March 28, 2017

Animal Bridegroom Stories on Jezebel

Kelly Faircloth, a writer for Jezebel--one of the rare sites that takes fairy tales and their power to compel culture seriously--has a story on animal bridegrooms posted today. Here you go:

Faircloth not only digs into Maria Tatar's new book about animal bridegrooms (more on that in another post), but investigates her topic using academic sources--rare in journalism. It's highly readable and offers food for thought and potential research sources, as well as some great art.

Animal bridegroom stories have a major ick factor, which is why Hollywood cleans them up. But they tell ugly, harsh truths about family life and the lot of women in marriage. It's always encouraging to see popular websites digging deeply into truth in fairy tales.

Of course, the monster hit that the live action Beauty and the Beast has proved to be means we'll be seeing stories about fairy tales for awhile. I haven't seen the movie. Have you?

Check out Faircloth's story.

March 21, 2017

The Steadfast Tin Soldier Issue Table of Contents

At last, I am delighted to present "The Steadfast Tin Soldier Issue" of Enchanted Conversation. These eight wonderful works explore love, sacrifice, pain, and a lot of fire.  "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" is a sad story, and many of these works are as well, but they also celebrate what it's like to have life, even as "things" like a paper ballerina and a tin soldier.

There's also eye-catching art by Amanda Bergloff, about whom you'll be reading more here at EC. But first, enjoy the unique image she made just for this issue, on this page.

Here we go:

John Soldier, Kiyomi Appleton Gaines

The Spoon's Perspective, Alicia Cole

Unburnished, Rhonda Eikamp

Recycled, Erin Wyble Newcomb

Steadfast, Rebecca Buchanan

The Steadfast Cadet, Luisa Kay Reyes

Life Review 
Happily Ever Afterlife, Jude Tulli

Father Knows Best, Kathy Guttosch

John Soldier, By Kiyomi Appleton Gaines

The following contains a personal record relating to experiments performed by an unnamed scientist believed to have been in the employ of the British army at the time of the Crimean War.  This journal was discovered among records of the 18-- theater disaster in a private collection and was donated to the university library on condition of anonymity.  The other documents mentioned in this text have not been located.  Attempts made to discover the historic location of the Godwin or Goodwin Street Laboratory have thusfar been unsuccessful.

3 April 18--
Godwin Street Laboratory
The experiment was as successful as I'd hoped.  The soldier has regained consciousness and is able to sit and stand, with assistance, and to feed and dress himself.   I've shown him how to affix and remove the prosthetic.  The amputation site is healing well, with no sign of the previous infection.  The prosthetic, iron coated with a tin alloy - of my own design - is sturdy and I believe will meet the present need sufficiently.  It should be much less prone to rot or pests or other damage than the wooden variety. 

7 April 18--
Godwin Street Lab.
The soldier is making gains in his recovery, which I suppose is to be expected in one in the prime of life and health.  He has now taken several steps at a time before needing to rest.  He pushes himself manfully and I believe is as eager for a full recovery as I am.  He still does not speak, and I am uncertain whether that is an unforeseen effect of the resuscitation method, or due to the damage inflicted prior to my acquiring him.  I have every hope that speech may return and have begun language lessons along with daily calisthenics.

14 April 18--
Godwin Street Lab.
The solider still does not speak, though he can cross the laboratory quite easily now.  His movements are surprisingly swift with my prosthetic and the cane I've procured for his use.  He communicates roughly with broad and clumsy gestures.  I have decided to take him out to further exercise his limbs, and I am determined he should have every support in the recovery of the full use of the mind, if that is at all possible.  To that end, I have decided that I will take him to the theater in hopes that art may do for the mind what my own scientific endeavors have done for the body.

18 April 18--
Godwin Street Laboratory
The soldier was quite taken with the performance of two nights ago.  He sat rapt throughout, moaning and swaying to the music, and I believe I even saw a tear slip from closed eyes at the aria.  It is true that beauty may soothe the savage heart of man.  I will take him out again.

20 April 18--
Godwin Street
I took John Soldier, as I've begun to introduce him, to the ballet this evening, and it was, again, a resounding success.  He sat especially straight whenever the prima ballerina, the lovely and incomparable Leonie, came onstage.  After the performance, he tried to draw me backstage, but I explained to him that this was not possible, and returned him to my laboratory.

