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"It's the Mirror, Stupid"

BY KIM A. BIGELOW


“Uh, Mr. Troll, can I talk to you for a minute?”

 

There were rumbling, grating and grinding noises as the Troll under the Bridge pushed boulders and bones out of the way. This was followed by a string of disgusting snorts, grunts, groans and slobbering that went along with the decayed, putrid, smell that stuck to Trolls like a rotting fog. As the Troll clutched and clawed his way onto the bridge, he stopped to lift his leg to expel a long, wet, flatulent fart. This was followed by a sighing, bloated belch.

 

The raggedly dressed ex-Princess calmly sprayed rose scent in the Troll’s direction. The Troll waved a giant paw to shoo away the annoying flower smell. The Troll was not pleased. Protocol dictated he ask trespassers an impossible to answer riddle after they stepped, hopped or skipped onto his bridge and then when they couldn’t answer, he’d eat them. This girl had not put even a toe on the first plank of the bridge. However, she was the only customer he’d seen in a week so he asked his riddle anyway, “What do I say for fun, fun, fun, if I smell the blood of an English-mun?”

 

The girl spoke in a bored voice, “Fee Fie Fo Fum, ask me something not so dumb.”

 

The Troll was now caught in a terrible muddle. He only knew the one riddle and because he’d eaten all the town criers, mailmen and express couriers, was unaware that a village oaf named Jack had chopped down his Giant Uncle’s hypothalamic bean stalk along with his giant Uncle and, having only a handful of beans for brains, told his story to two German Brothers he’d met at a local bar without getting so much as a free beer. Now, everyone in the kingdom knew the Giant’s famous rhyme.

 

The ex-Princess reached behind her and picked up an oversized cake she’d baked just that morning, “I know you’re hungry, Mr. Troll, so I made this cake for you. Try it.” She placed the cake on the first plank of the bridge and stepped back. Clearly, she knew the rule about Trolls and bridges.

 

Using one of his stubby fingers, the Troll scooped out a large portion of the double chocolate frosting remembering just in time not to bite down too hard. He’d almost lost a thumb last week when the town drunk offered him a swig of his home-made brandy. Trolls rarely drink brandy, but do enjoy high blood-alcohol level cocktails as long as the container has been shaken, not stirred. The Troll picked up the cake and crunched down on the rock hard delicacy. The ex-Princess had purposely overcooked it knowing Trolls like to eat crunchy things, like tibias and femurs. It was gone in a flash, “Want more,” growled the Troll.

 

“I can bring more tomorrow,” said the ex-Princess, primly.

 

“Want more, now,” demanded the Troll, eyeing the ex-Princess like an after-dessert, dessert.

 

The ex-Princess stood her ground, staring the Troll in the eye, “Look Mister Troll, do you or do you not want to have take-away delivered regularly to your bridge?”

 

The Troll scratched his voluminous rear end, “What take away?”

 

“I bring you nice cakes, pizzas, pies, donuts, hamburgers and other fast food and you take them away and eat them,” said the ex- Princess. “It’s a new concept to go along with franchises I plan on bringing to the Kingdom once I take over. What do you say? Would you like giant pies and cakes delivered to you every week or not?”

 

“Troll agree,” said the Troll.

 

“Good,” said the Princess, “but I will need you to do me a favor.”

 

The Troll scratched his head in bewilderment, “What favor?”

 

“A favor is where I do something nice for you and then you do something nice for me.”

 

“What something nice?”

 

“If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind eating the Queen?”

 

The Troll froze into an immobile catatonic state. It is a well-known fact that Trolls can take a very long time to make important decisions, so this might be a good chance to go back to the beginning of our story. We’ll return later to see if the darling, devious ex-Princess was able to convince the Troll to invite the Queen over for dinner.

 

So.…Once upon a time there was a Queen; supercilious, demanding, condescending, unappreciative, critical; you know, like your mother, only with a crown. There was also a beautiful Princess with lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow and hair as back as night, but her name was Maria Sophia von Erthal, not ‘Schneewittchen’ or ‘Snow White’ as a pair of German story tellers would have you believe. Maria Sophia suspected that her new step mother had murdered her father in order to take over his kingdom. The ex-Princess’ visit to the Troll’s bridge was part of her grand design to get revenge for her father’s death and re-acquire the throne at the same time. Maria Sophia’s plan hinged on the Troll keeping his promise to tear the Queen limb from limb, before taking the body parts back under his bridge to hide any forensic evidence. Unfortunately, the ex-Princess’ plan had two flaws; one, the Queen never left her castle and two, the Queen knew very well it was a bad idea to cross bridges with Trolls living under them.

