Lena Mubsutina – The Thieving Pot: Excerpt 1

Lena Mubsutina

Author’s Note: The next 12 days I will be sharing excerpts from the first part of my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled “The Thieving Pot.” It is loosely based on the Palestinian folktale, “Tunjur, Tunjur,” a story about a pot that comes to life and wreaks havoc on her neighbors with her deception and theft.

The Thieving Pot

In a time long ago Zara Naifa buried her mother and father in Bayt Tahweel, a town that an evil emperor had ruled for over a century along with the rest of Falasteen.

The decrepit family home was now hers as her parents were the last relatives that she had nearby. A woman living alone concerned everyone, including the Governor. Normally his only concerns were taxing his cut of the taxes he collected on behalf of the Emperor and doling out that same Emperor’s injustice. 

But once he heard of Zara’s situation he visited her, bringing his wife to avoid the appearance of impropriety though Zara was well past the age where anyone would find her desirable. 

Though she despised the Governor and the Emperor he represented, she took out the tunjura that her mother used for only the most special occasions to serve tea for her unwelcome guests.

“Do you have any other relatives to go to?” the Governor asked before sipping his drink. “I’m sure you would be safer that way. Anyone could break in and steal all your valuables.” Zara noticed him almost snicker as he said that. He looked around and saw nothing of any value besides a few embroidery pieces and a beautiful tunjura that made unusually tasty tea. But surely no one would risk an attack, even if from an untimidating old woman like Zara, for things like that.

 She shook her head, unable to form words, thinking of how this present Governor and his recent predecessors had exiled or executed her extended family for challenging the unjust laws or, in some cases, the legitimacy of the Emperor they worked for.

The conversation continued for some time with the Governor reiterating his concerns for Zara’s well being, though he was more preoccupied with what outsiders would think of a town that had a woman living on her own.

But eventually he accepted that Zara could not be convinced, and he whispered to his wife that a woman as old as her could not descend into indecency. No need to trouble himself too much to save her possible attack or starvation.

Zara exhaled the deepest sigh once the Governor left her home, relieved that for the first time he had come to her house without taking something or someone with him.

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