Quick update on the house concert:
Saturday night was a perfect storm of good weather, enthusiastic promotion, tasty refreshments and a house full of rapt audience members, many of whom were experiencing a storytelling concert for the first time. The spontaneous social hour afterward was a bonus. We’re definitely going to do this again. I’ve already lined up tellers for April. Stay tuned.
…and now for a little chuckle to help you through the mid-winter doldrums. This was one of the first groundhog stories, and it’s still one of my favorites.
Cinderella’s step-sisters were urging her to quit dawdling and start getting ready for the royal ball.
The eldest said, “Cinderella, give it a chance. You’ll like the ball once you get there.”
“Duh, yeah,” said the younger step-sister. “Think of it… all those cute boys from neighboring kingdoms, the best bands, and that dreamy prince.”
Cinderella thought a root canal sounded like more fun than hanging out for a whole evening at a formal dance with her air-head step-sisters.
“Aw, thanks, guys, but I really have mop the scullery floor and alphabetize the spice rack. And look at the garden – the weeds are about to take over.”
They rolled their eyes and said, “All right. Be a drudge.”
That evening, the scullery floor gleamed. Cinderella had the spice rack in perfect Dewey Decimal order. And now she was weeding a row of curly endive. The night sky glowed with the lights from the palace, and the sound of music wafted on the breeze. She sighed and wondered if there was anything she might one day enjoy as much as the step-sibs apparently enjoyed wearing skimpy dresses and going to balls.
A voice somewhere behind her said, “You wanna go? It’s not too late. I can get you there in under five minutes.”
Cinderella turned to see who was talking. There was only a fat groundhog standing on its haunches nibbling slugs from the beer trap she had set out the night before.
The groundhog licked her paws and said, “I like this beer marinade thing you’ve got going. Good texture. Low sodium. Yum!” She swallowed another slug and stifled a burp. “That hit the spot!”
Cinderella stared, dumbstruck.
The groundhog said, “So. You goin’ or not?”
“Why would I want to?”
“Because you’d be beautiful and enigmatic, all the women would envy you, the men would want to hold you in their arms, and the prince might even fall in love with you.”
“Oh. I get it,” said Cinderella. “Like a Nora Ephron movie. Except that a.) I’m not beautiful, and b.) I’m about as enigmatic as a cold shower, not to mention c.) I don’t even own a dress, and d.) I lack the requisite fairy godmother to put the package all together. Plus, I just read in the paper that the prince got his second d.u.i… What a loser.”
The groundhog was nonplussed. “But they assured me in school that this was just the thing female humans dream about.”
Cinderella said, “I never bought the dream. Or maybe I lack what it takes to make it happen – the looks, the charm, the clothes, the fairy godmother. Maybe I’ve just got a bad case of sour grapes.”
“I concede you are somewhat plain and…shall we say ‘disarming’? No, I think the word is ‘blunt.’ And your clothes are…um…subdued. But you do have one ace in the hole – so to speak. While you don’t have a standard issue Fairy Godmother, you do have me.” At this, she flourished a wand and sent fairy dust flying.
“And you are…?”
“Your Fairy Groundhog, for heaven’s sake! Isn’t that patently obvious?”
“Uh… Sure. Yeah. …Um… Why do I have a Fairy Groundhog?”
At this the groundhog’s shoulders slumped. “You’re disappointed,” she sighed. “They warned me. They said no human with a shred of intelligence would ever believe in me. I’ll never get to test my magic — to find out if this silly wand does anything besides spit glitter.”
“Who’s this They you talk about?” asked Cinderella.
“My instructors. The faculty at GAGA.”
“Grimm’s Accredited Godmother Academy. I’m in my last year. You were supposed to be my senior project. See, I’m to find a disconsolate ingénue – a martyr, if possible — and wave my wand, do the whole hair/face/wardrobe makeover thing, send her off to a social function and fix it so she finds true love.”
“I’m not cooperating, am I?”
