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Charles Perrault's "Toads and Diamonds," illustration by Kate Greenaway, 1875

Charles Perrault’s “Toads and Diamonds,” illustration by Kate Greenaway, 1875

Dear Adventurous Adventuress in Ada,

I read your letter to Vasilisa and, though I almost never tell my story, it seems like I should now. Maybe it will help you.

My mother remarried when I was 11 years old, and my new stepfather had a daughter, too, just my age. She was really nice and also very pretty. Sis–I called her that because I was so glad to have a sister!–was one of those extremely kind types, always wanting to help. Sometimes I was afraid she was a little too sympathetic, gullible, even. My mother hated her just because she was prettier and more popular than me. She would always try to trip Sis up and make her look bad–at school, church, in front of company, whenever she could. I’m not proud of it, but I liked hearing my sister put down, too. I was always scrawny and plain, actually ugly, and it was hard having a sister who always, always turned heads.

So, anyway, the January that Sis and I were both 16, my mother sent her out to get some strawberries, which was just mean because, of course, there weren’t any at that time of year. Hours passed. Sis didn’t come back and I was sure she had either frozen to death or run away from home, but then she finally returned. And this is the part that’s hard to believe: after that, whenever she talked, money would came of her mouth. I mean, gold coins! Somehow through the blathering with the coins and all, my mother figured out that Sis had met someone, a wizard or magician, who gave her the power to create gold in her mouth. Or something like that; I don’t know, exactly; it just seemed like magic!

Well, of course, Mother wanted me to have it, too, and I was certainly game! She sent me out on the same errand, and I rushed right into it. I kept getting stopped by people who wanted me to do first one thing and then another, but I managed to put them off and reach the wizard. By then, he was out of gold coins, I guess, because all he gave me was the power to produce frogs. Yuck!

The thing is, it was a curse, and I’ve still got it. Trying to find a cure sent Mother to her grave decades ago. We consulted pharmacists, chiropractors, otolaryngologists and personal trainers. I’ve had X-rays, I’ve had pins stuck in me, I’ve tried every diet south of Sunday, but all to no avail.

So, now, I live out your fear, AA: I am literally dying of boredom! I’m a recluse. I have no friends. It’s just too hard. Lately I’ve had some excuse for a social life because of having a fake photo on my Facebook page and never mentioning the frogs. Still, I can’t tell you how often I have wished they had just nailed me into a barrel and thrown me into the sea!

Life in a fairy tale plot isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you think think the marchen method is the answer, you’re simply misguided. And if you think the worst case will never come to pass, you’re just plain wacko. I say, if you feel like your life has started to resemble a fairy tale, don’t just stand there, get out! Do something else! Anything! Get back to real life. Otherwise, you’re stuck there ever after and without the happily part. If this guy sounds like a fairy tale prince, turn around and head the other direction. Run; don’t walk!

I’m not saying fairy tales don’t have their roles and meanings, I’m just saying that being a template for real life isn’t one of them.

–Francine in Fargo

Simplia sighed and put the letter down on the table.

Sagacia picked it up. “I’ll just put it in with the others, she said. “We’ve got to get this packet off to Adventurous Adventuress before the post office closes. What’s the zip code for Ada, Oklahoma?”

Simplia took out her phone and began searching. “I guess so,” she said. “But some fairy tales come out just fine. You ought to be able to predict something by them!”

Sagacia looked across at her wistful friend. She walked around the table, took Simplia by the shoulders, looked her straight in the eye and pronounced, “You can predict something by them. You can predict that everything that happens to you, if you survive it, makes you better prepared for the next thing that’s going to happen. Just doing the next and necessary thing is what makes a hero. And that’s all! Do you hear me!!? That’s all!

“Listen, I feel just as bad for AA as you do,” she continued. “I mean, she’s crazy! But so far she’s still alive and hopeful, and if she survives this Crispin episode, she’ll be wiser for next time. Francine still doesn’t seem to quite get what happened to her, but she has enough of a tiny flame of goodness to at least offer her story, so that’s a step. And, for now, it’s enough. It’s what she has to give, and it’s enough. It was brave, really.”

Simplia blinked her eyes and pulled in her lip. She looked at Sagacia, then down at her phone.

“74820,” she said. “Write it down, and let’s go.”