The sleeping gypsy cured my mother's cancer. How do I know? Because she told me and I believed her.
one: Never for a moment doubt your mother.
Two: Don't belittle the feelings of those who walk with the shadow of
course, there was doubtfulness from relatives, friends and oncology,
but for me her conviction was like a fairy tale. She spoke with so
much clarity when she communicated this knowledge to me every night
at eight o'clock on the dot when I sat with her. Her voice was faint,
but the words she enunciated were crystal-clear and her eyes were
glassy beads. I kept very still and quiet by the side of her bed
transfixed by each new chapter. Sometimes, without realising, I held
my breath until I had to wheeze as if someone or something had
attempted to suffocate me, then my mother's head would turn with a
look of concern and she'd say, “There, there, the spell's been
doctors had either been tight-lipped about her diagnosis or vague and
bumbling; it was nothing to worry about, just normal procedure. A
little cut, a longer burn and an extensive course of tablets. She'd
lose a little breast weight, gain a few tattoos and a scar. Hair
loss, internal tissue damage and dead fingers were never mentioned.
Yes, she went through all that; she had no choice in the matter, but
knew that wasn't what gave her the courage to go on.
night before a lumpectomy, scared, alone and lying flat in a strange
hospital bed, she said she was visited by a huge lion. She was idly
staring up at the ceiling panels when she felt a rough tongue lick
the back of her hand. She thought she was dreaming, but the licking
was accompanied by a contented purr, almost like a rumble of thunder,
and then her fingers met thick matted fur. She slowly pulled herself
up and to her right was a lion sat on his haunches; a male lion she
said with a head as big as the one in Narnia who was hot and panting
and obviously didn't belong in our temperate climate.
thirty seconds they stared at each other without blinking, then the
lion got to his feet and padded passed the deserted nurses' station
before he stopped and looked back. She grabbed her silk dressing gown
and hurried to catch up with him. As she walked behind, the glaringly
white corridor warped into a dark, cave-like tunnel, which the lion
somehow dimly lit for her with his swishing tail. She stumbled
steadily after that amber light until the cave came out to sandy
plain beneath a starry midnight sky. Her toes sank into the fine sand
as the lion continued to lead her to who knows what or where. It was
a journey that seemed strange and never-ending, and yet more real
than when you're told you have cancer. And it was about, she said, to
get even weirder.
lion finally came to a stop when they came to a sleeping man who you
could tell was one of life's wanderers, except this one looked as
though he only roamed metaphysically. The lion sniffed and gently
nudged him and when he failed to stir roared just like the MGM lion,
before he gave up with a shrug of his shoulders and laid down to wash
his giant paws and face. Maybe it was the lion's close presence or
the sound of his enthusiastic licking which eventually roused the
dark gyspy, Mother hypothesised, but whatever it was his eyelids
still heavy with sleep began to hesitantly flicker, until his pupils
fixed groggily on her.
released his protective grip on his walking stick and turned on his
side, motioning to the lion. The lion grumbled but obliged by opening
his jaws wide and the now-awake gyspy pulled out a molar. Under the
glare of the full moon, he washed the lion's tooth with water from a
clay vessel, then made a small hole with a stone and chisel and
threaded it on coloured string carefully stripped from his pillow.
Wordlessly, as the rest of this task had been done, he handed it to
her, gesturing for her to wear it around her throat or wrist.
as she is a bearer of a lion's tooth, the sleeping gypsy comes and
strums Beatles medleys on his mandolin to make her stronger.