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Of Mummies, Queens, Winged Beasts
and Such

      This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
      No part of this story may be reproduced without the written consent of its author.

      Copyright 1990 M. Hofferbert. All rights reserved.

      THERE was once an old woman who lived in a shoe;
      She had so many children she didn't know what to do.
      One Christmas eve she looked in her cupboard so bare,
      When to her surprise a butcher knife she found there.
      "Oh my," she exclaimed. "Oh dear," she sighed low.
      "What to do, what to do . . . I do not know."

      Now though she was old, her mind was still slick,
      So she thought up a plan, and thought it up quick.
      She leapt from the cupboard, and hiding the knife,
      Called in her children, her trophies of life.
      "I've called you," she said, "to this meeting of import,
      For you my dear children, are summoned to Court."

      Albert, the oldest, opened eyes wide,
      For to Court was an honor, something of pride.
      Timmy, the youngest, still sucking his thumb,
      Looked at his mummy and thought the court dumb.
      Sally and Jenny, all of ten years,
      Were twins and at once they both covered their ears.

      "Listen up my dear offspring," the old woman called.
      "You must wear your best clothes, and stand tall and proud.
      For today is the first day of the rest of your life,
      And to the Queen I'll present you with whistle and fife."

      Richard, the middle child, spotted a crumb,
      So crawled 'neath the table upon which his mum strummed.
      "My patience is waning," the old woman snapped.
      "You'd best pay attention or I'll put you to nap."
      Roxie twisted her hair round a stained index finger,
      While Thomas farted, a smell which did linger.
      The rest of the children groaned all together,
      Their mummy warning them with a thin strap of leather.

      "Now upstairs you bratheads, and get dressed and shined;
      For we're off to Buckingham, off in no time."
      The brood raced upstairs to fight over the soap;
      The shower sort that hangs from a rope.
      Their mum glanced wickedly at last feet retreating,
      Tucking the knife 'neath her tattered skirts pleating.

      The children upstairs were fumbling about,
      When Thomas said, "Odd," and started to pout.
      "What you pouting 'bout lad?" Al asked rather grumpy;
      "You should be glad for we're going to Bucky!"
      "It's not that I'm sad," Thomas explained.
      "But just that it's queer we're off to the queen."
      "Yeah it sure is," bursted out Roxie.
      "Who is this Queen and why does she want me?"

      Sally and Jenny both nodded together,
      Agreeing indeed it was strange that they meet her.
      And Timmy, the youngest, still sucking his thumb,
      Said something like "mmoomobomo," at which Thomas looked glum.

      "The Queen," Al said grandly, "Is stately and proud.
      An elegant figure for pleasing the crowd.
      And if you're good," now he looked round, hope fading;
      "She'll grant you a wish for candy or skating."

      "But how," pleaded Roxy, "Does she know our mother?
      A woman like this Queen is surely above her."
      That observation sent Al into thought,
      While his siblings looked on for the answer they sought.
      "Well," Albert said after some time,
      "They started out equal but mum did not climb.
      That's the way of the world, you see how it is?
      If you avoid the right circles, you end up like this."

        "Now upstairs you bratheads, and get dressed and shined;
        For we're off to Buckingham, off in no time."

      "We all start out equal?" Thomas asked doubtful.
      "That mum could be Queen is saying a mouthful."
      "Yeah," the twins both together did say,
      "This is merry old England not the US of A."
      "Well maybe," Albert suggested at length,
      "Maybe the Queen wants to reward our mum's strength.
      It couldn't be easy raising this brood,
      And perhaps she wants mum to know she done good."

      "But she hasn't done good," Richard said boldly.
      "She doesn't feed us and talks to us coldly."
      "Hear hear," piped up Roxie, I'll tell you it's true;
      If it weren't for our smarts we'd all be in a stew."
      "Wait," cautioned Albert, "before you more bawl;
      If you can't say something nice don't say nothing at all."
      The children all stood there in silence for minutes,
      Hell seemed an old shoe of which they were the tenants.

      "Cannibalism," the twins announce pertly.
      "Don't start on that," Albert warned curtly.
      "It does stand to reason," Thomas defended,
      "That's how our lives will be tragically ended.
      What happened to Lucy and Charlie and Linus?
      Brothers and sister who lived once before us?
      Did you buy that crap that they slipped in the sewer?
      More likely they ended on the end of a skewer.

      "And Hansel and Gretel and Harold and Maude;
      Surely their deaths too were a fraud.
      So many children, why can't you see?
      She caught them and ate them when she was hungry.
      Remember Muffet and dear pale sweet Jill?
      Where are they now? Ground into meal.
      And Darren and Stanley, Samantha and Olly;
      Rhoda, Mary, Betty and Molly.
      All of them missing, all of them gone;
      In pursuit of food, each was a pawn."

      "And Jack," Roxie remembered with sadness.
      "Mum told us he got stuck in a wine press.
      But where's there a wine press in this frightful town?
      More likely she pureed him and drank him right down.
      The same goes for Eddie, and Wally and Beaver;
      Archie and Jughead both killed with a cleaver.
      That my dear sisters and brothers still left;
      That's what's become of those we bereft."

      "Ahh", the twins moaned. "Eeeee" they both groaned.
      "You're upsetting your sisters, now let it alone.
      It's only a story," Albert explained.
      "None were eaten; none were caused pain."
      "Dying in a wine press," Rox pointed out,
      "Is not something painless, of that I've no doubt."

