Sunday, August 27, 2017

THE PRINCESS WHO WASN'T

from the soon-to-be-published novel, Redthorn:



Once upon a time, there were five kingdoms. Four of them were very famous and popular and beloved and made a lot of money from tourism every year. But the fifth was small and poor and never had any tourists. The king and his advisers sat down to figure out what the other kingdoms had that theirs didn’t.

“Princesses,” said Larry, the King’s chief adviser. “Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty live in those other kingdoms. Everyone likes princesses. We don’t have a princess.”

“How do we get a princess?” asked the King.

His advisers explained (briefly) the typical process for something like this, but the King decided this would take too long so he said they should just hire one instead.

Scouts were sent throughout the kingdom to find the most beautiful girls in the land. The King and his advisers had put together a list of traits necessary to be a princess and “beautiful” was at the top of the list.

Of course, when the young ladies of the kingdom heard about the search for a princess, they all wanted to be chosen. They put on their nicest clothes, did their makeup and hair just right and walked around the kingdom posing and trying to look as princess as possible. Yes, it seemed every girl in the kingdom wanted to be a princess…

Except Kathy.

Kathy was a sheep herder. She had inherited the sheep farm from her father and couldn’t afford to hire help, so she ran it by herself. It was a lot of work, but she enjoyed it. She loved her sheep and she loved her life and didn’t want it to change.

Unfortunately for her, it was about to change. Because, unluckily, Kathy was the most beautiful girl in the village and was chosen by the King’s men to come to the castle to try out for the job of princess.

Four other girls were chosen and the five of them were cleaned up, dressed up, brought before the King and his advisers and asked a lot of questions.

“What would be your first act as princess?”

“What does being a princess mean to you?”

“Why do you want to be a princess?”

“I don’t,” said Kathy when it was her turn. She had not been given the option of not participating, she had been unable to stop the handmaidens from dressing her up in a fancy dress that was so tight around the waist she could barely breathe in it, but she wasn’t going to lie.

“What?!?” exclaimed the King. “I thought every girl wanted to be a princess!”

“Well I don’t! I want to be a sheep herder, which is what I am. I don’t like fancy dresses and make up and high heels and jewelry. And, by the way, why are those the things that make a princess anyway? Who’s to say a princess can’t be someone who likes to work with animals? Or wears casual clothes? Or isn’t necessarily this skinny? Who decided that a princess has to be pretty and elegant and not do anything except marry a prince or go to a ball?”

So saying, Kathy walked away, changed out of the dress they had put her in and returned home to her sheep.


The next day, while Kathy was tending her flock, a voice behind her called her name. It was, oddly enough, the King.

“What brings you here, sire?” asked Kathy.

“I was up all night thinking about what you said,” the King told her. “And I think you’re right. It wasn’t fair for me to single you and those other girls out just because of the way you look. I think maybe a princess can be whatever she wants. So, I want you to have this.”

The King held up a tiara, the official headgear of princesses.

“I appreciate that, your majesty, but I don’t want to be the princess.”

“That’s just it. You’re not the princess. You’re a princess! I hereby appoint you Princess of Sheep!” He placed the tiara on Kathy’s astonished head. “And she,” he added, pointing at a milkmaid across the road who was also wearing a tiara, “is Princess of Milk. And over there,” he pointed at another girl in another tiara, “is Princess of Chocolate Chip Cookies. And there’s also a Princess of Basketball and a Princess of Crocheting and a Princess of Juggling…”

Yes, from then on, every girl in the kingdom was a princess. Tall, short, thin, fat, pretty and…well, let’s say pretty in a different way than the others…they were each princess of whatever they were best at. And, of course, with all those princesses, the kingdom became a booming tourist attraction.

And Kathy, the Princess of Sheep, lived very happily ever after.

THE END

Thursday, August 17, 2017

EULOGY FOR A WITCH

Sisters, we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of one of our own: Our beloved Hildegarde. I remember when Hildegarde was just a little witch. Like the rest of us, she had big dreams of making her mark on the world. She wanted to be the most famous witch of all time. And, in a way, she succeeded. Even so soon after her passing, her story is already being told all over the country. And it seems likely that, in a very short time, it will extend even beyond that. After all, it is an unusual story: 

Imagine two small children, lost in the woods. Their frankly pathetic idea of leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to guide them home having failed, they were entirely at the mercy of the forest. Then, lo and behold, they come upon a house made entirely of gingerbread, candy and sweets. They begin eating with reckless abandon, never giving a thought to the resident of the house, our dear, departed Hildegarde. She emerges from the house, appears to the children as a kindly old woman, invites them inside for more treats. Then she springs on them. Locking up the boy and forcing the girl to feed her brother until he’s fat enough to eat. Her plan backfires, however, when the little girl tricks her and pushes her into her own oven where she burns to death. 

And now, on the very site where her gingerbread house once stood, we are gathered to mourn her, to commend what’s left of her to the earth, and to ask why? Why did she die? Why is the world so cruel? And why, oh why, was Hildegarde so stupid? 

I mean, really, what was she thinking? First of all, who builds a house out of gingerbread? If the kids hadn’t shown up when they did, the whole thing would have spoiled. Parts of it probably already were spoiling. The walls were full of milk and eggs. For all we know, she would have died soon anyway living in such an unhealthy environment. 

Some of you may have heard that she broke her glasses shortly after abducting the children. So, not being able to see, she had the little boy hold out his finger so she could feel it to tell when he was fat enough to cook. You know how he tricked her? He used a chicken bone. Again, I have to ask, how could she be so stupid? She didn’t think it was odd that the boy never gained weight? That he was, in fact, losing weight? And that he had no skin? 

And, now, we come to the little girl. She pretended not to know if the oven was hot enough. Hildegarde, inexplicably believing her, stuck her own head in the oven. Thereby positioning herself perfectly for a small girl to push her in and burn her alive. 

Yes, I know, this is her funeral and we’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but come on! We’re all thinking it. Would any of us have been that stupid? Have made it so easy for the good guys to win? Done everything but paint a bullseye on our own foreheads? If you can be outwitted by two little kids who think a trail of breadcrumbs in a forest won’t get eaten the minute you turn your back, then you deserve to be burned to a crisp until your friends have nothing but a few charred bones to bury. 

All right! All right! I’m leaving. 

I’m not wrong, though.