The car dropped me off at the shore. One side was water, the other side a mountain covered with big trees. Below, there were big buildings, restaurants and a street in between.
I walked to the side where the sidewalk was paved geometrically with colored stones, next to the water. First, I saw a black dog, lying on the pavement. His back was curved like a comma, he was sleeping. I changed my direction to pass this dark street dog. He woke up and I saw his big brown eyes looking at me. Then I realized he was only pretending to sleep, and waiting for me. I passed by him a couple of steps, and he slowly got up and started to follow me.
There were pigeons and seagulls on the sidewalk. They were busy eating whatever leftovers from restaurants. The water had every color of the spectrum, but I didn’t know what to call it A sea, or perhaps a river or lake? Different, opposing currents were visible, but the other side of the water was concealed by heavy fog. I saw big ocean goers passing at a stone throwing distance. Beside those big ships, there were fishing boats and small ferries.
The people were scattered along the coastline, fishing pole in hand. But they didn’t have a fisherman’s grace. I saw no fun or joy in their eyes. They were tense and crude, whipping the water with their fishing lines. They seemed more like robbers, stealing something from the water. Time by time, they put their catches in a bucket, which was filled with water. Some fish were small in size; others were a decent size. They were still alive, fluttering in the bucket. I noticed a man came every so often to look at the catches. He paid them accordingly and carried the catches to a small van parked by the sidewalk.
After I passed the last fisherman, I came to a small bay where I noticed lots of these small parked vans. There I saw they were dumping those fish back in the water. I wouldn’t know if they were dead or alive.
Every time I stopped, the black dog also stopped. That made me uncomfortable. The dog never looked at me or gave me the impression that he belonged to me. But I knew he was hiding the truth. He didn’t want to impose himself openly; he wanted slow acceptance through patience and persistence.
I sat on the bench just to explore the other side of the water. A woman came and sat next to me. She could have been anywhere from twenty to forty. The first thing she asked me was, “What do you see there?”
I said, “Nothing.”
“So,” she said, “why don’t you look here. I am young, beautiful, I can help you find so much fun here.”
“But, “ I said, “I am already tired and bored of it. I came to see the fair and find what’s up there.”
She looked at my face, I saw her disappointment. She didn’t say a word and left. I yelled after her, “How about the fair?” She yelled back, “ I have no time to waste, go find it yourself!”
Later and old man came and asked me if he could sit. I said, “Please.” I was so happy, after all, I thought, I have found this wise old man.
“How lucky I am to have found you,” pointing to the other side, I continued, “What’s up there?”
“I have a cataract in my eyes, so I can’t see well,” he answered. “You need special glasses to see up there,” then he added, “that’s what I was told.”
“Where can I find these glasses?”
“If I knew, I would get them myself.”
“Who told you this,” I asked again.
“A wise old man”
“How can I find him,” I asked desperately.
“He is long since gone.”
It was useless to argue. “Can I ask you another question? Where is the fair I am looking for?” This time he was really surprised.
“What kind of question is that,” he said, “Are you a kid, looking for a fair? My man, be serious, there is no fair at your age.” Then he abruptly got up and walked away.
A quiet feeling slowly overcame my curiosity. I said to myself, “What is this? What has brought me here?
The dog was patiently waiting for me, wagging his tail. So we walked further. I asked a young gentleman walking in the opposite direction. “O yes,” he said, “it is well worth seeing the fair.”
“Have you seen it,” I asked.
“Not yet,” he said, “but my friend saw it. He said I would like it.”
This was a good reference for me. I kept walking then I realized the black dog was well ahead of me. I thought, “Well, this is the best chance to get rid of this nuisance.” I slowed down, looking for somewhere to hide. I saw a teahouse ahead, next to a minaret. At the door, there was an old lady with a basket in her right hand filed with small packages. I knew she was selling something. I handed her some money and picked up a package. I was afraid to ask what was in it, but she had such a beautiful smile! I entered the small teahouse, it was empty. I walked to the furthest corner from the door, next to the window. The water was only a few feet away outside.
