Better Days

Lena Bertone

Lena Bertone

On Tuesdays, she didn’t sweep: she and her sisters would run barefoot through the house and see who had the dirtiest feet by nightfall.

The princess had a premonition that the queen would test her with a pea, so before she went to meet her prince, she stopped at the village inn and had a cinnamon spiced brandy with one of the king’s horsemen, who loosened her corset as he twirled her across the floor.

Before the tower, and after the tower, her favorite game was tag because she was the fastest girl and she could run from home until she was just a golden dot sweeping noiselessly toward the horizon.

The guy who made the magic mirror had a plane to catch, so he inserted a shoddy spell into the slot and didn’t waste another thought on whatever hag would want a piece of painted glass reciting some nonsense about beauty when he had a drink and a beach lounger waiting for him in Santo Domingo.

Godmother overslept, and the girl missed the ball, but the next day she announced that she would pay her way through college instead, which honestly turned out to be much more fulfilling in the end.

The huntsman had no patience for the queen’s bile or vanity, so he stole her stepdaughter for a day and took her go-karting where he got the girl good and filthy, hair to toenail, exhausted and crusty, filled up on caffeinated orange soda and cheesy hot dogs.

Little man was spinning gold for damsels across five kingdoms, and as soon as he’d collected a big sack of jewels and trinkets, he sold them for a pile of cash and flew to Thailand for the operation he was sure would make him the person he was meant to be.

The king had doubts about the woman who would become his daughter’s stepmother, but on their wedding day, she promised him a threesome with her erstwhile acrobat girlfriend, and that erased everything but joy from his furrowed face.

As the woodcutter sat on a fresh cut tree trunk and ate the cheese sandwich his wife had made for him, he saw a wolf pass by, and its swagger reminded him of a surly courtesan he’d had once at a brothel, which made his mind go to those bawdy, delicious places he knew he shouldn’t go.

She could be a vicious bitch to her stepdaughter, and during a moment of conscience, she sent the girl out with her daughters and a hundred dollar bill so they could all get milkshakes and manicures while she stayed home and watched what was left of The Price Is Right marathon on the game show network.

One night in the bath as she rubbed the glowing top of her belly with oil, she thought: instead of giving that dwarf my firstborn, I’ll fake my kidnapping by bandits and leave all these bastards behind. Tomorrow.

He held the slipper in his hand and decided to take the day off from finding the love of his life—she would wait, and he would wait, and they would both do better having thought it over for another twenty-four hours.

Even on days when he didn’t have a juicy meal, when all he managed or bothered to take down was a stringy old rabbit or a family of rats, the wolf licked his paws and remembered his best kills: the plump girls and boys he’d befriended first, who slipped right in and let him take the first bite.

Today, she didn’t use the forest to get to grandmother’s house: she just found a clear spot of grass and lay down, let the sun warm her face and dress.


Lena Bertone’s stories have recently been published in Redivider and NANOfiction.


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