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Fiction

I find that people are often looking for the essence of a thing more than the thing itself.

Usually, whenever someone finds something or meets someone, and they feel--If they were to say they felt let down--I suspect it would be because they had an expectation of what that introduction or discovery would feel like and, for them, the feeling didn’t match up. It didn’t have the sensation a child gets when they put together their first puzzle. Everything falls neatly into place. The order that’s accomplished in a moment of personal satisfaction having imagined the color red in such a way only to find that you got exactly that color--not a shade darker or light, but that exact color red.

This is all to say that while I am not the Princess Holcinea (pronounced Hole-sin-eye-ah), from what I gather, I have her essence, and I believe that has some value, if not all the value needed.

When I heard that there was a reward for any information about the lost Princess, a voice came to me. There I was, stacking apples on the bruised apple barrel in the general store where I worked in Ginger Stop, Ohio, and suddenly, it was as though I was Joan of Arc or Mother Theresa. Princess Holcinea, the last remaining monarch in Tellevia (pronounced Tell-ee-via), was presumed dead in a train crash, but her body was never found. Could she have been flung into the nearby river, carried to a distant shore, and could the trauma have caused amnesia? That would lead one to assume that she’d still be out there somewhere, living off the generosity of those who have no clue that a royal was in their midst.

Of course, it was far more likely that the Princess was dead, and that her body was one of the dozen or so that had been incinerated when a fireball went flying through the first class car. Still, people enjoy their hopes. They enjoy them so much they put up rewards to help foster them. Men do radio programs about those rewards and young women in Ginger Stop, Ohio stop what they’re doing and listen. And as they listen, they understand that whoever they were a second ago, whilst holding a bruised Macintosh in their hand, they were now someone else.

Now, they were a princess.

It just so happens that I look exactly like Princess Holcinea, and I take that as yet another sign that while I may not, in fact, actually be her, the essence is there. The spirit of who she is. She loved dogs, I love dogs. She likes riding in trains, I like watching the train pass by the station even though I’m never on it and I wish I was. When I called the number given with the reward and informed the person on the other end of the line that I was the lost Princess, and that somehow I’d ended up in Ohio--I’d try to think up a story later about how a crash victim could get from Tellevia to America, but it turns out, if you have amnesia, nobody really expects you to have an answer for anything.

After being transferred half a dozen times, I was put in touch with an assistant for the royal family of Tellevia, and before I knew it, I was not only boarding a train, but then a ship, and then another train, and when I arrived in front of the palace that Princess Holcinea once called home, I had a sense that perhaps my essence was not going to help me pass for a woman I’d never met or heard anything about until that day when a voice whispered “Do you really want to stack bruised fruit for the rest of your life?

It turns out that if enough people wish something to be so, then it usually is so. It also turns out that if the majority of those people are wealthier than you can imagine, not only is that thing so, but even questioning why it wouldn’t be so could lead to great peril for the questioner. This is what I learned when I arrived in Tellevia only to find that several prominent newspapermen had been jailed for asserting that whoever arrived in their country claiming to be the Princess was obviously a fraud and a con artist. Nobody wanted the princess to be dead, and these men were doing nothing but great harm by suggesting that she had to be. She didn’t have to be anything. If everyone in the country agreed that goats were stylish, then goats were stylish. And if somebody who had to be dead can’t be dead, then so be it--

They’re not dead.

As I sit upon the throne, I contemplate letting those newspapermen out of jail, but I imagine they must be very angry at having been imprisoned in the first place. Even though I wasn’t the one who locked them away, I’m sure most of their ire would be directed in my, well, direction, and I simply can’t take any chances. While nobody ever tried to assassinate Princess Holcinea before the train accident, since she miraculously appeared after a brief stint in America, shots ring out day and night in my direction. Nobody will come right out and accuse me of not being her, but something about what I bring to this part seems to have inspired more outrage in my subjects. They feel disconnected to me. They rebel. I’ve had to preside over innumerable executions. The bodies are beginning to stack up like bruised apples.

In some ways, you’re destined to do whatever it is you’re destined to do, and while you fumble back-and-forth through life, the Universe is simply negotiating the terms of your final actions. I was always meant to be inept at things like putting the prices on the tomato sauce and keeping track of how many cans of tuna we had left, but while I told myself my incompetence was merely the result of the mendacity that makes up being a shop girl, it turns out that when presented with bigger challenges, I was equally out of my depth.

The voice asked me if I wanted to stack fruit for the rest of my life, and I didn’t, which led to a phone call, which led to a trip, which led to me locked in my chambers while revolutionaries attempt to break down the door with a battering ram.

You could say this was all the result of a lie, but I’m not so sure about that. I may have wound up somewhere different, but frustration is like your natural hair color. You can cover it up as much as you want, but as soon as you stop tending to it, it’ll burst forth in the most unattractive way imaginable.

The strange thing is that I never wanted to be a princess when I was a little girl. Nothing about this was a dream realized. I had always wanted to ride in hot-air balloons. I don’t know where I would have gone. I suppose I could have gone anywhere. Maybe I would have wound up here in Tellevia just as the revolution was starting. Maybe the balloon would have hovered over Ginger Stop and never moved further than that.

Castle doors are flimsier than one would think. That’s one thing I know now that I didn’t know before all this. The battering ram sounds like it only needs one more batter before I’ll be made to confess that I’m not who I say I am.

But then again, who am I?

A princess is chosen by god. I was chosen while standing in a store waiting for the train to go by because the fruit shakes too much when it does, and you can’t place the final apple when the rest of the pile is vibrating like that. The point is, a choice was made.

Everybody makes choices--

God, karma, and shop girls in Ohio.

As far as track records go, I’d like to think I’ve made more bad choices than karma but less than God. For one thing, I should have reinforced all the castle doors when I had the chance, but it was never something that concerned me.

An essence is a wonderful thing, but it rarely comes with that kind of insight.

Then again, none of us are given everything.

Not even princesses.

August 21, 2021 02:52

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2 comments

Francis Daisy
12:05 Aug 24, 2021

Best line ever: “Do you really want to stack bruised fruit for the rest of your life?” I absolutely love this story from beginning to end. All of your stories are amazing! 🍎Amy

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Kevin Broccoli
07:34 Aug 27, 2021

Thank you, Amy. I appreciate it.

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