Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Crooked Story

A word of warning: This story is not for kids. It may contain characters from beloved fairy tales, but the following tale is anything but child's play.
 
A Crooked Story
By Lisa McCourt Hollar


Jill struggled up the hill, her small legs having trouble traversing the terrain. The two buckets she carried were too heavy for her alone, but ever since Jack’s fall, he’d been unable to help her bring water back down to the village. Their poor mother was too old to climb the hill and the other children that lived with them too small.

Care for the orphans had mostly fallen on Jill and she tried not to be resentful, after all Mother Hubbard had given up much for them. When the food ran out a few months ago, leaving the cupboards bare, she’d slaughtered the dog so they could eat. Some of the younger ones cried, but Mother said it was better than eating shoe leather, which was the next step if they didn’t find something to eat soon.

“Fine day, isn’t it?”

“It is if you have nothing better to do than sit on walls,” Jill said, glaring at the oval shaped annoyance. Humpty just laughed, rocking back and forth, acting the fool everyone thought he was. Suddenly a gust of wind came along, pushing the egg off balance. He teetered back and forth, his arms flailing.

“Heeeelp,” he wailed, tipping forward, about to fall off of the wall. Jill watched, horrified as Humpty splattered on the ground, his yolk spreading out in a gruesome display. Looking around, she saw that there was no one else around to witness what had just happened. She knew she should call the Kings Men to put Humpty back together, that was the standard protocol when he fell and he fell often, but just as she was turning to run for help another idea entered her mind. Setting her buckets down, she carefully scooped the yolk into one of the containers. When she was finished, she buried the shells so no one would discover what had happened.

“Look what I have,” Jill said, proudly displaying the bucket for Mother Hubbard.

“Egg? Where did you find eggs?”

“A crooked man walking with a cat and a mouse,” Jill lied. “He was thirsty and sold me the eggs in exchange for a drink of water.”

“How fortunate we are,” Mother said, heating up the stove to make scrambled eggs.

That night when Jill went to sleep she dreamed about a crooked man.

“You lied,” he said, pointing a crooked finger at her. The road they were on began to shake, twisting itself into a new shape. When the tremors were finished, Jill found herself standing on a crooked path. The crooked man laughed, twisting his mouth into a gruesome smile. He held out his hand, offering her a seed.

Waking, Jill couldn’t shake the dream. She wanted to tell Jack about it but he had already left to go help Bo Peep tend to her sheep. Jill felt the vaguest wisp of jealousy forming in her belly. Bo lived on the other side of the village and lived in a nice house, not a shoe. She ate every day, not just once a week and didn’t have to drag buckets up a hill to get water; she had indoor plumbing. And Jack was in love with her. Last week he was showing off his jumping skills, trying to impress the girl. Jill thought it served him right when he burnt his dick on the fucking candle stick.

“Boy never learns,” she mumbled, heading out the door to go find him. She didn’t have to go far though, since he was running back home.

“Did little Miss Priss laugh at you again?”

“No, look!” Jack held out his hand revealing a seed.

Jill clutched her stomach, feeling ill. “Where did you get that?”

“A crooked man gave it to me. He said to tell you thanks for the water.”

“Throw it away,” Jill whispered. Her throat felt tight and blood rushed in her ears, drowning out the sound of a crooked laugh.

“I know it’s not much… but it’s food.”

“THROW IT AWAY!” Jill smacked Jack’s hand, sending the seed flying through the air.

“Why did you do that?” Jack asked, searching the weeds for the tiny seed.

“Let’s just go back home,” Jill said, pulling on his arm. “Maybe you can help me with the water today?”

“I don’t think so, my head is still too woozy.”

That night they had nothing to eat and Jill went to bed hungry. She dreamed about the crooked man and a giant ogre. Jack was trying to steal golden eggs from the hulking beast. The earth shook from huge feet that chased Jack across a misty ground.

Stifling a scream Jill woke to excited whispers outside her window. “What’s going on?” She asked, looking out. A huge beanstalk had grown overnight and Mother and the children stood around it, staring up into the clouds. Jill looked up, surprised to see that the stalk rose all the way to the sky.

“Jack climbed up it,” Mary Contrary said, her eyes wide with excitement. “He said the Crooked man told him there would be golden eggs up there.

“NO!” Bolting out of bed, Jill rushed outside, she had to save Jack. But just as she reached the stalk and put her foot on the lowest vine, thunder erupted from the clouds and golden yolk sprayed down on them. A booming voice echoed from above, “Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell someone that will fill my tum!”

“JACK!” Jill screamed as something fell out of the sky, splattering on the ground. It was Jack’s head and this time he really did break his crown.

“This is all my fault,” Jill cried, falling to her knees. Between sobs, she confessed to Mother what she had done.

“It’s too late to do anything about it now,” Mother said, her voice forgiving, “and I suppose something good has come from this.”

“What?” Jill asked.

“Breakfast! Have you ever had fried brains?” Laughing, the old woman snatched up Jack’s head and headed back into the shoe.


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