Fairytale Endings: No Princess

Alright, boys and grrls, gather 'round. It's your boy Johnny Despair, Esq., back from his big ol' business trip, and don't you worry, he remembered to bring gifts. He ain't forgotten 'bout his little ragamuffins.

Now, settle down, cuz this treat is special, see. You gotta hear a little this and that to appreciate it, alright? Now, me and Mr. Happy've been workin' our little hands to the bone! This all started with a simple little story, and then good ol' Mr. Happy said, "Why don't I make some pictures?" And I said, that's fine. And he said, "Gosh, why don't you make more stories, so I can make more pictures for all the boys and girls out there?" And I said, "Why sure, they've been good lately, why not?"

And all of the sudden, we had five stories on our hands, two written by Mr. happy himself! Now, it wouldn't be fair to make him write AND draw everything, so I lent a hand and started drawing too.

"But Mr. Johnny—"

That's Mr. Johnny Despair, Esq., kid.

"But Mr. Johnny Despair, Esq., you don't draw!"

Awww, ain't that cute, thinkin' he knows things. No, boys and girls, I don't draw much. But I can make a little magic happen from time to time, should the moon be in just the right position.

Oh, there's just one more thing: I mentioned we had five stories, right? Well, one story ate all of his veggies and did all his chores the first time he was asked, so you know what, kiddies? He grew up real big and strong and fine-lookin', too. And he was so mush bigger than the other kids, it made them feel all wimpy just standin' next to him. So we're going to let him out to play next week.

Now, settle down, children. Who here likes fairy tales?

Sour Apple
—written by Johnny Despair, Esq, with illustrations by: Mr. Jack Happy

oddamn, fucking peons,” she said.

I turned to her. I was seated next to her at the bar, but she wasn't talking to me. She seemed to be cursing her empty glass. She didn't even look up as she called for another drink, some signature mixture that she called “Love Gone Sour.” I ordered one too, having never heard of the concoction, and willing to try anything once. The drink smelled of apples and ethanol, and fought all the way down. She laughed as I grimaced and coughed.
She was a beautiful, absurd image, sitting there. In this dingy little “tavern,” with that intricate shawl hiding her face, making her look like a truly refined, modest woman. But she'd drank any hint of modesty away by now. She was beginning to sway like a cartoon snake before a charmer. Her auburn eyes darted about the room and her head followed lazily after like a person who was walking an over-eager dog.
“What 'cha looking for?” I asked.
She turned to me. She looked me in the eye and held my gaze. Neither of us looked away. Then she nodded to herself, satisfied, and turned back to her drink. She had a poor profile; it made her nose look sharp and predatory.
“What's anyone looking for?” she finally answered.
“True love?” I ventured. She laughed again.
“That's…that's what I figured, you know?” Her head tilted back; the dim lights made her olive complexion glow, and I couldn't take my eyes off of her. “Shows what I know, though.”
“How so?” She snaped her head back forward.
“I tried to help her. I knew this girl. Pretty thing. A little thick, but very pretty. Not too lucky with love. She came to me one night, crying her eyes out. 'Why can't I just find the man for me?' So I said: well, I can help you find him. Make it so he comes to you, you know? I mean…I was doing her a favor, for chrissakes. She asked me to!” For just a moment, there was something sad in her eyes. She shrugged it off.
“So what…what exactly happened?” I was holding my chin in one hand, my drink in the other, trying to convey my interest and hide my drunkenness at the same time.

“They—those peons—they called me a witch. Called me hateful, said I was jealous. Like it was some spiteful thing, you know?” Her head swung from her drink back to me. “Tell me, if you got to sleep, peacefully, and dream pleasant little dreams, with no worries or uncertainties or cares, in complete bliss, totally unharmed, until the day you met your true love: would you call that cruel? Evil? Wicked?” She took a swig of her drink. “I'd call it a damn blessing.”
“Well…what about if you never met your true love?”
She looked into my eyes again. “Then you'd just sleep. Dream. Forever. About your true love. Never knowing the disappointment that life held. Never knowing loneliness, rejection, misery.” She let out a fierce little cackle. “If I had really hated her, I wouldn't have done anything!”

And then, to her drink again: “Why can't anyone see that?”
I waved down the bartender, ordered us another round. I raised my drink to her. “To romantics.”
She raised her drink to mine. “To happily ever afters.”

