Recently, my daughter asked me to check whether it was really Johney Flynn 👦 who drowned the cat 🐈(Ding-Dong-Bell-Pussy-in-the-well fame). All of a sudden, I started wondering how we can be sure of certain facts told in Nursery Rhymes.
I mean, the cat 🐈 could certainly not tell who threw her in the well and this Johney Flynn 👦 doesnot seem like a I-cannot-tell-a-lie kind of person. So, it is simply Tommy Stout’s word against his. Yet, through the centuries of this rhyme’s existence (first recorded in 1580 AD), we continue to blame him for being ‘a naughty boy who drowned a poor pussy cat’. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was bullied as a cat drowner and grew up to be an emotionally defunct serial-cat-murderer, seeking revenge for the unjustified blame.
Similarly, people speak of Humpty Dumpty 🥚 as a careless egg who sat on a wall and fell. Nobody cared to explain why king’s horses 🐎 and men 👮 were involved in trying to put it together. Was he a kin of the king? Was he a victim of a conspiracy? Did someone push him off the wall?
And what about Jack and Gill 👫? How did they fall? How can we merrily sing about someone breaking their head 🤕?
All these questions have taken away my faith from all the nursery rhymes I have ever read. I fear a conspiracy behind every story now. I am scared someday someone will tell me that Santa Claus 🎅 doesnot exist…
Author’s note: This is a painting-promt story based on my four-year-old daughter’s painting ‘Stork in Dress’. Please don’t look for logic. There is none.
Long ago, a stork was in love with a princess or, to be more accurate, in love with the long, flowing dresses she wore. He wished he could have one for himself. He spent long fruitless hours standing alone in the pond in front of her window in the palace grounds, looking grumpily at the princess.
One evening, when the drowsy sun dipped its feet in the carmine horizon and an orange moon rose in the star-studded sky rubbing its eyes, he saw something that looked like a large insect near the pond. Contemplating eating it, he stalked closer. The ‘thing’ magicked the beautiful rose bushes to look like cactus with flowers–he realised it wasn’t an insect but a sprite. Sprites are eternal mischief-makers with magic. A plan formed in his mind.
Taking her by surprise, he caught the sprite in his beak by one arm. The sprite cried out in pain, “It hurts! Let me go.” With his mouth still closed to keep a grip on the fae, he muffled out, “Promise to give me anything I ask for?” Writhing, she cried, “I promise!” He let her go and sat her on a rock.
The sprite was angry but fae can’t lie–she had promised and would have to give him anything he asks for. But, there is always a loophole, so, she asked, “What would you like me to do?” The stork said, “I want a dress just like the one the princess is wearing today–the one with rainbow colours.” The sprite thought for a moment and smiled, “So shall it be, then. I will weave you a dress out of light.”
The stork was excited beyond words. The sprite quickly called upon her powers. The lake waters shined like crystals, splitting the light of the setting sun and the rising moon into thousands of colourful ribbons. The sprite quickly wove the ribbons of light in to a dress even more breathtaking as that of the princess. The bodice shined on its own and sparkled against the palace’s crystal windows drawing gazes of the residents.
At the sprite’s nudging, the stork greedily put it on, but his wings would not fit in.
“Oh! The dress looks rather weird on your thin waist and legs, and your wings cannot enter it’s sides. Would you like a human body to go with it too?”
“Oh! Of course!”
So, the sprite mumbled as the stork looked at his reflection in the pond, admiring his gradually changing body: human legs, stomach, chest, hands, neck, hair…
…and the sprite vanished. He still had the stork’s face!
He was irritated in extreme. Now he will have to catch the sprite again to complete the change. In all this excitement, he missed the fact that he stood in the palace grounds smack in front of the princess’ window as half a human in a dress that shined like a beacon. The palace servants had seen him changing his body without spotting the tiny sprite. Now all of them ran towards him, brandishing swords and pitchforks, shouting, “Monster! Monster!”
He attempted to fly away but his wings were gone. He tried to swim away in the pond but his dress, now wet, pulled him down, nearly drowning him. He came out of the pond somehow hoping to run away, but too many men surrounded him. No one asked him questions.
He never saw when his life-blood seeped into the rainbow dress he had wrested out of an irate sprite.
Last Saturday, at the party, I was sure the duchess was flirting with me to secure her third husband. Her first marriage had left her a rich widow and the second made her a widowed duchess. Now, with no sons, it seemed natural to look for a third husband to take care of all the accumulated estate…someone like me with tremendous wealth but no title. I had spent the golden years of my life building myself from a nobody to a prosperous businessman and the next few enjoying the success and money. I had been with numerous women but none of them really left an impression, except their lip colour on my shirts and their hands down my money pouch. At 41, I’m running out of choices. It’s high time for me to find a wife too, so I lead her on. I knew I’d never love her but she had class.
