Posted tagged ‘mjbrewer’

The Birthday Curse – a slice of heaven

June 10, 2012

At the age of fifty-five, Benny drives home from his birthday party at Reyna’s Rules, a local comedy club.  Now that he’s a year older….nothing has changed.  Everything is exactly the same as yesterday, but he’s certain his wrinkles are microscopically deeper, a couple more hairs are grayer, and he’s a little closer to death. 

The girl next to him doesn’t seem to notice his age, even though she’s less than half of it with her taut young body and plunging neckline to prove it, as if anyone has any doubts.  Her blond hair hangs loosely around her bare shoulders and he imagines the tresses must be tickling her back around the halter. He wonders if she likes that, or if she even notices.

The next streetlight is red as he sees a man jump from the curbside, a bucket and sponge in hand, “Need a wash sir?”  Before he has a chance to accept or deny, the old man is busy washing the glass with dirty, dull water and a dilapidated sponge.

“Get off my car, you old coot!” Benny screams at him, laying on the horn.  It’s amazing the fool even considered approaching the Mercedes in the first place, much less beginning work without approval.

The old man flies across the hood of the car, almost as if he’s run across an electric circuit with his wet hands.  His back hits hard against the curb, taking his grungy clothes, scraggly hair and tattered beard with him into the ditch.  The blond laughs before removing her gum and tossing it out her window to bounce off the dirty asphalt next to him.

The changing light signals Benny to step on it, which he gladly does, peering into his rearview mirror at the vagrant.  He can see the elderly man struggling to get to his feet, his lips moving and his hands gesturing wildly in the air.   Of course, he’s much too far away to hear the infuriated cursing of the gypsy.

The three-thousand square foot penthouse welcomes the couple as they exit the elevator.  “Wow, you really live here?” the woman questions in awe, her thick southern accent nearly drowning her words.

“No, I got the key from the beggar back there,” without a glimpse of humor, but a shrug of his shoulders, “He’s letting me borrow it for the night.” Benny isn’t really shocked when he hears her response. 

“Really?” she allows her eyes to drift over the awards on his mantle before spinning around, “If that were true, you’ve either been lying about your name or you’ve put your awards and medical certificates on someone else’s wall.”

Bringing a couple of glasses with him and a bottle of Chardonnay, he takes a seat on the sofa.  “Nothing gets past you, I see.  Come and have a drink with me and we can toast my birthday again, um…”

“My name is Kristi,” she tells him casually, as if no one ever remembers what to call her.

“Right, Kristi.”

As the cork pops out, the aroma is oak and melon Benny notes, closing his eyes and drifting, if only for a second.  Opening them again, he pours each glass half full and prepares to take a swallow.  “Wait!” she interjects, “Have you even made a birthday wish yet?”

“No, I thought that’s what you were here for,” he raises his eyebrows, “to make my wish come true, baby.”

Her head lulls back and she laughs aloud, reminding Benny of the sound a very loud chicken might make, “I’m serious!”

“So was I,” he adds, “Now let’s celebrate my birthday.”

“Okay,” her serious tone comes back.  She holds her hand up in a motion to stop him, “But back home we always have three wishes for a birthday.  So, you have to tell me yours.”

The expression is priceless until he realizes the only way to overcome this obstacle is by giving in a little.  Besides, looking at those long and nimble legs, paired with that full breast, three wishes should be easy to come up with.  “Okay, okay,” he says allowing his gaze to wander into the night sky through the window reflecting the city lights below.

After a spell, he gets an idea, “I wish to become wealthy.”

“That’s it?” her eyes narrow as she shakes her head, tucking a curl behind her ear,”Everyone always wishes for that.  Besides, you already are, aren’t you?  I mean, I don’t know of any doctors who are poor.”

He laughs, “You’d be surprised!  Ever hung out at a golf course and really listened to…”  But then he stops because clearly this girl wouldn’t know which end of the club to hit the ball with, much less the difference between a driver and a putter.  A golf course is probably the last place you’d find this type of woman.  “Yes,” he finishes, “I would want to be so well-off that I wouldn’t know what to do with the money.”

“Hmm,” she says, eyeing the wine as she loops her arm around his with her wine glass.  “What’s your second wish?”

“I guess it could be the answer for the first wish,” he thinks aloud as he speaks, “I’d like to find the cure for everything.”

“Everything?  Isn’t that a whole bunch of cures?”

“No, I mean one cure for any ailment,” he sits forward in anticipation of the drink.  “You know, a medicine that can cure anything!”

“Okay, like some miracle drug, right?”

“Sure,” his wheels are turning, “a miracle drug…”

“Great,” and her voice becomes deep and sultry, “and lastly, your third wish?”

“My third wish would be for someone to love me, unconditionally.”  The words sound like a stranger saying them through his head, but not him at all.  Still being his third wish,  that the game is over with and he can finally collect what he’s been anticipating for the past two hours.

“That sounds like something a woman would say, ‘unconditional love’,” she makes her voice low and drawn out for the ‘unconditional love’ part.

“Yeah, whatever,” he chuckles, “Let’s celebrate!”

They celebrate, celebrate, and Oh!  Celebrate!

The next morning, Kristi is making coffee and has the television on when Benny wanders into the room.  “Hate to make you rush, but I’ve got a few things to do today.  I’ll have coffee, but we gotta hurry.”  He sits down at the table and grabs the newspaper sitting to the side, opening it in front of him.

The smile manages to hold its place on her face, despite her disappointment and she approaches his cup with the pot of coffee.  “I heard them deliver the paper, so I brought it to the table for you,” she offers, but gets no reaction.

