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.

Princess, Awake.

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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 Apple Princess

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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.”

“Come again.”

“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.

Rescue Gnome

Picture by Ryan Kessler

We suspect there is a magic passage under our redwood because the garden gnome who guards the tree by day disappears at night. Important forest matters require his attention. Animals trapped in fire ravaged landscapes. Small fawns and mountain lions equally threatened, equally important to the health of a recovering ecosystem. He treats them all with the utmost care.

By daybreak, our gnome has returned. We see an article in the morning paper. Ten small pumas rescued. Feet wrapped in gauze socks. You wonder how they keep from biting through. Probably the influence of our gnome. His voice is hypnotic.

Welcome Gnome

Photo by Monica McHenney

An innocent mistake, pressing the camera button. The Welcome Gnome on the front steps stirred, his soul waking in the hot California sun.

“Water. Make it a spray, a spate, a mist. Elsewise, you’ll suck the life from this old soul.” The gnome skittered into the shade of an overhang.

The hose sang clear wet.

He wavered, quivering silver like a heat mirage, so that she queried, “Are you okay?”

“Delete the picture.” He hovered, real and unreal. “Stuck in a camera, I’ll shadow to dust. Resting, must, in the garden. There’s a spot for me. I’ll find my way.”

Magical Thinking

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“Drying up. Inspiration drying up. You bury ideas.” A creature not much taller than a toadstool, warty and fobbish…

Gnawing a pencil, I looked and saw a gnome pointing to a well-thumbed dictionary. “Warty I’ll give you, but fobbish. Nae a proper word.”

“Sorry. Am I awake?” I rubbed my eyes and erased fobbish. “So what’s this about?”

Fob settled himself on a nightstand saucer. “What with worry-warting about now, we miss what else. Poets can’t poem. Mathematicians can’t math. Reality can’t real. Every day like the last.”

“I thought it was me.”

“No, us. Together, we grieve it all.”

Magic Eight

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Magic was in the air the day Maureen’s father retired. A charmed life was how he told it. From that first rabbit he’d pulled out of a hat, he had an itch to travel. He took to the road, bringing his family along from one carnival to another.

Perhaps that’s why Maureen stayed anchored. “When will you settle?” Maureen lit a seven decade birthday candle.

“Oh, someday, maybe.” He pulled a quarter from behind his grandson’s ear and handed it to him.

At eighty, he moved into care, where he roamed the halls doing card tricks. He never grew old.