The Work of Irene Fialho

Visit Sintra
Meet Antonia
The House
Pebble Soup
The Elves and Aunt Greenwaters


The Ten Elves of Aunt Greenwaters

Once upon a time, indeed not long ago, in a big city of this world lived a young woman much in love with words. She was so in love with words she could not write a single phrase, in fear they might be damaged if she dared to so. She read and read and mixed words in her head, she used to tell tales and fabricate novels in her mind, she consummated her nights dreaming of books to be, but she could not bear the idea of putting the images, metaphors and stories into written form. She was certain she was a writer, but she disguised her scribbling with carpets of excuses – this day she had not time, she had to watch a movie on TV, the next day she had a headache, next week would be cleaning week, next year she would be closer to her forties, the deadline she had scheduled herself to begin writing the novel of her life, or maybe her journal, or maybe her memories…

Then, one day, the young lady woke up feeling she could no longer go on with her writer self disguised by the carpet of excuses, but she did not know how, or where, to begin. The first thought she had was a thought of helpless and of sorrow for her, but immediately she decided that, to be a writer, she had to attend writer’s lessons. She hushed to a Creative Writing Course, in a well-known University, where best-selling writers were teaching young women like her that power of words lies in imagination, in grammar, in rhetoric. She loved the course because teachers made students write as an exercise, basing texts on themes themselves wanted to develop, made remarks on students scribbling, but, in the end of the semester, after getting her “Writer’s Diploma”, the young lady got home and, alone by herself, she could not write a word. By this time, she was starving for more writing, she passed her nights singing the “Writers Lullaby”, mainly the refrain that says “do not write a word, words write themselves”. Every morning she waked up exhausted, and starving for more words. Searching for a salvation arm to hold her, she decided to go to places where writers use to meet, books presentations, premieres, vernissages, installations, any place where word-fed people join and socialize. After some months of this activity, she had not written a word, but whenever someone asked her what she did for living, she answered “Oh, I write…” and her name become known in writer’s circles, and she was considered blasé for her desplycence with her work. One night, at a fashion pub where people fed by words met, someone from a newspaper mentioned the redaction needed a new chronicler, to substitute an old lady, Aunt Greenwaters, who was about to retire, and another someone mentioned the young lady’s name as a promise in writing, fit to the place. Marvelled with the idea of working with words, the young lady could not say no to the proposal, next day she would sit at her newspaper desk and write a chronicle.

Glorious was her entrance in the paper building; glorious her sitting at the desk; turning on the computer was glorious. An hour passed, and then a day went on, and she could not write a single phrase: at first, she thought she had no imagination, she did not know what to write; then she began writing some words, but the fear of grammar took her and she could only see errors in every syllable on the screen; at last, she could not find a metaphor suited for the beauty of the form, and she abandoned the keyboard and screen and run away home. That night sleep could not take her to dreams land, no “Writer’s Lullaby” was sung in her head to calm her down. Next morning she walked to the paper building with heavy steps and a weight in her heart. She did not comb her hair, nor put lipstick on her lips, nor she cared for the clothes she was wearing: she could only think “I cannot write… I cannot write…” This time a real despair took her from within to outside, and she sat on the desk, with big dark eye circles and her head on her hands

