Short Stories

Elevate form over function to get at less easily articulable truths.

Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Sat Feb 09, 2019 7:52 pm

"oh papa i hate this! isn't there something else we can listen to," anna snapped as she pushed the small TV off the table. it landed with a metallic thunk, its antennae snapping off. "it's so gross and dumb. why do those girls always shake their butts and why is that ugly black guy with all those tattoos jumping around and singing like that? it's not even music and i hate it!"

across the room papa was working on a musical script for a play he was producing. he sighed, walked over to anna and sat down beside her. anna stared at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak. after a brief pause of thought, papa exhaled and smiled. he admired her look of consternation.

"well anna, do you remember what i told you about the spirit of the age and what the capitalist revolution did to the music industry?"

anna shifted a little and paused a moment, trying to remember correctly so papa would be impressed. she brushed her hair behind her ear and began.

"umm, you said that it revolutionized the modes of production, enabling a sudden increase in the experimental forms of music, right?"

"that's right. and do you remember what else?"

"yeah... you said that it would eventually reach a point where... umm, the motive for profit and productive efficiency would become adverse effects?"

"yes, anna, very good! but adverse effects against what, exactly?", papa inquired. she straightened her posture nervously and pursed her lips as if in deep thought.

"the experimental novelty of music. you said that eventually, music would become more formulaic and standardized because the market would adjust to consumer expectations for predictability and familiarity in the music. then you said that musical integrity would be slowly debased because of such commification."

papa laughed out loud, smiled at anna, and ruffled her hair. she looked at him aghast and confused by his laughter. "that's 'commodification', anna" he reassured her. anna shifted her eyes away from papa's as if embarrassed at her minor mistake, then confidently regained her composure. "yeah that's what i meant."

"and why do we find such vulgarity and profanity in that rap music that was on the TV?" he asked.

"because it's the only thing the intellectually inferior class of consumers who listen to it, can understand and appreciate, that's why. that music characterizes their base, animalistic desires at the crudest level... things like power, sex, and wealth. you said they like the music because through it they identify with and associate such symbols with themselves, things they believe will garner admiration and respect from their peers."

"very impressive, anna! and they do this because their vulgar, unsophisticated nature prevents them from developing that confidence in other ways. by lacking others means to distinguish themselves as exceptional, talented and worthy of respect, they rely solely on the music to fashion their identities and be noticed as such. remember what i said about the rabble?"

"uh-huh. they have simpler tastes are are easily amused due to their lack of intelligence. you said this constitutes the vast majority of the music consumers, and that this compliments the profit motivated capitalist modes of mass production. that's why music is simplified and standardized by formulas. it's easier to make and distribute that way."

anna's brother danny walks in and stops cold before the broken TV on the floor. he scratches his head. "what happened to the TV?"

papa and anna look conspiratorially at each other for a moment, giggling. "anna decided she had had enough, danny", papa announced. "there was a rap video on and apparently it disgusted her."

danny snickered and said "why was she even watching that garbage in the first place?"

"i wasn't watching it, danny!" asserted anna. it was already on because you left it on that channel!"

a brief interlude of argument ensues between anna and danny until anna finally ignores danny and turns her attention to papa.

"tell us the story of the magic land of music again, papa. please?"

"okay, but afterward you to need to practice your major scales and reading. i've written some composition i want you two to work on."

danny settles down beside anna on the couch, hogging three quarters of it. she tugs the blanket away from danny angrily. "scoot over!"

as papa leans back in his chair he lights his pipe and pulls deeply from it. he crosses his legs and the reverie begins...

"once upon a time, long ago, before the birth of the souless music of the twentieth century, there existed a special type of magician called the 'composer'. these composers had the unique ability to give life to sounds that would enchant us and tell us wondrous stories. he was like a mathematician, of sorts, who did with notes what others did with numbers. by giving careful attention to the structures of sequence, pitch, tone, timbre, meter and tempo, he was able to construct a language which organized the composition and melody that brought his notes to life. he could make them dance, or cry, or rejoice, or rage... he could make them tell us stories about love and joy, or war, or melancholy, or triumph, or doubt, or terrible loss, and anything else we are able to feel in our hearts. as this magician assembled the notes on the page he could imagine them animated and moving in a world of their own, and with his spark he would bring them magically to life for us."

