful place and that, finally, she now goes to school with other boys and girls. They say she is very happy ... If you could see her...
Try to find her! She is your friend.
Yves Pinguilly; Peggy Nille
La petite beignets vendeuse
Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, L´Élan vert 2012
(Translation and adaptation)