By Brian Biswas
In a distant land, on a faraway shore, there lived a young merchant named Mario Bakar. He spent his days traveling from town to town, selling handmade rugs in bazaars, and though he was not known for the quality of his work, his prices were low and he somehow managed to eke out a living.
Bakar lived in the town of Safi, which is located on the west coast of Morocco. He was unmarried, but had his eyes set on a beautiful young woman named Maria who, unfortunately, had her eyes set on a handsome man named Roberto. In fact, the two were already engaged! Their upcoming marriage was the talk of the town and the wedding festivities had already begun.
At the moment my story begins Bakar was walking alone on the beach, gazing out at the great, blue sea--and wondering if he should end his life right then and there. What a glorious death, he thought, to drown at sea out of love for a woman! But Bakar was a coward and could not bring himself to make that fateful plunge. He decided to go fishing instead; it was the best way he knew to calm himself: to spend several hours gazing out at the sea, that greatest expanse of all, to see what treasures he could extract from it. Bakar had brought a pole and bait and now he sat on a large rock at the water’s edge and cast his line. Not a minute had gone by when he felt a tug at the end of the pole. Excitedly, he reeled in his catch. He was not disappointed: it was a beautiful fish; light pink in color, with a long head, slender body, and a delicately curved fin. It must have been at least four feet long. Bakar had never seen such a remarkable fish and for several moments he simply stared in awe as it flapped back and forth at the end of the line.
When his senses returned, Bakar laid the fish on the beach and pulled out his knife. He placed the blade on the fish’s throat--intending to quickly put it out of its misery--when, to his amazement, the fish spoke:
”Mario,” it said. ”Spare my life and I shall make you rich beyond your wildest dreams.”
Bakar realized this was not an ordinary fish, but a god disguised as a fish, and obligingly, he pulled away the knife.
”Put me back in the sea,” said the fish, ”and out of gratitude I will grant you three wishes; whatever you desire shall be yours.”
Bakar unhooked the fish from the end of the line and threw it back in the water. The fish leaped several times from wave to wave, so happy was it to have regained its freedom, and finally, it disappeared into the sea, never to be seen by Bakar again.
Bakar’s first impulse was to wish for ten million dirhams so as never to worry for lack of money and then for a harem of beautiful wives so as never to worry for lack of affection and then for the rebirth of his father who had died when Bakar was only twelve and whom he had loved so dearly. But it occurred to him that he would then have used up all his wishes--the very wishes he had been granted only moments before! Being a prudent man, Bakar deemed it best to see what the future held in store for him before spending any of his precious gifts.
Several months passed. Maria and Roberto were now married. It had been one of the most magnificent marriages Morocco had ever witnessed, filled with merry feasts and celebration; even now, several weeks after the blessed event, the papers were filled with news concerning the newlyweds: that Roberto had taken a vow never to leave Maria’s sight; that the joyous cries of their lovemaking could be heard from miles around; that Maria was already with child. Bakar tried not to pay attention to any of these stories (none of them were true, though Bakar did not know this), but it was nearly impossible and he found himself thinking more and more about what their life together would have been like.
Bakar still had to work for a living and one day he found himself at a bazaar in the town of Marrakech, selling his wares as usual. Imagine his amazement when Roberto and Maria approached his table and began looking over his selection of handmade rugs! They were furnishing their new home, they said, and had in mind a large order. Preoccupied with shopping, the newlyweds did not seem to recognize Bakar, who himself was not about to say a word. They looked so happy together--Maria on Roberto’s arm--Bakar could only grit his teeth and look away.
Suddenly, Roberto spoke up in dismay: ”These rugs are worthless. They look like they were made by a five-year-old child.”
Bakar stiffened. He did not know what upset him more: that Roberto did not appreciate the months of toil which had gone into weaving the rugs, that his already languishing business was about to languish further, or that he had just been publicly insulted--and in front of Maria, no less, whom he loved dearly. He shrugged, but said nothing. What could he say that would not but make matters worse?
Roberto turned to Maria and said: ”Let’s go. We’re only wasting our time at this table.”
They had turned to leave when Bakar, who was about to burst into tears, blurted out: ”No, sir! My rugs are of the finest quality. You’ll find none better--I swear.” And he muttered under his breath: ”Or so I wish it.”
”He’s speaking the truth,” said an old man busy examining Bakar’s goods. ”These are without a doubt the most beautiful rugs I’ve ever seen!”
The townspeople, who had gathered around Bakar’s table when the argument broke out, echoed their agreement:
”These rugs have such wonderful patterns,” one woman said.
”And such bright colors--so bold and clear,” said a young girl.
Bakar looked down at the rugs and saw that it was true: all the mistakes he had made had been magically corrected: they were now perfect works of art!
Bakar was all smiles. ”And the prices are low!” he exclaimed.
”I’ll take this one,” said a voice.
”And I this one,” said someone else.
Bakar was beside himself with joy. Indeed, he had nearly forgotten about Maria and Roberto, so preoccupied was he serving his customers; but now he saw the two of them out of the corner of his eye, arguing fiercely.
”You fool!” cried Maria. ”They’re wonderful rugs--and at a good price--but in a moment they’ll be gone and we’ll have none. And all because you’re jealous of Bakar!”
