The Threshold Guardian

About this story

I created this story for my own company, Playing Mantis Coaching and Facilitation Development. The brief to myself was to write a story that could introduce the theme of threshold guardians for coaches and facilitators. The workshop was aimed at helping them externalise and deal with obstacles in the way of their professional development.

The Threshold Guardian

As I near the door, he looks up, greets me with enthusiasm and that dazzling smile of his. Do I detect a hint of naked mockery in the glint in his eye? Is it just an odd reflection in those glasses that he wears with such distinction? He faces me with his immaculate suit always perfectly tailored, not a spec of dust on it and his equally immaculate hair cut. In his hands he holds a smart device with the most popular project management app flashing its notifications and announcing the latest updates.

“Ready to try again I see Miss Kirsten – after all these years he still does not recognise either my marriage or my degree. “Dr. Janse van Vuuren” I correct him, but he just smiles at me knowingly. They don’t count in his book. For him the only thing that counts are the details of the task: any task.

A written text: are all the typos removed, all the references correct and all the formatting consistent? A household task: Does everything look like it did before I engaged with it – the counters like new, the floor squeaky clean, everything sparkling and germ free? Everything in their place – even things that have no place. An organisational task: Are all stakeholders on board, up to date, informed, happy and ready to say ‘yes’? Are the schedules worked out, up to date and are they being adapted and kept so as things develop? Administrative task: have all the papers been filed, all the names listed and dates filled in, all the contact details completed, all the events responded to all the emails sent? A marketing task: has it been spell checked, visually designed, linkedinned, facebooked, tweeted and all comments retweeted, liked and otherwise acknowledged?

I drop my head, but not before I notice the curve of his perfect mouth.

“Is your blog up to date? Every entry SEO’ed and keyword maximised? Are the children happy, well behaved, socially active, physically active, up to speed academically, socially, physically and health wise? No coughs, no runny noses, no tooth decay, no rashes, no tantrums,no crying, no talking back? Do they know that they are loved? Is the husband happy, working hard, helping in the house, getting enough love, being listened to enough? Are you sleeping enough? exercising enough, meditating enough? Eating properly? Spending enough time with family and friends? Getting to church often enough? Visiting your ageing parents often enough? Contacting far away friends and family enough? Are your finances healthy? debts being paid, bills being settled, savings growing, taxes up to date, budget balancing? Do you look professional? Hair suit your face shape? Clothes suit your skin colour and body-type? Toe nails and finger nails looked after? Make up neat? Clothes ironed and clean and fashionable?”

“Well, it’s just…“ I see his strong jaw line suggesting confidence.

“Are you still authentic, being yourself and able to shrug off the little rejections of live? Are you able to compete just with yourself and nobody else? Do you know you are good enough? Do you know that you are cared for and loved? Do you have faith? Do you believe that there is good in everyone? Do you love your neighbour as yourself and do unto others what you would them do unto you? Do you laugh enough? Are you happy? Well… ARE YOU?”

I lower my eyes and catch his masculine scent, he smells of determination.

“No? Sorry honey, next time then. And he turns his attention to the device in his hand with a shake of the head. You do not have the right kind of energy to enter here. Your karma does not align with what is needed here. You do not have the right intention, the right attitude, the right background, the right beliefs. You do not have the instinct for surviving here, or the talent for making the right decisions here.”

“No, but…” I sense the slender taught muscles of a lean body under the perfect tailored suit, ready for action.

He looks up: “Yes, I know that everyone on this side of the gate cannot tick all these boxes either, but they never tried to enter from the same place as you are trying to. They came through a different door, a door not available to you because there is no route from where you are to any of the other doors. You are where you are and you cannot get through this door from there unless you tick these boxes. You cannot tick the boxes, so you cannot come through. It was not meant for you.”

The suit, the hair, the mouth, the jaw, the scent, the body stands there smiling, not turning away.

And so I must tear myself from him in recognition of my defeat —  again — another failure to my record. Hoping I could find a different door but I never do. Always I return to this door draw to it by that smile, that  suit, that  hair, the mouth, the jaw, his scent, his body, my failure.

 

*           *           *

 

But not today. Today I do not turn to leave. Today I stand quite still. What if the door of my yearning could be turned into the door for his escape?  What if I do not accept his tick boxes as criteria for my success? What if there was, in fact only one criterion, one measurement – how long I can remain in his presence without squirming, without taking action of any kind…?

I stand fast and smile with a mocking glint in my own eye, or is it just the reflection of those glasses that he wears with such distinction? My eyes travel from his hair cut to his eyes and from this angle there seems to be no glint. I continue the slow appraisal, appreciating the dazzling smile of that perfectly curved mouth. Slowly I trace with my gaze the line of the jaw and I purposefully withhold my touch. He does not talk, but with confidence and precision he takes a step closer.