“Oh my God!” he murmurs, getting louder, “Oh my good God! I won!”  He jumps from his seat and runs to the coat rack, removing his jacket.  He immediately rummages through the pockets.  Withdrawing a piece of paper, he clambers over to Kristi, hands shaking and legs jumping, “Look at this, one of my wishes is coming friggin’ true already!”

Kristi looks at the numbers and crosses to the table to read the winning numbers, and sure enough, they match.  Benny is now a multi-millionaire.  “That’s amazing!” she adds before he takes a drink of his coffee to calm him down and bring him back to reality.  “I wonder if the other wishes will come true.”

Without taking the time to listen to her, he snatches her purse, thrusting it into her arms and pushes her to the elevator, despite protests.  “Wait, wait,” she cries as the doors close and she disappears from his life.

Despite feeling like the richest man at the office, Benny needs to wait until the funds come in.  Even when he receives the money, he will not be finished with his work.  He determines he’s going to make his other wishes come true.

Over the following month, he goes over the experiment he’s been working on.  The goal is to find an antidote for the onset of life-threatening diseases, stabilizing the first symptoms, making the secondary and more life-altering symptoms obsolete.  He believes this is the secret to identifying the cause and eventual cure of the illnesses. 

“Perhaps,” he suggests aloud, “tapping into the human mind’s psyche is the secret to reversing any negativity due to the activity of the brain.  There’s got to be a way to reverse the brain, while still permitting brainwaves to continue normal functionality, the cure for everything!”

The cell phone ringing interrupts his thoughts and he dashes to the phone.  When he looks at the screen, he doesn’t recognize the number and wonders if the bank is calling to notify him the money has arrived.  Taking a deep breath, he says, “Hello?”

The other end of the phone remains silent before a southern woman answers, “Hello, Benny?”

“Yes, who is this?”

“Kristi,” she clears her throat, “Kristi Marcus, but you don’t know my last name.”

“Kristi?” he repeats, “I don’t know anyone named Kristi.”

“Remember your birthday last month?”   The dead silence reflects his memory of the drunken evening where he recited his wishes.  He never could remember that girl’s name, but here she is now nonetheless. 

“Listen,” he tells her, “I don’t even have the money yet, so whatever hare-brained scheme you have for cashing in on my winnings, forget it, blondie.”

“I think you’re going to be a father.”  There is nothing more as the phone drops to the floor and he collapses.

The light is so bright when his eyes open, it takes him a moment to recall what happened.  The operating table lights are even more intense than he could imagine, as he squints his eyes to see the doctors and nurses.  But there are no doctors or nurses here.  Only plumes of drifting mist for as far as the eye can see. 

“Where am I?” he asks himself, sitting up, and it echoes as if he’s screamed it at the top of his lungs.  In the distance, he can hear the tap-tapping of shoes as he sees a small man, hair parted neatly on the side and cut short, approaching him.  His suit is obviously tailor-made, with his silky black tie lying neatly on his chest.  The thin mouth cracks a diminutive smile while he pushes his black glasses up onto his bridge and pulls a tri-folded slip of paper out of his breast pocket.

“Clearly, the question you ask is rhetorical,” the man suggests, “as I don’t know how it can be any more obvious to you that you’re dead.”

The reality takes a minute to clear the fog in his head, as it seems as thick as the fog surrounding him now.  “Dead?” he questions, and then chuckles, “I can’t be dead.”

“On the contrary, you certainly are dead,” the man argues, “and you brought it on yourself, understandably, through your own ignorance.”

“I don’t get it,” Benny pinches his bridge and squints his eyes again, but the chap remains, even closer now.

Shaking the paper open, the man extends it toward Benny so he can have a look and what it reveals. The list is nothing more than the numbers one, two and three down the left margin of the page.  “Sometimes when dealing with the simple-minded folks, I find it takes me a bit longer to explain,” he begins, “Generally speaking, the simple-minded folks are the ones who think they are better, faster, or smarter than the average person.”  And then he whispers, ” In a word, you.”

“This is a dream,” Benny exclaims as he laughs, pinching himself quite hard on his arm several times.

“No, although it probably would be better for you if it was only a dream,” the courier stifles a giggle, “but on your birthday you made three wishes.  And those wishes have been granted.”

“Why would that be a bad thing?” Benny inquires, “All of the wishes I made were good wishes, right?”

“Well, normally that might be so, but you made them directly after nearly running over a gypsy.  The gypsy who, by the guided hand,” he motions upward, following with his eyes, “was doing his best to live an honest life.”

“So there’s a catch, big deal,” he climbs to his feet in front of the man who he recognizes is a third less taller than himself.  He puffs out his chest and for the first time notices himself wearing a dull cotton tunic and pants, as if he were at a hospital, less the vibrant colors.  “I’ll still take my wishes.”

The man empties his throat and looks at the list.  “First, you wished to become wealthy, is this not true?”  His eyes peer over the paper as he momentarily lowers his glasses.

“Yes, doesn’t everyone?” Benny is proud of himself, despite the gentleman replacing his glasses and lifting the paper back up.

“You won the lottery with those little numbers you picked, did you not?” the man lifts his chin as if he has just proven a point that’s not up for argument.

Receiving no answer, he continues, “The second wish was to discover a mystery cure for every ailment, correct?”

As if it was a trick of some sort, Benny ponders before answering this time, “Yes, I was just about to make the greatest discovery of all time which, by the way, would make me even wealthier still, right?  But I was interrupted!”  Benny’s anger is evident by now.

The man falls into hysterics before straightening up again, “No, silly.  The cure for every illness is death, and everyone discovers it eventually.”

Reality checks in with Benny and then he stops for he cannot remember what his third wish was, but surely after death, there can’t be anything more.  It is as if the little business man is reading his mind because he continues without being egged on, “You did have one more wish, did you not?”

