Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What if the slipper didn’t fit?

Cinderella had attended the ball, lost track of time, and narrowly escaped to her enchanted coach waiting outside the castle. As we know, in her haste to flee the Prince before the stroke of midnight, one of her glass slippers was left lying by accident on the castle steps.

Our story begins with the Prince, having found the tiny slipper, and his desperate search for its owner. The night before was magical for him. He had danced with the girl of his dreams. Now, the only solid evidence of that magical evening was the fragile slipper he held in his hands. Who was its owner? How could he recapture all of the joy he had received in that four hours with her at the Ball? His quest was to find her if he had to visit every house in the kingdom. Whomever the slipper fit perfectly would claim his heart (and fortune) living happily ever after. The search was on.

Sitting among the cinders, Cinderella relived the prior evening's events. What a wonderfully magical time it had been. Fairy Godmother had been so generous in her accouterments. Not a detail had been overlooked. Cinderella had been transformed into the Belle of the Ball and had danced the night away with the charming Prince.

Now, however, the garish light of the morning shone on reality. Her tiny feet were swollen from all of the dancing and she gingerly placed them in the basin of cool water that she had prepared hoping for a good soak before being required to do the house chores that lay before her. There was laundry to do, floors to mop and wax, and today was dusting day throughout the household she shared with her stepmom Lady Tremaine and two nasty stepsisters Anastasia and Drusilla.

"Better get to work," she thought, "or I'll catch it, for sure."

So, grabbing her mop, bucket, cleaning cloths, polishes, and cleansers, Cinderella began her day.

After she had finished drying the last dish from the large lunch she had prepared for her stepmother and sisters (they left the table without even thanking her), she heard pounding at the front door. Drying her hands on the towel, she passed through the large living room to greet whoever was visiting. She wasn't prepared for who was standing at the door when she opened it.

A page, dressed in the royal colors of the court, began reading a decree prepared just that morning by the Prince. It was heralding notice that every female in the kingdom was "hereby ordered to try on the glass slipper" which the page was holding on a satin pillow. Cinderella's heart skipped! That was her slipper!

The page entered the household and required Cinderella to be seated. He held the glass slipper as Cinderella moved her foot toward the moment of truth. But, alas, her poor feet were still so swollen and sore from all of the previous night's dancing, and the grueling work forced upon her this morning, that the slipper wouldn't accommodate her size 5 foot. She tried again. Nothing. Again. Still nothing. She began to feel a sense of dread. Her fortune was passing her by. Her happiness, tied to the proper fit of this cursed shoe, was melting away. Her heart sunk.

"Are there other females in the household?" inquired the page.

"Yes. I'll summon them for you," said Cinderella as she left the room tearfully.

The large room was soon full of giddy, giggling females each confident that her foot was the one that was going to launch them into a life of royalty and riches.

Lady Tremaine was first to try on the prized glass slipper, but found the little article much too small for her plump appendage.

Drusilla was seated next and extended her foot for the prize. Close, but no cigar.

At last, Anastasia was asked to place her foot into the shoe. Since her dance card had remained virtually empty at the Ball, her feet were fine. Remarkably, the slipper fit.

Pandemonium broke out! The three ladies of the Tremaine household shouted and clapped and hugged each other tearfully as the page carefully noted the results of the fitting on the bottom of the royal decree. The slipper's owner had been found! There was going to be a royal wedding! Anastasia was going to be an inheritor of the throne!

Sadly, Cinderella slipped away to her chimney quarters and silently sobbed as the celebration continued elsewhere in the large house. Life was cruel.

The next few weeks found Cinderella busily packing personal belongings for her stepmom and her cruel daughters. The royal wedding was to be held on Saturday and preparations to move the three women's personal items to the castle must be completed today.

Last minute orders were screamed at her by each of the three and poor Cinderella had no time to feel remorse for herself. She was destined to be a servant. Her ship had left the port. She must bear the strain of her low station and not complain. She must do as commanded.

Prince Romanov was confused. The last few weeks had been a blur. The lady selected by the slipper didn't seem as enchanting in the daylight as she had that evening at the ball. She was domineering and demanding. She was not at all what he had envisioned his princess to be. However, the slipper made its choice. He had written the royal decree himself. His fate was sealed. He was reminded painfully that one had better be careful for what one wishes.

