Tag Archives: Fairy tale

An equal opportunities abduction

Hansel heard the music.  It was like someone whispering his name, someone in the distance, someone he couldn’t see.  He lifted himself from his bed, planting his crutch under his arm and lurched over to the bedroom window.  He couldn’t see anyone, but the music was still there.  Above the bustle of the market place, the hubbub of the traders, the gossip of the housewives, and the rolling wheels of Hamelin commerce, the music reached his ears, like the aroma of a freshly-baked pie left on a windowsill to cool…  It was delicious.  It was irresistible.

He pulled a jersey over his pyjama top and a pair of breeches over his pyjama bottoms.  He thrust his stockingless feet into his boots.  There was no time to lace them up, no time to ask his mother’s assistance in that operation.  At nine years of age, Hansel had yet to learn how to lace his own boots.  He would rather let his mother fuss over him, fuss over his useless stump of a foot, that swollen mass of flesh with its squashed-button toes.  Like an elephant’s, he always thought.  Perhaps, when I’m older, I’ll go the whole hog, the whole elephant, and sprout a trunk and flappy ears and everything.

He tottered down the stairs, trying to make as little noise as possible.  Mother was in the kitchen, making bread.  He could hear her singing to herself as she pounded balls of dough on the floury board.  Her song was soft and formless as idly she sang, and Hansel remembered the lullabies she would sing at his bedside when he was younger, or even now, when he was sick and febrile.

He unhooked his hat from the stand in the hall and let himself out, pulling the brim down low and hunching his shoulders.  He didn’t want to be seen, didn’t want to be recognised.  He kept close to the wall as he tapped his way around the perimeter of the marketplace.  The music was faint, but it was still there, urging him on.  Pulling him in the right direction.  Through the market and out of the gates.

“Good morning, Hansel!” boomed the butcher at his stall.  “Off to school?”

Hansel reddened and ignored the man.  He quickened his pace.  Behind him, the butcher shrugged and busied himself with wrapping sausage links for Frau Schnabel.

Outside the town gates, Hansel took the lane that led to distant hills.  Atop the largest of those hills stood a lone tree, a giant of its kind, leafless and foreboding.  But the music told Hansel to wend his way there.

He had reached the foot of the hill when the townsfolk caught up with him.  They were angry and armed with farming implements and household knives, alerted to the disappearance of their children by the panicked schoolteacher who had reported an empty classroom.

“Where is he?” they roared.  “Where is that pied bastard?”

“He’s up here somewhere,” opined the butcher, brandishing a bloodied machete.  “I’ll shove that pipe of his right up his arse.”

“We’ll show him,” vowed several grim-faced traders.  “Taking our children.”

“Do you think they’re all right?” fretted Frau Schnabel, her sausages forgotten, dropped in the dirt.

“I knew we should have paid up,” said the town clerk.  “For getting rid of the rats.  I knew we should have paid him what he asked.”

“And bankrupt the town?” scoffed the butcher.  “His price was too high.”

“And taking our children?  Is that a bargain?” Frau Schnabel gave the butcher a shove.

The townsfolk were arguing among themselves and getting nowhere, but Hansel could still hear the music.  He continued on his way.  The music was inside him now, steeling his nerves, strengthening his muscles.  Even his useless foot was alive, with the music coursing through every nerve, every fibre.  Hansel lumbered up the path that wound around the incline until, at long last, he reached the tree.

A door appeared in the trunk.  Hansel pressed against it but it would not move.  There was no handle, no knocker, not even a keyhole.  Hansel collapsed against it and sobbed.  Too late!  Too late!  Oh, it was just like the games in the playground!  He was always left out, never allowed to join in with the races and running around.  And now, all the children had gone into the tree, and he was left out, left alone, with his crutch and his useless foot.

And then he saw it.  A button to the side of the door.  A square, silver button with a picture of a stick-figure man in a chair, and the chair had wheels…

Hansel pressed the button, holding his breath.  The door slid aside and soft light washed over him.  The music drew him over the threshold and Hansel hobbled in, as the townsfolk arrived at the tree.  The door slid shut, cutting off their commotion, leaving him with just the light and the music.

