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Why pears, not peaches?

A Fairy Tale

By Barbara Steinhauser Published 2 years ago 10 min read

Rosalyn and Micah sat beneath a pear tree in the grove, absorbing the delicate aroma of fresh fruit. The young woman leaned back against its smooth dark grey and brown bark, pulling her son into her lap. He giggled. “Tell me again how I arrived in a suspicious package wrapped in brown paper,” he said, snuggling into her belly.

“I can’t tell one part without telling the whole.” Her laugh was a fast chirp.

“Okay,” he agreed. “Tell it all.”

And so she began. “Once upon a time in a land far across the frozen pond, there lived a hummingbird of a maid, full to the buzzing brim with lightness of being. She loved to weave long grasses into silly hats or finger traps or to hold them between her thumbs and blow them as whistles. Truth told, she loved all things, but especially stinging honey bees.

In this land, an evil King named Ransom ruled with narcissism and greed. He forced dwarves like Huitzl’s Da to hide from the public, banishing them to tunnels where they mined what metals existed within.

One day, chin in the air as always when striding through town, King Ransom swung his hand into a bee, which stung his flabby flesh. Screaming with rage and a bit of pain, he did the obvious; he banned hives. “No bee shall sting again,” he legislated.

Upon his order, an army of slaves went through the valley bearing sticks and protective masks, garbed in thick, woolen underwear. They smashed hives. They sprayed swarms with vinegar. They flattened flower gardens and cut down blossoming trees. So many dead drones, dead worker bees, dead queens; so many trunks and branches; so many, many dahlia, roses, lilies, violets, marigold were uprooted and tossed in the river. Banks burst with sorrow and waters switched direction, flowing up valley instead of down.

In Rosalyn’s wayward cottage, her emitted squeaks calmed a hive thriving beneath the eaves. The military mob swept past; it escaped detection. The girl herself sat upon the porch, nodding to the troops as her nimble fingers wove a basket large enough to hold the silent stand quaking above her head. When evil passed, she whisked the hive into the basket, covered it with a cloth and hurried the colony to a hidden spot in the forest where she had noticed trees in blossom.

All oxygen breathers, conscious and unconscious, were subject to King Ransom’s whims. His temper hung over them like a confined tornado. One did not utter a word that might inspire his wrath; people kept their tongues in cheeks.

Somehow it happened that Huitzil’s Da, a proud dwarf of a man, was overheard claiming his lovely child wove straw into gold. What he’d really said was this, “My daughter amazes me more each day. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day she wove straw into gold to help her old Da pay back taxes.”

But people are people and hear what they like. And they liked the idea that a maiden might have such a talent. After all, so might their offspring. Word went ear to ear until, as always, fake news at its fakest reached the King, and he was struck by a thought. “What’s love, but giving? And who better for her to love, than me, the most powerful man in the Valley?”

As he considered his good fortune, he became more and more convinced of his magnetism. He needn’t see the maid. He needn’t meet the maid. The girl may have flatulence for all he cared. What better inspiration for love had she, than the promise of wealth beyond his wildest dreams?

And so he called a horrified Da and smoldering Huitzl to the rickety barn at the top of the Valley. Looking her over with pleasure, he said he might consider marrying her, should she do as she were told.

“And what is that,” she asked, very certain she would not do it, whatever it was.

“Spin a portion of this straw into gold I can rub against my teeth,” he said. “Or your father will hang.”

The King smiled a rare smile. His teeth were white and small as a rabbit. The barn creaked. He vanished out the door, dragging Da. Bats fluttered overhead.

Huitzl sank to the ground, smoothing an assortment of straw piled beside her. Absently, she began weaving it into a basket. She thought better while her fingers worked. She knew she did not wish to marry this King. Power and wealth were well and good, if the hugr of a being were well and good; such an essence was rare.

Spin a portion of this straw into gold I can rub against my teeth, he commanded. She wove a large basket, then another and another, contemplating this order.

As stars gleamed light through cracks in the rundown barn, Huitzl tore a portion of fabric from her underslip and wrapped within it a handful of straw, bat guano and sliver of barn siding. She twisted the top, knotting it with a string of sturdy straw. Stretching, she whistled, low and long, calling her Norse horse Vaf, who trotted through a gap in the barn door.

Weaving the cloth bag into his shaggy mane, she patted his rump. “Go to Sollys.” Vaf ears flipped forward. He knew Sollys. Her voice was firm and clear. “Lead them here.”

Time passed. She had finished seven baskets when she heard the sound of eight pounding hooves. Quickly, her old friend Odr slid through the door. “I haven’t time to explain.” She shoved him four baskets, grabbed the remaining four and leapt upon Vaf’s back. Odr and Sollys followed the distance to her peach grove, where ripe, yellow peaches hung heavy upon low hanging branches. Soon their baskets overflowed with golden fruit and they returned to the barn as dawn lightened the sky. Setting the baskets beside a gaping window, the childhood friends made finger traps of straw, inspiring fits of laughter.

The powerful man arrived with an entourage of soldiers, curious townsfolk and Da, in chains. Sliding off his prancing horse, King Ransom spat drool like a vengeful bull. “This is not gold!” His voice thundered, shuttering windows in town, below. Angled sun rays hit the peaches, wafting sweet perfume in and around the witnesses. The peaches glowed with an unmistakeably gold radiance.