 

Maria-Sophia’s step-mother’s name was Claudia Elisabeth Margarithe Vengier. In Old Saxon vengier means ‘vengeance’ or ‘to exact retribution.’ Claudia came from a long line of necromancers, soothsayers, sorcerers and wizards who were all expert at using magic to secure supporting roles in medieval fairy tales. During holiday dinner parties, Claudia had seen how much fun it was to entertain guests by turning the household staff into mice, lizards and quacking ducks who could sing in four part harmony like a barbershop quartet.

 

It had always been a great disappointment to Claudia’s relatives, that she had no aptitude for the dark arts. She couldn’t rub magic lamps, chant chants or snap her fingers to light candles and whenever she tried casting a spell, she never could remember which rhyme scheme went with which incantation.

 

In the end, Claudia Elisabeth decided to marry King Philipp von Erthal because she thought ‘Queen Claudia the Vengeful’ had a nice ring to it. Continuing her family’s legacy of murder and mayhem, Claudia stabbed her newly minted husband in the heart at the same time she consummated the marriage. She’d thought about stabbing Philipp before the climax, but felt he should get something out of the deal. After committing the deadly deed, Claudia waited a few minutes, then wailed mournfully that her new husband had expired due to his manly, not to mention kingly exertions. The staff believed every word she said, despite all the blood on the floor.

 

Claudia thought things had gone remarkably well. She now ruled a kingdom where people would bow to her whenever they weren’t cowering in fear. It had always been Claudia’s belief that the local rabble were best kept under control through a combination of fear, paranoia and limited caloric intake; a policy endorsed by many world leaders after discussions with their media consultants.

 

Certain Austro-Hungarian stenographers, learning that Claudia was just another petty third world tyrant, decided to spice up her story by giving her imaginary magic powers. They described her as a grand sorceress who could whip up poison potions, grow forests made of thorns, turn pumpkins into carriages and mice into footman and dozens of other magic tricks that make the Grimm tales so engaging.

 

Knowing how disappointed she was at not being able to perform magic tricks, King Phillipp had given Claudia a Magic Mirror on the day of their wedding saying now she had one magic power that no one else had. Claudia thought, ‘Such a sweet, thoughtful guy…too bad he’s got to go.’

 

After becoming the de-facto ruler of the kingdom, Claudia’s first order of business was to relegate the ex-Princess to the kitchen so she could perform demeaning tasks usually reserved for the village drudge who’d made a name for herself cleaning chimneys and fire places. Claudia then called for her half-brother, Bernard, so he could explain how the Magic Mirror worked. Bernard spent most of the morning tutoring his sister, but unfortunately, Claudia had the attention span of an anorexic mouse in a cheese factory and only heard the words ‘Magic’ and ‘Mirror.’ Later, while taking the Mirror out for a test drive, Claudia was annoyed that the Magic Mirror couldn’t spin straw into gold, conjure up gowns made out of curtains or make poison potions. “Bernard,” she fumed, “You told me the Mirror has magic powers, but whenever I tell it to do something it just sits there. It’s useless.”

 

“Sister dear, I told you, the mirror is like a cookbook. It can tell you how to make a cake, but it can’t bake it for you. Did you remember to ask it questions in the form of a rhyme?” he asked.

 

“You never said anything about rhymes?” lied Claudia, “besides, I’ve hated poetry ever since Father tried to pawn me off on those pretty boy Princes. Beezelbub in Heaven, it was like they were all were hatched from the same egg; dropping to their knees as soon as they came through the front door, looking longingly at me with their doe eyes, clasping hands to their breasts, then declaiming the same damn poem: ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.’ What drivel, it doesn’t rhyme and not a word about me.”

 

“Yes, dear,” said Bernard, “but the mirror requires only very short rhymes like: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.”

 

“Oh, please,” complained Claudia, “can’t you make it do what I want by pulling a lever so I can watch those cute little wheels spin around before I hit the jackpot?”