But as she invited me home for lunch, she moved the topic to her daughters who, according to her, were both the finest specimens of the fairer sex–beautiful, charming, intelligent, well-read and well-versed in arts. She mentioned looking for grooms for them and ‘hoped I would find them agreeable’.
Something did not add up. If they were even half as good as their mother, they would have a long line of suitors of their age. Why would she want them to marry me who is double their age? For my money?
Curious, I accepted the invitation.
Today, as my carriage drives into their estate, I see a long-running crack in the magnificent garden statue; unkept flower beds; a water fountain that has long dried out; and the wooden floor under the porch creaks…the beginning of the end.
So, money it is…
I knock and a rather pretty girl in her best house-help uniform answers the door. Ella, as she introduces herself, bids me to enter. Her eyes downcast, she informs me, “The Duchess and her daughters are out for an ‘urgent chore’. She has requested you to wait for them. They’ll be back later this afternoon.”
It doesn’t make sense, unless they have found someone richer. Or may be, the announcement of the King’s ball to find a bride for the Crown Prince has averted their gaze to greener pastures.
I should just leave. But Ella is clearly apologetic. Her eyes are pleading me to understand that she isn’t responsible for all this. She is embarrassed at her employers’ indiscretion. I had been there too many times. In my early jobs, when I was a nobody, my employers put me upfront to deal with angry customers. If I leave now, she would think of me as arrogant. For some unfathomable reason, I don’t want her to think I’m arrogant. So, I step inside to wait for the hostess who wouldn’t return for a couple of hours.
It’s all too weird. My stepmother has kept me up all night to finish my endless chores before he’s due. She ordered me to get presentable to wait upon this guest while they all dealt with this ‘urgent chore’, whatever it is. Why even one of them couldn’t stay back is totally beyond me.
Why are they avoiding him? Doesn’t he have enough money to their liking? His two-horse-drawn carriage is certainly worth four times our own. He looks regal, right from his formal suit, diamond cufflinks to his silk tie. His brown wavy hair has a slight sprinkling of greys.
Maybe, they think he’s too old to consider…Well, they are wrong. He’s quite handsome and fit, unlike their noble suitors whose age you could guess from the size of their girth. When he introduced himself, his smile made me gasp. He smells like the Arabian perfume that father used to love.
Right now, I feel for him. Once I gave him mother’s message, he looks downright embarrassed for being so easily dismissed. He was clearly expecting to meet my step-sisters. May be, it is better he doesn’t. Marrying them would lead to lifelong shame-facing. I serve him tea and try to be good company.
We talk about books that my sisters have placed strategically in the drawing-room to be able to brag in front of the suitors that they have read them. I tell him of my favourite place in the world, my father’s library. He’s curious, so I take him on a tour. He looks around the library in awe, touching book spines like they were made of flower petals. His fingers are hardened with old marks of callouses. I wonder if he’s had a past like mine. We talk about more books. He laughs. It’s a nice, open laughter without pretence; one that I can get used to. I offer him my favourite book to pass the time while waiting.
Back in the drawing room, he points at the piano, curious who plays it. Too lost in his voice and too busy trying to not stare at him, I blurt out the truth, “It was mine before father passed away…” I clasp my mouth at the admission.
“Yours? Are you the daughter of the late Duke?”
I nod quietly, glancing at my clothes–clean but far below the status of my family, knowing how far-fetched the story seems. Will he mention it to mother? She will burn me at the stake…or in the oven…
But his eyes hold no judgement, only understanding, “So, after your father died, she took over the estate and turned you into housemaid?”
I nod again.
“Is there anything I could do to remedy your situation? I could request an audience with the king. He is just. He would ensure you are provided your share in the property.”
My eyes well up at the unexpected sympathy, “Thank you for the offer. I, too, could have applied to the king. But I’d rather stay home and sweep the floor than drag my family through dirt.”
Ever since I saw her, it has been difficult to look elsewhere. My eyes had been drawn to her face. But now, I see her in a different light.
Is she for real? She cares for a family that reduced her to a maid. Her little hands in the lap are full of calluses from the daily hard labour. I can see the blue marks peaking out of her shirt sleeve where she had been hit with a cane over and over. And she doesn’t want to change that for her family’s honour?
I cross the distance between us to where she stands. She looks so vulnerable as she looks at me with surprised gaze. I take her hands in mine, as gently as I can, “You know, Ella, I always thought that women like you had ceased to exist.”
Her hands fit in mind perfectly and her face is a picture of subdued beauty that comes from forgiveness and love. Suddenly, I know I will not be able to forget this face or walk out of this place leaving her behind. It is clear what I have to do.
