Once upon a time, a young-looking maiden named Cinderella slaved on a dirty, grungy floor. Day and night she worked while her evil stepmother cracked her whip and her ugly stepsisters lazed about.
Ironically, Cinderella didn't really mind the work so much. Have you lost weight? people would ask her. Yep, she would reply, hoping they would change the subject. If you worked as hard as I do, and you only got paid peanuts, you'd probably lose weight, too, she thought. Heh, heh. I like to keep people guessing.
"Stop thinking so much!" cried her evil stepmother. She was about to crack her whip again when Meepthuselah's deep growl caused her to cautiously exit the room with her whip behind her back.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Cinderella remarked under her breath while she continued to scrub.
Meepthuselah was Cinderella's wildcat who once latched hold of the evil stepmother's foot and attempted to gut it with her long back claws. The evil stepmother had kept her distance from the animal ever since.
"Good girl," Cinderella told her pet with her singing voice.
Suddenly, Meepthuselah leapt onto Cinderella's arm and latched onto it with her fangs. Her high-pitched meep-growl reverberated through the room. Instinctively, Cinderella grabbed a nearby dustbunny and flicked it across the room. Meepthuselah unlatched from her arm and chased the dustbunny.
"Someday my prince will come?" Cinderella remarked under her breath and wondered if perhaps she were in the wrong fairy tale. She rubbed the fresh welts that her wildcat had created on her arm and pretended to not feel the pain.
Suddenly, ugly stepsister #1 sauntered over to Cinderella's scrubbing spot on the floor. "I've been told that you're doing it wrong," she declared while standing over Cinderella.
Ugly stepsister #2 kicked some dirt in Cinderella's face. "If you were doing it the right way, you would have finished already, rookie."
Cinderella stopped scrubbing and scowled at ugly stepsister #2. "Who are you calling a rookie? I've been working down here for nearly six months, and you've only been here for a few weeks. If either of you two would pull your own weight, we wouldn't have so many dustbunnies around here." She spotted one nearby and flicked it away. Meepthuselah suddenly appeared to play with it. Her very presence frightened the ugly stepsisters, who shrieked and scurried out of the room.
"Good girl," Cinderella whispered.
Later that day, at high noon, there was a knock at the door. A royal messenger sounded a trumpet and read a royal message: "Hear ye, hear ye, peasants young and old. The royal prince has decided to marry a few of you in the next few months, if the budget allows, if he hasn't mismanaged his kingdom to the ground, and if he feels like it."
"We're polygamists?" Cinderella remarked under her breath.
"The way that the prince has chosen to identify the stars in the kingdom -- the ones who work especially hard and make an especially focused effort in kissing his butt -- will be based on a shoe test," the messenger continued.
"Shoe test?" asked ugly stepsister #1. "We weren't told to study for a shoe test."
"Don't interrupt," retorted the messenger. "The prince only has one pair of glass shoes and has decided that his future wife or wives will wear it."
"Who in their right mind would wear glass shoes?" asked ugly stepsister #2. "What if they break?"
"I said don't interrupt. The prince will come by sometime this afternoon, if the budget allows, if he hasn't mismanaged his kingdom to the ground, and if he feels like it. He will administer the test at that time."
"How much time will my daughters have to study for the test?" asked the evil stepmother while clutching her whip.
The messenger sighed and shook his head. "Thank you for your time and attention to this matter." He did an about-face and marched away.
"Well, don't just stand there, servant," the evil stepmother barked at Cinderella. "Get back to work! We might be having company this afternoon!"
Instead of rolling up their sleeves to help Cinderella, the two ugly stepsisters gossiped about the messenger's proclamation.
"This story is all wrong," Cinderella muttered while she slaved away. "I don't get a fairy godmother or nothin'."
"What's that you're complaining about?!" cried her evil stepmother.
Cinderella sighed in frustration. "With all due respect, please make up your mind. Do you want me to think, or do you want me to share my thoughts out loud?"
Meepthuselah growled deeply. The evil stepmother cautiously exited the room with her whip behind her back.
That's right, hotshot, Cinderella thought while she scrubbed faster.