“Yeah,” he slowly replies, “One more wish…”

“It was to be loved ‘unconditionally,’ wasn’t it?” the man presses his lips together as if he’s secretly proud of himself for making Benny uncomfortable.

Recognition envelops him, “Yes, I’ve never been loved unconditionally.  So it appears as if there’s been a misunderstanding.  If you could return me back to earth to finish my strange quest, I would certainly appreciate it.”  His swollen pride returns as he smoothes his shirt down with his hands.

“You are loved unconditionally,” the messenger delivers, “the baby, whom you fathered on your birthday will always be grateful to you for bringing him into existence.  He’ll be grateful for the talents he’s inherited, and he will love you for all the things you were attempting to do for mankind before you died.”

“But the baby isn’t born yet so there’s no way to claim me as his father,” comes the smug reply.

At this, the messenger laughs uncontrollably.  “You were a scientist with your DNA scattered about the place, were you not?  You died immediately following the announcement you were to be a father, so in order to prove it for her son, Kristi needed to do so immediately–and she did.  Besides, you’ve been here for a long time now.  The time difference is quicker here and your son is now in school.”  He motions toward a window that mysteriously appears behind him.

Walking with laden feet, Benny strolls over to the window to peer through and sees a young man, who is the spitting image of himself.   “Wow,” he murmurs, “wishes really do come true.”

“You are now the proud dead father of a very rich heir.  Congratulations!”

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Fat-Free

June 6, 2012

“Teeny,” born with the name Tina, was born premature and is anything but small as she lies on her bed.  She’s  totally indulging in yet another paperback romance, and living vicariously through someone else’s imagination.  The picture is vivid when she closes her eyes to see the handsome and daring young man eager to win her love.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring. 

The phone startles her back into reality as she pushes up with her thick arm to roll off the bed with a thud.  Taking a deep breath, she exhales before she shuffles through her bedroom to the kitchen table where her cell phone is waiting, blinking, and nagging to get an answer.

“Hello?” she breathes heavily into the phone, wiping sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.  But there is no answer and the identification flashes a number with which she is unfamiliar.  She sighs and sets it down, “Probably a wrong number anyways.”

The kitchen is clean and there is no sign of food, except for the cookie jar sitting back on the counter by the stove.  Ignoring the jar with the little elves tauntingly hanging off the lid, she briskly waddles into the living room. 

The remote, in the side pocket of her recliner, feels comfortable in her hand.  It’s as if the manufacturing company had her in mind when they made it.  All of the buttons are easy to press and brightly colored, just like jellybeans.  Laughing, she turns the television on and sits down, wiggling her buttocks between the arms of the chair until she settles firmly in the seat. 

Teeny likes to think of herself as an imaginative and resourceful dreamer, both in personality and action.  But for each dream, Teeny knows there’s a price.  Her price is undoubtedly her weight.  No matter what she’s drawing, writing, or even thinking, her body’s pastime is eating.  It’s no wonder she can’t get a real man of her own.  Instead, she needs to borrow one from a cheesy novel.

Sighing yet again, she inhales and begins to choke.  Choke?  Coughing as hard as she can, until her face is a crimson red, a piece of chewed red licorice shoots out of her throat and lands in a lump on the linoleum.  “Holy cheese,” she’s not in her living room with the remote in her hand anymore, but in the kitchen. 

The elves are lying on the counter and the cookie jar that was full is now empty.  The tell-tale signs of cookies sprinkled over the countertops, are the only clue.  “Bad, Teeny,” she shouts, “Bad, bad, bad.”  The disgust ravages her mind as she returns to the easy chair ready for the one-eyed monster to entertain her. 

Pushing the buttons, the screen pops on displaying a sultry woman’s lips wrapping around a piece of chocolate from her fingertips.  “Mm,” the woman is obviously under the spell of the smooth and silky candy as it melts in her mouth.  Teeny wipes the spittle from her chin and picks up a handful of M&Ms from the oversized bowl in her lap before popping them in, handfuls at a time.  Without removing her eyes from the screen, she takes a large swig of soda from an oversized cup.  “Where did this come…?” Teeny’s puzzled voice drops off. 

This is too much, she thinks, and something has to give because I don’t even notice until the food is gone.  That’s compulsive, and she remembers that from the diet club she attended over a year ago.  She worked her butt off, and worked out a lot too, dropping nearly a hundred pounds.  What does she have to show for it?  “This huge, repulsive body that no man would ever consider making love to,” she answers her own question aloud. 

Forcing herself up from the chair to take the empty bowl into the kitchen, she stops in her tracks as her jaw drops open, but not for food this time.  There are empty potato chip bags, microwave popcorn wrappers, candy bar packaging, and empty soda cans inundating the countertop.

Frantic and panicky, she trips, catching herself on the counter.   Her head swoons as she changes direction trying to regain her steadiness.  The restroom is at the end of the hall and she doesn’t feel like she’ll make it in time.  Nevertheless, she lunges toward the sea-green carpet-covered toilet.  Normally the bathroom is inviting, as it entices one to sit and stay for a while, but not right now.  Now it’s inviting her to kneel pathetically onto its matching sea-green rug and beg for forgiveness.

Throwing the lid open, she’s barely able to lean before a bright pink liquid comes shooting from the back of her throat into the toilet.  The pressure is so intense; her throat cannot possibly hold the pressure as her nasal cavity opens up to expel the excess.  She feels like an infinite fountain, as the vomiting seems to have no end in sight.

“Teeny,” a woman shouts leaning over the bed, giving her a shake, “Teeny, wake up!”

