Have you ever been in a situation from which you cannot see a way out? Sort of like Cinderella cleaning chimney soot and cleaning chimney soot and cleaning chimney soot all day waiting for either the fairy godmother or prince charming or least of all one of the seven dwarfs to materialize out of thin air?
None of the seven dwarfs arrive of course because you’ve mixed up stories. You are left staring at your sooty hands, thinking of all the chimney cleanings the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Besides, every time you’re done cleaning you have the wicked stepmom come over and take credit for the shiny grate and the spotless floor.
Or maybe you are in a situation where you finally accept that you wouldn’t mind chimney cleaning for the rest of your life as a profession. But one day, a big machine arrives in the neighbourhood that can make sooty chimneys sparkling clean before you can even say the word clean! Now even the wicked stepmom doesn’t want you anymore. Or perhaps the wicked stepmom gets a brand new electric stove and heater and walls up the old fireplace.
You weren’t such a great chimney cleaner anyway while you were at it. You took every opportunity to stare at the glowing coals in the fire imagining faces and shapes in the red glow where there were none and you often took a piece of leftover coal and traced words on the grate. This would, of course, infuriate stepmom but now you kind of wish she was here so you could replace the old woman in the shoe when she died in her house.
You hem and haw and bawl for a while shaking your fist at a world without chimneys, without soot, without wicked stepmothers. You always knew prince charmings and fairy godmothers were fiction but you did not expect wicked stepmoms to disappear so soon too.
You consider washing your hands and face and changing into a completely new person that would contribute something valuable to a chimneyless society. But you neither have soap nor shoes (which, having gone bankrupt, the prince decided to keep for himself by the way).
So then you take your soot elsewhere.
You find a well located spot, perhaps a wall, a big piece of canvas or just a corner and take your sooty hand and start scrawling. You scrawl with the leftover charcoal and the soot that are still left in your hands.
At first the words don’t come. Through the years, you’ve gotten too used to cleanliness. You keep scrawling and then cleaning it off and then bending down to wipe off the charcoal dust from the ground. Soot is bad. Soot is dirt.
You write three words and erase two. And then you look over your shoulder in case the wicked stepmother’s watching. Sometimes you fall back into the habit of thinking that it’s time for the fairy godmother to come.
And then sometimes you think of the great ladies and gentlemen at the big ball with their clean parchments and their sharpened quills and their nice, clean hands discussing affairs of the world with style and grace of which you have none.
But you still bend down, pick up your piece of charcoal again and start scrawling.