Once there was a storyteller who started one of the stories she often told like this: There was a young girl, once upon a time; and her name was Kristen. She was not a very big girl - being only six years tall on her last birthday - but she was magical; she had super powers –
She could fly when she wanted to … which was not often; flying made her dizzy. She had super strength; she could lift up whole cars to see what was beneath them … but only when she was actually looking for something … something, perhaps, that she had misplaced herself. Bullets bounced off her. And she could run faster than anyone in her play yard. But those were just her normal super we she could also sing ... she had a beautiful voice. Passers-by would stop on the street just to hear her hum. She could paint beautiful watercolors. And she had a vivid imagination. Those were her better super powers, she thought; along with listening very carefully to the entire world around her, that was her most favorite super power.
Oh! And she could become invisible. She liked that power, too.
One day, Kristen was sitting on an old and rickety park bench in the park ... she was being invisible ... with her legs sticking straight out in front of her. There were pigeons balancing on her legs. And she was tossing them pieces of popcorn. When an old woman walked up to her; sat down next to her on the bench; and said, "Hello."
Kristen looked at the woman a long time.
At last she said, "I'm invisible."
"I can see that," the old woman answered.
"How can you see me?" Kristen asked.
"I can't." The old woman pointed at the pigeons 'hanging' in the air in front of her. "I just see pigeons doing very un-pigeon-like things, and I guess there must be a reason for it. Perhaps, I think to myself, there is an invisible girl sitting on that park bench ... I will sit down next to her and say 'Hello' ... which I did."
And Kristen said, "Hello."
She turned visible.
"Thank you," the old woman said. "I was getting nervous talking to no one I could see."
“You’re a very good guesser.
“I’m a very old woman.” The old woman pronounced her words carefully … as though her mouth was made for a different language altogether. She reminded Kristen of her own grandmother who had taught her how to use her powers as she discovered she had them. She had been a good guesser, too. In fact, she had been an excellent guesser … so excellent … you never played cards with grandmother; she always won.
Kristen smiled. "What can I do for you?"
"I want you to paint me a picture; I understand you are an artist." She held up a thin bony finger to keep Kristen from interrupting. "I know such things. And if I don’t know, I ask.
“and I have asked about you, and I have been told you are a very good artist.”
"I am an artist," Kristen admitted. "And I am very good; I can paint you a picture." Kristen reached into her pocket and pulled out her small packet of watercolors, and a notebook. She asked, "What would you like me to paint? I do wonderful trees, and I love painting mountains." She gestured around her. "I painted this park."
Kristen stared at the old woman ... who continued, "I want you to paint a picture of me standing next to you, beneath this tree, here, in this park." She laughed. “But you can’t paint yourself invisible.” The old woman touched the bench. "You can paint yourself sitting on the bench, painting me.” And Kristen remembered sketching her grandmother - how she would suddenly break into a pose while they were walking together – squaring off against a ham-fisted sunset, or pointing after a departing hummingbird.
Are all grandmothers like that?”
Her smile broadened
“Or I can stand behind you … if you prefer. Looking over your shoulder at the painting of me you are painting.” She leaned in toward Kristen, and Kristen thought: you smell like cherry blossoms, old woman … like my grandmother smelled of cherry blossoms.
Kristen stared at the old woman.
Do all grandmothers smell like cherry blossoms?
She asked, “How did you find this park; I only just painted it this morning.”
“I smelled the fresh paint”
“But how did you find me?”
A snarl broke from the old woman’s throat. “I smelled you under the freshly painted park smell.”
Kristen called upon another of her super powers, then; she had the power to see the world as it really was as well as hear it ... and she saw that the old woman was not an old woman at all; she was an old dragon –
She was a hungry old dragon ... who must have wandered into Kristen's painting of a park by chance ... and she had seen Kristen on her bench (dragons are not fooled by little tricks like invisibility) ... perhaps she had smelled Kristen … and her stomach started to growl. It sounded like thunder. What was Kristen to do?
What could Kristen do?
What had her grandmother taught her to do?
She had taught her to paint.
And paint quickly ...
Kristen painted a cherry blossom tree in her notebook – four quick bold strokes and a wet hook catching the branches together, and splashes of bright red and pink blossoms she splashed across the page that the wind snatched up and carried around her. She painted a bench - her bench - beneath the tree ... then she painted an old woman pausing beside the bench … scales shredding skin an old dragon – shredding its skin –
Dragon clawing aside its arms climbing out -
Kristen holding her opened notebook in front of her like a shield ... the dragon leaping dove into the notebook that Kristen slammed shut.
The old dragon roared!
And Kristen put the notebook back into her pocket. Later, she thought, she would paint a picture of a hungry old dragon that is about to pounce on a storyteller. The storyteller would be about to escape the dragon, of course.
She will be running away into her own story. Kristen smiled. She would call the painting: There was a storyteller, once upon a time ... and her name was Kristen.