The MAGIC SATCHEL

I don’t have kids, but I recall fondly stories I read and was told as a child.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Aesop’s fables resonated for me.  So here I am, attempting to conjure up a little of that magic myself.  If you’re a parent, please let me know – is this something you’d read to your kids?  

For fiction for an older market, check out the Market Place page for a link to buy “The Wizard of Waramanga” from amazon.com

Gavin and Glenys lived in a nice little house in a nice little small town.

It really was quite a small house, and it was a bit old, but it was well looked after and had everything they needed. It felt very safe and comfortable. They both really rather loved their little old house, though neither of them really said so much.

They both had good jobs in the nearby city, and they both worked hard.

One evening after a long day at work they looked at each other and said, “We need a holiday!”

So they booked a flight to Marrakesh, because it sounded far away and exciting and a bit magical.

And so it was – very exciting and just a bit magical.

They visited beautiful gardens right on the edge of the desert. They saw grand old buildings with walls and floors decorated with gorgeous tiles in every colour you can imagine. And they went to the great big marketplace called the souk.

Gavin and Glenys were very excited by the souk. There was so much to see, and to buy! There were clothes, and shoes, and jewellery, and lamps, and carpets and furniture and mirrors and… and… well, lots of things!

The men who owned the market stalls would ask a high price for their goods, and Glenys would laugh and say, “Oh, you funny man!” before offering a much lower price.

And the men who ran the stalls would laugh and suggest a better price, and they would suggest prices to each other until either they agreed or Gavin and Glenys would shrug, smile and walk away.

That’s called “haggling” and it’s how the souk works in Marrakesh.

Glenys was very good at haggling, and soon Gavin found himself struggling to carry several bags of things they’d bought.

“Let’s sit down for a bit, please!” he said, mopping the sweat from his forehead.

So they sat at a shady little stall and had some pastries and mint tea in glass cups.

Gavin looked down at all the bags of shopping at his feet. “Do we really need all these things?” he wondered out loud.

“I suppose not,” admitted Glenys, “but they’re all so pretty. They’ll make our little old house look really lovely.”

“That’s true,” agreed Gavin.

They both loved their little house, but did like the idea of making it look a bit grander.

“I just wish it was easier to carry around all the things we want,” said Gavin, taking the final sip of his mint tea.

Glenys had a puzzled look on her face.

“I didn’t notice that stall before,” she said, pointing to a tiny little market stall a little way from where they were sitting.

Gavin looked over. “It’s just another bag stall,” he said with a shrug.

“I don’t know. That one looks a bit – different. A bit special I think,” Glenys replied. “Let’s go take a look.”

Standing in front of the stall was Ali Ghalee Bezzaf, whose hair was long and whose beard was silver. He wore long silver earrings and a long black robe with gold patterns sewn on its edges.

Ali Ghalee Bezzaf was really a jinni – a magic spirit – but he wasn’t about to tell Gavin and Glenys that.

“Welcome to my humble stall,” he said as they entered.

Gavin held onto all the shopping bags while Glenys had a little look around. It was a small stall, and there wasn’t very much to look at.

“You have many bags, sir,” said Ali Ghalee Bezzaf to Gavin.

“You’re right there,” agreed Gavin. “I don’t suppose you have a magic bag that’d make it easier to carry them?” he said, with a smile.

Ali Ghalee Bezzaf gave a small bow and smiled.

“I have just as you wish, sir,” he said, and reached under the little table he used as a counter.

He pulled out a beautiful leather satchel. It had intricate patterns worked into the leather of the flap that closed the bag. One pattern had been embellished with red paint, another with blue.

Glenys looked at the bag and couldn’t help but go, “Ooh! Look at the workmanship! This bag is lovely!”

“Thank you, madam,” said Ali Ghalee Bezzaf. “But it is more than that. This is a very special piece of workmanship – as you requested, it is magic.”

Glenys and Gavin both looked at him very doubtfully.

“I will show you!” he said, smiling and stroking his beard. On his little table was a large round stone that he used as a paperweight.

