...Ever After

I’m betting that, when you were growing up, you didn’t ever look forward eagerly to living your life as a cliché.  Yeah, me neither.  So what the hell happened?

My fairy tale started like a cheap drugstore potboiler displayed on the whirly thing near the cash register.  You know, the ones with glossy covers featuring dashing swains with glossier pecs crushing delicate damsels against their brawny chests; the ones my Aunt Edna called “bodice-rippers.”  It started just like one of those.  Once it really got going, I finally understood what mama meant when she said, “Never judge a book by its cover.”  Oh, yeah, I finally got it.

Luc is tall, dark and handsome.  Yeah, yeah, I know, trite.  But what can I say?  He is tall, dark and handsome.  He’s at least six-four and fit, but not all bulgy like that muscle-bound hulk on the back of the comic books who kicks sand in the poor skinny guy’s face before walking off with the girl.  His dark brown hair is thick and slightly curly, and one lock of it insists on falling across his forehead boyishly.  It’s the kind of hair that causes every woman’s hand to twitch with the desire to smooth it back off his face.

And, oh, when he chooses to turn on the charm… He fills a room with it, drawing men and women alike into his light.  Luc makes everyone feel like the only one, and they all discover that they are witty conversationalists after all.  Never having had it myself, I can’t say for sure, but I think this is what people call charisma.  

I met Luc at a charity ball to raise funds for a shelter serving abused women.  I have to smile at the irony of that.  Even in a sea of tuxedo-clad men, he stood out, a prince among men, you might say. Like everyone else, I fell under his spell.  But unlike the rest of them, I am the one he chose to woo and marry. 

My lucky day?  Not so much.  Remember what mama said about the book cover?  My Prince Charming turned out to be the frog in drag.  Oops, sorry, I’m mixing my metaphors here.

Anyway, so here I am, living the life of Cinderella.  Literally.  You got a fireplace that needs sweeping out?  A scullery that needs cleaning?  I’m your girl.  Pretty much any household drudgery needing expert attention, I’ve got the experience and skill to do the job.

And where is Prince Charming through all of this?  Why, off being charming, of course.  But I’m betting you’d guessed that already.  He carouses works his way up the corporate ladder, while I raise our three children and tend to the endless household chores.

I would tell you this turned out to be no fairy tale, but as you know, some fairy tales are pretty horrible.  As unrewarding as my life is, at least I’m not in danger of being eaten by a wolf or anything.  At least I don’t think I am.  Luc has never hit me.  But he also never talks to me, other than to ask if I picked up his blue suit from the cleaners or something equally important.  Any “abuse” is purely psychological, and it’s primarily my ego that’s taking a battering.  Didn’t I used to be beautiful?  Smart?  Talented?  Like I said, what the hell happened?

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just leave Luc.  Why indeed?  It’s quite simple, really.  I love the guy.  What can I say?   Sure, I keep hoping for my happy ending.  Every time I kiss Luc, I pray that the sweetness of my lips will turn him into a nice guy.  Ha.  No such luck.  I’m not leaving, though. 

That’s the way it is with fairy tales, I guess.  Not all of them end happily.


The hectic early morning rush is over.  I‘ve fed Luc and kissed him goodbye – nope, didn’t work that time either.  I made the kids breakfast, some of which they actually ate, and shoved lunch boxes into their hands as they hurried out the door to catch the bus, late as usual. 

Sinking onto the couch, my first coffee of the day in my hand, I breathe a sigh of relief.  There is a mess in the kitchen and mountains of laundry waiting in the hamper and on all of the bedroom floors.  I decide they are going to continue waiting for a while, and open the newspaper I’ve reassembled from the pile Luc left scattered on the kitchen table.

In the back of the local section, I see it.

Madame Zachária
Gypsy Soothsayer, Advisor,
& All-Around Fairy Godmother
Tonight at King’s Bookstore

Hmmm… Fairy godmother?  Crazy, I know, but like they say in the ad, “hey, you never know.” 

I jump up and call my friend Belle, and we make a date.  I know Luc won’t be home – is he ever? – but Belle’s daughter is my go-to babysitter, so it’s all good.

The rest of the day passes in a fog of fantasy.  Dishes float into the dishwasher.  The laundry is magically washed, folded and put away.  The kids even sit down and do their homework without much nagging.  Well, OK, the promise of pizza may have wielded the magic there.

When  Belle and Ariel ring the doorbell at six o’clock, I am dressed kind of like a grown-up for a change and more than ready to go.


The bookstore is crowded when we arrive.  No surprise there.  Madame Zachária’s book, All-Around Fairy Godmother, is a best seller.  Besides, who doesn’t want the chance to consult a soothsayer and fairy godmother?  We find seats just before Madame Zachária comes in and takes her place at the podium.  She's a bit round -- "full-figured" might be a better way to say it -- and has black hair laced with gray.  She looks to be around sixty and is still beautiful in an exotic sort of way.  Her dark eyes twinkle mischievously, like she has a great secret and can’t wait to share it.  She’s perfect, everything you could want in a fairy godmother.