"show us, papa! show us the notes... i want to see them!", anna demanded. she was ecstatic by now... gripping her clarinet in her lap as if she'd never let it go.

papa's eyes widened and he glared at anna and danny. this for effect. "do you really want to go to this magical land? you have to be sure."

anna retracted as if hesitant. she loved to play this game with papa when he told the story, pretending as if she were unsure about the journey to come. with a look of mock seriousness on her face, she scratched her chin and pondered the thought. suddenly a glimmer she hadn't noticed before caught her eye and drew her attention; the light from the fire reflected off the smooth finish of her clarinet, and she turned it her her hands, studying its features in wide eyed amazement.

"yes, yes i want to go!" she finally insisted. papa was supposed to look as if he doubted her sincerity. this was part of their game.

"okay, if you're absolutely sure."

and with that papa sat forward in his chair and began to move his hands in a mysterious pattern in front of him. he closed his eyes and began reciting a strange incantation. anna gasped as a greenish haze slowly began to take form in front of papa. the cloud started to swirl and twist and pulse until finally a faint sound could be heard from inside of it. as it got louder and louder, anna stared in disbelief, until finally the audible sound became a melody. then the notes appeared. they moved about like little people... anna now completely captivated by the miniature world taking shape before her.

"i see them, papa... i can see them now!"
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:28 pm

and then something strange happened. the Tink robots were at their usual stations on the assembly line and nothing out of ordinary was happening. Donald was doing his normal rounds checking and monitoring all the systems, and Kristen was working in the control station above the production floor. just a typical day at the factory.

then over by the coolant system installation line, we saw the strangest thing. one of the robots just left its station. just walked right off and left the building through the fire exit. it wasn't until security noticed and activated the emergency shutdown, that the robot was apprehended.

later we reviewed the video footage from the security cameras over station F, where the coolant units were installed. you won't believe what we saw. at 2:47 the robot dropped the crimping tool that was used to connect the side panel to the frame. after he picked it up, he realized the unit he was working on had passed down the line... and instead of backing the line up so he could complete the unit, he just threw his hands into the air as if to say 'aw fuck it, i quit', and then walked right off.

Davis looked over at Donald and Kristen as they sat in the break room eating lunch. "can you believe that?"

Kristen was putting cream cheese on a bagel, and replied casually "probably an operational glitch... i wouldn't worry about it."

"but his behavior seemed so human-like, man," he said, sipping on a diet coke and looking thoughtfully at the aluminum can.

Donald switched on the TV as the three of them continued eating their lunch without further thought.

the Tink model 304 was never used on the line again. it ended up being disassembled and used for replacement parts. the factory management never spoke about the strange event, but Davis would never forget it.

April 22, 2174... the day that Tink walks amok.
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:38 pm

he drove through the night in the shiney new 38 ford deluxe. the chicago streets were damp from the rain. steam seemed to rise from the asphalt, or maybe it was the fog... Mickey didn't know. the wipers labored back and forth lazily as he hummed a tune. "that Marcino is gonna have to make a decision," he mused to himself, lighting a filterless lucky strike. the street lights cast broken shadows through the car windows as he passed down the empty street. the night was lonely and unsure, like Mickey.

he took a left at the abandoned warehouse, like the directions said, and pulled into the lot beside the bistro. after putting the car in park, he turned it off and looked up at the window on the third floor. the light was on. Mickey took a deep breath, put on his his seude fedora, and got out of the car. the rain had become a light mist, and he watched a couple coming out of the bistro as he stamped his cigarette out in the gravel. side entrance... Andrew will let you in. he folded the paper and put it into his trench coat pocket.

he could hear them talking through the door as he approached. the lobby decor was rich with hardwood paneling and dark, red velvet. he knocked on the door like he was told, and a brief moment later, it opened.

"hello Mickey. you found the place okay?"

"no problem, Mr. Marcino."

"Mickey, this is my associate, Mr. Harrison. Mr. Harrison, this is our new friend, Mickey."

Mickey reached out his hand and met the firm grasp of the man. a serious, interrogating handshake that made Mickey a little nervous, but he held his grip.

"have a seat then, Mickey. Angela, bring Mickey a scotch. How do you like em, Mickey?"

"neat, Mr. Marcino. thank you."

