THE WALNUT

August 24, 2015

Walnut

The village baker, dusted in flour head to toe, waved his rolling pin over his head and shouted orders. The Queen had decreed two dozen walnut cookies to be delivered that afternoon in time for a gathering of regal importance. The baker’s wife and daughter raced here and there, down to the cellar, out to the pasture, over to the well, scurrying in frantic glee, for they did enjoy doing a job and doing it well.

‘Bring only the best and fattest!’ screamed the baker at his daughter, Felice.

Knowing precisely what he meant, Felice raced to the nut bin in the corner and flung off its round wooden cover. She began digging around in search of the best, the finest, the most beautiful walnuts. She muttered ‘Here’, ‘Here’, ‘Here’ as she plucked up and arranged in a row the most perfect specimens. When the row of nuts was two dozen long, she hurriedly gathered them in her apron and ran to her father.

‘Well? Crack ’em!’ shrieked the baker, and he directed his gaze at the ceiling before adding, ‘Do I have to think of everything?’

‘Oh, right,’ said Felice, and she ran to fetch the nutcracker.

She was oh so careful in cracking the shells, intent on keeping the nut treasures inside unbroken. And so she came to the most splendid of the walnuts, the one she had saved for last. Into the jaws of the nutcracker she placed it. She pressed down on the lever, steady and sure.

crack

Finally,’ said a tiny voice, and a very small woman dressed in pink, blue and yellow finery pushed out of the broken walnut shell. ‘Boy oh boy, that was some curse, I’ll tell you. Whew. Glad that’s over. Now. A wish. You deserve a reward, I suppose. What is it? Hurry up. I’ve got places to go and things to do.’

The baker and his wife and Felice, stunned for the moment to stillness, recovered and hurried to huddle together. After much fierce whispering and waving of hands, they stepped apart.

‘We want a new, bigger oven,’ said Felice.

‘Whatever,’ said the tiny lady, and she raised a hand and moved it in a complicated manner, wiggling her fingers all the while. Then she flew off out the window.

The baker and his wife and daughter hurried around, happily preparing the cookies, and every so often they glanced with pride  at their new oven.

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THE 2ND ROYAL HISTORIAN OF OZ

August 2, 2015

RuthPlumlyThompson

Following the death of L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson was asked by the publishers of the Oz books to continue the series with new stories. She accepted the honor of becoming the 2nd Royal Historian of Oz by producing one Oz book each year through the 1920s and 1930s. My own particular favorite of hers, The Gnome King of Oz, was the Oz book for 1927. It boasts an impressive mound of humor, wordplay and imagination. For instance, the Quilties of Patch make quilts, and their Queen, Cross Patch the 6th, falls to pieces one day. This, however, is no cause for alarm, because, as Ruth explains:

When a Quilty goes to pieces, his relatives or friends sweep up the scraps and put them away in a tidy scrap-bag and in ten years or so he comes out of the bag as good as ever.

Ruth loved adverbs and peppered and salted her prose with them. Some examples:

Giant fish wallowed desperately…

‘Blunderoo!’ breathed Peter softly.

‘Come on! Come on!’ wheezed the old Gnome King frantically.

…a golden haired mermaid plunged boldly from the window of a coral castle…

mumbled dizzily – scowling terribly – brushed rudely – nodded gloomily – yawning tremendously – answered saucily – and so on and so forth and 5th and 6th and 7th.

Why did she love adverbs so much? She couldn’t help it. After all, her middle name was Plumly.

And so, in honor of Ruth Plumly Thompson, 2nd Royal Historian of Oz, I am pleased to announce that the character narrating my next new story is to be called Plumly.

