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National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

 In honor of National Tell a Fairy Tale Day I thought I'd share something I wrote awhile ago. It is a very familiar fairy tale, but told from a different character's point of view. Enjoy ;-)

The Myth of The Englishman

The fire was crackling, and the rain was tapping its usual song on the roof, but she heard the knock at the door. She’d been waiting and listening for it. She had sent for them hours ago when she had first become concerned. Finally, the two of them stood at her door – soaked to the bone. They removed their coats, and their otherwise crisp uniforms were now soggily hanging from their conspicuous frames. She was beside herself with worry, but manners dictated she offer the men some tea and cake.

     “So, you say your husband is missing Ma’am?” one of the officers asked, as she poured the first cup of tea.

     “Yes, sir.” she warbled. “And it’s not like him. Not like him at all. He never misses a meal! Breakfast, brunch, luncheon, dinner, tea, and supper. Like clockwork, sir. Every three hours, every day, sir.”

     “And when did you last see him, Ma’am?”

     “At lunch, sir.” she answered, cutting the cake by the trembling light of the candles. “He wasn’t himself. He thought he smelled …” she stopped herself.

     “Smelled what?” asked the junior officer, with his mouth full of his first bite of cake.

     “An Englishman.” she whispered hesitantly.

     “Has anyone seen an Englishman in these parts recently?” asked the senior officer.

     “I have.” she said after a long pause. “But I didn’t know, initially.” she added quickly. “And he was just a boy, sir.”

     “The boys can be the most dangerous.” the senior officer said with a nod and a squinty-eyed expression. “Tell us everything, from the beginning.” he said, shoving a bite of cake in his mouth.

     “About 3 weeks ago a boy came to the door. He was so tiny, and dirty, and skinny. I felt so bad for him. Clearly, he wasn’t being cared for properly. I thought perhaps he’d been abandoned. He asked me for something to eat. How could I say no?”

     “My dad always said, if you feed ‘em they always come back.” interrupted the junior officer. The senior officer shook his head at the junior one, indicating he should just eat his cake in silence.

     “Well,” Mrs. Vast began again, “I let him in and fed him. He seemed a nice boy. Said his name was Jack, his mother was a poor widow, and he was so grateful for the food. He seemed so nice.” she paused a moment and stirred her tea. “But my husband came home for lunch a bit early, or maybe I’d lost track of time. Anyway, I knew my husband would kill him and eat him, so I scooped him up and hid him in the kettle quickly. My husband could smell him, of course. But I convinced him it was just lunch that he smelled.

“My husband asked me to bring him his bags of money to count. He likes to do that after lunch – he finds it soothing, and usually he’ll take a little nap afterward. I though that’d be a great chance to get Jack out of the kettle and put him outside, so I brought my husband his money bags. While I waited for him to nod off, I left to go bring the washing in off the line, and when I came back … My husband was asleep, his money bags were gone, and when I looked, Jack wasn’t in the kettle anymore!”

     “Typical Englishman.” grumbled the senior officer.

     “Let me tell you, my husband was not happy when he awoke to see his money bags gone.” Mrs. Vast added. “He knew it was an Englishman – he’d smelled him – but I was too afraid to admit I’d let him in.”

     “Was that the only time you saw an Englishman around here?” the officer asked.

     “No.” she said softly after a very long time. “He came back a week later.”

     “You didn’t let him in again, did you?” asked the junior officer incredulously.

     “When I first saw him, I didn’t recognize him! His clothes were so much finer, and he looked slightly better fed. Then when I let him in, he started to apologize, and I realized he was the same boy. He said he was terribly sorry; that he’d only taken the money because he and his mother needed it so badly. He said he’d come back to make amends.” she explained hurriedly.

     “How did he plan to do that?” asked the senior officer.

     “I don’t know. Before he could tell me, my husband came home and so I shoved Jack into the oven quickly.”

     “Did you cook him?” asked the junior officer gleefully.

     “No, no. It was off at the time.” she answered.

     “So, what happened that time, Ma’am?” asked the senior officer as he shot a dirty look at the junior officer.

     “After my husband ate his breakfast, he asked me to bring him our goose that lays the golden eggs. I did. I had to go up and make the bed, so I left the room. A moment later I heard the goose honking furiously and when I went downstairs to see what it was, I found the goose gone, my husband a bit groggy from an impromptu nap, and the oven empty. Obviously, that little thief had lied to me.”

     “Sadly, if an Englishman’s lips are moving, he’s lying – it’s just in their nature. I’ve seen it before.” the senior officer said sympathetically. “So, was that the last sighting?”

     “Yes. That’s the last time I saw him. But today … it was most peculiar, sir.” she said wistfully.

     “Tell me what happened.” the senior officer asked gently.

     “My husband insisted he smelled an Englishman again today, but I never saw the boy! We looked around, together. I even looked in the kettle and the oven! If I’d seen him, I would have stomped that lying little thief, but he was nowhere to be found.” she shrugged.

“So, I served my husband his lunch, like always, though he kept catching a whiff of an Englishman now and again. Anyway, after lunch, my husband asked for our golden harp. I could hear it playing for a while after I went outside to tend the laundry. Our neighbor, Mrs. Goliath, wanted to chat a bit about the fact it looked like rain, and whether I had a carrot I could spare for her soup. We were talking over the fence when there was suddenly a loud booming. I turned in time to see my husband running down the road. That’s the last I saw of him.” she was fighting back tears.

     “We’ll file a missing person’s report and put out an APB immediately Ma’am.” said the senior officer. “And we’ll send out a search party at first light.”

     “Do you think you can find him?” she asked hopefully.

     “We’ll do everything we can Ma’am.” said the senior officer again.

     “I don’t know what I’m going to do. My husband is the breadwinner, and now I have no savings, no golden goose, no harp – nothing!” she was sobbing by then.

     “Do you have any friends or family we can contact for you?” asked the senior officer.

     “I have a son who lives in Titania, but he married an ogress. My husband doesn’t approve. We don’t talk much anymore.” she cried softly.

     “Maybe you should call him.” said the senior officer as he stood to leave. “We’ll do our best Ma’am. Thank you for the cake, it was lovely.”

     “Yes, thank you.” chimed in the junior officer.

     As the door closed off the only available light, the officers turned and slogged down the mud path in the blackness of the constant rain. The tiny drops fell heavy on their hats; taking a tour around the brim before landing on the shoulders of their great coats. Their boots plunged deeply into the mud with each plodding step, leaving a crater behind that quickly filled with water.

     “Are we really gonna form a search party in the morning?” asked the junior officer.

     “Of course.” replied the senior officer.

     “You think we’ll find him?” asked the junior officer.

     “Not in a million years.” answered the senior officer. “The thing about the Englishmen – the reason some folks actually think they’re just a myth – is that they just appear and disappear like that!” he snapped his fingers and droplets sprayed in every direction; some landing on the junior officer’s face. “We can never find where they come from, or where they go.” he shrugged. “And if the Mister there followed one … he’s a goner.” He shook his head and the junior officer nodded.



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