23 April 18--
Godwin Street Laboratory
John saw a poster for the ballet on our walk today and indicated by gesture that he should like a return visit, and so I will take him again.  He is moving quite well now with the continued assistance of the cane I procured for him.  One might think he was as any other returned veteran.  His dexterity has improved significantly as well, and he communicates quite fluently using signs of his own invention, though verbal communication remains beyond his grasp.  In future efforts, I will seek a specimen free of any trauma to the head to determine whether it is my methods that cause a loss of speech, or if some damage received prior to my receiving of the body may be permanent and irreparable.

26 April 18--
Godwin Street Laboratory
John was again the perfect audience member, giving total attention to the stage.  I must admit that I, too, quite enjoyed the performance.  Now that we have been out several times, I find I may relax more and give myself over to the joys of the theater rather than focus solely on, or worry overmuch for John.  He again tried to draw me backstage, and I reminded him that it wasn't to be done.  Although he does not speak, I've begun to wonder whether John might read and write.  I will purchase some additional writing implements for his practice.

27 April 18--
Godwin Str. Lab.
John is able to write!  I've asked him to write about what he remembers.  He has no recollection of the time before his coming to me.  I explained that he was a soldier in a war, and at this he tapped his prosthetic, I believe indicating his understanding that his leg was lost in the war.  I acknowledged that such was indeed the case, and asked him to write down what had happened to him there.  Of course, I have retained the official report that accompanied him to me; however, I did not wish to influence his own recollection.  In the end he only wrote exactly what I told him, that he had been a soldier in a war and that is how he lost his leg.  I asked him what else he remembered, and he provided a most accurate and moving description of the ballet, and asked the name of the ballerina.  I told him she is Leonie, our shining star escaped to us from the troubles across the Channel.  He asked if this was the war he had been in and I explained that, no, he had come to me from the Crimean War.  He nodded and became pensive and would write no more.  I suspect in my excitement I may have tired him.  Any new skill requires a rest of efforts to perfect!  Tomorrow I shall have him practice more.

28 April 18--
Godwin Str.
John has made some sketches in the night, which I have included in these files. One appears to be of the open ocean, which of course he must have crossed to reach the battlefields.  The other is a strange abstraction I can make head nor tail of.  I asked him to describe them to me and he wrote, they are nothing, and asked to return to the ballet.  I will take him again tonight - I admit, I may be a bit of an indulgent parent - but I have told him he must complete all of his assignment and exercises first, and we will make an effort at speaking some of the words he writes so eloquently.

29 April--
Godwin Street Laboratory
Last night John enjoyed the ballet as always, and came straightaway back to the laboratory without any tugging or reluctance or interest in the backstage area.  I had no suspicions of him, and returned to my own flat after wishing him a good evening.  I arrived at my laboratory early this morning, eager to resume our efforts at communication, and bringing with me a book of poetry that I thought he might enjoy, when I found that the door was unlocked.  He was not inside.  He was nowhere to be found.  I asked the vendors on the street and asked in at the shops, but no one had seen John Soldier.  I returned to my laboratory to investigate further whether anything else was missing, and to try to understand who might have known of my experiment and stolen this most crucial and critical part of my research, when John himself arrived.  I asked for his account of what had occurred, and he wrote that he had gone out.  I asked him, out where, and what did he mean by this?  He wrote down that he had been to see Leonie, that he had given her a letter he had written, that it was not my concern what was contained in that letter (I have included all of his writings with this report, some of which was in answer to my own spoken questions), and that she was pleased with his calling on her.  He means to do it again!  I have explained to him that this cannot be.  He cannot have the liberty of the town.  I have explained that he is not like other men, though I confess I know not how to tell him just what he is; and likewise I have explained that there is keen need and great interest in maintaining discretion around his exact nature and strict control of his comings and goings and whereabouts.  This is where his writing becomes quite heavy and illegible, but he gave me to understand that my interest in controlling his movement is no concern of his.  It is a fit of temper, understandable and passing, I am certain, as he comes to regain his strength and vitality.  I have made him aware that he must, under no circumstances, go out on his own again.