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MAGIC POTION RECIPE

July 22, 2015

To make this versatile potion, good for invisibility or flight, you will need the following:

1 clarinet

1 steel flagon

3 seeds of any kind (doubt works well)

a blue bowl filled half with water from a roaring cataract and half with empty

2 pinches and 1 poke of dirt

Start by placing the clarinet on the ground. Jump up and down on it until you are tired. Then bash it to pieces with the steel flagon and place the largest bits in the blue bowl. Sweep the smaller bits away, as you will have no need for them, and you wouldn’t want to step on them later with your bare feet. Your feet are bare, aren’t they? Good. That is important. You may now dispose of the steel flagon in any manner you choose, for its role in the recipe has been completed. You now add to the blue bowl with its clarinet bits and water the 2 pinches of dirt. In the poke of dirt plant the 3 seeds. Pour the contents of the bowl over the poke and seeds. Go off into a corner and wait. When the hand of time has strangled a week or more, pluck the strange orange leaf which by now is waving from the poke. Chew it. Spit it out into the palm of your right hand. Smear it across your forehead. Dance around, waving your arms. Don’t be shy. You are now invisible. To fly, simply double the recipe.

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THE RED VELVET ROSE

July 14, 2015

2015-07-13 11.47.11

Long ago, giants stepped down from the sky and moved into the ice caverns on the snowy peak of the high mountain. There they lived content until one day the giants’ daughter, Bredla, stomped into her parents’ chamber.

‘I’m leaving to go see flowers. Fendak, the falcon, told me about flowers. He says they’re pretty and of many colors. He says there’s a red velvet rose in a palace garden. I’ve never seen a rose or red or a palace garden. All I’ve got here to look at is a stick with shivering gray leaves. And what’s more, I’m sick of eating sleet,’ said Bredla, and she folded her arms and glowered.

Her parents, as always, were helpless before Bredla’s glower and folded arms. So in minutes she was on her way, crashing clumsily down the mountainside, knocking over tall pine trees and accidentally kicking huge boulders into streams. She said ‘Oops’ or ‘Sorry’ at each mishap, being a little more polite when not in the presence of her parents. She reached a grassy meadow and crossed it to a grove of trees where she came upon a woodcutter, who fell to his knees in terror at the sight of Bredla.

‘Please, please, please don’t tear my arms off,’ pleaded the woodcutter.

‘Tear your arms off? Why would I tear your arms off, tiny man? Tell me about flowers. Where are they? And the red one. The velvet. A rose it’s called. If you know where it is, tell me and point the way. Colors. Flowers of color I want to see. Oh, green trees and green grass are all right, a sight better than the whites and grays and storms of the caverns, I assure you. But I’m determined to see this red velvet rose. Where is it?’ said Bredla, and she folded her arms and glowered.

The woodcutter fainted three times. Three times Bredla revived him by flinging water from a nearby creek into his face. At last the woodcutter realized that perhaps the giantess wasn’t going to tear his arms off.

‘The red velvet rose grows in the garden of the Queen’s palace. Follow the path. It will bring you to the village, and from there you’ll be able to see the palace on the hill,’ said the wet woodcutter.

Bredla thanked him and stomped on her way. Her approach to the village caused the earth to shudder. Villagers scattered in panic. Bredla paid them no heed, for her eyes were trained on the distant castle. On reaching it, she tripped and fell into the moat, got up and waded to where she could look over the wall and into the garden.

There on a round bush she saw the single red velvet rose. A tiny Queen, a watering can in her hand and her mouth agape, stood beside it staring up at Bredla.

‘That’s the rose, I’m guessing,’ said Bredla. ‘It’s lovely. Red, too. I’m guessing again. And you are probably the Queen, I suppose, or they give servants nice clothes around here. I am Bredla. I have come to live near the red velvet rose.’

‘Oh,’ said the Queen.

And that is how Bredla, the giantess, came to live in the palace garden and tend lovingly to the flowers, especially the red velvet rose. And whenever she wanted anything at all, she simply folded her arms and glowered.

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THE ROYAL BEETLES

July 9, 2015

beetles

Once in Egypt when the pyramids were young two royal beetles scuttled at dawn from the palace to the long and lonely road home to the quarry.

‘Well, Eleanor, I tell you, that certainly was a hard day’s night, and that’s a fact,’ said Robert, the larger beetle, and he sheened a most lovely green.

‘I thought it would never end. We worked like dogs, I tell you,’ agreed Eleanor, sheening a green every bit as lovely as Robert’s.

‘Why don’t we give up this royal nonsense, fly across the Nile, and open a magical mystery flavor shop?’ mused Robert.

