Photo: Sue Vincent
“And the man in the straw danced and danced …”
“Till the morning came and changed his chance?”
Thomas stroked his granddaughter’s head. She never tired of the story. Her favorite, and she knew it by heart. As he knew her many expressions, the myriad of small sounds she made as she dreamed each night.
She was his favorite. His only, but still his favorite. No one could convince him otherwise.
“Grandpa?” the child burrowed deeper into her blankets.
“Do you think the man in the straw ever wanted to be something else?”
He felt his eyes widen as he glanced down at her. Her eyes were open, too. Gone were any traces of the soft daze of moments before sleep.
“What do you think, Pumpkin?” he returned the question, uncertain whether what he’d read into it was indeed in the child’s mind, and unwilling to insert his own assumptions into what may well be a different query altogether.
There were many things to wish were different. In the folktale. In life, too. He often wondered if she so loved the old story exactly because it spoke of vulnerabilities and challenge, of facing fears and finding fault and making do and fighting on. All things she’d know more than enough of.
The child nibbled momentarily on her lower lip. “I think maybe he sometimes wanted to be the man in the spiral. Or Fire. Or the mask. Or the stag.”
“Hmm …” he nodded, hoping she’d say more, wondering if she would. There was a depth to the child. Currents he did not always understand or believe he ought to. An Old Soul, his beloved Mara had said of the newborn even in the few days she had with the child before the angels called.
“But,” the little girl sighed, curling up so her back rested against her grandfather’s thigh as he sat on the edge of her cot. “I think he knew he was the Man In The Straw …”
The pause lingered. The child yawned.
“… and that he was meant to dance and dance …” she whispered, her breath deepening, her eyes closed. “… till morning came and changed his chance…”