“I came here seeking a bride. I think I’ve found one–if, of course, you’ll have me. Will you?”
She’s surprised and hesitant, “I’m afraid, it won’t be appropriate, considering I am just a maid. I won’t have my father’s name or property to bring along.”
“I don’t care about the title and I have enough money to last several lifetimes. All I care about is whether you like me? Would you like to spend your life with a man like me who doesn’t have a family title, but who fell in love with you the moment he saw you?”
She blushed a deep red and nodded sheepishly, “I think, I did too.”
“Of course, you have my blessings, my dears. I’ll arrange the two of you to get married this Sunday. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be much of a fanfare because the time is short…”
I don’t think they cared for the size of celebration any way.
When we had returned, Ella was in his arms, as I had expected. She’s captivating even when covered in cinders from the oven. Being dressed decently and left alone for two hours was more than enough to bring a marriage proposal. As for Ella, she couldn’t wait to be shot of us. She would have married a horse, had it proposed her, just to get away from us.
So, now that all has gone according to my plan, she will be married a week before the Royal Ball. Thank goodness for that too! Of course, we will need to hire household help, so it wil be a little inconvenient, but with her out of the way, my beautiful daughters are sure to win the Prince’s heart.
The continuous singing is too annoying…with the singing come the birds who put so much pressure in the chorus that I am now covered with bird-shit.
I should have known that she was bad news the day she walked in all wide-eyed. I should have slammed the door on her face, or may be, when she was sampling from each of the seven bowls on the table, I should have shook a chair or two to drive her out.
I let her try all the beds and later my seven owners actually talked about upgrading the security as if I wasn’t able to defend myself against a child. Well, I was not ineffective, just plain selfish–when I saw this girl in servant clothes, I found hope. I thought that, finally, we might have someone who knows dusting and other cleanup that I sorely needed.
The dwarfs weren’t really thinking when they created the roof that high. Once cobwebs started showing in the rafters, they couldn’t reach them. Now, huge cobwebs hung like an year-round Christmas decorations. The metal frame of the door to ceiling windows had gathered enough dirt to grow plants in. It was rather difficult to tell apart the cows by their colour since they were too high to wash regularly and any hen who flew to the roof was a lost cause.
Well I was right about that part. Once the seven hired her, she did spruce up the place, no doubt. But her habit of singing in a high trill is getting on my nerves. As if birds are not enough, the rabbits, squirrels, porcupines and deer are also here from dawn till dusk, leaving only to eat. Also, the rats and insects are now joining ranks and I am gradually becoming a wildlife sanctuary. Throw in a tiger or too and we could open a circus.
Worse still, she has the habit of inviting random vendors inside the home, regardless of the wares. Never misses a good gossip, that girl! She buys all type of stuff that she may or may not use. It is rather annoying, if you ask me, being treated as a storehouse for useless stuff–smelly candles, too colourful clothes, leather shoes that shrink with first drop of water…
Also, twice in the past years, she has ended up almost dying because of this obnoxious habit–once when a vendor woman sold her laces and tied them too tight around her waist cutting off her breath, and yet again when an old hag combed her hair with a poisonous comb. A reasonable person would have seen sense by now.
But in spite of all that, she is talking to this apple vendor. I don’t like the woman–she looks fake, worse, the way she eyes Snowdrop, she could be a maniac. If she was inside, I would have thrown her out, or may be thrown something on her head.
But the dwarves had been clear to not allow anyone in. So, the two of them are sharing an apple through the window! If you ask me, it looks rather scandalous. Snowdrop often shares ‘stuff’ with other handsome male vendors. But sharing a bitten apple with a woman?
Moreover, she doesn’t seem like she ever cleaned her teeth. She could have Pyorrhea…
Damn! I knew it! Now, Snowdrop’s fainted–must be the woman’s bad breath…
Humans don’t tread quietly–at least those who aren’t hunting make enough sound to raise a hibernating bear…
The other day, I saw someone run through the woods and decided to inquire if a good meal was in order. Alas, she was too thin. There was no meat to be had, only skin on bones. Not sure why humans do it to animals. Starving themselves is okay, I guess, but what’s the point of entering my territory if I couldn’t enjoy it too? I would call it downright mean!
