Rumpelstiltskin Sips His Cappuccino at the Crown Café
and waits. He’s trimmed his long beard and fingers her necklace, ready to return it after all these years. He’ll spend hours listening and patting her ringed hands as she rages about the King’s latest affair. She’ll vow to leave him, again, and he’ll nod supportively. He’s finally learned patience, to tame his riddling tongue, to let her spin her woes into his bedroom gold.
* * *
At first, all Addy could hear was her own wheezy breath and the hush-hushing of stalks rubbed together by the wind. Yellow-tipped reeds, Queen Anne’s Lace and Goldenrod swayed several inches above her head, and there she waited, crouched low with the crickets.
She was the youngest of five and tired of it. She couldn’t walk to her friend Rosalie’s house alone. She couldn’t stay up past eight o’clock, though sunlight burst around the edges of her window shade. And she hadn’t yet reached the 48” mark on the door frame when Daddy measured her that morning, which meant no ride on The Banshee, the fastest roller coaster with the curviest curves. The one that made her teenage brother throw up on his new sneakers and then grin so wide she could see his wisdom teeth cutting through his gums. The one that made everyone – everyone – scream.
She teetered on her heels, knowing they should be on their way to the amusement park by now, and after a few stifled sneezes and almost losing her balance, she carefully stretched out on her back and settled in to watch the sky. She faintly heard her brothers calling but didn’t answer. This was her version of running away. She knew kids who’d packed a suitcase and started walking, leaving their version of breadcrumbs behind them: a favorite toy in the grass, a baseball cap on the sidewalk. Not only didn’t they get very far, but the adults smirked in that knowing “isn’t that cute” way. Addy left no such breadcrumbs. She wanted her family to sweat, to understand that carousels and pokey train rides were unbearable. When Daddy was making his special bologna-cheese-and-sweet pickle sandwiches for the trip, Mom was packing and repacking the car, and her brothers were holed up in their rooms with their ear buds and laptops, she ran for the field.
She didn’t have a plan beyond getting there. She knew they wouldn’t look for her in the field, at least not at first, since she was allergic to ragweed. Highly allergic, the doctor had said, and they squeezed drops of medicine under her tongue every night to help with the itching and wheezing. Surrounded by hundreds of long, skinny flower heads, though, her eyes were watering and her throat was dry and scratchy in the short time she’d been there. Hives bloomed on her arms and legs. I’m tough, she thought. I’ll ride that coaster, and I won’t scream. As her eyes began to flutter closed, she had to fight to keep them open. The ragweed stalks became rows of people in their Banshee seats, rushing the sky.
Addy! Addy! Her mother’s frantic call drifted by like a cloud, spiraling one way then another, disappearing into all that unyielding blue.
Marybeth Rua-Larsen lives in Massachusetts but is a kissing-cousin Rhode Islander. When she’s not writing, she’s flying kites with her kids in Newport, hitting the town beach and steaming up a Portuguese-style clam boil. Recent work has appeared in The Raintown Review, Monkeybicycle, Crannog, The New Verse News, and Antiphon. Last year, she won in the Poetry category for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition in Galway, Ireland.