Maggie and the Flying Saucer, part 1

Maggie was up in a tree as usual the day the flying saucer came by. Her mother was always complaining about how much time Maggie spent up trees. Whenever Maggie would come home late for dinner, jeans smudged with tree sap and twigs in her hair, her mother would say it was high time she grew up and learned to act like a lady. Maggie never listened.

It was a good thing she didn’t. If she hadn’t been at the top of a tree that particular afternoon, the flying saucer never would have stopped and picked her up.

Maggie had never seen a flying saucer before, but it was not like what she expected. It didn’t look anything like an alien spaceship. It was just…a saucer. Exactly like the little round plates that her mother put under her tea cups, right down to the ring of roses that decorated it. Only it was much, much bigger, of course. It flew right up and hovered over the tree where Maggie was perched. She was looking up at it, amazed, when a cat the size of a person poked its head over the edge of the saucer.

“Hello,” said the cat. “I hope you’ll forgive me, but I’ve never seen a little girl at the top of a tree before. It’s almost like you are a cat.”

“No,” said Maggie. “I’m a girl. I just like to climb trees.”

“How extraordinary,” said the cat, as if talking cats were perfectly ordinary. “My name is Tabby. What is your name?”

“I’m Maggie.”

“Very pleased to meet you, Maggie,” said Tabby. “As you can see, I’m off on adventures in my flying saucer. Would you maybe like to come along for a while? I’d like very much to talk to a tree-climbing girl.”

“I’d love to,” said Maggie. “I’ve never been in a flying saucer before, and I’d like very much to talk to a talking cat.”

“Then climb in,” said Tabby, and the saucer lowered slowly so that the edge was right by Maggie’s branch. She carefully climbed on board.

Once Maggie was in the saucer, she found a little seat inside the ring of roses and settled in quite comfortably.

“Where would you like to go?” asked Tabby politely.

“I don’t know,” said Maggie. “I’ve never done this before.”

“Well, before I saw you,” said Tabby, “I was off for a treat in Snow City. Do you like Snow City?”

“I’ve never been to Snow City before,” said Maggie.

“Oh, you MUST see Snow City,” said Tabby.

So off the saucer flew toward the mountains until it came to the top of the very tallest mountain. As they came through the last cloud, Maggie saw a city spread out on mountain top. Everything in the city was made out of snow and ice. Tabby landed the saucer right in the middle of the town square next to an enormous fountain with eighteen jets of water that shot up in the air and then back down. The entire fountain was frozen solid, each stream of water a thin bridge of ice. It sparkled in the sunlight. Maggie thought she had never seen anything so beautiful, but Tabby grabbed her hand and pulled her right past the fountain and down one of the side streets. Maggie couldn’t stop staring at all the buildings. Every single one was made from white, sparkling snow and ice. Soon Tabby stopped in front of a little ice restaurant.

“This is it,” he said as they went inside and slid across the icy floor to a little ice table with snow seats. “They have the world’s most wonderful frozen pancakes.”

“Frozen pancakes?” said Maggie. “What is a frozen pancake?”

“You’ll see,” said Tabby.

A little woman dressed all in white skated over to take their order. Tabby ordered the frozen pancake special for both of them. When the pancakes came, Maggie couldn’t believe her eyes. Each icy plate had a stack of pancakes as tall as Maggie’s head. The pancakes were all frozen together with layers of frozen chocolate and frozen berries in between. Next to the plate, the waitress put down a little chisel and hammer. Tabby showed Maggie how to chip away bits of the rock hard treat. When she finally got her first bite, Maggie gave a little “ooooh.” It was the sweetest, coldest, most delicious thing she had ever tasted. Maggie and Tabby spent the next hour laughing talking as they chipped away pieces of frozen pancake. By the end of the hour, Maggie was so full that she had to stop, even though more than half of her stack was still in front of her. She was also shivering a bit. The waitress skated over and asked if they’d like any snow tea.

“Actually,” said Maggie, “I need something to warm me up after that. Do you have any hot chocolate?”

Everyone in the room stopped talking and stared at Maggie. Someone even gave a little gasp. The waitress skated back a step or two.

“That’s quite all right,” said Tabby quickly. “No tea today, Helada. It’s time for us to be going.” Throwing a few small coins on the table, Tabby grabbed Maggie’s hand again and pulled her out the door.”

“I’m sorry,” whispered Maggie as he whisked her down the street. “I guess I said the wrong thing.”

“Yes, well, no one ever mentions things that are h-o-t here. It’s considered quite rude,” said Tabby. “But how could you have known? This is your first time to Snow City. Next time you’ll know better.”

“Y-y-yes,” shivered Maggie.

“You still need to warm up, then, don’t you?” said Tabby. They were climbing back into the flying saucer now. “Not to worry. If hot chocolate is what you need, I know the perfect spot.”

To Be Continued

The Princess Who Hated Her Bath

Princess Petunia was beautiful in every way and was generally quite a sweet-tempered girl, but she had just one very, very stubborn flaw. She absolutely refused to take a bath. Her servants made the water hot, they made it cold, they made it just-right-in-the-middle-deliciously-warm, but still she wouldn’t go near it. Her maid added bubbles and pretty pink coloring so that the whole bath looked like a cotton candy cloud, but Princess Petunia just shook her head and got back in bed. Her mother offered her candy to take even one bath, but Princess Petunia just closed her eyes and shuddered. Her father said he would take away her pony if she didn’t bathe, but Princess Petunia just cried and cried and ran outside.

As time went on, Princess Petunia got dirtier and dirtier and smellier and smellier. She would play outside and take off her shoes and come in with feet all black from the earth, but never would she wash so much as her little toe. She would run and jump and climb in the trees until she was quite a sweaty mess, but never would her own smelliness offend her as much as the tiniest whiff of soap. She would accidentally get bits of food or drink in her hair, and they would stick there for as long as they felt like staying.

The king and queen were quite alarmed. Who ever heard of a princess who wouldn’t take a bath? How could she go to royal balls with blackened feet and bits of food in her hair? How could she greet the royal guests with dirt on her hands and smudges on her cheek? The king called in a royal doctor to study scientifically the causes of the problem. He asked Princess Petunia a great many important questions, but all she would say was, “Baths are icky. I will never take one.”

Was it the water she objected to, he asked, or the soap?

