August 2, 2018


Stage magic is smoke, mirrors, and sleight of hand,
but the little man showed up at 3am and offered his deal-
and I didn’t see any other choice...

“Let’s cut to the chase. You’re in trouble and you need help. I don’t want your necklace or rings. I can make gold, so I don’t need cheap jewelry. I want your firstborn child.”

“You want a baby?”

“Well technically, I don’t want a baby. I don’t do well with the diaper and potty training thing. I want the child on its sixth birthday. Doesn’t actually have to be firstborn, could be the second or the third. I’ll decide as we go. I want the pick of the litter.”

“Sounds like the same deal the miller’s daughter made with the man who spun straw into gold. Are you Rumpelstiltskin? Since I know your name, does that mean you can’t take my child?”

“Correct name, Rumpelstiltskin at your service. Incorrect about contract terms. I don’t care if you know my name, can recite the presidents in order, or spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, when I come for payment, I’ll take the child.”
What to do? I couldn’t get out of this mess by myself. I’m the great magician, Madame Zantha. You’ve probably heard of me. Stage magic is smoke, mirrors, and sleight of hand. I was here because of the golden fountain. In the trick, gold coins pour from my hands and mouth and cascade all over the stage. The gold isn’t real and hidden pneumatic tubes provide the fountain.

Unfortunately, three idiots visiting Vegas decided the trick was real, kidnapped me, and locked me in a shipping container with some water, a little food, and four of those plastic five-gallon buckets from a hardware store. “Little Lady, you fill these buckets with gold by morning and you can go home.” The one who did the talking had really bad teeth.

“It’s not real, it’s an illusion. If I could make real gold coins, why in the world would I work as a magician at a casino?”

Bad Teeth said, “Don’t treat us like we’re stupid because we talk with an accent. You’re one of them Midas people. We’re not greedy, we only want four buckets of gold. That’s one for each of us and one for our mama. You ought to make the gold. Fred here takes it downright unkindly when he doesn’t get his way. Gets pretty violent.”

They locked the shipping container. It didn’t take five minutes to realize I couldn’t break out. I did amazing escapes on stage, but all of those involved rigged handcuffs, false bottoms, hidden compartments, or trapdoors.

I turned one of the buckets over and sat down. I couldn’t escape, and I couldn’t make gold coins. I wasn’t looking forward to spending the morning with my new best friend, Fred.

The little man showed up about three in the morning and offered his deal. I didn’t see any other choice. I didn’t believe him, but if he couldn’t make gold, I wouldn’t be any worse off. If he could and I got out of this mess, I decided I wouldn’t have children. “Okay, Rumpelstiltskin, rock and roll. Let’s do this.”

“To be clear, I’ll grant you the power to fill the buckets with gold coins. I’ll come for your child on its sixth birthday, take the child, and never come back. Once I leave, our bargain is complete. We’ll never see each other again.”

“Agreed, but what if the men kill me and take the gold?”

“You’re too smart to let that happen. Your magic fountain trick will be a reality. Until you leave this metal box, gold coins will cascade from your hands and mouth whenever you want.”

Rumpelstiltskin spit on his hands and rubbed his wet hands across my face. He spit again and took my hands. Disgusting. “If you put your finger in my mouth, I’ll bite it off.”

“Concentrate and fill the buckets.”

I pictured gold coins flowing from my hands into the first bucket. It worked. I filled the buckets in minutes. I held a hand over the next two buckets and vomited gold into the last bucket. The gold spewed from my mouth faster than it flowed from my fingers. I used most of a bottle of water to wash the metallic taste out. The buckets were heavy.

Rumpelstiltskin vanished. Bad Teeth, Fred, and their brother opened the box after sunrise.

Bad Teeth said, “I told you she was holding out. I knew her powers were real.”

Fred said, “We gonna let her go?”

“No, we’d best keep her. Tie her up.”

Fred and Bad Teeth grabbed my arms and the other brother took duct tape from his overalls. I spit gold coins at them and knocked out Fred and his brother. Bad Teeth took the coin shower on one shoulder and the side of his head. He staggered away and slipped on the gold coins. He crawled across the floor.

