The Magic Stick

By Nazib Wadood

The full moon looks like a big gold coin in between the two date trees. A few night clouds lay asleep leaning against the sky. They, like angels of light, shed no shadow on the ground. Moonlight of Aswin is shimmering white.

The five children are sitting together on the neat and tidy courtyard. Thin films of moonlight spark on their tender lively cheeks and black hair. Soothing breezes, like flocks of little naughty birds, fly over to, and play for a while with them, then again blow away in their own way.

This is the time they gossip everyday before going to bed. Little white flowers blossom in the lemon tree at the south-east corner of the courtyard. The children feel their hearts filled with sweet smell of lemon flowers. Their faces are charming, tender and lively like petals of flower.

The youngest of them is aged about four. Her name is Jannatul Firdaus, but she is not mature enough yet to be called by that name. Everyone affectionately calls her Buri, that means older woman, for her precocity. Akbar, the oldest among them, is about to cross eight. Others are older than Buri.

They gossip sitting on a mat of date leaves. Most time they tell fairy tales and fables. But this time they try to tell a true story. Everything they desire to tell is so real that these are duped by sorcery to be full of dreams. They cannot complete any story, as if it has no ending. It has no beginning too.

So they try to start from the beginning.

But all get dismantled and scattered. Naughty playing winds carry away both the beginning and the ending of the story. Each and every story they try to tell fly above to the sky with fragrance of lemon flowers. Pieces of the stories begin to twinkle on the sky like shining bluish stars. They are nothing but their dreams. The dreams first fly away, then return. It happens again and again.

“What’s next?” one asks when the story fails to proceed forward.

They do not know why their attempts lose way just after the beginning. Perhaps it is not a real beginning, they think. They move and rearrange themselves. They sit more closely and turn their eyes to the sky with steadfast look. Then they try to start. But fail. Then retry. Thus they repeat their attempts to recall and rearrange the story.

Moonlights pour down to the ground like flocks of thousands of white pigeons. The trees standing here and there look like black hillocks. Crickets begin to drone behind the fence of jute-stalks.

“Then why aren’t you telling an old story?”

“Oh, I have never heard of such type of impasse before.”

Akbar moves his lips but cannot utter any sound. He stares at the sky. The dream-stars twinkle without giving him any clue to the mystery of the scattering tales.

“Then try with a new one.”

“Yes, this might work. Thank you.”

But the older stories seem so unforgettable that no new story can evolve out of them. Nobody can give any reference or clue. The stories are transformed into air molecules and mixed up with particles of moonlight.

Akbar’s younger sister is six months senior to Buri. Her eyes turn piteous. Her core of heart begins to boil in excitement. Seeing Akbar opening his lips she cannot but move further close to him and sits leaning forward. “Let’s tell a new story today,” she says and then maintains a definite pause to let her brother start.

But their imaginations do not function. They cannot guess things accurately. A secret unexplainable matter destroys their minds and brains and eyes. May be that it is nothing but Darkness. An immensely large black stone of concrete darkness. It stands before them like a huge mountain, or a large statue of darkness. It hinders their eyesight from seeing what they want to see. It cannot see; so it does not allow others to see. It cannot touch; and no one can touch it. One can feel its existence only by imagination. The young children feel crude presence of the giant Darkness but can guess neither its largeness nor its strength. In fact, gush of down-pouring moonlight destabilizes everything. The night does not seem okay as it is everyday. White moon-rays blow like breeze.

“Actually that news has foiled everything,” says Akbar’s younger sister and pout her lips in displeasure. Her eyes get full of perturbation.

That statue of darkness makes them dumb for sometime. They do not find any reason behind it.

“Won’t dad come ever?” says Buri’s only brother. He is one years’ senior to her.

“How fool! Can a dead man come back home?”

“Yes. He can’t; because he is dead. Rather I should say he has been killed,” says Akbar in such a usual tone as if he informs them of ordinary news.

Akbar’s immediate younger brother speaks less; and when speaks he looks somewhat fool and embarrassed. Everyone hearing him cannot but laugh.

