There were two things Dodrian Ruh was known by in his village:
He was the son of the owner of Ruh’s Rug Emporium that had sold magic flying carpets for generations.
And he hated flying.
Well, it wasn’t so much the flying that he hated. Dodie, as his family and friends called him, got motion sickness anytime his flying carpet gained too much altitude or took a corner too quickly. The village alchemist had assured the family that Dodie would grow out of it, but Dodie had just celebrated his twelfth year and had seen no improvement. On his birthday he had mounted his older brother’s racer rug as a test. No sooner had the carpet shot above the roof when Dodie felt his stomach plummet, and burning acid percolate up his throat. He threw his head over the side and hurled, showering the village snake charmer with balaclava puke.
“Such a shame.”
“He’s a Ruh! His grandfather’s Nadar Ruh!”
“Guess he didn’t inherit his grandfather’s genes.”
“His older brother Taj sure did.”
“Such a shame.”
Dodie did his best to tune out the villagers’ remarks, along with their tsk-tsks, and head shakes. If he could wish away his motion sickness, he would, but he couldn’t, so he left carpet racing to Taj. Even if he could fly, he wasn’t anatomically built for racing. He stood on the shorter end for twelve. He wasn’t chubby, just a little thick in places like his middle and face, for he had yet to lose his baby fat. Of his four siblings, he was the only one who had inherited their mother’s freckles on nose and cheeks. This was the one feature he liked about himself.
One day in late winter, Dodie felt particularly annoyed by his handicap in regards to magic flying carpets. The school Caravaner, a long runner rug over twenty feel long and packed with children, sailed past him. His best friend Benni, a skinny, wiry boy with buck-teeth, waved to him. He heard fragments of opinions as he trudged by villagers working in a row of open-air shops. He inhaled a variety of familiar scents: cinnamon, dates, jasmine, sweat, dust. His favorite scent, one he had known from birth, was the dusty smell of carpets. It grew stronger as he rounded a corner and approached his family’s shop, Ruh’s Rug Emporium.
A long line of customers trailed from the entrance. Men and women of all ages were waiting in line, and chatting noisily. Dodie picked up his pace, hoping to pass them unnoticed.
“Hey, you!” A man in a green turban spied Dodie. “Aren’t you Nadar Ruh’s grandson?”
Dodie groaned inwardly as he stopped next to the man in line. “Yeah.”
The man, smelling strongly of fresh fish, leaned toward Dodie and said in a secretive tone, “Does he still have his racer rug?”
“Phoenix? Yeah, he still has it.”
The fishy man leaned in even closer, and Dodie held his breath. “Is it for sale? I’d be willing to pay more than—”
“Sorry, no.” Dodie started to leave, but the man grabbed his arm.
“You gonna race it, eh?”
Dodie yanked his arm free, choosing not to answer that question. He hurried past the long line of customers, and squeezed by a young man blocking the entrance.
“Hey, no cuts, kid!” the man barked.
“I’m not cutting, I live here,” said Dodie as he entered the shop. “Dad!”
“Glad you’re home, son! Help me, will ya?” Gamal Ruh, a large beefy man with a full salt and pepper beard, carried a rolled up carpet over to the counter.
An old woman, whose shriveled face looked to be the result of a sour disposition as much as age, stood waiting at the counter. When Gamal set the rolled carpet on the counter, she narrowed her beady eyes at it and tilted her sharp nose up ever so slightly.
“I was told you’re the best rug merchant in town,” she said, adjusting her sheer veil over her face.
“We’re the rug merchant in town,” said Gamal with a smile that was hard to see behind his bushy whiskers. “Have been for nearly a thousand years. And I’d swear on my ancestors we’re one of the best in all Arabia!”
The woman pursed her lips. “You’re sure this is a genuine racer rug.”
“Oh yes. It’s been infused with stardust, and like all my rugs it comes with the KVB guarantee.” Gamal continued, “It’s been Kissed by a genie, Vexed by sorcerer, and Blessed by Allah. I’m sure you’ll be very satisfied with this one, madam.”
“Well, it’s not for me, now is it.” She opened a silk draw-string purse and dug inside. Metal chinked as she counted out ten gold coins and handed them to Gamal. “My grandson is entering the race and he needs the very best to ride.”
“You’ve made an excellent choice, madam.” Gamal passed off the coins to Dodie.
Dodie cupped them tightly in his hand and dashed to the back of the shop and behind a blue drape. There he found the emporium’s open ledger where he quickly entered the purchase, and deposited the coins in a sturdy metal lock box. While Dodie couldn’t fly carpets, he could manage numbers, and he liked that his father trusted him with money. That helped ease the guilt he felt whenever he heard things like “But he’s a Ruh!”