Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Man Who Wailed at the Sea


27 [Shalamu] (month), Shanatu 84 (year)

There once was old Ummu Amtumi whose wise thoughts just outnumbered the many creases in her weathered face. It was said that she was born with words already written on her tongue. On a bright day she hobbled off to the grocers to pick up bread and honey and apples when she saw a young boy crying. You see, he held a perfect ice cream cone but the ice cream had splattered onto the sidewalk. He cried and cried. Old Ummu Amtumi could not stand to see a little one weep so—such a gentle lady was she—so she hobbled to the little boy.
                The boy tried to scoop up the melting remains in his round fingers.
                Said Ummu Amtumi to the boy: “There, there, yaldu, that won’t do. You mustn’t eat that.”
                “Why not, Ummu Amtumi?” Everyone knew Ummu Amtumi in that town, even the little boy.
                “You’ll make yourself sick. See, it already has someone else’s old chewing gum on it and a piece of trash.”
                “But I want my ice cream Ummu. I want it. It’s mine.”
                “It may have been yours, but it belongs to the ground now. Here. Let’s share my apple.” She often shared what wealth she could even though she was poor; may we all be so generous.
                “I don’t want your apple. I want my ice cream.”
                “Here now, yaldu, it does no good to cry.” She reached into her flaking black handbag and pulled out a clean, wrinkled handkerchief scented with mint and sweet old perfume to wipe the poor boy’s muddy tears. “This reminds me of a story. Would you like to hear it? Good.” She sat the boy next to her on the brick retaining wall in front of the store.
                And old Ummu Amtumi began her tale.