Lena Mubsutina – The Thieving Pot: Excerpt 2

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

Despite the derision and shock of her neighbors, they still did the proper thing and gave Zara vegetables, fruit, spices, and even meat. She stored these foods for a couple of days, unable to key up enough energy to cook and nourish herself, but eventually her hunger broke through her grief. She chopped and gutted vegetables and meats and combined them into a makeshift stew in her mother’s tunjura. It dawned on her that the pinkish brown clay pot had fed several generations of her family and still was as polished and intact as a new tunjura, a testament to how much her mother and other ancestors had cared for it.

She paced as she waited for the food to finish and then cool enough for her to eat it, and, when she took the first bite, she closed her eyes in satisfaction.

After that cooking consumed her. She had once filled her days with sewing and embroidery, but now all she could think about was the next meal she would make. Her foo beckoned children from all over Bayt Tahweel; they devoured the stews and beans and yogurt while they congregated in her house. The older ones would bring often bring wood to keep her fires lit, and all feasted on her meals together. She inquired about their lives, and many loved to tell her their stories; it was rare to find an adult who would listen without criticism. The children did not see her as strange, and they looked at Zara’s home with curiosity instead of the disdain and pity their parents possessed.

But, as the freshness of her loss faded, they kept their children stay away, concerned their affection for Zara would cause them to inherit her majnoona manners.

She wanted a child of her own, one that could never be taken from her. 

Having one by herself seemed impossible though. She sat in the corner of her house, clutching the empty tunjura, the heat from Zara’s body engulfing the pot as she contemplated the desires and disappointments of her life.

“Yama,” the tunjura called in a high, childlike voice.

Startled, Zara lifted it and saw the eyes and mouth for the first time on the tunjura. “Mashallah,” she said, beaming.

“I’ll be your daughter for all time.”

And Zara pressed the pot to her heart and named her Tunjur.

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