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.

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.

If Those Three Words Were a Statue, We Could Take it Down.

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“Merciless Indian savage.” The Declaration of Independence contains these hateful words.

I did a double take when I saw the phrase emblazoned on a tee shirt in Southwest Alaska. The dark-haired girl wearing it was laughing with a friend. Her bright eyes and brilliant smile offered a refutation to the offensive words.

Contrast the clutch of fishermen on the ferry who bristled with antipathy as a Native man walked past. I stared at them, a witness. Spoke as an ally when the local clinic turned away a Native who needed emergency treatment. The founding fathers got those three words wrong.

California Winter

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It rained. And then froze. The rain a teaser. Maybe no drought this year. Maybe there’s snow piled into the mountains. Not that we’ll know. Since the electricity stopped working, we haven’t heard from anyone more than a buggy’s ride away.

Try explaining electricity to a five-year old. It always ends up with magic. The same way that putting seeds in the ground and getting peas seems like a miracle. We used to show our daughter how peas grow. How they need water. Used a plastic cup and a paper towel. None of those left. Good thing there’s still miracles.