Not hearing from her sister Teeny for nearly a month, Sara became more than curious.  Despite calling at least ten times, she got no answer.  Out of sheer terror, she brought herself to drive across three states to check on her sister herself.  With the front door unlocked and Teeny’s car in the driveway, Sara became even more frantic.  No one would answer when she knocked and rang the doorbell, so she finally let herself.  The lights were off and there was no sign of anyone, but the feeling was uneasy.

Calling and searching, she found the house immaculately clean until she entered the bedroom where Teeny lay at 67 lbs. on top of the bedspread.  Out of her gaping mouth she whispers, “No thanks, I couldn’t eat another bite.”

Dinner in a Snap!

June 5, 2012

“I’m so hungry I could eat a humongous cake that’s huger than the universe, if it was chocolate,” she whispers as she cuddles up against her mother on the couch.  Little Teddy has a way with words that every adult seems to admire when they make her acquaintance.

“If it was larger than the universe,” Dylan corrects his kid sister, “it wouldn’t be able to fit in the universe, much less in your stomach.”  Although he is in third grade, he puts a lot of thought into scientific hypothesis and equations.   But this time it isn’t necessary.

“Could too, because I’d eat it one bite at a time,” little Teddy argues, wiggling even closer to her mom.

“That’s enough, you too,” their mother can tell the thought of eating a cake that large would be heaven.  The money she’s been saving for years is paying the rent, utilities and car insurance every month, but that just piddled away this past week.  The food stamps allow a little over a hundred dollars a week, which is not enough for three people to eat properly.  And if she thinks too hard about it, she’ll drive herself crazy.  She’s been there before and can remember the helpless feelings she had.

On the surface, she smiles and tells her kids she understands, but inside she’s screaming and wishing she could disappear.  Crumbling, however, is not an option because appearing weak in front of her children is the last thing they need.

“What are we going to eat? We’ve got cornflakes and some disgusting peanut butter in the cupboard.” Dylan opens the refrigerator and sighs, “There’s half a gallon of milk, some cheese and tortillas.  Hey, we can have cheese tortillas!”

A rustling of plastic wrapper from the kitchen before he continues, “The cheese has a little mold, but I can cut that off, right?”

But his mother doesn’t answer.  Teddy is sitting snugly in the corner of the couch, alone, a blanket wrapped around her body.  “She’s gone,” is her response, “and I’m really scared, Dil.”

Dylan approaches the couch and wraps his arms around his sister, comforting her, “It’ll be okay.  She’ll be back.”

The hopeless face stares up at his with huge brown eyes, “What if she doesn’t come back this time?”

“She will,” he reassures her, “She always does.  Mommy will never leave us, Teddy.  I promise, okay?”

Dylan gives his sister an extra squeeze and can feel her shaking while she cries.  He gently rubs her back while they wait.  “Want me to tell you a story?”  She nods and he continues, “Once upon a time …”

“Time to eat!” their mother chimes from the kitchen as the two children perk their heads up, unaware they even went to sleep.  The air is alive with the aroma of food cooking, and at first Dylan thinks he’s dreaming until he pinches himself hard, leaving a purple mark on his abdomen.  

Taking Teddy’s hand, after giving her a gentle shake, he takes her with him into the kitchen.  On the table are three place settings situated on the plastic picnic table and a glass of water for each. 

“Here’s yours,” their mother smiles as she places a dish in the center.  The kids pull out their plastic chairs to sit while she quietly stands to the side.  “Teddy, would you bless the food?”

Still unsure if he’s awake or not, Dylan pinches himself again, but decides he must be awake. The children bow their heads and Teddy gives a wonderful prayer.  She blesses her stuffed dog, and asks God that they all stay together forever because they love each other so much. 

The kids dig in and compliment the chef, stating these are the best chicken nuggets they’ve ever had.  Their mother is happy and afterwards they nestle together as she rambles off a bedtime story.  It isn’t long before the children fall into a deeper and more comfortable sleep.

Lifting her daughter up gently, so as not to disturb her sleep, their mother climbs out from under her. Over the top of Dylan, she searches for her sweatshirt in the pile of clothes by the wall.  When she finds it, she slips it over her head and creeps out of the room.

Even though she doesn’t receive an income or pay taxes, it is still a requirement to work because she has children who depend on her.  That’s what a mother is and her work is still not finished.

Her slippers are falling apart, but she doesn’t seem to notice as she slides them onto her feet.  The air is brisk, as it always is during the winter at night, but this is when she hunts.   The door is light as she swings it open and a gust of cold air sweeps past her.  The snow forms smooth outlines of her feet as the snow packs down beneath them.  Her toes are going numb in places where the ice is creeping in, but if she can concentrate on her task, she’s certain she won’t feel it.  Carefully, she searches the ground for miniscule indentations or disturbance in the snow. 

Fluttering snowflakes begin to fall, collecting on her eyelashes, and she remembers when she was a small girl.  Her meager beginnings were similar to her children’s now, and she’d sworn to herself she would never do this to her own children, no matter what.  But that was before the car accident.  The one that  took her husband’s life on the evening he was celebrating his kid brother’s wedding proposal. 

Long before that, after their own marriage, he explains he wants her to stay at home.  The kids need a mom until they are in school, rather than turn their upbringing over to strangers.  To leave him in charge of the finances seemed like the thing to do, but she didn’t find out about the lapse in insurance until after his accident.

Here she is now, trying to figure out how they will survive one more week when she hears the snap!   And then another.  She quietly circles the shed to the back and sees the lump in the snow beneath the tiny aspen tree.  On top of the bump is a piece of copper wire squeezing the head of a large rat.  His eyes stare blankly across the lawn, his mouth is open like he’s got something to say, and his legs lay crumpled in the snow.

“Hmm,” she speaks curiously to the night air, “a rat?” 

