“And, here’s something for the girls.”
No one in the close cluster would approach the fast talking, funny smelling, dressed for a Sunday morning on a Thursday afternoon, coal boss.
Finally, one of the mothers accepted the gift and invited him to stay to supper.
The children gathered around Mama Grace.
“What is it?”
“What’s it do?”
“Can I see?”
Mama Grace pulled the brown paper and tie away and showed them the picture book.
“What is a cinderella?”
“Give it to Meemaw, and maybe she will read it to you.”
“But, Meemaw says we only read the Bible?”
“Maybe, she will change her mind.”
The girls were pretty doubtful about Meemaw ever changing, but they were so set on knowing what a cinderella was.
Meemaw was still looking for herbs, when they came to her cabin porch.
“I bet cinderella is a type of candy you can get in the city.”
“I think it’s a dance you get to do when you are sixteen and ready for dancing.”
The littlest who knew very little about the city or dances but always looked at the holy pictures in her “The Children’s Guide to Bible Study,” stared at the book’s cover.
She saw a skinny, blonde woman with a puffy, shiny blue dress.
She cleared her throat, pointed to the cover, and murmured, “Maybe, a cinderella is a lady in a big dress?”
The others crowded around the cover. One traced the billows of the gown and slowly whistled.
“Imagine all that fabric for one big, old dress?”
“It’s prettier than the sky!”
The girls swarmed her asking her to read cinderella to them. Meemaw, although usually strict, found herself a little swept away in their curiosity and anticipation. So, she agreed to read the story.
The girls learned about Cinderella. They also for the first time understood how much they had to learn.
“When is once upon a time?”
“What is a step-mother, a step-sister, a magic, a fairy god mother, a glass slipper, a gown, a prince, a ball, and a castle?”
“Happily ever after,” they all repeated after the story.
Each mulled over the words.
“Could you only have one of those if you kissed a prince? May I have one? What is it like?”
The littlest was the first to speak, “I don’t think you can go salamander catching or tree climbing in a ball gown. Don’t you have to wear one all the happily ever after time?”
No one knew how to answer. No one, not even Meemaw, knew all the answers arising from such a small book.
A vague, off putting feeling took over the girls. Some sat with their knees to their chins and closed their eyes quietly sniffling. A few wandered from room to room and adult to adult trying to distract themselves from this new nervousness. One girl hid under her bed.
Meemaw rounded them up and gave them all a mix of soda water and cod liver oil.
After she gulped her spoonful, the littlest began to shake. She took Cinderella and threw her in the fireplace.
Meemaw watched the book begin to burn and muttered something about ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The girls crowded around the fire trying to save the book.
“Why did you do that?”
“We don’t need a book like that… You can’t feel our ground wearing her glass slippers.”
The girls stopped trying to rescue the book and looked down at their empty, sooty hands and down further at their soiled, bare feet.
Wild and free, they clapped and stomped into the night.