What Fools

written by: Johnny Despair Esq., with illustrations by Mr. Jack Happy

'd been visiting the center for the past few weeks. A community service thing. It was creepy and it smelled awful but it beat picking trash on the highway. And the people really were nice, for the most part. Just sad and lonely and strange, leftovers from a forgotten age. I wondered if I wasn't doing more harm than good, invading their territory, flaunting my youth, my ability to just get up and leave if I wanted to. I was, of course, just making excuses for not wanting to do it. Still…

They really were nice folks, though. Always interested in what I was doing with myself. “Do you have a girlfriend?” they asked me, and “What do you do for a living?” Did I have any pets, did my family live nearby. I didn't tell them about the court-order, but everything else was fair game. One lady never asked me questions, never said anything at all, that I could tell. Miss Merryweather, they called her, and I never heard her correct them. I would read them the paper or lead a talent show or bring in my cat to visit, and they'd all gather round, eager for the stimulation, but Miss Merryweather would have nothing to do with it. She just drifted around the room, pausing to touch someone's shoulder, or to stare out a window.

The staff told me it was psycho-somatic. Nothing really wrong with her, they said. Dropped off by her daughter. Pretty young thing. “Right, Miss Merryweather? Isn't your daughter pretty?” Miss Merryweather nodded carefully. “I bet you can't wait to see her again, huh, Miss Merryweather?” She never visited.

I made it a point from then on to spend at least a little time with Miss Merryweather whenever I came by. The other folks didn't seem to understand. “She's fine, she just wants attention,” they said. “Don't you go and try to be a doctor.” She made me think of my own mother, slowly eaten away by madness. I felt less guilty when I sat with Miss Merryweather. I talked to her about whatever came to mind, and when that ran out, I told her stories. Ones my mother used to tell me. Sometimes I caught her smiling at something, when I sat with her. This was uncommon.

Once, I ran out of stories, so I brought in one of those huge tomes of fables that rests on every child's bookshelf. It seemed to me like she was trying to read it over my shoulder, so I left it for her. “Tell me which one's your favorite; I'll read it for you next time.” I smiled at her as her gaze held some empty middle space.

My next visit, I did my normal thing, a few hours entertaining the gang with a trivia contest. Afterwards I found Miss Merryweather, asked her how she liked the book. I didn't expect her to suddenly speak, to whisper out a sad, rasping “Thank you,” but I was thinking she might acknowledge me. But no such luck. I asked her if I could read her some more stories; nothing. I tried to find the book, inquired with her caregivers, but no one had seen it. They searched her room to no avail. They shrugged. Crazy old people, who knows?

I kept visiting with Miss Merryweather whenever I went by the center. Sometimes I even snuck her little gifts, candy and tea and the like. I had no clue if she could actually make herself any tea, but it seemed right, somehow. Once, I was sure I could smell the pumpkin-spice blend on her. But I never seemed to make any progress with her. She was as sad and distant as ever.

Eventually, I served my time, but by then, I'd made the center such a hobby, I kept going anyway. It made me glad I never told them about the court-order; they'd have thought I'd done something awful, to keep coming for that long. One day, Miss Merryweather was nowhere to be seen. This didn't seem that unusual, as she wandered so much; still, I hadn't skipped out on her yet. I asked around about her. “She's gone,” they told me. “Oh, not like that. Well, sort of? She's…just gone.” She had disappeared a few nights ago. The police were looking for her. They tried to contact her family, but her daughter had changed her number at some point, and no one knew how to reach her.

I stood dumbfounded. How could they just lose her? Why didn't anyone care? Before I could say anything, the staffer's eyes lit up. “Oh! Right!” She hustled off, returning moments later with a box. “We found this the other night while looking for some clue to where she went. It was just sitting there, under her bed. I swear we'd already…”

The box was stuffed with half-empty tea tins and candy bags. I smiled. It occurred the me that I never gave her enough stuff to fill this whole box, though. Not unless…

I rooted through the wrappers. There it was: the book I'd given her. I thanked the orderly and went home. For some reason, I felt like I couldn't open it right away. I made a cup of coffee and moved out onto the balcony. Thumbing through the book, I wondered what I expected to find. Some terrible secret? Documented abuse? Evidence of dementia? An illustration caught my eye. It was a scene of some unfortunate young girl meeting her fairy godmother. The godmother's wings had been crossed out with a black crayon.

I read through the accompanying story, hoping for some further mark. I found it on the last page, beneath the “They all lived happily ever after” bit. She'd scrawled an imitation of the fairy godmother's face, and next to that, added, “What about her?”

Okay, children, that's enough for right now. Ya'll get up and stretch your legs, grab a snack, do tinkles. Mr. Happy'll be in in five minutes to give you kids your next story.

Hope you like our second half, kiddies. Till then, I'm just the lovable, huggable,

Johnny Despair, Esq.

1 comment:

Red X said...

I loved them! Short and simple, but good, especially the What About Her.