Friday, 2 April 2010

Three Little Gifts

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

A few weeks back, my youngest daughter had to take the cat to the vet. Our cat, although really still a kitten, managed to get out of the house the other night. She was gone for five nights and apparently had a wild old time out there, consorting with the half dozen toms who live between the farm and the mosque just behind our house. Our neighborhood -- in fact, the town in general -- happens to be overrun with cats and kittens. On almost any given day, you can see stray cats climbing out of garbage cans, nipping into alleys, racing across busy roads. All too often they don't make it across, and you can see the sad evidence of that too.

Nobody needs any more cats around here, so a trip to the vet's was definitely in order. My daughter put the cat into her carrier, went outside, and flagged down a dolmuş. It was full, so she sat in the back with the cat in her cat carrier on her lap. When it was time to get off, she dug a handful of change out of her pocket and made her way to the front of the dolmuş to pay the driver, leaving the cat in her cat carrier in the back, next to the last remaining passenger. "No!" he cried in shocked tones. "No!"

My daughter turned to see what he was protesting. He was pointing to the cat carrier and waving his hands from side to side in the universal I don't want this! gesture. Apparently, he thought he was being left a gift. "I shook my head and waved my hand," she said. "And boy, did he look relieved when we got off."

Our cat, it turned out, was one week pregnant. Narrow escapes all around.

Spilled Coins

Yesterday, I took the dolmuş home. I like to take my change out early so I can sit back and enjoy the ride, so I pulled out my wallet, but no sooner had I done this than there was the sound of metal pinging on metal and I saw a fistful of gold-and-silver one-lira coins rolling every which way. I stared at my wallet. Did it actually have a hole in it? It didn't look like it did, but I'm a klutz: I've spilled a lot of coins in my time.

There was a student sitting just across from me who had just gotten on the dolmuş himself. I pointed to the coins on the floor and then at my wallet. I frowned and he nodded. Clearly, I must have spilled the coins. The student was fiddling with his own wallet and showed no inclination to help me pick up the coins, so I bent to retrieve them, collecting a total of almost ten lira. I hadn't realized I had that much money in coins! The boy now bent to pick up coins himself, and after the last one had been retrieved, I held out my hand to him. He frowned and opened up his palm. And suddenly the penny dropped, if you'll forgive a bad pun. He had actually been the one who had spilled the coins! How embarrassing! I deposited the handful of coins into his outstretched hand, my cheeks on fire. I hoped he didn't think I was trying to fleece him of his money. What if it got around school that the American teacher was such a tightwad she would stoop to rob a poor student of his coins?

Fortunately, when I got off the dolmuş, the student smiled and winked at me. I hope he understood that it was an honest mistake. Or maybe he'd stolen the money himself and was paying his respects to a fellow thief.

Eggplants from Heaven

My colleague Leonard is from Nigeria. The other day, he and some Nigerian friends were taking the dolmuş home after a trip to the market to buy produce in bulk.

"We bought tomatoes, zucchinis, onions, and beans," said Leonard. "When we got onto the dolmuş there were a lot of other people who'd been at the market too and they also had big bags of vegetables. One man had three huge bags of eggplant. We'd seen them selling it in the market and they were very cheap, but none of us knew how to cook eggplants, so we didn't get any."

When they got to their stop, Leonard and his friends grabbed up their bags, paid the driver, and hopped off. It wasn't until they got back to their shared house that they realized they had one of the bags of eggplants.

"We rushed back to the dolmuş stand," Leonard told me, "but of course it had gone and we couldn't find the man with the eggplants. We didn't want him to think that Africans are thieves, but what could we do? And after all, it was an honest mistake."

I asked him what he did with the eggplants. "We took them back home and cooked them," he said, smiling. "We think God must have wanted us to have those eggplants. Whatever the case, we all know how to cook eggplants now."


AnneB said...

Those folks who drive around in fancy cars just don't know what they're missing. They'll never have the blog followers you do!

Bish Denham said...

Great stories, perfect for the season!

Charlie said...

A lot sure happens on a dolmus, but I suppose that's true of any bus system worldwide.

Did your cat get pregnant on a dolmus?

MG Higgins said...

Wonderful stories. I sure got a snicker out of the driver who thought he was being gifted with a cat!

Robert the Skeptic said...

I once gave away a free turkey... it was on the bottom rack of the grocery cart. It was pouring down rain and I hurriedly emptied the cart then got in the car out of the rain. I was half way home when I remembered the turkey; I returned to the store, the cart was still in the parking lot but the turkey was gone.

Years later, in the same store, I saw people stepping over a wad of something on the floor. I stopped and picked it up... it was a wad of money, a couple of hundred dollars!

The store givith and the store taketh away.

Eryl Shields said...

The Dolmus Stories. I'd buy that.

Blythe said...

A constellation of stories. Thank you Mary.

angryparsnip said...

Three interesting stories about everyday life. Proof that
gifts can be anything, it is all in the way you look at it.
The spilled coins story was a hoot, loved the smile and wink ending.

adrienne said...

