Sleeping Beauty, the Real Story

We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty. A prince kissed her to wake her up from a one-hundred-year long nap. Kind of makes Rip Van Winkle look like an amateur. There was such a sexual attraction between the two that they immediately did the deed. She did not fake her orgasm. When you’ve gone without for one hundred years, any prince will do. If not a prince, a carpenter or a woodsman, even a kitchen knave. Then came the marriage and they lived happily ever after.

That’s the story anyway. The one that the prince’s press agent put out for public consumption. When you’re a prince, you’ve got to keep up your image. But the story wasn’t true. Just look at Prince Charles. As soon as the public heard about the scrap he had with Diana, his poll numbers went down, not just in onesies and twosies but in decades.

A prince couldn’t afford to have his image tarnished like that. Especially in the olden days. Pretty soon there’d be a ruckus in the kingdom, the common folk in an uproar, and the prince hightailing it for God-knows-where. Don’t believe me? Just look at King John. In 1215, he had a Magna Carta shoved up his rump.

It is true how Beauty ended up in bed for that one hundred years. Her Mommy and her Dads gave a humungous eighteenth birthday gala for the Princess, the apple of their eye, the darling of the kingdom’s town crier society. When everybody’s back was turned, the Wicked Witch of the West, yes that witch, spiked Beauty’s chalice of Kickapoo Joy Juice with a mickey.

Why she did it, no one seems to know. Speculation is the Land of Oz had gotten boring and she had way too much time on her hands. What better way to bring excitement to her lackadaisical life than to show up in another fairy tale and mess things up royally for the fairy princess. Otherwise she had to go and tangle with Dorothy, and Dorothy was more than a handful.

Even though Beauty hated the taste of the Kick, she had manners up the wazoo. Etiquette said that a princess didn’t refuse a drink at her own birthday bash. So she sipped, then she was out like a light. Folks at the party thought she was dead. The royal doc advised the king and queen she was only asleep.

Wicked Witch didn’t want to kill the sweet young thang. She wasn’t a murderer. She just wanted to create some mischief. The potion would make Beauty sleep until a prince came along and kissed her ruby reds. I’m not talking shoes here. I’m talking lips.

Mommy and Dads Royal laid their precious child in a glass coffin for all to see and put her on an IV for nourishment. Then they sent for princes. Few showed. The few who showed weren’t about to kiss a princess in a coma no matter how lovely she was. They were afraid they would catch whatever she caught.

Time passed as it was bound to. Mommy and Dads died. The kingdom was taken over by a Regent. Regent wasn’t about to surrender his regency. He moved the coffin way out of sight. His thoughts on the matter: “Out of sight, out of mind.” An adviser suggested he do her in, but he wasn’t about to commit regicide. Regicides have consequences.

Pretty soon a hundred years passed. All that time Beauty dreamed. Being a beautiful princess, there wasn’t a nightmare among the bunch.

In her dreams, there were wonders her waking life never suspected. Paris in the springtime and walks by the Seine. Old Kyoto with its temples and cherry blossoms. Strolls by the fountains of Rome. Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And oh, the food she ate. Sushi in Tokyo. Pizza in Rome. Koushari in Cairo. Paella in Barcelona. Not once did she gain a pound. It was heaven.

One particular dream put a huge smile on her face. There was this kingdom that needed a princess. It had snow ice caps and meadows with the loveliest of flowers. The people were all dressed in their traditional garb. No suits and ties for the guys or no formal dresses for the gals like it had been in her Daddy’s kingdom. It was love at first sight when Beauty saw the place. She volunteered to be their princess.

“Now that we have a princess,” the king, with his gentle eyes, kind smile and long white beard, said, “we need a prince.”

“But, Sire, we do have a prince,” his adviser said. “Remember he was turned into a frog by that Wicked Witch of the West. If our little princess kisses him on the lips, he will snap back to his princely self. And we can have a wedding.”

“Well, where is he?”

“Last we saw him he was down at the pond with all the other frogs. We’re not exactly sure which one he is.”

“You know what that means?” the king said.

“It means the princess is going to have to kiss a lot of frogs,” the adviser said, then turned to Beauty. “You willing to do that?”

She smiled and agreed. “Sacrifices must be made.”

The local frog-caller did his thing. Pretty soon a line of frogs waited for a smooch. And smooching there was. Beauty must have kissed a thousand frogs. The final frog, a rather handsome fellow, if a frog can be considered handsome. This frog approached Beauty, bowed politely and jumped up on her lap. She leaned down to kiss him, then—

She woke up. This old guy stood over her, slobbering all over her mouth. “Son of a bitch, why the whatever did you want to do that for?” she screamed and sat up.