Not knowing if it will taste any different from the mice, she decides she doesn’t have anything to lose by trying something new and goes to find the other catches.   Snap!  Snap!  Snap!  They should have enough to tide them over now.  As long as she has peanut butter for bait and cornflakes, they can have nuggets every night.

The Gypsy’s Dream

June 2, 2012

In a place far away, a long time ago, a poor penniless lad wanders the countryside in search of shelter, for he no longer has guardians to care for him as they came to an untimely end.  On one particular day, in the thick of the woods, he hears a young man singing gaily beyond the clomp-clomping of the hoofs of the rider’s horse. Hastily, he dives into a nearby bush to observe. 

 At first, certain his hunger and exhaustion are causing hallucinations, he pinches himself in disbelief.   The exquisitely dressed lad could be his identical twin, save a good scrubbing behind the ears and a sharp blade for a haircut.  His curiosity overwhelms him as he steps out into the clearing.

“Hi-ho there!” he greets cheerfully, putting on his best smile to see the surprise on the other man’s face who undoubtedly makes the same observation.

“What Tom-foolery is this?” the prince demands, lifting his head haughtily as he peers down his nose, “a changeling perhaps to steal a prince’s soul?”

“Quite the contrary, my lord,” the gypsy corrects him and gets an idea at the words, “I am but a doppelganger sent by a fairy in order to allow you bits of well-deserved freedom, I am.”

“How so, doppelganger?” the interest sparks as the prince dismounts his horse to approach the vagabond, carefully eyeing him up and down.

“On the days you need relief from your mundane and orderly tasks, I am here to give you rest.  Meanwhile,  you may wander the land for as long as you like, relishing your freedom.  But, in order to mask your identity, we will need to switch clothing of course.”

The prince walks near the teenager and again sizes him up to be identical, except for the wafting stench emanating from his pores.  Pausing, he chuckles and turns to his steed, “Although the offer is but a tempting one, I shall endure the treacheries of my tedious life in order to escape the stink of being impoverished.  Good day.”

Before he can mount his horse, the destitute boy gathers a heavy stone and hits the prince in the back of the head.  Confusion racks the prince’s face as he turns to see his assailant.  Rubbing the back of his head with his hand, he brings it forward covered in blood.  “Why did you do that?” he asks before receiving his final crowning.

The pauper wastes no time cleaning up as best he can in a nearby stream and changing into the prince’s clothes.  He does his best to scrub the spots of blood from the bodice, yet finds he cannot, leaving him with only one painful option.  After disposing of the body, he crowns himself, but not as hard and with a rock quite a bit smaller.

“The prince!  The prince!” a woman screams as he enters the courtyard, “Praise the gods he’s returned!”  Before he could fathom what is happening, peasants and knaves surround him and help him from his trusty horse’s back.

“You’ve been gone for nearly a week, your highness!” a man tells him.

“Where have you been?” yet another throws in.  And soon he is drowning in questions so much that the fatigue, hunger and commotion get the better of him and he collapses.

When he awakens, he feels fresh and alive, and the reflection in his mirror as he rises in bed tells him why.  He truly is the prince’s doppelganger!  No sooner does he cross the room to inspect even more closely than the door to his room flies open.

“Your highness,” his servant addresses, “Despite your search of the countryside for the fairest maiden in the land, we’ve finally located her.”  And he sets off at once to meet the happily ever after to his already fulfilling life.  He smirks to himself as his life becomes better and better.

The new kingdom greets him as he enters the gates with his men at his side, as his people no longer allow him to travel alone and pray for the return of his memory.  This is a day long awaited as he dismounts and follows his hosts into the castle, up many flights of stairs into a room full of roses and ivy.

In the middle of the room is a chiffon-adorned bed with a velvet-embellished bedspread and pillows.   The most exquisite face he’s ever seen is sitting high upon the pillows.  The tresses of long, twisting hair stretch about her like the autumn rays of sunshine.  Her pale skin accented by her flush pink cheeks and ever so plump lips.  Her breast heaves slowly and rhythmically as his mind draws a blank, leaving him speechless.

“We’ve been searching for you high and low so you can awaken our princess,” the queen says from behind him.  “She needs but one true kiss from a prince to break the spell.”

Approaching the bed, he leans over the fair maiden while the rest of the royal families, from her side and his, surround him to watch.  Her lips are so inviting as he plants a long, wet kiss on them and tumbles lifelessly on the floor in a heap.

“He must still be exhausted,” says his father, the king, “He’s had a rough week.”

But when the king’s wizard approaches the boy and checks for a pulse, he turns sadly around, “Your son is dead.”

And so Princess Aurora slept for another hundred years before her real Prince Charming found her and this time, because he truly was a prince, and they lived happily ever after.

The Three Dresses (a fairytale)

June 2, 2012

Once upon a time, in a place not so far away from where you are right now, a huge gathering was about to take place.  When the town’s bell tolls, the town crier sparks out with the news that in exactly one year the handsome prince will choose his bride, who cannot be of ordinary descent.  The prince has heard stories of the marked girl who is his wife to be and in celebration of this great day, a feast and festival will take place.  Of course, the revelation of the mark is discrete. This announcement drives the entire town crazy and all of the single women set to work deciding what she will wear and how she will accessorize it. 

When the knock at the door is heard, a courier hands each potential bride a notice that states simply, “The truest and chastest of women will display herself in front of the prince for thirty seconds.  During this period, she is to remain silent.” At the bottom of the note a declaration states, “Every maiden shall wear a dress she crafts herself that tells the story of who she is as these will be her words.”

Some of the maidens think this a joke and laugh before closing the door, while others become angry as they have no tailoring skills and find the competition unjust.  But one home, with three sisters who are very different from each other, is alive with conversation right away as they begin discussing their ideas for their own dresses.  When they finish their talking, they each run to their rooms to get to work immediately. 

