A Thousand and One
GRANPA TOLD ME all about the genie in the lamp.
It's the oldest story ever and came from the land of sand and the women with only eyes for you. It's in there, the genie of everything, but you have to find him and figure out how to let him out. He seems fussy but if you keep it simple and use your head he pops up like a daisy. Then he's out and you have to figure out what to do with him. Granpa says he's some kind of wonderful but as dumb as a stump, just like all of us. He can do anything but doesn't know what to do on his own. He needs guiding.
The lamp is always hidden in plain sight he says. Men go prospecting all over the landscape for the easy riches but they're generally lying right there on the ground for you to step over in your hurry and scurry to look for them. Granpa points to the men through the door of the grog shop and they're playing cards and Granpa says what good would it do for them to find the riches anyway.
In the library Granpa takes the books down from the high shelves that kids aren't meant to get at because the words in them are too dear to waste on such as us. He told me to run my hands over the cloth on the cover to see if it was the real deal inside. They don't waste the real nubbly cloth on the fakers.
The lady at the desk didn't like it but Granpa shushed her and we went home and opened that genie book but only so far. A book is like a man, Granpa says. You have to hold them both in respect. You can only bend a book or a man so far until they can't take it no more and then their back breaks.
Granpa says there’s lots of men been bent back too far nowadays. They got told the only thing they could do didn’t need doing anymore, and it broke them open and their hearts fell right out. They try to fill the hole with all sorts of things but nothing suits.
People act like thieves in reverse and put the broken books back on the shelf like nothing happened, but you can always tell because neither a man or a book can ever stand up straight any more after that.
Granpa said a body only needs a crust of bread today, it’s true, but without at least the hope of a loaf tomorrow you’re a goner. Scheherezade told that Sultan all those stories night after night and it kept her alive and me too.
[From The Devil's In the Cows. All rights reserved}