Lena Mubsutina – The Thieving Pot: Excerpt 7

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

Tunjur loved having all eyes focused on her, but she would spin around each time someone tried to pick her up. “Yalla, ya Tunjur, come home with me! My wife would be delighted to have you, and the children would be so excited,” one man said. Several others made similar offers—Tunjur overheard the same pushiness with her mother the day before—but she turned them down. “I will give you my food for a price, but I am not for sale,” she said.

She made several dishes and bartered her services for things like textiles, raw meat and vegetables, and olive oil. She grew warm and tired after a few hours, and Tunjur knew that Zara would likely be looking for her, so she rolled over and scooped up her earnings. People marveled at how much she could fit under her lid, and she beamed with pride. “There’s nothing the Talking Tunjura can’t do!”

But she was not able to sneak off without her mother noticing. Tunjur found Zara riding their donkey, her face red and mouth set in anger and fear; it also seemed like some of their neighbors were looking at her wandering, whispering about her while they did the morning’s work. Tunjur rolled quickly in front of the donkey to the entrance of their home, and Zara gasped.

Fear and rage took Zara’s body with such force that she did not recall tying the donkey up before she followed Tunjur into the house. “Where have you been all this time? I’ve exhausted myself searching for you, and it’s not like I could ask for help finding my pot daughter without the town believing that I’m even more of a majnoona!”

Tunjur looked down. “Well, now they know that there is a talking tunjura in Bayt Tahweel.”

Zara clenched her fists and cried out. How could Tunjur be so stupid? It was because she was naïve; she only overheard bits and pieces of the world and was fascinated by it instead of afraid. “Do you know what they will do to us?” Zara shouted.

But even she could not answer that question.

“No one can steal me, Yama. People tried to do it today, but I can fend them off! I will not go anywhere unless I choose to.”

“So you’ll be on watch every minute, will you? Do you think this house is such a fortress that no one can enter?” Zara remembered her father and her uncles having to stay awake to keep watch with weapons in their hands during the more turbulent times of her adolescence when there were revolts against the corrupt emperor and his governor, but that was decades ago. Would people be so eager to get their hands on a talking tunjura that they would break into a house? But they did not have to have much motivation to actually steal from the Naifa house; no men were here to intimidate them.

Tunjur rolled away, wondering how Yama managed to live with so worries, how it did not make her a . . . well, a majnoona. When the thought entered her mind, she recoiled. But why did Zara have so many fears? Sure, people could be pushy and greedy, but they were not that scary or evil. 

“You will not walk away from me, Tunjur!”

“I’m rolling!”

Zara threw her hands in the air. “Astaghfirallah! What did I do to deserve such an insolent daughter?”

“You wished me to life, Yama.”

“So that life belongs to me because I made it,” Zara said.

Tunjur blew a cloud of steam in response and continued rolling away.

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