Angela brought the scotch to Mickey. she was a buxom girl, mid twenties, with auburn hair and soft hazel eyes. Mickey nodded his thanks, took a drink, and set the glass on the table beside the chair.

"now then. i understand that the family wants to negotiate. is that true, Mickey?"

"yes sir, Mr. Marcino. there's been some trouble on the north side of town with some of the bookies. the family isn't happy with the profits, and wants a bigger cut."

Marcino looked at Mickey, and folded his hands behind his head. "you do realize that we've taken great pains to arrange the fights, don't you Mickey? We're taking a big risk by doing this, and many of the fighters don't wanna play. We're having to raise their cuts to get their cooperation. the family's got some nerve to make demands like that."

Mr. Harrison moved slowly from the door and sat down in the chair beside Mickey. He picked up a newspaper and began casually flipping through the pages.

"i understand, Mr. Marcino, but the family feels the present terms aren't going to work."

Mickey sat motionless in his chair, his piercing eyes fixed on Marcino. He moved his hand to his lap, and rested it beside his inside coat pocket. Marcino glanced over at Mr. Harrison, who was watching Mickey from the corner of his eye, then back to Mickey. a quiet tension filled the room.

Mickey took another draw from his scotch, not breaking his eye contact with Marcino. His sharp features showed a man with intelligence and cunning. Mickey wasn't the kind of guy who was easily persuaded.

"i think we might be able to come to an agreement, Mickey. we don't want any trouble, and i'm sure the family doesn't either."

"i think that's a wise decision, Mr. Marcino."

Mickey stood up and approached the desk. Marcino moved nervously in his chair, then relaxed.

"mind if i have one, Mr. Marcino," he asked with a shrewd smile as he took out his gold zippo, hands moving with expert precision and grace. he stood over Marcino, his lean, muscular frame announcing itself.

"of course Mickey, help yourself."

Mickey's hand moved to the corner of the desk, and opened the box of twenty small cigars.
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:43 pm

the room was silent except for the ticking of an old clock on the badly papered wall, and the faint sound of a spanish TV coming up through the floor. roland looked one last time in the mirror, fine tuning his sepia toned tie and his smile. his hair was lightly cropped and slicked back.

roland was a business man, and Marcino always said a member of the family had to look good to do business.

he glanced over at the picture above the little curio cabinet in the corner as he checked the cylinder of his 38. snub-nose. it was a picture of his father... the kind with the eyes that follow you around the room.

he took a shot of bourbon with an unsteady hand, and set the shot-glass down with a loud thunk.

an impatient horn from the street below called through the window. roland holstered the 38., picked up the briefcase and walked toward the door. the hardwood floor creaked and protested under his feet. the building was old, on the bad side of town, but roland knew he was destined for better things. his father once told him the event of success was only for those who had the guts to make it happen... and today was roland's big event.
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:47 pm

the dark wizard peered into his crystal ball one last time, then knocked the lamp off his table, cursing aloud. he began pacing back and forth, mumbling to himself under his breath.

"Malrion! send three more regiments immediately, and you better bring me good news when you return."

"my lord, the men are trying as best they can, but the field cannot be breached. I swear it, my lord!"

Malrion lowered his eyes as the dark wizard shot him a disapproving glance. he waited in silence for the angry wizard's reply.

the dark wizard stroked his long beard as he studied a page in the leather bound book of spells... his pale finger tracing the words as he read.

"i don't understand why it isn't working. the power graft is fully charged, it should not be able to shield itself from my spell. Malrion! you are certain the surrounding countryside has been effected?"

Malrion raised his eyes and answered with an unsteady voice, "of course my lord, the fields no longer bear grain, and the trees have lost their leaves."

the dark wizard stood in front of his spell table and picked up a strange, mishapen blue crystal, turning it in his hands and examining it with his cold, grey eyes.

"the men shall stand at the ready beside the river. when i have succeeded in breaking the barrier, i shall send word. prepare the men at once!"

"as you wish, my lord," and Malrion walked quickly from the room.

in the coming days the dark wizard worked day and night to perfect the spell. finally certain that his task was complete, he sent the raven to inform the regiments. when the raven arrived, he sat down eagarly before his crystal ball and brought the men into view.

the men formed in ranks, then at the sound of the battle horn, they charged. the dark wizard drew closer to his crystal ball and watched.

