Olivia is not an ostrich. She’s ready to deal with obstacles that block her path. Few situations faze her.

Ideally, she removes the obstacle from her path completely, using various tactics that include (but are not limited to) charm, clear communication, patience, logical thinking, intimidation, and, when necessary, force.

If the obstacle is of the stubborn kind and will not yield, she reverts to other, less favorable alternatives, such as climbing over the obstacle as if it were a barrier. There’s some victory in this, she feels, like climbing Mount Everest. Not that her obstacles are ever that cool—no pun intended.

Another possibility is to go around the obstacle, but Olivia typically doesn’t like doing that. Detours make her feel uncourageous.

Still, detours are preferable to the last resort, which is to turn back. Turning back is letting the obstacle dictate where you go and that, obviously, is a dead end. Unless, unless (jumping from one foot to the other) you can convince yourself that the obstacle on your path is all yours. Meaning: it’s there just for you, it has been put there, if you will, with the sole purpose of making you change your ways.

But who believes that? Not Olivia. She’s not an ostrich. Obstacles have as little to do with predestination as rain with free will.

So that is why, on this particular Saturday morning in the fall, Olivia does what she does. After waking up, she studies the snoring obstacle blocking her path. She gets down on her knees and kisses the man’s unshaven cheek. Wake up, Daddy, she says, I have an important audition to go to. When the snoring doesn’t subside, she showers, gets dressed, and tries it again. Please, Daddy. She gently rocks the man’s body and squeezes his nose. Nothing. She imagines how she will get to the Pallas Ballet & Dance Studio on the other side of town if her father can’t drive her—ask the neighbor? call a friend’s mother? take a taxi? Olivia raises her voice now and warns her father that if he doesn’t get up RIGHT NOW she may leave him, for good, may move in with her mother and so forth. My entire life is at stake, she says. Getting angry, she pokes the non-responsive man on the floor in the ribs and quickly jumps back to avoid being hit by the hairy arms that now lash out at her in a half-dormant, half-aggressive state. Finally, as a final tactic, Olivia climbs over her soon-again soundly sleeping father.

She walks into his bedroom. Steals money from his pants. Climbs back over the obstacle. Slings tutu, leotard, and pointe shoes in a beach bag over her shoulder. Adds an apple to the bunch in the kitchen. And out the door she is. There are no obstacles on the street. Just taxis. The path to the future lies wide open.

Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. Her short prose recently appeared in Denver Quarterly, Green Mountains Review, Okey-Panky, SmokeLong Quarterly, Tin House (online), and elsewhere. Her first novel in English is on the way. Find her at or @clairepolders.