THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
strength for their migrations. He would play pranks on the cats who came to drink – splashing them and laughing as they shook out the water.
Then one day a stone-faced man carrying a sword came. He did not let the children or the trees or the roses or the birds or the cats drink from the river, claiming that it belonged to him alone.
The river was angry and yelled: “No one owns me!” An old bird said: “No creature can drink the river’s water all by himself.”
But the man with the sword did not pay attention to the yelling of the river or the words of the bird. His voice rough and hard, he said: “Whoever wants to drink water from the river must pay – to me – one gold piece.”
The birds said: “We will sing for you the most wonderful songs.”
The man said: “I want gold, not music.” The trees said: “We will give you our first fruits.” The man said: “I will eat your fruit whenever I want anyway – no one can stop me.”
The roses said: “We will give you the most beautiful rose.” The man scoffed: “And what good is a beautiful rose?” The cats said: “We will play cute games for you every day and watch over you at night.”
The man said: “I hate your games, and my sword is the only watchman I trust.”
The children said: “We will do anything you say.” The man said: “You are useless, you don’t have strong muscles.”
At that, confusion and sadness overcame them all. The man kept talking: “If you want to drink from the river, pay me what I demand in gold.”
A little bird was so thirsty he could not bear it, so he took the risk of drinking from the river. The man rushed over, snatched the bird, and slaughtered him with his sword.
154 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015