the short story project


Nurit Zarchi | from:Hebrew

Croco Dancy

Translated by : Leanne Raday

Illustration: Talia Baer

Introduction by Pedro – the Story Nibbling Rabbit

In order to venture out into the world, Croco Dancy has to pass the final exam at the witchcraft school she attends. So far, sounds simple enough: you study hard at school, pass the exam, and BAM! into the world you go. But not everything is that simple. The world has requirements, and so does the strict principal: the young witch must turn various objects into “something strong, something swift, something to buy, something to gift.”

Will Croco Dancy be up to the challenge? We already know she will. Because that’s how stories go: there’s a challenge, the heroine confronts it, and eventually succeeds. But the road to success is paved with failures, self-doubt, and encounters with disgusting cockroaches. This story will change the way you view success, as well as the way you view cockroaches, and if that’s not success—I don’t know what is.   

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When Croco Dancy, the little witch, finished school, she had to take her final exam. The principal put two forks on the table in front of her and said: “Now enchant them. You remember what we learned, what is needed in the world: something strong, something swift, something to buy, something to gift.”

“One, two, three,” Croco Dancy gazed intently at the forks, closed her eyes with all her might and whispered: “Wilberss, Zilberss, Minderham, Lolerham,” and quickly opened her eyes. There was a moment of silence. In place of the forks, there were two white roses lying on the table.

“Croco Dancy, white roses? That’s what you want and what you can do? That’s what you presume is needed in the world? What’s this? You believe that this is something strong, something swift, something to buy, something to gift? Croco Dancy, I’ll give you a second chance.”

Croco Dancy closed her eyes and whispered in embarrassment: “Wilberss, Zilberss, Minderham, Lolerham.” She slowly opened her eyes and looked at the table.

“Croco Dancy,” said the principal is abhorrence, “Two glass balls – have you lost your mind? This is what you learned in our school? Marbles?” he repeated in contempt. “What are you thinking? Is this something strong, something swift, something to buy, something to gift? Croco Dancy, I am giving you one last chance. Close your eyes and concentrate hard. Think what does one really need to go into the world.” Croco Dancy pursed her lips tight and whispered:  “Wilberss, Zilberss, Minderham, Lolerham,” and stayed standing with her eyes shut. She was afraid to open them.

“Croco Dancy,” the principal roared, “You’re doing this on purpose, right?”

Croco Dancy’s eyes opened at once.

“Even you, Missy, can’t possibly think that the world is in need of seashells.”

Croco Dancy felt the tears beginning to form in the corners of her eyes.

“What’s wrong with you? Haven’t you learned anything here? Are you stupid or are you just pretending?”

Croco Dancy said: “I’m not doing it on purpose.”

“That’s just it,” said the principal, “to succeed in the world one requires purpose, do you understand? I’ll give you one more chance after the last. And then, if you don’t succeed, you will never be able to go into the world.”

Croco Dancy nodded her head.

“Try hard,” said the principal, “Remember what we learned at school, what all the students have already executed with ease before going deep into the world. I’ll remind you that what is needed is something strong, something swift, something to buy, something to gift.”

“One, two, three,” Croco Dancy couldn’t shut her eyes very tight now, because they were moist, and she couldn’t concentrate any longer. Even when she said: “Wilberss, Zilberss, Minderham, Lolerham,” nothing happened.

“Disgusting,” said the principal, “Croco Dancy, clearly, you cannot continue attending our school.”

And he slammed the door behind him.

Very slowly, Croco Dancy opened her eyes. On the table in front of her were two shiny black cockroaches. They wiggled their thin feelers. Croco Dancy thought they were disgusting. She wanted to leave them on the table and very quietly leave the room and go wherever a little witch without a diploma could go. But she couldn’t leave them there, letting everyone see what her forks had turned into. She walked up to the table. What would she do with them?

“Hello Ma’am, nice to meet you. My name is Zilberss, the right cockroach at your service.”

“Hello, Croco Dancy, a real pleasure, my name is Wilberss, the left cockroach at your service.”

Croco Dancy looked to both sides. God forbid anyone hears her speaking to cockroaches. And she grabbed Zilberss with the tips of her fingers and placed him in her right pocket, and she held Wilberss with her fingers and put him in her left pocket and went out into the hallway.

She looked around, there was no one there. She shook her pockets and Zilberss and Wilberss fell out.

“Tsss…” they whispered, “You can’t get rid of us just like that. You’re responsible for us. And secondly, what are we if not something strong, something swift. And you don’t need to buy us – you get us free of charge.”

What could poor Croco Dancy do? They wiggled their revolting thin feelers.

“That may be true,” said Croco Dancy, “But I didn’t invent you on purpose.”

“You know that makes no difference,” said Zilberss and Wilberss. “ Not on purpose is simply with another kind of purpose.”

“What do you want me to do?” said Croco Dancy without even looking at them. “Why do I have to be responsible for you? I, who will never get a diploma to go into the world.”

“Tsss… No problem,” said Zilberss and Wilberss. “What you need to do with us is train us.”

“I don’t want to,” said Croco Dancy and started running to get away from them.

