High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Story So Far...

Two writers of a musical (a.k.a. 'The Creators') create a blog and ask people to post stories about their "fairy tale realities" for a project they're working on.  A letter arrives from a mythology professor, introducing her student, Ashley St. Helens Prince. A letter arrives from Ashley herself, which piques the curiosity of the writers. After a few flurries of letterspostcards, and emails, Ashley begins telling her story.

In Chapter One, Once Upon a Time, Ashley recounts her childhood, which was happy until her mother died and her father remarried a woman named Sylvia who had two daughters, Debra and Donna. (The Creators converse about her story and talk about publishing it as a book as well as a musical.) Sylvia's true colors show just before Ashley's father dies.

Chapter Two, The Virtue of Rags, sets the scene with Ashley withdrawing in sorrow into the attic room, emerging only to clean her mother's house. (The writers interrupt the story a few times in this chapter, to discuss musical business.) One day, while she is doing the laundry, the phone rings... after too much discussion of clothes, especially undergarments, and her stepmother, Sylvia, acting weird. (Aside, the writers discuss Ashley's current relationship with these people, and articles about these topics.)

In Chapter Three, Miss St. Helens Erupts, Ashley answers the phone. It's Harry Carrington, her long-lost godfather. He encourages her to let out her feelings, and as it turns out, she has quite a few. Then he tells her where to look to find a very special (practically magical) dress she could wear to prom.

Chapter Four, My Father's Shoes, begins as the stepsisters come to say goodbye (and in this installment, the musical begins to take shape) on the night of the prom, as does Sylvia. Ashley wanders the house, struggling with her self-esteem. Is she worthy of her dreams?

Just as she is ready to curl up with a book, Harry makes a dramatic entrance to kick off Chapter Five, The Souls of My Feet, and shares his philosophy about shoesThey bond while remembering her parents as they choose the perfect pair, and Harry gives Ashley an emotional makeover as well as a physical one. The chapter closes with a series of email exchanges in which we find out the project may be having some trouble.

Just minutes after her arrival, The Toss of a Coin (Chapter Six) determines Ashley's fate as the surprise queen of the prom. As she and Jeff do their victory dance, Harry confronts Sylvia. Behind the scenes, there is a change of plans with the writers, but Ashley runs from the prom when she is discovered. 

The next morning, Harry and Jeff show up at Ashley's house, reminiscing about what had happened at The Stroke of Midnight (Chapter Seven). They eat brunch and tell her about the Squash Coach's strange behavior. Behind the scenes, the writers launch a crowdfunding campaign; Sylvia's daughters discover her distasteful attempt to fix the prom and a shouting match begins. Then, Harry invites Ashley to live with him.

A Fairytale Ending begins with Jeff going upstairs with Ashley to help her pack. On their way down, it dawns on Donna and Debra that Ashley is now popular girl—not that she cares. They return to the living room just in time to hear Harry's confession, and Sylvia kicks them all out of the house. But when Ashley turns back to face Sylvia, the final shoe drops: she finds out she got a scholarship...and now her dreams have come true!

Everyone's dreams come true ten years later when the musical about Ashley and her fairytale family finally makes it to the stage.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Let's Put Our Feet Up!

And So it Begins!

Thank you, friends, for being there for me as I finished writing this story. If it were not for my commitment to you, I wouldn't have made myself stick it through to completion. Knowing you were there, salivating for each new twist and turn, kept me accountable to the project.

And now look what we've done. The blook is going to grow up to be an ebook. And the musical has come back to life.

What Happens Next?

Here is a short survey that will enable you to give me any feedback you can and you care to. If you would like a FREE copy of the ebook, I'd love to give you one. Just put your email in the bottom of the form.

Come to the Launch Party!

On April 21, the ebook will go live. The following Saturday, we'll celebrate by giving our feet some love. If you're in or near Oakland, I hope you can join me! But no matter where you are, I hope you can get some friends together and go pamper your feet with a pedicure, a foot massage, or even... (do you need an excuse?)... a new pair of shoes!

Here's a link to the event. Feel free to invite your shoe-loving, fairy-tale loving, drag-queen loving, or just loving friends.
(And please feel free to post a picture of your beautiful, happy feet afterward!)

After That... Making Music!

Thank you to all who have contributed to our Indiegogo fundraising campaign! Your donations have already helped us accomplish two major things:
  • A membership to Fractured Atlas, our fiscal sponsor... this means all future donations are tax-deductible AND we will be eligible for foundation grants (this is HUGE), and
  • Train tickets for Michael to come out and finish the music around Kristen's piano in May.
Any further donations will go towards hiring actors and musicans to create a really great demo recording. We also hope to create some videos for YouTube to kick off "The Patchwork Princess Project"—in which glee clubs and high school theater groups record scenes from the musical.

Let's Keep in Touch!

You can subscribe to:
  • Kristen's occasional newsletter, "The Cobbler" or
  • Blog posts from the musical (the actual history is on that site, too...)
You can 'Like:'
You can 'Follow:'

What about the Blook?

If you stay subscribed to this blog, you may get an occasional announcement in the future. The posts may "fade into obscurity" (disappear from the site) after the ebook comes out. And then, some day, for some special event, they may be published again, in order, over a series of weeks, NOT months.

You can feel free to unsubscribe now, at any time (or don't, and see what happens). Thank you for taking all these steps with us...
we've arrived!

A huge thank you to
 Ann and Charlotte Hutcheson-Wilcox
 for the hilarious and beautiful cover photo!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Five-Minute Survey

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A "Mirror Imag(in)e" Teaser....

Mädchen March, Ph.D.
Castleton College
Black Forest, OH 44883

July 25, 2010

My Dear Creatives,

I just received the most delightful letter from Ashley about your work together, and I wanted to wish you well on your project.