The townsfolk cursed the tree.  They tried to chop off the silver button.

“You see?  You see?” the butcher cried.  “If we had given in to his wishes, this devilry would be everywhere.  Silver buttons!  Ramps!  Doors that swing in both directions!  Too costly, I tell you!  We did the right thing.”

But Hansel’s mother, with flour up to her elbows, was not convinced.  She flattened herself against the door, which was already fading into the bark, and wept.

The Pied Piper’s proposal would have meant her son, her sweet and lovely boy, would have stood a better chance of making a life for himself in Hamelin.  And now he was gone, and it was all she could hope that wherever he was, wherever the mysterious Piper had taken him, the other children were at last letting him play.




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Bear-faced Liars

The detective on the doorstep flashed his warrant card.  At his shoulder, his partner did the same.

“Mr Bear?  We’d like to have a word with you.”

“Oh?” Daddy Bear’s eyebrows went up.  “What about?”

“A girl has gone missing.” He held up a photograph of a pretty face framed by a shock of golden hair.  “We wondered if you might have seen something.  Anything.  Her mother, as you can imagine, is frantic with worry.”

“I can imagine,” said Daddy Bear.  He called over his shoulder.  “Love, have you seen a young girl around here recently?”

“You what, love?”  Mummy Bear came from the kitchen to join her husband in the hallway.  She was holding a tea towel and drying a breakfast bowl.

“Young girl,” said Daddy Bear.  “These policemen are asking questions.”

The corners of Mummy Bear’s mouth turned down and she shook her head.  “Can’t say that I have.  Sorry.”

“Muuuuumm!” came a high voice from the living room.  “I’ve got glue on me!”

Mummy Bear rolled her eyes.  “Kids!  I told him to let it dry.”

She handed her husband the bowl and the towel and padded into the living room.

“It’s a bugger to get off it you don’t leave it to soak,” said Daddy Bear.

The detective frowned.  “What is?  Blood?”

“Porridge,” said Daddy Bear.

“Can we come in for a minute?” the detective stepped forward.  Daddy Bear shrugged and stepped back.

The detective and his partner headed into the living room where they found Mummy Bear trying to tug a chair leg from a young cub’s fur.

“What happened here, then?” the detective took in the scene.

“Bloody cheap furniture,” said Daddy Bear.  “Swedish rubbish, I think.”

A thud from overhead made everyone look at the ceiling.  A panicked look passed between Mummy and Daddy.

“Probably the bed collapsing,” Daddy Bear smiled uneasily.  “Swedish too, I expect.”

“What have you got against the Swedish?” the detective’s eyes narrowed.

“Nothing!” Daddy Bear stammered.  “It’s just that the instructions are so difficult to follow, and you try using an Allen key with paws the size of dinner plates.”

A second thud, louder than the first.

“She’s awake!” cried Baby Bear.

The detectives ran up the stairs.

“Shit,” said Daddy Bear.


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The Makeover

The car pulled up in the clearing.

“You can take off the blindfold now,” said the p.a. flatly.  She got out and opened the door.  Winnie climbed out of the limousine, blinking against the sunlight.

“Here she is, folks!” the host boomed, encouraging the rest of the film crew to clap.  Winnie blushed, her pale green cheeks dotted pink with embarrassment.  The pink turned to red when she saw what had happened during her absence.

“What.  The Hell.  Have you done to my house?” Her jaw dropped, and her eyes widened as she took in the abomination ahead of her.

The walls were fashioned from bricks of gingerbread, glazed and gleaming.  The window panes were transparent sugar sheets and icing, like drifted snow, lay on the sills and on the roof.  Candy canes stood in a vase on the doorstep and the front door was studded with boiled sweets of every colour.

Winnie put her hand over the camera that was trained on her reaction.

“First thoughts?” the host thrust his microphone under Winnie’s chin.

“It’s – horrible.  It’s not what I asked for at all.”

