The Quilt Is Gone

One winter night, Mullah Nasruddin and his wife Fatima were sleeping soundly in their own beds, snuggled up under the covers and quilt, when the loud din of quarreling voices outside wakened them. It sounded like two thieves were drunk and arguing about something, but neither Nasruddin nor Fatima could make out quite what was the source of conflict.

After the noisy row had gone on for a while, Fatima urged her husband to get out of bed and investigate the matter. “They could be thieves,” she whimpered, pulling the bedsheets up close. “They could be terrorists.”

Yawning, Nasruddin agreed to check out the disturbance. He was far too sleepy to bother to dress in his turban and cloak, which would have shown the shouting hooligans that he was a village judge, a man not to be disturbed in the middle of a heavenly dream. Instead, Nasruddin wrapped the quilt that Fatima had painstakingly hand-stitched around his shoulders and trudged outside to investigate the commotion.

As Nasruddin stepped outside into the cool night air to confront the two boisterous men, they stopped their fighting and faced the Mullah. Before Nasruddin could even say, “Stop fighting, will you?” the two men set upon him with fists and shouts. One of the thieves grabbed Fatima’s quilt from off the Mullah’s back, spun him around, then tore off into the night with the other man, leaving Nasruddin naked and stupefied.

Finding himself shivering, Nasruddin dashed upstairs to the bedroom, where Fatima was awaiting his return. She asked, “Nasruddin, what happened to the two men? What were they arguing about at this time of night? And where did my beautiful handmade quilt go?”

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Nasruddin could only sigh and reply, “They must have been fighting about your quilt, because as soon as they took it, they stopped fighting. Still, I’m glad to report, now that the quilt is gone, the fight is done.”

After Fatima’s quilt was stolen, Nasruddin bought a bow, quiver, and some arrows. It made him feel more secure somehow, knowing that he had a weapon to protect his family and home — and his quilt — so he placed it near his bed.

One breezy night a loud flapping and rustling in the backyard wakened Nasruddin.

Seeing his wife Fatima snoring asleep in her bed, he crept to the window, picking up his trusty quiver and bow.

There was definitely something moving out back, some sort of shadowy figure with his arms aflutter in the strong wind.

Nasruddin rubbed his eyeballs twice and blinked thrice and shook his head until his neck cracked, but he could only make out the cloak of the man standing at the far end of the backyard near the tree. The moonlight in the wind scattered clouds that obscured most of the faceless apparition, but Nasruddin peered at the dark figure in the corner of the yard as hard as he could, and he thought he recognized — could it be? — that someone was wearing his cloak? The thief must have nabbed it from the branch where Fatima hung it to dry after she’d cleaned it last night, and now was prancing about in glee at having stolen such a lovely warm cloak.

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Nasruddin looked over at the snoring Fatima, his beloved first wife of so many years, and whispered, “Don’t worry, my dear. I’ll protect you — and my cloak!”

He flung the windows open, hoping the sound would scare the thief leaping in and out of the shadows in the backyard, but still the rascally character danced next to his apricot tree, flailing his arms wildly, now seeming to taunt Nasruddin.

He issued a warning: “Enough of your barbaric thievery! Return my fine cloak to me right now, or I’ll shoot you right there!” Still the man — perhaps it was a ghoul or a djinn! — seemed to sway and wave his arms as the wind blew sharply around him.

“All right, you scoundrel! You asked for it!” Nasruddin was so terrified and angry that the bow shook in his right hand as he placed his arrow shakily on the notch, pulled back the drawstring with his elbow akimbo — and closed his eyes tight.

He released the bow and ducked. The arrow hit something — he heard the sound of fabric ripping and a thud. Nasruddin squinted his ears, if such a thing can be done, listening for . . . the intruder . . . or anything.

As the breeze continued rustling the branches it became clear that the arrow had hit its target! Nasruddin peered over the edge of the window but, with the moon still darting in and out of the clouds, he could not see any movement near the apricot tree. He raised his bow triumphantly, silently praising God for protecting Fatima and his children from such an evil spirit, when suddenly he realized in horror — he’d just shot a man!

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Nasruddin gasped, dropped the bow, shut and latched the windows, then ran downstairs and locked and barricaded the front door. Then he ran upstairs and seeing Fatima still sound asleep and snoring, he jumped under the quilt and pulled it around him tight, shivering like a little question mark scrawled in his bed until finally he fell asleep.

Fatima’s voice of course woke him the next morning, entirely too early, but not from beside him in bed. She was yelling for him from outside the locked windows. Nasruddin tumbled wearily out of bed and cautiously opened a window. Now he could hear Fatima’s familiar screeching voice and see clearly, as she stood beside the tree, what he’d shot the night before . . .

Fatima was cursing Nasruddin as she tried to pull the arrow from his cloak to release it from the branch where she had hung it. Nasruddin’s arrow had pinned the cloak right between the shoulders to the apricot tree.

Nasruddin waved his hands high above his head, dancing and shouting, “Praise God! God be praised!”

After struggling with the cloak, Fatima ended up tearing a rather large hole in it, leaving the arrow embedded in the tree. She stormed back to the house up to the window where Nasruddin was still praising God loudly.

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Fatima yelled, “What are you saying ‘God be praised’ for? You ruined your best cloak!”

Nasruddin embraced and kissed his wife, then held her hands as he danced around the room. “But do you not see, my dear? If I had been wearing my most unfortunate cloak, I would have been shot through the heart and killed myself! Praise, praise God, I am saved!”

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