a fable illuminating what is truly precious.
He was a hunched and toothless creature, a shuffling pile of old rags older bones. He looked at me with two different eyes; one containing a splash of blue, the other misted over in white.
“You fancy it, yes?” he cooed with a hard rasp, gums clapping and lips smacking. “You can have it – for a price.”
“And what makes you think I desire it?” came my cool retort.
“Everyone has an eye for things such as these.”
True, I guess. In this case, the thing was a worn cup, clearly crafted with care and painted with delicate lines. It had caught my eye, and now it had captured my mind.
“It can be yours,” he prattled. “I simply need a new cup to replace it.”
Surely he must have other motives. A simple trade? This doesn’t seem right.
He babbled on still. “You see, this is all I have to drink with, but I can drink from it no longer.” Parched lips clapped and dry gums smacked as he spoke once more.
I risked a short laugh, and said, “But only the rim is chipped. It is still useful.”
“Oh, but that isn’t the problem, good sir,” he laughed back, his chuckles like heaves and gasps. “I cannot drink what is poured in here, you see?” A twinkle entered his blue eye then, a mad smile quivered on his lips. “It all turns, changes.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, complete curiosity consuming my consciousness. It was stupid to encourage him, but I did, I had to; I needed to know.
“It becomes, g-g-guh,” he stammered for a few moments, struggling with excitement.
Out with it! I demanded in my mind, but stayed silent knowing the madman only needed time.
“It all turns to… gold.”
“Gold?” My response was sceptical.
“Yes, I swear it by the skies above,” he whispered in a hush, eyes wide in self-induced awe.
Curiosity still held the reins, so I made the decision to test the man, the urchin. I had nowhere better to be at the moment, no pressing matters to attend to. Besides, this was a game I had no way to lose.
“Well, might I have a demonstration before I make the trade?”
The man nodded, a quick succession of head bobs. He held his prize in rough and wrinkled hands, a contrast to the smooth curves of the cup. He stared at it intently; I stared at it as well. It was as if we expected it to do something on its own, something spectacular.
Instead, he puckered his lips, wrinkled his nose and contorted his face.
A look of disgust crossed my face, accompanied by the thought, Why would he spit in the thing he’s trying to trade me?
He tilted the cup toward himself and smiled, a toothless arc that split his face in two.
“See?” he coughed, turning the cup over into his hand.
I gasped as I witnessed it, a single drop of liquid pooled in the centre of his palm, a shimmer and a scintillation reflecting the sun.
“But it is a liquid, see?” he said as he emptied his palm onto the ground. I watched as the drip of gold fell, animated, before splashing on the ground, casting smaller pearls of gold in all directions, each its own sphere of sunlight.
“A cup you shall have, then,” I started, stunned. “Many, even!”
I couldn’t believe that he was trading such an instrument for nothing! Riches and fortune lay in his hands, but he was casting it all off in return for such a simple object.
“No,” he smiled, the manic grin was gone but the glimmer in his good eye still sparkled. “I am only one man and need only one cup. To have more would be too much a burden to carry.”
“Very well. I will be back with a cup for you shortly.”
Cups may be simple things, but they have the power to create great change. That is, after all, what this one did for me.