Another Sunday afternoon and I'm sitting here, fidgeting as I wait for Rory McIlroy to tee off in the U.S. Open. I want to be a spectator to golfing history. I want to see him win by a new record number. I want another Tiger. He seems like such a really nice person. I need another Tiger but one I can appreciate without the sexual baggage that Tiger gave us. Come on, Rory.
A few years ago (Wow, I guess "a few" is really fifteen) when I was teaching creative writing in a nearby junior college, I wrote this story to illustrate the omniscient point of view, loading it with every old omniscient device I could think of. And it came out better than I'd planned. What do you think?
A Tale of Twins Entwined
Once upon a time in a village far far away in a land equally far, there lived a lovely young lady named Maleeva, or Mal to her enemies.
The land was known as Bountiful, the village, Punkydale. However, as our tale begins, the land was anything but bountiful, for a terrible spell had been placed on it and now nothing would grow—no corn nor peas nor beans, no potatoes, no wheat, no barley, no hops (no beer!), no apples nor oranges nor kumquats (but then, who needs kumquats? for that matter, who knows what a kumquat is?). The only thing that grew was the people’s hunger . . . and Maleeva’s sour disposition. You see, Maleeva, though fair of face and form, was foul of feeling, a fearsome fowl of a female. She was lovely outside but inside she was vile, a veritable vial of vile venom.
One day shortly after the spell had been placed, a young man strolled into Bountiful from the adjoining land named William (the land, not the lad, for the lad’s name was Beneeva, or Ben to his friends). You, Dear Reader, have probably noticed the similarities in the names of our two young people, the lad named Beneeva and the lass named Maleeva, or Ben and Mal. The two were outwardly similar, very similar, for they were brother and sister, twins, as a matter of fact. They had been separated at birth through no fault of their parents. The midwife, a wicked woman named Wanda, had taken the girl child and lied to the mother, saying there was only one child born. Wanda took the girl child because of the baby’s outward beauty (a beauty which grew inwardly ugly because of Wanda’s wicked ways) and left behind the boy child because of his outward ugliness (an ugliness which changed to handsomeness as the boy grew up and his grotesque nose diminished).
The two grew to young adulthood unaware of sister, brother, twin, and fate brought them together in this time of unbountiful famine.
It was afternoon when young Ben entered Punkydale. He approached the lovely Maleeva, who was sitting on her front stoop frowning at the ground. He removed his cap and was just about to speak when Maleeva, with a howl of triumph, pounced on a big fat beetle and promptly popped it in her mouth.
“Uhh,” Ben began, “uhh, wasn’t that a beetle you just popped in, chewed up and swallowed?”
“Well, of course it was, you idiot!” she snarled, wiping with the back of her hand a black beetle leg from the corner of her mouth. “Did you think it was a Big Mac or, or, or . . . even a Whopper?” she asked, her eyes going dreamy at the thought of such epicurean delights, such gastronomical pleasures.
“Uhh, I’m not certain,” he replied uncertainly. “What is a Big Mac? What is a Whopper?” Beneeva, you see, was hardly a man of the world and didn’t know a Big Mac from a Whopper, or an epicure from a gastronome. “You idiot!” she screamed, thinking she’d never before seen as silly a young man as this one. “It was a Big Bug I chewed up and swallowed and it was delicious. Who are you and what do you want?” Then she smiled craftily and rubbed her hands together as she realized what this foolish young man might mean to her. “Do you, perchance, have anything to eat? I mean, other than beetles?”
Ben swept his arm and cap to the side and bowed to this fiery female, just as his mother had taught him to do. “My name is Beneeva, but my friends call me, Ben. I have no food, sweet lady, but I would be honored to find you some. Prithee, tell me, oh fair one, what you are called.”
“I am Maleeva, but my enemies call me, Mal. Prithee, tell me, Ben, why are you here if you have no food? There are only so many beetles and I am not one to share.”
“I’ve come to Bountiful to find my fortune. Can you tell me, Mal, of any opportunities for a willing and able young lad seeking his fortune?”
Mal grinned, her eyes little slits of satisfaction. “Why, yes,” she purred. “A handsome young man such as yourself could do handsomely by going up the mountain and slaying the nasty gnomish magician who lives in that distant castle.” The magical gnome she referred to, a gnome named Norman, was the very gnome who had placed the spell of famine on Bountiful. Norman wanted no one not a gnome to live in that land, and since the residents of Bountiful were all tall, handsome folk, nary a gnome among them, Norman would soon be the only gnome left standing.
“And all I need do is go up the mountain and slay a small nasty gnome? And I will have made my fortune? Is there a fortune to be found up there?” He had more questions but he couldn’t think how to phrase them.
