A gift of God
A tale from Mexico
It was six o’clock in the morning and – in his little house in a little village in Mexico – Mario was asleep. He was still asleep at seven, at eight, at nine, and at ten o’clock. Most days Mario woke up at about eleven. Then his wife usually went to the shop to buy tortillas and coffee for his breakfast.
Mario was a lucky man because Pedro, the shopkeeper, was a good friend and never asked him to pay for his food. But one morning, Pedro woke up feeling angry.
‘I get up at five every morning to work,’ he said to himself. ‘But Mario lies in bed all morning doing nothing. He doesn’t work and I give him free food. That’s enough! If he wants any more free food, he’ll have to do some work for me.’
Later that morning, Mario’s wife walked into the shop at the usual time.
‘Tell your husband that I can’t give him any more free food,’
Pedro said. ‘I’m making an extra room on the side of my house. If he helps me carry some large rocks from the quarry, then you can have more food.’
‘Oh no!’ said Mario, when he heard Pedro’s words. ‘Those rocks are too heavy for me to move. How many times must I say, “If God wants to give, He’ll give. And when He gives, He’ll push it in through the window.” Please, no more talk of work. What about a nice cup of fresh coffee?’ After that, he put on his clothes and left the house.
Later that morning, Mario was walking up the hill happily watching the clouds in the sky. Suddenly he heard shouts behind him, ‘Whoa! Whoa, there!’
Turning round, he saw that a horse was galloping nearer and nearer. A man was riding the horse and shouting, but the horse didn’t stop.
‘Whoa!’ the rider shouted again, but the horse didn’t go any slower. Now the horse was right in front of Mario. He jumped at it, took the horse’s reins in his hands and made it stop. The rider was an old man with long white hair. He got down.
‘You don’t run around all day like other people,’ he said to Mario, ‘but you’re there when someone needs you.’
‘You’re very kind,’ replied Mario. ‘But to be like this is not hard. I try to sleep well, eat well, and not worry about things.’
‘Well, today you really helped me,’ said the old man. ‘And so I want to give you a gift of God.’
‘A gift of God? I don’t understand,’ said Mario.
‘When God gives a gift to somebody,’ the old man explained, ‘only the person that God gives it to can keep it. Follow me.’ Mario followed him, and they went up the hill. There the old man stopped and showed him a large rock. ‘Under that rock,’ he said, ‘are some leaves. Under the leaves are some chests. In the chests you’ll find the gift of God waiting for you.’
Mario went over to the rock, knelt by it, and took it in his hands. He moved it easily. Then he moved the leaves, and saw six chests made of wood.
Slowly he opened one of the chests. Inside it there were hundreds of silver coins. He opened a second chest and a third… all six chests were full of silver coins! Mario turned to thank the old man, but strangely he wasn’t there any more.
Mario picked up some of the coins and put them in his pocket. Then he closed all six chests, put leaves over them again, and put back the rock. Now, after all this work, he felt tired. He sat down under a tree, and went to sleep.
When Mario woke up, he was hungry. He remembered something about a horse, an old man and some silver. ‘Did it really happen or was it just a dream?’ he said to himself. But then he remembered something much more important – lunch! He started walking quickly down the hill to his house. Suddenly he heard a clinking noise. He put his hand in his pocket and found six silver coins there.
That evening Mario’s wife went back to the shop. She put the coins in Pedro’s hand.
‘My husband sends you these. We need rice, a chicken, tortillas, tomatoes, and coffee.’
Pedro’s mouth fell open when he saw the silver coins in his hand. ‘How did Mario get so much money?’ he asked.
‘Come to our house tomorrow morning after eleven,’ the wife said, ‘and he’ll tell you.’
The next morning Pedro heard the story. He wasn’t really sure if it was true.
‘But Mario,’ he cried, ‘why didn’t you bring all those chests home with you?’
‘They were too heavy,’ Mario explained. ‘I needed horses to carry them and I have no horses. And, my friend, how many times have I told you, “If God wants to give, He’ll give. And when He gives, He’ll push it in through the window.”‘
‘I know!’ Pedro said. ‘I have some horses. I’ll come to your house tonight and we’ll go to this place together. My horses will carry all six chests; you’ll keep three of them and give the other three to me. We’ll become rich together! Do you agree?’
‘All right,’ said Mario. He was happy because his wife was cooking a delicious chicken for dinner.
Pedro went back to his shop. But he began to think, ‘Why must I share the silver with Mario? The horses belong to me. Without them Mario can do nothing. And he won’t know what to do with the money. He’ll just eat and sleep as usual. But I always know what to do with money. I’ll build a larger house…’
That night, at eleven o’clock, Mario was asleep.
‘Husband,’ said his wife. ‘Wake up. It’s already eleven o’clock and your friend hasn’t come.’
‘He’s just late,’ said Mario and he went back to sleep.
An hour later the wife woke her husband again.
Short Story Muhammad Ali By B Smith
‘Husband, it’s midnight and I’m afraid that Pedro has decided to keep all the silver for himself.’
‘Midnight? It’s too late to go anywhere now. Wife, go to sleep.’ After that, Mario and his wife slept all through the night without waking up again.
While Mario was sleeping, Pedro went up the hill with his horses and his men. He told the men to move the rock and look under the leaves. They found the six chests. ‘Open them!’ Pedro said. But when they opened them, they saw no silver coins inside, only lots of dirt and stones.
‘My friend Mario is laughing at me! He thinks that this is funny!’ Pedro shouted. ‘Well, I know how to be funny too!’ He told his men to put the chests onto the horses, to carry them down the hill, and to leave all the dirt and stones in front of Mario’s house. They did this, and then they went back home.
The next morning, when Mario’s wife woke up, she couldn’t open the door or window.
‘Husband, wake up,’ she said. ‘There’s something outside our house and we can’t open the door or the window.’
Mario got out of bed, and he pushed the door. He couldn’t open it, not even a crack. He pushed the window, and at last it opened a crack. Lots of silver coins came through the crack and fell onto the floor. ‘Husband,’ the wife said, ‘Pedro did come last night.’
‘Perhaps,’ replied Mario. ‘But all this work has made me hungry. What about a nice tortilla?’
Later that morning, the shopkeeper’s mouth fell open for the second time in two days. Mario’s wife came into the shop and bought more food, and new clothes for herself and Mario. She put twenty silver coins down in front of the shopkeeper.
‘What happened yesterday? We waited for you until midnight!’ she said. ‘I was worried when you didn’t come. Then this morning it all came through the window. But surely you gave us more than half?’
‘It wasn’t me,’ Pedro said quickly.
‘Of course it was. Who else would leave all those silver coins outside our house?’
There was silence.
Then Pedro said quietly, ‘Your husband always says that if God wants to give, He’ll give. And that when He gives, He’ll push it in through the window.’