December 31, 2012

The Clever, Wicked Girl, By Jazz Sexton

Editor's note: Jazz takes on the idea of the pretty fairy tale heroine in this story and both subverts and endorses it. She also keeps the classic story form, while putting the reader at odds with the narrator, making for a fun, light-hearted read.
 
This story is true, though you might not want it to be. There once lived a girl whose father had died in the war, and whose mother was confined to bed, and so the girl took it upon herself to earn money for her mother’s medicine and food for her six younger brothers by weaving baskets. It was of the entire town’s opinion that this child was pure and selfless, but you and I know better when it comes to children. The girl found a wealth of business in town, especially at the market where merchants displayed fruits and trinkets inside wicker baskets. Besides the normal wear and tear, many merchants found their baskets burned to ashes overnight or termites hiding within the fruit, after eating through the baskets. This misfortune they could only blame on the scoundrels from whom they bought at wholesale, a town troublemaker, or plain bad luck. Never once did they suspect the golden haired girl who never ran out of customers in the small village.

As Christmas neared, the girl counted her money daily.

“By Christmas I will have enough for a ham and fixings, a little present for each of my brothers, and the strongest medicine from the apothecary for mother.” She was so pleased with herself that she decided not to create any mischief for the merchants that day. Tomorrow was always another opportunity. She ran home where her six brothers played in the yard.

“Quickly,”she said, pointing to the ground. “Line up here, and tell me what you want Santa to bring you this year. I will write your wishes down, and send them to the North Pole.”

So excited were the boys that they climbed over each other to be first in line, for never had they received anything for Christmas except a switch across their rumps when they made noise in church. Deservedly so, I should think. The boys asked for a roof without leaks so they wouldn’t wake up shivering in the night, a yo-yo for the youngest so he could make friends and impress them, and thread and needle to patch the knees in their britches.

The girl wrote down her brothers’ wishes and set off for the market. She had never planned to send the letter to Santa. He never brought them anything. Besides, now that she had her own money, she had no use of Old St. Nick. The girl hummed on her way to town, thinking of how happy her family would be. She wished for nothing for herself. To her, the best gift would be to see her mother well, if you can believe it from an arsonist like her.
 
The girl felt clever, conducting business as she did. She felt just in all of it, never destroying the baskets of the merchants who saw the least business.
 

As she approached the tailor’s shop where she intended to purchase the needle and thread, an odd looking man stepped round the corner. He wore a black day suit, and his hands and face were covered in brown fur.

Knowing it impolite to stare, the girl averted her eyes and continued toward the shop.

“Pardon me,” said a dark voice like gravel. It came from the strange looking man.

The girl turned and smiled at him. She stiffened at the sight of red horns protruding from his forehead, and the red tongue lolling from his jaws.

“Might you be the young lady who makes those wicker baskets all the merchants use?”

“I am that girl, sir.”

“Wonderful. I require a commission from you. I’ll need a basket, but not just any kind. This basket must be large at the top, and taper at the bottom. It must be long enough for something large to fit into with a lid that latches from the outside, and cannot be opened from the inside. Why, I’d say it should be large enough for you to fit into. Name your price, child.”

The girl thought it over, and came to a number three times her normal cost.

“Very well,” the strange man said. “I shall retrieve the product on Christmas Eve. Hold out your hand. I’ll pay you in advance.”

He counted out the coins to her, and disappeared back round the corner he emerged from. Now, unfortunately for people like us who wish to see such dishonest brats receive their comeuppance, this girl was not stupid. She knew the man covered in fur was Krampus playing a trick on her. The girl got straight to work on the basket, anyway, never one to go back on a business deal. On Christmas Eve, as she placed her mother’s and brothers’ presents by the hearth, Krampus appeared at her side. He no longer wore his suit. Now she saw his entire body was covered in fur. He held chains in his hands.

“Ah, yes, just as I wanted,” he said of the basket. “Just to make sure it is the right size, would you please step inside?"

