Sitting among jungle trees, reading about a mystical forest with snow, finding reprieve from the heavy breathing of the people and cars on the city streets, she crawls into her favourite hollow of an old capirona.
Its roots dig deep into the Earth, and its base feels somewhat like home to her. Maya Angolou never really considered herself to be a pretty girl, even though boys complimented the sweet smell of her hair. But when she would look into a mirror, she saw nothing but fear. Maybe this is why she spends most of her days far away from hot pavement of Brazilian streets, where people speak with ease, and where she sees no trees. Maya does not belong among the crowds. She finds peace only alone with her books, and the trees, away from city streets.
Maya, a 14-year-old, has a brother who is 18 years old and doesn’t pay much attention to her. When he does, he calls her stupid and ugly. He spends most of his time eating and drinking alcohol. The pair were given an inheritance when their parents were killed in a car accident. Their vehicle was side-swiped off a cliff and into hard rocks of the Atlantic Ocean. The inheritance was nothing more than a ramshackle home and $1,015 Brazillian Real, about enough to buy a month’s worth of groceries. Maya works at a bookstore, where she earns just enough to feed and clothe herself. When she isn’t working, Maya attends school and receives average marks because she often skips class to run into the woods to read.
As she turns over each page in her book, she notices leaves blowing past the trees, and the breeze picks up until she sees dark clouds forming with ease. Rolling towards her, they drop tons of water into the rainforest, and puddles begin to form outside her hollow. The rainforest is now soaking wet, and as the wind picks up, Maya curls into a ball in the back of the capirona. At least she is dry in the far back crevasse of the strong dark wood. But the wind is growing stronger, and she finds that even the massive tree is becoming weak, as it begins to shake. The water begins to overflow and rushes towards her feet. She pulls each foot back, but eventually runs out of space. Trees are falling all around her, and just as she thought nothing could penetrate the safety of her capirona, a tall tree falls on the upper half of her temporary home. The tree leans to the side away from the breeze that continues to push. Then, another tree falls on top of the first tree that tested the capirona, and this is too much for the old hardwood to bear. Its roots are pulled up and it crashes down, but not before smacking poor Maya on the back of the head. She is face-down in the mud with trees falling, barely missing her small body. Her book lands with its pages facing the sky, turning rapidly with the wind.
From inside a helicopter cockpit, recently divorced Walter Mitty notices Maya face-down in the mud when he was patrolling the area for victims of the hurricane. He guides the aircraft through the trees and lands a few yards from Maya. After releasing his hand from the steering shaft, he flips several switches off, and the blades slowly rotate. As they are about to stop, one last gust of wind knocks a branch off of a tree, and splits one of the blades, rendering the helicopter immobile. Walter barely notices, as he is more concerned with the hurt girl he sees, and after announcing himself, he flips open the door, unbuckles his seatbelt and steps out of the helicopter.
“Young lady!” he says in a dignified tone. “Young lady, I am Walter Mitty. Do you require any assistance?”
Maya doesn’t say anything, and continues to lay face-down in the mud. Walter rushes over to her and flips her onto her back. But before has a chance to check her pulse, Maya opens her eyes and crawls backwards hurriedly. Walter is relieved.
“Are you okay? I thought you might be dead.”
“I just…” Maya is too startled to reply.
“What happened? Did the wind push you over?”
“I, I was… I was just in the tree,” Maya stutters.
“Haha, yeah. Okay, well you don’t have to be afraid now. I’m here. Are you okay?”
“Sure, yeah. I think. I mean, I hit my head, but it’s okay.”
Maya looks around. Trees line the ground all around her. The wind is slowing, and she can see snow covering everything from the ground to the treetops. She’s never seen snow.
“What is all this, white stuff? And why is it so cold?”
Walter looks at her puzzled. “You mean, you’ve never seen snow?”
“Snow! No, this is Brazil. What are you talking about?”
“Um, this is not Brazil. It seems someone has stumbled into the rabbit hole.”
“What? Oh, like Alice in Wonderland. Well, where am I?”
“You’re in Capirona.” Walter looks at her curiously, examining her eyes. He steps forward and looks at her very closely. “Are you sure you didn’t hit your head too hard?”
Maya steps back from the examination, and bends over to pick up her book. She folds it closed while thinking deeply about this strange man who flew out of the sky. She is slightly afraid, but somewhat attracted to him.
“I’ve got to get home,” she finally announces, turns and then walks away.
“That’s it? You don’t even know where you are. Home is a long way off for you, my dear.”
Maya doesn’t respond. Walter runs over to her. “You’re going to need my help,” he tells her. Maya turns her head away from him so he doesn’t see her smile.
As the pair continue to walk, they notice green grass in the distance.
“There. That’s Brazil. That’s my home,” Maya assuredly says.
“Oh, that place. Yeah, we can’t go there,” Walter responds. “No one has ever been able to get past the glass river.”
“The glass river…” Maya says. “That’s in my book. The glass river that is made of ice, at the foot of the snowy castle. The home of the Three Witches.”
She flips open the pages of her book.
“That’s impossible,” she says.
“What?” Walter is losing his enthusiasm, and he looks to be afraid to continue with the rescue attempt. “Maybe I’ll just go and try to fix my helicopter.”
“What? No, don’t leave!” Maya anxiously says, and she grabs his arm tight.
Walter looks up at her and the two gaze into each other’s eyes for several seconds.
“Right,” Walter finally says. “Okay, I just know about those witches in that book of yours, and whenever they are mentioned, Macbeth is not far behind.”
“Macbeth, who’s that?”
“The Thane of Capirona.”
Maya ignores Walter, and walks towards the river’s edge where she sees her reflection.
“No! Don’t look into the ice,” Walter says. “He will come.”
It’s too late, Maya sees three witches staring back at her, and she can’t take her eyes off of them. Walter grabs her and pulls her back.
“Now it’s too late. He’s coming,” he says.
In the distance, the pair hear a horse’s feet rapidly pound the ground in unisons of four. The sequences get louder as the horse approaches fast. Macbeth, with his heavy kicks to the side of the beast steers with the horse’s mane.
“Walter Mitty! Are you thinking about crossing again?” Macbeth says as he guides his horse to a halt beside the pair. “Last time you did that, you were locked up in my dungeon for a month. This time, I’ll have your head.”
“Mr. Macbeth. I’m sorry, but it was…”
“Me,” Maya chimes in. “It was me.”
“No, don’t say that,” Walter whispers to her.
Maya quickly remembers a page from her book where the characters were confronted by the glass river. She grabs Walter and recites the lines from her book. “In Capirona we can crush the ice that creates the barrier of wrong and nice.”
As she speaks the words from her book, the ice turn to grass, and she grabs Walter to cross back into Brazil. But before he is able to make it, Macbeth pulls Walter back and onto his horse. They ride off.
Maya tries to run after him, but the ice returns and she can’t cross back over.
“I saved you!” Walter calls triumphantly.
“I’ll come back for you,” Maya yells back.
Every night for the past three years, Maya has returned to the forest during hurricane warnings, with the hope of finding Walter once again. And as the leaves start blowing past the trees, and the breeze picks up until she sees dark clouds forming with ease, she grabs her book tight, and crawls backwards into the corner of her capirona.