Celestina loved the water. When she danced in the rain, she thought of herself as a fairy princess. Emphasis being on the Fairy. A Tinkerbell perhaps. Helping Peter save Wendy and the Lost Boys. She’d dance for hours if her mother had let her. But that is not the way of mothers. They are always trying to end fairy tale adventures. Celestina loved the water. Especially when it came down nice and easy, not in buckets. The bucket days were not fairy tale kinds of rain. Those were the days she thought that maybe, just maybe, she was a mermaid.
He was a scrounge. That was even his middle name. It started when he was the last of a batch of ten kids and went downhill from there. In those days, they just called him “Young’un.”
He went in the Army and couldn’t march. When you’re a private and can’t march, you’re a walking-talking target. And you’re doing more than your share of k.p. That’s how he became a cook. Just a cook—and not even a short-order cook.
After he mustered out, he went to hashing it out in the worst kind of dump of a diner in a seedy part of a town in the seediest part of the state. You know, the kind of place where they hold rodeos for the roaches. You ride ‘em like some do the bull riding.
He saved up. After five years of bad hash and even worse rooms in the local rooming joint, he had enough for a down payment on a farm. He’d always dreamed of having a farm. He wanted to raise goats. The woman who sold him the goats was named Betty. He married Betty.
Then they headed on out to the farm he’d bought. He’d never actually seen it before. He found it on Ebay, put in his bid, and won. The description had been perfect for what he had in mind. A two bedroom farm house on three acres of land set against the mountains in picturesque Colorado.
They drove out from the town, the newly-weds Betty and Roger. Then they realized that once again he had been taken. He had bought the only piece of desert in whole state of Colorado.
Though Valentine’s Day has come and gone, I thought this would be a good post Valentine’s Day Blog. So sit back, enjoy a cup of joe and read on.
I have been mulling it over in my mind. Thinking of letting my computer compose a novel. “Fifty Shades of Me”. Maybe make it a first person who just happens to be Christian Gray.
Start it off with: Hey, no matter what you’ve heard from the Ana side of things, I am not a bad guy. I only keep the whips around for my hobby. I like to show off my whipping skills on the rodeo circuit. Ana has such an imagination. She sees my whips, she goes all goo goo eyes over them. Even wants to borrow one. What can I say? I like Ana so I say okay.
As far as that BDSM thing, man I am not into that stuff. I hate pain. Either giving it or taking it. I know what you’re thinking No pain no gain. Whoever came up with that b.s. ought to be shot right between the eyeballs.
Sure I am a successful businessman but I don’t have a gazillion bucks. I own a little bookstore. That was how I met Ana. She called up the store and asked to interview me. I said why not. We did the interview. Nothing going on between the two of us. If there had been electricity flying, I would have felt it. Right? Right. Her college newspaper invited Ana and I for a photo shoot to illustrate the article. It was no big deal. 1500 words and a four by six.
Things went well on the shoot. She smiled. I smiled. I mean she is a pretty girl. Reminds me of my sister. Hey, don’t get any thoughts there. I love my sister but there is nothing going on between the two of us. My God, she is a Southern Baptist for heaven’s sake. And you how those Baptist are. Everything is a sin. Even thinking about sin is a sin. Definitely nada going on between sis and I.
Anyway Ana being nice and all, I get back to the bookstore. I think hey don’t I have that old used copy of “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” lying around somewhere. She said she’d lost her copy and it was her very favorite book of all time. I find the darn thing under a stack of old comic books I bought at an auction. The rats haven’t gotten to it yet.
I wrap the book up and FedEx it over to her. Next thing I know I get this call. It’s late and I am about half asleep. It’s her and she’s bawling like a baby. I almost hung up on her. Couldn’t understand her on the other end of the phone. Then she mentions Tess and I know who it is. She asks me to come and pick her up.
I am up for the damsel-in-distress gig. So I give her the a-okay. When I get to the bar she’s at, she’s barfing on the sidewalk. I’m thinking I am not letting this girl in my car. So I call her a cab, put her in, pay the driver and they’re on their way. So that is that. Little did I know.
Next morning Ana calls me and thanks me for the most incredible sex she ever had. Gee, I’d like to take credit, I says, but it was not me, baby. Turns out it was the cabbie. Man, that must have been some drive home.