      "You're not helping," the big brother warned;
      "You've got them all thinking their flesh will be torn.
      Their eyes will be eaten, their insides gouged out;
      Their bones will be blended and poured from a spout.
      You want them to run, you want them to fight?
      Flee from here, flee from our mum's appetite?"

      "Albert," Thomas asked while Tim sucked his thumb;
      "You are the eldest, surely you're not that dumb."
      "Of course I'm not dumb!" Albert shouted with rage.
      "But I don't believe cannibals in this day and age.
      We've come too far, we are far too civil;
      To allow something so awful, such horror, such evil,
      To exist with us, and share this old shoe.
      No that's something we would never do."

      "Then let's off her," Roxie suggested.
      "Or at the least we should have her arrested."
      "But there's no proof," Albert tried to explain.
      "We need proof of the deed; proof that she's slain."
      "I'll give you proof," Thomas said even.
      "We were thirty children, now we're just seven.
      Mortality rates are high 'mongst the poor,
      But this is too high for us to ignore."

        "Their eyes will be eaten, their insides gouged out;
        Their bones will be blended and poured from a spout."

      "Off her! Off her!" the twins said excited.
      "Off her! Off her!" Rox joined in delighted.
      "We'll trip her then seize her and pull out her hair;
      Then kick her and beat her, her clothes we shall tear.
      Then after we've made her really feel awful,
      We'll gouge out her guts with a surgery scalpel."

      "Who," Albert asked, "Will do that brave deed?
      Which one of you will make our mum bleed?
      Will it be you Thomas? Or will it be Roxie?
      And how will you do it? You'll have to be foxy.

      "Sally and Jenny aren't fit for the kill;
      Timmy and Richard would just become ill.
      That leaves me and I'll surely not do it;
      Try as you might, you'll not put me to it."

      "Then," Richard said with scorn in his voice.
      "We should climb into the kettle; we've no other choice."
      "I wouldn't go that far," Albert said nervous.
      "To simply give up would surely unnerve us."
      "So," Roxy said hopeful, "You think there's a need,
      to battle our mum and make her nose bleed?
      You think that perhaps there may be some truth,
      In Thomas' theory, the amateur sleuth?"

      "Suspicion is all that I have," Albert spoke.
      "We'll see what the truth is when we've cleared the smoke."
      Sally and Jenny grinned with relief,
      Happy they had their big brother's belief.
      While Thomas nodded to Roxie and Rich,
      Elated that they might be rid of the witch.
      Timmy, the smallest, just sucked his thumb;
      His size hardly made him a part of the sum.

      "Children you've been upstairs long enough,"
      Came the voice of their mum, loud and quite gruff.
      Get your butts down here if you don't want them calloused;
      It's time we were off to Buckingham Palace!"
      The children all held their breath gripped with fear,
      Sensing the end of their lives was quite near.
      Albert, the oldest, lead down the stairs,
      The others all followed wiping their tears.

      "What's this?" asked their mum when they'd half reached the landing.
      "Crying when soon 'fore the Queen you'll be standing?
      Cheer up my lads and lassies alike;
      A pose of good cheer is what you must strike."
      The children all hung their heads lower at that,
      Frightened by the cheerfulness of the old bat.

      Scurrying she rounded the children outside,
      where a wagon was waiting to give them a ride.
      Atop on the driver bench sat Mister End;
      A familiar face and their mum's only friend.
      "Inside" barked the woman, "no pushing and shoving;
      Anyone who does will get a mean clubbing."
      Orderly the children climbed into the wagon,
      While their mom continued her unabashed naggin'.

      INSIDE, after she slammed shut the door,
      The children discussed what their mom had in store.
      "Obviously," Thomas observed with some anger,
      "To mum's dirty deeds Mister End is no stranger."
      Roxie and Jennie and Sally concurred,
      Indeed Mister End was a murdering bird.
      Albert sat silent with weight on his shoulders,
      As the wagon did bounce down the road over boulders.

      Richard said, "Albert, don't look so sad;
      Maybe dying's not really so bad."
      "That's not what I'm sad about," Albert growled low;
      "I'm sad that you knew something I didn't know.
      I should've been the one to raise an alarm;
      It should have been me who saves us from harm.
      Instead to our mum's defenses I sprang,
      And now we're bouncing away in this thing.

      "And it's Christmas Eve, I'll bet you didn't know,
      So why would the Queen be holding a show?
      She spends every Christmas abroad in seclusion;
      That we'll be mincemeat's a foregone conclusion."
      For a moment the children grew silent again,
      'Til Roxie said how sad their young lives had been.
      "Are," Thomas corrected with forced emphasis.
      "The fact we're alive should give us impetus."
      "That," Richard said lacking joviality,
      "Is a small overlooked minor technicality.

      "Soon we'll be beheaded, and washed down with tonic;
      It's more than I can stand on a flat empty stomach."
      "Cut out your whining," Thomas cut in;
      "With talk like that, how can we win?
      We need a game plan strategically laid,
      Before stews and casseroles of us are made.
      We need a leader, before our mum beats us;
      Al, you're the oldest; please won't you lead us?"

      Continued . . . 1 | 2 | 3 | 4