One day I was sitting on the shore, eating olives; neglectfully I threw the cores into a bush nearby. Suddenly a thin, fine white smoke rose from it – and it went to be a djinn huge like the clouds! I will kill you! screamed the djinn. Oh, not yet, please! I sighed, let me tell you a story first! Tamam, ok, said the ghost, and I began: Once upon a time there was a poor fisherman, living in a hut near the sea. Every day he went fishing, but only three times. If after the third time, he said, there is no prey, god wants me to be hungry! Well, the first time he caught – a dead donkey! Alahallah, he shouted, and throw his nets again. The second time he found a small, wooden box. Ah, there might be gold in it! he thought, but, alas! there was only sand. Pious, as he was, he threw his nets a third time. No fish came out, but an earthen bottle. He opened it, and a thin, fine white smoke rose from it – and went straight up to the sky to be djinn huge like the clouds! Goodness gracious, the fisherman exclaimed, how did you get into that bottle? Well, said the djinn, many centuries ago I was the consultant of king Solomon, but just once I gave the wrong advice and he threw me into the sea! The first hundred years, he went on, I said the sentence: who frees me, shall live forever! But, as you know, one sentence by itself can be utterly boring, so after hundred years I changed it to: who frees me shall be rich! But soon I got bored again, and since then I repeated: I shall kill who frees me! AND SO I’LL KILL YOU! Slowly, slowly! the fisherman said, let me tell you a story first. Ok, tamam, answered the djinn. The story is called “The little Chinese bird”, and the fisherman began: Once upon a time there was a rich merchant, rich like Shylock, I suppose. This merchant had to travel to China. Before he started, he asked his wife: would you like to have something from China? The wife said: I would like a little yellow bird! Be it, said the merchant, and when he finished all his jobs in China he asked people where to find little yellow birds. That’s simple, they said, just travel to the province of Sichuan, there is a wood, just go there and call them! And so he took home his little yellow bird, gave it to his wife, which put it in a cage. But the merchant himself grew very, very fond of that bird, and when he came home from work he first bid good afternoon to the bird and only then to his wife.
The following year he had to travel to China again and he asked the little bird, what to bring to him. My freedom! the yellow bird answered. Oh, no, said the merchant, you ask to much, I cannot give this to you. Resigned, the little bird asked him to bring his regards to the other birds there. He did, but then all the birds came out of the wood and fell down like dead. Oh, my, thought the merchant, this will be bad news, and when he came home, he first bid a good afternoon to his wife and only then to the bird. But he had to tell the truth… Hearing it, the little yellow bird fell like dead on the ground of his cage. The merchant, horrified, opened the cage and run for water. But when he came back, the bird sat on the windowsill, ready to fly away, and said: See! Freedom is not given to you. You must take it!
Nice story, murmured the jinn, but now I’ll kill you! Come on, the fisherman said, I’ll tell you another story, do you know that one how the Taylor of Samarkand cheated on his wife? But the djinn was fed up. What are you, he roared, a fisherman or a storyteller?
And, said the djinn to me, did he kill him like I will kill you? I’ll tell you that, was my answer, but, mighty djinn, before, how comes, that such a huge monster is fitting in that tiny bottle? Hearing that, the jinn shrunk and shrunk and went to be a tiny, white smoke which disappeared in the bottle. Quickly I put the cork on it, sealed it with a Boncuk and threw the bottle into the sea. But, folks, if you stroll along the seaside and see a bottle washed ashore, be careful!