Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Children in the Shoebox: an Experiment

While we're waiting for the collaboration on "Later This Somewhere" to take off, here's something I'm writing off the top of my head, under the influence of E Nesbit and Miss Mullock.

The Children in the Shoebox
An Experimental Faerie Tale

by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB

Part One
Once upon a time there were three children who lived in a shoebox in the cupboard. Their names were Mattie, Maggie, and Maddie. I expect you think a shoebox is a very odd place for three children to live, but it was their home, and they were used to it.

The shoebox was in a cupboard, as I have said; and the cupboard was in a pantry, and the pantry was in a little stone house in a grassy clearing in the Deep Woods. The house belonged to a witch, and the Deep Woods belonged to the King, but he wasn't around much, just once a year to smile and wave and hunt the same magic deer who never let him come close to catching her. She was really a princess in disguise, and the King knew it, so he wasn't as ruthless in trying to trap her as he might otherwise have been. He kept hoping that one year the princess would get tired of being a magic deer, and let him take her home at last.

Meanwhile the King let the witch live in the woods to look after the deer and the children, who were his cousins once removed on his mother's side. They were part Faerie, enchanted to remain in the miniature form the Good Folk sometimes preferred. In this size they fit in the shoebox quite well, with three tiny beds lined with the down of baby robins, for indeed their beds had started out as a large bird's nest. The witch, who was a decent sort, really, had cleaned up the nest so that it was quite habitable and pleasant, and not at all smelly.

Every morning the faerie children would fly out of the cupboard, whose door the witch thoughtfully kept open except at night, for protection, and outside into the meadow for bath and breakfast. The little stream that ran through the clearing was shallow and only a little dangerous, as long as they stayed in the inch-deep water at the very edge. Breakfast was nectar from flowers and tiny millet-cakes the witch left out for them. They didn't actually see the witch, for she was invisible; but they usually remembered to sing out a "thank you!" to her, especially when she came up with something extra special to eat, like honey-buns or a tiny omelet.

Afternoons, the faerie children might go racing with butterflies, or make forts out of sweet grass, or visit with their friend, Princess Doris,
the deer. Doris was secretly in love with an enchanted skunk who lived in the hollow of a nearby oak tree. Years before he had behaved very badly toward the witch's sister, which is a very foolish thing to do. He was sorry about it, but not quite sorry enough yet, in the witch's estimation. So the deer waited for Prince Roger - the skunk's real name - to be sorry enough for the witch or her sister to let him go. Another year, Doris thought, or two, and he would probably be quite reformed enough for them, and for Doris as well. She probably couldn't live happily ever after with a fellow who still went around insulting witches and princesses and thought it an all right thing to do. But the children thought Roger was quite fun to be with, and usually pretended that his smell didn't bother them at all.

The one thing that bothered the children about this life was that it got to be rather dull and lonely after a while. Doris and Roger were very nearly adults, and sometimes acted more like animals than people. The witch was invisible, so if she was even around they usually didn't know it. And the King, jolly as he was, seemed a little awkward around them when he came through every spring. "It's the politics," Mattie explained one year, and Maggie nodded wisely. Maddie didn't really understand this explanation, and wasn't quite sure the other two did, either. But she didn't say so.

The fact remained, however, that the three faerie children suffered, just a little, for lack or a mother or father or playmates aside from each other. Then one day, everything changed.

Well, really, only one thing changed, but it was a very important change. Someone new came into the Deep Woods.

Maddie saw the girl first, in the second clearing over from the stone cottage, on the left. She was sitting on a rock, dressed in a frock the exact color of buttercups. She was reading a large, thin book with a paper cover and colorful pictures on every page. Maddie, who knew her alphabet and more besides, flew close enough to read the words on the cover. "The Amazing Spider-Man," it said.

Careful not to be seen, yet, she flew off to find her brother and sister.

1 comment:

Wil said...


What's with the "yet" in the last sentence? It doesn't work for me, with or without a comma. Perhaps it was the lack of continuity.

Ignore me - I eat faerie children and suck the marrow from their bones. What would I know?