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.”
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
After a day at the easel, Rippl-Rónai relaxes with a view into the Parisian streets. He’s nearly fifty. He’s colored a blue tablecloth red. Seeing the world in patches of paint stiffened textures like corn on canvass. A new facture. Rough like the times. Fractured like a world before war.
Four years later, the Father of Modern Hungarian Art will be interned in a displaced person’s camp. Paris Interior, will be displayed in San Francisco, then lost in America until 1924. Conflict, pandemic flu. His art reflecting unrest, impatient crowds, and French Soldiers Marching. A tired, then hopeful, 1920 seems almost normal.
Imagine the painter after a day at the easel in a room, now salon not studio. Le dejeuner cleared from the red tablecloth. He looks outside. A foreigner in Paris. Homesick for Hungary. Hopeful for himself, for his talent, and with good reason. He will become the Father of Modern Hungarian Art.
But not before he is tested. He will be interned in a displaced person’s camp as the Great War begins. Paris Interior, on exhibit in San Francisco, will be detained as enemy property, spoils. War, pandemic flu, it will be years before the world rights itself. Have faith.