“Sire, we’ve brought you the Big Bad Wolf as you commanded,” The Royal guard announced one summer’s day. “He stands accused of eating one of the three little pigs.”
The King was ready to be distracted, having just received what he considered a truly outrageous bill that morning. One that he feared would leave him with considerably less gold in his counting house for him to count each morning.
“Yes, yes, how do you plead, Big Bad Wolf?” His Majesty grumbled laying the bill aside. “At least I see you’ve changed your diet from little old grandmothers.”
“I’ve changed my ways, I assure you, Sire” The Big Bad Wolf agreed. “Grandmothers proved too much work for a tough stringy meal, and the humiliation factor was enormous. I was wearing that stupid lacy night cap for days before I got the knot untied—the rest of my pack was laughing at me. Piglets are tender and delicious, and as a general rule, they don’t wear flowered flannel night gowns.”
“Well yes, but they are much littler, dumber and cuter than you,” the King pointed out. “Here in Fairy Tale Land, cute counts for a lot while being a predator is suspect. People take that all that bleeding heart living happily ever after business pretty seriously around here, too.”
“So sue me,” the Big Bad Wolf growled curling his upper lip to show just his fang tips. “I got hungry, and I happen to like bacon. Was I supposed to turn vegetarian? Dressing up as a grandmother is bad enough but being seen chowing down on salads would get me kicked out of my pack as a complete outcast.”
Growling wolves in his counting house were a new, disagreeable sensation for the King. He picked up his bill and fumed at once again, for a lack of having anything better to do.
“To wit, we the undersigned dozen horses, and the entirety of your guard must regretfully inform Your Majesty of our failure to put one Mr. H. Dumpty together again, subsequent to his having taken a great fall off of your castle wall. However, in the light of our extensive efforts over the past several days and to offer a recompense to Mr. Dumpty’s Widow, we humbly ask that you remit the sum of 300 golden sovereigns….”
“Three hundred golden sovereigns when all my horses and all my men couldn’t even put Humpty together again!” the King raged. “But they still expect me to pay up! Are they all quite mad?”
The Big Bad Wolf tilted his head in puzzlement. The subject seemed to have wandered off the topic of the death of the third little pig, and he was quite happy for it to wander further yet.
“Begging Your Majesty’s pardon, but am I to understand all your horses were placed in charge of trying to piece Humpty Dumpty back together after last week’s unfortunate incident?”
“Er… it seemed like a good idea at the time,” the King muttered. “Anyway, the Horses Managed care Organization rules stipulate that they have to be allowed to take a crack at it first.”
“To put hoofed mammals in charge of so delicate a procedure, Sire?” The Big Bad Wolf persisted with polite incredulity. “A crack at it is the correct term! If they’d at least been successful, they might have the right to bill you, but if you ask me, requesting remuneration after having failed to save Humpty is absolutely outrageous.” He sat watching the King carefully for his reaction. “Why should you suffer because of the foolishness and incompetence of others. Humpty himself was careless enough to keep sitting on high walls even after all the multiple warnings he got about the danger! It will make a terrible dent in your savings, won’t it?”
“No, you’re right they can’t have it!” the king cried wildly, lurching forward over his counting desk to embrace his nearest pile of old coins with both arms looking quite wild. “It’s mine, all mine! I won’t pay them for their failure!
“Oh I quite agree Your Majesty,” The Big Bad Wolf murmured smoothly. “I believe it’s past time for the citizens of Nursery Rhyme And Fairy Tale Country to realize they need to be more self-sufficient and responsible. Pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. No more free rides! Enough with all their foolish attitudes of entitlement. Are you everyone’s fairy godfather? Are you in the gimme, gimme business? No, you’re the King!”
“Is everyone present, can we call this meeting to order?” Prince Charming called in his cultured English accent.
“I’m listening!” Rapunzel called from her high tower window. She declined to show her face; the cheap shampoo the King was forcing her to use these days had made all her golden hair rather limp and greasy.
“Now then, my fellow Citizens of Nursery Rhyme and Fairy Tale Land, we are in the midst of a crisis owing to the unconscionable and unprecedented greed of the King who has regrettably fallen under the influence of the Big Bad Wolf—“
“It’s not regrettable, it’s an outrage, pretty boy!” called an old woman from the front row. She displayed an enormous coil of frayed and dirty shoelace that had been carefully knotted together in several places. “This old thing is now too short and knotted to keep my roof together any more, but he won’t give me a new one. I’ve never been refused roof lacings before! This time, that impertinent Wolf had the nerve to insinuate I was promiscuous because I have a family too large to count! Asked me why I hadn’t dug myself a den if I were going to have so many litters. Me! I may live in a shoe, but really, to insinuate I should leave my house and go live in a wolf’s den!”
