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..:: CONTENTS ::..
   Volume VI, Issue I

..:: POETRY ::..

..:: PROSE ::..
..:: OTHER ::..

..:: ETC ::..
   Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
   Volume I, Issue I
   Volume I, Issue II
   Volume II, Issue I
   Volume II, Issue II
   Volume III, Issue I
   Volume III, Issue II
   Volume IV, Issue I
   Volume IV, Issue II
   Volume V, Issue I
   Volume V, Issue II


A Slow-Working Relaxative
KJ Hannah Greenberg


Esmeralda remained discontent. It was not so much the song birds’ exasperating twittering or the seemingly sullen bellowing of Daisy, Brownie and the rest of the herd as it was the fruit stuck on the plum trees.

No matter how hard she smacked the trunk of that arboreal monster, no many how many times she slinked up its branches and tried to pluck its treasures, that perennial wooden plant refused to yield. That is, it rebuffed Esmeralda’s efforts.

The young princess had watched countless chipmunks, squirrels and creatures of similar ilk scamper up that mighty plant’s stem and return with cheeks bulging from sweet/tart produce. What’s more, she knew, from her own encounters with the tree, that a local species of hornets had made their nest in the tree’s boughs in order to be closer to its luscious fruit.

It was not so much that Esmeralda was inclined to bake tarts or that her life would be amiss if she failed to slather plum jam on her roasted duck. Moreso, it was the case that the not-still-young miss took unkindly to frustration.

Ralph, her cousin, Viscount of Greenness, had chided her when, over hot mulled tea (Esmeralda was allergic to wine), she had complained about the inaccessible fruit. “Cut it down, if it bothers you,” he had advised.

Esmeralda had shaken her head at him in reply. “Impossible.” She was not wont to repeat the infamous experiences she had already had. When, for instance, she had Johnny-from-Lakeshire executed because he had refused to kiss the face of the poodle who shared her bed and when she had exiled Princess Amber, her half-sister, on account of Amber’s snide remark about Esmeralda’s puce gown for the winter ball — no good had come from those actions.

Johnny’s family had abruptly withdrawn from the council which Esmeralda’s father had worked four long decades to build. Amber had met a handsome French barrister, had married him, and had given birth to the two most adorable twin boys this side of Europe . No, vengeance, itself, ultimately seemed to suck away even more of Esmeralda’s limited joy.

Ralph shrugged and suggested that Esmeralda needed to get out more. He took her fox hunting. He brought her to review the small army he was keeping hidden from his uncle. He introduced her, over pints, to three of the most handsome of his guard.

Esmeralda became familiar with each of those men, in turn, but returned to her keep less happy and more exhausted.

Years passed. The princess’ famous red hair retained its color. Amber sent missives about her tenth lovely child. Johnny’s family built up fortification so famous that tourists actually paid to visit them. The plum tree grew and produced, at least for the kitchen knaves, baskets full of lovely fruit.

Three poodles later (even those dratted beasts refused to live more than two handfuls of years), a messenger approached Esmeralda’s castle. The event would have been unremarkable except for the fact that the man came astride an ostrich. Esmeralda suspected that he would be possessed of a lingering soreness.

Indeed, the foreigner asked for and was granted shelter until his discomfort passed. While he guested in her parents’ home, Esmeralda observed him.

Fred, as he referred to himself, was a busy sort. In the morning, he prayed and supped, then walked for several hours in what he called his “constitutional.” More prayers and then luncheon followed.

His afternoons, interestingly enough, were devoted to painting. His art, however, was of the uncanny variety. On two occasions, Esmeralda was convinced that she saw Fred step into his canvas. He returned only when the sun had begun to descend and the stars threatened to appear.

Thereafter, Fred prayed some more and supped lightly. He retired for the night long before most of the castle population had even begun their evening meal and much before the castle’s dancehall had been filled, let alone emptied.

One day, Fred painted the vexing plum tree. When he returned to the castle, from his journey within his picture’s borders, he came bearing sacks of wonderfully scented fruit. Esmeralda meant to ask the man for a taste of even one such globe, but before the sun made its hiatus, Fred withdrew his ostrich from the stables and galloped away.

Within a decade, Amber became a grandmother. Also, Johnny’s family had formed a council stronger than that of Esmeralda’s father and had slowly, surreptitiously, conquered the nation out from under Esmeralda’s family. By the time that Esmeralda had entered her twilight years, little more was left of her father’s holdings than the castle in which she dwelled and a few kilometers of lands around it.

Though the princess, during that entire span, never lacked either food or entertainment, she remained a malcontent. In all of those years, she had not been able to personally harvest a single plum. Even the ground fruit remained out of her reach; no sooner did a sweet treat drop from a bough than a mighty colony of ants made away with it.

The year that would bring eternal peace to Esmeralda was the same year that Amber and her generations returned to the kingdom. Their father and Esmeralda’s stepmother were long dead, Johnny’s family had long since been acknowledged as the ruling authority of the land and Amber’s grandchildren were hankering to see that place which Amber had once called home.

Once of those fair-haired urchins pulled Esmeralda with her out into the orchards. Serendipitously, the child picked Esmeralda’s nemesis as the tree which she wanted to climb. Only, the little bud was too short to reach even the lowest branch.

In demonstration, Esmeralda, herself as wrinkled as a prune, hoisted herself up and then reached down to gather the small child. Together, they journeyed through wood and leaf until they reached a height from which they could see the spreading fields and woods. In short time, given the combination of exertion, sun and sweet smelling plums, the little one fell asleep. For the entire day, Esmeralda and that cherub remained in those branches, the latter sleeping like a barn cat and the former recalling the wonder that had been her life.


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