1 May--
He has done it again.  I came and found the door unlocked.  He was here this time, thank God, but had clearly been out in the evening.  He insisted he had not broken his word, as my demand was not the extraction of his promise, and that he had not been out alone in any event, if his safety was my concern.   He was with Leonie and others from the ballet, so he claims!  I begin to understand the frustrations of heads of house when their heirs are prone to disobedience.  I've had a lock put on the door that can only be turned by a key from the outside.  I tried to keep him from seeing it, knowing it would upset him, but he followed me the door, and I heard his wordless yelling and beating against it when I left.

2 May--
Godwin Street Laboratory
He is sulking and refuses to go through any of his exercises.

5 May--
Godwin Str. Lab.
A letter arrived - from the ballerina! - asking where he is and if he is well.  Of course I read it first, and when I showed it to him, he cheered some.  My financiers have requested an updated report and an inspection, so I must have him behaving well.  I've told him if he will perform all his exercises and answer any questions put to him, I'll take him to the ballet again, and he has agreed.  I will put my faith in his word as a soldier.  I don't know that I have any other choice.

8 May--
All is lost!  The culmination of so many years' effort and research, gone!  I do not know by what power I may recover from this blow.  John performed masterfully for the inspectors, and wrote as eloquently as ever, and made noises to demonstrate our efforts at restoring his speech, and I believe they were well satisfied.  As promised, I took him to the ballet.  Our elegant shining star danced as beautifully as ever - 

20 May--
Godwin Street Laboratories
I will own that I broke off in my previous record being fully overcome by emotion at the tragedy I have witnessed, as well as my own great loss.  The beautiful Leonie, in her performance - what was to be her final performance - passed too closely to the gaslights illuminating the stage.  Her flowing skirts lit up before anyone could stop it.  As she ran to and fro across the stage, screaming, John jumped over me and pushed into the aisle, where several patrons were already evacuating in case the danger spread.  I noted again that he had become very agile with his cane.  Then my brave Soldier climbed onto the stage, dropped his cane, and wrapped himself around the ballerina.  Yet rather than snuffing the flames, his coat caught, and then she stopped screaming, and he stood there, in brave silence, until he also fell.  I confess to being struck motionless in my seat, paralyzed by the awfulness of what unfolded before me.  The fire marshal arrived and put out the flames, and all were evacuated from the building.  The reports list John as an unnamed soldier who perished alongside Leonie in an effort to rescue her.  Was he returned to this land of the living only to once again meet such a sudden and complete end?  I have acquired a new specimen and find I am unable to achieve a similar result.

Kiyomi Appleton Gaines loves folklore and fairy tales for what they teach us about what it means to be human; more of her writing can be found on Medium.  She lives in New Orleans with her husband, and pet fish.

The Spoon's Perspective, By Alicia Cole

Yes, I birthed them all.
Every bright soldier, every one.
You can't say the lame one
turned to salt after all. 

The paper dancer?
Not made of the sternest stuff.

I would have advised him if he'd asked,
but who asks their mother once
they're grown and a soldier
besides?  I was always inside him,

but easy to ignore. 
Flimsy thing, that dancer. 

I wished she'd stayed to mourn
instead of following.  I would have
liked to know her better.  But that's
why her spangle blackened, I say. 

She chided herself.  He? 
A perfect heart, and me still with him. 

He should have chosen a milk maid
instead, someone else well made of tin.
It would have been interesting
to talk to her mother,

us both stepping back,
watching the good sparks fly.

Alicia Cole lives and writes in Huntsville, AL.  She's the editor of Priestess & Hierophant Press, and a visual artist.  You can find her at and

