Exercising the craft—March 23, 2015

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt—Complicate It: Children’s stories are often allegorical and presented in a straightforward manner. This week, take your favorite children’s story, fairy tale, or myth and complicate it. Use the original as a jumping-off point to introduce wild elements, unlikely back stories, and off-center characters.

http://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises

I find it interesting that no one wonders how my cousin happened to be standing at the same exact spot where the house fell on her. People usually focus on the girl who came out of the house and all her adventures. No one thinks of the woman under the house. Was she strolling down the lane? Had she stopped to check her shoes—those lovely silver shoes? No, no one stops to ask just how she got there.

Well, I’ll tell you. She was there because we had a fight.

Now, mind you, I actually didn’t have a horrid dislike for my cousin. I realize she had an unfortunate moniker—people did call her the Wicked Witch of the East, after all. But she usually treated me well. Okay, so maybe she pushed me into a mud puddle once. And I realize people might call that incident especially cruel because it hadn’t rained. She created the puddle first and then pushed me into it. But for the most part we got on quite well.

In any case on that unfortunate day she and I had had an argument. We’d taken a quiet flight over her realm and then alighted to take a walk. I mentioned to her that I’d heard of a new opportunity. A new region no one had ever approached. What if, I said to her, I tried to visit that region and tried to help someone there?

She started asking me questions about this region, about who I could possibly help. At first I thought she was asking because she wanted me to succeed. She wanted to see me advance past the stage of apprenticeship. I had done everything the way I’d been taught. My cousin had administered the final testing herself. It took me a week to recover from the testing and another two weeks for the marks to fade from my skin, but even she had to admit—albeit grudgingly—that I had passed.

That final testing had happened six months ago, and no one had come to me with an assignment. No region where I could use my talents. No group of people who needed help. So when I happened to hear, by chance, about this new region, much farther away, and of a young girl who needed relief…well, I thought, who better to advise me than the woman who had given me the final blessing?

As I explained to my cousin about the girl and what I could do to help her, she began to laugh. I stopped talking. Had I said something funny? Had the girl’s circumstances struck my cousin as humorous?

No. No, this young girl desperately needed assistance, and she deserved it. She had always proven herself to be loyal and honest and courageous and kind. So why did my cousin laugh?

“You honestly think you have the kind of talents to make a difference in her life?” she said in between bouts of cackles. “Why? What makes you think you have talent of any sort?”

“But…but you said…at the final blessing, you said I had the talent…the gift,” I said. “You said I had the capability of making a great difference in…in someone’s life.”

“Of course I said that!” she exclaimed. “In a crowd of hundreds, one must always hold up tradition. But in the reality of privacy, you must understand that you are nothing special. You have nothing to give others.”

It finally dawned me: my cousin had never intended me to succeed. She had not believed in me. And she enjoyed my inactivity.

So I decided to show her that she had taught me well. That my final testing had not been forgotten. That I had listened and observed and absorbed all she had done to others.

I cast my first spell then. I made sure she understood how she had stunned others with her cruelty. She looked at me with wide eyes and her mouth open in horror. As I took flight again, I caught sight of a house-shaped shadow and darted out of the way.

I made my way to the new realm and watched the girl for some time. I watched as the other members of her household treated her with disrespect and condescension. And when I heard her cry and wish with all her heart for a change of fortune, I made myself known to her.

“Who are you?” she asked with diamond-faceted tears in her eyes.

“Why, Cinderella, my child,” I said with growing confidence, “I am your fairy godmother.”

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