“Oh, by all means, the water,” said Princess Petunia. “Water is just too wet for me. And the soap is truly terrifying. It is just so sickeningly sudsy.”

Was she afraid of the water or just uncomfortable while in it?

“Oh yes, I’m very afraid,” Princess Petunia said calmly. “Water is so disgustingly wet, and I am quite uncomfortable with how fearfully wet it would make me.”

After many similar answers, the doctor gave up in a fit of impatience. “You’re daughter is impossible!” he shouted. “It is my professional opinion that she will never be persuaded to take a bath. You may as well give up now.”

The king was quite ready to take the doctor’s advice, but the queen called in an important fashion consultant to convince her daughter of the importance of being clean. The important consultant immediately began to create a beautiful new dress for Princess Petunia. Each time the princess came to be fitted for her dress, the important consultant was horrified by her dirtiness and gave her long lectures. On the final fitting, Princess Petunia had such filthy hands that the important consultant actually fainted from horror and when he came back to himself and saw Princess Petunia touching the elegant dress with those terrible hands, he ran screaming from the castle and was never seen again.

The king and queen despaired. Without telling anyone, the king began to make preparations to hide Princess Petunia away in the corner tower where no one would be able to smell her.

But her maid still had one idea. She also did not tell anyone, but one night she went to visit her wise old grandmother and told her all about the very smelly princess. The wise old grandmother said they should leave it all up to her.

The next day when Princess Petunia was running through the woods, she came across a pool of water. Normally, she ran right around the pool and never got close at all, but today she saw something strange. There was an old woman splashing in the pool and laughing like a little girl. Princess Petunia stopped and stared.

“Who are you?” she asked, “and what are you doing in that horrible pool?”

“Who I am is none of your business,” said the old woman rather rudely, “and I should think any stupid little girl could see what I am doing.” She continued to splash and laugh and squirt water up into the tree branches above her.

Princess Petunia watched for a minute. “I do not think I am a stupid little girl,” she said finally, “but I do not see what you are doing.”

The old woman laughed. “I am having fun,” she said. “If you can’t see that then you are more stupid than you think.”

“How can you be having fun in the water?” asked Princess Petunia. “Isn’t it just like a horrid big bath?”

“Oh no,” said the old woman. “It is not at all like a bath. Do you see a bath tub? Do you see a bathroom? Of course not. If you think this is like a bath, you must really be quite a stupid little girl.”

“I am NOT stupid,” said Princess Petunia. “I just don’t see how you can laugh when you are in all that very wet water.”

“Come in and you will see,” said the old woman.

“Oh no, oh no,” said Princess Petunia. “I could never. I hate the wet, wet water.”

“Suit yourself,” said the old woman, and she went back to her splashing and laughing.

Princess Petunia watched for a long while. Finally she said, “And you’re sure it’s really nothing like a bath?”

The old woman rolled her eyes. “We are in the forest. What do you think?”

Taking a deep breath, Princess Petunia ran straight into the water. In no time at all, she was splashing and laughing right along with the old woman. The old woman showed her how to dip all the way under the water and open her eyes and look for shiny rocks on the bottom of the pool. Princess Petunia thought that was great fun. Then the old woman produced a bar of soap and began to toss it back and forth. Princess Petunia was so busy playing catch that she didn’t notice the bubbles all around her. At last, when she was quite clean but still didn’t know it, the old woman said it was time to go home. When Princess Petunia got out of the pool, she noticed the most lovely smell.

“What is that wonderful fragrance?” she asked, looking all around for flowers.

“It’s you, Princess,” said the old woman with a grin.

“Me?!” said Princess Petunia, looking down at her now clean clothes and hair and hands and feet. “What kind of magic is this that makes me smell like a flower and look all white and shiny?”

“It’s the magic of a bath,” said the old woman. “You’ve just had your very first one.”

“But you said…” stuttered Princess Petunia. “But I thought…”

“Exactly,” said the old woman, handing the princess the bar of soap.

And after that, Princess Petunia was always the first to jump into the bath on bath day, though she often insisted on doing it outside in the forest pool. Her parents thought this very odd, but they were so happy to have a daughter that smelled like a flower instead of a rotten fish that they let her do just as she liked.

Sarah Jane and the Case of the Disappearing Sock

Sarah Jane was wearing her glitter jeans with her white princess t-shirt, and she knew she looked good.  With  a pair of white socks and her new tennis shoes, the outfit would be perfect.

“Get those shoes, Sarah Jane!” called her mother from the kitchen.  “We leave in five minutes.”

Sarah Jane opened her sock drawer and searched around for white socks.  There was one right on top, but she couldn’t find the other one anywhere.  She dug through every pair of socks.  She opened all the other drawers and hunted through those, too.  She went back to the sock drawer for another thorough search.

“Mom!  Have you seen my other white sock?” she yelled.

“They should be in the sock drawer, sweetie.”

“One of them is, but the other one is missing!”

“Well, I only put them into the sock drawer in pairs, honey, so I don’t know what happened,” said her mother, coming to stand in her bedroom doorway.    Ellen, Sarah Jane’s baby sister peeked her head around her mom’s legs.

“Sawah Jane, come wook!” said Ellen excitedly.

“Not now, Ellen.  I have to get ready for school,” said Sarah Jane, tearing apart the sock drawer again. The other white sock was no where to be found.

“You’d better get a different pair of socks, Sarah Jane,” said her mother.

“I can’t!  They’re all different colors.  Only white socks go with this outfit!”

“I think pink will be just fine,” said her mother.

Sarah Jane shuddered.  Pink would never do.  “I’ll just have to change my clothes.”

“There’s really no time, Sarah Jane.”

“I’ll be super fast,” promised Sarah Jane.  And she was.  She had just gotten a whole new outfit on and was putting on her pink socks and shoes when Ellen came back.

“Sawah Jane!  Come see what I made!”

“I can’t, Ellen.  I’m going to be late for school!”

“Pwease, Sawah Jane!”  Ellen followed her to the door while Sarah Jane put on her coat.  Her mom was already waiting in the car.

“I’ll look later, Ellen.  Bye!”

That night, Sarah Jane laid out her outfit for the next day.  When she opened her sock drawer, there were both white socks sitting right there on top!

“Mom!  Where did you find my white sock?” she called.

Her mom came to the door, carrying the bedtime snacks.  “I didn’t find it,” she said.