“No. You are not.”
“Okay,” Cinderella sighed. “I’ll go to the ball. But please don’t put my hair in ringlets. And no foundation garments. How ‘bout something simple in black?”
Cinderella’s Fairy Groundhog went to work. With a wave of her wand, there stood Cinderella, combed and manicured, in a black silk t-shirt and a long black skirt.
Cinderella checked out her reflection in the patio door and said, “All right!” she said. “This is good.”
“I’m not done,” said the Fairy Groundhog. “We have to accessorize. It’s twenty percent of my grade.”
The wand flew. Ping! Gold hoops decorated Cinderella’s ears. Zing! There was a diamond pendant at her throat. Ding! A Gucci bag hung off her shoulder. Bibbity-bobbity-boo! Cinderella found herself tottering in a pair of glass pumps with three inch heels.
“Lose the shoes!” she demanded.
“Can’t do it,” said the Fairy Groundhog. “It’s the test for permanent transmogrification. The footwear is mandatory.”
“Yeah, well, my ability to walk is mandatory if you want me to go to the ball..”
“Oh all right.” The Fairy Groundhog changed Cinderella’s glass slippers to Converse All-Stars – sixteen hole, lace-up tennis shoes.
“Awesome!” said Cinderella.
“Really? Hmph. Okay, to get you there and back… limo or horse-drawn coach?”
Cinderella said, “Taxi.”
Within seconds, a vintage yellow and black Checker cab was idling in the driveway.
“It’s perfect!” she cried.
The Groundhog was about to tell Cinderella to be home by midnight, but Cinderella rendered her speechless by scooping her up and stowing her in the Gucci bag.
The Groundhog sputtered, “What on earth are you doing?”
“I wanna make sure I have somebody to talk to once I get to this social function.”
Well… As it turned out, Cinderella had a ball. By the time she arrived, the prince had already passed out, so there was one worry out of the way. Her step-sisters caught sight of her across the ballroom, but before they could get to the other side with their squeals and air kisses, the caterer mistook her for one of his black-uniformed crew. He sent her off to the kitchen for a fresh tray of escargot.
In this way, Cinderella found herself happily occupied with the courteous and well-spoken caterer, whose sparkling eyes and balding pattern she found utterly irresistible. Her Fairy Groundhog feasted on snails until she had eaten herself into oblivion. She snored softly among the folds of the Gucci bag … until the gonging of the midnight clock.
In a panic, she scrambled out of the handbag yelling, “Cinderella! Cinderella! The magic wears off at midnight! Quick! We gotta get outa here!”
But at that point, Cinderella heard nothing but the flutter of her own smitten heart. She and the caterer were locked in fond embrace beside the walk-in freezer, sharing love’s first kiss. A long kiss. It lasted for twelve gongs. Then in the silence, a soft “ping! zing! ding!” signaled Cinderella’s return to normalcy. There she stood — dirt stained jeans and workshirt, fingernails grubby, hair flying.
The caterer stepped back and did a little doubletake. “Cool trick!” he said. And resumed the kiss.
The upshot of the whole thing was this:
The Fairy Groundhog passed her senior project (with distinction) and graduated from GAGA (with honors), but she never became a L.C.F.G. (Licensed Certified Fairy Godmother). During her senior practicum she learned with horror that American fairy godmothers have to show up for work with big hair and bad prom dresses. “No way!” she declared. So she returned to her roots and opened an upscale little underground lunchroom in Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania. It’s called Mollusks ‘n’ More. When she’s not hibernating, business is brisk. Cinderella keeps her stocked with marinated slugs, and her caterer friend is generous with cooking tips and recipes.
All in all, Cinderella’s glad she went to the royal ball. As a result of that one excursion she is now full partner in a thriving business with her Fairy Groundhog, she’s got a prince of a sweetheart, and that girl owns a pair of shoes her step-sisters would die for.
copyright 1999 Mega Hicks. All Rights Reserved.