Published on 2011/01/16

Maven and the Evil Beard

M.A. Moreno

Maven was a typical little girl—mischievous, untrustworthy, and genuinely silly. However, like all little girls, she found herself liked by the people of her little town regardless. Oh, the town’s name was not really Regardless, but for the sake of protecting the innocent, we shall call it by this unintended name.

Liked by all but herself, Maven tried her best to find fault in her tiny frame. After all, she thought that everyone was wrong about everything, and if everyone thought well of her, then she knew that there must only be bad in her.

As with any girl in self-loathing, she dreamed of being someone other than Maven. She certainly did not want to be the Maven that her parents begat, as her youth-addled mind was convinced that they were the king and queen of fools. Needless to say, they were not, but we have already noted that little girls are quite silly, no?

One thing was for certain in her bright but naïve noggin: she would forever remain Maven unless she discovered a way to escape the bounds of Regardless. Thus, she directed her thoughts toward a mad scheme to steal away.

After hours of spelunking through the caverns of her local library, Maven discovered a magic book with an even more magic spell within its magic binding. This spell would allow her to jump straight out of her schoolhouse and into a land of unknown knowledge and mystery.

She knew that if she were to attempt such an escape, she would need to prepare herself a disguise. As such, she swiped a few droplets of her mother’s bleach inside of a leak-proof bag and hid it within her coat. She also tore at the seams of her shirt so that she would be able to remove the sleeves later—a scandalous plan, to be sure.

In the schoolhouse the next day, Maven stood in front of the class under the false promise of a book report. The book she held was no literary classic, but rather that dastardly magic book from the possibly-but-not-assuredly-magic library.

As she began to read, her teacher’s eyes widened, for the teacher knew what sort of spell she was casting in the classroom. Before the teacher could wrest away the tome from her pupil, Maven disappeared in a puff, and her schoolmates jealously slumped into their desks.

Maven poofed onto a grassy knoll, and she glanced around to see if any civilization lay waiting nearby. To her relief, a town much larger than her own stood in the distance. She was indeed lucky, for the town did not even crouch, let alone lay.

Before she could enter the standing town, she would have to disguise herself, lest anyone know that she was Maven. Of course, no one in the town knew what a Maven was, but such things never occur to those who seek to reinvent themselves.

Maven-In-Disguise found a nearby stream and ran the bleach through her hair. Her crop of hair now appeared to be a yellow field, albeit a poorly-tended one. She also removed her shirtsleeves, exposing her bare arms to the stares of gawkers-on.

She trotted toward town, knowing that she was now in quite a predicament. Of course, the big town’s name was not Predicament, but it will have to do. Such towns would scarcely wish to admit to having secret portals outside their borders.

As she passed through the gates, she suddenly realized that she had forgotten to obtain money. Such a foolish mistake would not be expected of such a brilliant escape artist, but one must remember that her brilliance is matched by her silliness.

Upon this realization, she prepared to cry. For all of her desire to break away from her former life, she had never intended to break away from her former budget. Ah, but such is the life of a little girl on the lam.

She considered eating the magical book—which had no magical recipes—when she noticed a pair of giant red lips in front of her. These giant red lips dwelled on the face of a giant bald man whose giant wide eyes gave her a giant eerie glance.

“Art thou hungered?” cried the giant loud voice. And indeed she was, for she forgot even to bring her lunch. All she had was the bleach, which she knew would give her a tummy ache for sure.

“I am called Ivan!” the bald giant said, realizing the need to identify himself. “And who art thou, stranger?”

“Stranger is my name, kind sir,” Maven replied with little conviction but much sarcasm. To her credit, the world is full of such strange names that such a claim could have been true.

“Then eat of my bounty, stranger!” Ivan declared, thankfully not feeding Maven Stranger with an actual bounty hunter.

Instead, he reached into his pocket and removed a moist chocolate bar, which Maven ate despite her better judgment. The giant removed an orange for himself and began to pick it apart with the spears of young adventurers who had not won his favor as Maven had. As said before, everyone likes little girls, even giants.

“Is there much fruit in this land of Predicament?” Maven asked, with the understanding that Predicament was not the real name of the giant’s hometown.

“You will discover very quickly that this town is full of fruit,” replied Ivan with a knowing smirk that Maven Stranger could not presently decipher.

“Where may I sleep?” Maven inquired with more than a touch of rudeness. She glanced around for any possible inn, forgetting again that she was penniless.

“Best not to sleep in this town, Stranger,” Ivan’s lips revealed.

Maven angrily blew a tuft of her newly-goldened hair from her face. “And why not? Are strangers not welcome in such a Predicament?”

Ivan offered a sizable explanation. “You are unsafe indoors. Every night, the Evil Beard emerges from the closets of young people and swallows them whole. You are a young child yourself, and thus you would be a target for the furry jaws of the Evil Beard.”

“Why does no one chase this Beard back into the closet and shave him away?” Maven inquired, clearly ignorant of the foolishness of her question.

“The Evil Beard teleports back to his home upon snatching the young children,” Ivan declared, and his hand moved from his orange juice-soaked mouth to a large door in the sky. “Up there, to the back door of the air, where he lives alone.”

Maven had somehow missed this floating door until now, which is surprising considering the eye-catching prism effect that it gave off to the viewer. Usually, such shiny and colorful objects would distract her from important tasks, but this new land offered so many other distractions already.

“Why does no one go up there to the door and stop the Evil Beard, then?” Maven said, once again shocking Ivan with her insolent ignorance.