He handed the satchel to Gavin so he could feel the weight of it – the bag was remarkably light for its size. Then he placed the big stone inside the satchel, where it hung heavily from Gavin’s arm.

Still smiling, Ali traced the red pattern on the satchel’s flap with a finger, and said, “Shukran! Shukran!

Gavin looked astonished – suddenly the bag was as light as before. He looked inside. “Hey! The stone’s vanished!” he said.

“Well, that is a clever trick,” admitted Glenys, “but it doesn’t really help us very much. What’s the good of having our shopping disappear?”

Ali Ghalee Bezzaf smiled again and said, “It will not disappear, madam. It will just be in a safe place.”

He traced the blue pattern on the satchel’s flap, and said, “Shukran! Shukran!

Gavin staggered slightly as the weight of the stone suddenly returned to the bag.

“Just think of the thing that you want returned, and there it will be,” Ali explained.

Gavin and Glenys looked at each other, their eyes wide.

“Does it have… a limit?” Gavin asked.

Ali shrugged, and took the long pole he used to get bags down from the very top shelf of his stall. He put one end of the pole into the satchel, traced the red design and said, “Shukran! Shukran!

The pole slipped into the bag like it was slipping into a well. The flap of the satchel fell shut.

“May I?” asked Gavin.

Ali nodded.

Gavin pictured in his mind the long pole, traced the blue pattern with a finger and said, “Shukran! Shukran!

He reached into the satchel, and with a look of delighted surprise drew out the pole. He handed the pole back to Ali with a little bow. “It’s wonderful!” he said.

Glenys took the satchel from Gavin and turned it around in her hands. She examined the stitching and examined the leather, top and bottom, back, front and sides.

“Will it wear out?” she finally asked.

Ali Ghalee Bezzaf shook his head, his long silver earrings jangling. “No, it will never wear out,” the jinni replied, “but you must use it wisely. It is not good to be greedy with it. You should never want more than enough.”

“Of course, of course,” said Glenys and Gavin together, both nodding quickly while they imagined all the things they could put in the satchel.

“How much is it?” asked Glenys, expecting a very high price and preparing to haggle.

“How much will you pay?” replied Ali.

Glenys blinked in surprise. She looked at Gavin, who shrugged.

“Um… twenty dirham?” she suggested cautiously.

“Is that what you think it is worth?” asked Ali Ghalee Bezzaf.

‘It’s worth a lot more than that!’ is what Glenys thought to herself. But what she said was, “Well, perhaps a little more than that.”

She was surprised to hear herself admit even that – this was not haggling like she’d experienced before!

Ali smiled and said, “Twenty dirham is enough. It is not good to be greedy.”

Glenys handed Ali the money, while Gavin began putting the things they’d already bought into the satchel, tracing the red design, and saying, “Shukran! Shukran!” over and over again.

As Glenys took a turn at putting things into the bag, Gavin turned to Ali and asked, “By the way – what does that word shukran mean?”

“It is the greatest magic word in the world,” said Ali Ghalee Bezzaf. “It is how we say ‘thank you’ in Morocco.”

Gavin smiled and said, “Well, shukran to you, then!”

The two exchanged bows. “Enjoy your time in Marrakesh, sir and madam. Travel wisely,” said the jinni.

“Oh, we will!” they both exclaimed, and laughed as they walked off to explore more of the souk.

The next day they explored more, and bought more. Glenys was very good at haggling, and Gavin was starting to get the hang of it too, so they got a lot of things at very good prices.

“You know,” said Gavin, “we could charge a lot more than we paid for these things if we sold them at home.”

“That’s a good idea!” said Glenys, so they started buying even more.

They looked at a very big, fancy carpet. “It’ll never fit in our front room,” said Glenys.

“But it will fit very well in old Colonel Houndstooth’s big house. I’m sure he’ll buy it from us at a good price,” said Gavin.

So they bought the big fancy carpet, and had it rolled up tight so that one end would fit into the magic satchel.

When they left the carpet stall they ducked into a little alleyway of the souk so no one would see them. Gavin traced the red design, and quietly said, “Shukran! Shukran!” Just like slipping into a well, the carpet slid into the bag and disappeared.

