Off Assignment

To the Shopkeeper in Fez

--A Letter to a Stranger--

Lavinia Spalding

I wasn’t looking for you when I entered Place Seffarine. I was only listening to the call-and-response between chickens clucking and coppersmiths hammering. But I stopped when I recognized the miniature brass animals on the table outside your shop. I had been here a year and a half ago and bought five of these animals for my two-year-old son, Ellis, tucking them in the bottom of his stroller so he wouldn’t put them in his mouth and choke.

But I mostly remembered your shop because my husband had spent twenty minutes inside it while I’d browsed nearby. He’d emerged looking sheepish. “I need to find an ATM,” he said. “I might have made some rash decisions.”

I’d been born with no discernible sense of direction, so I’d spent much of my life lost. And yet, something had led me back here, to your shop.


The healthy wayfarer sitting beside the road scanning the horizon open before him, is he not the absolute master of the earth, the waters, and even the sky? What housedweller can vie with him in power and wealth? His estate has no limits, his empire no law. No work bends him toward the ground, for the bounty and beauty of the world are already his.” –Isabelle Eberhardt