“Well, look,” said Sarah Jane, holding up the sock.  “Now it’s here.”

“Hmm,” said her mom.  “Maybe some elves borrowed it and then put it back.”

Sarah Jane rolled her eyes as she followed her mom to the table for snack time.  Her big brother was already eating.

“James, have you been messing around in my sock drawer?”

“Nope,” he said, not even looking up.

“Are you sure?”

Now he looked up and glared.  “What would I want in your sock drawer?  Who wants to touch your smelly socks?”

Sarah Jane thought that was a good point.

The next morning, Sarah Jane happily put on her sparkly jeans and white princess t-shirt again, but when she reached for her socks, she could only find one!  Impossible!  Sarah Jane looked all around.  She opened every drawer.  She was hunting under the bed when Ellen came in.

“Sawah Jane!” said Ellen.  “Come see my puppet show!”

“Not now!” said Sarah Jane form under the bed.  “I have to get to school.”

When she came out, she was all dusty.

“Sarah Jane!” called her mother.  “We’re leaving now or you’ll be late.”

“Mom!” wailed Sarah Jane.  “My sock is missing again!”

“You’ll just have to wear another pair,” answered her mom.

“I can’t!” yelled Sarah Jane.

Her mom appeared in the doorway.  She did not look happy.  “We don’t have time for this again today, Sarah Jane.   Put these on.  Now.”  She held out a pair of purple socks.

Sarah Jane shuddered, but she knew better than to talk back when that look was on her mom’s face.  She put on the socks.  The effect was hideous.

All that day, Sarah Jane slouched at school so that no one would see the ugly purple socks peeking out from between her jeans and her tennis shoes.  When she got home, she ripped them off right away.  She was just flinging them toward the laundry basket when Ellen came in.

“Sawah Jane, Sawah Jane!  Come wook!”  She was pulling on Sarah Jane’s hand.

Sarah Jane sighed and followed her sister.  In Ellen’s room, a blanket was draped over the end of the bed.

“You sit hewe,” said Ellen, pushing Sarah Jane into a chair.  Then Ellen went and crouched behind the blanket.  “Pwesenting….the bestest puppet show on eawth!”  Up came a little hand, holding a doll.  “One day, wittle June was walking in the woods.  Then a vewy scawy monster jumped out!”  Up came a hand covered in a white sock, which grabbed the little doll by the head.

Sarah Jane jumped out of her chair.  “Ellen!”

Ellen’s head popped up.  “Sawah Jane, the puppet show isn’t over!”

“That’s my sock!”  shouted Sarah Jane.  “You are the one who took my sock?!?”

“I needed a monster puppet,” said Ellen.

“I was looking for that everywhere!”

Ellen looked serious.  “Not evewywhewe,” she said.  “You didn’t wook in the puppet show.”

Sarah Jane tried to answer that, but she couldn’t.  After a minute, she gave up and smiled.  “You’re right,” she said.  “Next time I’ll be sure to check there, too.  Now let’s see the end of that puppet show.”

The Red-headed Step-sister

After looking at all those fables yesterday, I’m inspired to be more concise. So, as an experiment, I’m holding myself to a two hundred word limit today.

Once a woman with a flame-haired daughter married a man with two raven-haired daughters. Wishing to unite their new family, the parents made a rule that the three girls could never leave the house unless they were all together. The raven-haired daughters bitterly hated this rule because everywhere they went, no one looked at them but only at their flame-haired step-sister. Many suitors came to ask the flame-haired daughter’s hand in marriage, but none sought after the raven-haired daughters. Full of jealous rage, the raven-haired daughters swore a vow to never leave their house again and so confine their step-sister with them. When the parents asked why they never went out any more, the daughters sweetly said that they were so happy with their family that they had no need of others. In this way time passed, the suitors dwindled to none, and the daughters were left to age in bitter solitude.

Moral: You cannot force a friendship.

Yes, I know, I twisted around the meaning of this phrase. I’m red-headed, what can I say? BTW, does anyone know where this phrase came from? I’ve been trying to dig it up, but I can’t. Just a reference to Anastasia from Cinderella? I’m all curious now.

At the Ringing of the Bell

Once upon a time there was a lowly maid who helped to clean the palace kitchens. Whenever someone wanted her help, they mostly just said, “Come here, girl!” But actually her name was Sarah. Sarah’s life was not an easy one. She had to get up before the sun each morning and help prepare breakfast for the royal family. Her own breakfast was a crust of bread and some tea before clearing the dishes and scrubbing the kitchen. Her cleaning duties lasted until well after dark, when she finally ate her dinner of stew and dropped into her bed. Only on Sundays was she given half a day to rest and do what she liked. And what she liked was to spend time with her best friend, Thomas.

Thomas was a stable boy, which meant that he spent his days cleaning up after the horses, giving them food, and doing anything anyone told him to do. Stable boys never got to tell anyone else what to do, not even the horses. But Thomas always looked forward to Sunday when he had the afternoon free to spend with his best friend, Sarah.

Thomas and Sarah had been friends for as long as they could remember. Each Sunday afternoon they would meet in the woods outside the castle as soon as the noon bell had rung and not go home until the bell rang again at sunset. When they were younger, they would climb trees or fish in the river or play tag among the tree roots. Now that they were older, they mostly just walked and talked or sat on stumps and read to each other. Not many of the castle servants knew how to read, but one of the knights had befriended Thomas and taught him to read, and later he spent many Sunday afternoons teaching Sarah to read also. Their favorite stories were of adventure and travel. They always dreamed about seeing the ocean one day and sailing to far off lands. But then the sunset bell would ring, and Sarah would go back to the kitchens, and Thomas would go back to the stables and they would work as usual all week long. But Sarah would often think over things they had read or talked about while she was polishing the silver or sweeping the long winding staircases, and when she did she would smile, no matter how tired she felt.

Then the kingdom went to war against the neighboring kingdom. The king sent all his knights to fight, but he needed foot soldiers, too. That meant that every farmer, blacksmith, and stable boy of the right age was going to war. Sarah knew that Thomas was going to become a soldier, but she didn’t want to think about it. She just worked and worked so hard and so long that she got all her work done in half the time, so she volunteered for extra jobs. There were lots of extra jobs in those days because so many of the male servants were off preparing to be soldiers, too. So Sarah was at the top of the bell tower, polishing the bell with all her strength, when Thomas found her to say goodbye.

