Omar the Peddler by Jose Diaz

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Hours later, or so it seemed to Omar, he reached the source of the light.

It was a small opening on the wall from which a blinding glare flowed. Omar came close expecting fiery heat. But the light was cool as a spring breeze. He squeezed through the opening and dropped into a room where a ball of fire, like a tiny sun, hung in mid-air. The room seemed to have no openings other than the one he just dropped through and was now out of his reach.

He surveyed the contents of the room: The floor was strewn with gold nuggets and precious stones; and, laying all over it, amid the treasures, there were human skeletons, their chalk-white fingers still clutching some of the riches.

"Holy flying carpet! What kind of a place is this?" Omar exclaimed with his eyes wide open staring at the bright object. Then he bent down, picked up a large diamond and put it in his pocket.

Abruptly, a voice from within the bright object thundered out to him, "This is the Kingdom of the Djins and I am the Great Djin!" Then the fiery thing took the shape of a human being. "I am your servant for the duration of two wishes," continued the Djin.

"Two wishes! Three is the minimum, last I heard. What kind of a genie are you?" Omar haggled, like a good peddler should.

"I am not a genie. I am the Great Djin," the Djin protested and then added, with a wink, "The wishes I grant are better."

"May I wish for anything?" Omar asked.

"Yes, but wish wisely," the Djin slowly hissed. Then with an impish look he said, "May I suggest wealth and knowledge; or perhaps, unfailing health? Immortality, alas, I can offer not."

Omar closed his eyes as if in deep thought.

"Well, well," urged the Djin, impatiently.

"I wish for good health for my mother and to wake up in my own bed tomorrow," Omar said.

The Djin shook his head, apparently disappointed, and Omar woke up.

"Mother! Mother!" he called. "I've had the most awful dream."

His mother came running into the room.

Omar stared in disbelief.

"Mother, check my pockets. See what's in them," he choked out.

"Just a chunk of glass," she said, taking the large stone out of one of the pockets and holding it out for him to see.

"That's no glass, mother. And I wasn't dreaming," Omar gasped.

Now among the masses crowding Timbuctu's bustling streets, Omar walked; and as he went, he dropped coins into every beggar's cupped hands.