Later that afternoon, there was a knock at the door. The evil stepmother and ugly stepsister #2 ran to open it. The women grimaced at the sight of a strange-looking character in the doorway.
"Um, your majesty?" asked ugly stepsister #2.
The strange-looking character -- who was dressed in a monk-like robe with a hood over his head -- slowly nodded. He entered the room and asked quietly, "With whom shall I begin first?"
The evil stepmother groaned. "I wish you could begin with my elder daughter, but as usual, she's late! Please begin with my younger daughter."
Ugly stepsister #2 excitedly grabbed the glass shoes out of the prince's hands and tried them on. The shoes were only half the size of her feet, so she nearly sliced her feet on the glass.
"My apologies, m'lady," said the prince sophisticatedly while he yanked the shoes off her feet.
"Let us all keep calm and stay positive," said the evil stepmother while clutching her whip. "My elder daughter is AWOL, my younger daughter has giant feet, and so, eh, where do we stand now?"
The prince pointed a sinister finger at Cinderella. "What about her?"
"Well, she's only a temporary servant, but I suppose you are welcome to test her as well."
Cinderella pointed her callous right foot into the right shoe and slipped it inside without incident. She did the same thing with her left foot into the left shoe. "Whoa. They fit."
Ugly stepsister #2 kicked a nearby dustbunny and stormed out of the room. Visibly suppressing tears, the evil stepmother covered her face with her whip and scurried away.
"What now, studmuffin?" Cinderella asked boldly.
With a royal gallantry that made Cinderella feel as if she were about to live happily ever after, the prince slowly removed the hood from his head. But underneath the hood -- instead of a hip-looking young prince -- was a shriveled-up old man.
Cinderella groaned so loudly that she awakened Meepthuselah from her deep afternoon slumber. "Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!"
"Don't be mad at me," said the old man. "I'm not the one who's writing this fairy tale parody."
Cinderella crossed her arms. "No, I'm not mad at you. I respect you. This is just a frustrating situation." She removed the shoes from her feet and handed them back to the old man. "I think I understand what's happening now."
The old man received the glass footwear and asked, "Eh?" with a confused gleam in his eye.
"See, up until this point in the story, everything about this messed-up fairy tale has been symbolic of the author's employment situation: the quota, the management, the uppity coworkers who are trying to kiss up so they can get hired, the peanuts -- "
"And who is she supposed to be?" asked the old man while pointing at the newly napping Meepthuselah.
"Oh, she's a fictional version of the author's real cat. Methuselah is a Bible character who lived to be 969 years old, so the author based her cat's satirical name off of that -- because she wants her cat to live forever."
"And who am I?" asked the old man with a chuckle. "A prince?"
"Yeah, you were at first, but at this point in the story you symbolize something else: The author's calling."
The old man rolled his eyes. "This author chick is mighty weird."
"She knows. See, you have the tools in your hand, and they're a perfect fit for her, but it's just not time for her to wear them yet."
"Then why am I here? And why am I so old and eccentric?"
"Because the timing is off. Also because you've been inside the author since forever."
The old man ran his wrinkled fingers through his thinning, balding hair. "So, eh, you're saying you're attracted to octogenarians?"
"Pffffft, no. But nothing personal; I've sworn off men forever. Ain't no one on this earth man enough for me." Cinderella suddenly used her magic powers to shrink the old man and his glass shoes, enclose them inside a glass jar, and set them up on a nearby shelf.
Shocked and frightened, the old man pounded on the jar and shouted, "Get me out of here, you cheeky heifer!"
Cinderella chuckled. "No, sir, you need to stay there for safe keeping. If God is going to keep me in a holding pattern for a while, I might as well have some fun with it." She added in her thoughts, Shucks, this ain't no fairy tale. This is fantasy fiction. Anything can happen.
"I heard that!" cried the evil stepmother from the next room.
Meepthuselah growled deeply.
Cinderella grabbed her scrubbing bucket, rolled up her sleeves, and squatted on the floor to resume her work. "Good girl," she told her pet with her singing voice.
Suddenly, Meepthuselah leapt onto Cinderella's arm and latched onto it with her fangs. Her high-pitched meep-growl reverberated through the room. Cinderella sighed.