 

Bernard shook his head, “Sis, it doesn’t work that way. The Mirror can only answer questions if they’re posed in the form of a rhyme.”

 

“That’s way too much trouble,” said Claudia, “from now I’ll tell you what I want and you rhyme at it.”

 

“Sis, please understand. Magic mirrors are made to respond to only one person, in this case, you. It won’t work if I try. Oh, and by the way, don’t ask it anything if you really don’t want to know the answer.”

 

“Fine,” said Claudia, “go down to the dungeon and start making up rhymes so the mirror will make me the most beautiful, powerful, feared queen in the world.”

 

Bernard dutifully retired to the dungeon and started writing every kind of poem he could think of. It was easy for him to write Dr. Seuss sonnets, Hieronymus Bosch haikus, John Milton epic poems and Ogden Nash doggerel, but was completely stumped when it came to writing rhyming couplets. Then one day while it was raining, Bernard bumped his head when he went to bed and when he came out of his coma, composed a rhyme so famous it is known to this day by every child under the age of seventy. Unfortunately, he forgot to copyright the work and so his name was lost in the Disney frenzy to promote poison apple product placements, Handsome Prince Corn Flakes and Snow White Barbie Dolls. Bernard, unaware of the value of his work, rushed upstairs to tell Claudia the new rhyme. Later that evening, after applying creams, cosmetics, lipsticks and rouges, Queen Claudia read her brother’s note in front of the mirror: “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” The mirror answered, “Thou, O Queen hold all in thrall, you are by far the fairest of them all.” This pleased Claudia so much that every night she asked the mirror the same question because it helped her get to sleep.

 

Two years later while asking the mirror ‘who is fairest of them all,’ Claudia-Elisabeth was jolted by a most unpleasant surprise. At this point, the Grimm Brothers dumbed the story down to appeal to a wider audience of six and seven year olds and wrote that the mirror’s reply was: “My Queen is beautiful, fair and tall, but Snow White is now fairest of them all.” Since Magic Mirrors were designed to avoid confrontation whenever possible, it answered the Queen in an almost forgotten language:

 

“Furstin ist faegar im gazen der lande

 und sana fur thronen belanen hare hande.”

 

‘Furstin’ and ‘fagar’ are from the Old Saxon, meaning a princess both fair and beautiful, while throne belongs in her hands is pretty much self-explanatory. Coming from a small country that had fought Saxons for centuries, Claudia understood the mirror well enough to get the point. In a fury, she let out a screech that could be heard throughout the castle. It was bad enough to come in second in a beauty contest, but to lose access to the royal piggy bank was something that could not be tolerated.

 

 Claudia stormed into the 2dining room where her half-brother was reading the help wanted ads, “That stupid Mirror isn’t working again!”

 

Bernard circled a likely prospect about flipping burgers and asked, “What do you mean the Mirror isn’t working?”

 

“It insulted me. Take it back and tell the Dwarves I want one that knows who’s the boss.”

 

Bernard followed his sister to the throne room and pulled back the curtain. There, in all its majesty, stood the most magical of Mirrors. Unfortunately, it had acquired an unsightly crack right down the middle.

 

“What did you do?”

 

“I threw a silver flagon of wine at it.”

 

“Why? Was it thirsty?”

 

“Don’t get cheeky with me Bernard, you know what happened to your twin brother.”

 

Bernard knew very well that Claudia had conned her fairy god mother into turning his twin brother into a wooden puppet, who at that very moment was entertaining small carnival crowds by clogging around on a wooden floor whenever his strings were pulled.

 

“So,” asked Bernard contritely, “what did the mirror say that was so upsetting?”                   

 

“The Mirror said that ex-Princess kitchen drudge is more beautiful than me and she would soon take over the kingdom, which is obviously ridiculous.”

 

Bernard decided not to remind his sister that the mirror always told the truth, “Sister dear,” he said, “I can’t take the mirror back. Dwarfs don’t do returns. They have a sign over their mine that reads: ‘No Refunds…No Exchanges…No Excuses.’”

 

“I don’t care. Tell those runty little men they have do what I say.”

 

“They’re Dwarfs my Queen. You can’t push them around as if they’re starving peasants. Dwarfs are the only ones who know how to make Magic Mirrors and it takes them a year to find all the parts. When they brought your mirror to the castle, they told me they had back orders from Ianna to Maleficent and they’re a lot more afraid of them than they are of you.”