Great stories - I especially like the last one, but I would have had to re-gift those eggplants...I've tried, but I just can't stand the stuff, no matter how they're prepared!

Falak said...

Mary, you captured the fun of travelling by public transport perfectly! There are so many funny incidents that happen which make for wonderful anecdotes when you travel with a variety of people:)
I loved the common thread of 'The Gift' running through all three stories:)
Happy Easter in advance to you and your family!

Mary Witzl said...

AnneB -- I'll tell myself that I'm collecting blog fodder, the next time I jerk open the sliding door of a dolmuş as I stand on some dusty, windy street corner. If I were swanning around in some fancy car, I really would miss out, wouldn't I? :o)

Bish -- Thank you! I wish I could have worked in an Easter egg there somewhere, though.

Charlie -- The dolmuş provides more opportunities for weird experiences as you can't quite stand up in one and there is only space for 15 people. It's a much cozier, scarier, or more irritating atmosphere.

MGH -- He had no idea just what a bombshell of a cat she was, either. Not that my daughter ever have given her away.

Robert -- You have GOT to write about that!

I've 'given away' a lot of free things too, and so has my daughter. Just recently she 'gave away' her passport, God knows where. Last year she donated her mobile phone to some stranger on a dolmuş. Sigh... No one has left anything of value for us to find yet, but we live in hope. Though we would probably turn it in, it would be nice to find something.

Eryl -- I'm not sure this would sell, but I've got a small volume now. Maybe someone will decide to publish an anthology of experiences on public transport?

Blythe -- Not quite as exciting as stars, but they help make up the fabric of my life.

AP -- I was so relieved when he smiled and winked! I'd been sitting there, certain that he was thinking of me as a thieving middle-aged woman. I'll bet he knows I'm a teacher too. A story like that could really get around. (Shiver)

Adrienne -- Eggplants need a ton of oil to taste good -- that's the biggest problem for me. Who needs all that oil? You're an artichoke fan, right? No one else in my family will touch artichokes -- it's so sad. They grow all over the place here and cost so l .

Falak -- There weren't really any gifts involved, but the potential was there. Sometimes it pays to look at things as gifts, even when they feel like anything but.

Happy Easter to you too!

Pat said...

All of life - it seems - happens on a dolmus. I just hope they are more comfortable then our Minehead to Taunton buses

Mary Witzl said...

Pat -- They are spectacularly uncomfortable, often with dusty, torn seat covers, doors that have to be wrenched open and shut, and drivers from hell. But their suspension is usually good (weird, considering the driving and generally pock-marked roads), and they're a real adventure. And VERY convenient too!

We once almost bought a house in Minehead. I have fond memories of it still.

e said...

Wonderful anecdotes, particularly regarding the cat...I hope you'll find homes for her kittens!

Anne Spollen said...

You have to write this for a larger audience than just us blog readers, Mary. You really do.

Rick said...

What a lovely, lovely story! Thank you so much for posting it. And I like the idea of "The Dolmus Stories." I'd buy a copy myself.

Robin said...

Those are very exciting dolmus rides! Why didn't the boy start picking up his coins right away? It would have made it clear what had happened. Sheesh.

Mary Witzl said...

e -- I'm half sorry and half relieved to say that those kittens aren't to be. The vet made an executive decision; she said our kitten was really too young to have her own babies. Now it looks like she's had her cake and eaten it too.

AnneS -- It's not like I haven't tried (sniff). I think I need to polish these up, get them organized, and put them through their paces again. But I could paper my kitchen in the rejections I've amassed so far. If my blog readers were publishers, this beggar would ride!

Rick -- Aww, thank you! (We're not related by any chance, are we?) :o)

Robin -- Yes, that kid really threw me off by not doing what I would have done if I'd known I'd dropped the coins: getting down on my haunches and scrabbling for the money like nobody's business. When I drop money, I pick it up pronto!

Robin said...

Mary, I e mailed you a really annoying e mail, and in the light of day (without 3 teenage boys looking soulfully at me with their cute little brace faces), I'm sort of embarrassed. I never blush, but I'll make an exception. *blush*

Angela said...

Mary, I love your blog. I really really do. I want you to know that these stories might just be stories to you, but to me they are a window to somewhere else, to experiences I am allowed to share through you. Thanks for being so generous with your adventures!

Mary Witzl said...

Robin -- I've just realized which email address you used -- I will absolutely check it as soon as I get the password from my husband (long story). (I'm not ignoring you, honest!)

Angela -- You are really sweet to say that. I write these stories so that I'll have something to do while sorting through rejection letters, rewriting, and planning lessons. The fact that people come to read them is really what keeps me going.

Vijaya said...

The first thing I thought of when I read The Gift that Keeps on Giving are ...colds and coughs... and even STDs

I much prefer your stories. They are little jewels. I love short stories and own several collections and would love to have one from you in book form.

Mary Witzl said...

Vijaya -- You are so sweet to say that. You have no idea how that warms my heart!

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