Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.
Here’s the story so far. The story continues:
The Woman Who Lived Happily Ever After
(Containing a disturbing and shocking tale with a surprisingly happy ending.)
Before you is Al the Average’s second tale of his first journey to the planet Earth, the world without happy endings.
As you recall from the story I told but two seconds ago, Al the Average continued, I had just met a woman who loved her son but did not believe there were happy endings in her world. And I had just vowed to never rest and to never stop until I proved to her that life does happy endings, even in her strange world.
The woman was called Gladys and her seven-year-old son was called Charley. She asked me for my name, and I said “Al the Average.”
“That is a terrible name!” she exclaimed. “Who gave you such a ridiculous name?”
“My parents, of course.”
“They would call their son ‘average’?”
“Of course they would,” I said. “I am exactly half the height of my father, Toby the Tall, and twice the height of my mother, Tabetha the Tiny. That is why I am Al the Average.”
Gladys made a face, then shrugged. “I’ll call you Al, if you don’t mind.”
I did not mind.
Remembering my vow, I volunteered to join her and Charley as they walked back to their home. That way she would feel more protected.
On the way, I decided to get her to tell me her story. Perhaps I could find the happy ending to her story.
“Charley is a very beautiful boy,” I said. “Your husband must be very proud.”
She looked at me as we were walking, and said, “I don’t have a husband.”
I was confused. “I do not understand, Gladys. Charley is your son, isn’t he?”
“He certainly is.”
“Is his father dead?”
“I certainly hope not.”
“Then I must have misheard. I thought you said you don’t have a husband.”
“You heard correctly. I don’t have a husband.”
“How can a woman have a child without a husband?”
She looked at me and laughed. “Oh, Al,” she said. “You are so innocent.”
I must have had the same confused look you have right now, John the Cute. But then she told me her story.
“For many years,” she said, “I looked for the perfect husband, for the perfect man that would complete my life. I searched high and low for a man who would be perfect for me. But everywhere I looked, I saw men who fell in love with me, but that I did not like. And everywhere else I looked, I saw men with whom I would fall in love, but would make me feel bad. I wanted to live happily ever after, but I could not. Not with the men I had found.
“And then it was time,” she continued, “to have a child. And so, with the help of a friend and a couple of doctors, I had a child with a good man, but not one that I would live with. He gave me this gift, then went on about his life.
“And that is the story of how Charley was born. And ever since my life has been a struggle. I struggle at work to get food on the table in a world that has no happy endings. I struggle to make Charley a happy boy even though this is a world with no happy endings. I try to spend every free second I have with him, so that he will learn as late as possible that there are no happy endings in life.”
I considered her story. “I do not understand,” I said. “Doesn’t everybody struggle at work to get food on the table?”
“I suppose so, Al.”
“Then that means that every day at work has a happy ending, because you return to your son with and have enough money to buy food. Am I right?”
“I suppose you are, Al.”
“And when you play with Charley and make sure he is a happy boy… Is he a happy boy?”
“Then isn’t the story you told me about how you had a child with no husband… Isn’t that story a story with a happy ending?”
“But the ending isn’t now, Al. The ending is many years from now.”
“The ending of a story depends on how you tell the story,” I told her. “Isn’t now a good place to stop and say that so far Charley’s story has had a happy ending?”
“I suppose it is…” she said.
“You love him, don’t you?”
“You play with him, don’t you?”
“He likes playing with you, doesn’t he?”
“Then the story of how Charley came to be is a story with a happy ending, isn’t it?”
She thought about my words, then she thought about my sentences, then she thought about their meanings, then she thought about Charley’s life. “Yes,” she said finally. “His story does have a happy ending. … I was always thinking about how it would end sadly that I never considered that endings depend on how you tell the story. Thank you, Al!”
I was very happy with the result. My vow had been completed in less than thirty minutes!
I told her, “You are so happy, even without a husband, that I think you’re living happily ever after right now, aren’t you? You have a child you love. That’s the happy ending you wanted out of your life, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is!”
“You should go to the Happily Ever After Home for the Married and live there. You should explain to them why you’re not married, and I think they’ll understand.”
“Oh, Al,” she laughed. “There is no such place as ‘The Happily Ever After Home for the Married’. What fairy tale world do you live in?”
I was about to answer her, when I suddenly stumbled and fell. I tired to stand up, but then I felt like a wind had caught me and then I felt like I was sliding down something and once more fell on my face. When I stood up, I was back in the wheat fields, outside Bambooville. There was no sign of a path anywhere, there was no hint of another world, a world full of lights and happy endings. It all appeared to have been some sort of delusion.
But then I saw at my feet a radio. During my fourteen hours of journeying, I had seen a radio, its uses have been explained to me, how it can play both music and conversation as well as the newest news. And suddenly there it was, at my feet. I turned it on, but in the Land of All Legends, it plays only uniform noise.
I did not know how or why I had gotten to that other land, nor do I know how I got back. All I know is that I had taught a woman that she was living happily ever after, and that Gladys and Charley would be fine, now. I was also filled with a need and an urge to return to that strange land and learn more about it. And perhaps I would even meet Gladys and Charley again.
But that would come years later.
Do you have strength in you to listen to the tales of my second journey, John the Cute?
King John the Cute nodded. “Continue,” he said.
“As you wish.”
(To be continued on Sunday…)
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