Unburnished, By Rhonda Eikamp

The demon is coming for me. He's here, in fact. You, beautiful over there in your castle, with your hair all gold coils and sweaters so soft they look like clouds – you know nothing of demons. At least not my kind. When I stand on my balcony smoking (which is prohibited, even out there, the super'd give me hell if he saw), I see you living your enchanted life, in your castle that must cost three times what my little box does, and I know you're too light for demons. There's a gulf between us, more than that created by the chain-link fence down there, the thoughtless gentrification that built these places so close to one another. A gulf of experience, I suppose, and yet every time I see you across this divide I fall in love over and over, with the large airy rooms of your soul.
Sometimes when you're on your balcony your golden head has turned my way and I think you see me too. The dark, unburnished figure I cut, that someone once called noble, always at attention at least, I'm proud of that. And I don't know if you can see this, because I stand behind the balcony partition, I don't know if you know there's only three-fourths of me here.
Coming closer in the dark the demon makes a sound, a rattle in his throat, a laugh or sob or both, a sound as if I'm fighting in the war again.
I've seen you dance, did you know that? I've watched you move from window to window when you're alone, some kind of ballet over there, little leaps. When your head turns toward me then, I wonder if your eyes are open. I think they're not. You spin and spin in a whitewash of happiness, all the coils of your hair are your gold. Then the man comes in – your prince! – and the unheard music stops. Your face crinkles like tissue. I see what happens then too. All of that money going up his nose. Your money, I suppose. Your gold. Sometimes I've leaned over the balcony so as not to see your sadness then, looked far down there into the night gulf between our apartments, to the sidewalk and the high fence with its gate, and I've caught a glimpse of the demon sauntering by in the sodium-lit underbrush on my side. He always looks up at me when I do. The demon is very old, but he looks young. He wears a baseball cap and keeps his head shaved. The demon is only here for me.
I knew a girl like you in high school, before my tale began. She had skin like fine notebook paper and she would never look at me. Until one day when her parents were gone and she took me to her house and up to her bedroom. It was all to shame me, with a camera two of her jock friends had helped her set up, because I had tried to stay clean, for my mother's sake and for the imam's. It made the rounds. When my mother found out, she wrapped her arms close, crossed upon her chest in the manner of the fajr or the dhuhr, but I don't think she prayed. She wouldn't look at me.
I know that girl's not you.
The demon mutters something about rags now. There are always rags in a fairy tale. The ragged youngest son, inheriting nothing, gaining all in the end. And the demon has a rag, here in the dark that is shot with demonic scent, a pungent evil. The word he uses means nothing and I'll say nothing in return. I'll stay so silent that perhaps he won't find me.
And so I went to war. It was the only way to escape my mother's eyes, when she finally did look at me. An adventure! From the moment you land over there it's like being drawn down a fast dark river. The people in the marketplace are loud, or too quiet. There are dusty flowers everywhere, tulips, you don't expect that. Things happen. They happen under the harsh noon sun and they happen by moonlight. I was meant to be the prototype weapon there, with a pass to every place, stamped from the same mold as those called the enemy because they're unburnished like me. Tasked by my sergeant to be two-faced, but I was never good at it. I only have one face. I loved my squad, whether we stank or cheered or cried. We were the ones who had been poured from the same mold, all made in the same home we were so far away from. Have you ever loved a group like that, loved unconditionally, regardless of whether you hate this one's jokes or know that one's a secret coward? Maybe you felt that way once, dancing with others. I don't think you've always danced alone. And one day, on a great adventure in a village where we were the enemy, because there were lip ferns among the sand and rocks and the smoky-green ghost odor of thyme rising and because I was thinking of that girl in school, I didn't see the tripwire until I felt it against my leg, tight. Already tripped. The evil spell cast, the deed done. Everything transformed. My team was behind me, close. I twisted and fell on the grenade with my back to it. My backpack took the brunt of the explosion. Only my right leg, which I couldn't draw up fast enough, stayed behind, in bits and pieces. No one else was hurt. I was transformed into what I am now. The explosion catapulted me across the sand and into another world. Kept me bouncing around, landing me eventually in this little box, with this little pension. With a medal and a magic leg, shiny good spells meant to counteract the bad one except they don't. Looking across every day at the most beautiful girl in the world, who looks back but doesn't know I have only one real leg to stand on, who doesn't suspect there are demons in the tale at all.
He's muttering again. I don't know how he got into my little box, slithering along the wall now from the hall door to the kitchenette to my bedroom. I only hear his body drumming – the dark is too deep for sight. I only imagine his cap pulled low on his shiny head. He whispers: Seen you looking. That's a pretty one, huh? You got no right. For a second I think he'll finish this sentence...No right leg. I fumble for my magic leg, but the dark is conspiring. The leg is not where I left it. My tale has taken it away, my ever-after ending has eaten it, and the smell grows heady. Light flares orange. In the light I see the demon toss the rag into the liquid he's just poured from that can he's holding. Their meeting is like an explosion. It's faster than his spell-casting imagination has led him to believe. His smile becomes a frown.
He turns and runs.
I roll from the bed, try to crawl.
The heat is a dancer, a giant, laughing at me. Doors opening in the flames, teasing, and when I pull myself toward them they close. I can't breathe. I'll be soot soon. This will be the last adventure.
I want you to know someone loved you, and it was clean.
Sirens in the distance now, someone's called for help, surely no one from here, the ones who don't see me.
I stop trying to scoot, lie on my back. I'll hug the fire, make it quick.
And there you are suddenly, at the bedroom door, on the other side of the flames, and I think I shout No, because you don't even know me but you were watching out for me, because you edge closer now, tossing your phone aside. Because your face is full of determination. You shouldn't do this, I don't want you to. You're silk and tissue, you'll burn, you can never drag me, but your strong arms and legs brace. You leap.