Next thing I know I am being stalked by Ana. If I had any hair, I sure would like to get her out of it. I haven’t had a moment’s peace since that Saturday. I went to the cops and asked if there was something I could do. The cop said, Sure. Then he winked and said, I can think of about twenty things. So go on and get out of here. Thank your lucky stars.
Just about the time I walk out of the cop shop, there’s Ana. She starts talking about doing things I don’t even know the meaning of. Even if I did, I am sure I don’t want to do them. Seeing that look in her eyes. So I tell her to shush up. Go away. She does.
A day or two later I get an email from her. She is thanking me for the laptop she says I bought her. She’s calling it her Big Mac. Says she has never had a computer of her own to research BDSM stuff. I mean this girl is twenty-one if she’s a day and she has never had a computer. C’mon. Give me a break. And as far as any helicopter ride, that’s crazy. I can barely afford the payments on my Chevy. To top it all off, I am afraid of heights. So ain’t no way I am getting into a helicopter.
Then I get an email from her, telling me she just got a job at one of our local publishers. How she did that I will never know. I mean her emails were filled with grammatical and spelling errors. Her errors had errors. I ought to know. I used to teach high school English.
I don’t hear from her for a couple of weeks. Last night I was at a nice restaurant, treating myself for once. She walks in and plops her little rear in the chair across from me. Quit avoiding me, she says. Or rather demands. Look, she says, I just want to make you happy.
Happy. You can make me happy by leaving me alone.
No can do. We’re soul mates.
Soul mates, hell. You just need to go away and leave me alone.
Okay. I will. Just one thing first. A date.
Ain’t no way I am about to do that. I refused and she went away pouting for the time being.
That’s about it. And one other thing. My mother doesn’t think I am gay. She ought to know. She was married to Dad for seventeen years before he came out. She was just as surprised as everybody else.
So that is my idea for a bestseller. What do y’all think? Would you buy it? I don’t care if you read it. Just buy it please. I have car payments.
And I do want to buy some new handcuffs. Just kidding.
Since the beginning of time, there have been witches. Some believe that Adam’s first wife, Lillith, was one because she taught the healing arts to the human race. Some even say that there are good witches and bad witches. They put Lillith in the good witch category. They also put Glenda from “The Wizard of Oz” and Samantha of the tv series “Bewitched” on the good witch side of the line.
These same folks say that Morgan le Fay started out a good witch. After Arthur knocked her up, she became a single mom. Arthur told her, “That’s not my kid. He looks like Merlin.” Morgan ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. These theoreticians also point out that the Witch of the West in Oz was definitely bad witch material.
As I say, these are theoretical speculations. My take on things is that there is no such thing as a bad witch. And I know you’re going to bring up that Snow White episode. It wasn’t that the Queen was a bad witch. She was just so sensitive. The reporter who wrote the Snow White story, probably Miss White’s p.r. agent, forgot to include the details of how Snowy used to rub the Queen’s nose in how gorgeous she was. Well, I am here to tell you, dear Reader, Snowy may have been Miss Universe beautiful but she had a mouth on her that would make a construction worker blush. And not just blush. But blush purple.
It wasn’t that these witches were wicked or evil. Or even bad. They were simply the got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed kind of witches. We all have our bad days. Admit it. You know it’s true. Even the Dwarves had their Grumpy. You know you wouldn’t want to tangle with you on one of those days. You don’t believe me. Just ask your wife. Or husband, if you are so inclined.
Now that we have got that settled, we can move on to our tale. Doris woke up one gray, cloudy day in the Kingdom of Abengale. She was having one of those kind of lives that day. A Wednesday, I believe. First off, the day was gloomy on top of gray and cloudy, and that just didn’t sit right with her.
Secondly she did not get an Invite to the eighteenth birthday party of Prince Rufus, son of King Rufus the 27th. It wasn’t that she liked birthday parties. She didn’t. Doris was not a people person. Didn’t like people at all. She would rather hang out with her five cats any day than associate with people. Besides that, she would need to buy a new fancy-dancy dress. On her witch’s salary, they were way too expensive for her. She just wanted to feel included. To add injury to insult, all the hoity toity witch society witches received Invites. So why. Not. Doris?
Why not Doris? she asked herself. She asked the universe too. But the universe being the universe, it wasn’t answering.
She gathered up her skirts and made down the road toward the king’s castle. She came upon an old man. He sat on a bench under an umbrella, sipping a cup of tea. “Morning, Tootsie,” he said. He wasn’t specifically calling Doris a Tootsie. He called everybody Tootsie. He continued, “With that look on your face, you look like you gotta go pee real bad. Too bad there ain’t an outhouse within several miles of this place.”
