She burned down her house -on purpose. But that is not where our story begins. It begins in the rolling plains of France, with boundless meadows put to rest under a bed of snowcapped mountains. Wild flowers tickle the scene, sprouting colonies where they please. Although the mountains leave shadowy footprints in the east, the little village is entombed in a valley of sunlight.
There life pulses to a languid beat: each morning, the baker rolls his cart of warm baguettes through the village square as the fisherman displays his freshly caught produce next to the farmer who sells apples and warm milk; the wives gossip while the little children run circles around their skirts – the lovers walk hand in hand while the elderly watch in reminiscence. Yes, one can see their simple lives make for a gentle portrait, but nobody in the village ever paused to ponder the image.
Except the little old lady. She had her house on the fringes of this soft blanket-village, where the cloth was loose and frayed. Although she reposed on the edges of the textile, she had been one of the first stitches sewn into the composition long, long ago.
Each morning, she would make her way into the village square to watch the farmers and bakers and children and lovers. The little old lady especially loved the little ones – the children – the ones that noticed her.
She always had tissues with her. But the little old lady would never blow her nose – at least not in public, because that would be impolite. She carried tissues for their ability to capture ink, and function as a surrogate for paper. In the village square, the little old lady would write couplets on her tissues. For amusement, some went as follows:
Chirping with glee, storks circle the lovers,
Soon fun will end, for they will be mothers.
She would fold them up and hand them to the children who were polite enough to approach. The children would read them to the other little ones; they all would all smile and skip away.
Children eat porridge while papa drinks wine,
He sleeps through the day – it might be a sign.
If the children do not come, she throws her couplets astray.
The fields and forests, mountains and streams,
A swell place to hide, and waste away dreams.
In fact, one should mention that the little old lady is not even little at all. She attained a sufficient height; however, when one calls an old woman little, she becomes more quaint, wouldn’t you agree?
Each morning, she would dress in patterned skirts and floral shawls – like all little old ladies. The little old lady fills her time with her couplets and observations. The baker with the bread talks to the farmer with the milk who flirts with the girl in the dress who lives with the man at the school who teaches the children in the square who toss her couplets aside.
The next morning was the first of the month, and the little old lady did not walk to the village with her tissues. Instead, she configured a small sack out of a shawl, in which she packed tissues and other shawls. She left her home that morning for the last time, and scaled the nearest shadow-covered mountain until she obtained a view that pleased her. The little old lady was satisfied as she looked down at her house – which was now buried in flames. She smiled, sitting on her shawl which she placed on the flowers that grew from the hilltops in the country of France.
The birds and the time passed her as they fluttered by in an easy breeze that enshrined the valley. The wings of the birds and the hands of the clock beat on as the little villagers followed the trail of smoke back to the picnic-basket house. One by one, the little ants entered the flames, re-emerging with chairs, rugs, pictures, and other delectable goods. The little old lady watched as her picnic-basket home was emptied, then left to burn.
The house passed away, its embers laid to rest in a hillside grave.
But, why did the little old lady burn down her house? I am convinced that no one – especially little old ladies – want to eradicate their house. Instead, I believe she felt as though it was the only way to conclude her worth.
The little old lady was only an image,
A house on the fringes of a soft blanket-village.