The Tale of the Buyer

We had invited them in, being generous and flush of fortune, and treated them beyond all human hope: the porter we regaled with wine and merriment and our bodies lithe as fishes, the three dervishes we fed a meal to knit muscle out of bones, the sultan and his advisor we entertained with a mystery of pain and loss and transformation, and all we asked was discretion, to sit in silence at the end of a long night and bear witness—mere witness!—to our suffering that made all else possible.

They refused.

Having taken everything we gave willingly, they took council among themselves, these ungrateful men, and said, “After all, we are seven and they are three, why should we be denied anything?” They broke their vows, and forfeited not just their lives but their honor, but we, being merciful, let them off at the cost of an evening’s biography, and turned them out unsatisfied, reminding them of the pledge they had made us.

Again they broke it.

Returned to power, comfortable and secure in silks and steel, the caliph ordered us before him, dragged in like thieves, and ordered that we open for him, that we spread ourselves wide so that he could sate himself of his curiosity. Having fed himself on our stories, the abuse and violence that marriage had inflicted on us, the beatings, the abandonment, the bite ripped from our cheek, he ordered us robed and married yet again, that our house be broken up and we be separated, then dowered our jailers with riches and rank, as though that were apology enough. He smiled as he did it, Harun the just, al-Rashid the merciful, and turned unseeing eyes to the blood falling from our lips.

The price of hospitality is high, too high.

A Winter’s Night

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. “You know,” said the Word to God, “you and I are like the man and the shaggy dog.”

“What do you mean?” asked the Lord, the Lord God of Hosts, the Lord God Almighty.

“Well,” said The Word—

The Man And The Shaggy Dog

Once, O Lord, there was a poor man who had lost everything. His children had been killed in the wars, and those the wars did not claim were shot to death at school. He and his partner had bankrupted themselves trying to buy medicine for their aging parents, and lost even the roof over their heads. They did not even have each other, having divorced each other in their grief. “Perhaps if things improve—” they had said, and “Perhaps—” he had said, and they went their separate ways.

In his desperation, he cast about for any job he could profitably do, and so found a rich man desperately seeking for a dog shaggier than any other. It seemed unimportant to the poor man, but then rich men often waste their money because they could. Still, he was curious: “Why does he want this dog?” he asked the rich man’s servant?

“Oh, that’s because of the Tis Bottle,” said the servant. “Let me tell you that tale—”

The Story Of the Tis Bottle

Attend my words, O unfortunate soul, for there is much of profit here. My employer was not always wealthy as he is now. His parents were poor, his schooling was neglected, his family was too large too feed, and so he took to the roads when he was 14, hoping to make his fortune. The city was hosting a competition to find the legendary Tis Bottle, with a prize large enough to set himself up in business, if he could find it. With no better plan in mind, he took himself to the library and asked the reference librarian for whatever help they could provide.

“Oh, the Tis Bottle,” smiled the Librarian. “To understand the Tis Bottle, you must first grasp the meaning of the tale of the aspirin.”

“Tell me the tale of the aspirin,” begged my master, and so the Librarian said—

The Tale of the Aspirin

Two aspirin were walking down the road together. One of them, quite annoyed, turned to the other and asked, “Why must you always tell such awful, pointless stories?”

And the other one said, “Very well, how’s this? Once upon a time, two Advil were walking down the road—”