Boys and girls, I’m up to old tricks. Some might find this offensive. No sex. No violence. A questionable word or two and probably not completely PC. Up to you…
What you’re about to hear is not actually a ‘once upon a time.’ It was more the beginning of a second go at something that didn’t work out well the first go round. The details even I find a little confusing, having just returned from a long stint out-country, so stick with me here.
I saw an old school chum, couple of years younger than me, regally dressed, walking from the south drawbridge into the village.
“Yo, Fipper!” I yelled at Philip across the village green.
“That’d be ‘Prince Philip,’ to you, bud!” he shot back at me before he turned to see who it was who’d yelled at him.
“It’s me. Chauncy Throckmorton. You remember? ‘Dragon Man’!”
“What it is, Throck? I thought we’d lost you to one of those way-east dragons! When’d you get back?”
“Couple of months, Phil. Took some heat from one of those flamers. Been recuperating. About ready to go back to work.”
I realize, it’s not a guy thing, but though we were not classmates, we kinda saw eye-to-eye and were good buds years ago in school. We hugged like two tournament jousters who’d just upset the favored home team.
With an undisguised frown in my face I asked, “Phil, baby, what up?”
“What do you mean ‘what up’?”
“Aw, that’s a thing we say back east. What I mean is, what’s happening? You don’t look so good.”
“I’m okay. Just some stuff on my mind.”
Prince Philip didn’t look okay to me, regal attire aside. Not at all. I hated to see a basically decent sort of dude with his feel-goods hurting. I guess my concern showed. Philip continued.
“I have to go kiss Beauty. Wake her up again.”
“Wait a minute, Fip. Back east word was that other prince, what was his name?”
“Yeah that’s the one. Story was, Handsome Prince woke her and they lived happily ever after.”
“Nope. That was me. And a big mistake too!”
“Give, man. There’s some story there. Can’t help if I don’t know, you know?”
“Well, Throck, everyone thought Beauty was under an evil spell.”
“No. Beauty was such a bitch, even her daddy knew it and he contracted a spellbinder…”
“The ugly witch?”
“Not allowed to say that Throck.”
“They prefer ‘spellbinder’ nowadays. Anyway, daddy, the King, was tired of her nonsense and called in the spellbinder to put Beauty to sleep until he could figure out what to do about her ugly disposition. It was a tough go, given Beauty’s aversion to chores around the castle and all, but her curiosity got her in the end. There was a lot of talk about her industriously spinning away. Actually, she was pestering the scullery maid who was, in fact, spinning. Kind of fitting that spell. When you think of it, all Beauty ever did was lay around until it was time to eat.”
“Who’d have known!”
“Then I came along and broke the spell.”
“No. And he understood why I delayed the wedding and all. I mean daddy put her under for a thousand good reasons. Beauty commenced making life miserable for daddy again, and now me. And half the kingdom.”
“But she’s asleep now? Again?”
“Yeah. I looked-up the spellbinder. Asked her to put Beauty under again before the marriage. She agreed but said rules allowed as now maximum time was five years. Then you know, there’d be an obligation. Had a tough time with it too. Beauty wouldn’t go near the spinning wheel. She wasn’t as you’d guess too domestic to begin with. Busy primping and all most of the day. Putting on some chunk too. So the spellbinder got artichokes. They have those pointy spines. Spellbinder dosed them up. Figured to capitalize on Beauty’s appetite. Beauty wasn’t keen on them, but seeing the help enjoying them, she tried one. Luckily, it was one of the treated ones. It was gonna be tough around the castle for a while as two of the scullery wenches took the spell too. That’s okay. I knew what to do.”
“But you have to go wake Beauty… Again?”
“I’d be looking for Handsome Prince. Turn the job over to him.”
“No. He split. Word gets around, you know. The King’s kind of insisting. Beauty is after all, his daughter. And he has to put up with the Queen.”
“Maybe you can have the old hag, uh, spellbinder on hand when you do the deed. You know, pop Beauty back off to sleep right away.”
“That spellbinder got some bad press. Kinda wonder if the press just didn’t have an axe to grind. Seems there were those Leiderhosen kids, Hanson and Gretchid…”
“Gretchid? Heck of a name for a kid. Almost as bad as Threadbare.”
“Family name. Some relation in politics. Somewhere in the cold country.”
“Nah, Michigan, I think. Anyway, the spellbinder split. Met some weird dude with a big balloon and bigger plans. Can’t reach her. The thought did occur. Shame too. I was kind of digging that Rella lady.”
“Oh, that one, Cindy Rella.”
“Yeah. Her ma got turned on by that Pied Piper guy, ran away with him to some commune. Where was that? Oh yeah, Oregon. Odd place.”
“Never been there.”
“Sounds like a good place to avoid. Anyway, she abandoned the child. Her daddy took up with a really tough broad. Did all right though. Cindy got herself situated with an old biddy who really knew how to wave a wand.”