I would have sampled a bit of her anyway but she was too scared, and all that adrenalin kills the taste. So, I waited until she settled but she was too excited! These tourists…they enter forests on a dare and, then, they jump at every sound, as if we were going to eat them…well, I do, but that’s beside the point. She was jumpy all evening and all night. Honestly, I do prefer a quiet meal so I waited. She shrieked at every dangling limb of tree and every pair of eyes. For instance, I always found rabbits rather harmless but who knew she could make a maneater out of them…
I had a hard time sleeping with all that shrieking and was a little late when I woke up. I decided to have a snack before I go gargle, but she was gone already. Damn those little people for building their stupid cottage in the forest. I can’t get within 250-meter radius of the place. You see, once, I wanted to experiment whether a hint of mushrooms affects the taste. So I tried to sample the Dopey one but one of the other six brought an axe and I had to make a hasty exit. Ever since, they put enchantments around that place so if I try to get close to the place, the axe finds me and chases me out of the perimeter.
Everybody else is welcome, it seems. I never saw that girl run out with the axe behind her. I waited outside for what felt like an eternity. (Well, did you ever try waiting for food delivery at breakfast?) When I lost all patience for the panicky, skinny piece of meat, I left to get breakfast.
When I returned for her, I was afraid they’ll eat her before I do but they had kept her as a pet or something. (These dwarfs have a weird taste, I tell you!) So, now I pace outside the enchanted periphery waiting for her to step out while she sings to birds and rabbits as they finish her chores. How unfair!
Not sure which one she took. There are too many doors out here. Ever since the day we found this little nook in this village a couple of years back, she had been burning with curiosity. We come here often to collect the occasional teeth under the pillow, but not as often as she would like to. With people having fewer children, there are fewer teeth to collect.
Okay, just in case you are confused, we are tooth faeries. She is a four-and-a-quarter-inch Fighter and I am a five-inches Spellman. We are a team and collect teeth together.
To pry out the tooth from under the pillow, I cast the spells to prop up the child, move the pillow, place the coin, grab the tooth, and then, place the pillow and child back in place. (Not sure why they don’t just keep the tooth on the side-table. It would be so convenient for us.) So, while I am using all my concentration for the spells, she stands guard, looking out for any pet animals, keeping them at bay.
Cats are specially nasty–stealthy, vicious and quick. Once, when my partner was out sick (a serious case of bird flu–her wings kept twitching like humming bird’s and her voice sounded like a crow’s), a cat sneaked up on me. I found myself inside the cat’s stomach and it’s not a pretty sight. I had to tickle its intestine so that it would spit me out. Later, I had to shower for almost an hour to take off the muck from my hair. So, you get the drift… So, all tooth fairies work in pairs to avoid such ‘situations’.
Between her and me, we have 57 villages to cover. You would think that we would be dying of overwork. But children are getting so rare now that there aren’t enough teeth to go around. In fact, most of the tooth fairies are forced to take up smithery or animal-guard roles for smaller beings, like rats (desperate times!). Most of the teeth forges are now going out of commission too.
For any newbees out there, teeth forges are where new human teeth are forged on order. Every end of the day, we submit the acquired teeth at the teeth forge. The teethsmith takes the measurements and DNA print, and forges new teeth to replace the old ones. The old teeth are recycled, of course. A delivery elf, then, submits the new teeth to the Great Guy on the seventh cloud to be dispersed as needed. But all that is beyond our job role.
Anyway, we are best friends, even though, it is rather difficult. She has rather an adventurous spirit and has a knack of getting into dangerous situations–like the day she decided to adopt a lost pup. He’s a Great Dane who loves catching anything that flies too close. It took us a couple of weeks and several trips to its stomach before it learnt not to catch faeries.
Her boyfriend, another fighter fairy with thick biceps and six-pack abs, does not approve either of the Dane or Me. He thinks I’m hitting on her. Initially, I told him “Mate, I gave up on the day we became partners 93 years back.” In reality, I had made a move on her and she gave me a black eye. And hence, I’ve stuck to being friends ever since. But I keep that piece of information to myself. No need to humiliate myself when he doesn’t believe me either way. Well, his loss! Every now and then, he tells her to dump me and she gives him black eyes instead.
She’s the reason why being a tooth fairy seems worth it because we have an excuse to stick together all day. I think the Great Guy knows about it too and hence, he hasn’t changed our pairing in all these 93 years–a rare occurance in our field. That’s why, I let her drag me to look at these doors every time we’re in the village. Then, she sits here and contemplates about which one leads to where. I’m curious too, but not crazy enough to try. With magic, you could never be sure.
How are we sure it is magic? Well, they are all different sizes, some too small for grown up humans. They are well-worn as if used daily. Some of them have claw marks all over while one looks slightly burnt. Also, who would place so many doors on the same wall, unless they all lead to different places. Hence, they obviously magical–deductive reasoning, you see…
So, last night, we came to this village to collect the last tooth for the next five years. The next kid in line is just one year old, so it will be some time before he loses his teeth. All day long, she had been alternating between being lost, being excited and being jumpy. Every time I asked, she behaved too innocently.