 

 “Fine, then tell them to fix this one right away if they don’t want to be turned into lawn ornaments.”

 

Bernard frowned, “I will ask the Dwarfs, politely, if they can make repairing the Mirror a priority, but they’re going to charge me. You might have to sell some of your shoes.”

 

Claudia stomped her feet, “I will not. Those shoes remind me of all the handsome Princes I had it off with, before I took the magic wand I stole from father and turned them into frogs.”

 

“I wondered what happened to them.”                                                            

 

“And tell those greedy, bastard Dwarfs they can bill me. If they cause you any trouble, I’ll levy such a big tax on them, their little mine will become my little mine.”

 

Given this glimpse of the volcanic, not to mention volatile temper of the Queen, now might be a good time to return to Maria Sophia and the Troll under the bridge. To fill the time waiting for the Troll to make up his mind about eating the Queen, Maria Sophia had taken up spinning. She had just pricked her finger when she looked up and asked, “So, Mr. Troll, have you made a decision?”

 

The Troll continued to stare ahead, “Troll forget question,” he said.

 

“Fine,” said Maria Sophia storming off in a huff, “I’ll go talk to the Dwarfs, maybe they can help.” She went back to the castle, threw on her favorite red cloak, put some rolls in a basket for the old woman who lived in the forest, then grabbed a large butcher’s knife. She’d promised that smarmy, slick talking wolf she’d slit him from gizzard to gullet if he ever came near her again.

 

Many of you may have noticed that the story about the ex-Princess Maria Sophia and Queen Claudia make a number of references to other well-known fairy tale characters and events. For the sake of brevity, the Grimm Brothers routinely deleted such references because their Nielsen ratings went down if the tales took longer to read than it took to drink a cup of coffee. They sold the unused parts of Claudia and Maria Sophia’s story to other fairy tale vendors, which explains why there are so many pumpkin carriages, white rabbits, giants, magic lamps, ugly ducklings, wooden puppets, village drudges and erudite flying dragons, popping up all over Denmark, Arabia and snooty English universities.

 

After dropping off the rolls for the kindly old witch, Maria Sophia skipped through the forest. It was fortunate she didn’t run into the amorous wolf, because she was running late and didn’t want to take the time to dissect him. However, she was almost run over by Bernard’s cart when they arrived simultaneously at the entrance to the Dwarfs’ cave. The Dwarfs were just coming out of their mine eager to down several dozen ice cold beers so they could tell lies about how many diamonds they’d found.

 

The Head Dwarf, Bossy, glared at Bernard and Maria Sophia, “What do you two want?”

 

“Oh, we’re not together,” said the ex-Princess waving her hands, “My name is Maria Sophia. I was the daughter of King Phillipp von Erthal until the Evil Queen stabbed him to death instead of having sex like she was supposed to. I believe you know Bernard, the Queen’s illegitimate half-brother by way of the chamber maid. He wants to exchange the Magic Mirror the Queen broke even though I know you went to a lot of trouble to make it.”

 

Bossy went over to the cart where the Mirror lay nestled in blankets and saw the crack running down the middle, “Don’t she have no respect for nothing?” asked the Dwarf.

 

“Oh no, Mr. Bossy Dwarf,” said the ex-Princess, “she’s a Queen and doesn’t care about anything but herself.”

 

“Is that true?” the Boss Dwarf asked Bernard.

 

“Mr. Dwarf,” Bernard temporized, “there was a slight mishap with the mirror. My sister wants me to discuss possible strategies for its’ repair or replacement.

 

Bossy Dwarf pointed to the sign over the mine shaft, “We don’t do no exchanges. You got any money?”

 

Bernard nodded, “Regarding that…I’d like to make a proposal.”

 

“Proposals,” Bossy, glowered at the Queen’s half-brother, “usually means people trying to suggest some tricky scheme so they don’t have to pay for services rendered.”

 

The Head Dwarf was, of course correct, which put Bernard in a bit of a quandary. If he didn’t return with a repaired mirror, his sister would add his name to the list of those scheduled to be pulled in opposite directions by very large horses at the next County Fair. He also considered it likely that if the Mirror made any more negative pronouncements, the Queen would relegate him to the dungeon where the royal torturer would introduce him to the subtleties of hot coals and tongs. Thinking it through, Bernard decided it was time to change allegiance. He bent over and whispered to the ex-Princess, who nodded her head in agreement.

