[From Dr. Franklin’s Staticy Cat]
A pretty long time ago, there were two kids named Handsome and Pretzel – YES, Handsome and Pretzel – and they lived with their parents on the edge of a scary, terrible forest. Handsome was a boy, and he really was (handsome, that is). Though Pretzel, his sister, wasn’t anywhere near as good-looking, she did have silky, blonde hair that was exactly 45 feet long. If she threw it out her bedroom window, which was on the third floor, it reached all the way to the ground. No, I’m not thinking of someone else.
Handsome and Pretzel, of course, lived with their mother and father, though their mother was actually their stepmother, which means that she just stepped into their house one day and wouldn’t leave. This stepmother – her name was Andrea – hated Handsome and Pretzel’s guts. She was especially jealous of Pretzel’s long, blonde hair. Probably because she was bald herself. Though she did wear a wig. I mean, it was pretty obvious.
One morning, after the children’s father had gone to work (he was a lawyer), Andrea decided she’d get rid of Handsome and Pretzel once and for all. So she plopped her wig on – if you’re going to be evil, you might as well look good – grabbed the siblings by their wrists, and led them deep into the scary, terrible forest I mentioned earlier. The forest was called Friendly Forest, but it wasn’t (friendly, that is). It was damp and disgusting. There were diapers everywhere. It was like a garbage dump. Yuck.
In the middle of this icky forest was a tower made of gingerbread and candy – YES, that’s what I said. The witch – I mean Andrea, the stepmother – marched the children right up the steps of the tower, which were made of licorice, and locked them in the room at the top.
“And you’ll never get out again!” she cackled, slamming the door, and locking it, and swallowing the key, which was made of lemon drops.
“What should we do?” sobbed Pretzel, drying her eyes with her long, silky hair.
“I’m not sure,” said Handsome. “Let me think.”
“It’s not fair!” bawled Pretzel, blowing her nose on her lovely blonde hair.
“No, it isn’t,” said her brother, sitting down on the floor, which was made of rock-hard toffee.
“We’ll probably die in here,” cried Pretzel, twirling her hair around and around her wrist, like spaghetti.
“Probably,” said her brother, who wasn’t really listening anymore. But then he jumped up, ran out onto the balcony (every candy tower has a balcony) and – pulled something out of his pocket. It was the whistle. The whistle his father had given him, all those years ago. But I did mention it. You’re just not paying attention!
Anyways, his father had told him, “Handsome, if you ever need my help, or the help of any lawyer, just blow this whistle.” So handsome did blow the whistle. Nothing happened, though. Weird.
“Hey!” said Pretzel, running out onto the balcony. “I have an idea. We must be … 40 or 50 feet above the ground, wouldn’t you say?”
Her brother nodded. It looked like 40 or 50 feet to him.
The girl continued:
“What if, say, I dangled my hair over the balcony, and you climbed down it, and got help.”
Handsome thought that was a terrific idea. His sister may not have been pretty, but she sure was smart.
So they tried it out. Pretzel flung her hair over the balcony (it really was lovely, silky hair) and Handsome climbed down it. But – yes, BUT – it just wasn’t long enough! You see, the balcony was actually 50 feet from the ground, rather than 40, so Pretzel’s hair, which was exactly 45 feet long, remember, didn’t quite reach. That’s mathematics, and you can’t argue with mathematics. Handsome had no choice but to climb back up.
The children went back inside, and thought. Thinking works up an appetite – but luckily, there was lots of candyfloss piled in the one corner. So they snacked on that, and thought and thought, and snacked and snacked, and thought and thought and thought. But instead of good ideas, all they got was bad stomachaches.
“It’s hopeless!” sobbed Pretzel, giving up. And then, because she was a very changeable young lady, she smiled and said, “Hey! Wait a second! I’m five feet tall. Do you know what this means, brother?”
Handsome shrugged. He didn’t.