Rhonda's bio: "I'm originally from Texas and live in Germany. Stories of mine have appeared in Lackington's, The Dark, Timeless Tales and Lightspeed's special issue 'Women Destroy Science Fiction,' among others."

Altered image by HJ Ford.

Recycled Materials, By Erin Wyble Newcomb

Yesterday, I was news
Print, one sheet of black and white lines
Marching like soldiers in file with my sisters.
That’s the way the story goes.
Today, I am yesterday’s news,
Folded and smudged by fingers and
Sliced by scissors.
The first snip nearly shocked me into tomorrow.
Carefully I took on new form:
Good news or bad news, doll.
Mine is a storied, recycled life.
Today, I am a paper ballerina, outlined
Gracefully with rows of unreadable print
Distorted out of shape.
That’s the way the story grows.
Yesterday, I was news not fit to be
Prima ballerina. I wasn’t born this way, with a
Silver spoon smooth on my pulpy tongue.
Yesterday, I longed for
Tin: shining and malleable. But I don’t need a
Metal to tell me I look good on
Paper. That old spoon might not have a
Leg, but he stands fast.
What’s his story? I wonder
What’s my story?
Yesterday a spoon, today a soldier, and
Tomorrow? Who knows, my heart?
The story goes and grows and never gets reduced
In the telling.

Yesterday, I got read,
Never knowing my sisters would be paper boats and
Wrapping paper and paper crowns with every
Fold and snip and smudge of destiny.
We are old stories, recycled,
Today I read the expression of the last tin soldier and
I know love is an infinitely
Renewable resource. We are reduced and reused and
Recycled materials never knowing
What we will be tomorrow, except
To each other. My tin soldier
Flies through the window and
Sails my sister-boat and washes into the gutter and
Returns to me from the depths with an
Epic toy tale. What can I say?
I, too, am steadfast, even if I’m just
Paper. Old news. Dingy and dull and
No match for my shining soldier, except in
Love that kindles my breast as we’re
Swept into the fire and
I am smoke. Yesterday love and today passion that
Burns me up and tomorrow,
Who knows my tin heart?
His story is my story is our story and we
Grow as recycled materials:
It’s the telling.

Erin Wyble Newcomb writes, reads, and teaches in the Hudson Valley. She writes regular columns for Christ and Pop Culture and Organic Hudson Valley, as well as scholarly articles. This is her first foray into fiction, which fits her love for all things fairy tale. She keeps up her compulsive list-making on Twitter @ErinWyble.

Altered image by Kay Nielsen.

Steadfast, By Rebecca Buchanan

he is watching me
through the window
across the street

ratty ribbons and dull medals
hang from his dirty green jacket
the crutch buys him sympathetic coins

i can hear the mad rattle
as he shakes his little tin cup
demanding that i see him

my smile is for the girls
as i lead them across the bright floor
which smells of warm wood and lemon
to the soft swells of bizet
they make silly faces and giggle at their reflections

between window and mirror

he is watching me

Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary zine, Eternal Haunted Summer. She has been published in a wide variety of venues, and would like to reincarnate as a library cat.

Altered image by Nika Goltz.