Ashley asked if I would write something about Nevada LeBlanc. Poor Nevada, what she went through really changed her. She worked for me during her Freshman Year, helping with one of my research projects on Urban Mythologies. Although she, Ashley, and Linda were quite the show together in Freshman mythology class—sparking debate, causing laughter, and prodding one another (and everyone within earshot) to think more deeply—one on one Nevada seemed quiet, attentive, grounded, sweet, and even simple.

That being said, Nevada always had the keenest sense of justice of any student I’d ever had. She seemed to be able to sort out right from wrong in the cloudiest situations, and make sure that the underdogs were given the rights due to them. Once I remarked that she was “the fairest of them all,” and her classmates took up the tease (well-naturedly, of course). Who knew it would be so portentous!

As a matter of fact, Nevada was the driving force behind my efforts behind the New York City Sewer Alligator Rescue Service, once we discovered this urban legend actually had some teeth. She actually shed tears at the terrible plight of pipe-bound crocodillians and this prodded me to action.

Because of this quality of hers, the heartbreak we all felt at the injustice done to her was ever the more painful. When Nevada returned to school, she was a changed person. More reserved, more skeptical, and a even, I must point out, a few shades paler. And perhaps not-so-strangely, her interests had moved from social justice to neuroscience.

Because Nevada is now such a private person, I would be surprised if she agreed to share her story with you. But on the other hand, I would not be surprised if her friends convinced her; they are, as I mentioned, quite taken with your project. Even I was talked in to writing to her!

By the way, you may be interested to know that since I last wrote you I have rescued two mice from a French laboratory (named Melibellule and Tigrounette), who have inspired my new research on the transformational aspects of rodentia in the Cinderella myth. There may even be some shamanic involvement that I cannot yet, at this time, confirm. 


Professor Mädchen March

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Roll Credits

The Souls of Her Feet interactive BLOOK was brought to you by:

Kristen Caven

in collaboration with both the real and the fictional

Michael O'Dell

and the following artists:

Frontspiece photo (artified):
Gyorgy Vass

Demos for "Big Bitch," "Ashley's Blues," and "If The Shoe Fits"
Jenn Graham as Ashley (sung) and Brian Yates Sharber as Harry. 
(Spoken parts & photo of Brian's feet by Kristen Caven)

"When You Try to Clean With Dran-o"
Kristen Caven using Autotune*

"It's A Waltz"
The robots at XtraNormal*

New York stage reading cast:
Narrator.....Jen Ponton
Ashley.....Juliana Marx
Donna.....Dina Plotch
Debra.....Cassandra Bodzak
Sylvia.....Susan Neuffer
Harry.....Keith Levy (a.k.a. Sherry Vine)
Jeff.....Blake McCorvey
Coach.....Robert Kalman
Heckler.....Roger Wingfield

Chorus (Understudies):
Kerri Ford (Ashley), Jen Ponton (Ashley), Giancarla Boyle (Donna), Joanna Schubert (Debra), Alex Beck (Jeff), Roger Wingfield (Coach) JenMarie Pierce, Kris Doubles

“Midnight Mouse”

Piano.....Michael O’Dell, Jess Stewart
Bass.....Brian Holtz
Drums.....Rossen Nedelchev

See more about who these fine and awesome actors are on the blog.

*All other music everywhere by Michael O'Dell, of course.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three Blocks from Broadway

From: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
To: Ashley <ash-prince gmail.com>, <crankingitout@gmail.com>
Date: Sunday, 28 August 2011 7:07:07

Subject: Congratulations

Ashley, Congratulations to you, Jeff, Harriet, and Peter on the newest little Princes... (and one is a Princess!) I hope you are recovering well and enjoying your first few days being the mother of twins. Michael and I are sending something along for the little ones.

And here’s a treat for you: the video of the staged reading. We were only three blocks from Broadway! It was wonderful to meet some of your friends in the audience. It seems Nevada has come around and is willing to tell her story—with a little help from Cadwallader, Linda, and Professor March.

Enjoy the mini-musical. It’s rough, of course, but everyone was tremendous and worked so well to pull off a good show with so little rehearsal time. The story isn't exactly how we want it yet, but we got the broad strokes... hope you like it! We’ve already started the rewrite, and are taking the next “little steps.” As your life has grown and developed into something so much more than it was when you were seventeen, we hope this story of yours will grow and develop into something that can really touch people’s hearts.

It’s been wonderful working with you. Thank you for sharing your story.

With gratitude and affection,
Kristen and Michael

The Souls of Her Feet - NY Staged Reading from Kristen Caven on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

That One Big Step

We crept back into the living room, hoping to grab them from the windowsill and go, but Sylvia was still sitting where we had left her, staring into space. Light played over her fraying hair from the glass beads when we moved the shoes.

“Ashley,” she said, looking up, “I’m sorry.”

Startled, I turned to look at her. I had never heard her say those words.

Sylvia’s eyes went from liquid to solid in an instant, as her dominant and dominating persona regained control. “If you walk through that door, though, I swear to God, you will never get an ounce of support from me again."

Jeff and I just stared at her. "You are leaving your HOME behind! How could you do that?”

“Well I don’t want to,” I retorted, feeling my temper rise through my fear, “but Harry’s right." Jeff touched my back, and I took a breath and kept going. “I don’t have to live like this anymore. I’m tired of you yelling at me all the time. I’m tired of doing all the work and being called names. I deserve better than this.”

Her eyes softened again, and the rare vulnerability returned. “I am just so angry right now I can’t stand it. But Harry’s right. You don’t have to stay. You are winning, and I am losing the one thing...the one thing I have left of your dad. Who I really loved.”

Sylvia started crying again, and I felt a rush of empathy and sorrow. Why hadn’t she ever said this before? We had that in common. Things could have been so different. Why did she have to see it as a war? “I’m sorry, Sylvia,” I said. From the corner of my eye I could see Jeff rubbing his neck. He later joked that he got whiplash from her sudden mood shifts.