The girl did as he bid her, and Krampus slammed the lid over her.

“You’ve been naughty,” he whispered through the wicker slats. “Tonight you shall burn just as the baskets you set on fire.” Krampus placed rope through the slats, and hoisted it on his back. “My, you are heavy,” he said as he went through town, laughing to himself.

As Krampus passed through the market, a mob of townsfolk met him at the center. With them was the girl who made the wicker baskets. Tears spilled over her sickeningly pink cheeks.

“That’s him! That’s the man I saw burn the apple seller’s basket.”

Krampus could not see how this was possible. He felt the weight of the girl on his back.

“That’s ridiculous. I’ve come to collect this girl for Santa. She’s been naughty all year. She’s the one who destroyed your baskets and stock for her own gain."

Krampus stood confident before the crowd. The apple seller looked from his charred basket to the sweet girl.

“Check his basket,” said the girl. “He made me make it so he could fill it with matches.”

She sniffed, and let out a sob for greater effect, the wretch. The townsfolk ripped the lid from Krampus’ basket. Inside they found matches and cans of gasoline just as the girl said.

That clever, wicked girl had created a trap bottom. She had slipped out and placed the matches and cans, which she hid in her apron, while Krampus wasn’t looking. Krampus found himself being chased down by the townsfolk with his own chains. They swung the chains and called for his head on a stake as Krampus fled to Santa’s sleigh.

The girl headed home, content that she had placed the blame on someone else. She resolved not to burn anymore baskets as she knew when to quit when she was ahead. The girl’s brothers cheered over their presents, and the sight of their joy was enough to cure their mother’s melancholy. With all the money she received from Krampus, the girl had enough to move her family to a bigger town where business was always steady. So this Christmas remember: you can even outsmart the devil so long as you are clever, and others think you are pretty enough to trust.

Jazz Sexton is on the Naughty list this year, but she doesn't mind. She blogs about books and writing at www.jazzsexton.com.
 
 

8 comments

  1. This story almost had me laughing out loud! I loved the twisted moral of the story and how you had to both cheer her on and dislike her for how she fooled the townspeople. Great story!

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  2. I really enjoyed this! I like that the girl is conflicted, being "naughty" and mischievous, but also selfless and caring. A very interesting story and well written. Thanks for sharing, Jazz!

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  3. This is such a funny story, and I love that you've created a multi-dimensional character instead of a fairytale stereotype, yet kept the feel of a traditional fairytale in the telling.

    For me, the imagery of matches and a girl from a poor family can't help but bring the Little Match Girl to mind, and I love that your story gives it a nod with its own modern twists :)

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  4. Oh this is story is too wonderful. She is clever enough to outwit Krampus himself! I loved this and I am very impressed!

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  5. Love this story! It was great to read about a heroine who wasn't a goody-two shoes. And I love the slightly warped message that you can get away with all kinds as long as you look sweet!

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  6. I like the "sickeningly pink cheeks!"

    You also preserve the feel of a fairy tale by having the girl refrain from further basket burning (i.e., in your world it's still risky to tangle with mischief and rule-breaking, as it is in most fairy tales).

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  7. Funny how we can completely get behind someone who's not 100% good if we agree with their reasoning, or if we just like them a lot. Being bad feels pretty good:) Well done!

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  8. I really don’t see what the little girl did wrong! Others may say that she was naughty for burning and destroying the baskets that she had sold the merchants but in her defense she was only trying to care for her family and survive. I was not surprised that she single handedly defeated Krampus with no problems, she was smart enough to keep her business going and cute enough to have everyone eating out of the palm of her hand! Though it was bad of her to trick the town’s people at least she learned her lesson and quit while she was ahead. Moving to a town with steady business was a clever move. I’m not sure how old the girl is but her level of maturity towards the end makes her seem older, though she has to be young and sweet enough to trick everyone. This story was pretty funny and entertaining to me. I have never heard of a kid punishing Krampus, how refreshing! This is a great story, not one to forget!
    Paige F.

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