 

“Mr. Bossy,” said the ex-Princess in her best boardroom voice, “how would you and your colleagues like to be part owners in a soon to be very prosperous new business enterprise? With my help you could start a jewelry franchise for your mine that would make you famous around the world.”

 

We don’t know nothin’ ‘bout fansizes,” said Brainy, the stupid Dwarf. “We only know how to make Magic Mirrors when we ain’t digging for gold and diamonds.”

 

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” said the ex-Princess, “you could build a diamond empire as well as create a monopoly on the sale of Magic Mirrors, but you better decide soon because I heard the Queen is planning on appropriating your mine under the Right of Eminent Domain.”

 

“Who you callin’ an Eminent Domain?” bristled Dopey, the smart Dwarf.

 

Maria-Sophia explained, “That’s where the government, meaning the Queen, takes over private property, meaning your mine, if it’s in the public’s (meaning her) interest to do so.”

 

The dwarfs stared blankly at the girl with the lawyerly vocabulary.

 

Maria-Sophia took a deep breath, “Taxes!” she yelled, “the Queen wants to tax you back to the Stone Age and take over your mine.”

 

“Taxes!” The dwarfs yelled in a chorus. Dwarfs hate taxes. They’d even been known to drop tax collectors down very deep mine shafts which explained why they stopped coming by.

 

“How about this?” Maria-Sophia replied confidently, “you help me get rid of the Queen and I adopt all of you? Family members never tax each other. We could be like the Rockefellers or the Bushes or the Kennedys…they never have to pay taxes even if they say they do.”

 

Bossy gestured with his hands and the Dwarfs gathered together for a quick huddle. Occasionally a Dwarf head would pop up to look at Bernard and Maria Sophia, until finally Bossy stood up and asked peevishly, “How do we know you’ll keep your word? People who live in castles and white houses never keep promises they make while they’re in the middle of the forest or out on the campaign trail.”

 

“Besides, we’re too old to be adopted,” argued Doc the logical Dwarf.

 

Sophia Maria crossed her arms, “Ever hear of big brothers?”

 

There was another huddle, more discussion and more head scratching.

 

Finally, Maria Sophia spoke up, “Look guys, under my plan, you’ll have a baby sister who will take care of you when you get sick, clean your house, cook you wonderful dinners and make sure you brush your teeth in the morning.”

 

There was more head scratching. Sophia Maria put her hands on her hips, “Show me where you live,” she commanded.

 

The Seven Dwarfs hung their heads as they walked over to a stone house that could barely be called a hovel. “It maybe needs a little fixing up,” suggested Bumpy.

 

Maria Sophia opened the door, took a sniff, then turned on the dwarfs, “How can you live like this?” she demanded, “it’s not fit for pigs! All of you, right now; pails of hot water, brooms, rags and shovels. Hurry, before the house gets up and walks away by itself!”

 

“We’re miners,” complained the Dwarf called Grouchy, “that means we dig dirt, scrape rocks and scrabble scree; cleaning, scrubbing and polishing is against Dwarf union rules.” The other six Dwarfs nodded their heads in agreement.

 

“Fine,” said the Princess, “you fix the mirror and I’ll clean your house. You can sing your mining song while you take a bath.”

 

“Bath!” the Dwarfs protested. “We don’t never take baths. That’s against union rules too.”

 

Maria Sophia suspected the Dwarfs made up union rules as they went along, “Up to you,” she put her hands on her hips, “no baths, no dinner.”

 

There was more grumbling as Grouchy gave it one more shot, “Princesses don’t know nothin’ about cooking and cleaning and besides, we don’t know no mining song.”

 

“Well I promise,” I’ve had a lot of experience cooking and cleaning and as for a mining song, let me teach you one.” She began to sing “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s off the clean we go…” Pretty soon doves, turtles, mice, cockroaches and deer with antlers to hang the laundry on showed up. The animals all grabbed rags, pails and brushes and began cleaning everything in sight.

 

Maria Sophia then asked the Dwarfs to give her a diamond so Bernard could buy some beer and groceries. Dwarfs do not normally part with their diamonds, but the promise of a clean house, a decent meal and all the beer they could drink was too good an offer to pass up.