“Can you just do me one favor,” she asked, in a softer voice than I'd heard in years, since before she started taking me for granted. “Can you help me clean this mess up? I just can’t… I just don’t know how I’ll get through the day. With the girls and all. And then tomorrow…”

I looked at Jeff, whose inner eyebrows were creeping into his forehead, then looked at Sylvia, pressing her hand to her mouth, and realized I could end this on my terms. The mess she was referring to was a nicely set buffet table—with mom’s china—a few dirty dishes, and a pile of papers on the floor by her desk. I lifted my chin and said “Of course, Sylvia.” Together we stacked the plates up and put them back in the cabinet. She poured the punch down the drain and I packed it carefully back into the box, wrapping crumpled newspaper around each cup, dated from my parent’s wedding month. I folded the tablecloth—the way I wanted it folded. Jeff helped me put the plastic slipcovers back on the furniture, and bent to scoop up the piles of paper from the floor by the desk, from when Sylvia had cleared it in her fury.

“Ashley,” Jeff called out, “there’s mail for you.” Sylvia rushed towards him, laughing nervously, “You know! Maybe I should clean up my own desk! You guys can go.” But it was too late.

“It’s a letter from Castleton,” Jeff said, narrowing his eyes at Sylvia. He handed it to me and I tore it open.

“They accepted me,” I said, feeling the weight of my long and painful wait leave my shoulders. And when I got to the bottom, I shouted, “and a scholarship!” I jumped up and down. This was the dream I had been waiting for.

Jeff threw his arms around me and twirled me around and away from Sylvia. “I’m going there, too,” he grinned. That was the dream I could never have hoped for!

“I-I was waiting for Debra and Donna’s to come so I could give them to you all at the same time,” Sylvia stuttered, suddenly self-conscious. I stood up straight and looked her in the eye, trying to find some response to what I could see clearly now as bullshit. In spite of all the sincere emotion of half an hour ago, now I was just done with her. I opened my mouth up with every intention of speaking my feelings—the ones Harry had helped me articulate for the first time just two nights ago—but I couldn't bring myself to use the B-word. She probably deserved a flood of words more colorful than I could ever knit up with a tongue that had been trained to be as tempered as mine. But even Harry's words hadn't slowed her down. And I knew from experience that language like that would just fuel her fire. Plus, letting fly is just not my style.

So I took a deep breath and, permitting myself only the slightest whiff of snootiness, simply said, “Sylvia, I think you can clean the rest up yourself.”

Jeff told me later he wanted to laugh out loud. Instead, being the stud that he is, he took my hand and held it tight, drawing me gently away.

“Goodbye, Sylvia,” I said for the last time, taking that one big step out the front door and into my own life.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Goodbye, Sylvia

When we came back down the stairs, we heard loud voices and stopped to make faces at each other. Down in the living room, Harry and Sylvia were continuing their argument from the dance floor. Harry was talking about my dad. “He was such a loving person, you destroyed him, and then you moved on to his daughter, to crush her, too.”

Sylvia spat, “You’re just jealous I married him, aren’t you?”

Harry sat down heavily. “I can’t deny that.”

“Hah!” Sylvia cried.

“You know I really loved him,” Harry sighed. “I loved them both. They loved me, too.”

Sylvia startled, then attacked again. “How can you say that to me? How can you be so selfish knowing what I've been through? Get the hell out of my house! I don't want you here! I never wanted you here! You undermine everything I am!” As she flew at him, he glanced up at us and stepped to the door.  “And what the hell were you doing at the prom last night anyway, all dragged up or whatever you call it? I can’t figure you out. Did you just come there to get in my face?”

Harry shook his head with pity. “You really don’t get it, do you? I was there with Ashley.”

Sylvia barked. “Hah, that’s a laugh. She was here at home. Looking like a ‘before’ picture with her sweatpants and tennies. She had plenty to do.”

She looked up as Jeff and I came down the stairs. She saw the dress and was silent. Then it all came clear to her. Tears streamed down her face. She sat down hard, realizing her defeat.

Harry spoke quietly. “Well darling, things are going to change now. You’re going to lose your house slave.”

“Harry,” I said, not wanting to be cruel. It was hard enough that I was leaving. Then I said the words I’d been longing to say. “Goodbye, Sylvia.” Jeff held the door open. Harry followed us out and took my things from me. He put them in the car. The three of us looked at each other, not sure what to say.

“Well.” Said Harry, finally.

“Well,” I said. “Thank you, Harry.”

“Thank you, Harry,” said Jeff.

Harry looked at Jeff, as if for the first time. “Thank you,” he said. “So what was your plan, when you came here?”

“I just wanted to see if Ashley wanted to hang out for a little bit. Maybe go for a drive.” Harry glanced over at Jeff’s car, a brick red vintage Volvo sports coupe, handed down to him by his grandfather on his 16th birthday. He sighed.

“Okay,” he said. “You kids do that. I’ll take your stuff home, Ashley. It will give me time to cool off, and get things ready for you.”

“Okay,” I said, hardly believing how great this was.

“But one thing,” Harry said, as if realizing all at once that a) he was now my parent, and b) I was about to get in a car with a boy, “seat belts.”

“Oh, of course,” said Jeff, a total Boy Scout. “Always.”

“Always,” Harry emphasized. “Even when the car is parked. Understand me?”

Jeff looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, sir.” Then he glanced at me and shrugged. We all laughed.

Jeff and I buckled up for safety and prudence while Harry drove away. Jeff pulled out into the street, but before we had gotten too far, he stopped.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Who Was That Girl?

Passing Debra’s room, we heard the sounds of sobs. I knocked and twisted the knob. “Juicy” and “Pink” were spelled across the the bed. The sisters sat up and Debra said, “You can come in.”

“I wanted to say goodbye, you guys,” I said.


“You can’t go!” That felt really nice. It could have gone the other way.

“Harry asked me to come live with him,” I said.

“Oh, my, God,” said Donna.

“He’s my godfather,” I said, not wanting to elaborate.

“Is Jeff still here?” Debra asked.

“I’m right here,” Jeff said, sticking his head in behind me. “Hi.”

