Trembling, Grace Eye took up her opening stance and waited for the heavy burgundy velvet curtains to lift.
always got like this when she had to start an act and had to hold a
near-impossible position. Her belly flip-flopped as she desperately
tried to maintain her peculiar, twisted ballet-like curtsey
centre-stage. Her head was anchored to her left, chin dropped to her
chest, and her legs were criss-crossed with one foot on bent tip-toe
a step behind the other; both knees were splayed and her arms held
out the corners of her can-can-style ruffled black skirt in a
Cheshire cat smile. The coloured nets peeped from underneath and
looked like sweet-stained teeth after too many lollipops. Her partner
and elder sister, Angela Eye, who was dressed similarly, but in a
mottled brown and without the hoop of scratchy, rustling
rainbow-coloured petticoats, watched from the wings.
was always the male: the one who preened and puffed up in a riot of
colour in a bid to impress a duller potential mate. Sometimes she
tired of giving chase across the hall, gym floor, school stage, or
wherever they played and would have liked to have played the hen, but
Angela flatly refused to be the primping, more self-assured male. The
hen had more appeal because although she appeared docile, she was
actually in charge, and that's how it was with them.
took the bookings, organised everything and controlled the purse
strings, which meant Grace extended her stage role into hen-pecked
husband: she did as she was told by her elder sister. And now, thanks
to Angela, here they were at the Polka Dot Theatre, on the last leg
of their educational tour.
music struck up, and as the curtains pushed back, the spotlight hit
her. Grace twitched her
foot to a subtle point, sweeping the floor in a backwards-forwards
motion in time to the beat, and began to swish her layers of skirt as
the music built. She moved her neck and head in a jutting motion and
proudly thrust her chest out as she strutted with pointed feet across
the floor. The music turned gentler so that Angela could enter and
begin her elegant solo. She pecked the ground here, scratched the
ground there, and deliberately shown disinterest. Grace watched from
the cover of stage props, poking her head out from behind MDF rocks
and foliage, shaking her midnight-blue sheathed shoulders and swaying
the plume on her head. This part always made the children laugh
because of her absurd behaviour, and there were stifled giggles as
she made flirting 'notice me' gestures and advanced towards her elder
sister, the hen.
cocked her head and with her natural beady eyes studied her younger
sister in the guise of mate. She wasn't being precise enough with the
positioning of her arms or feet; she'd have to have a firm word with
her after, but for now the performance must continue. She retreated,
then was pulled towards her pursuer, now in the final stages of the
face was flushed from countless pirouettes around her cornered
sister, which to the attentive audience had made her seem like a
spinning top of hungry flames. Her chest rose and fell rapidly, then
began to slow as she regained a steadier pace; one last twirl and
then a flourishing forward bend to pin Angela down. Got her now! And
that boys and girls is how some male birds woo a female mate.
double bow to the chorus of claps, followed by a short question and
answer, and then thankfully the teachers would take over. At this
point Angela and Grace would look at each other with a mixture of
triumph and horror plastered on their expressions. Here they were,
the Eye sisters, a rousing, educational success, whose performances
were applauded only as dancing birds!