Pretzel crouched down and traced her finger in the dust – I mean, the icing sugar – on the floor. Then she licked her finger and cried, “Delicious!” Wait – no, she cried, “Eureka!” She cried “Eureka!” and rushed back out onto the balcony.
Handsome ran after her. He wondered why his sister was now dangling by her feet from the railing. So he waited for an explanation. When someone cries “Eureka!” they usually have an explanation. And when someone dangles upside-down by their feet, they always do. This was it:
“Since I’m 5 feet tall,” she said, “and my hair is exactly 45, and 45 plus 5 equals 50, generally, and the distance from the balcony to the ground is 50 feet, then….”
Handsome looked a bit puzzled. Numbers can do that to some people.
“Oh, brother!” she cried. “Just check for yourself!”
Handsome checked. With the added length of her body, Pretzel’s hair now brushed the ground.
Handsome congratulated Pretzel – she really was a genius – and then climbed safely down his sister, and her hair, to the ground.
“Now I’ll go get help!” he cried.
“Yikes! Not so loud!” groaned Pretzel, who was standing right beside him, now.
“Sister!” he gasped. “How’d you do that?”
“Hmm?” said Pretzel, dusting off her jeans. “Oh, I just climbed down.”
“Climbed down what?” said her brother, after thinking for a while.
The girl rolled her eyes.
“My hair. Duh.”
And before her brother could ask her how on earth that was possible, she grabbed him by the hand, and raced with him, away from the gingerbread tower (of course they broke off a piece), through the smelly forest (of course the covered their noses), and back home.
Their stepmother Andrea was working in the garden. It looked like she was planting roses. She had a black heart, true – but also a green thumb.
When she saw the children, she was not impressed. BELIEVE me. In fact, she was shocked. She was so shocked, actually, that her wig popped off. It flew straight up into the sky … and vanished.
“You … clever … little … brats,” she said, through her teeth.
“Actually, it was more my sister’s idea,” said Handsome, hiding behind her.
Their stepmother may have had a green thumb – but she had a yellow shovel. She picked it up. She crept towards the children. She lifted the shovel high over her bald head….
“Think of something!” cried Pretzel, which was funny. Because she was the idea person in the family.
Well, Handsome tried. But it’s surprisingly hard to think when a crazy person is coming after you with a yellow shovel. It looked like it was all over for the children. But then….
Handsome turned his head. Because he heard something. A curious sound. It reminded him of the kind of sound a dozen lawyers might make, jumping into a dozen cars, driving across the countryside, and then rustling in the bushes around the garden….
And then, just when Andrea was about to swing the shovel, who’d have guessed it, a dozen lawyers popped out of the bushes. The wicked woman froze.
“You summoned us?” said the lawyers, all at once.
“I … don’t think so,” said Handsome. But then he remembered. The whistle. The one his father had given him all those years ago, and that he’d blown back at the tower. It had taken them a while, sure, but the lawyers really had come!
Though Andrea was evil – and evil can be very powerful, children – it’s no match for a dozen lawyers. Remember that. They confused the woman so much with their gibber-jabber, and made her sign sooo many documents, that she just burst into tears, and caught the first plane to Antarctica, where there aren’t any lawyers, not even one.
When their father returned home from work, Handsome and Pretzel told him all about what had happened, and how awful their stepmother really was. So he divorced Andrea, and instead married the woman who invented candyfloss. Irene Candyfloss. It was a huge improvement.
But whatever happened to Handsome and Pretzel, you’re probably wondering? Well, I’m happy to report that Handsome went to law school, and became a lawyer, like his father. He wasn’t a very good, lawyer, no – but he sure was good-looking.
As for Pretzel, well, she married a prince. The Prince of Outer Mongolia. I’d never heard of him, either. They didn’t live happily ever after, no, but they did live in Orlando, Florida. Which is the next best thing, really.
As for the wig – remember, the one that flew off – well, it finally landed, ten years later, on the head of an old man in Toronto, who had only just gone bald. It was the greatest day of his life.