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Moonlight Adventures in Babysitting

Act I    - Blue Moon Detective Agency
               Friday afternoon 4:30 pm

Music plays throughout the introductory credits and the beginning of the scene.

                        Up every morning just to keep my job

                        I gotta fight my way through the hustling mob

                        Sounds of the city pounding in my brain

                        While another day goes down the drain (yeah, yeah)

                        But it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows

                        No one owns a piece of my time

                        And there's a five o'clock me inside my clothes

                        Thinkin' that the world looks fine, yeah.

                        (SCAT:  oh-de-lay-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ay)

                        Tradin' my time for the pay I get
                        Livin' on money that I ain't made yet

                        I've been goin' trying to make my way

                        While I live for the end of the day.

                        Cause it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows

                        No one owns a piece of my time

                        There's a long haired girl who waits, I know

                        To ease my troubled mind, yeah.

                        (SCAT:  oh-de-lay-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ay)

                        In the shelter of her arms, everything's OK

                        When she talks, then the world goes slippin' away

                        And I know the reason I can still go on

                        When every other reason is gone (yeah, yeah)

                        In my five o'clock  world, she waits for me

                        Nothing else matters at all

                        Cause every time my baby smiles at me

                        I know that it's all worthwhile, yeah.

                        (SCAT:  oh-de-lay-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ay)

The camera moves back and forth between a slowly advancing clock and the members of the Blue Moon office staff.  There is no work activity, no papers on the desks - everyone is poised for the end of the work week…waiting for the big hand to reach the twelve.

The phone rings and Agnes DiPesto answers.

Agnes:           Blue Moon Detective Agency

                        It's almost the weekend

                        The countdown's begun

                        Most everyone's looking for

                        Frolic and fun.

                        But sometimes the best plans

                        Can just go awry.

                        You end up unconscious

                        With a body nearby.

                        Don't give up or despair

                        Give Blue Moon a holler

                        We give the best value

                        For your budgeted dollar.

                        Our new toll free hot line

                        Is the answer you crave

                       So just dial 1 - 800

                       For Maddie and Dave.

         Oh, hi, how are you doing?  Great………sure, she's here.  Can you hold on for a minute?

Agnes hits the intercom button and we hear Maddie's voice.

Maddie: (offscreen)  Yes, Agnes?

Agnes:  Miss Hayes, it's Terri Bishop on line one.

Maddie:  Oh, OK, thanks Agnes.

Switch to a split screen…Maddie to the left and Terri Bishop to the right.

Maddie:  Hello.

Terri:   Hi Maddie, it's Terri.

Maddie:  Terri, how are you?  It's been a while.  I was just asking David if he'd spoken to you.

Terri:   Well, you know how hectic it is around the holidays.  But we really have to get together.  Maybe some Sunday afternoon.

Maddie:  Sure, if you can pry David away from the Lakers.

Terri:   Him too?  I thought that was only a Walter affliction.  So they'll keep each other company.

Maddie:  I'm sure David would love it.  He's a little underwhelmed with my appreciation of sports.

Terri:   Been there, done that.  Listen Maddie, the reason I called…………whoops, could you hang on for a second………

We hear Terri's voice faintly in the background.

Terri:   Wally, give it to Mommy, please.  No sweetheart, don't try to bend it!  Walter, could you come and get him?  Wally, why don't you and Big Bird go read Daddy a story?

Terri returns to the phone.

Terri:   Maddie?

Maddie:  Terri, is everything all right?

Terri:   Fine…for some reason, my son has developed an aversion to my cello.

Maddie:  He broke your cello?

Terri:   No, but that's the third bow he's broken this month.  How long do the terrible twos last?

Maddie: You're asking the wrong person.

Terri:   Speaking of asking…….I can't believe that you just heard that whole thing, and now I need to ask you for a favor.

Maddie:  Ask away.

Terri:   We've got a business dinner with Walter's company tonight, and our baby sitter just cancelled.  I really hate to ask, but could you watch Wally tonight?  We really can't get out of this, as much as I would like to.

Maddie:  Of course.  I'd love to watch him for you.

Terri:   I'm not interrupting any plans, am I?

Maddie: None that I know of - I think we were just planning a quiet evening at home.

Terri:  So much for the best laid plans.

She giggles.

Terri:  Sounds like one of David's lines, doesn't it?

Maddie:  Thought it sounded familiar…… what kind of things do I need…food, diapers?

Terri:  Don't worry…I'll bring everything with me.  Food is a snap - Wally's going through a phase.  All he'll eat is Spaghettios.

Maddie:  Spaghettios?

Terri starts to laugh.

Terri:  I should have known, Maddie Hayes, that you would have no prior experience with Spaghettios.  Don't worry, I'll bet you ten dollars that David does.