The first one, Theresa, searches through books to find the dress she finds the most attractive and then closes her eyes to imagine how it will look on her.  The dress she finds to dream about is a bright yellow velvet.  While she thinks about the dress, she slowly falls into slumber, giggling as her fading off convinces her she will undoubtedly win.

The oldest sister, Susan, goes to her room and decides she wants something vivacious to bring out the tones in her skin and to slim down her somewhat full figure.  She decides to purchase a captivating floral pattern from the shop down the way and create her own breathtaking masterpiece.  Snatching her purse, she heads to the store straight away to shop for an entrancing pattern.

The smallest sister, Stephanie, grabs her purse in order to go shopping in the next town.  She isn’t exactly sure what her dress will look like, but she’s insistent on beginning now.  She’s fully aware that the Hart’s Corner Lot on the mulberry farm has just what she needs.

Over the course of the next year, Theresa wins a kite-flying contest and her pumpkin comes in second at the state fair.  Two nights before the ball, she sits chewing her nails and pulling at her long and stringy hair, when she goes to the window and gets an idea.  “Of course,” she cries out as if the most wonderful idea she’s ever had has struck her silly, “It’s right in front of my face and has been the entire time!”  As quickly as she can muster, she runs outside.

Several months before Theresa gets her incredibly great idea, Susan gets around to making her own dress, but has serious issues trying to follow the pattern.  After all, there are so many numbers, dots and funny little arrows on the patterns, who can make sense of it all?  But still, in a year, she ought to be able to make quite the dress.  She’s has so much to learn.

The day after hearing the announcement, Stephanie leaves her home and walks to the mulberry farm. Her heart is set on the tools she needs for the essential gown.  She has written everything down meticulously on a piece of paper and pulls it out several times to ensure she doesn’t miss anything.  But now she has the supreme goal; a goal that will take a year to bring full-circle, if she works hard.  All she needs now are the worms.

A year after the announcement, the night before the big event, all three women are sweating profusely, ensuring everything is correct so they she will stand out amongst the throng of women presenting themselves in front of the prince.  They convene in their front room, each certain her gown will be the best, at least in this house.  With the gown of her making embellishing her body, each woman reeks with confidence.

Theresa’s sweeping gown decorated with an array of gorgeous daffodils, the rarest of yellow Licorice Tea Roses, and a delight of Queen’s Lace lining the neckline, smells as sweet as a flourishing garden.  Not only did she string the flowers together herself, but the composition is especially soft to the touch.  Surely, she thinks, he won’t be able to keep his hands and nose away.  She has to admit, it doesn’t look bad for two days worth of work!  And although the neighbors may be upset about the ravaging of their gardens, they will certainly change their minds when they see the beauty their foliage has produced.

The second sister, Susan enters the room with her dress.  After hours of attempting to decipher the plans and even basic details of constructing it, she ends up going back to what she’s comfortable with and knows like the back of her hand; yarn.  Because she doesn’t really need to learn anything new, she procrastinates until a few months before the party. 

Susan manages to crochet a variegated dress from several skeins of the softest Buttercup Yarn.  The dress is mostly a soft blue with dabs of the lightest pink, yellow, green and white woven into the threads.  Although the heaviness of the dress is weighty, she is certain she’ll have no issues wearing it, as long as she only dances once.  (Of course, when the prince dances with her, it will undoubtedly be his last dance as well.)

Finally, Stephanie enters the room and the light glimmers off each strand of white silk intricately woven into the finest material as she glides across the floor.  The bodice is form fitting as it spreads like an evening snow, gently over the floor.  The back of the dress swoops down to a tease at the base of her spine, the perfect place for a man to position his hands.

 If the words each is thinking are to be tangible objects, none of them will be able to see the other, as their heads are threatening to explode in conversation.  Their grins produce acceptance, but their eyes reflect abhorrence as Theresa and Susan spin to quickly leave the room and strategize their hairstyles and makeup.  Each wants to be ravishing.  Stephanie takes a seat and reflects on the hard work and time put into her creation.  She smiles with contentment, as even if the prince doesn’t choose her, it’s evident to all who lay eyes on her the effort contained in her design.  With a grateful sigh, she gets up to undress and put her ball gown in the closet.  She knows she finally deserves a goodnight’s sleep.

The following evening, the ladies agree to enter the ball together and assemble at the front door to leave.  Theresa and Susan’s hair designs have pins, baubles, flowers and beads of various means.  But Stephanie’s blond locks braided together with a single silk ribbon that trails down her spine, accenting the revelation of her smooth skin. 

Taking a deep breath in preparation to leave, thunder crashes outside, causing their faces to drain as worry sets in.  “All of our work will be for nothing if we don’t go now,” is the only sentence that can be heard, “Perhaps if we hurry, we can beat the storm.”  Boldly, Stephanie opens the door to leave.

Not to be outdone by their youngest sister, Theresa and Susan glance at each other and follow her into the windy air.  No sooner do they walk into the middle of the street than the wind kicks up blowing papers, leaves and sticks around in a flurry. 

The girls’ dresses are jerking violently back and forth before the dress fabricated of lace and daffodils shreds from her body, revealing her tightly laced corset and underpants.  The flowers and beads rip from her chocolate-colored hair, leaving Theresa devastated.  The gusts also manage a number on Susan’s hair, while the silky ribbon woven into Stephanie’s hair twirls wildly in the wind.  Out of sheer embarrassment, and knowing she cannot participate in the state she is in, Theresa sobs as she hightails it back to her home to sulk.

