Cleo leapt upon the puppeteers' high bench and danced a rogue's roundel rakishly, raucously, scattering the stuffed, stringed effigies, catching them as they pitched to their dooms so tossed them high, caught them cartwheeling, and all the while dancing, dancing, Cleo was 1 of them yet never pretended 1 of them for her grace and her agility as she danced the dance of unknown temple porches and the dance of secret inner confines of imperial courts. Her long hair she whipped about her, her dark gold hair she flung, it floated, it coiled and drifted caressing her body briefly, merely, as it, too, danced its dance of accolade.
        To the day. It was to the day the praise; Cleo's dance.
        That is to say the time, and the place, too, surely, for what was this day, any other day any other where without the celebrants and the festival?
        They were preparing everywhere for the masquerade. There was to be a masked ball this night part of the festival, portion, culmination, something so different, exciting, transforming, that not everyone might come though they would all seek and say they had, or make their own or say they had nod their heads, roll their eyes, purse their lips, grin, shake their heads sweeping up crushed paper lanterns, the ropes of tangled ribbons, crumbs, discarded hats, slippers, handkerchiefs that following day when the sun was equally bright but lacking the day, the time.

        Violet stood transfixed perchance holding a golden ring in 1 hand, balanced, cusped in her fingertips a ring as gold as desire, as gleaming, as smooth, as praise she held it within her fingertips, offering it to the sky, to sight of all to share her wonder at its beauty in simplicity which is the greatest power.
        The ring within her fingertips caused men and women to stop and stare. That was the power of a moment midst taffy and slippers, marvels and hares.
        Violet was not aware of that having lost herself within the ring and its brilliant asterisms flashing from her fingers, marking her violet sleeve even to the white lace cuff.


        Some distance from her, across tables of mounded fruits, oranges, melons, and a vendor of bread whose stall was built of baskets laden, fragrant offerings, twists, gimlet currants, yellow egg, Esme(e) walked with hands caught behind and stopped and watched Violet lost in the ring for a long, still moment and then walked on.
        African women danced in the fountain lifting high their mahogany and ebony thighs shining their pink-soled feet they danced in, out, weaving the waters, breaking the falling waters into fans, racemes, plumes, breaking them apart in cascades of silver blinding bright they danced laughing, spinning worlds, flinging hands of water at 1another twirling, dipping, bending agilely spinning in high leaps until their many chains of garnet beads flew higher than their sparkling heads.
        Elaine watched them afraid they would enable Cleo; they did; Elaine enjoyed them anyway her back toward wherever Cleo had gone and whatever Cleo might do Elaine weighed the black dancers, their flashing wet skin, their twinkling wet hair with lips compressed in thought for her an inward pleasure, an absorbing of the dance.