A Little Fiction – Another Grim Fairy Tale

rapunzel
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

…The poor couple thought that they would never be blessed with a child, but presently, about six weeks after the handsome travelling salesman had passed through town, the woman found herself piling on the pounds and developing a strange aversion to coffee. The couple were delighted and set about cleaning and decorating their modest house with the many, many brushes and cleaning products that the woman had stockpiled over the previous few weeks. At the back of their house, over a neat little barbed wire fence, was a tidy little garden full of beautiful flowers and vegetables. Loveliest of all were the rampions that grew fresh and green. One day the woman beckoned the man to her and said, “I have a real craving for rampions. Will you get me some, my love?”
“What the hell are rampions?” he asked.
“There, in next door’s garden,” said the woman. “Those little green jobbies: they’re rampions. If you were any sort of a man you would get some for your poor pregnant wife.”
Eventually, having phoned every supermarket he could think of, none of whom had even heard of rampions, he decided that the only way he would be able to satisfy his wife was by stealing some from over the garden fence, but, alas, he was caught in the act by the householder, who was almost certainly a witch (or at least elderly). “I’ve had enough of this,” she said. “People fancy a nice bit of rampion, they just nip over the fence and nick it. I’m phoning plod.”
“No,” said the man hastily. “Don’t do that. I am known to them. I have a checkered past. I had an impoverished upbringing. We were a one TV family. I did not have my own smart phone until well after I could walk. They will lock me up. They will throw away the key. They will make me share a cell with a fraudster called Kevin. Tell you what, you can have the baby when it’s born. I wasn’t much looking forward to all the fuss anyhow.”
“Fine,” said the old woman. “But I want it done properly. I want all the paperwork.”
“Paperwork?” said the man.
“Sorry,” she said. “I usually take cars. Will this baby hold its value?”
“It’ll be fine,” said the man. “Now, can I just take my wife some rampions to calm her?”
“Take all you like,” said the woman. “I’ve no idea how they got there. I thought they were weeds. They taste disgusting.”
Some months later, as good as his word, the man handed the child over to the old woman, having told his wife that she had been repossessed by Mothercare in lieu of unpaid cradle instalments. “What will you call her?” he asked.
“Rapunzel,” said the old woman. It means rampion. It has a ring to it, don’t you think? I was going to go for Shirley, but the woman down the road has a cousin called Shirley and I wanted something different.”
“Will we be able to visit her now and then, like father’s day and that sort of thing?” he asked.
“Nah,” she said. “I’m going to lock her away at the top of a tall tower with no door and no stairway.”
“How you going to get her up there?” he asked.
“Blimey, grow up,” she said. “This is a fairy story. What do children know about logic? I’m a witch remember. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
The man was sad to see his child go, but he thought of all the holidays they could have instead and pacified his weeping wife with gin.
Rapunzel grew into a great beauty with long golden hair. Each night the witch appeared at the base of her tower and called up to her “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down thine hair,” upon which Rapunzel, muttering darkly about wanting to be known as Shirley, would throw her golden tresses through the upper casement. The witch then tied a small basket containing the day’s groceries to her locks and Rapunzel hauled them back up, hoping that the basket wasn’t full of bloody rampions again.
Some time later, having heard of Rapunzel’s great beauty (come on now, this is a children’s story) a prince came to visit her. Quietly he hid behind a large beanstalk, which had fallen out of somebody else’s story, whilst the witch called up to Rapunzel. When the witch left, the handsome prince crept out from behind the beanstalk and himself called up to Rapunzel who let down her hair. Unfortunately after twenty years unwashed and unbrushed it smelled like a skunk had died in it and was so greasy that he couldn’t get a grip on it, so he went down to the pub instead where the girls were generally of less exhaulted beauty, but were very much more hygienic.
By and by the witch died and so, subsequently, did Rapunzel who, if she had half a brain, would have saved herself by climbing down from the tower on her own hair. Rapunzel’s birth parents, who had had no further children owing to the fact that he was allergic to shaving and she was allergic to beards, never knew of Rapunzel’s fate as, quite frankly he was the kind of father who would sell his own first-born and she was the kind of mother who was prepared to believe any old tosh as long as he kept her topped up with gin. They buried the witch in the old well and sold her property using forged documents the following week. When the prospective buyer enquired about the tower with no door, Rapunzel’s father had said “No idea, to tell the truth, but at least you won’t be able to accidentally lock yourself in, eh? The smell? No idea. Rampions maybe…”

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