Maddie:  (hesitatingly)  Well, OK.  What time will you bring him by.

Terri:  How's 7:30?

Maddie:  Great.  We'll be waiting.

Terri:  You're a lifesaver, Maddie.  We owe you big time.

Maddie:  Don't worry, there'll come a time that you'll be paying me back.

Terri:   With pleasure.

There is a crash in the background.

Terri:   Ooops, gotta go.  See you at 7:30.

The phone clicks.

Maddie:  Terri…….is everything…….?

Maddie realizes that the line is dead.  She smiles to herself.

Maddie:  This should be quite an evening.

The door swings open and David Addison sweeps into the room.

David:  Hey beautiful, let's say we blow this pop stand and get started on the weekend?

Maddie:  David………

He goes on, oblivious.

David:  I see a nice fire, a couple of steaks, and some sultry music.  Then maybe if you're good, we'll play connect the dots with your freckles.

Maddie:  David……….

David:  I see it all perfectly - how does it go?  A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and….

Maddie interrupts.

Maddie:  Spaghettios.

David:  Yeah, that's it………

He does a double take.

David:  Huh?  Did I hear the word Spaghettios come out of your mouth?

Maddie:  Yeah, Spaghettios, whatever they are.

David:  Maddie, Maddie, Maddie…..Spaghettios are one of the best inventions of modern science.  Small circles of pasta, floating in an orange/red sauce with the taste of the aluminum can they came in!  A gourmet delight!!!

Maddie:  You ate spaghetti from a can?

David:  Hell yes, it was my Dad's specialty.  Fill a plate with Spaghettios, and plop a fried pork chop on top - who could beat it?

Maddie:  No wonder you consider pretzel rods a breakfast food.

David:  Hey listen, pretzel rods are made of flour, pancakes are made of flour - not a far stretch for me.

Maddie just shakes her head.

David:  So what's with the Spaghettios?  Looking to try something new, something exotic?  I can come up with a few suggestions.

He leers at her.

Maddie:  Put it in park, Addison.  Spaghettios are all that little Wally will eat.

David:  Terri must love that.  So what's your big concern with the dietary habits of the littlest Bishop?

Maddie:  You'll be happy to know we'll be entertaining him.  Their babysitter cancelled and I said we would take him for the evening.

David:  The evening?  This evening?  You're kidding, right?  Can't they take him to day care?  Or night care?  So much for the best laid plans.

Maddie:  That's what Terri said!   David, what's the big deal?  He's a baby.  They'll drop him off, we'll feed him and put him to bed.

David:  Maddie, he's not a baby - he's two and a half.  And two and a half means trouble.

Maddie (laughing):  C'mon David, scared of a toddler?  Where's that old devil may care, I can handle anything guy I know?

David:  I'm telling you right now……'s not nearly as easy as you think.

Maddie:  Oh yeah?  Pray tell, Doctor Spock, what do you know about taking care of babies?

David:  I'll have you know, I was the most popular babysitter in South Philadelphia.  I was booked up weeks in advance.

Maddie:  Baby sitter?  The kids in my neighborhood who babysat were girls….

David:  Why Miss Hayes, how sexist of you.  In my neighborhood, when you wanted the best person for the job, you called David Addison.

Maddie:  So if you're the best person for the job, how come you're trying so hard to avoid it?

David:  Because it's Friday night, Maddie.  The end of a long hard week.  I was looking forward to some you and me time.  And take my word for it, so were you.

Maddie:  Well, I promised your good friend Terri that we'd take him.  So I'm in on it, with or without you.

David:  Within an hour, babe, you'd be begging for me.  Not a foreign concept, you must admit.

Maddie:  In your dreams, Addison.  Shall we get going?

David:  Guess we can't avoid it.  Sure, why not…. I'll drop you off at your house.  I've got a couple of errands to run, and I'll be back.

Maddie:  Why do I get the feeling that you're looking for any excuse to get out of this?

David:  Cause I am.  But don't worry, I'll be there.  This ought to be a very interesting evening.

Maddie gathers her things, and they walk towards the door.

David:  By the way, when you're babysitting, are you allowed to have boys over?  Let's say, once we get the little tyke to bed, I bring out my 45s, and we turn down the lights and I teach you how to…….

The door shuts behind them, as he continues to ruminate……..


Act II   -  Maddie's house
                        Friday evening, 8:00 P.M.

David enters the house through the front door.  He stands and surveys the room for a second, although we can only see him and not the room into which he looks.  He moves his head around, staring intently, then goes back out the door, and checks the address numbers on the side of the house.  He reenters, standing at the door with his hands on his hips.

The camera sweeps around.  The room is hardly recognizable as Maddie's living room. There are toys scattered everywhere.  The pillows from the sofa are on the floor.  Magazines are strewn across the top of the coffee table, and there is a large glob of paper towels soaking up a puddle of red liquid.

