THE DEVIL'S WHEEL

   Soon one of the marvels of the new times appeared in our house. My elder brother bought a "devil's wheel." For us youngsters and for the grown-ups too, motor vehicles were like rare living creatures. People would stop whatever they were doing and stare at them. Even the respected village elders would stare in awe as a truck or other vehicle went rolling by.
   At first my brother wouldn't even let anyone near his bicycle, and couldn't seem to get enough of riding it. Later he began to take us on rides. He had the finest bicycle money could buy, one that even had a headlight.
   To this day I can remember how we would go racing along in the pitch dark; the wind smelling of burning wood, the quivering beam of the headlight illuminating a small scrap of the road, and the air filled with shiny white specks of dust and swarms of midges drawn towards the light.
   And I remember the high-pitched, melodious voice of the wandering folk singer.

   We headed for Khandja-aga's house, in the direction of the folk singer's voice.
   In the yellow glow of a kerosene lantern I could make out the figures of people sitting close together on a raised wooden platform.
   In place of the traditional pilaf or tureen of soup, on the large carpet in the middle of the platform was a folk-singer machine- that's what a gramophone was called in the village.
   As he changed the records, Khandja-aga would announce the next song and performer like a master-of-ceremonies. Then after cranking up the handle, he would put the needle down on the record and fall still, resting his chin on his palms.
   "A true miracle!" his guests said to one another. "This is something never seen on earth before, and how wonderful that we have lived to see it."