They told me… Don’t get yourself too noticed. We think you need to make yourself a little bit smaller. You take up too much room with your funny girl smells and your big bones and your loud mouth. You know what happens to these kinds of girls in fairy tales. Remember that girl in the red cape from round the corner, what was her name again? Sit. Stay. Here. In this corner. On the floor. Around this chair leg. They said they were worried about me. They said that bad things happen to girls that draw attention to themselves. Be good. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Give yourself but one thought – give your thoughts to others. Care for them. Like Cinderella sitting in the ashes existing only to serve her sisters and her step-mother. Obey the rules the king said. Obey his rules, the queen said.
I said… May as well. After all, you are a princess now. Be grateful for this. So , I drew my ragged clothes around me like a flag. I settled into my corner of foolish ash. Broom sweeping. And I made it my home. For a good while. But eventually the time came to seek my fortune. Even princesses have to move out. Apparently.
Everyone agreed to call it… Achievement. There are ways to hold your place in this world. There are ways to stride out along the well trodden paths of fairy tale heros. That is where you make your mark. Achieve they said. As long as you walk the straight line. As long as you walk to the top of that hill. As long as you crown logic as your king. As long as whenever you do the tasks set to you, you complete them fully. And achieve I did. I knew I was better than those serfs, those peasants. For I was born a princess. Straw to gold, no problem. Tiny shirts spun from nettle and embroidered with cleaver. Ten a penny. We agreed not to let anything sway me from my path. Ignore the bird song – it means… nothing. Ignore the tracks through the forest, they will only divert you from your one true path. And never, ever talk to any of those old women. You know what we mean. We shouldn’t have to explain that one. Besides they only speak in riddles that can never be understood. And some of them are downright dangerous. Those who look for trouble find it. And we knew, that at the end of the path. Whichever one I took. Stood a prince, with twopointtwo chubby, clean-faced angelic children, a dog named “rover,” a house with a door in the middle and two cars.
But this is what I know… I had dressed me in but rags. In my spotted handkerchief tied to the stick held at a jaunty angle, I’d put nothing of any sustenance. Well, a princess doesn’t need to eat, does she? What about her svelte figure? She has no real needs. After a while, when the dried bread ran out and darkness had fallen, I sat in the dust and grass at the side of the road. Fearful of every unfamiliar night noise away from my straight path. I rummaged in the bottom of the handkerchief. Desperate. For something. I found a tiny scrap of brown paper. It spoke out loud to me, saying “is this the life you want?” I hugged myself hard and cried myself to sleep.
What really happened was… I had dreams of not having any hands. That I was a mermaid who had to lose her voice in order to get her man and walk on magicked legs, every footstep like pushing her sole onto a sharpened knife. I dreamt of covering myself in pieces of sown-together fur, rubbing my face with soil and running into the night. Waking up at dawn, covered in dew, I saw I had three choices, so I took the last one. I heard a bird singing her name out loud. I knew she was my grandmother as I had her name. And I knew that she held truth. I followed her on a path that led deep into the woods. I found a tiny house with woodsmoke whisping up between the tree branches. A woman looking very much like a witch came out. A broom in her hand. She grinned when she saw me. She came up to me and kissed me. Full. On the lips. I dropped my map and my compass. They sit deep in the grass rusting. I still live there to this day. This tale is true as the day I entered the forest, as true as the east wind that carried my words to you and as true as a summer’s day. I tell you this tale so that you can pass it on to your daughters and granddaughters. But, I must tell you this, what really happened was that all this took place without one word being spoken.