Doris was not up to being trifled with. At least, not by no fool of an old man. “Why don’t you just shut your face and let me be on my way. I have urgent business to attend to.”
“What have I got here? A witch showing off her witchiness. What you going to do? Turn me into a frog?” The old man laughed.
Doris was so angry at this fool of a fool that there was smoke coming out of her ears. She pulled her wand out of her dress pocket and pointed it.
“Young lady, you don’t scare me,” the old man said, grinning the biggest grin you ever did see. “Go ahead and turn me into a frog.”
Doris was taken aback. A witch points her wand and folks tremble. So how come this old coot wasn’t trembling?
“Go ahead and do it,” he urged her on. “I double-dog dare you.”
Doris wasn’t sure what to do. Like people who don’t know what to do, Doris did nothing. She sat down on the bench next to the oldster and gave him one of her questioning looks.
“Why are you not afraid of my wand?”
“’Cause I don’t think you can throw one of your spells at me.”
An inquisitive look filled Doris’ face. “Why not?”
“Because I am already under a spell.”
“You are?” Doris could usually tell when another witch had entranced a creature. How had she missed the signs? The old man didn’t have the usual be-spelled signs.
“Yes I am. Can’t you tell?”
“No,” Doris said. “Who put the spell on you?”
“A frog witch.”
“I don’t believe you. I’ve never heard of such a creature.”
“Just because you haven’t heard of such a being, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
“That’s true. So tell me about this frog witch. If there is such a thing.”
“Oh, there is such a thing,” the old man emphatically said. “You see, I used to be a frog.”
“Funny. You don’t look like a frog.”
“It’s been years since I was turned into a human by a frog witch. My froginess has worn off.” There were tears in the old man’s eyes.
“I see your point.” Doris was becoming fascinated with the old man’s story. She didn’t believe him but she was fascinated. “So tell me about this frog witch.”
Finally the old man had found someone to listen to his tale of woe. “Once upon a time I was a prince among frogs. I was so high and mighty with my princeness I wasn’t about to listen to anybody. Even a witch.”
Doris thought of the slight the king had given her. Not inviting her to Prince Rufus’ birthday party. “I can understand that.”
“So I threw this magnificent party to celebrate myself. Invited everybody in the frog kingdom. Everybody except for one.”
“The frog witch?”
“The frog witch,” he affirmed. “She was none too happy. I mean, she was none too happy. So yadda yadda yadda here I am.”
“What’s a yadda yadda yadda, dearie?” Doris asked.
“Don’t call me dearie. I hate that. My mum used to call me that.”
“Then don’t call me Tootsie. My name is Doris.”
“Nice to meet you, Doris. My name is Rufus,” the old man said.
“Rufus? But the king and the prince of Abengale are named Rufus.” Doris had begun to like this fellow, but now she wasn’t sure.
“Yes, Rufus. You see, the author of this story can’t seem to come up with another name for royalty. He’s not very original that way.”
“I see what you mean. Doris isn’t much of a name for a witch either. I bet the frog witch was named Doris.”
“Actually she wasn’t. Nobody knew her name so we all called her the frog witch.”
“Ain’t that just like an author,” Doris said. “They’re all the same. Treating we characters like dirt. No wonder the frog witch was unhappy.”
“Oh, it wasn’t the name. She really didn’t care about that. It was the wart itch. She had a bad case.”
Doris was starting to getting a little bored with the conversation. She had a party to go to and she was wasting time with this old codger. She stood up and said, “Listen, I have to go.”
“Do it behind the bushes over there. I don’t want to see no witch doing her business.”
“Not that kind of go. I have a party to crash. So is there anything I can do for you before I go?”
“Get me some frogs to kiss. Maybe one of them will be a frog princess. Then I can go back to being the same old lovable Rufus I used to be.”
“Sorry. No can do.” Doris pushed her wand back into her dress pocket.
“Witch’s union rules. One witch cannot undo another witch’s spell. It’s the way of things. And we can’t help with the undoing either.”
Of course, it wasn’t true. Doris was lying. After all, she was a got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed kind of witch. So Doris went on her way.
‘Course you know the rest of the story. Doris went up to the castle and crashed the prince’s party. She pulled out her wand, pointed it at the prince and fired. Funny thing though. The wand spell backfired and hit Doris in the buttocks.
