Baltezar was a djinn. He was a very young djinn, as djinns go; he was only two hundred years old and his life should have been carefree, but Baltezar had a very large problem: Someone had knocked his lamp over and broken it! Now, when a djinn loses his lamp, he also loses his master, and a djinn without a master has no home. He has to wander along on any wind that happens to blow by until someone sees him and gives him a new home.
Baltezar's old master didn't believe that he existed. He thought that djinns and genies were just silly stories mothers made up at night to tell to their children so they would go to sleep. He had found Baltezar's lamp in the bazaar and bought it because it was very beautiful. He was a very wealthy man who loved beautiful things and liked to have as many of them in his house as he could find.
Baltezar had loved his old master's house and he used to spend hours exploring its long, winding corridors. It was a huge house made of stone that was polished so smoothly it felt like silk. The patterns in it looked like rivers flowing up and down the columns and across the floors. In the center of the house was a huge open garden where Baltezar liked to sit in the cool of the early evening and watch the shadows fall across the walls and trees while the nightbirds sang. Oh! how he missed that garden.
Since his master did not believe in djinns, Baltezar had very little to do all day. When he was not sitting in the garden, he liked to wander through the house or out into the streets of the city. He often went to the bazaar. He liked the sound of all the people and the brightly colored clothing of the men and the black dresses and veils the women wore. He would watch the merchants haggle over the price of their goods with their customers. He laughed at the faces that they made while they tried to convince a housewife or another merchant that their vegetables were so fresh, or that their pottery was so well-made, or that their rugs were so beautiful that they were a thousand times more than the trifle being asked. Of course, the housewives and other merchants would answer that these vegetables were stale, or the pottery cracked, or the rugs unraveling and weren't worth even half so much . . . and so it would go.
Now, all that Baltezar could do was sigh as the wind pushed him out into the hot desert. There was nothing to see but sand for miles and miles and it was hot all the day long, so hot that Baltezar could barely catch his breath. Sometimes he would fly over a caravan, a group of camels and their drivers, traveling the desert between the cities. Sometimes he would pass over an oasis, a little spot of green where a tiny pond would form when a spring broke through the sands. There were often tall fig palms and ferns growing around the water and the wind seemed to like playing among their leaves so that Baltezar got a chance to rest a little, but the wind always seemed to be in a hurry to move on again. It never stayed in one place for long and it always took Baltezar along with it.
Finally, after blowing around the desert for many days, the wind decided to blow into another city, a city Baltezar had never heard of before. Of course, the wind did not ask Baltezar if he wanted to be blown into that city and Baltezar thought it very rude of the wind not to ask him, but the wind didn't care, and that was an end to that.
This city was even bigger than the one where Baltezar's old master lived. Its minarets soared into the air and its mosques were huge and stately. Baltezar knew all about minarets and mosques because his old master had been a very religious man who prayed seven times a day and went to the mosque every time he was able. Baltezar did not know what he did when he went to the mosque; he did not know what his master did when he prayed, but he knew that it was very important to his master and that was enough for him.
This city had walls, just like his master's city, but these walls were much higher and they had men who walked along the top of them and carried long sharp spears and wore hats made of polished steel. Baltezar was very impressed.
The wind strolled into a series of side streets that led into some shops. One of the shops made rugs. There were all sorts of rugs there. There big rugs and small rugs and in-between rugs; bright rugs and dark rugs; there were so many rugs that Baltezar could not imagine what anyone could possibly do with all of them. But the one thing that caught Baltezar's eye was the lamp setting on one of the tables. It reminded him of his old home and, quick as a flash, Baltezar flew through the room and dived down into the lamp's spout. Splash! Imagine his surprise when Baltezar dived into the lamp and found it was full of oil! He pulled himself out of the lamp and spluttered and splashed and coughed and spit until the wind stirred and blew him back out of the shop, where the warm afternoon sun soon dried him. Baltezar was very sad. He had hoped he could hide in the lamp from the wind and then, perhaps, one of the men in the shop would find him and take him home.
