The Making of a Star: Mirsha Grelinek
One spring afternoon, Sulin Grelinek sat in the parlor of her large home in Shenkuu, waiting for her guests to arrive. The family butler, a Buzz named Lai, was setting out tea in preparation for the guests’ arrival.
Sulin’s daughter Mirsha, a brown Gnorbu who was just over two years old, sat on the floor, staring out the large window at the cherry tree in the yard, watching intently as its blossoms spiraled to the grassy lawn below.
A loud knock sounded on the door, and Lai hastened to answer it. Sulin gave her elaborate hairdo one last adjustment before scooping her daughter off the floor and placing the child in her lap, poised to receive their company.
Sulin’s friends were women of wealthy families who were native to Shenkuu, like Sulin herself; all of them had small children. The women soon seated their children on the carpet nearby to play and proceeded to drink their tea and exchange the familiar gossip.
Three small children accompanied their mothers, and sat around Mirsha. The two young boys, a Nimmo and a Lutari, were a few years older than Mirsha. The third child was a small pink Usul who, like Mirsha, was about two years old.
As Sulin and her friends chatted, the two boys began to play a game, which involved tossing a small rubber ball back and forth and “scoring” by throwing it into the narrow space between a nearby armchair and table. The two girls watched as the ball passed back and forth between the boys.
It happened so fast that Sulin and her friends didn’t see it the first time. The ball was flying through the air, sailing into the arms of the Nimmo when, out of nowhere, young Mirsha leaped to her feet, jumped forward, snatched the ball from the air, and threw the ball towards the “goal”. It sailed into the small space and landed perfectly.
The ladies noticed nothing, but Lai, who had been bringing in another tray of food, gasped in surprise, and the Nimmo who had been preparing to catch the ball let out a disappointed wail. Both of these sounds caused the women to fall silent and look over at the children, wondering what could possibly have happened.
“What is the matter, Lai?” asked Sulin, while the mother of the distressed child rushed to him.
“It was Miss Mirsha,” said Lai, still gaping at the small child. “She snatched the ball out of the air so fast... it was unbelievable.”
Sulin felt certain that Lai was exaggerating. “I’m so sorry,” she said to the mother of the crying child, “I can’t imagine why Mirsha would do such a thing. I’m sure she didn’t mean any harm by it; she just wanted to join in the game.”
“I find it hard to believe,” said one of the other ladies, “that a toddler could have run over to the boys, snatched the ball, and run back so quickly.”
“It was unbelievable,” repeated Lai.
The crying child was quieted at last, and deposited on the floor once more. The two mothers returned to the tea table, and conversation resumed. This time, however, the mothers kept a close watch over the children, and several minutes later, they were all watching when Mirsha stood up and repeated the feat, apparently pleased with herself for joining in the boys’ game. This time, Lai was not the only one to gasp in astonishment.
“Have you ever seen such speed in a child of her age?” gushed one of the women. “It’s extraordinary.”
“And she’s managed to place the ball in their little goal every time!” said another.
As the mothers continued to gape, Mirsha joined in the game with the boys. Despite the fact that they could walk and little Mirsha could only toddle, she succeeded in maneuvering the ball away from them and scoring several more times.
All of the children seemed to be enjoying the game, but Mirsha most of all. The Gnorbu’s vivid purple eyes shone with excitement. Sulin had to admit that she had never seen her daughter look so thrilled with any game before, yet she was puzzled at her daughter’s odd behavior.
When the afternoon was over, the incident was quickly forgotten; but it would resurface, years later, in Sulin’s memory. Sulin Grelinek would always remember that day as the moment when her daughter discovered her love and talent for sports.
“Mirsha! Mirsha!” called Sulin. “Come inside, it’s time for dinner!”
The eight-year-old Gnorbu rushed into the house, her long brown hair flying wildly behind her. “Coming,” she gasped, reaching the dining room.
“Mirsha!” her mother cried. “Your new dress is ruined!”
Mirsha looked down at her dress, which was filthy and ripped along the hem. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I told you before, it’s impossible to play Yooyuball and not get dirty. I really need a sports jersey or—”
“A sports jersey?” asked her mother in disgust. “Absolutely not!”
“Sulin,” said Mirsha’s father, Hynn, “perhaps we can have this discussion later.” Reluctantly, Sulin allowed Mirsha to sit down to dinner in her dirty dress, but continued to berate her daughter about the state of clothing throughout the meal.
Hynn Grelinek, a fairly wealthy merchant, was not as concerned about Mirsha’s obsession with sports as Sulin, who didn’t think that such a brutal and dangerous game was fit for her daughter. Sulin had tried to get Mirsha to be interested in music, art, poetry, or academic occupations, all of which she considered suitable for her. She would even have been content if Mirsha showed an aptitude for running a shop and being a merchant, like her father. But Mirsha’s only interest, from the young age of two, had been sports, and Yooyuball in particular. Sulin and Hynn could not bear to see their daughter unhappy, so they had allowed her to play Yooyuball every afternoon with some of the other children in the neighborhood, but both tried to discourage her from it.
