Hello Everyone :) It's been a while since I've posted on fictionpress and I don't know why. But this is a one-shot that I actually wrote for my English class. We had just finished reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and if any of you have read that you know that a main theme is Magic Realism-or when normal everyday things are seen as magical and magical things are seen as normal. Anyway, we had to write a short story using Magic Realism and this is what I wrote. And I actually like it a lot so I thought I would post it on here. Let me know what you think:) Reviews are returned:)
The Old Woman and Her Menagerie
The caravan trundled into the town during the hottest part of the day, the noise preceding the sight of the little rickety train of carts cresting the hill of the dirt road that led into the village. The children were the ones who spotted it first and alerted the rest of the town by running from door to door, poking their heads in and shouting in delight about its arrival. The men and women, although having already seen the caravan and its wares more than a handful of times in their life, smiled and set down what they were doing to stand in their doorways and watch its procession down the main street of the village. They whispered to one another, reminiscing of the last time it had come and wondered what the old woman had brought with her on this visit.
By the time that the train stopped in a clearing just after the beginning of the woods, almost every child in town, along with a few of the younger adults who could not remember the last time the caravan had come, had gathered to watch as several men emerged from one of the carts and set about unloading. They spoke to one another in a strange language as they drove large iron spikes into the ground and were soon drenched in sweat from the hot sun that was beating overhead. Some of the children, on the pretext of going to pet the two donkeys that pulled the train, tried to peek into the partially open doors to see what lay within but were soon shooed away with a loud yell from one of the workers. They scampered away laughing to join the rest of the group who were watching in awe as the white tent rose slowly before them, blotting out the sun. It wasn't a big tent, but it was magnificent all the same.
The men didn't stop to admire their handiwork as the last of the guide ropes were tightened, but wiped their brows with dirty hands and threw their tools back into the cart they had unpacked them from. As the rest of the workers moved to the other carts and began to unlock the bolts that held them shut, the biggest man peeled away from the group and came to stand in front of the crowd of bystanders which had grown in the time it took for the tent to be raised. He gestured from the group back to the village saying something in his strange tongue, trying to convey that they were to leave now while they unpacked the rest of the train. It took several minutes for the older watchers to figure out what he wanted, but eventually they began leading the protesting children back to the village promising they would return later.
It became necessary to place guards on the road leading to the caravan and the mysterious things it had brought as children tried to sneak away to see what was being unloaded. Parents even assigned their children useless tasks like sweeping their dirt floors or weeding a garden that was only weeds in the first place in an effort to try and divert their attention from the train. But soon the parents found their own imaginations wandering toward the caravan and eagerly anticipating sunset when they would be allowed to go back and see the old woman and her menagerie.
Only when the sun was swallowed by the horizon and torches were lit to illuminate the road that led to the train, did everyone in town set down what they were doing and make their way towards the clearing. They all filed into the tent, their hushed whispering joining the choir of crickets and tree frogs. All throughout the room were tables, on which stood something covered by a red shawl and guarded by one of the workers who watched the crowd like so many impassive statues.
A bell tolled somewhere and from the side of the tent that rubbed up against the train, a ramp unfolded. From the gloom inside emerged the most ancient woman any of the townspeople had ever seen. A braid of silver hair swung down around her ankles, and clouded blue eyes stared out from a face that had more folds than the heavy skirts and shawls that hung from her body. She spread her gnarled hands wide and revealed a set of astonishingly perfect teeth in a warm smile while continuing on bare feet down the ramp.
Without any prelude, she moved over the cage closest to the entrance. A snap of her fingers and the torches were dimmed; a second snap and the man who stood sentry behind the table whisked the shawl off a cage that housed one of the oddest looking animals anyone had ever seen. Or at least they assumed it was an animal for it had no eyes or mouth that anyone could discern.
Feather-weight, the strange creature flitted about the cage seemingly all wings as it lighted on one bar of the cage only to move to the other side. As the children edged as close as they could to admire the black and yellow stripes of the spectacle, the old woman answered what no one had asked. She called the thing a butterfly and told a story of how it went under a miraculous transformation to assume its current shape. With the gesturing of her hands she spun a tale of how something similar to a worm could change into such a strange but beautiful insect. It went mostly unheard by the children who were too captivated by its appearance to pay attention, but fell on the wondering ears of the adults who mused aloud if other animals were capable of such powers.
When the woman was done with her story about the butterfly, she moved onto the next table towards the left back corner of the tent. The children moved with her eagerly, the ones in the back standing up on their toes to try and see better while the adults continued to discuss the powers of the butterfly. The old woman waited until the attention in the room had once again turned palpable and snapped her fingers again. With a soft whoosh, another red shawl was whipped off a second cage and revealed another strange looking animal.
The new creature lifted it wings at the sound of the gasping that followed its appearance and beat the air a couple times, letting out an earsplitting shriek that made the children clap their hands to their ears and the adults jump backward onto each other's feet. Enormous yellow eyes fixed the crowed in a disgruntled glare, and the villagers concluded that it had to be some type of demon bird. Their suspicions were confirmed when the thing turned its head all the way around so that it was facing the opposite direction of its body.
The woman held up her hand for silence when muttering broke out that she had brought an evil creature that would surely bring bad luck upon them all. She explained that the strange bird was an owl and that though it foretold the death of others when it called out in the depths of the night, it was not evil. It simply warned others of their death so that they could prepare for the journey. The murmuring settled down a little with her story but even the children had given the cage a wide berth and eyed the owl mistrustfully.
Everyone turned expectantly towards the last cage. The old woman hobbled over and clicked her fingers one last time. Again, a shawl was removed to reveal the strangest looking creature yet. Sitting calmly on a bar that ran horizontally through the cage was a little reptile with mottled yellow and green scales and bulging eyes that stared placidly in opposite directions. It didn't seem to realize that the crowed was trying hard not to laugh at its comical appearance.
For the first time, the old woman didn't jump right into an explanation but took out two squares of different colored cloth. She reached between the bars of the cage and held up a red square behind the creature. In the blink of any eye, the reptile had blended into its makeshift background with only its black eyes giving up its secret. With the withdrawal of the red cloth it reverted back to its original color only to shift to blue when the old woman poked the second square between the bars. The bystanders exchanged impressed looks, and they eagerly absorbed the old woman's description of the last creature which she called a chameleon that could shift its colors to match any surroundings it encountered.
With a final demonstration from the chameleon and a sweeping arm that took in the crowd and the animals, the old woman brought the show to a close. The silent workers who had faded into the background reemerged to throw the shawls back over the cages and brought them back up the ramp into the depths of the train. The old woman took a bow while the crowd broke into applause and with a last smile, followed the men back into the train, the ramp folding up behind her.
The crowd left the tent and moved as one back up the path to the village, the excitement of the evening illuminating their faces more than the torches that lit the way through the darkness. All around children and adults alike were discussing the experience, the wonder of the transforming butterfly, the mystique of the owl, the talent of the chameleon, and speculating what on earth the old woman would include in her next menagerie.