‘I’m all for it, Robby, my love. Let’s go yesterday and put all our troubles far away. And by the way, just what is a magical mystery flavor shop?’ said Eleanor.

‘Oh, it’ll be wonderful, my precious jewel. I’ve worked it all out in my head. It won’t be long, yeah, it won’t be long,’ said Robert in a dreamy sort of way.

And it wasn’t long before they were across the Nile and settled in their shop. The royal beetles were so glad.

Moral: All you need is love and enough food and adequate shelter.

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THE PRINCESS IN THE MOON

June 23, 2015

Once upon a time a woodworker’s apprentice named Trundle, troubled yet again once more by murky dreams of sliding darkness, tossed and turned on his bed of wood shavings. A woman, seen below as she appeared to him, loomed in the murk of his dream and sang this song: ‘Bronze to silver, silver to gold, ride to the moon before you are old.’

brigitte strikes again

Trundle popped awake, bolted to his feet, and blinked into the silent darkness, which somehow seemed to slide around him. Am I awake? he asked himself. To the stable for the bronze hissed a voice in his head. To the stable he stumbled, barely aware that he moved. Ride the bronze hissed the voice in his head. He threw himself onto the back of a bronze pony he’d never seen before, and off they sped, tearing through the countryside, Trundle clutching the pony’s mane, the pony straining for all it was worth and more. On the open plain they approached a silver stallion, and the bronze pony threw Trundle to the ground, stood high on its hind legs and disappeared. The silver stallion grasped the back of Trundle’s nightshirt in its teeth and tossed the dazed woodworker’s apprentice onto its back. The silver stallion raced off at a pace twice that of the bronze pony, and before the jolted and stunned Trundle had a chance to gather his wits, he was thrown to the ground and found himself staring at the golden hooves of a magnificent golden stallion four times the size of the silver. The golden stallion’s glittery eye held Trundle frozen and sent him to a sleep empty of dreams.

When Trundle was awakened by distant chanting, he was on the moon. The golden stallion bowed low and shook its massive head, sending Trundle falling to the ground by the gates of the moon palace. The gates were open. No one was about. The golden stallion was gone. Trundle got to his feet and wandered toward the palace, led by the distant chanting riding out from within its walls. He stumbled into the great hall and was captured by her gaze, as shown below. He fell senseless to the moon marble floor.

brigitte-helm-metropolis-1927-02

This time when Trundle awoke, he was garbed in the finest silks and satins and lying on downy softness in a chamber all white and gold. A voice called to him from behind an oaken door carved with the most beautiful scrollwork he had ever seen. He went to the door, caressed a delicate turn of leaf, and thought that one day, given the chance, he would be able to produce such splendid work. He opened the door. There she was, as pictured below.

robot helm

‘Come here, my dear, my Prince,’ she said.

‘I am but a simple woodworker’s apprentice,’ said Trundle.

‘Why else do you think you are here?’ said The Princess In The Moon.

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TYNETTE

June 13, 2015

blackberries

Once long ago an innkeeper’s wife took a jug of cream to the old widow woman who lived all alone in a thatched hut near the bog. It was said that the old woman was well acquainted with the fairy folk beneath the bog. It was for this reason wrapped around another reason that the innkeeper’s wife carried the jug of cream.

‘I’ve brought a jug of cream,’ said the innkeeper’s wife with fluttering heart to the bent woman peering at her from the door of the hut.

‘Ah,’ said the old woman. ‘Bring it close, dear. I have the answer to your unasked question. The blackberries in the thicket over there are ripe.’

‘Yes. We, too, are blessed to have some growing along our wall at the inn,’ said the innkeeper’s wife, trembling and handing the jug of cream to the old woman. ‘Please, what is the answer to my unasked question?’

‘The blackberries in the thicket over there are ripe,’ repeated the old woman, and she disappeared into the thatched hut, shutting its door behind her.

The innkeeper’s wife stood for a moment, uncertain, and then walked as if in a trance to the blackberry thicket. She looked at the blackberries. She looked back at the hut. Should I wish again here and now? she thought.

‘Hello, Mother,’ a tiny voice called from the middle of the thicket.