Mal kept bobbing her head with head-bobbing answers to Ben’s questions. “That’s it” she answered. “Anyone, even a gnome, who could afford to live in a castle such as the one on that high mountain, must surely have a fortune lying about, and it would have to be a fortune he came by unfairly, illegally, so it would be yours quite fairly, legally, to grab.”
Ben swept his hat from his head and bowed to the lady fair and took his leave, hurrying up the mountain to find his fortune.
Meanwhile, up the mountain, Norman was just getting up from his evening meal, a feast of such gargantuan proportions that his gnomish little body was swollen, his little face red and dripping with the labor of his feasting, his belly a balloon. He wobbled and waddled over to the open window and climbed heavily up onto a small stool to see how his spell was going down in Punkydale. He stood there with chin resting on the sill, his stomach pressed painfully into the stony wall. He was surprised to see a young man struggling up the trail to the wall surrounding Norman’s castle.
“I wonder what he’s up to coming here,” Norman wondered. “Up to nothing good, I’d wager. I certainly hope he isn’t thinking of doing anything drastic about the spell I placed on Bountiful.” Norman decided he should, just to be on the safe side, get his magic wand and turn this young man into a toad or a fly or a wart on a boar’s behind. But when he turned to step down from the stool, he toppled onto his stomach and no matter how he struggled, he couldn’t right himself, his belly just too round and bulbous for his feet to find the floor.
Minutes later, Ben came through the large entrance door and looked down at Norman there on the floor, his little legs and arms futilely flailing the air. Norman peeked over his shoulder and gave Ben his most pathetic look, intending it to appeal to the lad’s good nature. Then Norman glanced at the table where he’d left his wand near the remains of his dinner. He saw the young man’s eyes follow his and Norman knew the mistake he’d made.
“Ah hah!” Ben cried in triumph. “And what do we have here?” He rushed to the table, took the wand and waved it overhead. Then, without really knowing what he was about, he began a strange chant: “Hicka, hacka, hoaka, hum—this gnome is gone with a flick of my thumb.” Ben flicked his thumb and sure enough, Norman disappeared in a little round puff of smoke.
And the evil spell on Bountiful went with him to wherever Norman had gone. Actually, he was transported to an island many many leagues from Bountiful, the island of Punypoo, where all the natives were even shorter than Norman, and Norman couldn’t have been happier, even without his magic wand to aid him.
Ben came down the mountain with the magic wand. There was Mal, about to pop another beetle in her mouth. He pointed the wand at her and, with a voice and words not his own, conjured: “Meely, mally, mimbledy, mole—remove the beetles from this girl’s soul.” Mal’s mouth opened in astonishment. Her eyes grew round and large as kumquats (which aren’t really very large). With four hiccups, three coughs, two gurgles, and one giggle, she bent forward at the waist and from her mouth out poured a stream of beetles. It was a most disgusting sight. To me, to you, that is, but not to Ben, who, like Professor Higgins, could find nothing foul in his fair lady. When the beetle stream diminished and then dribbled to a conclusion, Mal straightened, her face now radiant with her newly cleansed soul. She was now magically as lovely inside as out.
And all would have ended happily ever after if, at the very moment that Ben and Mal were rushing into each other’s arms, the wicked midwife Wanda had not rushed round a corner and skidded to a halt, putting a halt to the rushing couple and the happy ending.
“Desist, you idiots!” she shouted with upraised arms. “Don’t you realize what I now realize, now that I’ve seen this lad who is the very image of Maleeva, and her spitting image at that?”
The couple, not yet arm in arm, looked at each other in wonder, then turned to Wanda and said with one voice, “No. We don’t realize what you now realize. What don’t we realize?”
“You two are brother and sister, twins to be precise, two sides of one coin.” Shocked silence. Ben and Mal looked at each other, then back at wicked Wanda, disbelief plain in their twinned expressions.
“Yes, yes, it’s true,” Wanda went on. “I wickedly stole Maleeva away from your mother just after she was born and I raised her as my own, raised her to be as wicked as I, and I now regret both the stealing and the raising. But you must not make matters worse by falling in love. A brotherly/sisterly hug and a peck on the cheek is one thing, but incest will never do, not even in a fairy tale.”
Ben and Mal believed her. So Ben again raised the wand and waved it over their heads, his and his sister’s, the sister who would have been his wife and lover in another time, another place . . . another story.
“Blinka, Blonka, Beetle-de-bun—make the two of us into one,” he chanted. In an instant they blended, coalesced like smoke, the two now joined at more than hip, male and female together in one harmonious whole, the very “marriage of true minds” to which Shakespeare would not “admit impediments.”
And he—she—they, or with a brand new pronoun for this equal rights occasion, “hesh” lived happily ever after.
The moral? In matters of money, two million is always much better than one. But when it comes to twins in love, one will always be better than two.