“We played a wild card!” the host laughed, ignoring Winnie’s distress.  “Our design squad has gone for a fairy-tale aesthetic.  Old woman in the woods, lives in an edible house.  It’s a classic!”

“It’s horrible,” Winnie repeated.  “It’s a cliché.  What will people think?”

“They’ll think there lives a woman with style and a sense of humour.”

“They’ll think I’m a wicked witch!”

“Nonsense!  No one thinks that way anymore.  It’s all ‘new-age practitioner’ now, isn’t it?  Alternative medicines?”

Winnie grunted.  “You don’t know what you’re talking about.  Now, piss off, off my property.”

She shoved the host aside.  He rolled his eyes at the camera, pretending to flinch as the front door slammed.

He waved the crew into the bushes.

“Now, viewers,” he addressed the camera with conspiratorial glee, “we’ve installed a brand-new oven in Winnie’s kitchen and we’ve placed hidden cameras in every corner.  Here come two innocent little children; let’s hang back and see what happens…”


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A Midsummer Night’s Murders

“It’s a right bloody mess, that’s what it is,” opined Detective Inspector Goodfellow, surveying the scene.  The morning light cast shadows of tree trunks over the site, like prison bars.

“Verily,” agreed Detective Constable Selkie.  “Although there is more to do with dust than blood.”

“That’s what you get,” Goodfellow held a handkerchief to his mouth.  “With the fairy folk.  Kill them and they turn to dust.  Like something you’d find under your bed.”

“So many… It looks like the whole of Oberon’s court.”

“A bloodbath – a dust bath.”  Goodfellow’s toe struck something shiny.  He stooped and retrieved it with his pencil.  It was a tiny, intricate thing, glistening in the sunlight, bejewelled with dew.  “Oberon’s crown…” Goodfellow marvelled.

Selkie shook her head.  “The King is dead.  Long live…  Who?  Who stands to sit on the throne now?”

Goodfellow shrugged.  “Titania’s diadem.  Over there.  Mustardseed’s wings… Someone really went to town on this bunch of fairies.”

“But who?”

“Our job to find out.  Duke Theseus is keen to keep this thing under wraps.  Swift resolution before the rest of the Underworld finds out.  Last thing we need is that lot waging supernatural war against Athens.”

Selkie nodded.  “Those youngsters who were messing about in the forest.”

Goodfellow shook his head.  “Already questioned.  They were all off their tits on love potion.  Courtesy of…” he dropped into a crouch, “this little chap here.”

Selkie held her breath lest she blow away the dusty form of Puck.

“Know him?”

“He had form.  Now he is formless.”  Goodfellow grimaced bitterly at his own humour.

“I don’t get it.  All those lives, snuffed out.  It makes no sense.  Who could possibly have a grudge against the fairy folk?”

Goodfellow held up a hand to silence his partner.  He took stealthy strides toward a thicket.  Selkie followed, taking care not to step on any dusty corpses.

A child was sobbing on the ground, hugging his knees, his turban askew.

“Oh, you poor thing,” cooed Selkie.  “He must have hidden in here to escape the carnage.”  She beckoned to the boy, telling him everything was going to be all right, no one was going to hurt him.

The boy looked up, warily.  He gave a wet sniff and surrendered himself to Selkie’s arms.

“A changeling…” Goodfellow realised.  “Oberon snatched him from India, it looks like.  Poor little chap.”

“We’ll get him down the station and have social services have a look at him.”

Selkie headed back to the car.  The boy watched Goodfellow over her shoulder, his eyes expressionless and unblinking.

Too late Goodfellow noticed the dusty handprints the boy was leaving on Selkie’s back.



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A Bowl of Broth

“Gran…” Little Red closed the book she had been poring over.

“Yes, dear?”  Her grandmother was at the kitchen sink, washing and peeling vegetables.  Already a pot was bubbling enthusiastically on the stove and the inviting smells of herbs filled the tiny cottage.

“I’ve been thinking…”

Grandmother chuckled to see the little girl’s serious expression.  “That sounds ominous!” the old woman laughed.

“In this book, there are old ladies like you…”

“Go on,” Grandmother dried her hands on a towel.  “And less of the old, if you please!”