Old Mother Hubbard sighed and nodded her agreement, while stroking the head of her thin old dog which rested on her patched apron. “I told His Majesty my dog was starving because my cupboard was bare, and he snapped at me to go get a job! I’m a Nursery Rhyme--I don’t even know what a job is!”
“Oi’ve got a price on me head,” complained Rumplestiltskin, looking gloomy. “Not only is the King keeping all the gold he’s already got to himself, he wants to capture me so that oi can spin more straw into gold for ‘im. The joke would be on ‘im, oi just can’t work in captivity. But that’s no consolation for me if oi’m captured.”
“Yes, yes, us too,” the various leprechauns scattered through the crowd all agreed. “Set traps for us all over the kingdom, he has.”
“He expects us to give him a jewel tithe from our mines, or he’ll blab that we’re sheltering Snow White to her step-mother,” the eldest of the Seven Dwarves said, he and his six brothers all nodding at once, their faces somber.
“He won’t give us any help getting our palace cleaned up in time for our daughter’s wedding,” Sleeping Beauty’s parents agreed, yawning. Their clothes, which must have been splendid when they’d originally put them on were a century out of date and so dusty it was impossible to tell what color they even were, anymore.
“You wouldn’t believe the mess our Palace interiors are with all the dust and cobwebs being sticky-thick over everything. We’ve simply had to throw away all the food left in the kitchen because it was spoiled or burned! The gardens have all gone to weeds and that thorn thicket surrounding our outer curtain walls is proving impossible to get rid of, too!” The queen sighed. She sported a small bird’s nest atop her high white pompadour.
“The King claims I destroyed the local textile industry by burning all those spinning wheels,” her husband agreed gloomily. “Told him I had to do it to protect my daughter what with all that nasty fairy curse business at her christening. Then he has the impertinence to ask whom we planned to invite to her wedding when everyone we knew back when is at least fifty years dead!”
“So insensitive!” the queen agreed, mopping her eyes with her disintegrating lace hankie.
“Children all over the world are losing faith in my very existence!” the Tooth Fairy sobbed, sitting atop a large mushroom growing from a tree trunk. “But the King won’t give me any more shiny new quarters to leave behind for all the baby teeth I have to collect every night. How can he be so heartless as to let the world’s children wake up disappointed? He’s destroying my very credibility!” Her little white gown still sparkled with snowy brilliance, but her pale, opalescent wings had a decided droop to them. For an eternally youthful fairy, she looked downright haggard.
“Shocking, shocking!” Prince Charming looked very noble and shocked. “So we’re all agreed that we’re united in our grievance against the greed of the King and the Big Bad Wolf?”
A chorus of ayes and yeses from the crowd was his response.
“So the question now is how do we deafeat him and restore normality to Fairy Tale Country?”
This time, he was met with a deep uncomfortable silence until suddenly a clear little girl's voice piped up; “I’ve got an idea.”
The child who had spoken was a small, pre-teen girl with golden curls wearing a frilly pink dress. She held a white shepherd’s crook decorated with a huge pink and silver ribbon bow in one hand, and strange electronic device with a small rectangular screen in the other. Everyone else turned to stare, then started to glance around at one another uncomfortably. Nobody had expected to be shown up by Little Bo Peep in the idea department.
Bo Peep held up her GPS unit in her free hand. “First we need to lure the Big Bad Wolf out of the King’s Counting House, right?” she asked. “What wolf could resist the urge to help me find all my lost sheep? He’s been shut in the Counting House for at least the past month. He must be pretty hungry, by now, right?…”
The Queen was in her parlor eating bread and honey, when her goose girl came running to tell her the Big Bad Wolf had been eying her geese that morning, which was the last straw. In a rage, the Queen stalked into the King’s Counting House. She’d had enough of that damned Big Bad Wolf anyway , and if he was now going to threaten her golden egg-laying geese, it was time for the big mutt to get lost. He was wrecking their reputation with all the other Fairy Tales, anyway…
With the possible exception of the towers of golden coins spilling off shelves and onto the counting house floor, everything the Queen saw in the Counting House displeased her. The place was a smelly mess, what with all the poultry feathers and clean-licked bones lying on the floor amid the coins. She kicked a pile of clean-picked chicken bones aside—poor Chicken Little would at least, never sound the eternal alarm about the sky falling ever again—and stalked over to the Counting House Desk were her husband slept, his head pillowed on an enormous clinky pile of Pieces of Eight. Beyond him in the dimness, the Big Bad Wolf also slept on a great couch of golden coins, his four paws twitcing as if he were dreaming of running. The whole place looked--and smelled-- like a wild beast's lair.
