“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.
The castle hall, full of guests, reverberated with infant squalls. “May she always be heard,” the Queen toasted. The Fates agreed. The King frowned.
Sixteen years later, the Fates returned to grant one wish. Atropos wanted to stay a maiden. The King objected, claimed the wish for himself, and conjured a curse. “Give my daughter a long, forgetful rest and a husband to awaken her.”
The princess shouted, “No.”
The spinner and the weaver consulted, deciding together to negate the King’s curse. Starting the sentence with do not changed everything. Atropos apprenticed with the Fates. And now, there are three.
An old woman wrapped in a cloak of stars bent over a plucky young woman’s apple pyramid. The market sang with hawking, but the farm stand was quiet. “Your fortune is written in your face.”
“Don’t be coy, dear.” The old woman accepted an apple bribe. On the way home, she conjured up a prince, instructing him to expect a royal visitor bearing fruit.
Long journey short. Magic rain- an excuse to stay over. Mattresses and eiderdowns, numbering forty like thieves in the night. Young woman uncomfortably atop a pea. Most important, a plucky face deserves a happily-ever-after.
A story is a cocoon from which to see the world. It might be exciting. It might be pointed. It might give a glimpse into another world or a look at another side of this one. It might use flowing language, plain language, or the kind of terse language that cuts to the quick, leaving the reader wounded by a lightning strike aha. Sometimes the picture says more than the words. Sometimes the words create a picture. There are so many possibilities. Here’s hoping that in 2020 we can find respect for the story no matter who tells it.
Wishing all a happy and productive year in 2020. In case you didn’t see this New York Times Op Ed, I’ll pass it on as a follow up to something I wrote after the fire. Hoping for good news about the cathedral next year.
There Will Be No Christmas at Notre-Dame December 24, 2019 New York Times
When the fish landed on shore, it talked so glibly that everyone thought it must be magic. Lines formed to ask for wishes. People shook their heads when they found themselves hoping for better roads and cleaner water, not personal fortunes. His silver scales reconfigured into a shooting star, he streaked away saying, “Work together and your dreams will come true.”
Two leaders arose. One saw the dangers of talk with no action, the other advocated action with no talk. Some chose the quickness of autocracy. Most bided their time. Talk takes longer, but the results are worth the wait.
Quite often, the overhead sprinklers covered the floor of the D gates in a smooth sheet of water. No one knew why. Some suspected it was the amphibians.
The hot, dry weather drove them in. They made a steady pilgrimage through the walls and into the ceiling, working their way to the electrical box. Once there, they chewed through the wires like squirrels, sparking a conflagration.
When air travel was no longer sustainable, management turned the airport into a habitat for desert denizens. No more newts blowing across the desert, looking as desiccated as kale chips fresh from the oven.
Marleybones had loved Lambykins since second grade. Never married, never asked, she’d persevered through his other women and ego-filled outbursts.
Geminis are mercurial, he’d explained.
It all changed with a Tarot reading. The significator, an upside-down heart pierced by three swords, foretold sorrow. But the outside formation moved from karma through completion. Luck was with her. Her boss was like a father to her. Her new ad campaign had won awards. She’d met someone else, just friends, but someone who liked her. She ghosted Lambykins. When he called, she was firm. She was free. Aquarians are not afraid of change.
At Grandma’s Thanksgiving, a mash-up of turkey, cranberries, second wave feminism, and Madman era misogyny collide. After a luscious dinner, you and your London chum play at Cockney rhyming slang in the library. Uncle Uncle fumbles, mumbles, tumbles, never suspecting that your friend, whose ass he pinches, is an expert kick boxer.
What did he expect? A docile blush? You show him a shot of his pained face on Snapchat. It’s captioned, “Stand back, the fourth wave is here.” He retreats to a corner, nursing his ‘Enry ‘Alls*, chugging highballs. Rules change. Change rules. You have exceeded his expectations.
* Rhyming slang for balls (rhymes with Halls.) See the entry from Wikipedia for Rhyming Slang.
That first day, and most days after, they met to ride the MUNI home after work. Without planning or calling beforehand, they stepped to the curb at quarter past five in a kind of rhythm they found hard to explain. Theirs was a love that rose like yeasted dough. Water and flour and biga that became silky smooth with kneading. His fingers, feather light as a sigh, brushed her hair aside, the copper strands falling in waves against his wrist.
She smiled, leaning closer.
He followed her between dented seats, along the sidewalk and up a dingy flight of stairs.