The wedding was the biggest the kingdom had seen in years. Royalty from neighboring realms added to the pageantry. Parades were held in the royal couple's honor. Gifts of inestimable value were lavished upon the couple and wishes for long life and reign were shouted by the attending throng. Feasts were prepared to sate even the largest appetites and all remarked at how even the smallest details had the mark of royalty stamped upon them. It was a memorable celebration and the Prince Romanov and Princess Anastasia were soon off on their honeymoon.

Lady Tremaine and Drusilla were appointed as part of Anastasia's court and found the royal castle's quarters much to their liking. Each need was met. Each order was followed precisely. They were made for this lifestyle. Ahhhhh.

Cinderella was left to care for the property abandoned by her pitiless step-family. Lady Tremaine, seeing the treasure and the royal lifestyle beckoning to her family, legally assigned the house and grounds back to Cinderella knowing that there wasn't much there for the girl. It was actually Cinderella's father's place to begin with. Lady Tremaine had grabbed it for herself and daughters after his death. So what? The Tremaine's had given her shelter, hadn't they? They had given her a place to live, hadn't they? They could have put her out on the street where she belonged. Well, she was used to the place anyway, so, why not let her have it back? They were tired of it anyway. Too small. Its fifteen rooms were not nearly spacious enough to provide a venue for the future social functions they would be expected to host. Let the little cleaning girl have it. Good riddance to it; and to her.


The uprising in the Kingdom had been festering since Prince Romanov and Princess Anastasia were elevated to the throne seven years ago. The Prince's father and mother had died mysteriously in their sleep and the Prince and Princess were appointed immediate successors to the throne. Their cruel tyranny and disregard for their subjects had resulted in higher taxes and restrictive edicts placing the masses in wretched bondage to the throne.

The Prince, now King Romanov, was rarely seen in public. Queen Anastasia was the architect for all of the schemes designed in creating new taxes levied against the realm and her enforcement squads to collect those taxes from the populace were cruel and heartless. The royal coffers had grown fat. Royal parties were frequent and extravagant. The populace was hungry and destitute, but the throne was deaf and blind to its needs.

Cinderella was fearful. She had never heard such bitter and dangerous language from people in the village. Each day she would overhear someone at the market talking about the oppressive King Romanov and Queen Anastasia. Angry words punctuated citizen's demands to seize the throne and take the kingdom back restoring it to its glory days! Friends and neighbors previously docile and content to live their lives were becoming militant in their demands for action. Calls for militia action against the throne were becoming more frequent.

The kingdom's citizenry had had enough.


Cindy opened the morning paper and began her leisurely review of the news while sipping her latte as she had done for the past 4 years.

Her routine was to arrive at the office early, review the schedules for the day, and review the growing client list her company had been blessed with since opening her business 5 years ago.

Cindy's Cleaning and Restoration, Inc. was among the fastest growing service companies in America. Its fleet of 50 distinct and recognizable vans could be seen throughout the region providing residential and commercial cleaning services to an expanding and grateful clientele. The company's service was second to none, paying close attention to detail and providing complete customer satisfaction.

Cindy had immigrated to America 5 years ago having sold her property and meager belongings to exit a country poised for civil war. She had been fortunate to find a buyer for her father's estate. After arriving in America, she posted the proceeds from the sale into a company that would do the only thing that she knew how to do: clean. She found the American lifestyle a perfect niche for what her company offered and an empire was born.

Now, as she read her paper, a small article on page 24 caught her eye. It seemed that a coup had occurred in her homeland. A group of radicals had stormed the castle and its royal occupants had fled fearing for their lives. One of the leaders of the coup had noted that the oppression extended by the former King Romanov's and Queen Anastasia's court had finally reached a crescendo and prompted the militant bloodless takeover.

The article further stated that most of the personal items had been collected by the former royal family and taken with them in their hasty flight from the castle to points unknown. Oddly, however, only one item remained, apparently dropped as the royalty fled…

A tiny glass slipper was discovered on the castle steps.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

She seemed like such a sweet old lady…

Lucy Davis’ alarm screamed for attention at 5:10 a.m.