“Rub it against your teeth,” said a relieved Da, winking at Huitzl. But the King had no chance, for the crowd, too long deprived of fruit, dove into the baskets as one clawing unit. “Gold to rub against your teeth,” they nodded and proclaimed, juice dribbling down their cheeks.

“You tricked me once, but never again,” roared the King. “Tonight you spin gold enough to sift through my fingers.” He pointed his index finger toward Huitzl. “Or I will hang your Da and your Odr, too!”

Huitzl sighed. Thunderclouds cast a green light upon the multitude, drunk on fructose. They shouted among themselves, demoting Da’s daughter’s pluck to prank. “Clever!” they agreed.

The King hadn’t mentioned marriage this round-- an improvement, she supposed. She had the day to consider what tonight might bring. Her eight baskets had disappeared with the crowd, the takers licking what juice remained. A nap sounded pleasant, yet she couldn’t shut off her mind.

Entering the bright barn, she settled onto the dirt, leaning against a mound of straw. She’d stored a peach in her apron pocket and munched on it. She might forage the wood for edibles, next her stomach grumbled. What had the King said? Gold enough to sift through my fingers. Tossing the peach pit toward a bat, she licked her thumb, her index finger, her palm. He wasn’t a clever man-- he might have been more specific. He might have said gold bullion.

Inspiration struck her like a beam. The foolish man had requested liquid gold? She could give him liquid gold, but had she time? She wove another basket, and another, tight enough to contain water. With seven baskets complete, she whistled for Vaf. Sollys trotted beside his herd mate. Odr had been led off in chains, but Sollys remained. No time to waste. She tied seven baskets to Sollys’ back, using rope bridles she foraged in the hay loft, hopped on her dun, and headed to the peaches.

A hum of busy bees welcomed her arrival; they knew. Swarming past their queens, workers lifted the baskets from Sollys’ back like buzzing tornados, filling them with honey. Let the King run that through his fingers, they seemed to say. Unwilling to surrender a drop, the tight communities bore their heavy baskets to the barn, Huitzl, Vaf and Sollys racing beneath with not a minute to spare.

Fanfare announced the King at dusk; he had hoped to quell the meddling townspeople’s interest by arriving at dinnertime, but it hadn’t worked. Neighbor’s mouths salivated as they spotted the baskets of honey awaiting his return. Huitzl blushed at their enthusiasm, chirping, “Liquid gold.”

King Ransom scowled as those present again dove at the baskets, passing them with glee. Still, he had some sort of strategy.

“I expected this.” His voice was smug. “My nectar bat has exceptionally strong hugr; he reads minds and accompanied you, today. I know what I must say and must say clearly. You will spin straw into gold tonight, or I will have Da’s head and Odr’s head and you will be forced to marry me. Gold, you say? Peaches and honey? NO! I mean bullion: not painted gold rocks, not sunbeams trapped within a suspicious package wrapped in brown paper. I want gold bullion: a gold mass of precious metal. Do I make myself clear, Huitzl?”

She startled at his pronunciation of her name. Her mother had given her this name and he was massacring it. “It’s Wee-tz-eel. My name is Huitzl. Have you no ear for sound and song?”

“No golden song will accomplish your task this third and final time. I want the golden stores of money your weasel Da promised. A promise is a promise; its consequences must be paid.”

“Precious feather flower, my name is not to be savored within your mouth like a delicious piece of chocolate cake, Sir.”

The masses gasped.

“My Mor loved hummingbirds she discovered, visiting Nahuas with Da. These Huitzl hover more aerodynamic than any nectar bat and I dare say also read minds. I know I can read your mind. Painted gold rocks and sunbeams trapped within suspicious packages wrapped in brown paper will not satisfy, you require cold, hard bullion to cover your self -indulgent debt.”

The people stood silent, weighing her accusation. “I had a rose garden,” a milkmaid said, stepping away from the King. “I sweetened tea with honey,” said another. “My children played outside.” “Mine, too.”

Huitzl addressed the King. “I do not offer you Mor’s silver necklace, most precious to me. I do not spin straw into gold to save your luck. You are a bull masquerading in royal clothing. Have you no love for your people?”

He stood tall against her, flexing his fists, offering no defense. He had nothing to offer them; no apology rolled off his sneering lips.

Huitzl turned in disgust, stepping toward the barn as bees emerged from hiding to fan her short madness. She smiled. She knew how to work for others.

“Accountants, soldiers, remove this fraud. Treat him as he has treated us.” The congregation of folk nodded and clapped. “The will of the people has spoken.”

That said, she entered the barn, sat upon the spinning wheel and, after a few test spins, began to spin the remaining straw into gold.

And they lived happily ever after. The end.

“I love that story,” said Micah, snuggling into her, yawning. “But why wasn’t it a pear tree?”

“Oop, here comes Da.” Rosalyn rose to her feet, holding the toddler.

Odr pecked her cheek, then grabbed his son. “Peaches are better.”

Micah’s golden laugh lingered like mist.

Young Adult

About the Creator

Barbara Steinhauser

Thank you for taking time to read my stuff. I love writing almost as much as I love my people. I went back to college and earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and often run on that storytelling track. Enjoy!

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