“Not the old biddy. Told you she was old.”
“Nah. Meant Cindy.”
“Kind of frumpy if you know what I mean. Sure, Cindy really fills out a ball gown and all, but she’s got a face that needs some work. Makes up for it in the kitchen. Girl can cook! Got other skills too. You ought to see what she can do with a pumpkin!”
“Wand lady help with that?”
“Who cares? But she’s hanging with that Charming guy now.”
“Prince. Prince Charming. Suspect his eyesight’s failing. They seem happy.”
“Oh. Didn’t Charming have a case for that odd girl with the pale skin?”
“Years ago. That was White.”
“Of course, it’s white. Until you turn the dogs loose in the morning.”
“No. Snow White. Beauty’s Cousin.”
“I was poking at you, Fipper. I knew who you meant. That’s the one. The one who hung with the seven dwarfs.”
“Well, of course they were little, didn’t I say ‘dwarves’?”
“You can’t call them that anymore.”
“Oh, that again.”
“Yeah. You knew they were all from South Fairyland?”
“No, I didn’t. Been away a long time. Dragon slaying sometimes keeps you out of the loop.”
“And there were eight, you know?”
“Only remember seven.”
“Yup. LeBraun had something of a reputation, so he didn’t make the cut when the documentary people came around a few years back.”
“Yeah. Bubba, BillBob, Hooter, Cooter, Shooter, Pooter, and Booger – you remember them as Lazy, Sleazy, Floppy, Cootie, Sloppy, Stinkie, and Booger did the show alone. LeBraun, Tippytoes, the kids called him, got short-shrifted.”
“That’s a pun, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Guess it is. Don’t let it get around. We’d both be in trouble.”
“Shame about LeBraun though. If it’s true, all of it, he’d get the starring role now.”
“Wouldn’t interest him anymore. Opened a dress shop and professional wrestler’s boutique on the east side of Ogresville. Doing well, I understand. Odd market, really.”
“Times are changing. Seeing that. Ain’t been back long, but already seeing it.”
“Yeah, and White’s nearly as good looking as Rella. Can’t cook or anything. More an artsy type. That’s irrelevant now that Beauty’s back in play. Beside she’s messing around with Prince Florian.”
“Stupid name. Florian?”
“Reminds me. Meant to ask you how you came to be called ‘Threadbare’ when we were kids. But being four years older, you took off on that big contract in, uh, where was it?”
“Well, Philip, back then I hit a growth spurt. Being one of the down times with dragon work and all for Daddy, we were poor. My folks could hardly afford both armor for training and school clothes every year, so I had to get by with a lot of stuff Mom bought at the Renny Fairs.”
Prince Philip asked a few questions about my dragon work. I dutifully lamented the OSHA intrusions, the AFLDU – Affiliated Fully Licensed Dragons’ Union, and the difficulty of getting much done with social distancing and all. But I also pointed out some good was there – the benefits of flame-retardant requirements, which unfortunately has just been set aside by the DU. New rules in place for close-quarters fighting which take a lot of the fun out of work. Old school dragons are with me on that, but it appears the new kids coming up are going to see the new rules stay.
Fipper was getting a little antsy, so we said goodbyes agreeing to “do lunch” one afternoon. As I turned to head to the armorer’s forge, Fipper had one last idea, which he put to me.
“Wouldn’t consider doing an old buddy a favor would you?”
“Sure, be gla… Whoa! You don’t think I’d…”
“I dunno, Throck. New face. Might be just the thing to turn Beauty around. Beside she’s been asleep five more years. She might see things a little differently. Mend her ways.”
“No, don’t think so, Phil.”
“Yeah. Bad idea, I guess.”
“Phil, with a dragon you pretty much know what you’re up against. A mad princess? Nope. I’ll take my chances with dragons and OSHA.”
Prince Philip and I went our separate ways. The armorer’s shop was just across the green from where Fipper and I’d been talking. I’m having one of those chain mail things custom made. Lot easier to move in. Got a new contract in Svenska, wherever the hell that is. Somebody mentioned cold. Might need to see about upgrading the lining.
While it might be interesting to hang around to see how Phil makes out, it’s probably a good time to beat feet. His almost father-in-law, being King, liking Phil a lot, and understanding the kid’s predicament, might be up to some fiat declaring an odd mutual assistance for his otherwise soon-to-be son-in-law. What with me being fresh in Phil’s mind, I don’t want him bending the King’s ear in such a way dragons look any more attractive than they do now.
It’d be nice if it were a ‘happily ever after’ for Fipper and Beauty. But I don’t hold great hopes, judging from what Fipper had to say. When I get back from Svenska, I’ll take a look. Might let you know. If you’re curious.
Reposted: Writings- Short Stories- Once Upon A Time- “Threadbare and the Three Princes“