Doris looked around her and everybody was so much bigger than she remembered. Then she saw herself in the mirror. She was a frog. The last the party saw of Doris, she was off to the pond, croaking her protests.
What had happened? you ask.
King Rufus knew the way of witches. After all, he had been responsible for getting a witch to turn his older brother into a frog so he could be king. The night before the party, he sprayed his son, Prince Rufus, with some Anti-hexidant.
Seems Doris, now a frog, passed by the old man one day. He threw out his net, caught her and forced her to kiss him. Big mistake. Think of the worst tasting thing you’ve tasted and triple it. That would be the taste of Doris’ kiss. Then his lips puffed out and soon he was nothing but a set of lips. Anyway that is the last we saw of the old man or Doris.
The moral of this story: Don’t kiss no frogs. It can be lethal.
Once the folk of the Kingdom of Borodomo were in pursuit of the better. Then the apathy came. It was a disease that spread through the kingdom like a yawning wind from the north. So contagious it was that it left not one in the land free from the plague of indifference. It stayed so long the citizens came to believe it had always been a resident. As the generations passed, people forgot the time before the wind yawned its way into the kingdom. They wore their apathy like a boy scout wears his merit badges.
The King of the South came visiting his cousin, the King of Borodomo. The South King, we’ll call him Irving. Irving saw the apathy. The King of Borodomo’s people looked, and acted, so unlike themselves. Where some once began their day with a “hey, turn that frown upside” kind of face, now they wore a full-scale, indifferent face. There were no more frowns in the kingdom, and the smilies all wore were fake, as fake as a three dollar bill. The people just were not themselves. Something had to be done, and the King of the South knew just what.
The two kings were feasting one night. I believe it was a Thursday. Irving leaned over and spoke plainly to his kingly buddy, “Your people are oh-so oh so. You know they’ve built a cage, and they’re afraid to leave it, even though the door has been thrown open. It wasn’t always so. Now everybody is everybody else.”
“‘Tis true, ’tis true,” Chuck, the King of the Borodomonese, said to his kingly friend. “What to do? What to do?” Then he yawned one of the greatest yawns in the history of the kingdom.
“Once upon a time ago,” Irving said, “my kingdom was thusly thus. Then a miracle came. It came in the form of a maker of masks. Since then, my citizens have worn masks. Each day I proclaim that some will wear sad faces. Some ugly faces. Some happy faces. Some lustful faces. Some endearing faces. Some smile. Some sunny. Each puts on their mask and walks about acting as the mask directs.”
“I would dearly love to acquire a mask maker such as the one you have.”
“Can be done,” Irving disclosed. “Matty, the mask maker, has a brother. I shall send him to you a fortnight from this night.”
Chuck yawned his agreement to the proposal.
Some days later, Irving returned to his kingdom in the south. A few days after that, the mask maker’s younger brother, Watty, knocked on the Gates of Borodomo. As he marched his way up to Chuck’s Palace on the Hill, the people watched. If it had been possible, they would have shown their rejoicing. For indeed they were glad. Truly glad. They hated their apathy as much as any people have ever hated a thing. But the folk could only yawn their approval, and nothing more.
Soon Watty set up shop and started turning out mask after mask. As commanded, the Borodomonese lined up at his door and waited to retrieve their bag. Each was given a bag of masks: a smilie, a frown, a thoughtful, a distressed, a happy, a moody, a joyful, a curious, a hopeful, a generosity, a fearful, an indulgent, a love, a sympathy, an amusement, a relief, an embarassment, an eny and a sad.
Each morning the Borodomonese were ordered to put on a new mask for the day to come. If they wore a lustful mask for the day, their behavior turned to lust for that day. If they wore a hopeful one, one could not find a hopefuller fellow than the wearer. At the end of twenty days, they were to return to Watty’s shop and exchange their bag for a new one.
There was only one condition. When they took the old mask off and replaced it with the new, they were not to view themselves in a mirror. If they did, they were told that the magic of the mask disappeared.
However…haven’t you noticed there is always a however in these kinds of tales. However there was one among the folk who refused to wear a mask. He suspected that something was rotten in Denmark, even though he lived in Borodomo. His name was Jack and he was a kitchen knave in the Palace on the Hill. Since he did kitchen knave kinds of things deep in the palace, no one saw him.
From time to time, he sneaked upstairs and peered out through the palace windows to the valley below. He usually did this early in the morning because he wanted to catch the sunlight. There was little sunlight in the depths where he worked.
