Published on 2013/09/16

In Search of a Story

Laura Beasley

The princess told the cat to wake up. "I am bored. Tell me a story."

The cat yawned and stretched. "It is time for my nap. Find your own story."

The princess crumbled the last of her muffin and spread it on the windowsill of the tower. She demanded a story of the sparrows gathering to eat the dried cranberries and almonds.

"We're busy eating. Find your own story."

The princess crouched on the flagstones near the tiny crack. She snatched the mouse by the tail when it emerged for the last of the royal lunch.

"Mouse, I need a story. You're a mother, you must know dozens of stories."

"Because I am a mother, I need to take this food back to my hungry children. They need food. You can find your own story," said Mother Mouse.

"My mother is dead and my father imprisons me in this tower. Where can I find someone to tell me a story?"

"I trust you to find your own solution. I'm not your mother. I have my own children to feed real food. It's all about the food for me," said Mother Mouse.

Left to her own devices, the princess resorted to what every fairy tale princess does when she is frustrated. She began to cry. She cried buckets and buckets. She sobbed and moaned. The servants were afraid to enter the tower room. They shoved in a tray for each meal. The cat, birds and mice ate the food the princess refused to eat. The servants stuffed in clean sheets so the princess could change her bed each day. The princess cried for seventy-seven days and nights. The floor was covered with sheets.

The princess dried her eyes. Instead of changing her bed, she decided to tie the sheets end-to-end into a rope. She tied one end to the column in the center of the room and tossed the other end out the window. She climbed to escape. The princess wanted to find a story.

She asked the dapple-gray horse in the stable, "Hey, Dapplegrim, tell me a story."

"I'm busy napping. Find your own story."

She scattered a bucket of grain. She demanded a story of the hens pecking at the seeds.

"We're busy eating. Find your own story."

The princess found the cat sleeping in the meadow. She waited until he had finished his nap before asking for a story.

"Which story, Puss-in-Boots, The Three Little Kittens, Cattenborg, or The Princess who Ended Sadly Ever After?" said the cat.

"I want to hear Cattenborg because it has a princess and a smart cat, and it's funny when the cat fools the troll by making it explode," said the princess.

"We don't have time for even The Three Little Kittens and you should have chosen The Princess who Ended Sadly Ever After because that's you if you don't run away before your father finds you."

"You're right, Cat! How can I escape the kingdom?"

"Ride on Dapplegrim." Said the cat.

It would take seventy-seven days and nights to describe the adventures of the princess who traveled through seventy-seven kingdoms searching for a story. She met serpents and sea-monsters, sirens and scorpions, sphinxes and swan-maidens, all manner of mythical creatures and monsters unwilling to tell her a story. She chased them and pursued them through swamps and deserts, over hills and mountains. She rode on the back of Dapplegrim with the cat tucked in the saddle behind her. She met wise women and learned how to cook and make friends. She loved many a prince and a woodcutter but never got married.

When she decided to retire to a cottage in the deep, dark woods, she had penpals who sent her letters every day. The village children delivered the letters. The princess fed each child a bowl of soup and a crust of bread. One afternoon, a girl with hazel eyes asked the princess for a story and the princess began to weave her tale. She shared her life with her mother, her life of stories before the tower of isolation.

More children gathered the next day to hear the story of the princess who traveled the globe searching for a story and creating her own. The princess spent her twilight decades telling stories to children and exchanging letters with her friends.

After thirty years, when she grew too old and tired to read, write or tell, the children took care of the princess. Every day, four children would come to care for her. One child hand-fed her soup. The second child read her a letter. The third child told her a story until she fell asleep and the fourth tucked the blankets around her. When the princess rolled on her back, the cat crawled on her chest to sleep. Old Dapplegrim, the horse, stretched his head through the window and snorted on the dreaming princess.

Laura Beasley, the Mother who Tells Stories, lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She volunteers in hospitals and schools with her whippet, Audrey and rides dressage on her flea-bitten grey horse, Amos. She has been published in Enchanted Conversation, a Fairy Tale Magazine, Rose Red Review and eFantasy.