The girls stiffened, and then Debra said, “We have something to ask you.”

“Ask away,” Jeff said.

“Okay, we know we’re not popular,” said Debra.

“And we know our mom meant well,” said Donna.

“But why? Why not?” said Debra. “We’re cheerleaders, we wear cute clothes, we have hot bods, we have all the latest stuff, we’re friendly and outgoing.”

“We try so hard,” said Debra.

“Maybe because you try too hard,” said Jeff.

“Oh,” they both said, surprised.

“I mean, remember that time you texted me your boobs? Why would you DO that?”

“Um,” said Debra. “I noticed you were looking at them.”

“Well, you were sort of showing them off in that low cut, cropped sweater with the horizontal stripes,” he replied.

“And they were brand new,” said Debra, gazing down at her breasts. “My 18th birthday present. No one said anything.”

“I’m sorry,” said Jeff. “I should have commented. How rude of me.”

“Can you give us any advice?” Donna said. “I mean, in spite of our, our everything, we really have a hard time meeting the right people.”

“Um, maybe,” said Jeff, reaching for my hand, “we could double, I mean, triple date sometime. I have some friends….”

“That would be awesome,” said Donna, her eyes twinkling with excitement.

Debra eyed our hands. “Are you two… together?” We looked at each other, we looked at her, we nodded.

“Then who was that girl….?” Donna looked puzzled. Then Debra got it and she elbowed her sister. They looked at each other wide-eyed, then looked at us again, differently this time.

“Was it you?” Debra asked. We nodded.

“No! WAY!” Donna said. The two of them looked so conflicted, remembering how they treated me last night before they left, remembering their frustration when Jeff chose me, remembering the approval of the crowd and realizing my newfound and immense popularity. Disdain, anger, and admiration flickered over their faces and finally they settled on a feeling. I was glad it was wonder, and approval. The social significance of the event dawned on them much quicker than it did me.

“Oh, my, God,” said Debra. “Our stepsister is the most popular girl in the school!” They hugged each other to celebrate this new victory. Their words sunk in to me and I started to wonder what Monday would be like. I would be rocketed into a new life—if the rest of the student body ever put two and two together—which they would if Jeff ever walked me to class and… Jeff squeezed my hand, as if to reassure me that it would be all right. (It was. Nevada, as it turned out, would show me the ropes and protect me, allowing me to keep my nerdy AP friends and be my introverted self while handling all the stares….)

And there would be my stepsisters. Who, even though my father was gone and we no longer had a legal relationship, would always be my special somethings. Suddenly it struck me the difference between the two of them and me: they had only ever had Sylvia for a mom.

“Do you have something I could write on?” I asked, reaching for Debra's diary, which she kept on a shelf above her bed. I flipped it open to find a blank page—and of course, there were plenty—and jotted some notes down. “For later, when you don't know what to do,” I said.

Debra reached up and grabbed something else from the shelf. “Here. Before you go, Ashley. I want you to have this.” She pulled down a six-inch glass Pegasus with a thick, graceful, arched neck, whose wings stretched forwards as if to gather speed, and whose muscled hindquarters were gathered as if she were about to explode free of the glass base.

“Thank you so much,” I said, hugging her. “You don't know what this means to me.”

Her expression grew as clear as I'd ever seen it. “Actually, I do,” she said.

“You can have my glass unicorn,” I told her. “They lay their horns in the laps of virgins.” She made a face to her sister like I was crazy. “And the pure of heart,” I added. “Plus,” I said, as Jeff and I turned to leave the room, “they can heal anything.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Stiff Upper Lip

“This is where you live?” Jeff had to duck to come through the small arched attic door.

“Not anymore, I guess,” I said, surveying the room. Dust motes twinkled in the stillness of the late spring sunlight streaming in through the small open window, which had crawled like a slow spotlight since I’d awakened down the length of my unmade bed, and was now touching the stack of cardboard boxes, stacked furniture, old trunks and suitcases. I pulled a suitcase out and dumped my old baby clothes onto the bed, then started scooping things up and putting them in.

We talked a little while I packed. Jeff hadn’t been over to the house since before Dad married Sylvia. “I remember the last time I was here,” he said.

“We were studying for something,” I recalled.

“French,” he said. “We were watching The Red Balloon, when the Hills came over for dinner. Debra and Donna were sort of fun back then.”

“Yeah, things have changed a bit,” I said, trying to decide what to take, my senses sharp as I realized I was about to leave my home. I was keenly aware of my parents’ stuff in the boxes and trunks around me. The family photos. The old clothes and trinkets. The antique sewing machine. The lamps and chairs in the corner. The hand-hooked rag rug.

“Maybe we could start watching French movies again at my house,” he suggested.

“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoise?” I smiled, glancing up at his dancing green eyes. Something passed between us.

“I’m such an idiot for not recognizing you last night,” he said. “I’m so glad you tricked me.
I didn’t know what to say.

“Did you read all of these books?” Jeff was perusing the stacks of hardbacks and paperbacks in the shelves around the knee wall.

“Just up to under the window. I’m going to miss them.” Jeff picked up The Once and Future King. “Can I borrow this?”

I smiled. “Of course.” I looked down in my hands, where I held The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and The Self. “You should read this, too; it's great.” He reached out for it, but instead of taking the book, he grabbed my wrist and pulled me to him.

“Hey, speaking of French,” he said, “we were interrupted last night.” My whole body tingled as I slid my hands up his shoulders and leaned in. When his lips touched mine, it was nothing like the big deal I’d always fantasized; it felt normal and natural and, well, quite delicious. I laughed.

“What,” he said.

I touched my mouth. “It’s my stiff upper lip,” I said. “It’s been that way for such a long time.” He tenderly kissed it; neither of us could keep from smiling.

“You’ve probably been keeping a stiff lower lip, too.” He put his mouth to my lower lip.

“Might take some time to un-stiffen them both,” I said. So we worked on that a little bit.