I catch the scent of his breath and the fragrance of him. I delight in it, but I do not move, my breathing slowing down. I feel the warmth of that body so ready for action, for conquest and still I stand letting my eyes travel back up to meet his and I hold them.  He breaks eye contact first and leans in closer his mouth brushing my temple ever so slightly as he whispers: “You do not comply.”  “Oh? According to whose measurement? As far as I am concerned I am succeeding with flying colours.” I say clearly, though perhaps somewhat breathlessly.

“Your boxes need ticking.”

My words come out measured and decisively one after the other. “I have but one box to tick, sir, and you don’t get to do it.”

We stand like that for another moment or so and then he drops his head to rest his forehead on my shoulder. He swallows hard and he seems to find it hard to tear himself away.

“You win” he says and turns his body aside to let me pass.

As I do so I notice that his collar is skew, his tie is loose and his shirt is becoming untucked. Sweat is running from his brow and his hair looks disheveled. His smart device is dead without any power. He was in a fight it seems.

How long have I stood my ground?

Long enough.

Tick.

 

 

 

 

 

Story telling for events and special occasions

Stories help us mark significant moments, heal relationships and bring about change.

  • Funny stories give us a fresh perspective on things that we complain or stress about.
  • Heart warming stories help us bring people together as we feel compassion for one another and ourselves.
  • Disturbing stories help us ask questions about ourselves and our world.

Excellent for commTelling story at owmen's event.unity building and diversity training events.

I especially like to tell stories that cross racial boundaries and celebrate the diversity of South Africa. I want to reveal to my audience the beauty and humanity of the real South Aficans: those of us who live and breathe and have our being in the sun on our streets, in the corridors at our workplaces.

Forget the strife, let us laugh and share and build relationships across boundaries.

Choose from some of my most popular stories, or order a customised story.

Some popular stories

The Rat Goes home – A story about belonging.

They called her ‘The Rat’ from the first day she set foot in the orphanage. It was the street boys hanging like monkeys outside the gates  that gave it to her: “Hey look, today they brought in a rat!” shouted their leader, Big Daddy, a strongly built dark boy of about 12 “Hey Rat, look out  for the Cat!”, he mocked and they laughed. Read more…

Naking friends in Jozi (Johannesburg).

Imagine a 40 year old white woman on the side of Republic Road trying to hail a minibus taxi. Not too much of a stretch? Now imagine that this same woman just moved to Jo’burg. She does not know which taxi sign to use to indicate that she wants to go to Randburg, she does not know where to stand exactly so that the taxi expects that she may want a ride and finally, she only has about 40% vision, so she cannot really distinguish a taxi from a four by four family car. How likely is it that she will be able to get a taxi to stop? Read more…

Stereo types come from somewhere

I love to thwart stereotypes. When I ride my bicycle into Stellenbosch kitted out from head to foot in corporate gear complete with high heels, while all the other cyclists are heading out of town kitted out in helmets, gloves, tight padded shorts, water bottles and cycling glasses, I get a kick. On this day, though, it would not be me who broke the stereotype. Read more…

Examples of customised stories

Skin Sisters: A story about making peace with skin colour (Great for Women’s day)

I created this story for a women’s day celebration on a wine farm just outside Stellembosch.

I was always very embarrassed about my skin. It wasn’t the kind of skin that could tan evenly and become a golden brown in the sun. It wasn’t the kind of skin that freckled evenly like my sister’s either. It was not even the kind of white skin that was milky and smooth all over. Read more…

Burning Hands and the Fire Fairy

I was commissioned to write a story for a fantasy themed wedding. The story now lives in the memories of the couple and their guests who could identify themselves and their loved ones in the characters and the details of the story. Book a fairy tale for your wedding.

One day in the City of Gold in the Kingdom of the Freedom Sun a boy was born with burning hands.

“How do you know he has burning hands?” the people would ask the old  village hag.

Everyone knew that such a gift was given to one boy child every 500 years. They also knew that a gift like that only surfaced once the chosen boy is a man grown. Then the old hag would gaze into the distance and recall the ancient prophecy:  (Music)

“Every 500 years our Freedom  Sun must revive, every 1000 years Love must come alive

When 5 and 5 makes 10 Burning Hands and his Fairy will come again. Read more…

Contact me to customise a story for your event.

Read more inspiring true stories.

 

A wedding Fairy tale

Burning Hands and the Fire Fairy

Petro telling a wedding storyI have told stories at three of my sibling’s weddings as a gift to the happy couple. Now it has become one of the most rewarding aspects of my speaking business. Here is an excerpt from a story I told in December of 2013 at a fantasy themed wedding near Stanford in the fair Cap.