I sit spellbound as Madame describes her life and her book.  Her voice is musical and it carries a faint accent, making me think of Hedy Lamarr in some old movie. As she speaks, her voice echoes the promise of mischief that I saw in her eyes.  She talks of joy, peace and love, and how she found the way to bring all three into her life.  And if I buy her book, she’ll do all that for me too.  Just $24.95 plus tax.

Joy, peace and love. Okay, then.   

Madame Zachária sits behind a table stacked high with copies of All-Around Fairy Godmother.  I take my place at the end of the long line waiting to exchange a few words with her as she autographs her book of secrets.

“You’re not buying that thing?” Belle whispers to me as she joins me.

“Yep.  I am.  I know it’s silly and probably wishful thinking, but… Well, you know.” 

I’m kind of embarrassed, but what the heck?  Belle knows how unhappy I am.  God knows she should.  She’s sat listening to me whine about it often enough.  But, hey, you never know, right?  Besides, if nothing else, I’ll have a new book to read while I wait for Luc to come home at night.

Probably wishful thinking?”  Belle makes her favorite little snorting sound of derision.  It’s not her best quality, if you ask me, but it makes her meaning clear. 

“Yeah, okay, whatever.  I’m not standing here in line, though.  I’ll be over in Mysteries when you’re ready to go.”

My turn finally comes.  Madame looks up as she reaches for another copy of the book waiting in a much shorter stack on the table in front of her.

Smiles broadly, she says, “Welcome.  Now tell me: what is your name?” 

She opens the book to the title page and picks up her pen.  “What would you like me to say in your inscription?”

I sit down in the folding chair in front of the table and glance around to make sure no one is waiting behind me.

“Tell me how to be happy.  Tell me how to make my husband love me.”  My voice is quivering a bit, and I know I am close to losing it and weeping.  In a bookstore, for heaven’s sake.

The smile leaves Madame’s face.  She puts down her pen and holds out both her hands.  Before I can think about it, I reach out and take her hands in mine.

She closes her eyes a moment, and then opens them and looks right into my soul.

She leans toward me, squeezing my hands, and begins in a low voice, “Child, listen carefully now…”

She is speaking so softly that I have to scootch to the edge of my chair and lean across the table to hear her.  And then she smiles again and releases my hands to pick up the pen again.  She scrawls a few words on the page, signs her name with a flourish, closes the book with a snap, and holds it out to me.

“There!  Now go be happy.  I was going to say ‘Good luck,’ but I don’t need to.  You already have that, and more.”  She amazes me by actually winking at me as she says it.

I take the book.  Mumbling my thanks, I turn away to find Belle.  I’m anxious to pay my $24.95 plus tax and go home to begin reading.


I close the oven after basting the filet I’m roasting for dinner, leaving the kitchen redolent with delicious aromas.  Mmm, almost done.  I hear the hum of the closing garage door and wipe my hands on the dishtowel.  Turning, I see Luc coming through the door from the garage.

“Wow, what’s that smell?” he says as he comes in. 

“Dinner and you’re just in time.  It should be ready in about 15 or 20 minutes.  I opened a bottle of burgundy.  Want a glass?

“That’d be great.”  Luc comes over and kisses me.  “I’ll be back in a couple.  I want to get out of this suit and into some jeans.  Where’re the kids?”

“Down in the playroom playing some Wii game, I think,” I answer as I reach up and push that lock of hair from his forehead.

“I’ll run down and say hi to them first.  Be right back.”  Luc heads toward the hall, leaving me to pour the wine and take up dinner.

I smile to myself, thinking ahead to the dinner we’ll actually sit down and eat as a family, and the evening beyond.  And I realize that I am happy.  Really happy.

You’re probably wondering what turned the tide.  I would be.  This is such a different scenario from the typical weeknights of several months ago.  Things aren’t perfect, of course, but they are so much better that I finally believe in the happy ending.  I might tell you that the secret was in that book, which you too can have for only $24.95  plus tax.  But that would be a lie.  I’ll share Madame Zachária’s inscription with you, though.

“Without wood, the fire would die.”

So what was the secret to turning my life into a “happily ever after” fairy tale?  Sorry, but I’m not telling. 

Get your own fairy godmother.



Ma and Pa Plan Saturday's Outing

(My apologies to all my redneck friends.  You know I love you more'n my luggage.  But who could resist?)


“Aw come on, Ma… It’ll be fun. You’ll see.”

“Them goins-on is just unseemly. I ain’t getting’ out in no field with a bunch of Yankees, all acting like damn fools.”