I said, “Can I ask you a question?”

He said, “Would you like to ask me another?”

“Was it the shoes?”

“The shoes are pretty fabulous,” he said, “even a dumb straight jock like me could see that.”

“Jeff, you're not a—”

“Ashley—why did you ask?”

“I mean—" I blushed. "Do you really want to lick my toes?” He laughed.

“Can I?”

“We’ll have to work up to that,” I laughed, and kissed him a little more. Then I grabbed my backpack and took The Dress in my arms. He carried my suitcase downstairs.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Free to Be

Moments ago the mood in this room had been delightful; now, waves of crazy were emanating from the corner desk and no one was speaking. I started cleaning up. Jeff studied the paper. “Photo source: Justin Case,” he read, “wait – he’s a private detective! My dad knows him! Now he’s selling photos to the paper?”

“I sold the photo,” said Sylvia. “To pay for his services.”

“That’s unethical!”

“Well at least I gave him a photo credit,” she retorted. “Besides, what would I know about ethics? I never went to college. I’m not the one with the law degree,” she said, glaring at Harry, completely unaware of the hole she was digging. I could tell Harry was biting his tongue, not wanting to laugh out loud.

“Why would I? I was prom queen,” she went on. “I had four marriage proposals by the end of the night! Everyone but everyone wanted me! But did I marry? NO! I leveraged my assets, managing my looks and social calendar and turning them both into a living over the years. I mean, when the twins came I figured out how to live on child support from both of their dads! It took me years of community service to build my reputation, and to find a man who could love and support me for who I really am, and give my girls the life they deserve… until YOU!” She glared at Harry, furious, then at Jeff, then at me.

With a shriek of frustration, Sylvia swept the contents of her desk to the floor. “Who the hell WAS that girl anyway?” She advanced on Jeff, holding the champagne bottle, having abandoned the pretense of orange juice several swigs ago. “You had no right to choose your own prom queen! All this planning and hard work by adults—and you kids go and do whatever you feel like.”

“Sylvia…” Harry tried to calm her down.

“Children are so ungrateful! They need so much support, and it’s hard for one person to do it all.” She took a swig. “Especially when the person you hoped and dreamed and vowed would be there with you for the rest of your life not only comes with so much baggage,” here she gestured at me, but was clearly appealing to Harry, “...and his constant memory of her, which is bad enough already but then he up and dies on you, leaving you in charge of said person, and so now rather than being taken care of for the rest of your life, you are forced to take care of her, and of that memory of his, and not him, but her face in your face, in your own house! But what’s worse, it’s not even your own house! In his will he leaves it in some trust for her and you have nothing, really, nothing of your own! You have no idea! It’s too much! It’s just too much! I work full time mothering these girls, there are no other options!”

Harry stepped between Jeff and Sylvia, cleared his throat, and commandeered the conversation.

“Sylvia, there’s something I’ve been trying to talk to you about. It might actually help solve your problems. I was trying to invite you out for coffee and do this the nice way, but you’ve blocked me at every turn.” Sylvia just glared, exhausted but still lost in her rage. Harry took a breath and continued. “I found letter from Ashley’s mother from before she died, saying if anything happened to both of them, she’d like her to live with me.”

“What!?” Sylvia stared, stunned.

“What?” I stared, stunned.

“What do you think godparent means?” Harry turned to me. “Ashley, I have a proposal, I mean, a proposition for you. I was hoping to ask you this last night but events took on a life of their own. Can I… I mean, will you… I mean….”

Jeff and I looked at one another, incredulous. “On one knee, big guy, that’s how it’s done,” he teased Harry, and I laughed, falling in love with him just a little more. But Harry was as worked up as Sylvia and didn’t finish his sentence.

“It was a big decision for me, as you can imagine. Becoming a mother? At my age?” Jeff and I cracked up. “Starting with a teenager?” Harry was now relishing his moment.

“I was furious with Sylvia, Ashley, who would never,” he glared at her, “let me even finish my sentence, which may have included the phrase, ‘take her off your hands’ if I’d known how you felt…. I went on a research rampage for the next few weeks, trying to figure out how I could get you out of there without the bit… without Sylvia’s consent. And I finally found out… I realized… ”

“What, Harry?” I had never really considered my legal status before.

“Ashley… you’re an orphan. Sylvia never adopted you. You’re over sixteen. You can be,” He took a breath, “legally emancipated.”

“Emancipated?” It sounded like the end of slavery.

“You don’t have to live with her anymore.”

I sat down, unable to stand for a moment, and stared at him.

“Ashley… if you want to… would you like…would you like…like to live with me?” He stammered, blushed a little. “I could even adopt you, but the fact is that you have a choice in the matter. You’re not a little girl. You are free…free to be…”

Jeff said, “Free to be you and me? Free to be?”

At first I hesitated, wondering what would become of the house if I left, but one look at Jeff’s open, excited face reminded me of Harry’s lecture the night before: What would you think of doing some take? I took. I took the chance—again.”

“Yes, yes,” I nodded. I heard some choking noises from Sylvia’s direction. But I was crying now.
Harry was crying, too. “I mean, when you’re eighteen, you could do whatever you wanted, but until then I thought you’d like to have some options ... We can fix up my spare room. You can have a real bed. You can have rainbows and unicorns... or paint the walls black and be rebellious if you want. I got up and went around the table and sat in his lap and hugged him like I used to when I was little. He kissed my hair.

“I’ll go pack some things.”

“I’ll go with you.” As Jeff and I dashed up the stairs, a stony silence closed on the living room behind us.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Boy of Character

The stairs creaked. We looked up to see Donna coming down. She took one look at Jeff, who had just excused himself to go to the bathroom, made a little “eep!” sound and turned around to run back up the stairs, where she crashed right into Debra. They whispered excitedly and then came wiggling down together, pulling their scrunchies out and tossing their hair around their shoulders. One wore a pink sweatsuit that said “Pink” across the buttcheeks. The other wore a green sweatsuit that said “Juicy.” Donna called out, “Hhhhiiii, Jeff!”