The Steadfast Cadet, By Luisa Kay Reyes

Once upon a time in an old southern college town, there was a strapping young man who attended the local military institute.  Tall, handsome, and broad of shoulders, the cadet was also known for his honesty and integrity.  So much so, that his nickname at the institute was “Steadfast.”  He was very studious and taking a full load of difficult courses, one of which was physics.  One day, as the new semester began, his professor told him that there were now two sections of physics.  The main one which all the military cadets took and then another section which included some of the young ladies from the women’s college nearby.  The section with the students from the women’s college was actually more advanced and the professor was wanting to make sure some of the cadets signed up for it. Steadfast hesitated since he already had a full load of coursework,  but the professor assured him that he wouldn’t regret it.  Especially since one of the young ladies in the class was also a ballerina.  Steadfast signed up for the class.

On the first day of the new class, Steadfast arrived early and took his seat.  Shortly after his arrival, one of the young ladies from the women’s college arrived. Steadfast knew immediately she must be the ballerina.  For she opened the door to the classroom with a flourish of her arms and walked so smoothly to her seat, that it looked like she sashaying across the floor.  In a few minutes some of the other students in the class arrived, but Steadfast could only think of the ballerina now sitting in front of him.  

With the arrival of all the students in the class, the professor began teaching the principles of gravity while they took notes as rapidly as they could.  After covering the basics for the day, the professor decided to introduce everybody to one another.  He introduced the ballerina as one of the young ladies from the women’s college, then he introduced another one of the military cadets taking the class, and then he introduced Steadfast.  When the ballerina turned to look at him while he was being introduced, Steadfast felt pleased as he detected a look of approval in her eyes.  After completing all of the introductions, the professor began talking about some of the student groups on campus and he mentioned the Sons of Washington.  Much to the shock of Steadfast, the ballerina quickly stated that she had heard negative things about the Sons of Washington.  The professor was momentarily caught off guard, but as soon as he recovered his bearings he gave the homework assignment and declared the class to be over for the day.

Steadfast immediately pulled out his notebook and approached the ballerina, asking her where she had received her information.  The ballerina declined to answer, until finally asking him why he was so interested in knowing.  At this point, the professor intervened on his behalf, explaining that Steadfast was the commander of the Sons of Washington.  It was quite an honor for a cadet to be given such a position, but the ballerina merely hurried out of the classroom and made her way back to the women’s college without saying a word.  

Before the next class, the military institute announced it was hosting a ball that weekend in conjunction with the neighboring women’s college.  The student bodies at both institutions were eagerly looking forward to the event as they began pulling out their formal attires and making plans for the event.  Right before the next class began, the students began talking about their plans for the formal evening.  One of the cadets asked the ballerina whom she was going with and Steadfast held his breath.  Thankfully, she very nonchalantly stated that she was on the student committee that was involved in the planning of the ball and she would be helping serve the punch as well as being busy with other details of the event.  She added that she had rehearsal earlier in the day and would be barely making it to the ball in time to fulfill her responsibilities. Steadfast took note. 

The evening of the ball was a lovely one with the stars shining brightly in the sky and lending a soft glow to the sparkling jewelry the young ladies had donned for the event.  As the commander of the Sons of Washington, Steadfast greeted the attendees as they arrived and kept an eye out for when the ballerina would be making her arrival.  When the line to enter the ballroom wound down, it appeared that the ballerina was going to be arriving late, if at all.  Working hard to maintain his composure in spite of the disappointment that was filling his chest, Steadfast ordered his men to begin escorting the ladies onto the dance floor and he took his leave to inspect the premises.  For sometimes, some of the cadets who weren’t able to attend the ball were so disgruntled they would make plans to sabotage the evening.  

As he circled around the building and came back around to the front, noting that everything was in order, he saw a lovely young lady in a soft pink formal dress rushing towards the entrance.  Steadfast knew immediately she was the ballerina, for her dress seemed to flow with the wind behind her as she ran gracefully like a gazelle.  Suddenly, she began hobbling on one foot.  One of her heels had broken, so hurriedly has she been running. Steadfast rushed to her side.  Upon seeing him, the ballerina seemed startled.  But then gave him a beaming smile.  He found himself left speechless by the beatific light in her eyes and then felt his heart race as she told him that she apologized for what she had said earlier about the Sons of Washington.  She explained to him that she had since heard very good things about him and Steadfast took the moment to assure her all was well.  He then asked her if she wouldn’t mind dancing with him once before taking her post serving the punch.  The ballerina deliberated for a moment, but then acquiesced and said she thought she could spare him one first dance.  Steadfast swept her in his arms and led her into the ballroom.  With kind fortune smiling upon him, the band was playing a waltz and the two of them took everyone’s breath away as he twirled her around on one leg as smoothly as the swan over the lake in the early evening. 