The groom’s surname is ‘Brand’ meaning ‘to burn’. He is a south-African and the bride is from Germany. They met in Namibia. I told the story as part of the ceremony. I began as the groom waited in front for the bride to enter…

Burning Hands and the Fire Fairy

One day in the City of Gold in the Kingdom of the Freedom Sun a boy was born with burning hands.

“How do you know he has burning hands?” the people would ask the old  village hag.

Everyone knew that such a gift was given to one boy child every 500 years. They also knew that a gift like that only surfaced once the chosen boy is a man grown.

Then the old hag would gaze into the distance and recall the ancient prophecy:  (Music)

“Every 500 years our Freedom  Sun must revive, every 1000 years Love must come alive

When 5 and 5 makes 10 Burning Hands and his Fairy will come again.

Lest the flames of Freedom dwindle

and the fires of Love un-kindle”

“We know we know”,  the villagers would cry and the old hag would put up a withered hand and chant:

From the man who knows the law and tills the earth, on which our dear sun daily shines

And the woman who can straighten hunched backs and align skew spines

Will come a boy with burning hands

And you will know him by the mark of the Brands”

“The mark of the Brands?” They would ask and she would point a bony finger to the dimple in the boy’s cheek and with hushes and sighs this would settle the matter.

Far from there in the cold North a Fire Fairy was born in a Fir Forest, stepping forth from the heart of a snow flake that fell from the stars.

(Bride enters as music reaches its first cadence. Once  Bride has joined Groom in front, the story is resumed)

The rest of the story belongs to the bride and groom and lives in the memories of the guests who could identify themselves and their loved ones in the characters and the details of the story…

“Petro’s story provided a beautiful framework for our non-traditional wedding, reflecting our personalities and inviting people to share into our love story.” – the bride

Do you want a fairy tale for your wedding? Click here.

Skin Sisters: A story for women about making peace with skin colour

About the story

I created this story for a women’s day celebration on a wine farm just outside Stellembosch. In our audience were women with their domestic helper and other women from all walks of life who came to celebrate each other.

Skin Sisters

I was always very embarrassed about my skin. It wasn’t the kind of skin that could tan evenly and become a golden brown in the sun. It wasn’t the kind of skin that freckled evenly like my sister’s either. It was not even the kind of white skin that was milky and smooth all over. It was the kind of skin that was a see through white that turned red in the sun and when the red was gone, there would be the occasional dark large ugly freckle.

When I was around 11 or 12, I found a way to fold my arms so that I could cover the ugliest spots with my hands and spread out fingers without looking too unnatural. I used this hold especially when there were good looking boys around: in the bus on the way home from school mostly.

All through high school I cringed in summer when the girls would line up against the wall sitting with their legs straight in front of them, pulling up their school dresses as high as individual chastity allowed and waited for the tan… Everyone wanted to be as golden brown and gorgeous as Susan, the blonde bombshell 2 years ahead of me.

Having left school and having made peace with most of my teenage demons, I entered the era of sunscreen and umbrellas. If I couldn’t tan, I would bleach. Every morning I would cover myself with factor 40, take up my red umbrella and walk to class or shops and later to work. I would smile and wink at my landlady’s domestic help, Miriam, every morning as she came to work and I left – each with an umbrella in hand. I giggled with my Pedi students about the fact that black girls all wanted to stay as light as possible and all white girls wanted to become as dark as possible. “We all gravitate to the same colour”, one laughed.

Years later when I was in hospital with my miscarriage, I finally found peace. I did not have medical aid then and ended up in the better of the two state Hospitals in my town, Pietermaritzburg. Next to me on the bed was Gertrude, a gorgeous golden brown woman, proud of her half Indian half koi san heritage. She was in for an ovarian cyst removal. We were both in pain after our procedures, we both needed a bath and there was a staff shortage. Somehow we made up our minds to help each other get clean. Side by side we stumbled out of bed, down the corridor to the next bath room, the closest one was out of order, and into the small room. Side by side we removed our hospital gowns, ran the bath and took turns getting in, and scrubbing each other.

I saw with surprise that what looked on the outside like a smooth golden brown skin was mottled in places, rough in others and even speckled here and there. Gertrude remarked that she  had never seen so much white skin in one go. Exhausted from the exertion, we collapsed on the side of the bath side by side clutching our sides giggling at the relief of years and years of unspoken truths around skin colour. And as I looked at the two of us side by side on the edge of the bath, I saw that next to Gertrude’s gorgeous golden brown skin my own white skin had never looked more beautiful

 

Petro Janse van Vuuren.