The two sisters clasp hands and although Stephanie feels badly for Theresa, she realizes that turning back now would be fruitless, so she toils onward.  Susan laughs in her low and throaty laugh, “That’s at least one out of the running, eh, Stephanie?”  No sooner did those words escape her lips than the rain tumbles down in torrents.  Through the sheets of rain, the castle lights are visible ahead and the women continue.

When they arrive, the opening has a surplus of women waiting to enter, some of them a little less cordial than others, as Susan enters the throngs.  “Excuse me!” she chimes in with the rest of the impatient women, “Excuse me!”  A few women are hit in the gut, sashes torn, and toes crushed as the hungry piranhas impatiently fight for their rights.

Pushing her way through, and dragging her sister behind her by the hand, Susan finally emerges into the courtyard.  The beautifully fluffy yarn that titivates her is nothing more than burdensome strings dragging across the mud and dirt.  In addition, her hair has lost the full curls she painstakingly rolled up the night before.  “Argh!” she screams, trying her best to walk to the long stairway that leads to the entrance of the ball, “My dress is too heavy, but I can do this… I can do this… I… I can’t!”  She sits down in the mud, presumably waiting to dry so she can make her way back home.

Aside from being wet and having her dress moistened, Stephanie appears unscathed.  She feels it unnecessary to apply make-up so once the water dries, she is as good as new.  The crowd of women is far less than the village contains, presumably due to the same daunting circumstances as her sisters.  Standing in the doorway, Stephanie takes in the room, searching for someone she knows as she waits in line for her own turn to dance with the prince.

Skimming over each face, her eyes finally fall on the prince, even more handsome than she had envisioned.  His white tuxedo matches her gown as he strolls toward her.  Taking her by the hand, he smiles warmly.  They dance for what seems like forever, but still for no time at all, and then the lights dim down.

“Your gown, is divine,” he assures her, his voice satiny and low, “as is the woman inside.”  She can’t help but blush as she feels his hand tighten about her waist, across the open back as he twirls her around.  He allows his eyes to take in her beauty, the gentle curve of her neck, the crevasse between her shoulders and the soft bow of her tailbone just beneath a purple birthmark in the shape of a heart. 

Stephanie never knew about the premonition of the heart, but she did know that if not for the help of her silkworm friends, none of this would be possible.  All it took was a bit of patience, planning, and determination.

What Happened to the Eighth Dwarf?

May 31, 2012

Throughout history, there are many stories to teach us lessons by warning us of bad things that will undoubtedly happen should we choose not to change our ways.  One of the most devastating stories, fallen through the cracks of time, has one of the most valuable lessons of all.   It’s the story about the Seven Dwarfs, or the Eight Dwarfs as they were originally known, long before Snow White enters the picture with her ridiculously poisoned apple.

The dwarfs all grew up together because they have the same mom.   Winifred was not a dwarf, but the typical every day girl who typically did nursing chores in caring for the villager’s children while they cooked and cleaned for their husbands.   Her husband was a dwarf, but left her destitute when he found he was not only going to be the father of eight children, but of eight male octupulets.  Not a dream for any sane man.

As the boys tumble about in their crib, they roll around for days waiting for a name, and soon they each find his own through his actions.  Happy is always cheerful and giving; Sneezy always seems to have a cold; and Grumpy is never content no matter what exceptions are made for him, but some people are just that way.  Bashful never volunteers for anything and can turn more shades of color than the Northern Lights, which is especially fun to tease on the boys’ birthday.  Sleepy cannot stay awake long enough to finish an entire meal without falling into his plate due to an extreme case of narcolepsy.  Dopey has difficulty keeping a conversation straight, much less contributing to it in a meaningful manner and Doc, the leader of the bunch who was literally born with gray hair, always cares and worries for his brothers.  Being the first one born, naturally makes him the eldest of the brothers.  This leaves but one brother unaccounted for, the eighth brother, Greedy.    He didn’t live very long at all.

Every day the dwarves work for hours on end, mining for ore, iron, coal and on occasion even gold.  One day as they are walking home after a very long day in the mine, Dopey stops to grab a flower for his mother, but what he actually plucks is not a flower at all, but the feather of a chickadee’s tail.  The little bird cheeps loudly and makes such a commotion all of the dwarfs hear it and come running over to witness poor Dopey receiving “what for” from the bird.  Of course, being as lame-minded as he is, Dopey has no idea what is going on until Doc listens closely and interprets to the others. 

Doc reiterates to his brothers that if they can help it replace its feather, as he is off -balance now and will not be able to fly, he will take them to a mine far better than any they’ve ever mined before.  They are all excited, as can be imagined, except for Sleepy who missed the whole conversation.  They were anxious to begin and immediately set out to help the chickadee resolve its issue.  They try glue, string, wire and everything under the sun to attach the feather back to the tail end of the bird to no avail.  Finally, Doc invents a new way to balance out the bird’s tail with an array of leaves fastened onto a harness that cinches around the bird like a girdle.  Sure, it isn’t attractive, but we all know sometimes “form and function” don’t always complement each other, and we have to do what works. 

The bird is so grateful and forgiving of the dwarves that it tells them to meet tomorrow at the same place immediately after work to discover something so big, they will hardly have to work again.  The dwarves are really happy then, and even Grumpy smiles enough to prove he still has his own teeth.  (This was a running bet for a while between his brothers, but fell short when their mother found out about it and gave them a tongue-lashing.)

The following day, the dwarves go to work singing their Hi-Ho song, picks and shovels slung over their shoulders and work their little dwarf buns off.  About two hours before time to leave, Greedy tells his brother, Doc, he isn’t feeling well and needs to go home and get some sleep so he will be ready when they all meet the chickadee later.  Doc feels badly, but wants to ensure all of the brothers get to participate in the unveiling of their reward.   He tells him that if he doesn’t feel better in time, they will still gladly share the reward.  “Brothers are brothers!” he says cheerily, patting Greedy on the back.