“I’m your Prince Charming.” The old guy was shocked. After that incident with Cindy Rella and the shoes, he had spent fifty years searching for Miss Right. Here she was and she was not happy. He’d done the right thing. He’d chanced getting whatever she had and falling into a stupor. Now she too was rejecting him. What was a Prince Charming to do?

She pushed PC away.”You’re not my prince. No wonder I woke up. What with your b.o. and halitosis. You need to see a doctor for that stuff. And have you taken a look at your face lately? Warts.”

What happened next? It’s a sad tale. Prince Charming returned home to his castle. There he lived until he was one hundred and seventy-five. He died of a broken heart.

And the fate of Princess Beauty? She went in search for that one-in-a-million frog. Every time she came across a frog she picked the creature up and kissed it. Some say she is still searching. So, if you see a lovely young lady in your part of town kissing frogs, leave her alone. It’s just Beauty trying to find her Beastie.

“Nighthawks”

Andy entered the large cavern that was The Bookstore. It was his favorite place of all his favorite places. A world of treasures, and there was always a new treasure to find. Stacks and stacks of books, new and used, and five floors of them. He hurried past the cashiers. There were three of them, and always ringing up this or that customer.

He bounded up the stairs to the third floor after his favorite book. Someone borrowed his copy. Not just someone. His girlfriend, Tallis. She returned his book of Edward Hopper paintings with a third of the pages missing. She didn’t even apologize. “Here is that damned fool of a book you’re always bugging me about,” her lips said. He was deaf. “I don’t like it, and I don’t like you.”

He came to the shelf where the American artists were found. Where he first found the book of Hopper’s paintings. There were Andrew Wyeths, Grant Woods, Jackson Pollocks, Georgia O’Keefes. “No Hoppers. I can’t believe it. They’ve sold out. No ‘Nighthawks’.” There was a truckload of disappointment in his voice. He tried several other shelves to make sure he had the right shelf for the Hoppers. They were all gone.

Andy made his way back down the poorly lit, narrow alleyway of an aisle and toward the main thoroughfare where he knew there would be a clerk to help him. “May I help you, Mr. Harris?” The young female clerk recognized him from his many visits. He choked back his frustration and got out the word, “Hopper?”

“We’re sold out. There is a big conference on Hopper at the University and all the bookstores are sold out. We can order a copy for you if you like.” Her lips moved slowly so that he would get the words.

He shook his head no, then was back down the stairs and crashing out into the light of the midday sun. The light hurt his eyes. He blinked, then put on his sunglasses. He went to his left and toward the university. He had to see the painting, “Nighthawks”, one last time. One last time before his eyes gave out. One last time before he was blind.

Andy remembered the very first time he saw it. It was the day his hearing disappeared. His mother handed him a book on Hopper, her favorite artist, and he opened it right to the two-page spread of the painting. Until that moment, he had been frightened. He was going deaf. “Nighthawks” settled him into the courage to accept his fate. He was pulled into the painting and his isolation, his loneliness was their isolation, their loneliness. Many times since he had gone in search of that diner or a diner like it and never found it. Now he was searching for the painting for one last look.

Things were beginning to blur as he walked through the gates of the University and toward the conference. Would he make it in time? His walk changed into a run. And finally he found the auditorium.

The auditorium was filled with conference attendees. At the front and on the stage was “Nighthawks”. Andy could barely see it. But he could see enough of it to know that it was his painting. Each step toward the stage was lightened by his excitement. It might be the last thing he saw but he was going to see it. The audience watched, entranced, frozen, staring at the gray-haired man. The speaker stopped his talk.

Andy touched the steps to the stage, then he was on the stage, one thing on his mind. “Nighthawks.” Then he was in front of the painting. The canvas was large enough to give his eyes their fill of the pleasure he felt. There were the three people having their coffee. His friends, his parents who always made him feel loved. Loved. Tears blurred his eyes. Everything went dark. Everything fell into the darkest night.

But then he saw it. “Nighthawks” on the dark canvas of his blindness. And he knew he would never be alone again.

Hire the Bozo

On the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Global News Network, Stanley Lloyd Spenser III, third generation owner and CEO of GNN, sat at the head of the solid mahogany table in the corporate boardroom. He fumbled for the right words to say, words he knew would change the direction of the network, broadcast journalism, and most likely, the entire world.

