Saved A Princess From A Dragon Once

There was no front to this place. You had to drive around to the loading docks to get in. The giant building had long been abandoned by its original occupants, and now had found a second life as a super-sized indoor flea market serving the south. I was in my twenties and finally decided that cinder blocks and one by sixes, could no longer count as furniture. It was time to grow up a little and decorate my living space. I was at the flea market hoping to find some native-american craftwork that might suit my needs.

The size of the place was daunting, with aisle, after aisle, after aisle of every kind of merchandise imaginable. I was deciding if it might be a good idea to leave a trail of bread crumbs back to the car, when I looked up and found I was standing in front of a place that specialized in native-american crafts. Just what I was looking for/wont need the bread crumbs.

This was no flea market grade craft shop. In a sea of velvet Elvis paintings and homemade candles, was this oasis of art. There were paintings, and baskets, and artisan depictions. There was also a large selection of ceramic bowls and vases, that were being handcrafted on-sight. I wondered through the shop awhile, and ended up near the back, watching one of the artists hand-paint clay figurines that had already been fired in the kiln. He was a burley man, and surly artist. I soon sensed that he didn’t much like being watched when he worked. Fair enough. I probably wouldn’t like it either.

I started on my way when I noticed a clay statuette, laying on a cooling rack beside him. It was a simple, but graceful, elegant depiction of a native-american lady in a fine white, and black, and turquoise shroud-like garment. I had no reason for thinking it, but it seemed to me she was a princess. Maybe ten inches high, the lady stands with her head bowed, eye’s closed, and her hands folded beneath her chin in prayer. There is a necklace with a cross on it, intertwined in her fingers. A rosarie perhaps. The only details you see, are of her face and her hands. The rest is a blanket that she has wrapped around herself, to protect from the cold as she prays. It was a blanket, but it was easy to see the resemblance it had to wings protectively wrapped around her.

There wasn’t anything extraordinary about the piece. It was rather plain and unadorned in fact. But I liked it. Thought it might be nice to have an indian princess praying over me at home. So I asked the artist how much it was. He begrudgingly smuffled the price at me at having interrupted him. I tried to hurry, and handed over my money. As I reached for the statue, however, the man grabbed it and tossed it in the garbage can.

I couldn’t have looked more startled and confused, but immediately he waved his hands to assure me it was okay. He said that this one was no good, it was broken, and that he would get me a good one from the back. We both kinda laughed. I glanced at the statuette in the waste basket one more time, wondering how I missed the imperfection, she looked fine to me. No matter, as long as I got a princess.

The painter started for the back room, when I asked for no reason whatsoever,….”So, what’s wrong with it?”. He answered back that she couldn’t stand up. Her base was flawed. As he said this he picked her out of the trash, and tried to stand her on the table to demonstrate. Sure enough, she leaned to one side. He looked back at me with a slight smile at having an artist’s eye, taking pride in looking out for his customer. He then went after another princess from the storeroom. When he returned, he took a moment to point out the craftmanship of the new statue, cradling it in both hands as he showed me it’s details. He then carefully wrapped it up in paper, before putting it in a bag. I thanked him, and he smiled and nodded a “you’re welcome”, as I left.

I made it all the way to Persian rugs and spices before I stopped. If there would have been anything else wrong with her;……a botched paint job, or maybe she was cracked coming out of the kiln. Something else, anything else,…..I would have been fine. It would have been nothing more than a mass-produced, clay figurine. But she wasn’t. She was an Indian Princess, that had trouble with her legs. She couldn’t stand. It wasn’t her fault. She was just made that way. I shifted my braces to get a better stance, leaned comfortably against my crutches, and prayed;…”So, what’s that got to do with me Lord?”. We laughed, and I was off to save a Princess.

I had been standing there a moment, not quite knowing what to say, before the shop artist even noticed me. It was his turn to look startled and confused. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of how to begin. So, I just blurted out that I wanted the Princess in the trash can. There was some awkward silence, and he explained again that it was no good. I could tell he was even a little offended that I would come back in and ask for such a thing. I told him that I knew it sounded crazy, I agreed with him. It was ridiculous. I then nodded at my own condition, and the most obvious reason for such a request. A crippled guy on crutches and braces can’t be turning down an Indian Princess willing to pray over him night and day, just because she has a little trouble standing. That’s gotta be some kinda sin.

I expected that he would fully understand, but for whatever reason, he didn’t get it. He told me no. At this point I was getting a bit anxious about her. I was afraid I was too late. That maybe she had broken when she was tossed in the trash. Or maybe he really wasn’t going to let me have her.

I placed the carefully wrapped princess in the shopping bag on the counter, and slid it toward him. He was miffed by this and sternly told me that he would NOT discount the statue, because he offered to the point of insistence, that I take a perfect one. I realized then that we both wanted the same thing. He wanted me to respect the value of his work. To validate his perfect creation. That I could understand. So I emptied my pockets on the counter. I then put every dime I had on me, on the table between us. It came to a little more than twice her original price. I didn’t say anything, but I did take a deep and relieving  breathe.

The tension left us both and he handed me the crippled Princess, with a peace-offering,… “If it means that much to you, I want you to have her. Keep your money kid.”. I thanked him for the offer, but insisted he keep the money. When he asked me why, I remembered a line from the movie “The Commitments”, and told him as I was leaving “If I take the money back, the ending is too predictable. This way, it’s poetry.”.

And the Indian Princess?

A little felt under one side of her base, and she stood straight and tall. Been prayin’ over me for close to twenty years now.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Larry and Glenda
    Jun 25, 2012 @ 08:24:00

    Love it Jay!! You should be writing for Southern Living!


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