As I promised in my post of Feb 4th, here’s another installment of my book-in-progress, Grandma’s Masks. If you missed the previous installment on February 20th, click here to read it. Or click the Serial Fiction tab to read all the previous posts of Grandma’s Masks.
How to Stop an Itch
Long ago, or maybe only yesterday, there was a young girl who didn’t belong where she was born. She did not look like anyone in her family, or even in her town. They had blue eyes or green eyes, but no one else had dark eyes the color of mink, like she did. They had smooth pink and white skins, but her skin was a freckled goldy-brown. Their noses were short and broad, but hers was narrow and crooked. Their fingers were wide and stubby, as were their toes, but hers were long and thin. Their hair was brown and straight as plank boards, but her burnt orange locks grew in curls that were painful to comb in the mornings. In short, everyone else was beautiful, and she was not.
She asked her mother and her father and her brothers and her sisters and her friends and her neighbors, and even the people she hardly knew at all – “Where are the people who look like me?” But all they said were things like, “Huh? I don’t know, don’t bother me,” or “Why do you have to worry about things like that?” And sometimes they even said, “You look the same as the rest of us.” Which she knew was a lie. She had spent many hours looking in her hand-mirror, searching for resemblances. But she never found any. Not one.
So one day she left her family and her town, and set off to find the people who looked like her. As she traveled, she asked everyone she met, “Where can I find the people who look like me?” But she got no answers.
This became quite discouraging after awhile, and although she was an independent girl who didn’t like to ask for help, one day as she was traveling between one village and another she suddenly stopped in the middle of the dusty, empty road and raised her arms in supplication to the sky. “Gods!” she called, although she was not at all sure there were any, “If you are there, please send me someone who knows where the people who look like me are.” She closed her eyes and waited.
The girl had heard the old stories about wizards wielding rune-encrusted wands, witches and wise women selling charms by the side of the road, fairies who lived inside tree trunks, djinnis who appeared in puffs of smoke, and other magical beings who seemed to enjoy granting wishes and favors. Sometimes they charged quite a high price for their services, but at this point the girl was so frustrated she felt she would pay nearly anything.
She opened her eyes, but no wizard, witch, fairy or djinn appeared to be walking down the road toward her. It was just as dusty and empty as before. “Well, I didn’t really believe it anyway,” thought the girl. “I knew it would turn out to be another lie.”
Just then she felt a small ping! of pain on her hand, as if something had bitten her. She looked at her hand and saw a tiny red dot. Her hand began to itch. Then another ping! on her upper arm, inside her sleeve. Her arm began to itch. A ping! on her shoulder, then at the base of her neck, followed by more itching. Something was biting her; hopping and biting its way up her body. Ping! on her earlobe. Ping! on the side of one nostril. Finally she felt the ping! on her forehead, right between her eyebrows. Her whole head was one giant itch.
She took her hand-mirror out of her pocket and held it in front of her face, searching for the bug that was biting her. She saw that she had a tiny drop of red blood on her ear lobe and another on her nostril, as if she were wearing ruby studs. Between her eyebrows was a much larger drop of ruby red blood, and nestling in the center of this drop was a flea. The flea was combing its hairy feelers while taking leisurely sips of blood.
Be sure to catch the next installment of Grandma’s Masks, coming next Wednesday March 6th, when you can read more of Flea’s story. And please leave comments and tell me what you think so far!