Lucy’s groping fingers silenced the intruder. Her feet found the fuzzy beige slippers next to the bed and shuffled to her dressing room 10 feet away. Another day in the life to make a difference.

Half an hour later, having gotten dressed, she styled her hair into its familiar bun shape, placed the pearls that Hubert, her late husband, had given her around her neck, and checked details of her modest ensemble in the mirror. The high lace collar on her blouse held in place by a cameo brooch, the A-line skirt’s hem at mid-calf, and her Oxford orthopedic shoes completed the look that had been a familiar sight around the office since the 50’s. Taking her shawl from its resting place in the chintz chair next to the bed, Lucy was ready for the day.

In the kitchen, she took her medicine, sipped her first cup of coffee drawn from the automatic brewer on the counter, set out Meow Mix for Fluffy, grabbed a container of yogurt and her cane, and left her apartment picking up the morning paper placed strategically at her front door. Bobby, the building concierge, made sure the paper was there every morning. His attention to Lucy’s routine needs earned him a nice Christmas bonus every year.

Lucy passed through the stile at the station and took the 6:00 a.m. train downtown. Her thirty minute ride gave her time to finish her yogurt, read the morning news, and outline her day’s activities. She was generally the first one in the office which gave her the leverage she required to make the day run smoothly. Lucy was fussy about details. Predictability and routine were her friends. Surprises were not an option.

“Good morning, Lou”, stated Lucy, as she approached the door of the Stanley Building.

Like Lucy, Lou had been a regular fixture every weekday morning at this spot called the Stanley Building on 38th Avenue.

Upstairs Lucy removed her shawl, re-arranged the doilies placed throughout her office, straightened the magazines in the waiting room, started the coffee in the breakroom, and turned on the lights in the 26th floor suite of offices. She laid the morning dailies on Mr. Biff’s desk and took his appointment book back to her receptionist area. Uncovering her IBM Selectric, she was ready for business. The fight game was Lucy’s income and life. She was the front line for all those wanna-be’s wishing to make a name for themselves in the WWF. Lucy the receptionist. This was her town. This was her domain.

On the south side of town, Hacksaw Harrigan finished his protein drink and stood admiring himself in his full length mirror held by wire to his dilapidated door in his shabby apartment. Hacksaw’s meeting with his parole officer yesterday went as well as could be expected, and Hacksaw was ready for work. Fifteen years in the state penitentiary for assault and battery (the dame had it coming!) had served as a useful platform in developing his trade. His daily workouts in the yard had paid off. He was destined, in his mind, to make it big in the WWF. He had the looks, the brawn, and the savvy to hand it to anyone who crossed him. He was on his way.

All he needed was a break. He was desperate for a spot on a card.

He was going to the Stanley Building today and would demand to see William “Bulldog” Bivens-“Biff” to friends-the best fight promoter in the game. Hacksaw would not take “no” for an answer. Today was the day the world would discover Hacksaw. Today was the day that the fight game would welcome him with open arms.

He stood admiring his body art one last time. The artist’s ink that began at his wrists snaked its way up both arms terminating just below his earlobes. He fastened a gold hoop into his right lobe, and brushed his hand across his freshly shaved head. There was enough prison pallor remaining giving his skin a parchment look and his eyes mimicked a caged animal that had accidentally been set free. Pulling a jacket over his stained wife-beater tee and adjusting his cheap sunglasses on the bridge of his nose, Hacksaw left his room.

Kicking the little kid aside playing on the front stoop of the building, Hacksaw hailed a cab. He had just enough fare for a ride downtown. Why take the bus? In a few short hours, he was sure he would be offered the limo services that all the WWF guys demanded. It was time to start living large.

By mid afternoon, Lucy had accomplished all that she had set out to do. Mr. Biff’s appointments had gone well that morning earning her high praise from his corner office. She had a few promos to finish for the upcoming matches and had just started to call the printer when the double-doors to the office suite burst open.

Standing 10 feet from Lucy’s reception desk was a man about 6 feet tall, two hundred twenty pounds, or so, making heads in the office turn with his belligerent and annoying demands to “see the person in charge!”

Three steps brought him face to face with Lucy.

