Lottie perched at table, beheld a patterned pysansky preserved in waxed glory. ”Exquisite egg.”
Nina sipped tea. “Family heirloom.”
“European,” Lottie asked.
“A tale from Ukraine goes with it. A girl found hundreds of golden birds stiff with cold, helped a few, and found homes for the rest. ”
“How kind.” Would that there were more kindness.
“In spring, the villagers who’d fostered them released the birds who Easter next flew to each house. This egg and hundreds of others appeared on doorsteps throughout the village, a thanks from the grateful birds.”
“A beautiful story, more so even than the eggs.”
The dates to celebrate spring are close this year, within a month, and yet some religions seem far apart. They fight each other. They fight among themselves. “They are young,” Eostre said, “or maybe a bit territorial, those men.”
This ancient goddess brought them all together: old and new religions, female and male deities. The witches stirred a brew of love, the opposite of hate. They loaded it into clouds that rained tears on the land that had dried to dust. Cracked seeds opened into bulbs that bloomed lilies, all kinds, fields full. The perfume of peace filled the air.
Baba Yaga, foolish old woman, rattler of chicken bones magicked from soup. Her elder son nurses historic delusions. In the younger one, hope persists. Hers is tough love at best. Battles rage. Forgotten, the soup gets cold.
Baba Yaga makes a cake with pears, no mushrooms. She absorbs the stove into herself, casting a spell on the forest. Her heart, a net to catch the half-cracked madness. The cake, an irresistible odor summoning the children to the table in Baba Yaga’s stilt perched house. As they eat, she turns the house upside down, shaking up what had seemed inevitable.
A bomb exploded. The bean stalk shook. A clear violation of fairy tale neutrality. Reaching a hand through the palace window and grabbing a Russian MIG, the giant nearly ate the pilot, but there was no salt.
The poor man shivered.
The giantess finished an aleph in her sampler. “Young idiot, you could have hit the Golden Goose.”
“That’s a fairy tale,” said the pilot.
“Poor deluded man. Hermie, call that nice rabbi in Moscow. We need a golem.”
A light broke in the pilot’s face. “Because first we came for the Ukrainians?”
Zelda smiled, though it was more complicated.
Dear Ms. WW:
A formerly satisfied customer, your instant meals have saved my bacon when work emergencies and toddler meltdowns prevented me from putting a nutritious dinner on the toadstool. Unfortunately, last night’s Cricket Stroganoff seems more potion than stew. This morning I woke up with a warlock.
Lest you think my husband left me, I would submit that the warlock has warts. The pattern fits my husband’s down to the T on his back. Our favorite. In addition to a refund, please send an antidote to restore the love of my life to himself and me.
“My favorite story.” Surrounded by many grandchildren, King Charming smiled. “I needed a wife. ‘A commoner,’ my father said. ‘Why else invite every young lady to the ball?’ ”
“It seemed fair, reasonable, and what better way to find love at first sight than a full dance card? Your grandmother appeared and before I knew it, midnight had arrived.
She hurried out of my arms and lost her crystal slipper. Touching the glamoured glass turned it to an ashy wooden sabot.
“I took it to every house in the kingdom. But it only fit your uncommon grandmother, to my great delight.”
The ballerinas found runs in their tights, tiny smelly turds in their slippers, and nibble marks on the blocks at the bottom of their satin toes. They took it as a declaration of war. But Clara insisted that evidence of merriment is a sign of the season; like peppermint sticks in a stocking, brandy in eggnog, and fireplace ashes.
She said, “Think of it, other dancers mirroring your steps at night.” They stood backstage, where telltale claw marks had opened holes in the velvet backdrop. Peeking after dark confirmed their hopes. They joined the mice to dance the night away.
Aladdin served sheiks and veiled ladies at Bosphorus Square Lamps.
On slow days, he cleaned the trade-ins. Noting the component materials, he checked for dents, damage, and neglect. He assessed usability: plugs, wires, oil wicks. He cleaned the lamps up and set a price. But none of them was magic. Aladdin could tell.
An elderly gentleman came in with an old fener. “It needs a good home,” he said.
Holding the lamp, Aladdin felt a nervous energy inside. “I’ll keep it for myself,” he said.
“It needs tea and baklava. Four o’clock, without fail.”
Aladdin did a happy dance inside.
It was only a matter of time before she broke me. That’s an occupational hazard of delivering bad news to an evil queen when you feel bound not to sugarcoat it.
I did warn her. After two unsuccessful assassination attempts, I ventured an opinion that Snow White had her own magic. Not appreciated. Evil zapped me, electric charge flowing from her fingers until the glass fought back. Magic glass does that. It exploded leaving her a bloody mess and me a disembodied spirit. Now that I’m free, I’ll find a way to dislodge the poison apple from Snow White’s throat.
Cleaning the many mirrors in the castle was a full time job. The blind lass, hired by the queen, felt her way up and down the craggy stones of the winding staircases. Doors opened into lighter shades of gray filled with solid shadows. She found her way through every room but one. That door was always locked. The mirror inside was magical.
Dreaming, she turned a key and entered the forbidden room. Blindsight rendered the planes of the walls a darker gray. The mirror, the room’s only tangible shape, beckoned. A grayscale world of touch emerged from behind the glass.