So, of course, I told her, “I won’t let you enter those magical doors. We have no idea where they lead and whether they let you return.” She replied, “What doors?”
So, obviously, I never let her out of my sight all day. When we finally reached this house, there was a storm outside. We entered the house through a crack in the window. I went forward to go through the motions of retrieving that tooth, leaving her to stand guard at the window sill. A cat jumped on me. For half-an-hour, I hide inside a closet worried out of my head about this girl until I realised the truth. There was no way the cat could outwit her. She left before the cat came in…
…Which means she entered one of the doors.
So, now I stand in front of all these doors, trying to guess which one she took and come up blank. Her spell-phone is not reachable. I have called out her name several times but, I’m afraid, she can’t hear me. I call her guy to check if he knows anything about this. Hopefully, she discussed the door she liked the most…But he’s as dumb as ever, “You let that vile cat eat her!” As if a cat could ever catch her. She could tie its hands and legs and roast it on a spit before it could blink. She was my guard for that very reason–she’s a fighter!
When I tell him about the magical doors, he comes up blank. She never talked to him about them. “You are trying to frame her for breaking the magical rules!”
Seriously! I understand he disblieves me, but does he even know her? She never follwed rules. “I’m going after her. Do you want to join me? Together we can cover more doors.”
Suddenly, his voice changes, guarded, “We aren’t sure she took the doors at all. And if she did, which one she took. You said that there are too many doors, right? What if she isn’t in the door either of us take? We’ll never find her that way. I guess, we should report her to the authorities. They will send a search party. Meanwhile, we should wait for her to return.”
“Come on! Authoritie will wait 24 hours. That could be too late.”
“It’s probably already too late. She could already be…” He could not complete his sentence though. Because he got too busy with his cellphone that started trying to shove up his ass. He will stay busy until another spellman creates a counter-spell for my hex.
But now, he can’t help me. So, I have to take a wild guess at the door she took. In my mind, I picture her fighting fantastic creatures, living her dreams. I want to be by her side when she does that. Most of all, I just want to be with her. I can’t stand the thought of never seeing her smile again. I have only one chance to guess the right door. There is no guarantee that once I am in, it will let me out ever. If I choose the wrong one, I may be stuck forever without her.
The thought sacres me. So, since I don’t know which one she took, I will have to go the other way round. The doors she’ll never take–She hates red, purple and yellow colours. She finds them too girly. She’ll never take the green one. It is too small, and if she wants to break rules, she’ll do something grand. This leaves the two blue doors. I push the door of the bigger one with all my magical might. A small crevice opens and and she falls back out.
Before I can understand anything, she pulls me in a bear hug! “Thank Goodness, you are alright! I had been waiting for you for the past half hour. What took you so long?”
“Well, you didn’ exactly leave a forwarding address. Did you?” I’m too relieved to care that I’m shouting at her.
Ideally, this is when she kicks me but she just smiles and says, “I knew you’d know where to find me.”
I don’t want to be placated. But how could I not be? She’s fine and back, speaking of which, “Why didn’t you just let me in? Why did you come back? Now I have to open the damn door again.”
“Naah! They’re closed for me, forever. I punched the doorman,” she shrugs. My brows pull up to my hairline, so she blushes (first time ever!) and adds, “Well! I heard you call my name and I answered but I guess you couldn’t hear me. I was worried that you’ll get too worried and take the wrong door. So, I asked the doorman on the inner side to reopen the door so I can call you in. He declined.
I decided it wasn’t worth it without you. So, I let myself out.”
Being the Queen’s favourite has its perks and the food at my home is an ode to the fact that I owe her everything I have. For years, I have hunted animals and humans alike.
This child has seen only seven seasons, that too while living in rags and mopping the castle floor. She is a princess who has been lower than a servant. Today, when I brought her to the forest, she was overjoyed. She’s singing to the birds as she plucks wildflowers for a garland. My daughter does the same.
Today, she says, is the best day of her life. I know better. Not sure what wrong she has done and why the queen is against her. But I am just a soldier, a tool to kill all those who displease the crown. The queen desires the little girl dead and her wish is my command. Yet, my hand shakes today as I clutch the hilt of my sword.
No way can I kill her but I cannot take her back and risk the queen’s wrath.
I pull out my sword with shaking hands and call her to look at me. She looks at me with scared doe-eyes and pleading silently. My sword lowers on its own, as if I’ve lost all my strength.
I yell, “Your mother wants you dead. Run away before I kill you!”
In my heart, I plead, “Run away before I give up and return you to the castle, to the step-mother who’d kill you anyway. Run away before I stop being a monster and become a traitor to the crown.”