One fine morning he was early. The sun was not up yet. Jack happened to catch King Chuck in his jammies as he hurried to his Changing Closet. Curious, Jack followed the king. He peeked into the Changing Closet. Chuck removed his mask for the day, one that was a smilie.
The knave caught a glimpse of the king’s face. As Chuck took off the mask, all the smiles the king’s face contained were sucked away by the mask. The king would never know a smile again. What was left was a complete blank of a face. The new mask was a sad one.
Jack tried to hold back the gasp. But the king heard it. He turned to see Jack. Jack had committed treason. But the king was confused about what to do. So he called his guards. They hurried to the king.
“Arrest the knave,” the king said sadly.
Two guards, who wore happily masks, happily arrested Jack.
A trial was held. The judge in his reluctance mask reluctantly sentenced Jack to death. It was the thing to do, so the judge did it.
Jack held his tongue about what he had seen. Being a good guy, he did not want to embarrass his liege lord. But he knew something must be done. In his cell, he debated with himself all the night long the night before his execution. What was he to do?
The next morning was a fine morning. The kind of morning just right for an execution. The flowers were budding and blooming. The birds chirped up a storm. Like Goldilocks said of the porridge, the day was just right.
Jack was led to the scaffold by two guards. Everyone in the kingdom was in the Palace Square to bid the kitchen knave farewell. They all had on their fine morning masks. Sitting beside the king was Watty. Since he had never seen an execution, he was curious.
Jack stood on the scaffold and turned toward the king. “Your Majesty,” he said. “I have done that which was forbidden to do. I have seen his majesty’s face maskless. For that, I go to my death, holding no ill-favor toward my liege lord. Before I lose my head, I belief it is in accord with custom that I be granted one request. Once that is done, I shall gladly retire to my death.”
King Chuck, being a just king, said, “I grant your request if it be in my power to do so.”
Jack smiled. Somehow he had been immune to the apathy his fellow citizens had caught. Though he was maskless, there was nary an apathetic bone in his body. He bowed his thanks. Then he asked, “Your Majesty, my request is this. Before I take my leave, I would request that I be able to see all maskless, except for Your Majesty. Can you grant me this one request and I will gladly go to the ax happy.”
“I gladly grant your request,” King Chuck said. “All in this Square will remove your masks.”
Watty protested, “Your Majesty, that cannot be. If the people remove their masks, the masks will lose their power.”
King Chuck thought about this. It was the day he wore his thoughtful mask. So thinking was appropriate. Finally he made a decision. “Watty, your protest has been noted. I cannot refuse a last request. Though he is but a kitchen knave, he is a loyal citizen. So I command everyone’s mask be removed. I want see the true faces of my people. Since I would not request an act from my people that I would not do, I too shall remove my mask.”
The king counted to three, then off came his mask. All in the Square did the same. The king’s mask sucked all of the sadness out of King Chuck. The people’s masks sucked all the fine mornings out of them.
The king was the first to notice the evil the masks were doing. Suddenly he was not apathetic anymore. His blood was boiling. He was angry. All the people saw what the king saw. And they too were angry. Though some had worn their angry masks, the unmasking of the deception was such that their anger returned. The king shouted, “Release Jack and arrest that deceiver, Watty. We will have an execution. It will be his.”
Watty slipped off the stage and out through a side door. The guards cut Jack loose. And Jack was off after the deceiver. Just as Watty reached the Kingdom Gates, Jack blocked his exit and faced him down.
“Get out of my way,” Watty said, pulling out his sword.
“Stop before I run you through with that sword,” Jack commanded.
Watty slashed his sword at Jack. Jack ducked and threw the mask maker off his balance. He grabbed the sword away from the deceiver and whacked him hard against the bottom. Soon Watty stood on the scaffold, pleading for his life.
“Tell us,” King Chuck commanded, “and tell us true. How did you come about this evil? I will spare your life if you reveal this thing.”
“It be my brother Matty’s plan. He raised the wind with its apathetic disease and sent it your way. Then he sent me with the masks. When all in this kingdom had lost their emotions, they would not be up for a fight. Then King Irving could conquer your kingdom and enslave your people.”
Within days, King Chuck called on his allies. Together they raised a mighty army, then marched to the South. So the South was defeated and left barren in days long ago.
You may have noticed that I skipped “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen. I didn’t skip it. It is a favorite story of mine and I have published my response to it on Mother’s Day.