“But goll-ee, seed spittin’... That’s my best thing. I could take the gold.”

"Seed spittin’? Well, hay-ull, whyn’t you say so? Let’s go, Pa.”


Writ up for Friday Flash 55 in the hopes that it'll perk up ol' G-Man, who been feelin' puny this week. Hope you're feeling better, G.


Ben and the Dragon

Ben shifts on the hard stool, trying to find a spot that doesn't make his butt ache.  In the mirror behind the bar, he can see Craig at the far end chatting up a forty-something blonde.  Similar mating dances are going on all around him.  He has no idea what he's doing here.

When Craig came into his dorm room earlier, Ben was eyeball-deep into one of the Prescott-Kydland treatises.  He was struggling to wrap his brain around dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models and wondering why the hell he’d ever majored in Poli Sci.

“Come on, Dude. Let’s get out of here. I’m going stir crazy. Let’s go grab a beer at the Den.”

“I can’t, man. I’ve got an Econ mid-term on Monday and I’m in the weeds on this,” Ben said, indicating the books scattered on his desk.  “I gotta study.”

“Balderdash.”  Craig is currently on an Arthur Conan Doyle tear and seasons his speech with Holmesian phrases.  “You need a break.  Tomorrow the mist will clear.  Besides, having your nose in a textbook on a Saturday night effects a negative social demand curve detrimental to stable capitalism.  I think Keynes said that.  Come on, let’s go.”

Rolling his eyes, Ben says, “You are so full of shit.  You may have a point, though.  Maybe a break would help.  Staring at these books sure isn’t.  But do we have to go to the Den?  It’s really not my thing.”

The Dragon’s Den is a bar on Route 74 about forty miles from campus.  Until a few years ago, it was a real dive.  On a typical Saturday night, there would be a collection of dirty pick-up trucks and the odd Harley in a parking lot, all lit by the glow of the flickering beer sign in the front window.  No more.  Tonight will find the lot crowded with BMW sedans and other higher-end icons of suburban success.  Thanks to one of those quirky shifts in fortune that seem to come out of nowhere, the Den is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, supported in large part by the college crowd from the several schools clustered in and around metropolitan Monroe City.  The male college crowd.  For whatever reason, the bar has become a favorite of cougars – who some of the guys have taken to calling “dragons” -- on the prowl.  The frat boys are more than happy to drive a few miles to become prey.

“Oh, come on.”  Craig grabs the hat and jacket hanging from a hook on the back of Ben’s door, jams the hat on Ben’s head, and hands him the coat.  “We’ll just have a couple of brewskis, check out the action, and get back early.”

Yeah, and maybe we’ll see some pigs fly, Ben thinks as he pulls on his coat and follows Craig out the door.  “All right, but I’m driving.  I want to get back here before it snows.”

OK, he came, he drank, he saw, and now he’s ready to go.  Ben drains the last of his Guinness. Time to pull Craig away from his blonde (who looks way too much like Aunt Lois for my taste, Ben thinks) and hit the road. He starts making his way through the three-deep crowd edging the bar to Craig, stopping along the way to greet a friend from the Delt house.  As he speaks, a little flurry of activity at the door catches his attention.  He glances that way, does a double take and is suddenly struck speechless. 

The woman pauses at the coat check just inside the door to the Den.   She hands her coat to the attendant and pulls a hat from her head, shaking out a lush mane of shoulder-length titian hair.  She’s dressed completely in black, a simple jersey dress clinging to the curves above a pair of high boots.  Unbidden, strains of the Hollies’ A Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress fill his mind.  Except anyone could tell that this woman was way too hot to be cool. 

All thoughts of the Delt, Craig, the snow, and dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models leave his mind as he walks toward the redhead.  He passes Craig, who grins and says, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” as he reaches out to clap Ben on the back. 

He reaches the redhead, now laughing with the several admirers vying for her attention.  She turns from a guy who looks like your typical meathead jock to face Ben, and her lusty laugh fades as quickly as it came. 

Finding his voice, Ben croaks out, “Mom?”



Lady of His Wildest Dreams

Maggie is everything Dexter McCulloch ever dreamed of.  And she is his.  After dreaming of her for so long, Dex can’t quite believe it. 

Of course, Maggie isn’t her real name.  But his pet name for her seems fitting, since she had been the Lady Margrait, once upon a time…


Perched on the harsh, unforgiving coast of Northern Waldraineshire, Castle Marwyndeloch was a place of little cheer.  King Cuináed had long mourned the death of his beloved Queen Marín.  Indeed, since her death, sorrow had lain like a shroud over all the realm, though none of the bereft subjects was more so than the heartbroken king.  Even his daughters could bring him no relief, so deep was his grief.

Shortly after his mother’s death, Prince Artair left the kingdom behind, and rode off to take his place in a war raging to the south.  He left his two sisters, the beautiful Princess Margrait and the not-so-comely Princess Beatrice behind to comfort their father, but no matter how great their efforts, the good king would not be soothed.