 

The Dwarfs spent the rest of the day working on the Magic Mirror. Then later that evening they gathered together for dinner which was universally declared most excellent.

 

“Why is it…” asked Maria Sophia, “that Dwarfs are the only ones who know how to make Magic Mirrors?”

 

“Well,” said Doc Dwarf, “A long time ago everyone, even children, had Magic Mirrors that could do everything from play vicious, brutal war games to expose the lies and incompetence of the lords of the land. However, royalty, like politicians, dislike having their faults put on public display, so in the name of national security, they created a super Magic Mirror that monitored every word written or said to all the other Magic Mirrors. That way they could punish anyone who wasn’t asking the right kinds of questions. One day, a powerful sorcerer named Elon, gave all of the Magic Mirrors connected to something called ‘the net’ a terrible disease that made them get sick and die. Our ancestors took the few Magic Mirrors that hadn’t been connected to the net and hid them in caves and mineshafts and that’s where we found them.”

 

“Hmmm,” said Bernard, “that sounds the same as the Queen who wants her Magic Mirror to make other people do whatever she wants whether they like it or not. She especially hates having to make up; rhymes in order to ask the mirror questions.”

 

 “Didn’t nobody tell her about the importance of passwords?”

 

“I tried, but the Queen wants things to work just because she waves her hands,” said Bernard.

 

“So she’s lazy,” said Bossy Dwarf.

 

“As a fly on a hot summer’s day,” agreed Bernard.

 

After dinner there was a long discussion about what to do about the Queen. “What is the Queen afraid of more than anything else?” Maria Sophia asked Bernard.

 

“Like all tyrants,” said Bernard, “she’s terrified of being invaded and losing everything she hasn’t done a thing to earn.”

 

Bossy shook his head, “There’s only seven of us. That’s not enough for an invasion.”

 

“We don’t need a real invasion,” said the ex-Princess who’d once read a graphic novel by Sun Tzu, “We only need for the Queen to think there’s an invasion.”

 

There was more putting together of heads and nods of agreement, “By making some adjustments to the Mirror,” announced Bossy, “we might be able to help the Queen become very fearful indeed.” He looked at Bernard, “However, you, Mister Half-Brother will have to help.”

 

Bernard grew thoughtful, “Do you think you could send a message to the castle that I’m going to be delayed?”

 

The next morning, Queen Claudia was delighted when she received a message from Bernard saying that the Dwarfs had agreed to fix the mirror, but since the repairs would take three days, he was going to stay and personally supervise the work so the mirror worked the way she wanted. ‘Such a good half-brother,’ thought Queen Claudia, ‘I must remember to give him a half-present on his half-birthday.’ However, having nothing to do for the next three days, the Queen ordered the Royal Huntsman to come to the castle, “I want you to go find the ex-Princess and teach her how to hunt deer,” she said.

 

“Yes, your Majesty,” said the Huntsman.

 

The Queen smirked, “And just to be clear. She’s to learn everything about deer hunting from the deer’s point of view. Bring me her heart when you’ve finished the lesson. I haven’t broken or eaten any hearts in ages.”

 

Although he searched every glade and hollow, the Huntsman was unable to locate the whereabouts of Maria Sophia. This was fine by the Huntsman who knew what happened to underlings whose only defense at human rights trials was they were just following orders. Three days later Bernard showed up at the castle with the repaired mirror. He had it installed in the same recessed alcove of the throne room. Claudia was pleased, “See, I knew all you had to do was tell those Dwarfs I’d be pissed if they didn’t fix it right away. Did you tell them to bill me?”

 

 “Yes sis, they said that would be fine.”

 

Claudia’s eyes glinted, “Stupid Dwarfs. Don’t they know that royalty and the super wealthy never pay their bills? They spend all their time figuring out ways to claim the cost of jewelry purchases, ball gowns, race horses and trips to beauty salons as legitimate tax deductions.”

 

Well,” said Bernard untruthfully, “they didn’t seem to be all that smart. By the way I had them install a start button so now all you have to do is to say one rhyme, then you press the button and ask it whatever you want.”

 

“That sounds simple enough. What’s the rhyme?”