“I only have ten minutes,” he said. “It took so long to find you. I wanted you to have this.” He handed Sarah a small book, covered in brown. It was their favorite adventure story and the only book that Thomas had of his own.

Sarah wanted to cry, so she didn’t say anything but just kept polishing the bell as hard as she could.

Thomas came over and touched the giant bell. “They say that the echoes from this bell can be heard even across the far seas, so I’m sure I’ll be able to hear it in whatever place I am going. Sunrise, midday, and sunset, whenever I hear this bell, I will think of you and of Sunday afternoon.”

Sarah whispered, “And I’ll think of you.”

And then Thomas was gone. And Sarah went back to work.

The war lasted a long time. Thomas fought in many battles and went through many dangers, but somehow he always made it through alive. And every morning, when the sun came up, he could hear the faint echo of the castle bell and he thought of Sarah and of happier times. And every day when it was just noon, Sarah heard that same bell as she carried the loaded trays of food into the dining hall for the king’s dinner, and she thought of Thomas and prayed for his safe return. And every night as he pitched his tent in yet another cold field, Thomas heard the bell again and remembered what he was fighting for.

There came a night when Sarah couldn’t sleep. She was exhausted from a long day of hard work, but her heart was so heavy she couldn’t even face her bed. She had never felt this way before. She paced up and down and up and down by her bed, trying to tell herself that everything was fine and she would need her rest for tomorrow, but she didn’t believe that everything was fine. She knew in her heart that something was terribly wrong. Finally, she couldn’t stand it any longer. Grabbing her cloak she ran up the many steps and into the bell tower. She didn’t have any plan. She just knew that Thomas was in some terrible danger and she wanted to be as near to him as possible. When she got to the bell tower she prayed yet again that Thomas would be safe and well, but she didn’t feel any better. She wished she could be with him and tell him that she was thinking of him. She wished he could know that she was standing here looking out over the trees and hills that were between them. Without even thinking, she stopped wishing and did what she knew needed to be done.

At just that moment, far away in a darkened field, Thomas lay badly wounded. The army had been ambushed as they set up their camp for the night, and many men had been killed. The knight who led Thomas’ company of soldiers had been killed, too, and Thomas had fought bravely to defend his body against the enemy. At last, help came, and the enemy was driven away. But not before Thomas was struck with a sword through his side. He was carried to the tent where men were tending those who had been hurt in the battle. Thomas’ wound was bandaged and he was given something strong to drink for the pain. But still he was bleeding, and the doctors did not have much hope for him. Then, from far away, a bell began to ring and ring and ring and ring. Every man in the tent stopped and listened with wonder. No one even noticed the tear that made its way down Thomas’ face.

Back at the castle the king was furious. He had been woken up in the middle of the night by the loud bell ringing and ringing. He had rushed to his window expecting to see enemies coming to cause such alarm, but there was nothing. Who would dare ring the bell for no reason? By the time his guards got to the top of the bell tower, no one was there, but the king would not let go of his rage so quickly. All the next day he had his guards question everyone in the castle. Finally a young gardener said that she had seen one of the maids climbing the tower after everyone was asleep. When the guards came to Sarah to ask what she knew, she couldn’t lie. She admitted what she had done. The king was even more angry that such a thing could have been done by a lowly serving girl, and he ordered that she be locked up in a tower cell.

Not long after that, Thomas was sent home. He was miraculously recovering from his injury, but it would be a long time before he had the strength to be of any use as a stable boy, much less a soldier. When he arrived at the castle, he was brought before the king. The king had heard of his bravery and had decided to put him in training to be a knight. This was a special honor that very few men received. Thomas was so happy and grateful that even the old king smiled.

The first thing Thomas wanted to do was go tell Sarah that he was going to become a knight. But he couldn’t find her. He searched over the whole castle, but she was nowhere. Finally he found one of the other maids and asked where Sarah might be. She told him what had happened. Thomas was struck to the heart that Sarah had been punished for something that had saved his life. He went straight to the king and begged to be allowed to tell his story.

The king was a hard man who carried many burdens and did not show mercy easily, but he liked young Thomas, so he listened. And he soon found that even a hard man could not be unmoved by such devotion. He agreed to release Sarah from her cell.

What Thomas said when he finally saw Sarah or what Sarah felt when she heard what had happened are not things meant to be shared. Suffice it to say that in time Thomas became a knight and in time Sarah became his wife. They traveled many places and had many adventures, but they were never parted again.

The Flower Palace

Once upon a time there was a princess named Rose who lived in a glorious palace of flowers. A thick tangle of rose vines, all abloom, made up its walls. It’s roof was of interwoven lilies. The castle door was one enormous daisy with a teeny tiny tulip as a door handle. Princess Rose slept in a bed of petunias with a lovely geranium canopy. She drank her tea at a daffodil table with the cleverest little foxglove cups on zinnia saucers.

For generations, Princess Rose’s family had been tending the flower palace, planting and watering, pruning and shaping. Princess Rose was no exception. She was happy to spend her days caring for the living treasure that was her home. But in one way, her life was nothing like her mother’s or her grandmother’s. In her day, the palace was under a curse.

In the year that Princess Rose was born, a nefarious wizard came to live next door to the flower palace. He had a black heart and despised all things that grew and were beautiful, so naturally he hated the flower palace with all of his being. He searched all of his evil books and tried with all of his wicked power to destroy the palace, but he couldn’t do it. The palace had a power of its own, not the power of enchantments and spells, but the power that all things share that live and grow and feed on the earth, made even stronger by the love and wisdom of generations of caretakers. The wizard’s evil spells were no match for that kind of power. But not for nothing was he called nefarious. In his wickedness, he came up with a plan to erase the flower palace from his sight. In the dead of night, he cast his spell, a spell that hid the beauty of the flower palace. Whenever anyone looked at the palace, all they would see was a dismal castle of ordinary gray stone.