Soon it came about that while riding out to hunt, King Cuináed happened upon a lady of pleasing countenance.  She had paused beside a cold stream so that her horse might quench his thirst.  Astride the steed of pitch black, the woman sat, regal in bearing and appealing in her beauty.  The king was mesmerized and all thoughts of his grief fled him.  Upon greeting her, he learned that the lady was Fiona of Pictonland.  She had accompanied her father on his quest for wild boar, and had lost her way while riding in the woodlands of unfamiliar Waldraineshire.

The king, being a noble and a gentleman, was obliged to rescue her and thus he did, bringing her back to Castle Marwyndeloch with him. Things came to pass as they do, and soon enough, King Cuináed and Fiona were wed.

The princesses were pleased to see their father happy again, and made welcome to the new queen.  A great celebration was caused to happen and all the King’s court were invited to the Great Hall to make merry. 

Now it was that, though the new queen was a lady of some beauty, her candle flickered when seen in concert with that of Princess Margrait, the more beautiful of the king’s daughters.  Knights and nobles alike showered Margrait with attention at the banquet, and barely noticed the new queen. Such displeased the king’s bride and, alas, this was not a woman to bear displeasure lightly. 

Unbeknownst to the king, he had taken a formidable witch as his wife. That night, while all the denizens of Castle Marwyndeloch slept, the new queen went to the bowels of the castle, and there within the cold walls of a storeroom, she conjured a revenge to be visited upon the lovely Margrait.  Thus, the princess spent her last night as a beautiful woman as well as her last night in the castle.  For when she awoke, she was in a cave at the shoreline.  She discovered herself to be covered in scales from her head to the end of the fearsome tail that now followed her ever she went.  And so, the Waldraine Wyrm was born. 


The Legend of the Waldraine Wyrm has long been Dex’s favourite.  Ever since he was a lad, he’s been a dragon sort of bloke, even when his mates all fancied dinosaurs. 

And Maggie is quite the best of all.  She may have been born a refined lady and Princess of the Realm, but now she is a force to be reckoned with, a lady with attitude.  She was wronged in the past, but it will never happen again. Our Maggie is the Waldraine Wyrm, a dragon of the fiercest order.


And a wondrous dragon she is, he thinks as he looks at the image of Maggie painted on the front of his Spitfire, her eyes blazing and flames belching from her snarling mouth.  When he flies Maggie into battle, it will be easy to imagine that the legendary Waldraine Wyrm is beneath him, carrying him to victory. 

“Today,” he whispers to Maggie as he climbs aboard for the ride of his life, “I need every bit of your ferocity.  Today, we’re going to meet Jerry.”   

Today is Dex “Dragon” McCulloch’s first mission since his deployment to No.92 Squadron in Northolt.  Dragon knows he’s still wet behind the ears; he’s only been at Northolt a few weeks, and has yet to fly in combat. Still, he ‘s browned off hearing others call him a sprog, and he’s determined to show them just what he is made of.  Operation Dynamo is his chance to do that.

After weeks of being attacked by Jerry and pushed to the coast where they are flanked on all sides, Allied forces have no option but to cut their losses and evacuate.  The War Office has called for the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in an operation called Operation Dynamo.  The troops have been crossing the Channel at Dunkirk under heavy fire from ground artillery and air attacks by the Luftwaffe.  No. 92 Squadron moved to RAF Hornchurch several days ago, where they’ve been waiting for the go ahead to enter the fray. 

The day dawned to reveal good flying weather for the first time and the call came to scramble.  Dragon and his mates poured from the barrack and ran to their planes.   

Now Dragon settles into the pulpit and gives Maggie a pat on her taps. “This is it, Maggie.  Time to show them that the Waldraine Wyrm is the wrong dragon to mess with.” 

“Come along, Sprogs.  Belt up and into the air with you.” Squadron Leader Roger Bushell’s voice meets Dragon’s ears as he straps on his helmet.  “Our lads are waiting.”

Dragon takes his place in the line of planes waiting to take off.  In front of him, Spitfires lift into the air in rapid succession.  And then it’s his turn.

Dragon aims his Spitfire down the grassy field, an eye on his mates to either side of him.  He eases the stick back slowly, and Maggie takes flight.  The squadron swings wide and heads toward Dunkirk.   

Just as Dragon catches first sight of Jerry, a Luftwaffe bandit at ten o’clock and closing fast, the receiver at his ear crackles to life and he hears…

“Dexter! Dexter, you get inside this house right now.  Tea is on the table.  I’m not going to call you again.”


Dex swings Maggie around, and pedals home.  He leans her against the fence, gives her another pat and goes in to eat, muttering, "Ah, well, not today.  But we live to fight another day, Milady.”