Short Story. Shade by Michael C Keith. About a different magic trip

Short Story. Shade by Michael C Keith. About a different magic trip

Short Story. Shade by Michael C Keith. Enjoy this wonderful story and have a wonderful Monday, Yareah friends!


Dusk and Camel by Piotr Siedlecki

Peace be upon you, for you have persevered! The Quran.

Twenty-six kilometers south of Errachidia, Morocco, along the Qued Ziz River of rock and sand, stood the modest clay dwelling of the Khalad family. For generations the Khalads had raised sheep to provide their meager living. It was the only life they knew, and while it was a hard one, they accepted it with dignity and grace. As the new millennium arrived, all that remained of their small clan were two elderly aunts and Youssef and Houda Khalad, who had sired Abu and Hafeza.

While eight-year-old Hafeza spent many happy hours sewing cloth into garments and stringing beads into bracelets, her brother devoted his free time to napping and daydreaming under the cool umbrella canopy of the Dragon’s Blood Tree that stood atop a one-hundred-foot rise behind his house. It was the only tree visible to the horizon, and Abu revered it more than anything besides his family.

To the eleven-year-old, it possessed a special magic. Since he had been very small, he had referred to the solitary growth as Kaa’ba, which his father had told him was the sacred House of Allah. To young Abu, his tree was the most magnificent object in his small world—as grand as the Goulmima Oasis he had heard his Aunt Naima speak of on many occasions.

“There is a place long miles to the north that possesses cool blue waters and towering date trees. Camels take their fill and people bathe and rest there. It is true Jannah.”

Abu had pictured the sanctuary many times as he sat in his special spot under his beloved tree.  There, too, he recalled the stories that his father had often told him. They were full of clever donkeys, talking deer, and camels appearing from stone. Among his favorite tales was one about a miser whose planted gold is stolen and then replaced by a common stone. Another told of a carpenter who foolishly builds a house badly and then is forced to live in it as it crumbles around him. Every story from his father contained a lesson and left a great impression on Abu.

Apart from the stories he’d been told, Abu was fond of inventing his own. On occasion, at least in his imagination, the tree would assist him as he devised his tales.

“The running camel began to fly across the Sahara,” added Kaa’ba, as Abu fancied a mythic dromedary that comes to the aid of a lost caravan.

“Praise to you!” responded Abu. “That is what he would most certainly do. Thank you, Kaa’ba.”

*          *

It had become a growing concern of Abu’s that his precious tree appeared to be leaning more and more as time passed. Its roots were shallow, and Abu feared it would one day topple.

“Please do not fall, Kaa’ba,” pleaded Abu. “Hold fast to the sand. I could not bear your death.”

As Abu started his descent to his house, he noticed the southern sky had darkened.

“An haboob! Beg you not push down Kaa’ba with your harsh winds,” implored Abu to the approaching wall of sand.

“Come, Abu, we must prepare for the sand storm,” advised his father, as he closed the shutter on the single window to the stone hut.

The Khalad family huddled in the dark as the sand seeped through the cracks in the walls and covered them and everything they owned. Just as Abu feared, the wind struck with ferocity.

Kaa’ba will be taken!” blurted Abu, rising and dashing from the house.

“Abu, come back! You will surely perish!” shouted his distraught father, but Abu could not hear him as he fought his way through the battering sand to the top of the hill.

Abu wrapped his arms around the trunk of the tree hoping to keep it from toppling. He remained in the same position throughout the raging storm as it lashed him with its stinging sand. Hours passed and the winds finally subsided. Exhausted, Abu fell asleep, his arms still wrapped tightly around his beloved evergreen.

*          *

When the sky cleared, Youssef and Houda Khalad climbed the rocky mound in desperate search of their son.

“The tree is still there,” noted Youssef hopefully, looking upward in disbelief. “It has not fallen!”

When they arrived at the summit, they saw their sleeping son.

“Praise be!” cried Houda, in great relief. “The tree saved Abu.”

“Perhaps he saved the tree,” replied Youssef, as Abu stirred from his dreams.

“Father, mother!” he shouted. “Look, Kaa’ba still stands, and the soil now covers its roots.

Indeed, the earth at the base of the Dracaena cinnabari had been built up by the blowing soil, and it now appeared to have a strong foundation.

“It’s a miracle,” muttered Abu, as he accompanied his parents down the hill.

When they reached the bottom, they noticed with great surprise and delight that the tree’s previously limited and precious shade now spread across their hut.

“A miracle, indeed!” proclaimed the Khalads, gazing up admiringly at their son’s cherished companion.

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Michael C. Keith is the author of five story collections. He also has written an acclaimed memoir and two dozen non-fiction books. He is a professor of Communication at Boston College. Prior to entering academe he was a radio broadcaster. His next story anthology The Collector of Tears will publish early 2014.

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