“Hire The Bozo,” he said to his underling Kirk Kirfartagain, sitting across the table from him.

“But, sir, The Bozo hasn’t been seen for six months. The last he was seen was in Zwackystan.”

“You’re going to have to dun your duds, dude, and go find him.”

“But, sir, I’m allergic to traveling.”

His boss, The Third, picked up the phone next to him and buzzed his Administrative Assistant. “Miss Pinkhouse, come in here please.”

The door to the boardroom opened and Melicia Pinkhouse, Administrative Assistant to The Big Cheese, Stanley Lloyd 3, came into the room.

“Yes, sir,” Mel came back with.

“Take K. K. with you to the Banana Republic, get him some duds, and go with him to Zwackystan. You have to find The Bozo.”

“But, sir…” she said.

“And get going today. I want to see El Boz by the end of the week. We need him to save The Network. And possibly the whole world.”

“But, sir…” she said again.

“Don’t ‘but, Sir’ me. After all, I am the Commander-in-Chief of this here Network. And what I say goes.”

“But, sir…. she said again some more.

“Look, Britannia rules the waves. So salute the flag and get the hell to Zwacky before you loose your corporate head to someone who is the adventuresome type.”

“But I’m no Morton Stanley,” K. K. said.

“Neither am I,” The Third came back with. “That was my great-great-grandpappy.”

“But, sir…” Miss Pinkhouse interrupted.

“Look, Pinky…” The Third said.

And before you can count one-two-three, she jumped in with, “The Bozo is in my office, sir.”

The Third breathed a sigh of relief.

Three weeks later, The Bozo was the new Anchorman. The Third finally sold the network to TNP, which stands for Take-No-Prisoners, for an undisclosed few billion bucks. Then he retired and went to live on his ranch in Hawaii, called the Big Pineapple. He moved with his actress wife, Playne Rhonda, who had won three Academy Awards for portraying actresses in distress. In her youth, she had protested the War in Grenada, then converted and become a Born-Again Born-Againer. She also had a new line of pregnant wear called Pregs for Pregs, and had a new series of highly successful exercise videos called “Out of body, out of mind.”

Stan and Playne lived happily ever after. That is, until The Third was asked to take over TNP and make it as successful as GNN had been. And he did that too. After he got his divorce.

Romeo and Juliet II: A Sequel

Four hundred years in the making, and now at a blog near you. “Romeo and Juliet II: A Sequel.”

Verona, Italy. September 19, 1507. A fine autumn day at Casa Capulet.

Mrs. Capulet, her hair gray from worry and sadness, rinsed the final plate from the feast the night before. It was hard to get good help, so she did much of the housework herself. Besides the work kept her mind off her dear Juliet. Stubborn girl, just like her father, and that stubbornness had cost her life. Beatrice Capulet swiped away the tears forming in her eyes.

There was a tapping on the back door. She went over and opened it. There stood Juliet in a bright Italian green bodice and red skirt. Mrs. C’s face went white.

“Mama, it’s me,” Juliet said and hugged her mother.

“Mama mia.” Mrs. C was stunned. She took her daughter’s hand to make sure she wasn’t a ghost. “I thought you were dead.” Then she moved away from her daughter and looked her up and down.

“Aren’t you glad to see me?” Juliet frowned, afraid her mother was going to reject her.

“I’m not so sure.” Beatrice dropped into one of the kitchen chairs, trying to recover from the shock.

Juliet went over and sat down beside her mother, then reassured her. “Romeo and I faked our deaths to get Papa and Mr. Montague off our trail. There’s a lot you can do with some fake blood, a bit of make-up, and sleeping pills. Friar Lawrence is a very good apothecary. Had you scared, didn’t I?’

“You sure did,” she said, looking over at her daughter. Then she eyed her daughter again.”You’re not one of them undead, are you?”

Juliet laughed. “Of course not.”

“We’ve been getting reports that they’re moving into the neighbor. Them and their coffins. Can you imagine?”

“Well, I’m not undead. I’m as alive as you are.”

Mrs. C gave a sigh of relief. “Your father is going to be furious. But he’ll get over it. You’re home, and alive, and that’s all that matters. Just where have you been these last six months?”

“Mom, I have some good news and some bad news.”

“Okay.” Beatrice was still trying to get a grip on reality. It was hard to believe that her daughter was alive. She had looked so…so dead in the casket.

“Romeo and I are married now.” Juliet showed her mother the ring. It was a good two-and-a-half carats.