“Hst, wake up you!” the queen whispered jabbing her husband in the ribs. “We need to talk!”
“Hunh?” The King lifted his head, and the queen pounced on the pile of letters that had lain crumpled up underneath his cheek.
“We have to get rid of the Big Bad Wolf,” the queen insisted. “He’s a bad influence on you—just look at this letter. You’re getting hate mail from Old King Cole. I don’t think he’s ever written a poisoned pen letter in his life—he’s such a merry old soul!”
“He’s refused to fire two of his fiddlers three,” The King agreed glumly. “And he won’t stop smoking or over-eating, either, even though I mailed him that actuarial table about the health risks—“
“And what’s this?” the Queen ignored his excuses, shuffling through the pile of parchment edicts. “You were actually going to foreclose on the two little pigs? After the Big Bad Wolf ate their brother? Yesterday, when they went to market, the Big Bad Wolf chased them clear back to their house, and the smaller piggy was so frightened he went ‘wee wee wee!’ all the way home. You heartless slug!” She rolled up the papers and rapped her husband smartly over the head with it.
“I’m so ashamed!” the King sobbed, giving way all at once. “I may be richer than ever, but everyone hates me, and I’m so miserable and lonely! I miss the old days, too! But what can you do when you’re holding a wolf by the ears? What happens if I let him go?”
“He’ll run away,” the Queen suggested helpfully. “And after he’s gone, we bar the castle gate so he can’t get back in—
“Sire, Little Bo Peep is asking to see you,” the PA system announced.
“Send her in,” the Queen commanded.
“But it’s always about losing her stupid sheep—“ the King complained in a whisper before the Queen hushed him with a deadly look. She’d seen the way the Big Bad Wolf’s ears had pricked at the word ‘sheep.’ She also recalled the letter her son Prince Charming had sent the day before, telling her to expect Bo Peep to come calling, and to play along with whatever she said.
Little Bo Peep came in and dropped the Royal Couple a graceful little curtsy, but pitched her clear, high child’s voice right at the Big Bad Wolf. “Sire I need help finding my flock! I’ve looked for them everywhere. But I can’t even find them with my GPS!” Bo Peep held up her flashing GPS unit in it’s sparkly pink casing where she was sure the King could see it.
“What’s a... GPS?” The King asked, watching the entrancing little device in Bo Peep’s hand with avid interest.
“Electronics are my hobby, Sire,” Bo Peep explained, approaching his desk and holding up her GPS to him. “I call this model the Peepie Geepie.”
“Re-calculating your route,” the Peepie Geepie announced as the King accepted it. “From the castle gate, proceed straight for two miles until you come to Miss Muffet’s Tuffet. Turn right and Ride a cock horse precisely five miles to Banbury Cross…”
The Big Bad Wolf in the meantime, had awakened, and was sniffing the air, hungrily. There was someone new in the room; he could detect a child’s scent and something else that reminded him quite delightfully of lamb chops. It made him long for the open air and countryside and for freedom. Living in a Counting House was proving rather dull and stuffy, even if he’d dined excellently off all the ducks, turkeys and chickens in the Queen’s poultry yard lately. A bit of red meat would make a nice change, though….
“Pardon me,” he said, padding over to the group by the Counting House Desk. “Did I hear someone has lost a flock of sheep? Perhaps I can help you find them, my dear.” He licked his lips at the sight of Bo Peep. It was she who was the source of that enchanting lamb chop smell. “I have an excellent nose for that sort of thing.”
Led out the palace gates by Little Bo Peep, the Big Bad Wolf suspected nothing until the prick of a drugged dart took him between the shoulder blades. Some hours later, he was last seen bolting for the border, dressed in a flowered flannel night gown and a lacy night cap, chased out of Fairy Tale Land by a large pack of laughing wolves. He was never heard from or seen again in Fairy Tale Land.
The King loosened his purse strings enough to mend the roof at Shoe House with a new lace; he gave Mother Hubbard’s dog a fine new meaty bone; he cancelled the bounty on Rumplestiltskin, had the leprechaun traps gathered up; he stopped trying to blackmail the Seven Dwarves, sent a cleanup crew to Sleeping Beauty’s parents’ palace, and subsidized Bo Peep’s Start-up Electronics Company, realizing she’d never make a good shepherdess. He also sent a basket of luxury hair products to Rapunzel, who ungratefully demanded a fifty foot ladder, instead.
However, everyone else In Fairy Tale and Nursery Rhyme Land lived Happily Ever After.