THE WATER PITCHER

He was gifted, but no one believed him. He had power, but they said he was only dreaming. He was the least of men, because he could not ride a horse or camel, he could not shoot an arrow straight to hit the mark, and no one feared him.

He lived, as though with a giant scar across his face, not one to be proud of as the mark of a warrior, but something to cringe from, as a child born defective.

As a young man, the beautiful, practical women who were the hips of his people, strode lazily past him as though he were not there. He watched them tighten up, and hold their heads up high, whenever other young men passed them by; but to them he was as familiar and as harmless as a dog.

They did not know his power.

One day, it became too much for him to bear.

It was a harsh day of sun and thirst, a day of being lost, far from the trails and the wells. A terrible sandstorm had rewritten the geography of the earth, erased hills, and made hills where there were none, swallowed up the dry wadi which was the line they were following towards water, towards life. For seven days, they saw nothing but dust. Even in the night, the stars hung their heads in shame, the world let the wind command it, and do with it what it pleased. At last, they had to move to find water, even though the world was still in turmoil, and that is when they became lost. No one can survive in a world that is utterly new, without the friendship of a mountain or a river that they know.

By now, there were only a few of them, the others had already gone in different directions, scattering like birds when they hear the grasses moving right beside them. Every band had taken its own course. That is the havoc that storms wreak upon the human soul.

The water was all gone, except for what remained in a large glass pitcher, which rested on the table by the rocks where the elder sat, outside the tent, with his two beautiful daughters, across from the young man who blushed, and whose heart pounded, whenever he was near them. But they did not raise a finger to make themselves look more beautiful.

"Let us drink just a little," the elder said, after a while, as the storm began to die, "for who knows how far we are from the nearest well, or how long it will take us to reach it."

It may seem strange to you that these stalwart masters of the desert chose to hold the last of their water in a pitcher made of glass, but if you think a little, you will realize how most of us guard things that matter little with all the power at our disposal, while neglecting the things that truly count. We covet what distracts us, and pay no mind to that which saves us or damns us. We cherish what is superfluous and forget that there is such a thing as essence. We stay up all night to stand watch over trinkets, and fall asleep beside treasures.

The water in the glass pitcher was no different.

Each took a small sip of water, the young man the smallest of all, but no one noticed. Such gestures are like the paths made by an ant, for those who judge a man by how he rides a horse.

The young man could finally endure no more. Perhaps it was the hot sun beating down upon his head. Perhaps it was the pity of seeing such lost people; or only the pain of beautiful women who did not look at him.

"I have power," the young man told them once again, as he had told them many times before.

"Please, not again," the elder implored.

"I have power," the young man insisted.

The girls yawned.

"I am not who you think I am. I am a great man."

"Words mean nothing," the elder said, at last. "You have been going on and on like this for years. You have not stood out on the raids, you have not distinguished yourself in battle, you do not ride a horse convincingly, nor are you graceful upon a camelís back. We love words, but only from the poets. None of us have power, now, only the wind."

But the young man, today, would not be deterred. "I will show you, at last," he told them, "that all power does not come from a sword, nor a bow, nor from charging horses. I will show you the power that is in a soul, in a thought. I will you show you how a heart can overcome an army."

Now, even the daughters were looking at him, so intense and strange was his outburst, so unexpected his passion. Though a beautiful, strong man makes the heart of a desert woman crumble, like dust, to see a fool humiliate himself is not uninteresting.

"The pitcher," the young man said. "I will move it without a hand, without touching it at all. I will move it with my mind, alone, I will show you the power of mind."

By now, all eyes were upon him, the silence grew; even the troubled noises of the earth, the last of its howling winds and the laments of its sorrowful beasts, ceased, that he might finally have the moment that the boldness of others had denied him all his life.

"Well," said the elder. "Go on, then, show us this power you have been telling us of since you were born."

Furrowing his brow and leaning slightly forward, while all eyes clung to him, the young man stared silently at the pitcher. After a time, the girls were about to laugh, when, all at once, they thought they saw the pitcher quiver. They looked like they were about to cry. Then, suddenly, as all let out a gasp, it began to move, trembling slightly as it slid across the table, picking up speed until suddenly it was flying, and before any of them could think to stop it, had leapt off of the table, and crashed against the rocks, shattering into a thousand pieces and spilling the last of their precious water into the thirsting, immortal mouth of the desert sand. Those who needed water would have none; that which drank without need used all.

For a moment, no one spoke.

"You have power," the elder agreed at last.

The girls lowered their eyes and became radiant.

No more was the young man marginal.

He had power, he had proved it; but now there was no water.

 

Short Fiction Contents

Creative Safehouse Contents

Site Contents