“Living alone, in the middle of the forest.”

“What of it?  I’m quite cosy here in my little cottage and I’ve got you to visit me, haven’t I?”

“But these old ladies – in the stories – they’re mean.  Sometimes their houses are made out of gingerbread and they set traps for boys and girls.  Sometimes they make potions out of all sorts of horrible things and they use them to turn people into frogs.  And sometimes –”

“Oh dear,” Grandmother shook her head.  “You can’t believe everything you read in stories.  Now, clear the table.  It won’t be long before the broth is ready.  And you love my broth, don’t you, dear?”

Little Red’s expression was noncommittal, but she put the storybook away and draped a cloth over the table.  She fetched soup spoons from a drawer and the hand-carved salt and pepper pots Granny’s friend the woodcutter had made.  One was an owl, the other a wolf – but a friendly, little wolf, not a big bad one.

Grandmother carved an oval loaf into thick slices before giving the broth one last appraisal.

“Yum,” she sipped from the ladle.  “As good as ever.”

She served two steaming bowls and watched with pride as the little girl tucked in.

“That was delicious!” Little Red wiped her lips with the back of her hand.  She yawned.  “It’s funny, Gran, but your broth always makes me so – so sleepy…”

A minute later, she was out like a light.  Grandmother wrapped a blanket around the child and carried her to a cot by the fireside.

Some old women have houses made of gingerbread.  Some make potions to turn people into frogs.

And some, Grandmother stroked the sleeping child’s hair, make broth to stop the ones they love from leaving them all alone.

In an armchair by the fire, the woodcutter slept on.  Grandmother swatted at him with her tea towel to rid him of his cobwebs.



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The Intruder

The princess quickly pulled the veil over her face.  “Guards!  Guards!” she cried, despite the protestations of the young man who had climbed over the garden wall.

“No!  Wait!  Listen!” he made calming gestures.  “I can explain.”

“You are aware, are you not, of the statutes?  No man may look upon my face and live!”

“It can’t be that bad,” the young man scoffed.  “No, wait.  Listen.  I didn’t mean that; that was a joke.  But honestly, Your Highness, I didn’t see anything.  I am not here for you.  I don’t give a hoot what you look like.  I’m not interested.”

Behind the mesh, Royal eyebrows dipped.

“My beauty is famed far and wide.  Many highborn men have forfeited their lives in the trial to win my hand.”

“Yes, yes,” said the young man.  “We’ve all heard the stories, love.”

The princess was aghast.  No one had ever spoken to her in this manner.

“You dare!  You have the temerity, the audacity, to call me your love!”

“Don’t get your knickers in a knot.  It’s just an expression.  Where I come from, we all call each other love all the time.”

The Royal shoulders shuddered.  The princess dreaded to imagine what kind of squalor had given rise to the scruffy youth before her.  His clothes were patched and ragged and his face, though not unpleasant – rather handsome, in fact – was dirty and unshaven.  His arms looked strong – why, if he were to force himself upon me, to carry me away, there would be little point in resisting…

The princess brought herself up sharp.  And where the hell were those guards?

“You say you have not come for me.  For what then have you scaled my walls and penetrated my private garden?”

“Steady on there, Mrs,” the young man laughed.

“Apples!  You are after my apples – what’s the word?  You are scrumping!  Guards!  Guards!”

“Relax.  I don’t give a fig about your apples.  If you must know, I’m here on an assignation.  Within these walls my true love resides.  Stony limits cannot keep love out.”

There was a fire in the young man’s eyes; the princess was certain none of the highborn men who had ventured their lives to win her hand had ever looked at her with such passion.

“For whom have you come?  For whom do you risk your neck?”

The young man blushed, rather endearingly.  “Why, for your brother, the Prince.  You see, once he smiled at me, that special smile – you know the one?  The smile that burns through your eyes and into your very soul and you just know.  You know?”

“I can’t say that I do,” the princess scowled.  “For my brother, you say?”

Curse the fool!  Why should the Prince have everything?  Was it not enough that he would inherit the kingdom?