So she did recognize me! thought Bakar and his heart leaped into his mouth.
Maria’s words touched off howls of protest from Roberto and he began pelting her with blows. Bakar tried to go to her aid, but he was surrounded by people showering money upon him and he could not get near. Luckily, two policeman arrived on the scene and they carted Roberto away.
The crowd parted. Maria rushed into Bakar’s arms and began showering him with kisses--you see, she had secretly loved Bakar all along, but had been forced by her father to marry Roberto to pay back a debt owed the young man’s family.
But that meant nothing now, for the would-be lovers had been united at last.
Bakar and Maria were married shortly thereafter.
And so the first wish was fulfilled.
Oh, glorious wedding day! That most holy of days when a man and woman are united in the blessed bonds of matrimony, when they proclaim to the world they shall be husband and wife, each to the other lover and loved, till death do they part.
Unfortunately, for our bride and groom--for Maria and Bakar--all was not well. What by all accounts should have been a glorious honeymoon had turned into a disaster. There they sat, perched on the edge of the marital bed like two sour-faced peasants: Bakar trembling, Maria frowning. For, you see, the size of Bakar’s sex was several sizes too small! Maria had been spoiled by the sexual conquistador that was Roberto, a magnificent lover whose romantic exploits were well-chronicled in the epic works of poets and balladeers. She tried to hide her disappointment--after all, this was the man she loved--but it was too late, Bakar had sensed her displeasure. And so he said to himself (and this time he knew what he was doing): ”I wish I were twice as big.” No sooner had he done so then his sexual organ began to grow--not one, not two, but three sizes larger! Maria uttered a cry of delight as she watched her lover’s love grow more lovely. Bakar uttered a sigh of relief realizing the evening had been saved. He smiled broadly and prepared to mount his beautiful mare. Moments later the two had settled down into what proved to be a sleepless night of passionate lovemaking, a magical night they would remember forever.
And so the second wish was fulfilled.
From that night forward the Bakar family prospered and multiplied--five children in ten years was the end result. Bakar’s rug business flourished as well and soon he was forced to hire a dozen more workers. After forty years Bakar sold the business for ten million dirhams to a group of entrepreneurs headquartered in the nearby town of El Jadida. Wishing to help the community in which he had lived so long, he decided to run for mayor of Safi. He won, in a landslide victory, and served three consecutive terms. The town prospered under Bakar’s leadership and when he left office a parade was held in his honor: Mr. and Mrs. Bakar riding a beautiful white float that was decorated with the petals of a thousand roses!
The Bakars retired to a home on the outskirts of Safi, perched atop a hill overlooking the ocean. One would have thought their remaining years would have been peaceful and harmonious, free of all worries and cares, but Bakar’s life very nearly came to a tragic end.
One evening Bakar was walking on the beach, enjoying the solitude of the sea and the heavenly stars above, when without warning he was attacked by a band of hooligans wielding sticks and knives. They demanded all of Bakar’s money and, when they discovered he had none, knocked him to the ground and began beating him mercilessly. Bakar pleaded for his life, but they only laughed. ”Stupid old man!” one of them said. It was then Bakar remembered the wishes: his life with Maria had been so prosperous he had forgotten all about them. But had he any left? And even if he did, was his protector still listening? He took a deep breath, then cried out with all his might: ”I wish you were all dead!”
All at once there was a crack of thunder, louder than any that had been heard in Safi before and, from out of the star filled sky, came six lightning bolts, one for each hooligan, turning them into six piles of smoldering ashes.
And so the third wish was fulfilled.
It was nearly a decade later when Bakar (who was now nearly eighty years old) lay on his deathbed, attended to by Maria, who was weeping tears of grief. Apparently, Bakar had caught a chill one evening, when walking alone on the beach nearly a mile from his home. An unexpected squall had arisen from the north, pelting him with wind and rain. It took Bakar nearly an hour before he reached home and by then he was shivering uncontrollably. His condition seemed to stabilize that night, but the next day took a turn for the worse. The doctors said there was nothing they could do.
People came from miles around to say farewell to this man they so greatly respected. Outwardly calm and serene (they did not want to upset Bakar while he was preparing for death), but inwardly filled with grief, they said little other than to wish him well on his upcoming journey. At one point such a throng had assembled outside the Bakar house that Bakar was carried on his deathbed out to the village square so all could bear witness to his final moments. It was on the third day of this gathering of souls that a young boy, not realizing the solemnity of the occasion, asked Bakar the secret of his long and happy life.
Up until this point Bakar had not said a word, but now he raised himself slightly from the bed as if he intended to speak. A hush fell over the crowd. Would the child be reprimanded? Bakar turned to the boy and smiled.
”One must always live by the sea,” he said, his voice raspy, his eyelids drooping. Then he fell back upon the bed with a groan and breathed no more.
The wails of the crowd which went out at that moment were not noticed by the boy who, upon hearing Bakar’s words, had started down to the sea in search of his own treasure.
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Brian Biswas has been published in the United States as well as internationally. His most recent publications are in Weirdyear, Cafe Irreal, and Iconoclast. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife and two children.
You can read more of his work at: http://www.brianbiswas.com
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