“The realm behind the door is guarded by the Evil Beard’s bear force, which can maul even the generally unmaulable,” the giant said, pointing to himself in shame.

“I’m not afraid! Toss me up there and let me at this Beard and his bears! I’ll rescue this town and make myself its queen! Queen Mav…I mean, Stranger. Queen Stranger of a Strange Land.”

Ivan thought to discourage her, but he had learned in his life that some people insist on being foolhardy. The giant took her in his hand and tossed her into the sky.

Maven soared through the door and skidded to a halt on the turquoise-coated floor. Shaking her yellow hair about, she raised her head and let out a word that would best not be repeated.

The lights in the room strobed, almost concealing the bear force in silhouette. However, the bears were indeed there, and they were indeed preparing to maul the intrusive little girl.

Maven sprung to her feet and waved her sleeveless arms about. The exposed flesh unsettled the bears, who were not used to such bawdiness from such a young person. They frowned and pondered how to approach such a deviant.

Maven took this advantage to perform a cartwheel, and the bears dodged what they perceived to be a vile attack. The young girl slipped past their defenses and tumbled through a violet curtain.

In the adjoining room, Maven Stranger discovered a large circular room with a small rectangular door opposite her. The door suddenly flung open, and the Evil Beard appeared before her, munching on the last bites of an innocent little boy.

“So, you’re Old Scraggles himself, eh?” Maven said, thinking herself quite clever for the devilish pun.

The Evil Beard was not at all happy, which is a rather standard disposition for Evil Beards. He tried to speak, but he had yet to choke down the last bits of boy.

“I, Stranger, demand that you let the people of Predicament free from your food-fuelled wrath this instant!”

“Stranger,” scoffed the Evil Beard. “That may be a name held by some, but it is certainly not one held by you. I have heard reports of a little girl in a little town who learned of teleporting spells. Such spells would undoubtedly bring her to a place in which teleporting was quite common. A place such as the one where this supposed Stranger stands before me, perhaps?”

“Fine,” she replied in a huff, “I am Maven of the land of Regardless. By my own name, by my own heritage I denounce you. Are you now satisfied?”

“I will not be satisfied until I have made an end of you,” screeched the Evil Beard with overcompensating fury.

Suddenly, Maven had a thought worthy of her clever brain. “Why are you so evil, Mr. Evil Beard? Is there something you wish to hide? You rightly declare that my disguise rings false, but what about yours?”

“What disguise?” Beard bellowed.

“You hide something behind that beard. I know it. Something you want kept secret. And I will find it.”

The Evil Beard attempted to sweep itself away from Maven, but she managed to reach into him and pull out an elastic ring of cloth before he could escape.

“A hair ribbon! Mr. Evil Beard, do you like to play dress-up?” Maven asked, wondering at the bizarre revelation.

“Are you quite mad?” the Evil Beard replied. “Why would I play dress-up?”

“Maybe,” said Maven, “just maybe, you feel like you can’t be on the outside who you are on the inside. That’s why you hide in closets rather than coming out and facing the world.”

“Absurd,” said the Evil Beard.

“Here,” Maven soothingly uttered while gently moving forward. “Let me put the ribbon back around your beard.”

“No! No!” screamed the Evil Beard in horror. “Get out! Bear force, where are you? Help me! Save me!”

The bears pounced through the curtain and growled. Maven tried to maneuver herself toward the curtain, but the bears blocked her path. She decided that there was only one rational course of action: she had to dance.

The bear force watched in confusion for a moment as she performed all sorts of bizarre movements, but they would not be discouraged as they had been by Maven’s previous absurd assault. They took her movements as a challenge, and they began to dance as well.

“Stop!” sputtered the Evil Beard, knowing what would happen if a force of tubby bears were to dance passionately within his back door realm.

The walls and floor shook madly along with the pulsing bodies of the bears, and soon the room began to collapse. Maven saw that her only hope for survival was to escape through the small closet door. The Evil Beard was too frightened to stop her departure from his crumbling realm.

Maven speedily opened the magical teleporting door and sprung into the gaping abyss. And she was shocked to discover the horror that waited on the other side: her own bedroom in her own home.

Her parents sat on her bed, crying for the loss of their child. She had not expected such an emotional reaction, for she thought that they hated her. Such silly thoughts had led to such a silly adventure.

She ran up, embraced her parents, and swore not to take such an irresponsible trek again. Of course, she planned to return to Predicament one day, but she would pre-warn everyone next time.

“I realize now,” she declared, “that I am Maven, and I must be happy as Maven. I cannot hide behind a disguise or in a foreign land because I cannot hide from my heart. I only hope that the Beard will realize this one day and accept his identity, too.”

And he did. Just as Maven lived happily ever after and grew to be a not-so-little girl with bright wisdom to match her bright mind, so the Beard grew to live a happier life upon the loss of his realm.

Ivan the Giant still visits Maven sometimes, and he tells her the story of the new Beard, the one who has replaced his Evil name with one that expresses how Happy he is to be himself.

M.A. Moreno holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing with a minor in Philosophy from Arkansas Tech University. He currently pursues a Master of Arts degree in English at his alma mater and teaches at the university as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. He also works as a freelance writer for online how-to websites and reviews films for Youtube. He is an award-winning essayist, and his reviews, poetry, and fiction have appeared in the Patterson Literary Review and Nebo: A Literary Journal, the latter of which he oversaw as editor throughout 2008.