Aunt Greenwaters, the old lady chronicler she was about to substitute, walked in the room and watched her with mercy: “Dear girl, what’s going on?” she asked, and the young lady answered in a low voice: “I’m going to give up with writing… I can not write, I’m not a writer.” Aunt Greenwaters smiled and comforted her: “There, do you think you are the only one? Do you think I began writing in a day? You have to keep on trying…” The young lady almost yield at her: “What do you think I’ve been doing all my life? Words do not want to be written: that’s the truth! If only I could be like you… You wrote every day, for half a century! You have to have a secret for writing! Tell me, tell me please, tell me what is your secret?” Aunt Greenwaters then sat by the young lady side and hold her hands, keeping a smile in her mouth, and replied: “You are right: I have a secret, I never told it to anyone, kept it inside me, locked with three keys. I guess it is time for me to release my secret, now that I’m going to retire, and I can not find a better person to pass the keys, once you are going to substitute me…” The young lady was triumphant: “I knew! Writers have to keep secrets; otherwise, words could not write themselves… It must be a kind of magic, isn’t it?” “Yes my dear — said Aunt Greenwaters – the writer’s secret is a spell, but you do not perform it with an enchanted stick. The writer’s secret sets on the ten magic elves that everyday sit by our side, telling us what, and how, to write.” “Oh, Aunt Greenwaters, how can I find me a bunch of ten elves to help me in this task?” Aunt Greenwaters stood up and solemnly told the young lady: “You have nothing to fear: I’m here to pick up my stuff, and when I leave, tonight, I’ll command my ten elves to stay here, to obey you and to help you with your writings. I, myself, do no longer need them, since I know too well their way of acting, so I’ll be pleased to gift them to you.” The young lady was so happy then, she could not even thank the old chronicler, she could only say: “And how, how will I know, what will I do today, while waiting for your elves?” Aunt Greenwaters knew that young people are always in a hurry to see things, either these things are elves or scribbling, but she also knew she had to teach patience to her substitute, so she said: “Today you do nothing. See, you still don’t have my elves, so you cannot write a piece. Sit here, by your computer, and pretend to write, so the redactor in chief, if he comes in, thinks you are working. Go practising your skills on the keyboard, the fastness of your tips against the letters. Tomorrow you will be able to do much better. Meanwhile, my ten elves will come tonight, when the building will be desert, and will write a lovely piece that you’ll present to your chief tomorrow. ” Aunt Greenwaters left, leaving the new chronicler alone with her computer. Knowing the ten elves could not help her till that night, she began to write the most various things, from her name to the narrative of her difficulties with writing, and the day went on fast while she typed, so fast it was almost the next day when she woke up from her typing fury. That night, the young writer did not sing her usual lullaby, but she dreamed with ten little men, pointy hears, holding small pens and paper in their hands and smiling with white teeth tattooed with all sorts of brilliant words.

Next morning the young writer entered the newspaper building with a smile on her face and a sun in her heart. She was longing to see what the elves had done during the night, so she hurried to her computer. She did not need to turn it on, since on the top of the keyboard were laying six printed pages of text that the elves had left for her. She begun to read and found a piece describing the troubles of a young lady who wanted to be a writer but did not know how to. At first, she was astonished, because she could not understand how the elves could know her story: they surely were magic beings. After a while, she recognized her words, the words she had typed the day before, when she was pretending to write. In a moment, she reached the phone, asked for a connection to Aunt Greenwaters. On the other side, the old lady answered her with a question: “Have you read what the elves left for you?” “Yes, the young writer replied, and the little thieves have copied only what I typed yesterday…” “Is it well written?” “It is lovely!” Aunt Greenwaters laughed: “My dear, it was you that wrote that piece, not the elves!” “How was this possible? I haven’t printed anything, I even did not write anything…” Aunt Greenwaters then replied “Of course you haven’t printed anything: it was me, last night, after you left. I turned on your computer and printer, and printed the six pages of wonderful prose you typed during the day. Now you have a nice piece to show your chief!” There was a silence, and after it the young writer still asked: “Aunt Greenwaters, what about the ten elves? How do they help you to write? Where are they? I’d like to see them…” “Very well, said Aunt Greenwaters, I’ll show them to you. Stretch your arms in front of you, now open your hands and tell me, what do you see?” “My ten fingers…” “These are your ten elves. Mine are mine. Use them every day to type in your keyboard: make them dance there, sing them a daily song. You’ll watch them helping you with your writing, as long as you believe in elves, and as long as you believe in you.”
more work by Irene Fialho

Home |Soul Food Cafe|