“Your Highness.”  Two burly men with gleaming breastplates and curvy scimitars bowed before her.  “What is your will?”

“You took your time,” she snapped.  “This youth.  He is an intruder.  Seize him and execute him.”

“No!” cried the youth.  “Why?”

The princess removed her veil and grinned.



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A Visit to the Wise Woman

“Now then, what seems to be the problem?”  The old woman gestured to a stool, her hand a bunch of twigs held together by knotty veins.  The Princess Rosamond demurred – the stool was little more than a tree trunk upholstered with moss.  Gingerly, she lowered herself onto its edge, aware of the old woman’s eyes, black and gleaming, like a raven’s, watching her every move.

“I – I don’t know where to begin,” Rosamond faltered, her voice barely above a whisper.

“At the beginning, dearie!” the old woman suggested.  “And speak up!  My old ears!”

“I –” Rosamond wrung her hands in her lap, her fingers wrestling each other, like worms in competition.  “You’ll think me foolish and wanton.”

“My dear, many young ladies have perched on that stump.  They come to me for help.  They come to Old Helga for help when they can find it nowhere else.  I have seen all and heard all.  There is nothing you can say that will shock Old Helga.”

Rosamond frowned.  “And, so we’re clear, you’re Old Helga?”

The woman laughed, a cackle like a rusty hinge, exposing a row of broken teeth like the palings of a ruined fence.  She confirmed she was indeed Old Helga, the wise woman of the woods.

“What is it, dearie?” she said, in a softer, kinder voice.  “Tell Old Helga.”

“Well,” Rosamond looked at the writhing fingers and forced them to be still.  “I’m not happy.  With who I am.  With my body.”

Across the table, the wise woman grunted.  If I had a ducat for every time I’ve heard this one.

“I see,” she said.  “What is it, your nose?”

“No!” Rosamond’s hand flew to her nose in horror.

“Your teeth?”

“No!” Rosamond’s hand dropped to cover her mouth.

“Your chin?  Your tits?  Your fat arse?”

Scandalised, Rosamond got to her feet.  “How dare you!  You cannot talk to me like this.  I am a Princess!”

“And you’re cured!” Old Helga held out her hand, a dry leaf, cracked and paper-thin.

“What?” Rosamond gaped like a landed fish.

“Pay up!”

“But, I –”

“Three florins, as per our agreement.”

“But, I –”

There was a rustling as Old Helga got to her feet: the susurration of a pile of leaves disturbed by wind.  “Shazam!” she cried, pointing a gnarled stick at the princess’s face.  There was a puff of green smoke and Rosamond disappeared, her gown billowing to the floor.  From a sleeve, a tiny green frog emerged.  It looked up at the wise woman and let out a doleful croak.

“That better?” said Helga.  “Or would you prefer longer legs?  A stickier tongue?  Be off, before I drop you into my soup.”

Rosamond muttered a disgruntled ribbet and hopped out into the forest.  Overhead, a heron swooped.

No, thought the bird, passing up the chance of a froggy snack.  That one’s too ugly.



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Wicked Queen

The peasants are getting cocky.  They come right up to the castle walls to forage their herbs and fungi.  They use them to lend flavour to the myriad dishes they concoct from the humble turnip.  They have developed quite a cuisine, I’ll say that for them, but you won’t catch me – or my taster – sampling any of their homely fare.  It’s the hygiene, you see.  They’ve never heard of it.

But I can’t have them and their grubby mitts pawing my things.  Not even the black stones of my retreat.  Time was, they wouldn’t come within a league of my domicile and I would have a bit of peace.  Now, they encroach upon my personal space – I need a lot! – as if they’ve never heard of me other than as a figure of legend.

It’s time I flexed my muscles once more.  Remind them who’s boss.

Last week I tried showing myself on the parapet.  There was a full moon and I angled myself so the horns of my headdress would be in silhouette against its pallid splendour.  My high collar was turned up and the jagged edges of my cloak – oh, I looked the part all right.  Three hours I stalked along the battlements, wafting my dragon-headed staff about as though I might smite someone at any second.

