‘What does a cat say when it sees something amazing? Mi-wow!’
Our uncle was always telling us little jokes like that which he’d made up. He’d sit there with a dreamy expression on his face, silent for a few minutes, then he’d come out with something like that. We’d learnt to savour the time it took him to invent the jokes, because we would always look forward to the final article. Maybe he found jokes harder than stories. When he was telling us our bedtime stories, he never paused at all. Word after word just poured out of him like water from a tap. We would have been surprised to learn that he had even paused so much as to take a breath.
He smiled to himself as we laughed. Thinking about the cat with the silly expression on its face was very funny. He waited until we’d finished and the smile was replaced by a more serious look. He pulled something out of his pocket and closed both his fists which he spread outwards. ‘Which hand?’
I picked the right one, my brother the left. It turned out that I’d guessed correctly. He flipped the hand over, unfolding the fingers. On his palm lay something wrapped up in red handkerchief with his initials sown onto one of the corners. ‘You can unwrap it,’ he said to me.
I pulled the package apart. Underneath all the red cloth, which smelled strongly of my uncle’s unusual cologne, was a gleaming object. It was a transparent die which was spraying the room with light reflected from the window.
‘This glass die,’ my uncle began, ‘is one of a kind. It is a thousand years old and we know about it because it was mentioned in an old book. The man who made it was blind and it was supposed to be a wedding present for his daughter. But it turned out that she died on the night before her wedding day. After that, the old father kept it in memory of his daughter and passed it down to his son when he died. One day, the king came into the town and the son gave it to him as a present, telling him the whole story. The king found the story interesting and asked one of the historians in his court to write about it in the book he was writing. That’s how it made it into the book’.
My uncle told me to pick the die up, so I could feel the texture of the glass and the weight of it. It was so very smooth that it reminded me of the glass polished and polished by the sea which washed up on the shores sometimes and it was very light. I passed it to my brother, who threw it up into the air slightly and caught it again.
I passed it back to my uncle solemnly. It was exciting to hold a little piece of history in our hands, to touch history with our hands. My uncle stood there looking at the glass die on the palm of his hand with a mysterious expression on his face. He looked at us suddenly and then he popped the whole thing into his mouth. The next thing, there was the loudest crunch I had ever heard in my life.
‘You know,’ said my uncle, speaking in between the mouthful of the die, ‘there’s just a hint of sharpness to this sugar cube…’