"this is it! the soldiers have to break through!"

then, as if by some force field, the first wave smashed into an invisible barrier, preventing them from moving forward. they stood there in confusion and disarray.

"blast!," shouted the dark wizard, kicking over the table and wringing his hands in frustration. he had failed again.

the land of Lindindale was an enchanted place, and though the dark wizard's evil magic had taken control of most of the region, there was one place in which his powers had no effect.

a golden valley between two great mountains, filled with lush, green vegetation and home to many animals. this wondrous land was protected by strange magical creatures... the toads of the short forest.
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:49 pm

his eyes were sunken into his head like two black holes, his pale skin spotted with new sores and tiny, visable veins. he hadn't slept for days. the nightmares wouldn't let him.

he stood before the mirror in the dirty bathroom, staring at himself through blurry, blood shot eyes. the trembles were getting worse now.

Larry turned on the faucet. it spit out brownish water for a moment, then ran clean. he steadied himself with one hand on the sink, and with the other, splashed water on his face. he found a used paper towel among the empty beer cans, ashtrays and old syringes scattered on the vanity, and dried himself.

as he made his way to the kitchen, a cockroach skittered across the floor in front of him. he no longer bothered... they were everywhere now. the warped baseboard that lined the floor was rotting, and the plaster walls were cracked and discolored. he sat down at the kitchen table and picked up his cell phone.

still no calls.

Larry scratched his arm, being careful not to break the scabs that had formed on the inside of his elbow. the scar tissue had grown tougher, making it more difficult to get a vein. he had begun shooting on the inside of his leg five days ago.

he counted the bills and the change with a trembling hand. $20. it was enough for one bag.

Larry tore a corner from a piece of paper. it was his electric bill, but he knew he wouldn't pay it. folding the edges he made a rolling paper, then took a few butts from the ashtray and emptied the remaining tobacco over the paper. he rolled it into a loose cigarette, and lit it with a match.

it had been eleven hours since his last shot, and the withdrawals were beginning again. sickness slowly creeping over him, making him nauseous and cold. he huddled at the table, smoking the cigarette, his eyes set on the phone. he was rocking back and forth again, he noticed, but he couldn't control it anymore.

a screen door slammed next door as the voice of a shouting man rose above the silence. they were fighting again, and Larry's head pounded and throbbed. he rubbed his eyes with his dirty fingers, and wiped his nose. his nose was running uncontrollably.

finally the phone rang. he almost knocked it off the table as he grabbed it up.

"yeah, is this Dwayne?"

"i told you to stop calling me past two, man. you need to get everything you're going to get, at once. i'm not driving out there two or three times a night anymore."

"i'm sorry Dwayne... i.. i didn't have the money. i got $20 now. do you think you could come by?"

"$20 dollars is all you got?! get your shit right man, then call me back."

Dwayne hung up.

Larry sat there, the sound of the dial tone echoing in his ear. he dropped the phone to the floor and hunched over, clutching his stomach. the room was spinning around him now like some sinister fun house. he closed his eyes and began to cry. seconds later the heaving started, coming between his desperate sobs. finally he fell out of his chair.

Larry hit the kitchen floor in a contorted shape and began writhing in pain. "oh god, oh god," he cried, as he tried to right himself. it was no use. he didn't have the strength.

as he lay there in a pool of his own vomit, he saw the pistol on the counter. he crawled across the floor, managing to gather strength enough to reach it. Larry fumbled for the gun, pulled his knees up to his body and sat against the cabinet. the pistol was heavy in his hands.

"ahh...uuuhaaa... oh jesus.. oh please." he convulsed again, drew forward, and yellow stomach acid spewed from his mouth all over his hands and pistol. the putrid smell enveloped him as the tears rolled down his face.

"oh Larry... what happened," he whispered to himself as he sniffled, his thin, emaciated body rocking back and forth. "i can't do this... i can't take this any longer."

he heaved again, but his stomach was empty. the pain shot through him like a bolt.