Waste of time.  No bugger was out that night.  Oh, they still fear the full moon, all right.  They daren’t traverse the forest when there’s a full moon.  Werewolves and all that nonsense.  Why they have to invent monsters to frighten their children into an early bedtime when I’m right here, I’ll never know!

I’ve been too complacent; I see that now.  It’s been too long since I last put myself about.  So long, I can’t remember the spell for turning someone into a toad.  I’d better look that up in the grimoire before I venture out.  I’m a bit rusty with the staff, if I’m honest.  I’d better get some practice in – I don’t want to put my shoulder out.  You must never show weakness to these people or they start getting ideas.

No, toads and staff-wafting won’t cut it.  I’ll have to go full dragon if I’m to reassert my reputation in these parts.  The peasants are thriving.  More and more of them build their ramshackle shacks closer and closer to my land.  But that’s the thing when you fashion your houses from twigs and dried dung: they burn up a treat.

A quick sortie, a flyover and a few blasts of fire from my nostrils ought to do the trick.

Sometimes you just have to remind people of their place.


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“Let me go and I’ll grant you a wish!”

Kevin peered at the little man in the upturned tumbler, his tiny, perfect hands pressed against the glass. The voice was high-pitched and barely audible. Kevin marvelled. The little man’s clothes were more detailed and more delicate than anything any of his action figures sported in their mass-produced, factory-made costumes.  And now he was at Kevin’s mercy.  Well, that’s what you get for trespassing in our garden! Kevin laughed.

The little man’s expression implored his captor to do the decent thing. Tiny tears, smaller than dew drops, coursed down his ruddy cheeks.

Kevin sat back on his calves and tapped his chin as though considering the best course of action to take.

“Think about it!” the little man urged. “Anything you want and I shall provide it.”

Kevin laughed. “Why should I believe you? If you can do magic, why don’t you magic yourself out of the glass?”

The little man shook his head. “You’re a smart lad. It doesn’t work like that. I can’t use my powers to my own advantage.”

“But surely, granting my wish so I will set you free is to your advantage.”

“Indirectly, yes, I’ll give you that.”

“I need proof,” Kevin decided. “Prove to me you have magic powers and then I’ll make my wish.”

“And then you’ll let me go?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Might be good to have my own personal magic man in my pocket.”

The little man waggled a finger. “It doesn’t work like that. One wish per person.”

Kevin rolled his eyes. “Who makes up these stupid rules anyway? All right. Show me proof and I’ll think of a wish.”

The little man tapped his chin in direct imitation of Kevin’s gesture. “Let me see… I could change the weather for you. How would you like that?”

Kevin glanced at the cloudy sky. He shook his head. The weather was changeable at this time of year. How would he know that the little man was causing it?

“Do you like animals?” the little man asked.

“I love them!” Kevin cried. “I know! Turn me into an animal so I know it’s true. Then you can grant my wish and I’ll let you go; I swear I will. On my mother’s life, I swear it.”

“Very well.” The little man pushed up his sleeves and made some arcane gestures. Frustrated, he shook his head. “It’s no good. The glass is getting in the way.”

Kevin laughed. “You can’t fool me. If I lift the glass, you’ll get away.”

The little man looked insulted. “I would never! Now that I have engaged to grant you your wish. I have honour, young sir.”

Kevin looked suitably abashed. “OK. I’ll lift the glass just a little but at the first sign of you trying to escape, it’s going back down again. I once cut a spider in half doing that.”

“You’re a brave boy indeed,” said the little man. “Ready when you are.”

Kevin nodded. He tilted the tumbler backwards. The little man basked in the rush of fresh air. He repeated his arcane gestures. Kevin began to itch. The garden around him stretched and grew as he shrank and shrank to the size and shape of a flea.

The little man’s hand darted out and pulled the flea under the glass with him, just as the tumbler fell back into place.

“Now do you believe me, you nasty little bug,” the man shook the flea. The flea nodded its head vigorously.

“Now make your wish!” the little man commanded. He cocked his head. “You wish to be restored, is that what you want?”