The wind sauntered down the street and in through the door of another shop. This was the shop of a copper-smith. He and his apprentices were scattered about on the floor, sitting cross-legged on rugs and mats while they worked on urns and bottles and little brass boxes to store jewels in and bracelets and all sorts of things. Baltezar saw an urn setting on one of the apprentices tables and he drifted over to look at it. It was tall and slender, with graceful, flowing curves. The urn's lid, which was already finished and covered with gemstones, was off and laying beside it on the table, so Baltezar floated down to look at it. He hovered around the top and then carefully sank down into the open urn. Inside it was cool and dark and much nicer than being blown all around the hot, dusty desert, where the sun was so bright that Baltezar had a headache almost all the time. It was so cool and comfortable in the urn that he cuddled down and took a little nap.
Tap, tap, tap, tap. At first, the tap, tap, tapping was so soft that Baltezar barely noticed it, but it got louder and louder until the whole urn was ringing like a bell and Baltezar's head was ringing like a bell too. This was not his favorite way to wake up from a nap. Then the urn started turning back and forth and Baltezar rolled along the inside of it until he was very dizzy. He fanally staggered up to his feet and flew out of the urn to see what was happening.
When he got outside, Baltezar saw that the apprentice had come back to his table and was using a very sharp chisel to carve some letters into the urn. His bright hammer flashed in the sun, tap, tap tap. Baltezar was trying to think of a way to get back into the urn without the tap, tap, tapping driving him crazy, when the wind blew by, saw him and carried him away again.
The sun was setting and soon the wind would get stronger. Baltezar was afraid that it would want to blow him back out into the awful desert again. The desert was even colder at night than it was hot in the day and Baltezar did not want to go back there anyway. It was just too miserable and lonely, but he knew that the wind did not care if he wanted to go or not. It would just take him along. Baltezar was getting a little desperate, so when the wind blew through the window of a potter's shop, Baltezar looked around frantically for some place to hide.
He found a little lamp the potter had just finished making for his son. It was a pretty thing, bright blue and yellow and green. The potter was not a master of his craft, and although his bottles and jars and lamps were all well made, none of them were ever quite what he wanted them to be. But this one lamp, which he had made for his son and made with all of the love he had for his little boy, was as close to being perfect as anything he had ever made. Of course, Baltezar did not know this. All he knew was that he needed a place to hide from the wind before it wanted to go back into the desert. He hurried over to the lamp and, after making sure that he would not get another bath in oil, he slipped inside it and fell asleep.
Darius was very excited when his father brought him his new lamp. Darius was a very young boy. He was seven years old. He tried to help his father in the shop, but he was too little to mix the clay or throw it on the wheel. He wasn't big enough to paint the pots or fire the kiln that cured them. The only thing that Darius was old enough to do was clean up the pieces of broken potter that littered the shop floor. He did this a lot. But then, sometimes he was the one who made the pieces of broken pottery, so it was alright. Darius tried to help his mother too, but she knew that, even though he tried as hard as he could, he usually made more work than he got done, so she sent him to the shop to help his father.
Darius loved his mother and father and they loved him. He was a good boy. He ate of his bood on his plate, even his carrots. (Well, most of the time he ate his carrots.) He was always polite to his parents' friends and he was hardly ever silly. The only thing that Darius was that he didn't want to be was afraid of the dark. Darius was just sure that something awful would happen to him in the dark. He didn't know what that awful thing was. He didn't know if a great big green terrible monster would eat him up hair and all. He didn't know if some wicked wizard would turn him into a lizard, or a wart, or a pile of sand that his mother would sweep out the door because she didn't know that it was him. He didn't know what he was afraid of, he was just afraid of the dark. That's why Darius' father made the lamp. Now Darius could fill it with oil and light it and not be afraid.
Darius carried his new lamp over to the large stone jar that his mother kept their oil in. He was too excited to wait for her to finish helping his father in the shop, so hed decided to fill his new lamp all by himself. He took one of his cups, filled it with oil and carefully poured the oil into the new lamp. Suddenly, he heard someone splutter. Then he heard someone splash. Then he heard someone sneeze. Darius backed away from the lamp. He was just about to call out for his mother when he saw something that looked like smoke come from the spout of his lamp. It was a small grey mist that rose into the air. Darius was very afraid.