Princess Rose was only three years old when this spell was cast, and her father and mother did not live long after that dreadful day. So it was that life as she knew it was both beautiful and incredibly sad. She lived with loveliness from morning until night, but she could never share it with anyone. Once she was old enough to have visitors for dinner, she began to invite people she knew from the nearby town. She knew the power of the spell, but every time she still hoped. She would look around at the rose covered walls and think how much her friends would enjoy their fragrance. But then the friends would come, and all they would see were rough stone walls with no scent at all. Or Princess Rose would open her daisy door and picture the look on her friend’s face when she saw the exquisite tulip handle. But then the friend would come and see nothing but a thick wooden door with a dull brass handle, and Princess Rose would be disappointed again. None of Princess Rose’s friends could understand why she kept living all alone in such a cold and gloomy place. She had long since given up trying to explain it to them. If she talked of flowers, they only thought she was crazy, and no matter how many times she tried to show them the beauties of her home, they could never see what she saw. It was a lonely life and full of hard work. The flower palace was enormous, and there was enough work for a whole family of people, but Princess Rose was all alone.

On Princess Rose’s 18th birthday, she made a decision. Now that she was no longer a child, she wanted to do something to lift the curse that the wizard had placed on her home. She began to read her own kinds of books and talk to the gypsy people who passed through the town in order to learn what they knew of spells and counter spells. After much hard work, she discovered what she had been looking for. It was a special potion which was meant to open the eyes of anyone who drank it so that they could see the truth. It took many weeks to create the potion exactly as it was meant to be. Princess Rose gave up sleeping and eating until it was finished. At last, when it was ready, she invited her dearest friend to tea, and served her the potion in a charming foxglove teacup. Her friend drank it down and there was a pause. She looked around for a moment blinking rapidly, and Princess Rose held her breath. The her friend shrugged and went on chatting as usual. For just a moment she had thought she could distinctly smell the fragrance of a thousand roses, but then the sensation had gone away. The wizard’s curse was just too strong. Princess Rose was crushed. She knew that she had no hope of ever making anyone see how beautiful her palace was, and she felt so lonely she wanted to cry.

Then one day a young man in the clothes of a plain farmer came riding up to the castle. He got off his horse and walked slowly to the door, where he stopped. Princess Rose, who was watering the roof, saw him and thought how strange it was that he didn’t knock. Instead he very carefully reached out his hand and touched the door with one finger. Princess Rose put down her watering can. The young man was carefully brushing each petal of the daisy door. Princess Rose sat down hard among the lilies. He could see that the door was a flower. He could see it!

Princess Rose went slowly down the morning glory staircase. She could hardly believe what she had seen. With a deep breath, she opened the front door.

The young man stepped back. “You…you live here in this place?” he asked very softly.

“Yes,” said Princess Rose. “Do you like it?”

“Like it? Like it? It’s the most…wonderful…beautiful… I don’t have any words.”

“You can see the flowers?” breathed Princess Rose.

“I can’t see anything else,” said the young man. “How did such a place come to be?”

So Princess Rose invited the young man inside and told him the story of the flower palace and of the curse that was on it. The young man told her his story, too. His name was James, and he was the youngest son of a wealthy farmer who had seven sons. His brothers were taking over the farm, and so James’ father sent him off to make his own way in the world. He had traveled far and tried many jobs, but none that seemed to suit him. No matter where he went, he always eventually found a reason to move on. Not until he had seen the flower palace did he ever think he there could be one place worth staying forever.

So he stayed, first as a gardener and friend and then much, much later as Princess Rose’s husband. They never discovered a way to lift the curse and they never knew why James was able to see the flowers, but they did eventually have children, and the flower palace was filled with the laughter of a happy family. Soon friends gathered there who could not see the glorious beauty of the palace but who could feel the love that filled it.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Through the Mist

Once upon a time there was a lonely island, shrouded in mist, and a very young girl lived there all alone. She did not know how she came to be there.  She did not know why she was alone.  She did not even know that she should wonder about these things.  She only knew that palm fronds made the most comfortable bed, that the tide pools were the easiest place to catch fish, and that the fruit from the treetops was delicious but would make you sick if you ate too much at once.  She called the water “shisha” because that was the noise it made; she called the cave where she went when it rained “emmma” because that was how she felt when she sat there; and she called herself Claire, but if there was a reason for that name she did not know what it was.

Claire was not sad or afraid all alone on the island, but every evening as the sun was sinking into the mist, she would walk along the shore and feel the waves lapping at her toes and the mist softly touching her face and the heaviness in her heart that she did not understand.  It was at just this time of day that she found the first dream.   Floating up out of the mist, it bumped to a stop on the sand at her feet.  It was about the size of her two hands put together, half filled with water, hard like a rock, but she could see right through it.  Something about the curvy shape and the perfect circle at the top fascinated her.  When the last rays of the sun caught it and made it sparkle, she could not look away.  She had never seen anything like it before, but she knew it was a dream because it felt just like the things she saw when she was asleep.

After that first time, Claire found many more dreams.  Some were large, like the heavy box that she could not lift, and some were very small, like the tiny pink circle she found buried in the sand.   (That one was no bigger than her baby finger and had two tiny holes in the center.)  Some were colorful, like the flat picture of the setting sun, and some were dull, like the floppy gray tube.  Some were useful, like the long strands knotted together to form a perfect web for catching fish, and some had no use that she could see, like the soft brown hollow hand.  (What use was a hand without an arm to move it?)  But all of the dreams were fascinating and wonderful.  Claire gathered them all in the cave she called emmma and each had its own special place.  Even if she took one out to use it for carrying water or catching fish, she would always lovingly return it each evening.  Claire spent many happy hours sitting in her cave and looking with wonder at all her dreams.  Her favorite was one of the smallest.  It was a circle about the size of her hand.  One side was a dull green color, but the other side…the other side was magic.  It showed a tiny reflection of her face, just like her face in the creek but perfectly clear and still.  Claire never got tired of holding that dream in her hand and studying the girl who looked out of it.

From the day that Claire found that very first sparkling dream, the pattern of her days was changed.  She still walked the misty shores each evening and watched the sun slowly dissolve into darkness, but now instead of a heaviness in her chest, she felt a faint thrill, never knowing when a new dream might come floating up to meet her.  And each night she spread her palm fronds in the shelter of the cave and fell asleep surrounded by a world of treasures.

And then one day the ship came.

Claire did not see it, anchored among the waves and shrouded in clouds, but for the first time ever, she heard the voices of men on the shore.  Drawn by a curiosity that knew no reason for fear, she left her breakfast and went to investigate the sound.  On the beach, she saw a small boat and two men securing it on the sand.  By this time, Claire was so used to magical gifts appearing through the mist that she did not even feel the shock you would imagine.

