Monday, 15 February 2016

The Fairy Walking Stick

For audio click here
This is my updated version of an old Welsh folk tale. I've put a 2016 spin on it. 
For the original go to the end of the story, after the adverts for my novels. 

Aziz’s sometimes wondered what he was doing with his life. When he took over his father’s little shop in Port Talbot it was doing okay, but these days with the big supermarkets and online shopping, the corner shop was going the way of the cd, the local pub, and the paper book. The kids of the future would look on in disbelief when you told them you actually had to leave your bed to get a pint of milk. They still made a living, but only just. Gone were the days of holidays back to Pakistan to see the family.
What made it worse was the violence. How many times had Aziz’s store been robbed at knifepoint? Aziz had a panic button and shutters and CCTV and always prosecuted shopligters, but those desperate to feed their addictions with the contents of Aziz’s till still came. And then the vandalism; “Pakis Out” daubed on the shutters. Swastikas on the windows and dog shit put through the letterbox.
Aziz yawned; another long, slow day coming to an end. He was just putting the empty milk crates out when he heard a scream. He followed his ears through the dark streets and saw a figure crouched behind a car sobbing, and another running away.
“Are you okay?” Aziz said.
The woman looked up at him, her nose bloodied and her eyes swollen.
“Let’s get you in the shop and call the police.” Aziz helped the woman to her feet and led her into his shop.

Two days later a man that Aziz had never seen before came into the shop. Aziz didn’t much like the look of him. He wore threadbare clothes and didn’t look like he’d seen a shower in weeks. He didn’t look the type to spend much money and if he was honest, that was how Aziz judged folk these days.
“Are you Aziz?” The man asked.
“I am,” Aziz said cautiously. Knowing his luck it would be a small-time gangster demanding protection money.
“I am the father of the girl you helped two nights ago. I have come to thank you.” Despite the man looking unwashed Aziz shook his outstretched hand. “We are a poor family. I can give you no reward except this old walking stick.” In his hand he held an old cane that looked like it might have been bought in Hyper-Value. “It will bring you luck.” The man said.
Aziz took the walking stick from the man and shrugged. He hadn’t help the girl in order to get a reward, but he would prefer no reward than a tatty old stick that might infest his shop with woodworm. But Aziz was a kind man and a polite man so he thanked the stranger and put the walking stick in the gap between the cigarette display and the window where he promptly forgot about it. He didn’t much believe in luck, or icons. He was firmly of the belief that hard work brought rewards not a lucky rabbit’s foot or a dirty old stick.
For the next eighteen months the shop seemed to be attracting customers from far and wide. Sales had never been better. People would come in and say they preferred the friendly service of the local shop and to the anonymous supermarkets. What’s more Aziz wasn’t robbed once, and the vandalism seemed to have stopped. The tills were fuller than ever and it wasn’t long before Aziz decided to treat his wife to a trip back to Pakistan to see her family. The fact that it coincided with England’s cricket tour was purely a fluke he claimed. So he left the shop in the capable hands of his son Moin and jetted off.

As the taxi pulled up outside the shop, Aziz was horrified. It had been a long journey back from Lahore and he wasn’t expected to see the smashed windows and the graffiti that covered his shop front. Inside the shop was a mess; cans and packets strewn across the floor; the till open and empty.
“What’s going on here?” He said to his son.
“It’s terrible dad. It was all going well, then I cleaned the shop, gave it a really tidy I did. I wanted you to come back to the perfect place. But I’ve barely had a customer since cleaning, and then this gang of yobs came in and did this.” Moin was close to tears.
Aziz noticed then that the stick was gone.
“Where’s the walking stick?” He said to Moin.
“That old thing. I threw it out when I tidied the shop.”

It hadn’t looked like much, but Aziz knew then that it had been the walking stick that had kept the shop safe. Now the good times had gone, as they had come, with that tatty old walking stick.

The Fairy Walking Stick
A FARMER was rounding up his sheep in Cwmllan when he heard the sound. of weeping. As a general rule, only human beings weep noisily, and as the farmer had not observed any human beings in the vicinity he was considerably surprised. He went in the direction from which the sound came. For some time he could not discover who was causing it, but after a bit he saw a wee little lass lying on a narrow ledge of rock on the face of a great precipice, and sobbing as if her heart would break. He went to her rescue, and with great difficulty extricated her from her dangerous position. No sooner had he brought her to safety, than a little old man appeared. "I thank thee," said he, "for thy kindness to my daughter. Accept this in remembrance of thy good deed," handing a walking-stick to the farmer. The farmer took it, and the moment it was in his hand both the wee lass and the little old man disappeared from his sight.
The year after this every sheep in the farmer's possession had two ewe-lambs, and this continued for many years. His flocks during all this time were singularly free from accident and disease. Sheep-stealers were always frustrated in their evil designs upon them: birds of prey never ventured near them to pick out the eyes of the young lambs: even when a murrain devastated other flocks, these were untainted: when they were buried under snow-drifts in winter, and had to be dug out, they seemed better rather than worse for their experiences: and their wool was finer and more plentiful than that of any other sheep in the country. The farmer became rich, and all envied him.
One night, shortly after the sheep had been brought down from the mountains for the winter, the farmer went to a village some distance away to match his blue gamecock against a black fighter which was carrying all before it. It was late before the farmer started home, and a great storm arose. The wind howled, and the rain came down in sheets, and a horror of great darkness fell upon the land. On his way home the farmer had to cross a stream on some stepping stones. When he came to it the river was swollen, and sweeping all before it in a swift current. As he was feeling for the stones with the walking stick given him by the little old man, it somehow or other slipped from his hand and was swept away by the raging torrent, and he had a narrow escape of being carried away himself.

He reached home, and as soon as day came went out to search for the stick, and at the same time to see what damage had been done by the flood. He found that nearly all his sheep had been swept away by it. His wealth had gone as it came--with the walking stick.

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