The ballerinas found runs in their tights, tiny smelly turds in their slippers, and nibble marks on the blocks at the bottom of their satin toes. They took it as a declaration of war. But Clara insisted that evidence of merriment is a sign of the season; like peppermint sticks in a stocking, brandy in eggnog, and fireplace ashes.
She said, “Think of it, other dancers mirroring your steps at night.” They stood backstage, where telltale claw marks had opened holes in the velvet backdrop. Peeking after dark confirmed their hopes. They joined the mice to dance the night away.
It was the season for gingerbread. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and other delicious smells wafted through the village from the bakery at the edge of the forest. It was the year the old woman who had baked him and the old man he called father had passed.
The Gingerbread Boy kept the business going, paddling cookies in and out of the ovens. On the day he learned that the estate went to the man’s brother, who did not accept him as a nephew, the orphan decided to make headlines. He ran for his life, beating every Olympic record and securing his future.
“Ma, we’ve got a ground-floor opportunity with these magic seeds.” But, it wasn’t the partnership that had convinced Jack to trade Milky-White. It was the sweet milk the green-skinned magician coaxed from her dry udders.
“Dear fool,” his mother said, and took to her bed.
Still, they prospered. Stalks grew into the clouds where the giant harvested and ground the wheat. His wife baked cakes using milk, flour and goose eggs. Jack sold the dainties, famous for a penny-weight of gold in each, to bakeries across the kingdom.
On Sundays, an incantation transported him to Milky-White, who never aged.
The castle hall, full of guests, reverberated with infant squalls. “May she always be heard,” the Queen toasted. The Fates agreed. The King frowned.
Sixteen years later, the Fates returned to grant one wish. Atropos wanted to stay a maiden. The King objected, claimed the wish for himself, and conjured a curse. “Give my daughter a long, forgetful rest and a husband to awaken her.”
The princess shouted, “No.”
The spinner and the weaver consulted, deciding together to negate the King’s curse. Starting the sentence with do not changed everything. Atropos apprenticed with the Fates. And now, there are three.
An old woman wrapped in a cloak of stars bent over a plucky young woman’s apple pyramid. The market sang with hawking, but the farm stand was quiet. “Your fortune is written in your face.”
“Don’t be coy, dear.” The old woman accepted an apple bribe. On the way home, she conjured up a prince, instructing him to expect a royal visitor bearing fruit.
Long journey short. Magic rain- an excuse to stay over. Mattresses and eiderdowns, numbering forty like thieves in the night. Young woman uncomfortably atop a pea. Most important, a plucky face deserves a happily-ever-after.
A story is a cocoon from which to see the world. It might be exciting. It might be pointed. It might give a glimpse into another world or a look at another side of this one. It might use flowing language, plain language, or the kind of terse language that cuts to the quick, leaving the reader wounded by a lightning strike aha. Sometimes the picture says more than the words. Sometimes the words create a picture. There are so many possibilities. Here’s hoping that in 2020 we can find respect for the story no matter who tells it.
Wishing all a happy and productive year in 2020. In case you didn’t see this New York Times Op Ed, I’ll pass it on as a follow up to something I wrote after the fire. Hoping for good news about the cathedral next year.
There Will Be No Christmas at Notre-Dame December 24, 2019 New York Times
When the fish landed on shore, it talked so glibly that everyone thought it must be magic. Lines formed to ask for wishes. People shook their heads when they found themselves hoping for better roads and cleaner water, not personal fortunes. His silver scales reconfigured into a shooting star, he streaked away saying, “Work together and your dreams will come true.”
Two leaders arose. One saw the dangers of talk with no action, the other advocated action with no talk. Some chose the quickness of autocracy. Most bided their time. Talk takes longer, but the results are worth the wait.