A collection of 29 Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups - some of them sweet and endearing, and some of them just down right mean and unsettling.
There is the gorgeous and heart-warming tale of Charlie, the little raindrop who is scared to jump off the cloud and be who he is meant to be; the endearing love story between Mabel and Abel, an elderly couple seeking the services of a hitman as a test of their love; the heart-wrenching tale of Felicity, a young girl on the eve of an abortion, wishing it were yesterday; and a re-telling of Red Riding Hood, one full of terror and bloodsplattering twists.
A surreal journey, as if the lovechild of Albert Camus, Stephen King, and the Dalai Lama had sought, with a broken heart, to unease and frighten as much as delight and enlighten.
P.S. You die at the end.
Harrold with an E
The poor sweet girl never really wanted to be in a gang, but she was - everyone was in one way or another - so what on Earth was she to do?
“Be like us,” chanted the no-good kids. “Be like us. Be like us. Be like us.”
The girl with bright yellow hair didn’t bother with the can of black paint. Why? She had her own – a can of paint that was as yellow as a daisy and as bright as the sun. And as she sprayed the letter ‘E’, the last letter in the ugliest word in the whole entire world, her face didn’t look mean or bullish, it didn’t look ghoulish or grotesque, not like the no-good kids; no, hers was soft and sullen. And she didn’t graffiti that letter either, she painted it as if the ‘E’ were an act of compassion – a different kind of rebellion altogether.
And the very next morning, the strangest thing occurred, the ‘E’ came to life. His name was Harrold, and Harrold had no idea, not only that he was a letter painted on a wall, but also that he was the last letter in the ugliest word in the world – HATE.
“What a beautiful world,” said Harrold, looking out at the halcyon river, the noble & majestic tree, and the quaint wooden bench, etched with the initials of besotted lovers.
Each seemed to have its place. They all seemed to belong. He wondered then, what was his place and where did he belong? And though he had only just come to life, poor sweet Harrold was struck with but one question, one that would never let him rest.
‘Who am I?’
All Harrold knew of the world and the possibility of what could be, was from what he could see. The whole entire world was, in fact, this quiet and wonderful street.
“Am I a halcyon river? Am I a noble & majestic tree? Am I a quaint wooden bench? Am I as wonderful and beautiful as thee? Who am I?”
That afternoon, when the sun was almost about to set, Harrold watched as an old lady, one whose husband had only recently passed, stood by the halcyon river in quiet contemplation as her thoughts and worries were swept far far away. Her face looked so calm and peaceful in spite of all her grief.
Harrold wondered, “Who am I? Am I a halcyon river? When the old lady looks at me, will her face be calm and peaceful too? Will that be proof that I am the river? I do hope so. I cannot wait until she looks at me. I cannot wait to know who I am.”
Next, he watched as a family made their picnic beneath the noble & majestic tree. The mother and father sat dotingly as their children climbed the thick branches and swung from them like playful monkeys, their faces enveloped with joy.
Harrold wondered, “Who am I? Am I a tree? Am I majestic & noble too? Do I have branches that reach out over the sky bringing comfort and shade? When the family looks at me, will their expressions be doting and joyful too? Will that be proof that I am the tree? I do hope so. I cannot wait until they look at me. I cannot wait to know who I am.”
And finally, he watched as besotted lovers drank their coffees and stared into each other’s eyes longingly, stopping only to etch their initials into the quaint wooden bench - their faces embossed with passion.
Harrold wondered, “Who am I? Am I a quaint wooden bench? Will besotted lovers carve their initials into me? Will I be the roost for their impassioned discourse? When they look at me, will their faces be passionate too? Will that be proof that I am the bench? I do hope so. I cannot wait until they look at me. I cannot wait to know who I am.”
And poor sweet Harrold did not have to wait. As the sun slowly set, the old lady, the family, and the besotted lovers all walked down the street towards him. His nerves were such a flutter, he could barely contain himself.
“Who am I?” he wondered. “I’m about to find out.”