Jeff waved back as he closed the door under the stairs.

The Girls were astonished and excited. “Go tell mom,” Debra said, elbowing her sister.

“You go tell mom,” said Donna.

“Tell me what,” grumbled Sylvia, stumbling down the stairs behind them in her satin robe, hair frizzing uncharacteristically around her elegant shoulders. She stumbled into the kitchen without noticing who was on the couch.

“There’s coffee,” I said to them all.

“Ooh, and punch,” said Donna, discovering the beverage table. “Ashley, this is so nice. Who else is coming to our brunch?”

“It’s cancelled,” said Sylvia, coming into the living room with the orange juice pitcher in one hand and a champagne bottle in the other, a glass tucked under her arm. She sat down hard at her desk. “Close that damn curtain.” Then she looked up and noticed the company.

“Harry! What the hell?”

Jeff walked out of the bathroom and Sylvia jumped out of her chair, her tone turning solicitous. “Jeff! What are you doing here? Did you come to apologize? That’s so wonderful! In spite of your rash actions last night, I knew you were a boy of character!” Jeff had no chance to reply because he was suddenly surrounded by The Girls, who were making conversation that required no effort on his part at all. I introduced them to Harry.

I served the spiced sausage strata, a favorite recipe of my mom’s, which sent Harry down memory lane and drew no complaints from the girls. Sylvia stayed at her desk, thinking, drinking mimosas. When she lit a cigarette, the three of us girls exchanged worried glances—she never smoked in front of us—but Jeff was such a stabilizing presence that the mood stayed light. We balanced plates on our knees rather than sitting around the dining table, and it felt like a real celebration even though no one knew exactly what was going on. We moved in and out of the sparkles of light from the shoes, which no one seemed to notice.

“Hey Jeff, remember that time you were here studying with Ashley in ninth grade?” Debra sat onto the couch next to Jeff. “You left these…” She reached her hand into the cushions and pulled out a box of Tic-Tacs. Jeff stared at her blankly. Donna lunged.

“Give me those! I found them first!”

“Sure, Donna. You can have them. Jeff’s right here by me.” She tossed the candy box. Donna shook it. There was only one left.

“Oooh!” Donna glared and tossed the box aside. There was no room on the other side of Jeff; he was sitting at the end of the couch. She plumped back down in an armchair with her food and picked up the paper from the coffee table. Then she gasped. “Oh! My! God!”

She turned the Town Herald Sunday Edition around so we could all see the front page. The headline read, “Black Forest Coach Stripped of Position.” There were two photos above: one of Coach Pupkin with the basketball team, and one of Judy Garland singing. We all went, “huh?” Harry spit tea onto his chintz armrest.

“Black Forest High’s senior P.E. teacher,” read Donna, “who led the Trolls to a state championship last year, was outed by an anonymous parent last week, who called for his resignation.” In unison with Debra she turned and said, “Mom!” Sylvia sucked her cigarette and shrugged.

I grabbed the paper and read on. “Down at the Teddy Wolf nightclub, no one guessed the winner of last week’s drag competition was Coach Jonathon “Jack” Pupkin of the local high school—”

Harry hooted. “She was amazing! The most sensitive Judy we’d ever seen!” He slapped his thigh. “I can’t believe it! How could I miss that? I’m so good with faces! What an artist!”

“‘I can’t believe he was juggling so many balls,’ remarked one admiring judge when asked for comment on this story. ‘It takes a lot to sing like that, to dress like that. And to teach six hundred students physical culture for a day job. It took a lot of guts, a lot of guts.’”

“Who writes this stuff?” Jeff wondered aloud.

Harry glared at Sylvia. “Why would you DO such a thing, Sylvia? Of all the low tricks! He may or may not be gay but it’s nobody’s business to speculate!”

Sylvia screamed, “We had a deal!” To our blank stares, she spat out the words: “We had a deal one of my daughters would win!” She gestured so clumsily that papers flew off her desk.

“You… you blackmailed him?” Harry whispered.

“You fixed the prom?” Jeff looked like he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be furious.

Donna and Debra looked ashen, and stuttered through the logic together. “You mean—”

“—you arranged for us to be elected to the court?”

“You mean—”

“—we weren’t nominated by anyone? ”

“You mean—” They looked at one another, horrified, and screamed in unison,

“—We’re not popular?” They dissolved into tears and ran up the stairs, sobbing, a fork flying, a half-eaten muffin rolling onto the carpet, under the chairs.

“Nice going, mom,” sneered Harry, settling back in his chair. Jeff and I stared uncomfortably at anything but her. I thought about Nevada, and all the others who actually deserved the honor my family had stolen.

Sylvia stared, stricken, out the window, her veiny hand pressed to her mouth.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sleep? What's That?

From: crankingitout@gmail.com
To: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
Date: Thursday, 7 July 2011 10:45:22

Subject: NYC

hey k -

the reading is one month away! i definitely think we’ll have to pull out our credit cards for this. i like your idea of selling tshirts & giving to actors...also my parents kindly donated some cash for a cast party.



From: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
To: crankingitout@gmail.com
Date: Thursday, 7 July 2011 10:45:33
Subject: worried

Michael, are you going to be able to get the songs together? I know there’s no time to edit everything like we wanted to but we can still see how the story goes with what we have, right? And p.s., I do like how you’ve pepped up the shoe song; maybe we can get the cast to do a kick line for the chorus. I also really like “Dare to Waltz” but I was hoping for something more Viennese –sounding — maybe in the next iteration.



From: crankingitout@gmail.com
To: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
Date: Thursday, 7 July 2011 10:55:20

Subject: re: worried


we can rethink songs & music after the dust settles and we can sort things out. I feel like we’re trying to fill a beer bottle with a fire hose right now.