Beatrice looked at the diamond. “At least, he gave you a ring you can be proud of.”

“And there’s more good news. I’m pregnant.”

“You’re not,” Mrs. C exclaimed.

“Am too. Feel the baby.” Juliet took her mother’s hand and placed it on her stomach.

“”You sure don’t look like you’re pregnant. I thought you’d put on some weight but you haven’t. Did I just feel a kick? How many months are you?”

“Three.”

“If that don’t beat all.” Beatrice’s face went into one big smile. She was going to be a grandmama.

“We’re calling her Muffin.”

“Muffin?” Mrs. C frowned.

“Yep, Muffin.”

“No grand baby of mine is going to be called Muffin.”

”That’s what we’ve decided.”

“You run off and marry that riff-raff of a Romeo. He doesn’t have a job. He knocks you up, and now you’re going to name my grandchild Muffin. I don’t think so.” Beatrice dropped her daughter’s hand and stood up.

“Oh, Mama,” Juliet gave her that million dollar smile of hers. It was the one that wouldn’t allow her mother to turn her daughter down for anything.

“I never could figure out what you saw in that Romeo anyway.”

“I fell in love with him when I saw those marvelous legs of his. There he stood across from me on the dance floor. His short trousers and leg stockings sent me to the moon. Only Papa has better looking legs than Romeo.”

“‘Tis true. Your father does have a fine set of gams.”

Beatrice needed a drink. She went to the cupboard and pulled out a bottle of red wine and poured herself a large glass. She downed the wine in one gulp, then she poured herself another glass.

“And I knew it was true love when I called from the balcony, ‘Romeo, Romeo, whereforth art thou, Romeo?'”

“You didn’t say that?” Mrs. C was incredulous. Such fancy, smancy language. ‘Whereforth’ indeed. She hadn’t heard that kind of language since she was a teenager some twenty years before.

“I did. What else would a girl say when she’s standing on a balcony, hoping her Romeo is waiting for her. Next to the garbage dumpster too.”

“Good point. Even if he is trash, he knows he’s trash. That’s better than some of them Montagues. Always putting on the Ritz.”

“You know what he said?”

“I couldn’t guess in a hundred years. What?”

“He didn’t mess around. He told me straightaway and in such plain language too. ‘I’m down here,’ he said. None of that flowery mumbo jumbo Paris is always throwing at me.”

“But, Paris, would have been a better match for you. He’s got a job and his father is loaded. Really loaded.” Beatrice had so hoped for a good marriage for her daughter and not to some trailer trash Montague.

“I’m no Helen and Verona’s no Troy. But Romeo is my Achilles heel. And he really loves me. Romeo even called me a saint. Can you imagine?”

Mrs. C knew her daughter very well. One thing was for sure. Her daughter was no virgin when she met Romeo. “I can’t. A saint you ain’t.”

“Then he called me a church. Well, not a church, but a shrine. Do I look like a shrine?”

“You do glow. That’s because you’re pregnant. When I was pregnant with you, I glowed in the dark.”

“And I called him gentle. We were like Edward and Bella. Only he is no vampire and he doesn’t sparkle.”

“So where is your husband now?” Mrs. C sat back down. ” Taking off and leaving my little girl on her own. I can tell you one thing. Your father is going to use those handsome legs of his to catch that boy. And when he does, there’s going to be hell to pay. Abandoning my precious little Juliet when she is in the family way.”

“That’s the bad news, Mom. He didn’t abandon me. Romeo was drafted.”

“Drafted?”

“We were on our way to hide out in Rome. The Pisans caught us and drafted him. They wanted him for their Pisa Party. Something about pushing the Leaning Tower up straight. So here I am. I need a place to stay until Romeo can come for me.”

“We’ll just have to get your daddy to buy Romeo’s release. That’s the least we can do for the father of my grandchild.”

Juliet smiled. It was true. Her glow was such a glow that her mother knew her daughter would glow in the dark too.

“Muffin, huh?”

“Yes,” Juliet said. “There’s nothing like a Muffin popping out of the oven.”

What’s a Dot To Do?

A Fable

Once upon a time there was a Dot. Let’s call him Fred. Everywhere Fred went, he met squares, circles, lines, ovals and all sorts of shapes. In all his far-flung travels to the nooks and crannies of the four corners of the world, he came across hundreds of shapes. No other dots.

