danseuse | däɴ-sœz′ | noun | a female dancer; specifically, a ballet-dancer.
Once upon a time, once upon a place, not so long ago, there was a beautiful young woman named Ezra. Now Ezra wasn't exactly beautiful in a traditional sense of beauty; no, Ezra had something greater than run-of-the-mill beauty. In fact, she had something many would lie, cheat, and steal for but will never possess—yup, she had IT. It's something deep in her eyes. Something grounded. There's something primitive about her and the way she moves. That's it, and it's the way she holds herself with a sense of wonderment, a sense of wildness, a sense of focus, a sense of grace… Simply put, in a time when so many of us long to be someone else, Ezra was comfortable with Ezra. She understood modern civilization and authentic beauty—she understood that, like civilization, beauty too, is only skin deep.
...in a time when so many of us long to be someone else, Ezra was comfortable with Ezra—she understood that, like civilization, beauty too, is only skin deep.
But how could a young woman of only 13 years know so much about civilization? It's simple, Ezra understands so much about civilization because she lived outside of civilization until the age of six—you see, my friends, Ezra was raised by wolves for the first six years or so of her life, but no one knows for sure, wolves can't count. All we do know for sure is she was lost at an early age while bathing with her young mother. When mommy turned her back for only a split second poor little Ezra was washed away downstream, never to be seen again.
...lost at an early age by her young mother... turned her back for only a split second poor little Ezra was washed away downstream, never to be seen again.
Fortunately for Ezra, she was fished from the stream by a kindly old wolf who reared her as his own—well, until she was snatched up by the law and raised by a wicked stepmother. That's right, an evil, wicked, but fashionable Stepmother. I'd say one of the evilest ever to roam God's blue planet.
Admittedly, upon capture, Ezra was a little bitey.
Now don't get me wrong, happy readers, I'm not trying to make Ezra out to be a victim—I mean, who doesn't complain about the way they were raised, right? Everyone has their share of problems to battle while growing up, and Ezra was certainly saddled with hers—transitioning is never easy, don't you know?
...and to be fair, Ms. Wicked did teach our young hero how to read.
Be it caterpillar to butterfly, kitten to cat, acorn to mighty oak, reared by wolves to raised by evil Stepmother…yes, transitioning IS never easy—especially girl to woman. And that's where we find Ezra at the start of this tale. It may not be the most popular, spotlighted transition nowadays, but it is a tough transition all the same. From a bitey wild child raised by wolves to a wonderful young woman—Ezra, in the end, made out just fine.
"Did you get the laundry done?" the evil Stepmother yelled, standing over Ezra as she painted the nails of Stepmother's favorite peacock. "Did you collect all the feathers?" the evil Stepmother yelled—it was Erza's job to collect any discarded feathers for the market that the birds dropped. "Did you flush goldie?" the evil Stepmother yelled louder—yes, even Ezra's pet goldfish couldn't stand it any longer—some say animals just give up and die sometimes, but that's another story for a less friendly fairytale.
How could one wicked Stepmother be so wicked? Always watching like a hawk.
Never a bruised knee kissed, never a special batch of chocolate chip cookies made, never the transition from girl to woman explained. Our wicked Stepmother never even tried to find Ezra's wolf family. Not a single trip to the forest, not a single bush sniffed, not a single howl from Ezra was allowed—she really put the evil in evil, for sure.
The wicked Stepmother was so wicked, she even forced poor Ezra to paint the nails of her favorite bird—with glitter!
Day in and day out, demand, demand, demand, Ezra's job at the Peacock rookery was not for the light of heart—a very dirty job. Even the TV show Dirty Jobs was considering Ezra's story for a show. For those not in the know, a rookery is a communal nesting ground for gregarious birds. While they do not share individual nest duties, the collection of nests in a small area gives the beautiful peacocks and vulnerable chicks extra protection from wolves and other hungry creatures; this, too, is a better subject for a less kind fairytale. Let's just put it like this, as beautiful as peacocks are, they can be messy—like all birds, they don't even care who has to clean up their messes.
...it was Erza's job to collect any discarded feathers for the market that the birds dropped.
...as beautiful as peacocks are, they can be messy—like all birds, they don't even care who has to clean up their messes.