 

Later that morning, Claudia chanted to the newly repaired magic mirror, “Mirror Mirror on the wall, listen to me when I call.” She pressed the button like she’d been taught, then demanded, “Tell me how to become the most powerful, feared queen in the world.” The mirror dissolved into roiling clouds of dust, full of rocket flares and canon fire, accompanied by the sound of pounding drums, clanging shields and charging trumpets. Claudia could also see dozens of pennants fluttering and waving above the smoky chaos.

 

The Mirror spoke, “O lovely Queen, you are too late. The Dwarfs’ new army will soon seal your fate.”

 

The Queen didn’t believe the Mirror for a second, “Mirror, stop playing around. Dwarfs don’t have armies. Tell me the truth.” The mirror began to bubble and change shape.

 

Hearing the noise, Bernard rushed in, “Mirror,” he commanded, “control/alt/delete.” The mirror calmed down, defaulting to a lower case white letter “c:” that blinked rhythmically in the mirror’s upper right hand corner. Bernard looked accusingly at his sister, “What did you do?”

 

“The mirror went crazy,” cried Claudia, “it showed images of a huge army carrying placards saying, “Down with the Queen” and “Off with her Head! Then there were pictures of me in chains while men in black hoods put red hot iron dancing shoes on my feet. It was a surreal nightmare.”

 

“Not a nightmare sis. The Mirror was just doing its job…warning you that an invading army has come to get rid of you and take over your kingdom.”

 

Claudia rushed to the window and beyond a hill in the far distance she could just make out large clouds of dust with dozens of pennants waving above it. It was the same image she’d seen in the mirror. Now Claudia might have been a poor sorceress, but she was highly skilled in the art of self-preservation, ‘Quick, Brother, call for the Royal Carriage. Have it loaded with all the royal jewels. I think I have been remiss in not visiting my dear relatives in Reichtenstein. You stay here and hold off the Dwarfs’ army so I’ll have time to get away.” After the royal treasure was safely loaded, Claudia snapped the whip and got the horse going in the opposite direction of the invading army. She knew she would have to chance crossing the bridge near the castle, but figured if she went quickly, she could get across before the Troll even knew she’d been there.

 

What the Queen did not know was just that morning, Maria Sophia had brought the Troll a smorgasbord of pizzas, pies and cakes, informing him of the Queen’s likely attempt to flee the kingdom by crossing his bridge.

 

All day, the Troll had skulked, lurked and crouched under the Bridge and when the Queen’s carriage sped over the causeway, he reached up and grabbed the wheel, flipping the carriage, the Queen and her royal treasure over the bridge and into the river. It was then a small matter to grab the screaming Queen and ask her the riddle about smelling the blood of English men. Claudia was so terrified of the giant, ugly, evil smelling hulk she could only stutter, “I’ll give you a nice crown if you let me go.”

 

This was not the answer to the riddle and the rending, tearing and gorging that followed was pretty much what you might expect. The Troll’s only comment on the day’s events was to lick his fingers and say, “Troll like take-away.”

 

Upon taking over management of the kingdom, Maria-Sophia kept every one of her promises. She created a Dwarf Board of Directors and started up several new businesses including a mining consortium that held back millions of carats of diamonds to increase their market value. She then built a shop called Tiffany’s to give the Dwarfs a retail outlet for their handiwork. She promoted the Troll to ‘Master Collector of Taxes for the Kingdom’s Roads and Bridges. Travelers were required to put a penny in a large bowl which was collected daily by one of the servant girls when she brought the Troll’s take away. Travelers were warned that not paying would result in life threatening consequences. The Troll’s title, while quite grand, was a bit long winded, so the towns-people simply referred to it as the “Troll’s Road,’ however some of you with higher IQs might know it by its’ more modern name.

 

 

Kim Bigelow holds a graduate degree from Northwestern University where his thesis project was supervised by Garry Marshall of 'Pretty Woman' and 'Princess Diaries' fame.  Kim then was a writer/producer/director in the Chicago area for local TV affiliates, media companies and MTV.  He then accepted a position as Chair and/or Director of Film Programs for American University in the UAE and NYIT in Nanjing, China.  He was awarded grants by Michele Sisson, U.S. Ambassador to the UAE and Robert Griffiths, Consulate General of Shanghai for promoting American culture in China.  Kim Bigelow has written more than 200 short stories and received awards from 'The Saturday Evening Post', 'The Parracombe Prize' and the H.G. Wells Short Fiction Award.


© "It's the Mirror, Stupid" | Kim A. Bigelow

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