From: crankingitout@gmail.com
To: Ashley <ash-prince@gmail.com>
Date: Tuesday, 12 July 2011 10:55:20

Subject: NYC Show

asheley, great news, harry’s friend wants to read his part —imagine, an actual drag queen doing the role! apparently s/he’s quite famous. please thank him for the referral! this is going to be fun...



From: crankingitout@gmail.com
To: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
Date: Tuesday, 12 July 2011 11:01:10

Subject: re: re: re: re: re: re: actors

So I just got eight more queries from the craigslist ad *and* confirmation from (ta dah) sherry vine! resumes attached — can you send them scripts? my friend agreed to play ashley — i'll ask her to help cast jeff since i can’t decide, so much talent out there! looking forward to sleeping again some day.



From: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
To: crankingitout@gmail.com
Date: Tuesday, 12 July 2011 11:31:19

Subject: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: actors

Sleep? What's that? Glad we had a chance to hang out before you went to NY. The video is going to turn out okay. Hope to finish this weekend. Yay on Harry! I really like some of these other faces. To think we might be "discovering" someone. It's like playing God, creating this alternate reality!



From: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
To: crankingitout@gmail.com
Cc: Ashley <ash-prince@gmail.com>
Date: Thursday, 7 July 2011 4:45:12

Subject: Buttkicker Campaign!

Okay, here it is! I managed to kluge the video together for our crowdfunding campaign, using snippets of music from the Shoe song and the Fairy Godwhatever instrumental rough for the ending – good finish, no? Tell your friends!

Click to view the movie!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Day-Glo Orange Jacket

“Good morning you two!” I called out the window. “Isn’t it a beautiful morning?” Jeff and Harry looked up, big smiles on each of their faces. “Would you like to come inside?” I grabbed the shoe from the windowsill and tromped down the stairs again.

When I opened the front door, I had to sort out my second impression from the outrageous woman who had walked in last night. This well-groomed, low-key forty-something fellow was a foot shorter than her, but he matched my childhood memories, which was an equally great surprise. “You look divine,” he said, in one smooth move bending down to grab the Sunday paper, handing it to me, kissing me on the cheek, and touching my head. “You have eyelashes in your hair, dear.”

Then Jeff stood square in front of me and stared, grinning from ear to ear. “Oh, it’s you,” he said, probably having the same disconnect with me that I’d had with Harry. “Look, I have one, too,” he said, nodding at the shoes we were both cradling, stroking like puppies.

“They’re so soft, aren’t they?” I ran my fingers over the suede and glass beads. He stared and smiled some more. “Want some coffee?” I offered. “Or tea? Or OJ?” We all moved into the kitchen and I reached in the cabinet for a mug, forgetting I’d laid out a beverage table with the punch bowl and the shining silver samovar.

“Champagne?” Harry found a chilled bottle, making himself at home as if no time had passed at all, as if it was still Mom and Dad’s house. “I think there’s an occasion.”

“There’s sparkling cider for us,” I said to Jeff, grabbing glasses. “Muffin?” I asked with a smile as I pulled a pan out of the oven, the shoe tucked under my arm.

“Yes, Honey Bunch?” Jeff teased, leaning against the counter top. Harry laughed. Jeff marveled at how nice everything looked. “Wow, even the top of your refrigerator is clean!”

We settled in to the now-naked armchairs, the three of us in a celebratory mood. “Did you try that shoe on everyone in town before you got here?” I asked Jeff, who was carring it like a football. “Or just Harry?”

“Oh! Here! I should give it to you,” he said, handing it to me. “Or is it yours?” He shoved it at Harry.

Harry took both shoes and got up to place them on the windowsill nearest the door, where the sun was coming in strongest. The transparent soles glowed white, the mystical carvings throwing swords of light onto the walls. Sparkles danced about the room, flecking all of our faces, making us laugh and shake our heads and blink the dazzling pinpricks of light out of our eyes. Jeff sang, “Aaaaaah,” like a choir of angels.

“Darling, you wouldn’t believe what a scene you missed last night,” said Harry. “You left just before midnight. Sylvia never knew it was you. She was all, like, ‘who stole my daughter’s crown?’ and once you were gone, ‘Jeff, for God's sake, dance with my daughters!’ And the band had stopped playing, and everyone was staring at her—”

“Aawwk-ward!” Jeff chimed in. “Especially since I was dancing with Harry.” I gave him a curious look.

“I even dipped him,” said Harry.

“He dipped you?” Now I stared at Jeff. He blushed. Harry punched his shoulder and rushed on.

“In the silence,” Jeff continued, “Coach’s watch starts beeping; it’s midnight. Well, Sylvia forgets about us—”

“—and we stop dancing—” Harry pointed out.

“You dropped me,” Jeff mentioned.

“—and she reaches into her purse.”

“People freaked out—they thought she was reaching for a gun!” Jeff said, gesturing with his hands. “Some kids even hit the floor!”

“But no, it’s a cell phone,” says Harry, “and she dials a number and says, “‘Run it,’” glaring at the coach the whole time.

“Their eyes were locked,” Jeff said, illustrating by pointing two fingers at my eyes, then his, then Harry’s, then his. What on earth? Now I was thinking about the Chanel blouse and the girdle….

“Then Coach starts peeling off his clothes!” Harry was nearly doubled over laughing at the memory. He stood up and started mimicking a strip-tease. “The orange cap. (Ba-dump.) The day-glo orange jacket. (Ba-dump.) The whistle, the squash team sweatshirt—he peels them off and throws them one by one at Sylvia’s feet.”

“The dude is buff,” Jeff said. “And now he’s standing there in jeans, a white t-shirt, his hi-tops, and his now silent watch.”

“Kind of hot, actually,” Harry murmured. “In a James-Dean-at-forty kind of way.”

Jeff continued. “And he goes, glaring at Sylvia, ‘I said what I had to, but it’s over now.’ Then he looks up at the crowd and says, ‘Party’s over, kids, go home. And goodbye. —”

Harry finished. “—Effective immediately, I’m no longer the coach. I’m going back to being Jack Pupkin, regular guy.’”