He came to appreciate all those other shapes as he traveled about. Oh sure, circles would roll right over things. It was just their way. But every shape had a useful purpose. For instance: What would a baseball field be without a diamond? What would prevent accidents on a one-way street if not for the arrow pointing the right way? What would a plate be without a circle? Nada. Nowhere. A big, fat zero, which is a circle, by the way.

From time to time, Fred’s neighbor, Mrs. Arrow, gave a party. She invited all her arrow relatives. Invitations also went out to the ovals and the circles, and the lines always received an invite. The lines liked to roar. There was no better place to roar than at a party. Every shape in the neighborhood was invited. Everybody but Fred.

He was always the left-out kid. Over the years, he came to feel his dotness was a curse. Especially when he overheard one oval yell at another, “Go dot yourself.”

His dotness became such a burden of loneliness he often thought about ending it all. Perhaps stretch himself from one end of the neighborhood to the other until he pulled himself apart into a thousand smidgens. The image gave him the shivers. He decided that was a bad idea.

One night he had a very bad case of the lonelies. Only a walk would do him any good. He passed a dance hall he had passed dozens of times before. Usually he didn’t go inside, knowing that it was full of disappointment. On this particular night there was a difference in the air. He wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe the music, maybe the bright lights streaming out from the hall.

He put on his best smile and walked inside. The hall was packed, the music jumping. A couple of rhumbi rhumba-ed their rhum-busses off. A few quadrangles partnered for some quadrilaterals. A group of squares square-danced. The circles rolled in their sweet babies’ arms. Even the arrows were doing the pointy-ointy. Each shape danced to the same music, but heard a different drummer from the other shapes.

There were some solo acts around the floor. None wanted to dance with Fred. He asked. They said, “You’re not my shape.” One nasty oval put it bluntly, “Why don’t you just shape up or ship out, bud?”

Disappointed as usual, Fred returned to the empty streets of Shape City, began the slow slog of a walk home. He made up his mind for the five-hundred-and-eighty-eighth time that never ever would he let his hopes soar off to some pie-in-the-skyski that turned out to be mud. There was no dancing partner for him and there never would be. No other dot in the world and that was that.

He was so lonely that not even the night masked his agony. He came to a bridge, looked out at the water. He contemplated jumping into the water but he knew he wouldn’t drown. He would just float away into the night. Gazing at the full moon, mooning him, he clinched his hand into a fist, shook it at the sky and cried, “Please, Mr. Moon, please.” He fell to the street and sobbed, “Have some compassion on this little dot you see here.”

“Are you a dot?” a soft voice above him asked. Hesitantly it continued, “I’m a dot too.”

Fred stared at the cold, hard cement, afraid to look up, fearing that it was a voice from his imagination, an imagination that had fooled him many times before.

“Please,” the female voice said. “I’ve been searching–”

Fred dared not hope.

“–for so long,” the voice continued. “Years and years.”

It couldn’t be, could it? Fred asked himself. He slowly turned his head upward toward the voice. “You’re not a circle?” he asked timidly. “You’re a dot?”

“Yes.”

It had to be a trick. He was sure that there was no other shape like him in this god-awful, dot-free world. There wasn’t. There just wasn’t another dot. But there she was, standing above him.

A dot. The most beautiful shape he had ever seen.

“All my life,” she said, “I have never met–”

“–another dot,” he said. She was a dot. She was a dot. Fred’s heart danced for joy. “Me neither.”

The two dots embraced, each desperate for the touch of another dot. For the first time in their lives, they were not alone. After minutes, maybe longer, they released their embrace.

“I’m Fred.”

“I’m Ginger,” the words tumbled out of her. “I saw you at the dance. But I was afraid. Thought I was dreaming. I have seen so many dots who turned out to be nothing more than small circles.”

“I didn’t see you.”

“I was in the shadows. I’ve been laughed at so many times that I always stand in the shadows.”

They sat down on the side of the street and talked. How square the squares were. How the circles sang out of key. And, my god, the ovals. What were they about? The two laughed at the same jokes. Like “how many circles does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, because light bulbs don’t believe in circles.” It was the same with so many things. Music and poetry, movies and food. They even had the same impressions of their travels, realizing they had often missed each other by minutes at so many of the places they had been.

He reached over, took her hand, felt her warmth. Under that full, round, yellow moon of a night, they danced for the first time the first of many polka dots. Suddenly the moon was a dot. The stars were dots. The trees were sprinkled with dots. The water below shimmered with dots. It was a night of dots, and nothing but dots.

Fred and Ginger knew that they would never be alone again.