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.

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.