“Dad has gone to take him back,” he says. Nobody laughs this time. It inspires him to talk further. “Our uncle has become a Shahid,” he says after a pause.

“What happens when a man becomes a Shahid?” says Buri very curiously.

“He goes to Heaven.”

“There is huge happiness in the Heaven. One gets everything there what he desires to have.” Akbar explains a little.

“Everything?”

“Yes.”

“Big sweetmeats?”

“Mango?”

“Everything… everything is available at once you want to have,” says Akbar without expressing any annoyance.

Buri moves a little forward to him and says, “I too want to go to the Heaven.” She looks around with hesitating eyes, as if she is doubtful of others’ approval.

“Then you should have also become a Shahid.”

“How can a person become a Shahid?”

“He is to fight… he is to die for truth like our uncle. It is called Jihad.”

“Then I’ll go for Jihad. Dad wanted to teach me it,” says Buri’s brother. His voice seems firm.

“Before that you should have to become an adult like dad,” Buri says to protest.

A quarrel is apprehended to be raised between them. Buri hurriedly says, “It is the time to go to bed. Now let’s go to sleep.” She dusts off her frock. Her indifferent attitude proves to be of a real old woman.

Moonlights pour down more heavily like fog. Fragrance of lemon flowers turns dense to be sensible like breeze. Nobody is there to look after them. They lie down there crouching on the mat.

Then an old man comes out of light darkness on the verandah. He is the grandfather of the children. He wears a blue lungi that turns black in moonlight. A fair guernsey shines on his dark body. His hair and beard are as white as fragrant autumnal flowers. He walks slowly to the children and sits down there among them. He touches everybody one by one with his hands as if he counts them. Yes, all his five grandsons and daughters are there– nobody is missing. All they are sleeping. The old man looks at the sky. After a while he turns down his eyes and casts his look to each and every objects of his house around him– the fence of jute-sticks, clay-made walls of the house, tin-shade roofs, the two date trees, lemon flowers, and so on. Everything is okay, he sees. Then he lies down among the children. He does not seemingly have such leisure before in his long way of life. Naughty winds blow over them and playfully roll about on their heads and faces, trunks and legs.

Everything dips into silence. Then a sound of weeping comes out from inside a room of the house. The two wives of the family recite from the Holy Quran. The younger one bursts into cry every now and then. The other weeps in deep sorrow trying to console her.

After a while, the grandfather wakes up in a sudden terror and gets panic-stricken. He looks around bewilderedly. Then he starts to push the children to awake them up.

“Come on, my sons! Get up!”

He is so impatient as if his successors are attacked by dacoits.

“Wake up my sons…! Please rise up…! Wake…! Rise…!”

He continues to repeat his call…

Instructor Response

Your story is moving and very well presented. The story is effective as is, and rather than continue to work it, I encourage you to move on and create other stories. For me, your strength is setting and mood. The pacing is right, especially in regard to information release. You capture the emotions and responses of childhood innocence and aged wisdom. And you present thought-provoking reactions of the characters to Jihad and on becoming a Shahid. The thoughts stimulated about heaven, I think, will vary from reader to reader, but always be provocative—ironic to some, inspirational to others. It is an admirable aspect of your story for me.

All the best in your writing,

WHC

The Magic Stick

By Nazib Wadood

The full moon looks like a big gold coin in between the two date trees. A few night clouds lay asleep leaning against the sky. They, like angels of light, shed no shadow on the ground. Moonlight of Aswin is shimmering white. Effective setting of time, place, and mood. Good.

The five children are sitting together on the neat and tidy courtyard. Thin films of moonlight spark on their tender lively cheeks and black hair. Soothing breezes, like flocks of little naughty birds, fly over to, and play for a while with them, then again blow away in their own way.

This is the time they gossip everyday before going to bed. Little white flowers blossom in the lemon tree at the south-east corner of the courtyard. The children feel their hearts filled with sweet smell of lemon flowers. Their faces are charming, tender and lively like petals of flower.

