“Once there was a girl–”
“Oh, Grandma, why does this story have to be about a girl?”
“Hush now. Plenty of girls have had to listen to tales of boy-heroes. You would do well to sit still and listen for once. You might learn something.”
“Once there was a girl, and she was neither a princess nor a warrior, but a dancer. She was born in a small village where dancing was only done at festivals. When she danced in the rain, or twirled her way to school, she was chastised and told–Stop that!”
“Sorry, Grandma. I’ll sit still.”
“She was chastised and told that dancing was only for festivals and that she was being highly inappropriate. But this did not seem right to the girl, so she continued dancing, even when there was no music. She grew up, as we all do, but she never stopped dancing. She believed that dancing had the power to change the world. If you asked her why, she would have been unable to tell you. She would have just smiled and continued her mysterious dance.”
“What did she look like, Grandma?”
Grandma scowls, but then her wrinkled face softens. “She was beautiful, but not in ways that people have come to expect. When she smiled, others smiled with her. Her eyes were clear, like a deep pool of water or a summer sky. But it was her dancing that won people’s hearts. It was hypnotic, magical. Eventually, she was encouraged to leave home and seek her fortune in the big city. Everywhere she danced, she gathered followers.
“By the time she got to the capital, she was living like a queen. But she rose too far, too fast. It was not fame that she wanted: it was to change people’s hardened, weary hearts. The folk in the capital treated her like a pretty little bird on display in its little golden cage.”
“Was she really kept in a cage?”
Grandma nods solemnly. “Yes, she was, but it was not a cage like you or I might imagine. It was made from opinion and mirrors, and it was not a cage one could easily escape. But she found a way. She reinvented herself year after year, became something new and impossible. Soon, no cage could be built that could hold her. She was free.”
There is a pause.
“It must have been really difficult. For her. To do that,” the child says carefully, but in his heart all he can think about is how much he’d rather be off dancing than listening to Grandma’s story.
Like it? Let me know in the comments. This was written as a tribute to David Bowie.