Suddenly, out of nowhere, an ordinary-looking lady appeared to Cinderella. It was in fact, her own neighbour. Cinderella couldn’t figure out how she could have appeared in her own garden like that, but she certainly had her attention.
This neighbour (let’s call her the Messenger) said that Cinderella could go to the ball, if she wanted to.
Cinderella was very excited to hear this. “Oh my! It’s just what my heart desired!”
The Messenger was also very excited, because she was happy to deliver good news, though she wasn’t used to showing up in people’s homes or gardens like that.
“There are a few things about this, though,” the Messenger said.
“Yes?” said Cinderella.
“Well, you have to find me a pumpkin in the first place.”
“Oh,” said Cinderella. “Why can’t you find the pumpkin yourself?”
“I can’t do it, because I’m not actually here. I’m bilocating (let’s say this is a Catholic fairy-tale) and so I can’t see you or your garden and my hands won’t work to pick it up.”
Cinderella agreed to go looking for a pumpkin, because nobody else was there in the garden with her, and so at least they wouldn’t see her garden antics. She found a proper heavy one and brought it over. Besides, she had to admit, this was a little bit exciting. It’s not every day that someone suddenly appears in your garden. Even if it’s just the neighbour, it’s still kind of interesting.
“And I’ll need three mice.”
Mice! This was a very unusual request. What does a giant vegetable have to do with mice? Fortunately she remembered that there was a mousetrap nearby and it wouldn’t actually be very difficult to find these. She presented them to the Messenger, not noticing how many were actually there. Maybe there were three, maybe five or maybe more. It really didn’t matter that much, did it?
Then the Messenger said, “Thank you for these. There’s one more thing.”
Cinderella was, admittedly, very curious as to what this might be, but a little bit nervous.
“The ball has a dress-code, as some parties and balls do. Everyone is supposed to dress up a bit. Do you have a dress, or a skirt? If I have that, I can do miracles – well, I mean, the one who sent me can do miracles.”
At this, Cinderella hesitated. But then she began to open up. “Well, maybe, yes, sort of. But I almost never wear dresses. Sure, when I was a little girl, I used to do that kind of thing, but I mean, nowadays I’m all grown up. And I don’t even know how I’d look in a skirt. It’s not what I normally wear. I mean, I have some, but that seems like a lot of trouble. And besides, what if I look silly?”
The Messenger said, “Silly?”
Cinderella said, “Yes, silly. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. I’m an adult now. I do adult things.”
At this point the Messenger, who was the neighbour, of course, tried to remember what Chesterton had said about such things.
The Messenger said, “But you know, Chesterton talks about being a fool. He did so in his biography on St. Francis of Assisi – the word ‘fool’ almost became a golden word for him. And Chesterton said that to be a saint you have to be ready to be not only a martyr but also a fool.”
Cinderella wasn’t convinced. She was standing there imagining herself in a gigantic over-puffy bridesmaid style dress from the 1980s, complete with hair frozen in place with hair-spray. She shuddered at the thought.
The Messenger continued, “And what about what C.S. Lewis wrote? He said that when we grow up, we’re supposed to continue to like all the things that we liked as a child. He made the case that growing up shouldn’t involve abandoning all those things, but rather, adding new things, to go alongside the old things. It’s a matter of broadening, not replacing.”
Cinderella thought about these things. She looked at the Messenger. She sized her up. “So you’re saying I should do these things and go?”
The Messenger was very excited, “Yes! Yes! You’ll have a wonderful time! Laughing and talking and being silly together! The whole community! Oh, it will be so wonderful!”
Cinderella said, “Well, I’m not sure if that sounds like a good idea. Maybe I have other plans.”
Cinderella sat back down on the garden bench, crossed her legs and took out her iphone.
The minutes ticked away.
The Messenger was confused and stood transfixed, staring at Cinderella.
This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go.
She looked at Cinderella and she looked at Cinderella looking at her iphone.
Finally, the Messenger had an idea.
All at once, the pumpkin began to change. It rose up, higher and higher, becoming larger and larger. It began to glow from the inside, a warm, pumpkin yellow glow. Golden wheels appeared on each side of it, and the tendrils and leaves of the pumpkin arranged themselves gracefully and became solid gold as they settled into place.
Cinderella barely looked up from her phone, but she did notice that the pumpkin had become a carriage, and she heard a soft click as the door of the carriage closed. At the front, she thought that she might have seen some horses, but she wasn’t entirely sure, and besides, a new text just came in.
She noticed that the neighbour was gone, and, truth be told, Cinderella was kind of glad. She wasn’t sure if she had ever really cared for her anyway. And besides, she’d be able to read all about the ball afterwards on Facebook anyway. Surely the newsy bits would be posted, along with photos.
The carriage began to stir. At the head of it were three restless but beautiful horses.
If you could have heard the whispers of the horses, you would have heard one horse say to the other, “Do you feel like a horse? Let’s go!”
In a moment, the horses were gone.
Meanwhile, the people of the village were texting about the upcoming ball and many discussed it on Facebook. Even the younger children were on their phones.
That was why it was only the very, very youngest of children, or those who didn’t own phones who were looking out the window.
They were the main ones who saw the carriage pass by. Mind you, there were some adults, but the eye-witness accounts differed.
It was about the horses, you see. Everyone described the carriage the same way, and everyone agreed that the horses were exceedingly and unusually fast, (“gliding on air” was how some people put it) but there was disagreement about the horses.
Everyone agreed that there was a horse with a long chestnut-coloured mane in the front. She went by so quickly that it was difficult to catch a proper glimpse of her. They also agreed that the second horse, directly behind it, was a beautiful slightly darker horse with a silky dark brown mane, and there was also agreement that there was a third horse, with a dark golden mane. Some commented that the third horse looked a little out of place, but they agreed there were these three.
What was puzzling was that some people saw, on either side of the middle horse, an additional horse, making a total of five horses. Nobody could say what colour mane these extra ‘companion’ horses had, but they were in agreement that these horses ran without bridles, and some even said that the hooves of these extra horses didn’t even touch the ground.
The villagers couldn’t make sense of this. What would be the point of two ‘extra’ horses running alongside the other horses if they weren’t wearing bridles, or if they weren’t even touching the ground?
But while they puzzled over this detail, others came forward saying they saw two more horses rushing along with the carriage, but these horses were running behind.
It made no sense – what owner of a carriage would arrange things so that two horses would be almost ‘following’ the carriage? That’s even stranger than unbridled horses, because at least an unbridled horse could be said to be in the correct position! That would be seven horses!
Probably most puzzling of all were the extra details provided by some other village children. It seemed like the younger they were, the more non-sensical were the details they provided. It was almost as if they wanted to join in the fun by adding details that nobody could see. One child mentioned a fast-footed donkey and another mentioned some dogs. A little boy named Thomas had pointed to the top of the carriage as it went by. He said, “Angel!” but nobody heard him, because, after all, he was just a little fellow, and besides, he couldn’t pronounce his letter ‘L’ very well yet.
The carriage arrived at the palace, and when the doors opened, nobody recognized the lady inside.