Larry raised the pistol with his hands and stared at it. a memory of his youth passed through his mind, then faded to black. he glanced one last time at the cell phone on the floor. no calls. he sighed deeply, raised the gun to his forehead and pulled the trigger.

it was the only way to put an end to his filthy habits.
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:28 pm

allison poured herself a cup of coffee and stood by the drink machine as the other employees filed down the hallway toward the elevators. she needed the overtime, and she was making some major progress in her research. it's become something of an obsession for her; why weren't the catalysts necessary for intercellular disintegration?

she sipped her coffee and stared at the bulletin board, thinking. on the board was pinned the roster for the developmental micro-organism and germ research program. beside it the list of protocols. allison saw her name at the bottom of the roster and sighed. "one day i'll be at the top of that list," she thought to herself as she crushed the paper coffee cup in a fist, tossed it into the basket, and set off down the hall toward the laboratory.

she put her lab coat on, sat down at her microscope and pressed play on the CD player, song number 6... Natural Science. it was Permanent Waves, her favorite album by Rush.

carefully placing the slide under the scope, she adjusted the focus and peered into the eyepiece. the sample of the tl-7 bacteria was still stable. "its morphology is so stange," she whispered to herself. "why does it possess characteristics of myxobacteria, but is incapable of quorum sensing?"

she took her eyes away, got up, and walked across the lab to the refrigerator where the agar stab cultures were stored. the sterile tl-7 was kept in a modfied dimethylsulfoxide solution. she looked at her watch and said to herself "this has got to be it. it has to work this time. three hours is long enough."

she sat back down and drew the solution into the dropper, then positioned it over the slide. drawing the sample into closer focus, she administered the solution. at once the tl-7 moved... its cellular walls changed to a dull greyish color. she paused and watched. "it's responding," she said in a quiet voice. "it's actually responding."

within thirty seconds the tl-7 broke down, disintegrating into a tiny mass of amino acids. the dropper fell from her hand as she raised her head from the microscope. "my god... it worked," she said with wide eyed disbelief. "these aren't real... i've done it! i've finally proved it. the internal hemorrhaging can't be caused by this. these are imaginary diseases!"
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:46 pm

the crowd of peasants parted uneasily as the figure approached. Edward remembered the image so vividly; the man rode on what looked like a donkey or a mule. he was a short, plump man with a balding head, squeezed into a leather tunic that was caped in a purple cloak. "nothing will be the same after this day," he recalled thinking to himself when he saw the mysterious man approach. he took a big draught of his honey mead and settled back in his chair.

"there's news of the house of telleren, Edward," Dorin spoke, wiping one of the oak tables that filled the pub. "they say a trade agreement has been reached with lord Gerros. large plum shipments are being readied to transport to Wendalyn as we speak."

Edward leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. "yes, it is great news, my friend. the people are going to be healthy and happy again."

Dorin chuckled to himself and added "who would of thought such a thing could bring the peasants to near revolt! i've known food shortages before, myself, but never something like this."

"You know what they say, Dorin," Edward replied through the side of his mouth as he pulled on his pipe. "when you gotta go, you gotta go."

Dorin bellowed a deep guttural laugh and tossed his towel onto the bar. He walked over to the fire to stoke it a bit. "Yeah, but constipation?," he said, looking at Edward over his shoulder. There was a brief silence between them. Then again he burst out with laughter, Edward joining him.

"How could anyone have known," he sighed, after catching his breath. "That was all it took... the promise of a crop of plum trees... and the people were satisfied again. All the king needed was some seeds."

He puffed on his pipe contentedly and continued his reverie. "that funny, fat little man with a bag of seed... we had no idea he would save the kingdom. one always expects a hero to be noble and majestic, but he was no such thing."

"It goes to show you, Edward. fate is a mysterious thing."

Edward nodded. "indeed, Dorin... indeed." He gazed over at the crackling fire, remembering that special day. "saved by such an unlikely hero, the duke of prunes...."
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:52 pm

clear skies lay overhead the san fernando valley as Andrea drove down the freeway in the little convertable volkswagen rabbit. she was on her way to the galleria, and the traffic was jammed because of rush hour. "oh my god... like why is there all this traffic," she complained as she tugged on a giant, orange hoop earring. she had driven this way almost everyday for the last five years, and still she acted surprised at the traffic jams.