“No!” I couldn’t believe it.

Jeff started laughing hysterically.

“What?” We both turned on him.

“I just got it!”

“What?” He had to catch his breath first.

“Come on, Cinderella! Your coach turned back into a Pupkin at midnight!”

Sunday, January 6, 2013

King Phineas Food Bank

When I became conscious the next morning, the first thing I noticed was the birds were singing. I lay with my face in the pillow for a moment, trying to figure out which of these images in my mind was reality and which was a dream: unlocking a great big door with a key as big as my backpack, or dancing with Jeff. When my eyes focused on the dress hanging on the wardrobe, I still wasn’t sure; I could have dreamed putting it on. Then I spotted the single glass shoe on the windowsill and I knew… both realities were true.

I pulled on my dad’s old sweatpants and tiptoed down the stairs to the hall bathroom, where I tried to coax my crispy-sprayed hair into a braid. I laughed when I saw my morning-after face in the mirror — eyes rimmed with black smudges, pink crusted lips, and a false eyelash sprouting from my cheek. I scrubbed myself clean, then remembered to go back upstairs and dig out my mom’s punch bowl from under the bed. Sylvia had asked for it —okay, demanded it—since she was planning a brunch this morning for whichever one of her daughters woke up prom queen. I supposed she could use my help.

By mid-morning, the table was ready and the buffet was set up, but I hadn’t heard a peep from upstairs yet. Sunlight streamed in to the living room from the tall windows, which I opened to let air in, and then set about taking the slip-covers off the furniture. I frowned at my dad’s old rolltop desk in the corner of the room, now piled high with Sylvia’s papers—I thought about rolling it shut but when I started to push a stack of papers, I heard her voice screeching in my head not to touch her desk. Turning my back on the mess, though, everything looked lovely. I didn’t really know what to expect next; I was just happy. I looked down at my toes, painted with pink swirls, and got an idea that I should maybe wear something pretty to the party.

I trotted up the stairs and changed into one of my mom’s summer frocks. I was stabbing a pencil through my twisted-up, hopeless hair when I heard a car pull up in the driveway, then another car. Voices floated in through the small attic window.

“Good morning, Jeff!” It was Harry.

“Hello, um… I’m….” Jeff was baffled.

“It’s me, Harry,” said Harry’s voice.

“Carrie?” Said Jeff. And then I heard him laugh.

“What did you say last night, all forlorn, when you were holding that shoe like a newborn baby? ‘No one could ever fill her shoes?’ Well…try me!” I peered out the window and saw something almost as strange as last night’s sight. There was a middle-aged man in a sweater vest standing in front of Jeff, pulling one of his pant legs up to expose a length of flexed calf, a bare ankle, and a woven leather boat shoe on a pointed foot. Jeff held the other shoe in his hands. I breathed a sigh of relief, delighted to see the shoe, delighted to see them both, delighted to see the two of them together.

“Okay, that’s just creepy,” Jeff laughed. “Hi Harry.”

“It was charming dancing with you last night,” Harry said. My jaw dropped. What did I miss?

“I’m so glad you cut in when you did!”

“Swear to God, Sylvia would have puppeteered you around the dance floor to get you to dance with one of her daughters.”

“Or both! Did you see how she shoved them at me?”

“Well, I’d just been puppeteered so I wanted to save you from that fate. That woman is stubborn,” said Harry. “Have you ever tried calling this house to talk to Ashley?”

“Yeah, now that you mention it, but I always end up talking to…”

“I’ve got such news for her, but I can never get through… and when I get Sylvia, it’s like she can’t hear me!”

Ah, suddenly something came clear.

About a week ago in the kitchen, Sylvia had stepped on some mashed potatoes with corn, and then was freaking out and blaming everyone who came near, spinning a line of logic that made it my fault for not cleaning it up, Donna’s fault for being the last one to eat, and Debra’s fault for having a craving for Kentucky Fried Chicken biscuits. It was also for some reason her “goddamn mechanic’s” fault for forgetting to put a “fucking sticker” on the windshield six months ago to remind her the car needed a “fucking oil change.” A few seconds into her rant, I knelt down with a paper towel to wipe up the mess (spotting a Chee-to and a scrunchie under the cabinet while there), but then she lit into me about wasting paper towels when I could have been using a sponge. At which point I stared at her, since just last week she had gone off about me using a sponge on the floor when I should have used a paper towel…. She shrieked, suddenly, that there was some goo on her shoe, and shoved her pointy white pump in my face. That was too much. I stood up and summoned the courage to say something.

Just then the phone rang, breaking the tension. Sylvia reached out to answer it. “Hello, St. Helens and Hill residence…” Her voice was suddenly singsong and professional, like a receptionist at a tanning spa. She chuckled gently and smiled at me and said, “No, I’m afraid you’ve missed her again; I’ll give her the message you called.” I gave her a curious look but she just listened, and her smile stretched tighter until she was talking through her teeth. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And then she took the sharp tone of someone trying to rid themselves of a phone solicitor. “No, I really have no interest in that. Besides, I just don’t have the time, trying to keep three teenaged girls clothed and fed, plus my extensive volunteer work with the King Phineas Food Bank, I’m sure you understand.” “No, I’m sorry, you’re not hearing me, I really can’t. No thank you. Bye-bye for now.”

“So I finally reached her last Friday,” Harry told Jeff, leaning on the hood of his Cadillac. “But I got carried away when I heard it was prom, because, well fairytale weekends don’t happen every day!” He was getting quite worked up, starting to laugh and cry all at once. “Oh! Did you hear what I just said! Carried away! Don’t you get it?” Jeff didn’t get it at the time, and neither did I—but Harry was laughing because his stage persona is a fallen Southern Belle drag queen named Carrie D’Aweigh. She headlines on Sundays down at the Teddy Wolf in the pink light district. Carrie D’Aweigh is my fairy godmother. Carrie D’Aweigh is who danced with both Sylvia and Jeff at the prom.