I watch as she runs deep in the forest; glad I didn’t have to kill her; afraid she’d die alone. I hunt a boar and take his heart to the monster in the castle as a proof of Snowdrop’s death, hoping she won’t find out the truth before I move my family to another town.
The moment I saw him riding on his stead through my village, I fell in love. He was all I ever wanted–tall, handsome and regal, and a just King. I was sure he would love me too. I’m the most beautiful woman the world had ever seen. He had just lost his wife during childbirth. I could see his pain in the lines of his forehead. I wanted to smooth them out so he would be happy again.
That night, I cooked the love potion with all my heart and sent it to him in the food offering the next day. Being the King, he was obliged to accept it, which he did and after the first morsel, he sent me the marriage proposal. I was over the moon, riding the clouds, flying on the wind as I walked down the aisle and up to him where he stood holding a tiny girl in his arms, Snowdrop.
My steps faltered. She’d always be between us, reminding him of his past, never truly letting him move on. But his warm smile fell on me like sunshine. My breath was stuck in my throat. I took our marriage vows in that moment of insanity. Three days later, he woke up changed. The effect of the love potion had vaned. He was remorseful for having forgotten his first wife so soon. He wouldn’t allow me close. He drowned himself in alcohal while I waited in our bedchamber night after night for him to return. I tried creating the potion again, but failed miserably because even I could see, he’d never love me. His heart was too full of one woman to have room for another. A dead woman had bested me.
For years, I played governess to Snowdrop while he spent his days avoiding us. She reminded him of his first love. I reminded him of the failure to remember her. Everywhere I went, I heard whispers that the dead queen couldn’t hold a candle in front of me. That I was the most beautiful woman ever, yet even in her death, she has dwarfed me, forever, in love…
For years, I roamed the unending passages of this castle hiding from the pain of constant rejection, the whispering staff, the lusting courtiers and my own burning desire. He wouldn’t love me and I couldn’t love another. I was always on fire, and it consumed me until I wasn’t.
For years, I tried everything to lure him to me–sympathy, seduction, magic. I kept Snowdrop as far from him as possible, in the servant’s quarters hoping that, without the reminder, he would forget his past. But I received not a single drop of his affection, nor a child, heir to the throne and no future.
Once the king dies, which seems soon enough considering his failing health, the heir to the throne shall be the next male kin, Snowdop’s husband. I have tried to hide her in rags but she grows each day like a carnivorous flower, her alluring beauty trapping the affection of all those around her. Even at seven, the mirror calls her ‘the fairest of all’. Soon enough, princes from kingdoms around the world would line up for her hand. And with that would go my kingdom and my claim to beauty.
I have dealt with being the second-best all my life, but can I live with being a nobody?
Expensive china lay splayed on the floor, broken in tiny pieces. I shiver. It could have been me. Being made of glass, it isn’t a good idea for me to tell the truth. People don’t like truth, especially middle-age women with identity crisis. Unfortunately, like all mirrors, it’s in my nature to reflect the facts, no matter the mental state of my owner. For example, right now, you have something green stuck in between your teeth–Spinach sandwich?
What’s worse, I have been magicked with the ability to see beyond the obvious. If he could get hold of me, Einstein would have used my knowledge to prove his concept of time being the fourth dimension of space (Yes, I can see through all the four dimesions of space. How else would I know about Einstein who will be born 1423 years later?). However, my current mistress for the past twenty-two years uses it for one question alone–any guesses?
Mirror mirror on the wall,
Who’s the fairest of them all?
Initially, I was excited to serve a woman of unsurpassable beauty. But after answering the same question for the nth time, it got old. So, I started creating short poetry about it, a different one everyday–
Too many out there are pretty, but never saw such a beauty…
None surpass, ohh my lass!
(If you think, this is bad poetry, try writing on the same subject for twenty-two years. Well, you get the drift.)
Even that began to grate on my nerves after a few years.
When she tricked the king into marry her after the passing of his first wife, I had hoped that she would get better things to do, what with being newly wed and a queen. But it seems that being a queen requires constant vigilance on the competition. So, the question became a daily query, almost like standing guard to keep stray dogs out. If you ask me, this whole idea of fairness is rather blown out of proportion to serve the herbs and cosmetics industry, but since she is so big on it, resigning to fate, I began giving a three word answer repeatedly, “You, my lady.” That seemed to satisfy her though.
Today, her step-daughter, Snowdrop, became seven years old. Yes, it is Snowdrop and not Snow White, as some famous storytellers with moving pictures would have you believe.