I opened the package, and found nothing inside. I thought I picked the wrong one, but I was too shy to go ask for another one from the old lady who was still standing next to the door. I looked through the window, which had a view of the bay where a small white boat was. It was anchored and waiting for passengers. The scenery was so tempting, I wanted to explore. The old lady was still standing outside the door with her beautiful smile. She was holding the basket. I was embarrassed to say my package was empty, so I went ahead and bought another one. This time I opened it in front of her. This one was empty too, but she understood my disappointment. “Sir,” she said, “I don’t sell anything but my smile.” I looked at her face again; her smile was well worth the money I spent.
I walked toward the white boat. I was curious to find where the boat was sailing. The captain came out. He was tall, and dressed in white. He puffed on a pipe between his lips.
“Where is your destination,” I asked.
He answered with another question, “Where do you want to go?”
“The other side,” I pointed to the dense fog.
“Do you have a ticket?”
“No,” I said.
“You can’t go then”
“Where can I buy a ticket?” I was deliberate.
He smiled at my ignorance. “Buying,” he said, “no, no. At the right time they send the ticket to you.”
There was no sense in asking any more questions to this bizarre man. I left and went back to the teahouse. The teahouse was still empty except for a large tree trunk inside, traversing the ceiling. Roots were firmly grounded. There was a sign on the front of it saying “This tree is under the protection of the Society of Historical Tress.”
The waiter brought me a drink that I didn’t even ask for. He said this was their specialty. He was sure I would like it. It was a spicy and hot drink that tasted good. I then asked the waiter about the tree. “Why don’t you ask him,” he replied, “he’ll tell his story.”
First I thought he was talking about a customer in the restaurant, but there was no one besides me. Except for the trunk of this big cypress tree that is. I tried to strike a conversation with him. He certainly was very eager to tell his story.
“See,” he said, “I was either privileged or cursed to be planted next to this praying tower. As early as when I was only a couple of feet tall, I could hear this beautiful voice calling people to worship the Almighty. The sound was so nice, the message was so divine, I couldn’t wait to hear it so many times a day, everyday. I grew taller with a burning desire to see the owner of the divine voice. It didn’t take me long to reach the level where I could, at last, see the person I longed to see all this time. On the last night, I couldn’t sleep, but I kept my eyes closed, waiting to see him at dawn. At the first light of dawn, I opened my eyes for a few seconds, then closed them again with sorrow and disappointment. It was a speaker. All my dreams and longing were for a live person, not a speaker that repeated a recorded message five times a day.
I became disillusioned. I got sick, my leaves began to wither and dry, my branches started to crack. Birds cried on me. The people in charge of my care and well being first thought something was wrong with my body. Since I was the tallest cypress tree next to the praying tower, they built this small place around my trunk just to protect me. “
He told his story so fast, at the end he was exhausted. “I am sure you told this to many people before. What did they say to you,” I asked.
“They all blamed me. They said I should be happy and satisfied with what I saw. They are probably right, but I can’t help it. I want more! I wanted to know who received this message and from whom?”
“So do I,” I added. Then I pointed towards the water. “Maybe we’ll find Him at the other side of the water. Do you want to try?”
“You go ahead,” he said, “I can’t, my roots are here.”
When I was leaving the teahouse, I almost forgot about the dog. But he was there, patiently waiting. He started to follow without looking at me, without imposing. A young boy ran to the dog, “Where did you find this special dog,” he asked. “Special,” I asked myself. “What’s so special about him,” I asked the boy.
“That blind man is looking for this kind of dog.” I saw a blind man on the road with a white cane, feeling his way. He tried to stay on the sidewalk, carefully pacing. I ran towards him, “I found your dog! Here he is.” Grabbing the dog by his shabby collar, I carried him to the man. He stopped and felt the dog with his sensitive fingers. He wasn’t impressed.
“Let him go,” he said. “If I were you, I’d get rid of him. He is more blind than me!”
I tried to be helpful, “Where are you going? I’ll help you.”
“To buy cigarettes. Is there a store here?”
I found one and bought a package, but he didn’t like it. He asked for particular brand, but there was none around. He mumbled and continued his search.
“Well after all, I didn’t know you were a special dog. Maybe you will help me find the fair!” He looked at my face with his brown eyes, and had some feeling for me. He turned back, and slowly started to walk. This time I followed.