The men, on the other hand, were quite surprised.  Their ship had been damaged in a storm and they had wandered some time in the mist and clouds before hearing the waves breaking on this island.  These two had come to shore only to find fresh water for the crew and some trees for repairs to the ship.  The last thing they expected to find was a girl, all alone and apparently unable to speak.

They were good men, the Captain and his first mate, but they did not know what to do.  At first they offered her some of the bread from their food bag, but she just smiled and did not eat.  The Captain tried to ask her who she was and how she got there, but she just smiled and said nothing.  Then the first mate took out a coil of rope, and the girl’s face lit up.  Pointing first to the rope and then toward the cliffs behind her, she danced around, laughing.  The Captain and his first mate couldn’t help but smile to see her.  But she clearly wanted something more than just to dance.  When nothing else worked, she grabbed the Captain’s hand and tugged him toward the cliffs.  Finally understanding, the men followed her.

When the Captain and the first mate saw Claire’s cave of treasures, they did not know what to say.  Bits of cast off trash sat everywhere.  An empty bottle held small pieces of broken glass.  A child’s button rested in the palm of a worn leather glove.  A ragged fishing net was draped over some rocks.  Each piece was nothing more than rubbish, but somehow the whole was something beautiful.  And most beautiful of all was the face of the girl who had created it, glowing with pride to show her collection of dreams to her new friends.

Using her hands to show her meaning, Claire asked the men if they had come from the same magical land as her dreams.  They showed her their boat and said that they had come from the other side of the water.  Claire’s face showed the Captain plainly that she imagined the world outside her walls of mist as a place of beautiful enchantment.  That night, he sat up all through the darkest hours and thought about what he should do.  He had intended, of course, to take her back to the civilized world.  But that was before he had seen her dream cave.  He thought of her in a place where the beauty of dreams was lost in a dull reality, where wonderful things were thrown away as worthless.

And so it was that when Claire woke up the next morning and left her cave, she found the beach empty and the boat gone.  No traces were left of her friends from the day before except for a coil of rope lying on the beach.  Claire picked up the rope and smiled as she felt it slide through her fingers.  She did not feel disappointed that her friends were gone.  She accepted that some things come and go with the tides.  If the magic on the other side of the mist had sent her friends once, it might do so again.  And if not, there would be other dreams.  Claire carried the rope back to her cave and added it to her collection.

And it may have been, though this story does not tell, that some time later in the fall of the year a small boat parted the clouds and a young captain landed alone on the island alone with nothing but a chest full of dreams to start a new life.

The Princess in the Bottle

Once upon a time there was a young man who had no home and no family. His life was a life lived on the road, traveling from place to place, finding work whenever he needed it and adventure even when he didn’t. His only companion was an old gray horse, who through some long ago mistake had been named Black. The young man’s name was Peter, which means Rock and was a much more fitting name.

A traveling life makes for many stories, but the greatest tale of young Peter’s life started with a small creek and a fishing line. Peter had always been an excellent fisherman, so whenever he had nothing else to eat, he would look for a long stick, tie on his string and hook, and catch himself a fine supper. On this particular evening, the fish were biting well, and Peter had just caught enough for a feast when his eye fell on something glittering among the rocks on the bottom of the creek. Without a second thought, he reached down and pulled up a sparkling glass bottle with a red cork in it. The sight of this bottle was so amazing that Peter immediately dropped his line of fish. It wasn’t the lovely shape of the glass or even the brilliant color of the cork that caused such astonishment; it was what was inside the bottle. This bottle didn’t hold wine or vinegar or water. It didn’t even hold a perfect model of a ship. It held a princess.

Peter could not believe his eyes. Inside the bottle was a princess so tiny and so beautiful that he thought he must be dreaming. As you can imagine, he lost no time pulling the cork out of the bottle. As soon as he did, he heard a tiny, beautiful, but very angry voice saying, “Why did you drop the fish?! I’m starving!”

That was the last thing that Peter expected to hear. But the thought of a tiny, beautiful, starving princess was more than he could bear, so he quickly caught a few more fish and roasted them over his fire. When they were cooked all through, he broke off a small piece and dropped it into the top of the bottle. The princess ate it, quick as a wink, and asked for more. Peter passed her bits of fish through the opening of the bottle until finally she was full. She was much less angry now. She even thanked him for the food in a very polite voice.

As for Peter, he was not at all interested in eating. He just wanted to hear how a princess came to be in a bottle. He could see very well that she wouldn’t fit through the opening. The princess told him that her name was Selina and that her father was the king of a neighboring kingdom. It seemed that her father had done something to anger his chief magician who had punished his king by shrinking his only daughter and trapping her in a bottle. Once she was trapped, the magician had carried her secretly out of the castle and thrown her into a nearby river. The river carried her far away, out of her father’s kingdom and down to this point where it dwindled to a tiny creek, and she had finally come to rest among the rocks. The king did not know what had happened to his daughter, only that she had disappeared.

“So I knew that no one would be looking for me,” finished Selina, “and I was quite sure that I was going to die of starvation in this horrid bottle. Until you came along, that is, and I saw your fish. Nothing ever looked or tasted so good.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do to help you get out of that bottle?” asked Peter.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Selina sadly. “My father’s chief magician is very powerful. I doubt that anyone could undo one of his spells, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to do it himself.”

But Peter had not spent his life traveling for nothing. Once, several years before, Peter had met an old woman who was said to have magical powers. Peter thought he would visit her and see if she knew any way to reverse the spell.

It was a journey of several weeks to reach the old woman. Peter carried Selina in her bottle in front of him as he rode Black, and positioned her near the fire at night to keep her warm. Every morning, he baked a little cake of flour and passed pieces through the opening of the bottle for Selina’s breakfast, and every night he fed her fish or nuts or berries that he had found through out the day. They passed the evening talking and telling stories and sometimes Selina would sing one of the many songs she had learned from her mother. Those were happy weeks, though Selina was very tired of being in her bottle, and at last they arrived at the old woman’s cottage.

When Peter showed the old woman the bottle and told her Selina’s tale, the old woman sighed a very big sigh. She picked up the bottle and studied it closely. “Yes, yes,” she said. “I’m afraid there really is no other way.”

“No other way?” asked Peter. “Then there is one way at least!”

“Yes, there is a way. There is always a way. I’m sorry to say it young man, but it seems you are going to have to drink it.”

