Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Market of Amazing Things

'You'll never believe what I saw today,' cried Leila, running into the house and throwing her bags on the table.

'What did you see?' asked her brother. He was younger and busy drawing a monster with wings.

'A crowd of ragged children, all staring at the ground.'

'What's so special about that?'

'On the ground was a tiny chameleon, no bigger than half your thumb, tottering on stiff legs like a robot lizard.'

He frowned, looking up now. 'And you saw this in the market? All I ever see is meat and vegetables and fish.'

'And I saw a man with nine trays of eggs, all perfectly intact.'

'Oh, I've seen him. He sells them to the restaurants. But how does he get there, with all those eggs?'

'On a bike.'

'Then how does he carry them?'

'On his head.'

The monster with wings was forgotten. 'Tell me, tell me, what else have you seen?'

'Let me think.' Leila chewed her lip. 'Oh yes! A man dressed in blue like the evening sky, who conjures a hen from under his robe. It's a different hen every day. And a million shiny silver birds, flying round and round the tree in the middle of the market, catching flies so quickly that the flies don't know anything about it until they're in the birds' stomachs. And…and…a cage full of bees, who never fly away through the bars even though they could easily fit.'

Leila's brother looked sulky. 'I never see these things. You must go to a different market than the one mother sends me to. The only things in my market are meat and vegetables and fish.'

'Well,' said Leila, taking his hand. 'Next time you go, see if the meat is as shiny as a red marble floor in a sultan's palace, and the fruit and vegetables are heaped into coloured pyramids, each one higher than the next, and the cones of spices smoke in the breeze like volcanoes, and the fish wear coats woven from sequins and their eyes reflect the sun. If you see these things then I think we can safely say it is the same market.'

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