Baltezar didn't know what had happened to him. He had been peacefully sleeping in the blue and green and yellow lamp. He had been dreaming about his old home when a flood of oil poured over him. He was so flustered that he didn't even take time to sneak out of the lamp but he had, instead, billowed out in a cloud of smoke. When he was all the way out, he stood on the floor and dripped oil. It dripped off his fingers. It dripped off his toes. It ran down his face and dripped off his nose. He blinked his eyes and looked around him. There, in front of him, stood a little boy—a boy not much larger than Baltezar himself. The little boy looked very frightened. Baltezar was a little frightened too, but he was a djinn. Djinns don't usually get as grightened as little boys, even if the djinn is only two hundred years old. Baltezar smiled.
“Hello little boy. I am Baltezar.”
The little boy didn't say anything.
“ I am a djinn.”
The little boy didn't say anything.
“I was taking a little nap inside the lamp.”
The little boy still didn't say anything.
“Actually, I was hiding from the wind. You see, my old lamp, the one I used to live in, got broken and the wind has been blowing me around ever since. It blew me out of my old city and through the hot desert and around the oasis and past the caravans and through the gates of this city and all around the streets and I am afraid that it will want to blow me back into the desert and the desert is so cold and lonely at night and so hot and dusty in the day time that I was hiding in this nice lamp so the wind could not find me.”
The little boy still didn't say anything.
“Don't you know how to talk little boy?”
Then the little boy said something. He said it very loud. He said,
Now it was Baltezar's turn to be frightened.
“Please, little boy, please do not call your mother. She will see me and make me go and the wind will find me and carry me back into the desert. All I want to do is live in your lamp. I will not be any trouble. I don't eat very much and I don't take up very much room and I am very quiet and I could help you with your chores. I know that I am just a little djinn, but I will try very hard. Please be my master and let me stay in your lamp.”
Darius thought very hard. He thought harder than he had ever thought before. He knew that Baltezar was right. His mother would never let him have his own djinn. He didn't know why, but somehow parents always seemed to say 'no' to things that were lots of fun. And Baltezar looked like he might be a lot of fun to play with. Darius made up his mind.
“Alright. You can stay.'
Baltezar kicked up his heels for joy.
“Oh, thankyou, thankyou, thankyou master. I will serve you always and always and always. I will make your bed and do your chores and watch over you while you sleep at night. Oh thankyouthankyouthankyou!”
“Shh! Not so loud, djinn! If Mother and Father hear you, they will find you and make you leave.”
Baltezar quit singing and dancing around the room and became very quiet, but his eyes still shone with happiness.
“Yes, master. Now, how may I serve you?”
“Just get back inside the lamp and don't make any more noise.”
“Yes, master. But master, it is still full of oil. I can't stay in a lamp that is full of oil!”
Darius had a terrible thought.
“But how will I light the lamp it it has no oil in it? My father made this lamp for me so that I could light it at night and not be afraid of the dark. If I do not light it, he will know something is wrong. What are we going to do?”
Baltezar looked thoughtful for a moment. Then his face broke into a smile.
“Pour the oil out of the lamp for me, master. I will take care of the rest.”
Darius hesitated for a moment. Then he heard his mother's and father's voices. There were coming. Quickly, he picked up the lamp and poured the oil back into the large stone jar. He took his sleeve and dried the inside of the lamp and handed it back to Baltezar.
Baltezar started to glow, and, as he did, he got smaller and smaller and smaller until he was about the size of a candle flame, but brighter. Then he leaped high into the air and landed on the lip of the lamp's spout. He started dancing on the edge of the wick just as Darius' parents came through the door.
“Darius, were you calling me?”
Darius thought quickly.
“Yes, Mother, I was. My new lamp it lit. Isn't it wonderful, Mother? Look at how brightly it shines!”
His mother looked at the lamp, then at Darius' father, and smiled.
“Yes, son. It is a very nice lamp. You won't be afraid of the darkness any more, will you?”
Darius looked at the lamp and saw Baltezar wink at him.
“No, Mother. I'll never be afraid of the dark again.”