The youngest of them is aged about four. Her name is Jannatul Firdaus, but she is not mature enough yet to be called by that name. Everyone affectionately calls her Buri, that means older woman, for her precocity. Akbar, the oldest among them, is about to cross eight. Others are older than Buri.

They gossip sitting on a mat of date leaves. Most time they tell fairy tales and fables. But this time they try to tell a true story. Everything they desire to tell is so real that these are duped by sorcery to be full of dreams. They cannot complete any story, as if it has no ending. It has no beginning too.

So they try to start from the beginning.  But all get dismantled and scattered. Naughty playing winds carry away both the beginning and the ending of the story. Each and every story they try to tell fly above to the sky with fragrance of lemon flowers. Pieces of the stories begin to twinkle on the sky like shining bluish stars. They are nothing but their dreams. The dreams first fly away, then return. It happens again and again.

“What’s next?” one asks when the story fails to proceed forward.

They do not know why their attempts lose way just after the beginning. Perhaps it is not a real beginning, they think. They move and rearrange themselves. They sit more closely and turn their eyes to the sky with steadfast look. Then they try to start. But fail. Then retry. Thus they repeat their attempts to recall and rearrange the story.

Moonlights pours down to the ground like flocks of thousands of white pigeons. The trees standing here and there look like black hillocks. Crickets begin to drone behind the fence of jute-stalks.

“Then why aren’t you telling an old story?”

“Oh, I have never heard of such type of impasse before.”

Akbar moves his lips but cannot utter any sound. He stares at the sky. The dream-stars twinkle without giving him any clue to the mystery of the scattering tales.

“Then try with a new one.”

“Yes, this might work. Thank you.”

But the older stories seem so unforgettable that no new story can evolve out of them. Nobody can give any reference or clue. The stories are transformed into air molecules and mixed up with particles of moonlight.

Akbar’s younger sister is six months senior to Buri. Her eyes turn piteous. Her core of heart begins to boil in excitement. Seeing Akbar opening his lips she cannot but move further close to him and sits leaning forward. “Let’s tell a new story today,” she says and then maintains a definite pause to let her brother start.

But their imaginations do not function. They cannot guess things accurately. A secret unexplainable matter destroys their minds and brains and eyes. May be that it is nothing but Darkness. An immensely large black stone of concrete darkness. It stands before them like a huge mountain, or a large statue of darkness. It hinders their eyesight from seeing what they want to see. It cannot see; so it does not allow others to see. It cannot touch; and no one can touch it. One can feel its existence only by imagination. The young children feel crude presence of the giant Darkness but can guess neither its largeness nor its strength. In fact, gush of down-pouring moonlight destabilizes everything. The night does not seem okay as it is everyday. White moon-rays blow like breeze. Your metaphors have been effective, and story specific, throughout.

“Actually that news has foiled everything,” says Akbar’s younger sister and pout her lips in displeasure. Her eyes get full of perturbation.

That statue of darkness makes them dumb for sometime. They do not find any reason behind it.

“Won’t dad come ever?” says Buri’s only brother. He is one years’ senior to her.

“How fool! Can a dead man come back home?”

“Yes. He can’t; because he is dead. Rather I should say he has been killed,” says Akbar in such a usual tone as if he informs them of ordinary news.

Akbar’s immediate younger brother speaks less; and when speaks he looks somewhat fool and embarrassed. Everyone hearing him cannot but laugh.

“Dad has gone to take him back,” he says. Nobody laughs this time. It inspires him to talk further. “Our uncle has become a Shahid,” he says after a pause.

“What happens when a man becomes a Shahid?” says Buri very curiously.

“He goes to Heaven.”

“There is huge happiness in the Heaven. One gets everything there what he desires to have.” Akbar explains a little.

“Everything?”

“Yes.”

“Big sweetmeats?”

“Mango?”

“Everything… everything is available at once you want to have,” says Akbar without expressing any annoyance.