Snowdrop is named so because she is rather fair looking with skin white as snow, rosy cheeks, red lips and black hair. I think the queen is rather jealous because Snowdrop looks like the first queen. So, it was her birthday and I was deep in thought about how 7-year-olds would ask different questions from 37-year-olds when the queen asked the question again. I’m not sure where the rebellion came from but I dropped the bomb.
“With hair black as raven’s feather,
and skin white as snowfall,
Snowdrop is the fairest of all.”
That’s when the bombarding began. My mistress became the fabled bull in the china shop. As things flew around in the room and several hit the wall right next to me, the dread and excitement surged into me, rendering me immobile (Not that I can go anywhere anyway.). I wondered if I’ll survive today. A distant vision came up–meeting a certain Larry Page at his dorm’s wall, becoming the earth-shattering (or was it ground-breaking?) magic behind some Go-ogle, answering millions of questions each day as millions of faces peer intently at me…I sighed at the sight.
One flying suacer of the bonechina variety can put me out of commission and take away that beautiful future from me. I’d really like to say that I’d keep my trap shut from now on so that I’d have a better chance to stay ‘alive’ for the next sixteen centuries and reach that future. But I know myself. Now that I’m finally seeing some action, I can’t go back to the You-my-lady mode again.
Anyway, you’d think that after finding out that the next generation is ready to take over, she’d ask new questions–What is the best anti-wrinkle cream? How to remove dark shadows from beneath the eyes? What’s the best hair colour? Instead, I am answering the same question thrice a day as she mixes and applies different potions to her face to remove signs of aging…
Shivering with cold, he peered inside the window. The tree was ablaze with lights. Gifts beneath it awaited the next morning. One of them seemed like a large jwelery box…
On the table sat a couple of steaming mugs. Was that coffee?
What wouldn’t he give for that coffee right now? Or hot Cocoa? His ride didn’t have heating and his buttocks got glued to the seat. He felt like he would need an icepick to get him out. His fingers were turning blue. Global warming didn’t seem to be helping him right now. The cold was just as cold now as it was fifty years back. In fact, it seemed to be getting colder each year. Or maybe, he’s getting on with years. Maybe he should just retire…
Anyway, how long are these people planning to stay awake? It was already midnight, but the couch potatoes were glued to the television screen playing a cheesy movie about Christmas with Santa in a red coat, saying, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”. He rolled his eyes. Typical! The movie seemed to have just started, which meant these people would stay awake for another couple of hours.
Utter disrespect for other people’s time!
How on earth would he get inside undetected? He wasn’t exactly a wee mousey. This ample girth wouldn’t hide behind a candy stick.
He was tempted to skip this house and try another? But then, it had been the same case for the past couple of hours. State after state, house after house, people were awake glued to their screens. First, they had set radars across the world, shooting missiles at any flying object, turning traveling at night into a safety hazard. Then, they invented central heating, reduced chimney width to the size of a drainstorm pipe and installed intruder alarms to doors and windows. And now, they stay up all night keeping him out, waiting, and shivering in the cold.
To rub salt on the wound, they say, there is no Santa Claus! What do they expect him to do? Send stuff in by Magic?
He sighed. He couldn’t skip the sweet little girl upstairs waiting for her gift. As he had done all night, he placed the package with the teddy bear at the doorstep, hoping to get away without a sound. The intruder alarm went off, waking the entire neighborhood. He ran to his waiting sledge, and his reindeers took off in the sky before the adults could come out.
Panting, he cursed under his breath. He would have to find a replacement next year…maybe those nimble little elfs would be a better match for the exhausting routine. Or may be, just may be, he would join that gym again, and try harder this time…
Author’s note: To find out about Santa’s tryst at the local gym, read Santa’s Sweatshop.
Merry Christmas to everyone stuck at home away from family. Let prayers flow freely today. I truly hope the worse is behind us all and in the new year, we would all wake up to a better, safer world.
We’ve all heard of folklore. How many of us believe in it? Have you felt the lure to go down an unused path, explore unseen places, see through the dense fog and what hides beneath it? Beware! An awesome site with fantasy so thick, you will lose yourself in it.
I’m sure you’ve heard tales of the strange folk said to dwell in the forests, folk not human. Go ahead. Laugh. Call ‘em nothing but fairytales, stories to scare defiant children. There was a time I’d have joined you…
Aegis was over the moon today. He would finally get some sleep. 108 years is a long time to have stayed awake but these fairies never let him get a wink.
Ever since he was a young tree, they had started building their little mushroom houses all over his body. They created quite a din day in and out. He hated how the little ones ran all over him with muddied feet, and teenagers partied all night. The queen herself was a merry person, never stopping her people from having fun. So, his pleas for some peace always fell on deaf ears.
He wished them begone.
As his grumblings grew on a daily basis, the queen relented and decided to move to a clump of smaller trees across the field.