Peter was confused. “Drink it? Drink what?”

“Drink what’s in the bottle.”

Peter was even more confused. “But Selina is in the bottle. Only Selina.”

“No, not only Selina. Selina and something else.”

Peter studied the bottle closely. He couldn’t see anything in there but Selina.

“Pour it out,” said the old woman, handing Peter a cup.

Selina braced her arms and legs on the glass and nodded at Peter. Peter shrugged and tipped the bottle over the cup. A stream of dark red liquid poured into the cup, filling it to the brim.

Peter was astonished. There hadn’t been any red liquid in the bottle before. At least, none that he could see. But there it was in the cup before him. It didn’t look very tasty, but if it would free Selina, he was willing to try it. He picked it up.

“No! Wait!” shouted Selina. “You don’t know what it is. What will it do to him?” she asked the old woman.

“I don’t know,” said the old woman. “But it won’t be good. There’s no doubt that it’s some sort of poison.”

Selina was horrified. “You can’t drink it! It could kill you!”

Peter just looked at her, and his eyes were as calm and steady as a rock. He had just realized something. He had just realized that even if this poison killed him, Selina would be worth it. Still keeping his eyes only on his princess in the bottle, he picked up the cup and drank down all the poison.

The effect was instantaneous. Peter’s eyes closed, he gritted his teeth to keep from yelling from the pain. Then the pain slowly, slowly grew less and less, and the world faded from his sight. Peter was dead.

In that same moment, the glass of Selina’s bottle disappeared, and she was standing there fully grown. With a sob, she threw herself down on Peter’s chest. She cried and cried until she couldn’t cry any more, and as she cried she felt something strange. The old woman was holding the cup up to Selina’s cheek, capturing all her tears. When Selina finally calmed, the cup was full. Quick as a wink, the old woman tipped the cup and poured Selina’s tears into Peter’s mouth.

He coughed. He sputtered. Then he sat up. Selina was so happy to see him alive, and Peter was so happy to see her free of her bottle and back to her normal size that neither of them could say anything. They just sat and looked at each other happily for a long, long time.

And then they thanked the old woman, got onto Black, rode to Selina’s home, and lived happily ever after.

Bluebell and Buttercup

Not so far away, but very, very long ago, there lived two fairy sisters named Bluebell and Buttercup. In their day fairies looked the same as other people, only much more beautiful and with powers that could be felt though they couldn’t be seen. Bluebell and Buttercup, the only daughters of the fairy queen, were the most beautiful of all the fairies and the most powerful, too. But they were spoiled and selfish and didn’t realize that their power was given for the good of everyone. They thought their power was theirs to play with, and that is exactly what they did.

The sisters were always causing trouble. When they were just two years old, Bluebell caught three mice, turned them purple, and kept them as pets. Buttercup was jealous of those mice, so she grew them all three feet tall to scare her sister. They ate all the cats in the county before the fairy queen finally caught them and shrunk them down again.

When they were five, Bluebell discovered that she loved chocolate, so she turned all the fence posts in the neighborhood into chocolate bars. The sun came out and melted all those chocolate fences before she could eat them. The cows and sheep and horses and chickens all got free from their fields and ran loose everywhere. In the middle of the chaos, Buttercup decided to make the best of the melted chocolate situation and turned all the grass into vanilla ice cream to make some sundaes. The mess was unbelievable. It took all the fairies several days to pick up all the sticky chicken feathers and wash the chocolate clumps out of the sheep’s wool.

When the girls were seven, they needed more time to play outside with their new bouncy ball, so they stopped the sun in the sky. It burned and burned until some of the dry grass caught fire, and there was a big blaze, and everyone was so tired from being awake for so long that they couldn’t even lift the buckets of water to fight the fire. If the fairy queen hadn’t come just in time and made it rain all over the fire, who knows what would have happened?

On their tenth birthday, Buttercup turned all the trees purple because that was Bluebell’s favorite color, and Bluebell made hundreds of mushrooms grow everywhere because they were Buttercup’s favorite food. All of that was fine until their two spells collided and giant purple mushrooms the size of trees began to sprout up everywhere. One popped up right under the Buttercup’s feet and she was stuck on the top of a twelve foot tall mushroom until her mother came along and fixed things again.

But the worst catastrophe of all happened when Bluebell and Buttercup were thirteen. Bluebell had gotten a new dress. It was purple, of course, and sparkly and swishy. She was so proud of her dress that she couldn’t stop talking about how pretty she looked it in. Buttercup was annoyed. When she couldn’t take anymore of Bluebell’s bragging, she said, “Like a toad all green and spotty, make that purple dress turn dotty!”

Bluebell’s sparkly purple dress was suddenly covered with ugly green polka dots. She was so mad that she instantly said, “In any dress I’m prettier than you, especially when your skin is blue!”

Buttercup instantly turned bright blue. She was furious. She ran at Bluebell yelling, “Think you’re pretty when you’re tall? Let’s see what you look like small!”

Bluebell shrank down until she was only the size of a leaf. The flowers in their mother’s garden towered over her. She couldn’t see her sister. She couldn’t see anything but the stems of the flowers and a little patch of blue sky peeking through the roof of yellow tulips above her. She was so scared that she spoke without thinking, “I’m a fairy, I won’t cry, I just need some wings to fly.” Instantly, delicate wings sprouted from her back, and she fluttered up above the flowers. Elated, she looked around for her sister.

At first she didn’t see her. It wasn’t until she heard a voice calling her name that she turned and saw Buttercup, two inches tall, flying toward her on tiny fragile wings. Each sister stared at the other’s blue face. Every spell that they had spoken had worked on both of them, and they hadn’t even realized it. They began to feel a little afraid. Buttercup whispered, “Spell go back without a trace. Give me back my normal face.” Nothing happened.

Bluebell sniffled a little and said, “Even if my sister wins, magic make me big again.” Nothing happened. They couldn’t undo their own magic. More scared than ever, the sisters flew off to find their mother.

They looked in the queen’s palace, but they didn’t see anyone. They looked in the gardens and in the forest, and still they didn’t see anyone. Now they were absolutely terrified. Finally, they went to the queen’s fairy pool. There they saw all the fairies gathered around the water, looking at their reflections. Every single one of them was tiny and blue, and every single one of them had wings. Bluebell and Buttercup were horrified. Their mother flew over to them.