Buri moves a little forward to him and says, “I too want to go to the Heaven.” She looks around with hesitating eyes, as if she is doubtful of others’ approval.

“Then you should have also become a Shahid.”

“How can a person become a Shahid?”

“He is to fight… he is to die for truth like our uncle. It is called Jihad.”

“Then I’ll go for Jihad. Dad wanted to teach me it,” says Buri’s brother. His voice seems firm.

“Before that you should have to become an adult like dad,” Buri says to protest.

A quarrel is apprehended to be raised between them. Buri hurriedly says, “It is the time to go to bed. Now let’s go to sleep.” She dusts off her frock. Her indifferent attitude proves to be of a real old woman. I find that the metaphysical quandaries stimulate touching emotional reactions. Admirable work in storytelling!

Moonlights pour down more heavily like fog. Fragrance of lemon flowers turns dense to be sensible like breeze. Nobody is there to look after them. They lie down there crouching on the mat.

Then an old man comes out of light darkness on the verandah. He is the grandfather of the children. He wears a blue lungi that turns black in moonlight. A fair guernsey shines on his dark body. His hair and beard are as white as fragrant autumnal flowers. He walks slowly to the children and sits down there among them. He touches everybody one by one with his hands as if he counts them. Yes, all his five grandsons and daughters are there– nobody is missing. All they are sleeping. The old man looks at the sky. After a while he turns down his eyes and casts his look to each and every objects of his house around him– the fence of jute-sticks, clay-made walls of the house, tin-shade roofs, the two date trees, lemon flowers, and so on. Everything is okay, he sees. Then he lies down among the children. He does not seemingly have such leisure before in his long way of life. Naughty winds blow over them and playfully roll about on their heads and faces, trunks and legs.

Everything dips into silence. Then a sound of weeping comes out from inside a room of the house. The two wives of the family recite from the Holy Quran. The younger one bursts into cry every now and then. The other weeps in deep sorrow trying to console her.

After a while, the grandfather wakes up in a sudden terror and gets panic-stricken. He looks around bewilderedly. Then he starts to push the children to awake them up.

“Come on, my sons! Get up!”

He is so impatient as if his successors are attacked by dacoits.

“Wake up my sons…! Please rise up…! Wake…! Rise…!”

He continues to repeat his call…

  1. Dear Sir
    Thank you very much for your kind response, valuable comments and advice. Would you please say something about my language, especially about use of verbs, adjectives and adverbs?

    • The five children are sitting together . . . In general, especially in short works, avoidance of passive constructions (use of a verb form of “to be”) is avoided. What you have is progressive present construction that is often improved by using the active verb form, The five children sit together . . . But for your story and with English as a second language, I think you should not change this.
      -is aged about four: Use “is four” OR “is four years old”
      -But all get dismantled and scattered These are perfect verbs for the situation. Have confidence in your choices, which are good.
      -Moonlights pour down. (disruptive because “moonlight” is not used in the plural often, and then the noun/verb agreement is not correct. That is “Moonlight pours”). Use: “Moonlight pours down.” Although more acceptable, this particular phrase will be considered a cliche by some readers.
      -But their imaginations do not function. This is awkward English, but I think serves you very well and I would not change it.
      -younger sister and pout her lips in displeasure. Use “pouts.”
      -He is one years’ senior to her. “years’ senior” is incorrect; it is not a possessive or a contraction. For idiomatic English you might use “He is one year older than she.” But to use this would change the mystery and mood you’ve created for many of the contemporary American readers. So consider staying with the error.
      -The younger one bursts into cry every now and then. This is awkward English but is just right for my enjoyment of the story. An American might write: “The younger one bursts out crying.” OR “The younger one cries.” Not improvements in your story in my opinion.
      Your adjective and adverbs are fine. Again, I think you established the perfect style for this story. Have confidence in your choices and what you achieve.
      All the best,
      WHC

      • Ok, thanks, sir. I learned a lot from you. Thank you again.

  2. I learnt a lot. Thank you sir.

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