The day the fairies finally left, Aegis was really glad. He would finally get some sleep, he thought. He embraced himself and settled for a long night. But the place felt rather cold without the little fairy lights. And scary too. The chaos from earlier suddenly did not seem so bad. His stomach dropped to bottom as he realised he’d be alone for the rest of his days–another 100 years or so.
He missed the little raucous crowd and wished them back. But the fairies were gone to their new lodgings across the field, leaving Aegis with his lonely pride.
This nutcase needs Psychiatric help, not a gym. He told me he needs to lose 80 pounds in three months! While I am the best gum instructor in the town, I am no magician. While the goal is herculean for a 30-something, this guy is ancient…
I asked him what the hurry was, and he said that he must be able to go down the chimneys on Christmas; that even his ‘magic’ cannot squeeze him through the too narrow chimneys in modular kitchens. Initially, I wondered whether he’s a thief, but if he is, he must be a retired one…no fitness whatsoever. His belly overflows out of his red gym pyjamas and his red shirt is the size of a picnic tent.
Did I tell you, he has a fetish for red colour–red gym clothes, red cap, red shoes and red overcoat. I even got a glimpse of his red underwear while he was tying shoelaces one day. Seriously, who does he think he is? Santa Claus?
Maybe he’s Schizophrenic…he even registered his name as Nicholas, you know Santa Claus’s real name…and no ID to go with it. And the first day, he came on a sleigh with a reindeer that caused a traffic jam. Thankfully, he comes in a car now…a red car with reindeer print.
With his white flowing beard tucked into his pockets, so it wouldn’t get stuck in the Treadmill, he walks at a snail’s pace. And begins complaining of the ‘strenuous regime’ after five minutes. He says he is too old for cardio, and doesn’t have the muscles for weights.
Not sure how he’s going to lose weight before I lose it. Yesterday, I had to take him aside and clarify that he should either up his game or go for a weight-loss surgery.
That didn’t improve his walking, but at least, he is not complaining anymore.
My three-year old daughter demands me stories nearly all day. I try to wave off the requests most of the times, since it means overusing my brain, which is already fried by listening and singing nursery rhymes, and dealing with petty quarrels regarding property rights over various animals, dolls, lego blocks and kitchen set, apart from building the training courses for clients.
My favourite way to wave off the request is to ask my daughter to tell me a story before I tell her one. Usually, she asks me to excuse her to deal with an ‘important matter’ and leaves the vicinity until I had forgotten the request (my daughter through and through). A few days back, though, after multiple requests, she acquised to tell me a story of the Hare and the Tortoise.
As most of you would know, the original story was about a race between a vain but fast Hare and a humble but slow Tortoise. The vain Hare underestimates his competitor and sleeps off half way through the race and wakes up to find that the Tortoise has reached the finish line. I was expecting a retelling of the same tale.
However, this is the tale she told me (in Hindi).
There was a Hare 🐰 who was going to market to buy some carrots 🥕(?), because all Hare love carrots 🐰💕🥕.
He met a Tortoise 🐢 on the way who asked him nicely if he could join him–he needed to buy some carrots too 🥕 (??), because all Tortoise love carrots too 🐢💕🥕.
So, off they went merrily 🐇🐢. (Not sure when the race will begin!)
On the way, they met an Elephant 🐘 (???) who asked them not so nicely to carry him to the market because he wanted to buy some carrots too (because, obviously, all elephants love carrots too, 🐘 💕🥕). Or else he will step on them 😡.
So the Hare punched him 👊 (That was one strong Hare!), and then, he pulled the Tortoise on his back and ran to the market. 🐇🐢💨 (AHA!!!)
Then, they, bought carrots🥕, and happily ate them.
Author’s mother’s note: Well, what can I say, I love carrots too…🤣🤣🤣
Fish in the Treesis my alter ego. It stands for my unique position as a true Gemini. (Ever saw that horoscope picture with two people looking in different directions? That’s me.) I have always been looking in two directions or more–trying to see both sides of the coin, skewing my perspective like a fish-eye lens. I have a traditional small-town upbringing, but am plagued with question-itis (the habit of asking pain-in-the-ass questions) and conform-o-phobia (the fear of conforming with status quo). My blog follows suit.
It makes both of us forever misfits, like a shellfish in the trees.
Fish in the trees only had five posts till mid-last year, all of which I deleted. On the night of 15th June last year, I decided to rebirth this site and moved in stuff from my earlier site Fly on the Wall (that no one read). Since then, I have written every week, twice a week, daily… Yup! I’m that crazy!
Now after one year, here are 10 posts that I am proud of…okay 18…It is rather difficult to pick your favourite child, and I have over 300.