Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Once Upon a Beanstalk" by Kate Avery Ellison (Short Stories)

Genre:  Fantasy

Short Story Type:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  In this humorous collection of fairy tale mashups combining modern day technology with fairy tale sensibilities, Rumplestiltskin and Red Riding Hood are married and running a royal wedding planner venue, Rapunzel has been rescued from her tower and is about to start her happily ever after, and the Grimm Brothers are a group of notorious thieves who are forced to rescue a kidnapped princess in order to avoid execution.

Penelope scanned her official orders again before stuffing the papers into her bag with a sigh.

Her best friend, Tom Thumb, studied her face from his place beside her on the seat.

“You don’t look happy. Bad news?”

She was already out of sorts for having to use a carriage to get to the palace—apparently it was a wedding tradition for the guests to arrive drawn by horses. This piece of news only made her mood worse.

“Work, as usual,” Penelope said. “Apparently I can’t ever get away, not even for my best friend’s wedding. We’ve just received a tip that the Grimm Brothers will be in town for Rapunzel’s wedding, so I’m going to have to keep a lookout for them at the reception instead of enjoying myself. The boss is sending some manpower, and I’m in charge.”

The carriage bumped over a pothole in the road, jostling her against the cushions, and Tom grabbed hold of her pinky finger to steady himself. “The Grimm Brothers? That band of criminals?” He let go of her finger and sank into the pillow beside her, which was as large as a bed for him. “You’re still looking for those guys? I thought they were apprehended for their crimes a month ago.”

“Nope, that was just a copycat team hoping to impress their buddies. Apparently the real McCoy will be in town for Rapunzel’s wedding, probably hoping to stuff their pockets with expensive wedding presents. The boss thinks it’s incredibly lucky that I’m going to be present anyway, so I can use the opportunity to try to catch the devils.” She pinched the place between her eyebrows and sighed. The stress was already beginning to settle over her shoulders like a blanket of iron. “Oh well, it’s not like I had anybody I was looking forward to dancing with anyway.”

“I would dance with you myself, but…” Tom indicated himself with a sweep of his tiny hand, and Penelope smiled. One of the downsides of being best friends with someone the size of her middle finger, she supposed.

The tip-off about a band of notorious thieves couldn’t have come at a worse time, because she’d been looking forward to this wedding for months, and now she was going to have to be running around making sure that nothing was stolen. These guys were real professionals, too. They’d lifted thousands of dollars in wedding gifts from the last royal wedding they’d crashed, the one where the prince and princess had gotten married waist-deep in a pond, to celebrate the way they’d met. (Apparently the poor guy had been turned into a frog.)

“I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Rapunzel. I’m her maid of honor. I have responsibilities. I don’t know why the job couldn’t have been handed to someone else who isn’t actually in the wedding.”

“Maybe your boss figured you’d be the best person to keep an eye on things,” Tom said.


Either way, it wasn’t worth fretting about now. She’d do her job and she’d do it well, of course.

Tom climbed to the carriage windowsill to watch as they approached the castle walls. Flags in the king’s colors floated on the breeze to celebrate the wedding, shimmering like rainbows against the blue sky. Penelope stared at the family crest emblazoned across the flapping fabrics, and she remembered something else. Something rather unfortunate.

“Oh no.”

“What?” Tom asked.

“I forgot—Prince Greg’s younger brother Andrew is going to be there.” Greg was Rapunzel’s princely fiancé.

“Andrew?” Tom scratched his head, and then a smile broke across his face. “You mean that fellow that used to always flirt with you at finishing school?”

“Yes, and he didn’t flirt with me,” Penelope said, her voice coming out a little sharper than she’d intended. “He annoyed me, pulled my hair, stole my school books, and got mud on my dresses.”

“I seem to recall the mud on your dresses being your own fault,” Tom said with an arch of his eyebrow as he plopped down on the window’s edge and let his legs dangle. “Seeing as you were always climbing trees and running around in the fields.”

“Yes, well—Andrew got me in trouble constantly and made my life miserable, thank you very much, and we never flirted even once. Fought tooth and nail is more like it.”

Despite her vehement protests, she blushed as she spoke—hopefully Tom didn’t notice. Darn it, that horrible prince! He was still causing her problems. Well, with any luck at all he’d be married and stodgy now, with a potbelly and thinning hair.

The carriage lurched to a stop, sending Tom tumbling. Penelope smoothed her skirts and brushed tendrils of hair from her eyes. She needed to look presentable, professional, and—oh, hang it. She didn’t care if Andrew was going to be there. She had a job to do, and a friend to see married.

She didn’t have time for this nonsense.

Picking up her skirts and her bag, she descended from the carriage and found herself face to face with none other than the queen herself.

“Your Majesty,” she murmured, dropping in a curtsy. “My name is Penelope, and I—”

“Pen!” Rapunzel appeared from behind the queen, hugging Penelope so hard she staggered. “I’m so glad to see you!”

Over her friend’s shoulder, Penelope saw the queen mouth turn down, probably at the scandalous lack of decorum they’d just exhibited. Oh well. She’d never been good at impressing queens, especially not her own mother, so why should she care if this one didn’t like her either?

It was, after all, Andrew’s mother.

“Your Majesty,” Rapunzel said after she’d let go, letting Penelope recover a few shreds of her dignity. “This is my best friend, Pen.”

“I’ve heard a great deal about you,” the queen said with a sniff.

Penelope smiled. “Well, I’m sure Rapunzel has greatly exaggerated my escapades—”

“Not from Rapunzel,” the queen said, with another sniff. “From my son Andrew.”

Buy this short story collection for your Kindle or on Smashwords.

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