By Margo Wayman
Fatima, the goat, stood in a field of white jasmine flowers that were blowing gently in the wind. She ripped the petals off with her teeth and chewed them up. She loved to eat other things too, but jasmine was her favorite. The most fragrant and thickest bushes grew along the muddy banks of ther river Nile. During the day Fatima wandered closer to the swiftly flowing Nile to find the tastiest flowers. At night, she'd be taken into a shed and Farmer Maher would milk her. Her milkwas always the creamiest, thickest, whitest milk of all Farmer Maher's goats.
One beautiful spring morning, Fatima arose from the pile of hay she slept on, happy about being alive, and happy that she could eat jasmine flowers. She wandered down to the riverbank looking for some. She spotted a large clump and began to munch away. Hidden among the jasmine was a cluster of purple violets. Not seeing them, she reached her head down and pulled up a few bites. "Yummy. This is the best jasmine I've ever tasted!" she said. She bent over and pulled up a few more petals, then noticed the violets. "So, that's what is so delicious. It's not just the jasmine. It's those purple flowers. They're yummy."
That whole day long the goat went up and down the riverbank looking for violets. She found many of them hiding in the grasses and reeds, and ate every last one.
That night, when she was taken into the shed to be milked, she was excited. She knew that the violets would make her milk much creamier. When Farmer Maher began to milk her, he let out a scream. "Purple milk!" he cried. "I can't sell purple milk!"
Fatima looked down into the pail. The milk was as purple as the violets she'd munched on during the day. "No more violets!" Farmer Maher ordered, then sent her to her pile of hay in the back of the shed.
The next morning, Fatima woke up to the rain pounding down on the roof of the shed. When she went outside, the rain pelted down on her, dripping into her eyes, her nose, and her mouth. She walked over and stood under a thick-trunked pistachio tree. She stood there, watching the river flow by, wishing she could start munching away. She couldn't wait to chew on some jasmine petals. But it kept on raining for hours.
Fatima sat down and was soon so bored that she started looking at all the things near the tree, getting hungrier with every passing minute. She couldn't reach the leaves on the pistachio tree, or any of its seeds or nuts, and she couldn't eat the bark. Then she noticed a flowering bush off to the side of the tree. It had brilliant green leaves and was covered with huge crimson roses. She stood up and wandered over to the bush. "Baaaa," she went. She could smell the fragrant flowers, and they looked so beautiful too. The rain drops cascaded down each delicate petal. When she touched them with her tongue, they felt like soft velvet.
She grabbed one in her mouth and chewed it up. "Yummy," she said. "These are pretty good; almost as good as the violets." Farmer Maher had told her not to eat any more violets, but he hadn't said that she couldn't eat roses, so, forgetting about everything else, she munched down every single red rose on the bush. By the time the rain had stopped, Fatima didn't feel hungry any more. She walked down to the river and stood, letting the sun beat down on her long black hair.
That night she couldn't wait to be milked. She went to the shed and Farmer Maher began to milk her. "Red milk! What is this?" he asked Fatima, showing her the milk in the bucket.
She let out a loud "Baaaa," and looked down into the bucket. The milk was as red as the roses she'd eaten from the bush under the pistachio tree.
"I can't sell red milk either!" Farmer Maher said angrily. He slapped Fatima softly on the leg so she'd go to the back of the shed.
When she woke up the next morning she knew that she couldn't eat anything but the jasmine that grew along the riverbank, no matter what. But when she neared the flowing waters of the Nile river, she saw that Farmer Maher had chopped all the tall grasses and jasmine bushes down. All that was left was stubble; lots of stubble. Fatima couldn't eat stubble. She'd not eaten anything since her rose petal meal the day before and was feeling very hungry. What was she to do? It would take days for the bushes to grow tall enough for her to eat.
That day, in a nearby field, she found and ate some yellow sunflowers. That night, her milk was yellow. The day after that she ate some blue delphinium. That night, her milk was blue. And so it went, with orange bougainville, orange milk; pink carnations, pink milk.
Farmer Maher was getting angrier each night. Finally he told Fatima that he couldn't use her milk anymore. There would be no more cream, and no more cheeses. Who wants to eat blue cheese?
All night long Fatima stayed awake. She was so sad that her head hung down and her nose touched the dirt. She stood up all night, crying so much that her tears made a puddle around her feet. When the sun came up in the morning, Fatima, still feeling sad, wandered over to the riverbank. What she saw changed her frown into a smile. She kicked her back legs up into the air and went "Baaaa," loudly. Growing along the bank were the most tender looking, tall green grasses and little blossoming jasmine flowers that she'd ever seen. No more stubble! She ate, and ate, and ate. She walked up and down the bank eating the petals off of every flower.
That night she went into the shed. Farmer Maher was about to shoo her out but thought that he'd give her one more chance. He began to milk her. Out came the creamiest, richest, thickest, whitest milk he'd ever seen. "Fatima, my sweet, sweet goat. Now that's my girl," he said, standing up and patting her long black hair softly.
As she stood there, watching the bucket fill with white milk, she knew that never again would she eat anything but jasmine flowers, no matter what! And she never did. "Baaaaa!"