Refusing to waste a moment’s breath, Greedy slips out of the cave and scampers off to the place they are to meet the chickadee.  He finds a bush and climbs beneath it, setting his pick to the side, and waits.  Not much time passes before the little chickadee arrives and appears puzzled as its little head cocks back and forth around the brush and grasses.  “They asked me to come ahead and meet you during the daylight hours so I could more easily guide them at dusk,” he explains, but the bird just cocks its head this way and that, peering at him through beady eyes.  Eventually, realizing the bird would never understand him, because unlike Doc, he has no ability to communicate in the bird’s own tongue, he stands to leave.

Just as he gathers himself and gets to his feet, the bird turns tail and begins to hop, instead of fly away.  It stops a few feet away and turns back as if to ensure its newest companion is close behind.  The chickadee flies and flits on branches as Greedy walks for at least an hour, before they finally arrive at a cluster of trees around a very large boulder.  The bird hops onto the boulder and begins to peck at it.  “Is that where the treasure is?” Greedy asks eagerly, and is pleased as the bird hops up and down emphatically. 

The opening has a large boulder in front of it and after leveraging his pick to force it open, several times, he succeeds in rolling it out just enough to squeeze inside.  He flips on his headgear’s light and finds himself speechless as he sees walls encrusted with diamonds!  Glorious diamonds of all sizes glittering about him.  He’s certain some of them would be too large to carry without breaking them up.  He is so surprised he almost forgets his plan before he turns to see the bird hopping along the floor searching for bugs.  With a swift arch of his back, he brings the pick down full-force right through the little bird’s back.  Its tail, they had worked so hard to repair, twitches on the ground before its legs stop moving and it lies motionless.

“I’ve worked my whole life for a find such as this,” Greedy cheerfully announces at the top of his lungs, jumping up and down like a mad man, and hooting and hollering for all he was worth.  A low rumble, soft enough not to be heard at first, creeps louder and louder until he realizes the predicament he will soon be in if he doesn’t hurry.  But unable to move as fast as he needs to, the boulder in front of the door trembles until leaning snuggly against the opening.  Additional rubble falls from the ceiling in front of the opening as a bonus sealant.

“My brothers will never find me, I’m too far away,” he sobs.  “The bird cannot tell them where I am for it is dead.”  He sits and thinks for a moment before aiming his helmet’s light about the cave in order to find his pick.  Relief sweeps over him as he walks over and gathers his tool under his arm, walking away from where the opening had been and back to the glitteriest spot of the cave.  “Just whistle while you work,” he sings as he chops with his pick.  He continues hammering away at the walls, collecting all sorts of diamonds until his light dims down and disappears.  “… forget your troubles, try to be just like the cheerful chickadee.”

The Break

May 29, 2012

The day couldn’t possibly get any longer as the nurse nears the counter to sign out, at least that’s what she is thinking.  “Hey, Bailey,” the head nurse calls from behind her as her fingers grasp the clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other, “I hate to do this to you, but we need you to stay for another hour.”

Incredible!  Didn’t they realize she was only human?  “Please, I really need to get some sleep,” she begins, “I’ve been on the clock for over twelve hours and I came to work straight from picking up my daughter at the airport–spring break, you know.”

“Yeah, I know all about it,” she shakes her head, “but we really need you here.  Sorry.”  Her superior doesn’t sound sorry, and doesn’t even pause before walking away.  The feelings she’s having are irrational, but that doesn’t matter now.  Nothing matters but her job, she reminds herself.

The ER doors fly open and the paramedics pull in a loaded gurney and rush past her, down the hall.  “Bailey, follow them down there and make sure we’ve got everything ready in the OR.  The medics can fill you in on the specifics.”

She rushes to the OR where the men are moving things aside to make room for the gurney. The patient is lying on the bed with bleeding and open wounds amidst purple and red tissue.  Where the mouth belongs is a hole where an air tube squeezes inside to keep the esophagus from closing off. 

Another nurse pokes her head in the door and one of the men approaches her.  They whisper for a bit before he turns around to say, “They say they it’s a streetwalker from the subway.  Apparently, she lost her footing–probably drunk or on drugs, I’d say.”

“Thanks for bringing her in,” is her cold response, “There’s nothing more to do until the surgeon gets here than keep her calm and find a vein for the IV.”  She begins to search the flesh on the right arm and then the left, with no luck.  “Damn waste of life, anyway,” she murmurs, forcing the IV into her arm.

As if in answer to her, the one good eye pops open to reveal a pool of blue, surrounded by the grotesque parasite who owns it.  The eye widens and stares at her, as if trying to speak because the only audible noise is the moist gasping of the air hose in her trachea. 

“It’s because of vermin like you that my sweet Margo is sitting home alone tonight.”  She steps toward the bed, looking directly into the eye that’s watching her when the door pops open. 

“All prepped?” the surgeon asks, heading back to the sink, “The anesthesiologist is due any minute.  Let’s get this show on the road, kids!”

Approaching the patient again, her hands reach out and grasp the tube supplying the junky with life.  She tips it to the side so it sucks against the interior of her throat, cutting off her air.  Panic strikes the patient, unable to move due to the straps and her eye grows large in fear.  Finally, the singular eyeball quits moving, and stares into nothing. The wheezing stops.

“They found her wallet,” the doctor says approaching the table, “Turns out she isn’t a hooker after all, but some college girl taking the subway to meet her mom for lunch.  License says Margo Bailey.  Hey, isn’t that your last name?”

Lifting the damaged hand, she can see her daughter’s class ring with her initials surrounding the sapphire, MRB.