This is the next in a series about Gracie’s dream of one day being a ballerina. It follows this portion of the story which introduces the field mice.
The cold and the rain were beginning to feel as if they would never leave us. Even though the chickens were all dry under their covered run and coop, moisture seemed to permeate everything.
Under our shelter we all looked out at the morning sky. It was gray and dreary. I had two jackets on for extra warmth. My chickens all had their feathers fluffed up to trap insulating air. They gathered close to me, their favorite windbreak.
The daffodils were sagging from the overnight rain, but I felt so thankful for their bright burst of intense yellow, a promise of spring’s eventual arrival.
“So the Daffodil Princesses were practicing their newest and grandest leaps one day, when the field mice arrived with news,” I began.
Suddenly we were all transported into Gracie’s ballet dream.
They were late in arriving for practice, and this was quite unlike them. Holding up flowers for the pageantry of the ballet was something they eagerly anticipated.
They scurried back and forth through the leaping legs of the Daffodil Princesses while trying to get their attention. The Princesses were completely swept up in the beauty of their dance, leaping and flapping higher and higher.
When their dance was finished with a graceful bow and a folding of their wings over their heads, the Daffodil Princesses finally listened to the alarming news brought by the field mice.
(Everyone huddled closer around my chair.)
The Evil King Of Darkest Night had discovered The Great Garden.
(Everyone took a deep breath and held it.)
The Evil King Of Darkest Night didn’t dance, and he didn’t leap. He would just slowly drag his big hulking body slowly and awkwardly while devouring everything in his path. A gray and dreary Air Shadow surrounded him wherever he went.
(Six pairs of eyes stared unblinkingly at me, waiting for whatever might come next.)
“What is an Air Shadow?” asked Emily. “If I’m going to be afraid, I need to know what I’m afraid of so I can watch out for it.”
“No one really knows,” I said in my most mysterious voice. “Only when it passes by, the leaves wither and turn brown and the flowers crumble into ashes.”
(Everyone seemed satisfied with this answer even though it didn’t make any of them less fearful.)
The field mice were bringing news of how The Evil King Of Darkest Night was making his way to the very center of the garden where all of The Garden Princesses live…including The Rose Garden Princess.
(Immediately six pairs of eyes shut tightly.)
“Tell me when it’s over!” whispered Emily.
“Where is the Great Farmer in all of this?” demanded Amelia. “Why doesn’t he stop all of this from happening?”
The others clucked in agreement.
“Why doesn’t he rush in with a rake like you do when there are predators right here in our own backyard?” asked Bessie, who has always been a brave defender of the flock when I’m away.
“Or with a hoe like you did with the snake that time?” added Gracie.
“I’ll bet there isn’t even a Great Farmer in this ballet,” mumbled Emily. “They are all doomed, and us with them.”
“Hey! You’re trying to make the Great Farmer into the bad guy instead of the real bad guy, The Evil King Of Darkest Night!” protested Pearl who usually doesn’t take things like this seriously at all. She did make a good point. It there was a Great Garden, there had to be a Great Farmer.
It was interesting to see how their murmurings made them less fearful. They weren’t gathered tightly together around my feet any longer. Instead they were walking around and flapping their wings and stretching out their necks to discuss whether or not they even needed a Great Farmer to rush in and rescue the Garden Princesses.
All were debating except for Emily who stayed close to me.
“Emily, why do you think there won’t be a Great Farmer of the Great Garden in this ballet?”
She seemed a little stunned by this question, and I could see she was thinking it through. Being the smallest and most timid, she would have the most to lose if there ever was an Evil King Of Darkest Night who found our own little backyard garden.
“Maybe it’s because…” she began.
The others stopped their wing-flapping and neck-stretching and looked at Emily.
“I’m not sure, but I think maybe…maybe it’s because even though he really is there and he will rescue them if necessary…”
I looked right into Emily’s insecure little eyes and said softly, “Go on. I think you just might be onto something there.”
Emily stood a little taller. “But he knows they have to realize for themselves whether or not they will be able to stand up to The Evil King Of Darkest Night first. Maybe it’s so the Garden Princesses can find out what they are like on the inside and when they truly do need help.”
It was quiet for the longest moment, and then Emily realized she may have said something quite profound.
“So it sounds like you’re saying The Great Farmer isn’t going to be much like me, your old Chicken Daddy, because I get crazy with a rake or a hoe every time anything even looks like it’s going to threaten you. Right?”
Everyone began to laugh, even me. I know I have looked absolutely ridiculous so many times. You would never be able to count the times I have rushed in to be their rescuer, swinging a rake or a hoe over my head to chase animals out of our yard. The neighbors must have been laughing hysterically behind their curtains every time too!
And so we would continue on another day, grateful for that day being a bit less dreary because we had each other.
My Life With Gracie taught me life is full of opportunities to find out what we are made of on the inside and when we need help.