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I didn’t reply but went to my room, blood staining the ground with every step I took. My mother followed me in, asking about my swollen, bloody feet. I replied: “The path to the peak is covered in thorns and the nation will never progress without victims.”

And then I said to her: “If you want to light a fire with logs, it’ll flicker out, but you’ll succeed if you use kindling.” Mother shook her head ruefully and said: “What are you talking about? Have you gone mad?”

I told her: “The world is mean, always siding with the demeaned.”

Then grand Abdullah said: When my mother left the room, I sighed with relief, but then my little brother came in shouting: “You’ve been missing for three days. I long to hear your stories.”

I said to him: “I’ll tell you any story you want.” He said: “Off you go, then.” I said: “A man went to the graveyard one day and came across a madman sitting on the ground, so he said to him: ‘What are you doing there?’ The madman said: ‘I’m sitting with people who will do me no harm.’ So the man left the graveyard, and headed for the desert. He met a boy wearing threadbare clothes, so he asked him: ‘Where are you going?’ The boy said: ‘I don’t know.’ The man said: ‘Where have you come from?’ The boy said: ‘I don’t know.’ The man was hungry. He saw an apple tree and stretched out his hand to pluck one of the apples, so the tree said to him: ‘Do not eat from me, because I am the king’s . . .’ ” My little brother interrupted me, saying: “What is this boring story?”

So I said: “I’ll tell you another, then. Listen. A judge was rich, and, one day, a poor man came up to him and said: ‘God bless you, judge, I’m a poor man with dependants and have come to you for help.’ The judge gave him nothing. That night when the judge fell asleep, he heard a voice saying: ‘Raise your head!’ So the judge raised his head and saw a palace built of gold and silver bricks. He asked: ‘What is this palace?’ He was told: ‘This would have been yours if you had given some of what you own to the poor man.’ The judge stirred in his sleep from fear and regret.”

Then my little brother interrupted me again, saying: “I don’t like your stories today.”

140 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015

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