(Short Stories for Students)

Ben is Carla’s husband and is working in Tripoli with the U.S. Embassy. When he leaves abruptly after picking Carla up at the airport, she wonders if he is a spy ‘‘or someone who thinks he is a spy.’’ Carla notices that some of his mannerisms have changed since she last saw him, including his style of speaking, and he sports a new moustache.

Ben is a cold man, and he and his wife do not get along very well in Tripoli. He ignores Carla and dislikes what she wears. He may also be a bit of a philanderer, as, according to Mantini, Ben made advances toward his wife, Lucia, during a party, and showed a great deal of interest in her. He is pushy and extracts an invitation from Lucia to come to Villa Cappellini for horseback riding.

Through the eyes of those around him, Ben does not seem to be comfortable living in Libya. Mantini comments that Ben ‘‘ate oysters like a barbarian,’’ and Carla notes that he refuses to pay the ‘‘block watcher,’’ whose practice of watching their car for small change is an accepted local custom. After Carla is evacuated from Tripoli, Ben asks her for a divorce before he returns to Washington.

Mohammed ben Massud
Mohammed is Carla and Ben’s houseboy, ‘‘on loan’’ from Mantini for one day a week. On the other six days of the week, he works in Mantini’s house and shop. He disappears from Villa Cappellini just before the Six Day War starts, but Mantini remarks that he does this occasionally—to visit his family, Mantini guesses.

Carla is the protagonist of the story, and much of it is told through her eyes. She lives in Tripoli with her husband, Ben, who is stationed there with the U.S. Embassy. When she arrives in Tripoli, she is more disturbed by what has changed with her husband than by the newness of the culture in Libya. Carla does not fit in with the other ‘‘embassy wives’’ and spends most...

(The entire section is 798 words.)