The hallway was empty. But Zilberss and Wilberss flapped their black wings, flew up heavily and landed on Croco Dancy’s shoulders.

“Train us, Croco Dancy,” they whispered, “You have to – you’re responsible for us.”

How despicable they are, Croco Dancy thought to herself, but out loud she said: “You’re naked, go get dressed.”

Wilberss and Zilberss disappeared behind the corner. They came back dressed and stood before her.

“What do you want now?” asked Croco Dancy.

“What, aren’t we handsome? We want you to tell us. So that we see that you’ve noticed.”

“You think that one can’t see that you’re cockroaches? Dressed cockroaches are nothing but naked cockroaches with clothes on.”

Croco Dancy sat down on the bench. It’s a good job everyone has already gone home, she thought. “What do you want me to do?” she asked in a low voice.

“We want you to tell us: ‘The splendid and pleasing Wilberss and Zilberss, please dance for me.’”

How disgusting they are, Croco Dancy thought to herself. But out loud she said: “Well, dance then if you so want to dance.” And Zilberss and Wilberss danced.

After they were done they took a bow and said: “Tsss… Now we want praise.”

“What’s that?” asked Croco Dancy.

“That you say: ‘Wilberss and Zilberss, you danced so wonderfully, delicately, gracefully and with rhythm.”

Croco Dancy repeated what they had said.

“We can see you’re not convinced. And we danced to please you, but nothing has come of it. Alright, now we’ll give you another chance. So say: ‘Zilberss and Wilberss, sing a marvelous song for me.’”

What compliment diggers they are, thought Croco Dancy. But out loud she said: “Well, sing then if you so want to sing.”

Zilberss and Wilberss flapped a cockroachy screech with their dry wings, finished and stretched themselves: “Now you must tell us that we sang marvelously,” said Zilberss and Wilberss, “because we sang so that you would love us.”

“You’re true singers,” said Croco Dancy, and repeated it twice.

“We can see you’re not convinced. What can we do to make you love us?”

“Nothing, nothing-nothing-nothing. Just get away from me.”

Wilberss and Zilberss heard that, puffed themselves up, squeaked and said: “We simply can’t and will not endeavor to leave Croco Dancy forever and ever.”

Croco Dancy began to cry. Her tears were large and they came down on Zilberss and Wilberss like water stones, hitting them both with accuracy. Zilberss and Wilberss sat in the middle of the puddle, their wings wet, unable to move.

“Tsss… We’re wet. Save us, Croco Dancy.”

Croco Dancy was startled. Not loving Zilberss and Wilberss was one thing, but drowning them was another, and she didn’t mean that at all. Now she couldn’t possibly run away, so she stretched out the tip of her right nail and pulled Zilberss out of the water and then she stretched out the tip of her left nail and pulled Wilberss out of the water. And they sat like two elbow macaroni on the edge of the pool and would not be consoled.

“You’re angry,” said Croco Dancy. “Don’t be angry. I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“That’s it,” whispered Wilberss and Zilberss, “That’s the problem. You should have invited us on purpose. You should have said: ‘The splendid and pleasing Zilberss and Wilberss’.”

Poor Croco Dancy, what could she do? She whispered in a low voice: “The splendid and pleasing Zilberss and Wilberss, please fly.”

“No,” said Zilberss and Wilberss, “We can tell by your voice that you don’t mean it. We’re not moving from here, ever.”

“Zilberss and Wilberss,” repeated Croco Dancy, “you really are splendid and pleasing. Fly. Please, fly.”

“What? Say it again. We didn’t hear very well.”

“Zilberss and Wilberss,” screamed Croco Dancy, “You’re the most splendid most pleasing cockroaches in the whole world.”

There was a moment of silence. Out of the little puddle, Zilberss and Wilberss rose and, before her very eyes, transformed into two splendid white horses with long manes and waving tails.

Zilberss came up to her and licked her with his tongue from the left, looked at her with his round eyes and golden lashes and whispered: “Hello, my real name is Minderham.” Wilberss came up to her and licked her with his tongue from the right, looked at her with his round eyes and golden lashes and whispered: “Hello, my real name his Lolerham.”

“Wilberss and Zilberss, Miderham and Lolerham,” whispered Croco Dancy, “I can’t believe it.”

Right in front of her, precisely according to the rules: something strong, something swift, something to buy, something to gift. Even though no one would dream of giving away such splendid horses.

And then a carriage appeared, and Zilberss and Wilberss – that is, Minderham and Lolerham – harnessed themselves to it.

“And I did this. I, who didn’t pass the exam and didn’t get a diploma from our school,” whispered Croco Dancy and sat down in the front seat of the carriage.

Zilberss and Wilberss both stomped their right foot and then their left foot, neighed and set off.

“Fly off, Croco Dancy, fly off into the world. On you go, on you go, fly on something brave, something to hug, something to have, something to love.”


2 thoughts on “Croco Dancy

  1. Avery says:

    I liked the story, the principle was very mean. I thought that the principle could be a little nicer and help Croco Dancy. She could have also told her to keep practicing and try again another day.

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