“I can’t decide, they’re all so beautiful!” Kim walked slowly up one aisle, fingering the rich
silken fibers, then down the next, pausing at a stack to flip over the top rug and look at the ones beneath. Kyle trailed along, already regretting this excursion, a peace-keeping gesture that followed Kim’s explosive response to his suggestion of wall-to-wall Berber carpeting.
“Why not? It looks great, it’s durable – the Millers put it in their rec room five years ago, remember? You said you liked it, and you know it still looks great.” He’d kept his tone calm, reasonable. “And is that what you want in our living room?” was her scornful response. He’d already forgotten what she said after that; Kimmie’s way of elaborating required presence, not response.
He sighed and made his way over to the flooring section as Kim flagged down a salesman. Poor guy, Kyle thought, knowing his wife was about to put him through his paces.
“Madam, I assure you, we carry only the very finest of carpets,” the salesman explained, as patient as if he’d never uttered the words before. “We are specializing in Isfahan, Tabriz and Kashan, but this is difference in design, not quality. Please, allow me to-” But Kim was distracted by a man she spotted looking at the display of carpets hanging along the far wall. He looked at each one in turn, and when he came to the last and smaller one, she gasped. Never had she seen anything so astonishing beautiful. Soft cream edged with a wide border of chocolate, ruby, emerald and sunflower, leafy tendrils reaching toward the intricate starburst design at centre, woven in alternating shades of the same colours. This is the one, she thought, as she crossed the showroom.
The salesman shook his head sadly then hurried after Kim, addressing her in a mournful tone, “Madam, my heart it is breaking. You see before you the most beautiful and terrible carpet I have ever beheld. I am afraid to sell it, and yet I cannot bear to keep it.”
Perplexed, Kim looked at him and blurted, “Good heavens, what’s wrong with it? It’s incredibly beautiful…” even as her hand reached reverently toward the magnificent carpet, not seeing the salesman back away and move toward the other end of the display.
Casting one more longing look at the splendour and artistry of design, Kim approached him, “How much are you asking for that carpet?” The man shook his head slowly, eyes downcast. Then he looked up at Kim and her gaze followed his to the carpet. “I cannot put a price upon it, Madam.” He took a deep breath, expelled it slowly. “How much will you pay for it?”
Kim was dumbstruck – a rare occurrence, one that would elicit Kyle’s gentle ribbing which, in turn, would have her spluttering back into form. “I – I – need to ask my husband. Please, wait here.” She ran across the showroom to get Kyle, recapping the scenario as they hurried back to the salesman.
“Excuse me, but what’s going on?” Kyle asked, reining in his impatience. “Why won’t you tell us the price of this rug so we know if we can afford it?”
“Sir, let me explain. This fine and beautiful carpet that you see before you was hand loomed by a young man who lived on the outskirts of Nain. He was the youngest of six sons and one day, he befriended a Christian missionary and embraced that faith. In secret, he studied and also he continued to weave. On his 16th birthday, his father learned of his betrayal and, heartbroken, he renounced his son. The boy died soon after, it is not known of what cause. By the providence of Allah this carpet has come to the shop of my late father, Allah’s mercy be upon him, where it has been residing for ten years.”
Kyle’s flushed forehead bore witness to his exasperation, torn between pity and frustration. Ten years of marriage to Kim had perfected the patience that enabled him to respond gently, “That is a very sad story, sir, but surely you need to sell this carpet?” Kim’s face softened with compassion as she nodded, agreeing with her husband.
The salesman continued, “The situation is this, good sir. The rug is perfect; therefore, we cannot put upon it a price. Every carpet woven in the Persian fashion must contain one flaw, it must be perfectly imperfect, for only Allah, bless his holy name, is perfect. The young man left with the carpet a note in which he writes: ‘I am a sinner but in Christ I am whole. He came to earth and died for me. In Him I am reborn and will live forever. This is my gift to my Lord.’ So you see…?” he lifted his shoulders in an eloquent shrug.
Kim grabbed Kyle’s arm, said “please excuse us for a moment” to the salesman, and the couple whispered together. Moments later, they returned. Kyle said, “Sir, we worship Jesus too, and we would like to give a home to this young man’s offering,” and named their price.
The salesman was silent, his arms clasped behind his back. He closed his eyes, his lips moved briefly in silent prayer.
“You may have it, kind sir and madam, but not for the $1600 dollars you offered. I will accept $16 – one dollar for each year that he lived and toiled.” Kim’s eyes filled with tears. Kyle reached out to thank the salesman, but his eyes closed to fight back his own tears. Time stood still. Then the salesman looked at them and murmured, “I would ask of you one thing. To make a gift of the remainder in my brother’s memory… to your God and his. May you both be blessed.”
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