The insect nodded again. The little man dropped it to the grass. All at once, the ground fell away, as Kevin stretched and expanded until he was his natural shape and size again.

Using one of the words he’d heard his father utter when someone cut him up in traffic, Kevin lifted his foot and brought it down on the little man, crushing him to death.

“Kevin!” came his mother’s voice from the back doorstep. “Why have you got a glass on your head?”

Kevin laughed and spun around. The tumbler tumbled; it smashed on the path.

Kevin’s mother dropped dead in the doorway.


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Hello, dearie. Buy an apple, dearie? Freshly picked this very morning they was. Look at ’em, all succulent and round. Like this big red one. No? Well, perhaps I could come in for a moment, dearie? I’ve come a long way. I’ve got old bones and my lungs ain’t what they used to be. If you get to my age, well, you’ll know – What am I saying? Through here, is it, dearie? My, my, you have got it nice in here. Ceiling’s a bit low, isn’t it? You must bump your pretty head on a regular basis. It doesn’t bother me – I’m old and bent but once – oh, once, I stood tall and proud in the knowledge that I was the fairest in the land. You might not think so, looking at me now, but I was. The fairest in the land.

I’ll just sit here, if I may, dearie, by the fire. This is a little chair! Kiddies’ chair, is it? Got yourself a kiddie running around, have you? And where’s the man of the house? At work, I expect. Left you to look after the kiddie, has he? What? What’s that? You’re unmarried! Well, I’m not here to judge, dearie – You have no children, you say? I don’t follow you. Why all these little bits of furniture?   I’m not being rude, dearie, but your backside – pert though it may be – isn’t going to fit on one of these seats, is it? How on Earth do you manage? I’m old and bony now so it’s no trouble to me. I won’t keep you for long, dearie. Just having a breather. It’s a long way back through the forest. Long way to come for nothing. Do you know, I haven’t sold a single apple? What a waste of a day it has been! And they won’t be as good tomorrow. They won’t be as firm and as crisp as they are today. Such a pity not to snap them up while they’re fresh. What’s here? Four –five – six – no, seven chairs… Listen, if you buy them one apiece I’ll chuck in the big red one for yourself free, gratis, and for nothing. What do you say?

Who are they all, dearie? If you don’t mind my asking. The people what sits on these seven chairs. Some kind of nursery, is it? Are you running a kindergarten on the side, dearie? Is that what this is? Well, apples is good for growing children. Keep the doctor away.

What’s that? They’ll be home soon? Well, I won’t keep you. I’ll be getting along. If you could just give me a hand, dearie. Help me get back on my feet. That’s it.

Are you sure I can’t tempt you? No?

I’ll tell you what. Because you’ve been so kind and hospitable to a frail old woman what’s come a long way, I’m going to give you an apple. The big red one! With no obligation to purchase. Go on – have a bite. That’s the way; go on.

What do you mean it tastes funny? Are you insinuating there’s something wrong with my apples, my lovely apples? How dare you! I’ve never been so insulted. I’ll have you know – oh, my dear! You have gone a funny colour. Here, lean on me, dearie. Let’s get you to a chair – a couple of chairs for your ample behind. Can I get you a drink of water, dearie? You’ve gone rather pale, if I might make an observation.

Oh dear! Well, if you’re more comfortable on the floor, dearie, you go right ahead. No, no, I can’t hear what you’re saying with all that frothing going on around your mouth. Steady now, you’ll get froth on my dress. Oh, for pity’s sake, just lie still, you little slut, and stop clawing at me or you’ll have me down with you.

That’s right – you recognise me now, don’t you? I can tell by the way your eyes is widening. Yes, it’s me. Took you long enough, but then again it is a fool-proof disguise.

I’m off back to the castle now, dearie, to slip into something more regal. I can hear your seven housemates coming up the lane so I’ll nip out the back way. Through here, is it, dearie?

Dearie? Oh, dear.

Not the fairest in the land now, are you? Not no more. And at last I can stop speaking like an insufferable old pleb. Toodle-pip.


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