Ahmad and His Magic Carpet
by William Szczepanek
Chapter One: The Local Race
Ahmad arose from early morning slumber on a typical, hot, summer morning. The desert heat penetrated the walls of his meager home. He washed before breakfast using the fresh bowl of water laid out by his mother just for him.
“Good morning, Ahmad,” greeted his mother.
“Good morning, mother” replied Ahmad in a sleepy voice.
“What are your plans for today?” she asked.
“I think I’ll walk into town and watch the carpet races. Jemal just got a new carpet from his father and he says that it really ripples. He has a good chance of regaining the championship,” asserted Ahmad.
“I really wish we could afford to buy you a carpet of your own, Ahmad, but we can barely buy food and clothing. You know your father was a champion carpet racer, and he’d be very proud to see you compete.
Ahmad gulped down his breakfast of fruit and scurried out the
door. It was only a short walk into the small town.
He could see many of the boys flying their colorful carpets to
the competition area. Ahmad heard a flutter and suddenly
was surrounded by three boys hovering near him on their carpets.
“Hey, Ahmad, how do you like my new carpet?” asked Jemal.
“Looks pretty good,” replied Ahmad.
“Pretty good?” retorted Barak, one of the other boys, “He’s going to smoke everyone with his new carpet.”
“Where’s your carpet?” asked Kahil, the third boy, who was so fat he appeared to be sitting inside his carpet as the edges curled upward.
“Are you afraid of racing?” Kahil taunted.
“I’m not afraid.”
“He doesn’t have a carpet,” interjected Jemal.
“Oh, his parents won’t let him because they’re afraid he’ll get hurt, right?” chided Kahil.
“No, my father was a champion carpet racer and someday he’ll get me a carpet, and I’ll show you guys.”
“Yeah, sure,” mocked Kahil, “You’re a loser.”
Kahil turned his carpet with a swoosh and blew sand in Ahmad’s face. Ahmad turned his head away and covered his eyes.
“Look the baby is crying,” taunted Kahil.
“I am not. You blew sand in my eyes.”
“Leave him alone,” retorted Barak, he’s just a skinny kid. “We’ve got to get going. We don’t want to miss the start of the race.”
The three boys flew toward the town as Ahmad tried to wipe the grit from his eyes. As he walked into town Ahmad could see the crowds gathering as the boys jockeyed for position at the starting line. The starter clapped his hands and the racers sped from the line. A cloud of dust billowed behind them until they attained an altitude of about 10 feet. The course was laid out in an oval with various tents setting the boundaries. The crowd cheered as they entered the first turn. The boys swept into the turn flying within a few feet of each other, maintaining optimal speed by flying 5 to 10 feet off the ground. If they tried to fly higher they would lose speed. So, each boy searched for the best height; however, the position of the other racers also affected everyone’s ability to maintain speed, as if they could gain power by being close to someone else. So, positioning was critical to staying in the race.
Jemal was in the lead after the first turn, pulling away from the others. His new carpet seemed to have more energy than the others. Jemal’s gleaming, white teeth were flashing as he leaned into the next turn. The big grin on his face expressed his confidence. The remaining ten racers flew in a pack like a flock of birds. The race was five laps of the town center. The merchants stopped selling their goods to watch the race, not caring about the lull in sales in the morning. Since the race brought more people into town, ultimately, the shop dealers had more customers.
Jemal continued to lead the pack with Kahil right behind. As the boys would try to pass Kahil, he would slide into them and bump them to the outside where they would lose momentum and fall toward the back of the pack. Also, since he was so big, it was even harder for any of the other boys to pass him.
The crowd cheered as the racers entered the final lap. Ahmad moved to an area near the finish line to get a good view of the action. He climbed up on a large boulder to get a better view over the shoulders of the taller spectators.
Jemal eased his carpet into the final lap about 20 yards ahead of the pack. Kahil leaned forward on his carpet as if to urge it to go faster. The entire pack closed the distance between itself and Jemal. Jemal was no longer grinning as he leaned into the second turn. He turned to look back and in doing so he made the turn wider than he wanted. Kahil turned his carpet inward and flew within inches of one if the tents. The crowd gasped as Kahil accelerated out of the turn and was now about 5 yards behind Jemal. A look of worry now appeared on Jemal’s face as Kahil closed the gap. The pack, with Barak now in the lead, also closed in on the leader. As Jemal entered another turn, Kahil pulled up aside of him.
“Get outta my way!” screamed Kahil.
“No way!” yelled Jemal.
The pack closed in on the two of them forming one pack of all racers. The racers now passed through the final turn lined with fruit dealers. Jemal again could not keep his turn tight and Kahil soared to the inside and bumped Jemal severely. Jemal lost control. His carpet left the course and smashed into a tomato stand, sending the tomatoes into the street and spattering the crowd. Jemal's final destination was a cart of figs, in which he sat watching the racers fly past him. Kahil crossed the finish line with his hand raised high in victory, followed closely by Barak and the rest of the pack.
Ahmad ran over to help Jemal out of the cart of figs.
“Are you all right?”
“So-so,” said Jemal, lifting his limp, tomato-stained carpet from the ground.
“You’ll get him next time ,” encouraged Ahmad. “Yeah, I think so, maybe,” sniffled Jemal whose only hurt was his feelings.
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