His mirth, though, quickly soured as he watched the old lady’s face turn from peaceful and calm to an expression that was gangrenous and coarse, one that was shaped like a rude gesture. The family too, and the besotted lovers as well, their expressions were neither doting, joyful, nor impassioned. Theirs had turned, just as the old lady’s had, into ones of abhorrence, contempt, and offence. They all snarled, hissed, and jeered, and they stuck their tongues out at poor sweet Harrold before walking off in apparent disgust.
Ashamed and full of woe, Harrold lamented: “Who am I if I cause these wonderful people so much disgust? Am I disgusting? Am I abhorrent? Am I contemptuous? Am I offensive? Am I vile, revolting, and profane? If this is true, if this is the very essence of my being, if – in this world - this is who I am, then I do not want to live in this world, no I do not. I do not want to be me.”
That night, as Harrold sulked, the gang of no-good kids came back, clanging their pots & pans and making their ungodly racket. Just like the night before, they hissed at the noble & majestic tree, stuck out their tongues at the quaint wooden bench, and then each took turns spitting into the halcyon river.
“What a bunch of no-good kids,” thought Harrold, “treating all those wonderful and beautiful things that way. I do not like them one bit, no I do not.”
The no-good kids made their way down the street towards Harrold and when they did, their faces lit up like Christmas trees. They were all smiling from ear to ear and high fiving each other as if this were the most impassioned, joyous, and peaceful day in their lives.
Harrold lamented, “Who am I if such monsters take delight in me? I do not want to live in this world, no I do not. I do not want to be me.”
And it was then that Harrold saw the young girl – the girl with bright yellow hair. And it was then that she saw him. They stared at one another as if they were both looking into a mirror. If Harrold were to have an expression, his would surely be as soft and sullen as hers. Neither Harrold nor the girl with bright yellow hair looked as if they belonged where they were.
That night, when everything was quiet again, Harrold was startled by the sound of someone sneaking up beside him. Though he couldn’t see, it was the girl with bright yellow hair. She had returned with a can of white paint and wasted no time busying herself, spraying on the wall beside him. And every time she rattled and sprayed her can, the shame and woe that had been bothering poor sweet Harrold so much, subsided, if ever just a bit.
The very next day, when the sun was shining high in the sky, the besotted lovers returned and sat on the quaint wooden bench, while the family made their picnic beneath the noble & majestic tree, and the old lady stood in quiet contemplation, her thoughts and worries swept far far away by the halcyon river.
As sad as he was, Harrold still couldn’t help but see the world as beautiful, even if he were not. To him, their impassioned, doting, joyful, and peaceful faces looked like flowers in a garden, basking in the morning sun. And at the end of the day, they all made their way down the street, down towards Harrold.
“Please, go away,” said Harrold, wishing he could hide like a snail or a turtle. “Don’t come near me. I’m disgusting. I’m ugly. Don’t look at me. Leave me alone.”
This time, though, their faces were not reviled, revulsed or repugnant – not as they had been before. And they didn’t hiss or jeer either. No. In fact, much to Harrold’s surprise, their expressions were as warm and kind as the sun that slowly set behind them.
Someone had painted over the letters that were beside him – the ‘H’, the ‘A’, and the ‘T’ - and they had replaced them with an ‘L’, an ‘O’, and a ‘V’. And though Harrold didn’t know it, he could see it on the people's faces. He wasn't just an 'E', he was the last letter in the biggest word in the world – LOVE.
As they stared in quiet awe, the besotted lovers embraced and kissed, the mother and father picked up their children and held them close to their breasts, while the old lady, who for as long as she could remember had been grieving the passing of her husband and dearest friend, finally managed to weep a single nostalgic tear.
“So beautiful,” they all said.
Sitting alone on the branch of a tree, the girl with bright yellow hair smiled and agreed. “So beautiful,” she said, “so beautiful indeed.”
Harrold was overcome with shivers of joy. Had he eyes, he would have cried. Had he arms, he would have reached out and hugged every one of them. Had he lips he would have kissed them all. Had he a voice, he would have shouted: “I love you”.
Instead, he quietly pondered, “What a wonderful world. I never want to leave. I’m ever so happy, so happy to be me.”