“Girls, I assume we have you to thank for our new appearance?”

The girls nodded miserably and waited for their mother to make everything right. She did nothing. “I’m sorry, girls, I already tried. There is nothing I can do either. Together your magic proved too strong to be undone.”

Buttercup and Bluebell felt so sorry for what they had done that they worked very hard from that day on. They helped everyone make new tiny houses to live in out of twigs and flower petals and hollowed out pumpkins. They learned how to make a tiny little oven for baking tiny loaves of bread. And they made friends with all the animals of the forest, so that none of them would eat the fairies as they went about their work. Eventually the fairies learned to enjoy their new wings and make the best of their new life. But Bluebell and Buttercup never used their magic again.

And so it is that to this day, all the fairies are very , very small, and they all fly on delicate wings.

Glitterfly

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Sarah Lyn who loved everything pink and sparkly.  Her closet was full of pink dresses with sparkly stars and sparkly dresses with pink polka dots.  Her room had pink walls and a pink rug and a pink bed and sparkly pillows and a sparkly chair and sparkly stars hanging everywhere.  Every day she put on her pink sparkly coat and picked up her pink sparkly backpack and headed off to school.  She did NOT like school.  It wasn’t the teacher or the other kids or the studying that she didn’t like; those things were actually pretty fun.  What she hated about school was that there was nothing pink and sparkly there.  She hated riding the dull yellow school bus in the morning and she hated going inside the drab beige building.   She hated sitting at the boring brown desk and writing on plain white paper with ordinary gray pencil.  And she hated recess because all the other girls would swing on the black swing set (ugh!) or play with the orange ball (ew!).  Most of the time during recess, Sarah Lyn just went to the corner of the yard where some pretty flowers grew and lay down on her back and stared up into the sky, which wasn’t pink but did have a sort of sparkly glow to it.

One day, as Sarah lay and looked into the sky during recess, she heard a buzzing in her ear.   Thinking it was a mosquito, she swatted it away.  It came back.  She swatted it away again.  It came back again.  Extremely annoyed, Sarah Lyn sat up.  She saw something like a little bee buzzing from flower to flower.  At first Sarah didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but after a minute she stopped to rub her eyes.  Was she imagining it or was each flower changing color after the bee landed on it?  It was true.  The little yellow flowers turned red and the little purple flowers turned pink and the little pink flowers turned yellow.  Even better, each flower was a little more sparkly than it had been before.  In a flash, Sarah Lyn jumped up and started trying to catch that little bee.  It was hard to do.  The bee was quick and darted from flower to flower before Sarah Lyn could get close.  She didn’t give up, though.  She had a new idea.  She picked one of the little purple flowers and held very still with it in her hand.  Before long, the little bee buzzed right up to the flower and landed.  Quick as a wink, Sarah Lyn closed her hands around the buzzing creature.

“Hey!” came a muffled voice from inside her hands.  Sarah Lyn was so surprised she almost let go.  “Hey!” it said again.  “Let me go!”

Very carefully, Sarah Lyn opened her fingers just a crack and put her eye up to the hole.  “What are you?” she said.

“I’m a glitterfly, thank you very much, and I was just minding my own business when you so rudely snatched me up.  Now let. me. go.”

“But you were making those flowers colorful and sparkly.”

“Yes, of course I was.  I told you I’m a glitterfly.  Now please let me get back to it.”

“Can you make anything sparkly?”

“Of course.”

“Could you make anything pink?”

“Of course, I can change the color of anything.  Really, you’re wasting my time here.  Please let me go.”

But Sarah Lyn had a much better idea.  “I will make you a deal,” she said to the glitterfly.  “I will let you go tonight before I go to bed if you will turn everything I tell you to pink and sparkly.”

The glitterfly was indignant.  “I can’t make everything just pink.  My job is to make things colorful.”

“Pink and sparkly or I’m putting you in a jar,” said Sarah Lyn.

“All right then,” the glitterfly said sulkily.

So Sarah Lyn went happily back into the school, carrying the glitterfly in her hands.  The first thing she did was to touch her desk, and it turned all pink and sparkly.  Sarah Lyn smiled a very big smile.  Then she touched her pencil and paper and turned them both pink and sparkly.  She carefully zipped the glitterfly into her pocket and wrote all her schoolwork in glittery pink.  When it was time for music class, Sarah Lyn took the glitterfly out of her pocket and quickly skipped around the room touching all the desks and turning them pink and sparkly.  She touched the blackboard and turned it into a pinkboard.  All the other kids stared.  Sarah Lyn touched the fish tank and suddenly there was a sparkle fish swimming in pink water.  The other kids shouted.

“Sarah Lyn, what are you doing?” asked the teacher, taking her arm.  Suddenly the teacher turned bright pink and sparkly.  Now Sarah Lyn stared, too.  She slowly backed away from her teacher and accidentally bumped into a boy in her class.  He turned pink and sparkly.

“Stop it!” shouted Sarah Lyn to the glitterfly.  She looked down at her hand.  It was all pink and sparkly.  With a gasp, Sarah Lyn let go of the glitterfly.  Faster than you could say, “That poor pink boy!” the glitterfly darted out the window and flew away.  Sarah Lyn burst into tears.  She wasn’t the only one.  The little boy had tears in eyes, too, and the teacher was quietly sobbing.  Even the fish looked as if he wanted to cry.

No one knew what to do.  The principal came and all the kids parents were called.  The parents were quite upset.  No amount of washing or scrubbing or rubbing would make that pink come off.  They called in the school nurse and she called a doctor, but he had no medicine for unpinking people.  Just when everyone had given up hope, one of the little girls gave a gasp.  She was pointing at the chalkboard.  It was black.  Everyone began to talk at once.  The pink was seeping out of the desks.  The fish was beginning to look quite dull.  The teacher’s hair was getting browner by the minute.  In no time at all everyone and everything was back to normal.  The glitterfly’s changes were only meant to last for a little while.  Laughing and cheering, all of the students and teachers and parents and friends went home to celebrate.  Sarah Lyn was left in the classroom all alone, staring at her pink and sparkly hand.  She had held the glitterfly the longest, and her pink was never going to fade.   Sarah Lyn sat and thought for a long, long time.

Then she stood up and walked home and used her sparkly pink hand to paint all the walls of her room a nice cheerful yellow.