Luisa Kay Reyes has had pieces featured in the "Fire In Machines," Hofstra University's "The Windmill," "Halcyon Days," "Fellowship of the King," and other literary magazines. 

Life Review; Happily Ever Afterlife, By Jude Tulli

I never asked to carry a gun
I always wanted to be a ballerina
I was as drafted as you
I spun round on one leg in the womb
I lost my right leg in a battle we won
To stay paper thin I took apples for bread
Or maybe I never had two
Or skipped meals to pliĆ© instead

It's all the same now, isn't it? Some would ask why

Survive the inside of a fish...
Torture yourself for a wish?
To be burned alive on a whim?
You'll burn out; a spinster in slippers too tattered to spin
Not me; the answer descends from above
So what if, in a way, they were right?
I got one long last look at my love
This encore is love at first sight

Jude Tulli lives in the Sonoran Desert with his beloved wife Trish and a small pride of housecats. For quick links to his other works published with EC (including the recent Krampus anthology), his novelette Faegotten and more, you can visit him on Goodreads.

Altered image by Shigeru Hatsuyama.

Father Knows Best, By Kathy Guttosch

Perhaps I should've listened to
my papa,
but sometimes he just goes on and on.

And you have to watch for those
Black moods of his.
The last time I argued I was tired of pirouetting,
he whisked me
straight into this cardboard prison and
appointed wax swans my guard.
Told me to keep quiet, or else.

So when I saw the soldier--
that earnest, odd fellow with the steadfast gaze--
I knew he'd be my rescuer.
As the old tin spoon, he might've stirred
Last week's frikadeller;
now he stirred my heart.
I reached toward him, caught him. Owned him.
He wore his red and blue with such pride that I hardly noticed his one leg.

But my father did.

Oh...he warned the resolute soldier away from me--
warned him that very night.
Pops caught him
peeping at me, no less.
Told him to keep his guns to himself.
Or else.
But the soldier said not a word in his defense--chagrined, I guess.
And I began to wonder if he was my savior after all
if he couldn't stand up to
the old man.
Of course my friends never heard any of Father's threats, for
it was midnight and they were all
out and about the room, enjoying their rave.

Which is where I wanted to be

The very next morning, the soldier took off--
flew right out the window.
I half expected it;
my father broke up my relationship with that nutcracker--
why should this be any different.
Still, the tin soldier left without even a tip of his cap, and that did truly
surprise me.
He seemed so steady, after all, 
and I thought myself a better judge of character.

Dearest dad did take the time to come by the castle after lunch,
to say, "Told you," and snicker.
To which I gave him a good raspberry, a paper cut, and dashed away
behind the swans,
who did not like him a bit.
Finally, he growled, and left me to my ponderings.

I must admit, I was jealous of the soldier--
he was free now--free.
Adventuring...heaven knows where he'd go,
while I'd be stuck here.
I sat beside a swan and sulked.

Then just before supper it all turned upside down:
cook carried the soldier back
into the nursery and set him on the table.
All were amazed.
See, I wasn't a poor judge of character
for here he was, come back to me.
I reached out to him once more.
His face, though somewhat weary, still glowed with adoration.
Even still.

I stared at my father. He was hiding behind a child, his face all
Then in a flash, I understood everything.
I straightened my blue sash and whispered at my father, dark as I could,
"Caught you!"
Next thing I knew
I was riding the wind into the soldier's steadfast arms.
Flames were all around us, embracing us,
but I was finally free.

Writer, artist, and rumored to knit sweaters for faeries, Kathy lives in a small house with her own Handsome Prince, an iconoclast teen (who also writes and draws), and two cat overlords.

Image detail from illustration originally by Harry Clarke.