I promised myself I wouldn’t write a long story today. I have some friends coming round for dinner later and the place is a mess so really I should be tidying up the place.
But then, one short story won’t do any harm, will it?
The trouble with stories is they are sometimes like back seat drivers. You set off knowing where you want to go and then the story kicks in and keeps telling you to go this way, then that way and before you know it, you’ve been kicked into the passenger seat and the story has taken over the driving altogether!
Anyway here goes…
On a boiling hot day, the kind where you can feel the heat of the ground through the soles of your shoes, I was walking through the markets of Marrakech.
The smell of the spices and the perfumed tobacco smoke from the hookah pipes was almost overbearing.
I wandered in and out of the brightly dressed crowds in search of something special, something truly authentic, to take home for my neighbour. He had kindly agreed to look after my chickens while I was away. My parents used to undertake this charge, but they were in the late seventies now and it wasn’t fair to ask them to drive the hour long journey from their house to mine just to make sure my hens food and water was topped up. They needed cleaning out at least once a week too and that was an onerous and rather smelly job. It was true that the eggs were a welcome reward for the labour but still, the job needed a better reward than just that. My neighbour, Ian, had said some time ago that he would happily keep an eye on them if we ever wanted a break. He had grown up on a farm and they had kept hens so he remembered them fondly. Possibly he’d remembered the good bits but had forgotten the bad. As well as laying eggs, chickens were prolific producers of something else. Need I spell it out?
Anyway, when I said we were off for two weeks to North Africa, Ian kindly agreed to chicken-sit and give the run a good clean out. So I vowed to myself then and there that I would have to find and bring him back a trinket.
The market was certainly a good place to come. It was full of exotic goods. Beautifully dyed cloth, brass ornaments, terracotta tagines and of course the hookah pipes themselves.
Suddenly I felt a tug at my waist. I looked down and there was a small hand pulling my wallet out of the pocket of my shorts. I tried to grab the hand but it pulled away and I saw a young boy running away through the crowd.
“Stop, Thief!” I cried out.
It was too late. I was just one of many victims of the pickpockets that took advantage of careless tourists in these over crowded places. Luckily I had left my cards and most of my money in the hotel safe. I had only come out with enough to buy lunch and the token gift.
I sat down on the steps of a fountain and slowly recovered from all the emotions you go through at times like these. The anger at the thief, the anger at myself, the regret at not being careful enough. Then I glanced over and saw by the side of the market a ruined building and a pile of rubble. I went to investigate a bit further. The rubble was mainly blocks of concrete and airbricks but there in the pile were a couple of exquisitely painted tiles, slightly broken and no doubt worthless. I picked one up that wasn’t too badly damaged. It was a white tile with dark and light blue interlocking patterns. In the centre was an eight pointed star made up of two squares. It made the perfect gift. It may be worthless but it was truly authentic.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 20/April/2018