But Erza instinctively understood that only she, herself, could make herself happy. "You just have to take it all with a grain of salt," Erza thought to herself—"keep a good attitude, and don't focus on what you don't have." As she spent her days picking up feathers, she would repeat this affirmation to herself over and over. "keep a good attitude. Don't focus on what you don't have." Simple but worldly thoughts for a 13-year-old living in the middle of nowhere.
But don't fret my fine, happy readers, Ezra had it going on. Every day after finishing all the evil chores brought on by her wicked Stepmother, Ezra would skip off to a large flowing spring in the forest to meet her friends. It was there that she and her friends would gather, far from their problems, far from cell phone connection, far from the inside world. To be clear, Ezra never had a cell phone.
Anyway, they would explore, they would laugh, they would swim, they would speculate, they would dance—in fact, happy readers, they would do whatever they pleased with no one to say different. They even made their own custom outfits from the discarded party dresses the wicked Stepmother tossed in the trash—super enterprising if you asked me.
One day, at the river, our lovely danseuses were busy developing a new dance routine. Yes, daily practice is essential for maintaining good form, and with Ezra leading the pack, performances were a sight to see. "A la seconde," Ezra shouts. Frappe, she cried. Sticking her foot to a nearby boulder, Ezra blathered on. Allonge, penche', saute,' tournant, Ezra drives her comrades on in a wonderful frenzy of skill, grace, and passion.
Suddenly, and without notice, an old gray wolf came into view...
Suddenly, and without notice, an old gray wolf came into view of our skilled ballerinas. All of the girls instinctively hid by Ezra for protection. They didn't know why they hid behind her. Maybe it was because Ezra wasn't scared? Maybe because Ezra was the only one who didn't run? Maybe because they all knew Ezra was raised by wolves? Whatever the rationale, it seemed like they made the right choice.
The old gray wolf stared at them, and they stared back. He sniffed the air for signs of danger—you have to speculate that a wolf of his years surely has bad eyesight. Suddenly, Ezra remembered something in the eyes of the old wolf. Sure, he looked paler, but she knew for sure, he was family.
Ezra let out the most primal scream ever made at the spring, and soon Ezra and the old wolf were face to face. Faces were licked, paws were shaked, sniffs were sniffed, ears were scratched, tails wagged—yes, the old wolf and Ezra were happy as two Canis lupus can be. It was one of the happiest days of both their lives—it's always the simple things of no cost that make us the happiest.
The last time the old wolf saw Ezra, she was unaware of the snuggles to come. It's a cold world, a cold, cold world for those with differences out from the norm, he thought. Only time will tell how she handles the range of mountains she will be forced to cross in the coming years, all these thoughts and many others entered the old wolf's head, but he shook it all off.
The hours passed, and soon the old wolf had to bid everyone goodbye, off to do wolf things, I suppose. The girls all gathered, arms wrapped tightly around each other, and they watched him off. When he got to the top of the hill above, he let out the most wonderfully majestic howl. Even Russian wolves would be impressed—they don't impress easily. Upon hearing the glorious howl, the girls began dancing with joy.
Looking down, the old wolf thought of the change which Ezra had made. He was thankful that Ezra had turned out to be a beautiful human after all. To say he was happy for her would be the understatement of understatements—he was delighted, to say the least, and super duper happy, to say the most. Like I said before, it always seems the happiest days are paid in smiles and kisses.
Get Out There. If a 13-year-old raised by wolves and living with a wicked stepmother can smile, so can you.
This 573Magazine.com story is sponsored in part by The City of Perryville, Missouri
words & pics t. smugala
produced by aj koehler
dedicated to sally williams
Ava Duffe - Teenage Ezra
Hunter Sutton - Step-Mother
Autumn Pfiffer - Wild Ezra
Andora - stunt wolf
Emma Lay - Mommy
Baby Nina - Baby Ezra
Officer Robert O’Rear
Parents & helpers:
City of Perryville
Perryville Police Department
Perry County Historical Society
David & Rachel Long
Kathy & Curtis Waggoner
Dress 2 Impress
Be sure to visit all of our awesome sponsors who make these stories possible!