“Guess what,” Mirsha babbled excitedly as they ate, “today on Neovision, Vriana Po, the left forward for Shenkuu’s official Altador Cup team, caught the mutant Yooyu a second before the other team, and then she ran over to the goal so fast, they couldn’t even see her! She slipped straight past the defender and ran for the goal, and she was about to take the shot, when suddenly she changed direction, and threw the Yooyu over her shoulder, and it changed directions, which completely confused the goalie, and then in landed right in the net!”
“How remarkable,” said Sulin, who had no idea what Mirsha was talking about.
“That’s going to be me someday,” said Mirsha confidently, her violet eyes shining. “Captain of Team Shenkuu, and great left forward, who leads Shenkuu to victory in the Altador Cup!”
There was stunned silence at the dinner table. Mirsha looked back and forth between her parents in confusion, wondering why they were silent. “Won’t that be great?” she ventured, her confidence gone.
“Mirsha,” said her mother slowly, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
“Why not?” asked Mirsha, utterly confused.
“Yooyuball may be a fun game,” said Sulin, “but it’s not really a suitable occupation for you. After all, you could go on to do anything you want, dear, and—”
“But playing in the Altador Cup is what I want to do,” said Mirsha firmly, glaring at her parents, her jaw set in determination. They knew that look well; Mirsha had always been headstrong, and they had seen this stubborn expression many times before.
“It may be what you want to do now,” Sulin conceded, “but you’ll change your mind, I’m sure.”
Mirsha said nothing more about Yooyuball for the rest of the night, but her decision had been made. She was going to be a great Yooyuball player, and no one could tell her otherwise. She was determined to prove her parents wrong.
Mirsha and her three friends stood in the center of their improvised Yooyuball field, set up in the massive backyard of one Mirsha’s friend’s homes. Across from them were four other young pets, whom they had invited to be their opponents for the game that day.
“That’s your captain?” sneered the captain of the other team, a stocky Skeith who played as a defender. “How old is she, five?”
“Ten,” snapped Mirsha, sizing up her opponents. Mirsha was the youngest of the eight pets who had assembled today, and she was also one of only two girls.
The Skeith and his friends laughed. “This will be too easy,” said the Skeith. “We’ll crush you in no time!”
Mirsha’s eyes narrowed. She liked the challenge the Skeith presented. He would come to regret those words.
“Mirsha’s the best forward in Shenkuu!” said one of Mirsha’s friends, coming to her defense.
“Oh yeah?” jeered the Skeith. “Prove it.”
Mirsha’s jaw clenched, and her eyes glimmered. Her friends exchanged smiles; they were quite familiar with that expression. They knew Mirsha would never lose the game now.
Mirsha smiled too, and her competitiveness showed in her expression. The Skeith, puzzled by her reaction to his words, had stopped smiling.
“I’ll prove it,” said Mirsha.
The bespectacled faerie looked curiously at the thirteen-year-old Gnorbu in front of her. Mirsha sat, perfectly poised, upon the chair, looking at the faerie expectantly. Behind her stood a Buzz named Lai, the family butler, who had provided Mirsha’s transportation to the Faerieland Employment Agency.
“You’d like to apply for a job,” the faerie repeated, looking down at the application Mirsha had given her.
“Is that a problem?” Mirsha asked politely, sounding far more mature than she appeared.
“Not exactly,” said the faerie. “But I must admit, Miss Grelinek, that I’m puzzled. Why would a young lady such as yourself have any desire to hold down a permanent job?”
“I’m going to be a great Yooyuball star someday,” said Mirsha without hesitation. “But my parents don’t really approve. They won’t pay for me to receive any formal training, which is necessary if I want to become a professional athlete. I need a job so that I can pay for the training myself.”
“Do you have any idea how much such training costs?” asked the faerie in bewilderment.
“Yes,” said Mirsha, “but I already receive a fairly substantial allowance, which I intend to put towards training as well.”
The faerie started to say something, but stopped when she saw the look on Mirsha’s face. Her violet eyes glinted, and her features expressed a level of headstrong determination that the faerie had never seen before.
“I’m going to do this,” said Mirsha confidently. “I’m not going to let anything stand in my way, especially not money. I’ll work harder than anyone else will. Just give me a chance and I’ll prove it.”
Lai, watching the faerie’s expression, grinned. He found it amusing when people met Mirsha for the first time; they were often stunned by her ambition.
“All right,” said the faerie finally. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Mirsha Grelinek sat in the locker room of the Colosseum, dressing in her team uniform. Holding the red-and-gold jersey up to her face, she smiled as she remembered the dresses she’d played Yooyuball in as a child.
“You ready, Mirsha?” asked Antola Maeir with a smile.
“Always,” said Mirsha, returning her teammate’s smile.
Over the loudspeaker, the voices of the disco Ixi and red Grarrl announcers drifted down into the locker room.
“Mirsha Grelinek says she always knew she was destined for stardom,” said the Ixi. “It’s clear that, for Grelinek, ambition and determination were major factors that helped her gain that stardom.”
“But the big question today is, does Grelinek have what it takes to lead her team to victory?” the Grarrl concluded.
Mirsha’s jaw clenched, and her teammates grinned. The Grarrl’s words had given Mirsha the challenge she needed. Ambition and determination had certainly contributed to Mirsha’s success, but no one knew better than her teammates that stubbornness, competitiveness, and inability to back down from a challenge were just a few of the other traits that made her a star.
“Oh, I’ve got what it takes,” Mirsha whispered. “I’ll prove it.”