I thought the dog knew exactly where he was going. Later, he started to walk faster and faster. I had a hard time keeping up with him. He stopped time to time to see if I was still following him. At the end, we came to a small space at the edge of the sidewalk, down a few steps where one could get in or out of a boat. I saw a man sitting there, with a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and cheese laid on a newspaper in front of him.
He saw the dog and called him by his name. The dog jumped into his arms. I guess they were old friends. Both were extremely happy to see the other. My first impression of the man was that he was a real hobo, not a bum or beggar, but a hobo. He saluted me and I saluted him back.
“Come and sit, I set the table for you,” he showed the bottle, bread and cheese. “Did you bring your cup?”
I said no.
“So,” he said, “we’ll drink from the bottle.”
I sat on the stone in front of him. “You are very generous,” I said.
“Well, God never taught me how to get, so I like to give.”
“You don’t have much to share…”
He laughed and laughed, “I am rich without money!”
I then asked him, “You said ‘God’, what do you know about him?”
He then got up, angry. He looked at me with a stern face. “Look, my job is to be a hobo here. I can talk about God like everyone else. That doesn’t mean I know Him.”
I knew I had made him mad. Before I left I said, “Nice to meet you. I am glad I brought your dog back to you.” He didn’t bother to answer.
While walking I felt much better. I didn’t have that black dog in front or behind me anymore. I was alone. It was getting late; the sun was touching the horizon. I sat on a bench in a small park, where there was a large statue in front of me. It was of a poet from the fifteenth century. He was a chubby old man. His fame came from a love story he wrote, in which a man falls desperately in love at first sight, but never got to see her again. His cries finally reached the ears of the ones hiding her, and they finally brought her to him out of sympathy. His famous saying comes from that moment, “No, you’re not the one I loved…”
A young mother and a little girl came and sat on the bench next to mine. I could hear constant complaining and warnings from the mother. They child had the same smile all the time. Her eyes were slightly crossed, her face round, beautiful and charming. She applauded every bird and butterfly that passed by. She greeted every man and woman who walked by her. This enthusiasm of hers bothered her mother.
“Honey, stop! This is not the fair,” she said in a scolding tone.
I couldn’t help but ask, “Ma’am, where is the fair?”
She was frightened and grabbed the girl by the arm. “Didn’t I tell you not to smile at strangers!”
I wished I could talk with the little girl because I knew she was the only one who could tell me where the fair was. But I was scared to bring this up. I knew the mother was about to call the police in panic, so I saluted them and left.
I was getting tired and desperate. I gave up on the fair; I just wanted to get out of there. I kept walking, and then I started to run as far as I could. The road that used to have so much traffic was almost empty, the sidewalk too. The last lights of the sun were buried in the water.
Finally I came to a gate, which I expected to enter in the beginning. The gate had a big sign reading, “Autumn Fair”. The lights were dimmed. I approached the gate, where I saw two uniformed guards.
“The fair is over,” they said. “This is the exit gate.”
“How come? I came all this way for the fair, and now you’re telling me it’s all over!” I was mad and disappointed.
One of them felt sorry for me. “Well Sir, there is one last attraction left. It seems like this one would be just for you. I hope it will satisfy you because as you can see, the fair you have been through all day is over. It’s not difficult to separate one fair from another. But it is rather unfortunate to expect something different in nature than what naturally comes to you. You have seen the best fair we could put up for you. You are still lucky though, as we still have one more show left for you.”
He showed me a group of workers taking down panels and props from their places. I didn’t realize, all those mountains, waters and trees were paintings.
They opened the door. I walked into an empty gallery, and came to a pavilion with a sign saying, “Concert Hall”. I opened the door cautiously. There was a whole orchestra inside. The hall was of good size and well illuminated. The members of the orchestra were all dressed properly, seated in their place with their instruments. One from the front walked towards me.
“Sir,” he said in a formal tone, “I would like to welcome you. You are our new music director. Our last director sadly died recently.”
In shock I said, “But I know nothing about music, how can I be your maestro?”
“We are not musicians either,” he said calmly.
I was surprised. I looked around, the concert hall was filled with people. He understood my questioning face.
“We are all actors and actresses,” he answered calmly. He added, “Do your best, it is your turn.” His voice was cold and determined.
“And if I refuse,” I said valiantly.
He looked at me for a while. “Sure, then we will call you our late music director, and call the next one in.”