By Margo Wayman
"Salome the camel has ten humps. Salome the camel has ten humps. Salome the camel has ten humps, so ride, Salome, ride. Salome the camel has nine humps."
"Oh no. Not again. He's singing again, Caliph. The same old song about Salome the camel. Make him stop, please," complained Omar the dromedary.
Life in the desert wasn't always so great, at least for Caliph and Omar. Five camels lived amongst the date palms, pyramids, and sand dunes. Four of the five were unhappy, and that was because of Derik. He lived near the big pyramid, under the date palm, right in the middle of the oasis, and all he did was sing. It wasn't just because he sang. It was that he sang the same song, over, and over, and over again; day after day, week after week, month after month. Caliph and Omar were tired of it, as was Ali, and his little baby, Wael.
One night, Wael fussed until the wee hours. Ali was very tired. He'd sat in the shadow of the pyramid, rocking little Wael, trying to get him to sleep. All night long, as the crickets chirped, and the owls hooted, little Wael cried. When the sun came up, he finally went to sleep. Ali didn't dare put him down, so he held him tightly as he snored softly.
Just as Ali began to doze off, Derik began to sing loudly, "Salome the camel has ten humps. Salome the camel has ten humps. Salome the camel has ten humps, so ride, Salome, ride. Salome the camel has nine humps..."
Little Wael's big brown eyes opened wide and he began to cry. "Derik!" Ali yelled. "Would you please stop singing. You've woken Wael up!"
Derik said, "I'm sorry," and stopped singing. Instead he munched on a few dates. Wael went back to sleep and Ali shut his tired eyes.
Later that day, Caliph was reading a poem by Rudyard Kipling called 'How The Camel Got His Hump'. He was to a very interesting part when he heard, "Salome the camel has seven humps. Salome the camel has seven humps. Salome the camel has seven humps, so ride, Salome, ride."
He couldn't concentrate on what he was reading. He turned this way and that, trying not to let Derik's singing irritate him, but finally he got very angry and called over, "Derik. Please stop that singing. I can't read. YOu're disturbing me!"
Derik said, "I'm sorry," and stopped singing. He ate some more dates, then took a nap.
Wael had woken up so Ali decided to take him for a walk. Omar and Caliph went to get a drink from the spring that bubbled up the center of the oasis. Seeing that they were all gone, Derik sang his little heart out. "Salome the camel has five humps. Salome the camel has five humps. Salome the camel has five humps, so ride, Salome, ride."
As he was singing the song for the tenth time, a cluster of dates fell out of the palm and landed on his blanket, which was made of gold threads and red tassels, and lay across his hump. He stopped singing and looked around. There was Ahmed, his master, pushing the tree back and forth. He yelled at Derik, "Would you stop singing that song! I can hear it clear on the other side of the pyramid. It's very annoying!"
Derik said, "I'm sorry," and stopped singing. Instead he munched on some dates.
That night, after all the camels had returned, they noticed that Derik wasn't singing. This made them very happy. Caliph sat down and finished reading his poem. Ali got little Wael to sleep, then went to sleep himself. Omar gazed up into the stars, enjoying the peace and quiet.
When morning came, nobody heard Derik singing. They went over to the date palm and found Derik laying there. He was very sick. You see, every time someone had asked him to stop singing, he'd eaten dates. He had been told so many times to stop, that he'd eaten too many dates. Now he was sick. Derik was ill that entire day. The others were worried about him.
Ahmed, the master, heard about Derik and came to see if he could help. He stayed all day with him, then, seeing that he was still sick, he stayed all night long too, nursing him back to health. Every camel at the oasis felt sad. They actually began to miss not hearing Derik sing his Salome the camel song.
In the morning, when Derik woke up, he felt normal again. Ahmed petted him then went back to the other side of the pyramid. Derik looked at the others off in the distance. He knew that his singing bothered them, so he didn't utter a note. The other camels had talked while Derik was sleeping, and when they saw that the was all better, they went over to him. "Please sing, Derik," Ali begged. "We missed not hearing you sing. Little Wael missed you too. Sing for us, please?"
Derik smiled a big smile. He began to sing, "Salome the camel has ten humps..."
The others were happy because as long as they heard Derik singing, they knew he was all right. From then on Derik tried not to sing the song quite as much, especially if Caliph was trying to read, or if Ali was trying to get Wael to sleep. Everyone was happy when they heard Derik singing under the date palm, near the pyramids, and sand dunes.
"Salome the camel has no humps. Salome the camel has no humps. Salome the camel has no hums, 'cause Salome is a horse."