Rumpelstiltskin said that my power would vanish once I left the shipping container. I had to stop Bad Teeth before he made it out the door. I jumped and caught him by one leg. He rolled onto his back and kicked at me. I held him with both hands and rained the golden shower over him until he was completely covered. I buried the other two jerks and walked away. The inside of the shipping container looked like a money bin in Duckberg.

I stepped out the door and turned to lock it. The gold inside had changed to rusted metal and rotted garbage. I guess magic gold is an illusion just like my stage show. I tried to produce more gold coins and nothing happened, Queen Midas was out of the gold making business.

There was no movement under the heaps of trash. They deserved to be dead. It didn’t matter to me. Darwin’s law is a harsh mistress. I locked the door, went home, cleaned up, and did my performance that night. The show must go on.

Two years later, I fell in love with a singer and married him. I didn’t see that coming. Three months later I was pregnant. Really didn’t see that coming. Rumpelstiltskin and the Bad Teeth brothers were a distant memory, but it wouldn’t go away.

Once Sarah was born, I couldn’t quit thinking about him. I had six years to be ready for his visit. He’d show up, take my child, and never come back. I had to be ready. I had to have a plan.

I trained Sarah to work in my magic show when she was three. She loved it. I had a great trick where I threw her above my head and she changed into a dozen doves. Her favorite was when I put her in a box with a glass front, covered the glass with a black panel, and slid the panel up and down a few times to show the audience she was really there. I closed the panel and dumped a glass bowl full of poisonous snakes in the box. The crowd went crazy.

I turned the box a few times and collapsed all four sides with a flourish. Sarah was sitting there in a snake skin robe. She was a natural. The audience loved her.

My husband performed in Cincinnati on Sarah’s sixth birthday. I canceled my show that day and stayed home with her. No party this year.

Rumpelstiltskin appeared at noon. “I’ve come for my payment.”

“Certainly, she’s in her room. I couldn’t stand to say goodbye, so I drugged her. She’s asleep.”

“You aren’t going to try to talk me out of taking your daughter?”

“No, you saved my life, and a deal is a deal.”

We went to Sarah’s room. She was on the bed. The little man could barely restrain himself. He chuckled and rubbed his hands together. “Give her to me. Give her to me.”

I picked her up and put her in the open suitcase on the bed. “Carry her in this. I can’t stand to see you touch her.”

The little man said, “No tricks. I have to know she’s real.” He touched her throat and felt her heartbeat. He put his face close and listened to her breathe.

“Are you satisfied?”

He stepped back, nodded his head, and I closed the suitcase and zipped it up. I locked the zipper and tossed him the key. I deliberately threw it short and it landed on the floor. He looked down, bent over, and picked it. Classic misdirection.

“I’m leaving now. You’ll never see us again.”

He grabbed the suitcase and hefted it. He was satisfied with the weight. He held it with both arms, carried it out of Sarah’s room, and put one finger on his right ear. He smiled evilly and vanished out of my life.

I ran into the bedroom and threw back the hidden flap in the bedspread. Sarah smiled from the hidden compartment and held out both hands. “Did I do good, Mama? I made the switch. The snakes are in the suitcase. Do you think the little man will like them?”

I picked her up and hugged her. “I’m sure he will. Let’s call your father and see if he has time to sing “Happy birthday.”
Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. He has been published in several anthologies and has short stories online at and His novel, Foxborn, was published in April 2017 and the sequel, Dragonborn, in June 2018. His collection of running themed horror, science fiction, and adventures stories, Running Into Trouble, was published in October 2017.
his Amazon page and, his Goodreads page and blog for current information about his stories and books. His Hometown Reads page is

Cover: Amanda Bergloff


Unknown said...

Interesting verbal sleight of hand!

Robin said...

Hilarious from start to finish. A great retelling of a favorite fairy tale .

AMOffenwanger said...


Unknown said...

Clever and riveting! I hope the snake trick works...