Captain Pouic is beside himself. Tibou has disappeared! The captain’s concern is magnified by the darkness that has swallowed the ship, a sliver of cloud now covering the moon.
He motions... [+]
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Down on the beach, Mister Rainbow was sitting under a palm tree, looking out to sea. A child came up to him.
— Hello, my name is Quentin, and I would like to ask you an important question.
— Hello Quentin, replied Mister Rainbow. I don’t think we’ve met… you seem to be a boy who knows what he wants, added the old man, giving his white beard a stroke.
— So can I?
— I’d very much like to hear this important question of yours.
The young boy swallowed hard before speaking, while the old man looked out to sea, all the while listening carefully.
— Please will you tell me the story of the blue bananas?
— What? But how do you know about…
— They told me that the blue banana tree belongs to you.
— That’s true… acknowledged the old man.
He let a few moments go past before continuing.
— Now tell me why I should tell you the story?
— Because I’m asking you politely.
The old man gave him a kind smile.
— I’m happy to tell you the start of the story because you seem like a nice boy and I can see respect in your face. And for an old gentleman like me, that counts for something.
Quentin sat down cross-legged, ready to listen. Mister Rainbow took a few steady breaths.
— Right then… began the bearded elder, with his skin darkened by time. From time to time, nature gives us some funny surprises by making something exceptional. I’ve heard stories of a cat with two faces, a deer with just one antler, a dog without a tail, an elephant with no tusks, a giant rabbit, coconuts that never fall from their tree. It’s rare, but it can happen. For example, we’re seven children in my family, all black like me except one of my brothers who is albino.
— What’s that?
— He has very white skin, very light blond hair and eyes so pink that they’re nearly red. That’s nature deciding to make an exception. And the same strange, rare things can happen with trees.
— Is the blue banana tree like that?
— Just like that. A long time ago, I was lucky to inherit a house with a lot of land. I planted a hundred banana trees there to be a banana farmer. Out of a hundred, the last one I planted grew blue bananas.
— So you didn’t do anything to make that happen.
— No. It was nature that decided that it should be like that.
Quentin scratched his head.
— Did that make everyone else jealous?
— That’s exactly what happened. I sold these bananas at ten times the price of a yellow banana even though there was no difference in taste.
— So everyone wanted those ones!
— Right! The rich people grabbed them because putting them in their fruit basket alongside the yellow ones made them look smarter and more special. And that’s the story of the blue bananas. Does it answer your question?
Quentin’s eyes opened wide and he said bravely:
— But please don’t stop there! I want to know the whole story. People have told me there’s more!
— You’ve really done your homework. You seem like a boy with lots of curiosity. I have to go now but if you want the rest of the story you can meet me here tomorrow at the same time.
Mister Rainbow got up slowly, took his straw hat, put it on his head and walked peacefully along the beach. Quentin followed him with his eyes until he couldn’t see him anymore. Scratching his thick blonde hair, he felt he had sand buried in his scalp. Something he hated.
The next day at the same time Quentin was excited about seeing the old man again and hearing the end of the story. In the distance, the old man was walking along in a relaxed, rhythmic way, between the palm trees.
— Hello Mister!
The old man said nothing in reply but looked directly at Quentin with a warm expression showing concern for the young boy. He sat down slowly, as though his old knees were hurting him.
Without even waiting for Quentin’s questions, he continued his story from where he had left off the day before.
— I did well for several years with those valuable gifts that nature sent and they earned lots of money for me. But sadly, other people’s jealousy of my success caused them to do very rude things.
— Like what?
— People would jump over my fence to strip the tree of the blue bananas. I had to get a guard dog and put in a security system.
— Oh no!
— Not a single one of the other banana farmers had blue bananas on the whole of the island. I had the only tree producing them.
— Something as special as that was bound to arouse a keen interest. One year, they even gave the dog something to eat that drugged him into sleep and then they stole all the bananas.
— But they were just bananas.
— Yes, but they were very special.
— And then what happened.
— I decided to upgrade the tree’s security system and installed an alarm on it. So then they jumped on one of my trucks that was delivering the precious blue bananas and stole them.
— And they still tasted the same as the yellow bananas?
Mister Rainbow got up at this point and said to Quentin.
— If you want the end of the story you need to think through all the different choices I had for dealing with this situation, which was getting harder and harder for me to cope with. See you tomorrow.
Just like the day before he got up quietly, without another word. Quentin watched him go, scratching his head as he watched. He still had sand in his hair.
The next day, Mister Rainbow arrived a bit late. He seemed very happy to find the boy who wanted to hear the story of the blue bananas.
— So did you think it over? He asked once he had sat down.
— Yes, I thought about it a lot: you needed to keep the blue banana tree so you could keep earning money, so you dug it up and moved it.
— I thought about that but it’s one of my rules of life not to go against nature.
— Did you pull it out?
— No, that would have broken my heart.
— You threw away all the blue bananas.
— Did you stop selling them and just ate them all yourself?
— I thought about it, but it wouldn’t have stopped them robbing the tree.
— Well, I don’t know…
The old man paused for a while and then smiled at the young boy.
— Actually it’s quite simple. I kept the tree, but I cut the bananas while they were still just a flower bud on the branch. So then there was nothing left to steal. People have already begun to forget. And I’m free again to do what I want. I could, if I wanted to, start growing new ones. But for now, it’s better this way.
— But you’re missing out on the money from selling them. You said you got a much better price for these than for regular bananas?
— I thought about it all long and hard. At my age it’s better to be peaceful than rich.
Quentin frowned. This answer clearly bothered him.
Mister Rainbow got up slowly and, looking at the boy, told him how nice it had been to meet him and that he was touched by his interest.
Quentin said goodbye and watched him leave.
While Mister Rainbow moved along the sandy, white beach, Quentin sat and wondered about whether he would like some day to have a banana farm… He scratched his head and then slipped into the clear water to douse his hair and try to at last get rid of the sand that was bothering him.
Translated by Hannah Charlton