Use Your Head, John.

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Little John put down his bible. That story, David and Goliath, ‘minded him of his own troubles with Big John who’d killed LJ’s horse and his grandmother; woulda killed LJ except LJ told a sleight of hand story that BJ took hook, line, and sinker. It was the sinker that killed BJ. That man was so greedy, he pleaded to be tied up in a sack and dumped in the deepest part of the ocean. LJ’d convinced BJ there was a herd of cows underwater for the taking. BJ deserved the lie. LJ deserved the peace that came from it.

Inspired by a black Portuguese folktale in Virginia Hamilton’s, The People Could Fly.

Tower of the Moon

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An impossible quest. To marry the Moon Tower princess, Anton earns the help of four animal spirits- Eagle, Ant, Lion, and Dove. As an Eagle, the African prince persuades the Wind Witch, to help. Treacherous mother, she pries the location of the Tower from her Wind son’s lips. Becoming a dove, then an ant, then himself Anton enters the Princess’s bedroom.

But Papa refuses to negotiate. Becoming a Lion, Anton disembowels the fierce guardian pig who hides the father’s life inside an eggshell. And when Papa’s gone, good and gone, the hero rules the land, his princess wife as queen.

Condensed from an African folktale in Virginia Hamilton’s, The People Could Fly.

Br’er Rabbit Wins

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I knowed it were all over when that smart ass, Br’er Rabbit, fooled me ag’in. Boss gonna think to hire that rabbit. What am I saying? “Don’t nobody hire no rabbit when they’s a fox to do the job.”

Then that sly trickster pops out the bushes . “Well, Br’er Fox, you wrong ag’in.” Br’er Rabbit swung his fine cane in a circle, its fine brass knob shining in the sun. “No, times they be a changin’ and the world be too, though it be slow as molasses in January.”

“You know somethin’ I don’t?”

“More than you’d guess. Way more.”

The People Could Fly

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When Jesse said his people could fly, we spent the afternoon leaping from boulders, arms spread, rolling into the water instead of digging crawdads for supper. Though he fled to D.C. after the Klan burned Wilmington in 1898, we kept in touch.

In 1965, both ninety-five years old, we rode to Montgomery to hear Dr. King speak. Afterwards, Jesse said, “The moral arc of the universe must be a rainbow. Takes faith to find the end of it.”

“Helps to fly, doesn’t it.”

He nodded, picked up his two-year old great-granddaughter, who spread her arms, laughing and flapping. “This one’s in training.”

To: The New York Review of Books From: The Kraken Community

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Kraken poised his eight arms above the laptop keys.

“Fellow Being,” he typed, “Please be informed that your recent review of Monster Tales by George Scholar is deeply injurious to the Cephalopod community, as is the book. Krakens are intelligent creatures whose large size and shy nature provoke unfair depictions in Eurocentric myth. New World cultures recognize our helpful, magical and spiritual natures. Na Kika, an octopus god, built the Pacific Islands and it is a fact that octopuses alone populated our postdiluvian world, not an arkful of animals. In future, please select reviewers with diverse viewpoints.”

Sincerely,

Caleb Kraken

Bluebeard’s Seventh Wife

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Bette kicked her spiked heels to the side of the bed. The man she married had lost six wives under suspicious circumstances. One was her dear cousin, hence revenge was on the table. Rumor had it that secrets lay buried in a locked room deep in the castle dungeons. Bette had the key.

There were guards she would need to trick. Three in all. The first surveilled her bedroom door. A glutton, he was tempted by poisoned wine. The second took a bribe. The third let her through, happy to help her stab the evil prince with a carving knife.

A Bear’s Tale

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Bears get a bad rep in the enchanted forest. I know, because thanks to an evil dwarf, I lived as a bear for years. One especially harsh winter, I met these two swell gals, Snow and Red. They took me in, let me crash on their hearth, and played chess with me. A princely game. Oh, did I mention, I’m a prince.

It all worked out in the end. I killed the dwarf, the curse was broken, and I married Snow. She cured my P.T.S.D. My brother likes a challenge. He married Red, a chess grandmaster. Beats him every time.

A Reason to Celebrate

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Snow White gaveled in the annual meeting of Dwarfs, Inc. “Before we hear committee reports, I’d like to thank Doc for his leadership during my prolonged hospital stay. Also, congratulations to our own Bashful and Grumpy for sealing the deal with Charming and Sons.”

Doc beamed, Bashful blushed, while Grumpy smiled.

Snow continued. “The prince has agreed to an exclusive contract with Dwarf Orchards to supply the kingdom’s new applesauce processing plant. I feel especially proud that we won the bidding war against Evil Stepmother, Inc.”

Happy pulled out a bottle and popped the cork. “To a healthy New Year.”

The Golden Cake

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“Ma, we’ve got a ground-floor opportunity with these magic seeds.” But, it wasn’t the partnership that had convinced Jack to trade Milky-White. It was the sweet milk the green-skinned magician coaxed from her dry udders.

“Dear fool,” his mother said, and took to her bed.

Still, they prospered. Stalks grew into the clouds where the giant harvested and ground the wheat. His wife baked cakes using milk, flour and goose eggs. Jack sold the dainties, famous for a penny-weight of gold in each, to bakeries across the kingdom.

On Sundays, an incantation transported him to Milky-White, who never aged.

Sweet Revenge

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“Can I help you?” Hansel noted the dated, rather dusty costume the elderly woman wore. Like Halloween instead of almost Christmas. “Cookies for the grandchildren? Or cakes?”

Her voice cracked like old parchment paper. “The gingerbread houses interest me.” Holding up a fairy tale collection, she pointed a spindly finger at the cover. “That one is mine.”

“The book?”

“No, I mean I designed the house.”

“No kidding.” Her hair infused with cinnamon, Gretel appeared, setting a hot tray down. “You’re an illustrator?”

“A baker.”

“Oh, you’re here to apply for the job? It’s temporary.”

“That’s perfect,” the witch said.