Andrea sat in the middle of traffic in the 1984 rabbit and propped an elbow on the window, waiting for the traffic to start moving again. the summer heat was almost unbearable. "gawd!" she scowled impatiently, and hit the steering wheel with her right hand. "like what is the deal!"

across two lanes a truck beeped its horn and Andrea looked over. "hey baby, where'ya going," shouted the quarterback of the highschool football team, Todd, leaning out of the truck window. his two buddies in the cab were drinking beer and laughing obnoxiously. "wanna get together, Andrea? we could catch a movie."

"pfft, yeah right, Todd. I don't date jocks," she answered arrogantly, twisting a lock of her hair in her fingers. she rolled her eyes and turned the radio up to drown out Todd and his friends.

"oh come on, Andrea, you know you want me!" Todd laughed as Derrick punched him in the arm and threw an empty beer can out the window. "yeah Andrea, quit being such a bitch!," shouted Derrick across Todd. they all fell into laughter and horseplay again. "oh my god you are so gross, Todd! like, gag me with a smurf... no way!"

finally the traffic started moving and Andrea hit the gas, lurching forward. Todd beeped the horn as she sped off. "he's such a total loser," Andrea assured herself as she watched the truck fade in the rear view mirror.

"oh my god this song is so bitchin'!' Duran Duran was on the radio now, and she tapped her fingers on the wheel as she drove on, singing horribly out of key.

she pulled into the galleria parking lot and walked into the mall. after buying a milkshake from the pretzel stand she continued toward the clothing store across from the arcade.

two hours later she emerged from the store with five bags she could barely carry. she staggered through the mall to the exit, opened the door, and pushed herself and the five bags through with an audible "umph!"

"oh my god, like why are these doors so small," she complained indignantly. "i'm so sure!"

she gathered herself and stumbled clumsily into the parking lot... but before she managed to take three steps, she stepped on a big glob of melted bubble gum. Andrea looked down at her high-heel, exhaled loudly, and dropped her bags in frustration. "grody to the max!," she sighed aloud.

she finally plopped down on the curb, removed her high-heel, stood up, picked up her bags, and began trying to hop across the parking lot to her car, in a mini skirt. it was the most ridiculous thing you've ever seen, but it made perfect sense... because Andrea was a valley girl.
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Re: Short Stories

Postby promethean75 » Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:30 pm

"what is she like, father? please tell us", begged little Elizabeth as they stood at the entrance of the great ballroom watching all the commotion. the sky was a deep blue without a cloud, and a cacophony of merriment filled the air, groups of people talking and laughing joyously.

"now Elizabeth, it wouldn't be a surprise if i told, would it?," father insisted.

the busy servants hustled about carrying table and chairs. Elizabeth's little brother stood silently at father's side munching on a peppermint stick, hardly aware of all the activity.

"but you and mother know. it's just not fair!" she pouted.

father scooped Elizabeth up into his arms and held her. she stared at him with demanding expectation. he paused as if to think.

"hmm...let me see."

suddenly he sneered and assaulted her with tickles. "she's a mean old woman with warts and big black eyes... and she likes to eat little girls!"

Elizabeth pitched into a fit, giggling with delight as she squirmed in father's arms. "she IS NOT! mother says she's the most beautiful woman in the world!"

"well what does that make you, then?," father asked, as he hoisted Elizabeth onto his shoulders to give her a better view.

"i'm going to be beautiful like the queen!", she declared, putting her hands on father's head to steady herself.

suddenly the trumpets sounded as a cavalry escort rounded the hill. the people cheered and waved their hands. a group of brilliant white horses harnessed in studded black leather moved in perfect formation. the gallant knights flying the king's flag and coat of arms. they wore flawless silver armor made of the finest plate mail, their jeweled scabbards glinting in the bright sunlight.

as the escort approached, the crowd grew silent. only a few whispers could be heard over the deadening quiet. a servant walked briskly from the hall and rolled a red carpet out as the coach slowed to a stop in front of the great ballroom.

"move to the left, father, i can't see, i can't see!," demanded Elizabeth. "look Manfred, it's the queen!," she informed her brother.

Manfred paid no attention, and continued working on his peppermint stick with great determination. his lips and tongue had turned completely green.

"hear ye, hear ye!," came an announcement to the crowd. "her majesty the queen has arrived!"

the coach door opened as the crowd shifted noisily to get a better view. the queen gracefully stepped down from the coach as a kneeling servant took her hand, and then proceeded down the carpet in full peaches en regalia.
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