Gavin and Glenys thought the carpet seller hadn’t seen them, but he’d noticed them through a tiny window in his stall. If they were worried about their magic satchel being stolen though, they needn’t have been.

The carpet seller shook his head worriedly when he saw the magic at work. “Ali Ghalee Bezzaf!” he said to himself. “I have enough!”

That night in their hotel, Gavin and Glenys looked at their suitcases.

“We certainly won’t have to pay an Excess Baggage charge when we fly home!” laughed Gavin.

They got a few things back out of the satchel to admire them in the peace and quiet of the hotel room, then put them back in whatever safe place they went to.

“You know, if we had a bag like that each, we could get a lot more stuff. For the house, I mean,” said Glenys. “There were those lovely big brass lamps I wanted. And those blue and white ceramic pots, and one or two of those mirrors in the elegant silver frames.”

“We could fit all those in this bag, I think,” said Gavin.

“But if we had one each we could both shop for the things we want. We’ve only got another two days here to get the things we want!”

So the next day they searched the souk for the bag stall of Ali Ghalee Bezzaf, but they couldn’t find it. Neither had thought to ask Ali his name, so they couldn’t tell anyone who they were looking for.

Of course, Glenys and Gavin didn’t know that Ali Ghalee Bezzaf was a jinni, and if any of the other stallholders they spoke to knew, they weren’t telling.

They went to where they’d had the mint tea and pastries, and looked along the way to where they thought was the right place. There was a stall selling shoes and slippers with curly toes, and next door was a stall selling copper pots and pans.

When they tried to ask those two stall holders about the little bag stall the two sellers shook their heads and waved their hands.

Glenys was quite cross – so cross she didn’t even buy any of the copper pans that she’d really quite admired.

“We’ve wasted more than half the day looking for that silly stall. It can’t have just vanished!” she snapped.

Gavin looked at the magic satchel, into which things disappeared. “I’m not so sure about that,” he said quietly. “Still, we’ve got this one and it’s worked well for us so far.”

“That’s true,” Glenys admitted. “But I wanted more.”

“We’ll get more,” said Gavin. “We’ve got the rest of today and tomorrow to find the things we want.”

So they walked up and down and around and around the souk. They haggled as hard as they could, and kept ducking around corners and into quiet nooks to cram big items into the satchel without being seen.

The one or two locals who might have noticed them using the satchel muttered, “Ali Ghalee Bezzaf!” under their breath and quickly looked away.

By the end of their last day in Marrakesh, Glenys had lots of brass lamps and ceramic pots and mirrors, and much more besides. Gavin had bought decorative wood carvings and ornaments. He’d also bought a lot of rugs, thinking it would be nice to have a carpet selling business as well as his normal good job.

Gavin and Glenys had said, “Shukran! Shukran!” so often, they just about forgot what it meant. They’d stopped thinking about the magic and appreciating it – they were just using it.

Finally they got on the plane and left Marrakesh. As they sat in the taxi on their way home from the airport they patted the magic satchel and congratulated themselves on how clever they’d been at fitting so much into it.

But when the taxi turned into their little street in their little town, the police had blocked it off halfway along, with yellow and black ‘Do Not Cross’ tape.

“What can have happened?” cried Glenys in concern.

With the taxi stopped at the tape, Gavin quickly paid the driver. They grabbed their luggage, which of course was very light because they’d put all their clothes and belongings in the magic satchel, and dashed down the street.

They stopped and looked in horror at the remains of their home.

All the things they had bought and crammed into the satchel had gone to the safest place they knew – their own nice little house in their nice little town.

All the things – the carpets, the mirrors, the pots, the clothes – wood, glass, metal, heavy cloth, thick earthenware – had been landing on the floor of their front room. The weight had been too much for the old timber and it had collapsed.

Without the floor to support it, the wall of the front room had collapsed – door, windows and all. And without the front wall to hold it up, of course the ceiling and the roof came down.

The little cottage they had loved was a wreck, crushed by the weight of all the things they’d bought.

All the things that Gavin and Glenys just wanted had ruined the things that they loved and needed – the things that had been enough.

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