An Un-fairy Tale

It was a party, that wedding reception. Half the kingdom showed up to eat, dance and be merry. The couple was extremely popular and well-loved. That was why it was such a surprise when they started in a marital train wreck It had been such a fairy-tale, their romance.

As disappointed as everybody was, they all knew that happily-ever-afters were not to be. Marriage took a lot of work. Charming and Beauty might have been up to the work. They were not committed to it. Sure they liked the glow of it all. They had both gone to see “Romeo and Juliet” a dozen or more times. They had binged on “Outlander” on tv. And they were smitten by “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

The real test was when he farted at an inappropriate moment and when she belched when they were visiting his parents. Most couples let the body functions pass with, “I’ve heard worse” or “I’ve smelled worse.”

The real trouble nobody spoke about was that Beauty wasn’t Cinderella or Snow White. And Charming wasn’t the Woodsman or the Big Bad Wolf.

The parents of the couple suggested counselling. It had helped them through their troubled times. Beauty. But that didn’t help. It made matters worse. Now they spelled out loud the issues. After the third session, the Royal Marriage Counsellor shook his head and gave up.

“He’s been biting the apple with Snow White and she’s had a real howl-in with Big Bad. Let’s face it. It’s a case of ‘the grass is greener on the other side of the fence’. Nothing can save this marriage.”

Now it just so happened that it was that time of year. Early autumn. As usual Merlin was taking his stroll through the kingdom. After the fiasco with King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, he didn’t show his face much anymore. He’d failed Camelot, and that was that. Fortunately he had been taking lessors from Gandalf. Since Gandalf had gotten Aragorn and Eowyn together, he was considered Matchmaker to the Stars.

It was hard to miss the news about Charm and Beauty. There were posters on just about every tree in the forest and photograms all over Instagram of the fights. Merlin saw his chance to get back into everybody’s good graces. If he could fix the couple’s marriage and give the kingdom a happily-ever-after, he would be the superstar he’d always seen himself as.

He pulled out his smartphone and started taking pictures of the unhappiness that had hit the kingdom like the ten plagues of Egypt. Humpty Dumpty’s fall was the first. Then there was Little Red Riding Hood’s granny and the Billy Goat Gruff taking out the Troll. There was the two little pigs’s houses the wolf had blown to smithereens. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Repunzel’s hair all fell out.

Merlin put together his powerpoint presentation of the destruction Charm and Beauty’s marriage was doing to the kingdom. Then he buckled up his bucklet and went up to the Castle. He knocked on the giant wooden door. When the porter asked what he wanted, he answered, “I’m here to see the Prince and  Princess.”

“I’m sorry but no can do. Lady Macbeth went chasing Spot the Dog and fell off the castle wall. And Lord Macbeth’s got Macduff’s sword stuck up his tushy.”

“Not that couple,” Merlin said angrily. “The Prince and the Princess, you goof.”

“Don’t get yourself in a tizzy. I’m sorry your gps isn’t up to snuff. Their castle is the one on the hill. If you had put The Castle on the Hill into it, it would have taken you to their front door step. But be forewarned. That place has gone to quackers.”

Merlin’s eyes followed the porter’s finger as it showed the way. There must have been more steps to the Castle on the Hill than there was to the top of the Great Pyramid. For a second the old wizard choked. This was not going to be easy. Then he buckled himself up for the climb and determined that a wizard’s got to do what a wizard’s got to do. If it was easy, everybody would have the job.

It was a long, arduous climb that took a fortnight. For you readers who don’t know what a fortnight is, it’s two weeks.

He came to the door of the Castle on the Hill. Before knocking, he sat down on the stone walkway and had himself a rest. He dumped the pebbles out of his shoes and saw the holes in their soles. If he pulled off his goal, there would be a reward of new shoes.

Then he stood up straight and rang the giant bell.

“Who’s there?” the guard at his post asked from the other side of the door.

“It’s Merlin, the Magician. Let me in.”

“State your business.”

“Marriage counselling.”

From the other side of the door, there were guffaws galore. Finally, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Merlin was not used to being challenged when he was determined to do a thing. So he said, “Let me in or I will huff and puff and blow your house down.”

More laughter. Then, “We’ve heard that before. You gotta do better than that.”

Merlin sunk his head into his hands and said mostly to himself, “Oh, what to do. What to do.”

At that, his staff whispered in his ear. He called out the offer the staff offered, “A flagon of ale for every member of the staff.”

From the other side of the door, “What’s a flagon?”

“It’s a lot. Now let me in.”

“Well, if you insist, but we want the good stuff.”

The door creaked open. Merlin strode in, lifted his wand, and said loudly, “Let the booze flow.”

The Castle-on-the-Hill tour guide walked out of his cottage. “May I help you, sir.”

“The couple?” Merlin said huffing and puffing, not from exhaustion, but from frustration. “Where’s Prince and Princess?”

The tour guide pointed at the two lights at opposite ends of the castle. “There.”

At that, Merlin did what any self-respecting wizard would do. He gathered himself up, then he thought, “Geez, more stairs.” That was followed by, “I guess a wizard got to do what a wizard’s got to do.” And up the stairs he went.

First he showed his powerpoint to Beauty, then he went down to the other end of the Castle and showed Charm. They both laughed him out of their rooms.

This was Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot all over again. What to do? What to do?

Merlin, never being a quitter, was not about to take this lying down. There was only one magic spell left in his ye-olde-spellbag. So he pulled it out and said the magic words, “Jimmy Stewart.” Then he grabbed up the royal couple as fast as you can say, “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle” and took them down to the Royal Movie Theater and showed them “It’s a wonderful life”. By the end of the movie, Charm and Beauty were in each other’s arms. bawling their eyes out. Jimmy Stewart had done what Jimmy Stewart always did. He did that old Jimmy Stewart magic.

From that moment on, there was no more complaining about the farting or the belching. Twenty years and three kids later, they found those activities endearing in each other. And there was rejoicing and happily-ever-after-ing throughout the land. On top of that, Merlin’s Matchmaking Business went into franchising. Now the kingdom has one on every corner.

The business has prospered so much so that Merlin is taking it public next week. You can buy shares under the ticker name of MMBz.

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