“Hey, you ol’ biddy!”, screamed Hacksaw. “I wanna see Biff!”

Lucy waited.

“Hey, Grandma! You deef??? I said, I demand to see Biff Bivens!!!---NOW!!!”

Lucy opened her appointment book.

“What don’t you understand, you old Coot? Get me in there to see Bivens immediately!!!”

“May I ask who is calling?” inquired Lucy in her most endearing tone.


Lucy flipped over three pages in her appointment book.

“Mr. Bivens will see you 5 weeks from today at 4:30 p.m. I’ll write that down for you.”

Hacksaw’s face became an intriguing color of puce nearly masking the ink tattoos on his neck. His mouth twisted horribly as he reached across for the lace collar the receptionist was wearing. He was an expert at battering women; taking out this old fossil would be a cinch.

Hacksaw screamed with pain as his forearm broke in two pieces. The hoop came easily out of its earlobe location and rested in the corner with small pieces of flesh still attached to it. His right eye swelled immediately as the large stapler on Lucy’s desk found its mark. Hacksaw’s continuing screams were silenced with a strategic blow to his windpipe with the back of Lucy’s dainty left hand.

He fell with a thud.

Lucy erased his name from the register, called 911 for EMS services, and began to clear her desk to go home.

It was time for Fluffy’s milk.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Old things...

Why is it, as we become older, we think more about things that intrigued us in our younger and formative years? We hold dear those few antiques that my wife has received from her family over the years and they hold special meaning to us as they adorn our home. They provide a certain comfort that eludes the shiny, hi-tech gadgetry that visits the consumer today.

Why is that?

As a boy I remember visiting my paternal grandparents. They owned a small farm in Wells County, Indiana, and it was always an adventure to spend time at their house. The place was a treasure trove of memories tucked away in musty old trunks, dust covered shelves, and abandoned, creaky old buildings. One such memory sat across the road, up a rutted lane; an old farmhouse, long abandoned, and lovingly referred to by my Dad as the "home place". It was the residence where he and his nine siblings were born and raised. When it was no longer capable of containing the 12 souls that occupied it, the newer house was built and the "old house" was left containing only the echoes and memories of its past.

A visit to the "old house" was always a part of my trip to our grandparents. Walking across the road and up the lane was a delicious prelude of things to come. There was a rusty hand pump outside the house that served as the water source in bygone years. Walking across the worn boards of the porch to the weathered door never ceased to cause me to wonder how many other footsteps had gone there before mine.

The door opened to a large room, which by today's standards would seem modest. Lighted only by the sunshine cascading through ancient windows, I could easily find my way among the rooms. My imagination would provide scenes of activities that must have taken place in those rooms! The laughter, the kerosene lanterns providing reading lights at dusk, the scuffling of feet on the bare floors; oh, what blessings, tears, and emotions must have filled that place!

Upstairs there were things that had been stored, but forgotten. There was an English sidesaddle that spoke of an earlier genteel period when women sat modestly upon horseback comforted by this instrument of carriage. There were old and faded photographs of stern looking people dressed in their Sunday finest captured for posterity through the magic of the camera. There were farm tools such as scythes and other handtools replaced now by more modern means of production.

All of these, having no animate life, were alive with the memories that clung to them and have become part of the fabric of who I am.

What memories will my children and grandchildren have? What experiences will urge them 50 years from now, to post their childhood shadows to some public place?

How will I be remembered?

Monday, March 1, 2010


There is something magical about the month of March. I like to think of it as a transitional month. Winter is securely fastened behind us and spring beckons. Each day there is some indication that a transformation is occuring...

Going down for the mail this afternoon, I was pleased to see the sun as it muscled its way through the winter sky. Its strength has improved substantially since last week and it looks as though it is going to overcome the waning piles of snow left by last week's winter visit. The muddy season approaches, but will soon be transformed into arable soil by the sun's warmth, and the winds that March usually brings.

My elementary school memories had us making kites, drawing fluffy clouds in art class, and attending recess sans winter wear. We knew, without being told, that the promise of warm weather brought new plans of sandlot baseball, bike rides, and neighborhood gatherings after being sequestered all winter. One could smell the transition in the air.

So, welcome, March. Work your magic for us. I'm glad you're here.