The innkeeper’s wife sat down, her legs suddenly unable to continue supporting her. From the thicket climbed a tiny girl no taller than the jug full of cream delivered to the old woman. Clad in a green tunic and slightly greener pants tucked into rust colored boots, the tiny girl, her skin a paler green than her tunic and her hair a paler green than that, jumped to the ground beside the innkeeper’s wife and stood smiling, hands on hips.

‘I am Tynette, and I can sing, and I am to be your daughter,’ she said.

And so home they went, and from that day forward, Tynette’s singing kept joy constantly dancing in the hearts of the innkeeper and the innkeeper’s wife, and truth, in the hearts of each and all everyone ever to have the good fortune to visit the inn.

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THE WITCH OF GALLABON HILL

June 7, 2015

2015-06-05 10.32.48

All was peaceful in the valley below Gallabon Hill. Just enough rain fell, and just enough sun shone to keep the farmers happy all year round. This was so because every year on summer solstice day a young maiden was chosen to go and disappear forever in the witch’s castle behind the thick twining hedge of blossoms at the top of Gallabon Hill. None but the chosen maidens had ever seen the castle or the witch, for she never appeared herself, but instead sent her messengers, a black cat and a raven.

And so when the new summer solstice day arrived, all the people of the valley were huddled in their cottages, hoping the cat and the raven would pass them by. The raven, riding on the back of the cat, sang, ‘Who will go? It’s time to know.’ Hearts beat faster as the song approached, and sighs of relief were breathed when the song moved on.

Alas, the messengers reached the windmill and stopped. The miller’s heart beat fast, and his sigh of relief was never heard. The raven cawed for his daughter, Fendlyn. Dutiful Fendlyn blinked her eyes, and though her hands shook, she kissed her father and went out to follow the cat and the raven.

Fendlyn couldn’t decide if she should speak to the messengers or remain silent. The raven instantly answered her thought by saying, ‘Remain silent.’ Did the raven read my thoughts? ‘Yes,’ said the raven. Fendlyn decided to try not to think at all. ‘That would be best,’ said the raven.

The climb to the top of Gallabon Hill took most of the afternoon. They reached the thick twining hedge of crimson blossoms as the sun and the moon were about to change places. The raven fluttered, and a tunnel through the hedge opened. In they went, and after some twists and a turn or two, out they came into the moonlit realm of the castle and its white and crimson turrets and spires.

‘Oh,’ gasped Fendlyn, some of the gasp for the beauty of castle and grounds, but most of the gasp for the cat.

Why for the cat? Oh, it changed. It grew, stretched, twisted and shaped into a tall and beautiful woman.

‘Your turn,’ said the beautiful woman. ‘I can now go live on the hedge as a crimson blossom with the others. Peace and prosperity are secure in the valley for one more year.’

The woman ran to the hedge and leaped, shrinking to a crimson blossom and joining one of the many clusters.

‘Come along. I’ll show you the castle and explain your duties,’ said the raven.

And it did.

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THE PURPLE SNAIL

May 31, 2015

purple snail

‘I hate everything,’ muttered the purple snail as she slimed her way across a long green leaf. ‘I hate being stuck in this garden. I hate my shell, and I never get to go anywhere.’

‘I hate the garden more than you do,’ said a nearby orange blossom. ‘At least you can move. I can’t, for instance, see what’s behind that watering can. You, lucky you, can crawl over and see.’

‘I hate the watering can, and I hate what’s behind it. I’ve been there and seen it. I hate it,’ said the purple snail.

‘Well, what’s behind it then? At least tell me that much,’ said the orange blossom.

‘Why would I tell you when I hate you?’ reasoned the snail.

‘You hate me? You don’t know what hate is until you’re me hating you,’ retorted the blossom.

‘Oh yeah?’ said the snail.

‘Yeah,’ said the blossom.

The conversation ended. The purple snail slimed away, feeling pleased, and the orange blossom was forced to dance in the wind even though she hated dancing.

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THE VAMPIRE SISTERS

May 24, 2015

dracula ladies

3 vampire maidens knew just what to do

One of them forgot

and then there were 2

2 vampire maidens hid from the sun

Mabel went outside

and then there was 1

1 vampire maiden safe in her coffin

missed both her sisters

not all the time

but often

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