Sleeping With the Fish, by Diane Arrelle
She pulled another pair of pants from the never-ending pile of laundry. Swiping her arm across her forehead, she inwardly cursed her stepmother, the king and her life. Between the hot black iron and the fireplace, it was stifling, no wait she decided, it was more than stifling, it was hellish.
The only relief was the small breeze that occasionally drifted into the window overlooking the distant waves. “What I’d give for an air conditioner or even a small oscillating fan,” she mumbled then laughed because it didn’t matter. The tower had no electricity
Oh well, she shrugged in resignation; she only had to iron clothes like they did in the dark ages endlessly until she died. Mortality did have its perks… it gave her something to hope for.
She picked the heavy, black iron out of the coals and her arm started moving methodically once again just as it always did, always had too. She glanced out the window at the greenish blue swells and fantasized about a forbidden swim. She used to love to swim back when her father had been alive. She’d had the best tan, a surfboard, and bikini figure and lived the endless summer.
The sweat mixing with tears dripped off her chin onto the trousers she was ironing and created little puffs of steam. Suddenly the iron stopped at a bump in the pocket. She felt like smashing the lump, but a small voice told her not to do it.
She looked around and found the source of the voice in the fireplace. She heaved the black iron at it.
The small fairy quickly dodged it and yelped. “Hey, is that any way to treat your fairy godmother?”
The girl snapped. “Some fairy godmother! You disappear while I’m at the damned nightclub and leave me there in rags. My stinking stepmother gets me trapped here for life by promising that dumb, inbred prince that I could spin straw into gold and fix the county’s sinking economy, so now because you went off on some vacation, I’m stuck ironing mountains of clothes for the rest of my days. I could have used a little help somewhere along the way!”
“That’s right, always blame the little guy!” the small fairy snapped. “Look I’m sorry. You were my first gig, and, frankly,” the wee lady with fluttering wings blushed a deep red, “frankly, I didn’t go on vacation. I was… was… damn it, was recalled and sent back for training.”
The girl started laughing, “That figures. My life has been one disaster after another. First Dad croaks and leaves me with that witch and her ugly daughters and they make me spend my days cooking and cleaning. The only pleasure I ever had was swimming in the waves over there, but now that’s been taken away, replaced by even worse hard labor. And now I discover that my fairy godmother is a washout!”
The glow around the tiny fairy dimmed a bit. “Look, I’m sorry. But they’ve put me back and now I’m here to help you.”
The girl sighed. “Fine! Grab an iron. Better yet, get me one that actually plugs in and some outlets that work.”
“Look, I’ve come to help. Just take that wad out of the pocket you’re about to press and appreciate all the help you get. Not every girl gets a fairy godmother. Consider yourself lucky!” the fairy snapped and with a tiny puff of jeweled dust, poofed out of the locked room.
The girl reached in the pocket and found a handkerchief full of beans. She studied them for a moment than groaned. “Yeah, what’s this, an organic snack? Heck, I’d rather have a chocolate bar.” She threw the beans out the window, leaned out to watch them fall the three stories to the ground below, She thought briefly about jumping out the window and enjoying a little free fall before the end, but wiped the sweat from her face and returned to her drudgery instead.
A rustling sound from outside startled her and she turned toward the window and gasped. There, close enough to touch, was a giant beanstalk. Without a moment’s hesitation, she stepped onto the sill and hopped onto the stalk and started climbing up. She knew what would happen if she climbed down. They’d catch her and put her back. She gave one glance to the ocean waves crashing in the distance and thought, if only I could escape to the water, I’d sail away and be free.
She climbed upward effortlessly, her arms strong from the continuous ironing and after a while she reached the fluffy white clouds and ascended through them. Finally, she reached the top and found herself outside an enormous castle.
It was giant-sized. She walked up to it and went inside.
Then immediately turned around. It was filthy and she knew that if she stayed she’d get captured and have to spend the rest of her days cleaning giant-sized messes. She started back toward the beanstalk when a boy rushed up behind her, pushed her down and screamed “Outta my way! It’s coming!”
She landed hard in a sitting position and watched the boy run as he struggled to hold a golden treasure and a chicken. “How rude!” she yelled after him and then felt the clouds shake as giant footsteps approached.
She jumped up, ran to the edge and grabbed the stalk. Climbing down as fast as she could she felt it suddenly began to rhythmically vibrate and sway. She gasped because someone below had taken a chainsaw to the base.
“Just great!” she mumbled and decided to take fate in her own hands. Pushing off from the beanstalk she leapt away from it and all the earthly restraints that trapped her. As she plummeted through the clouds she saw the ocean below her and steeled herself for the fatal impact. Even the one thing she loved, the sea, would betray her.
Just as she hit the water, it shimmered, grew soft and she glided into it. She continued her downward momentum wondering why her lungs didn’t burst.
The tiny fairy godmother appeared before her. “Got it right this time!” she sang and twinkled away.
The girl suddenly realized that she didn’t have legs anymore as she flicked her tail and headed to the other mermaids swimming toward her. Yes, maybe her fairy godmother had finally gotten it right this time after all.
Diane Arrelle, the pen name of South Jersey writer Dina Leacock, has been writing for more than 20 years and has sold almost 200 short stories. She has two published books, Just A Drop In The Cup, a collection of short-short stories and Elements Of The Short Story, How to Write a Selling Story. She is proud to be one of the founding members as well as the second president of the Garden State Horror Writers and is also a past president of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She has just retired from being director of a municipal senior citizen center and lives with her husband, sometimes her son and of course her cat on the edge of the Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey (home of the Jersey Devil).
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Tags: Diane Arrelle, fairy tales