As he stands shaking his head, Miss Me catapults into the room, barking and racing around the sofa.  She is being chased by Wally, whose entire outfit is covered with large red stains.  He is hollering at the top of his lungs.

Following him is Maddie, still in her silk pantsuit, which is also sporting a large red stain on the jacket.

Maddie:  Hey……you two, stop this instant.  Miss Me…..sit!  Wally, come here for a second!

She notices David, who is trying to keep from laughing.

Maddie:  And where have you been?

David:  Did you miss me?

Maddie fixes him with a glare.  He proceeds.

David:  I didn't figure World War III would break out while I was gone.  I just stopped to pick up a few movies - some for the kiddo, and a very special one for us big people to watch once he's asleep.

Maddie:  Asleep?  Do you think he'll ever sleep?

David:  (mocking her)  What's the big deal, Maddie?  I thought you said watching little Wally would be a piece of cake?

Maddie:  Yeah…..devil's food.  Would you check his scalp for those sixes?

Suddenly, there is a loud yelp, and an equally large shriek from the boy/dog pile on the carpet.

David:  Ok, time to join forces….Blondie, you grab the pooch, and I'll get the kid.

Each one retrieves their assigned target, and they sit side by side on the sofa.  Miss Me settles comfortably on Maddie's lap, while Wally hangs onto David's neck, howling exaggeratedly.

David:  Hey, hey buddy…what's up with you?  Come sit and talk to Uncle Dave.

David swings the child around and sits him in his lap.  As a lone tear trickles down his dirty face, Wally turns towards Maddie and Miss Me.

Wally:  He's a bad dog.

David:  How come?

He ruffles Miss Me's fur.

Wally:  He made that big mess, all by hisself.

David:  Maddie, have you been giving that dog KoolAid again?

She smiles.

Maddie:  I knelt down to give Wally some juice, and Miss Me jumped up on us……voila!

Wally:  He needs a time out.

David:  I think everybody needs a time out.  Maddie, how about you change into something a little……..less red, and I'll take care of the champ here.

Maddie:  Can you keep things under control here?

David:  I probably can do as well as you did!

Maddie:  I hate you……'re so calm.  And you're just dying to say, I told you so.

David:  The night is young, my love.  Go!

Maddie heads up the stairs.

Wally:  Where Maddie go?

David:  I think she needed to change her clothes……how about you, pal?

Wally:  I'm `ticky.

David:  Well, `ticky, I'm Dave…let's get you out of those .

He rustles in a bag.

David:  Hey, Elmo pjs.  I have a pair just like these.

David pulls out a pack of wipes, and starts to swipe at the boy's face, tickling and teasing him like he's playing a game, all the while chatting with him in a low voice.

Maddie reenters the room - standing in the doorway to watch for a moment.  She is wearing a sweatsuit, and is barefooted.  She approaches the sofa.

Maddie:  It's awfully quiet in here.  What are you two talking about?

David:  Guy stuff.  No girls allowed.

Wally:  Yeah, guy stuff.

David finishes dressing him, and hands him to Maddie.  He leans over, and gathers up the paper towel mess from the coffee table.

David:  So who's hungry?

Wally:  Me, me……I want skettios!

David:  Yeah, me too.  How about you, Maddie?

Maddie makes a face.

David:  Hold that thought, and I'll heat the grub.

Maddie:  Grub…there's a good word.  The things Terri brought are in that bag on the table.

David:  Ok, just think lovely thoughts…you'll never know what might come out of that kitchen……

He heads towards the kitchen.  Wally wriggles down from Maddie's lap and heads off towards David.

David swings him up into his arms and returns him to Maddie.

David:  Yo, pal, you stay with Maddie.  She's gonna tell you a story…a nice "G" rated story.  Here's the segue, Maddie, you're on your own.

He goes through the door.  Wally continues to squirm.

Wally:  Wanna go…wanna go see Uncle Dave.

Maddie (speaking to herself):  It even works on kids…..that charm of his.

  He's just like the Pied Piper.

She pauses for a second, then smiles down at the toddler.

Maddie:  A story…you want to hear a story?  Here's a good one for you…….

a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d

                                    Once upon a time…….

Maddie's voice continues with the narrative parts.

… In a far off land was a little village with a big problem.  And that problem was rats!!

The camera moves in on an idyllic setting - a typical village of the 1480s.  Townsfolk are milling around the square.

Interject comedic shock cuts of:

A woman removes a lid from a pot to find -                                        A RAT

A man reaches for his boots and is greeted by --                                A RAT

A child opening his bureau drawer finds a nest of baby --                   RATS!

The camera returns to the village square to show a village in turmoil….rats running through the square, and the townsfolk shrieking and fleeing.

The scene shifts to the town council chamber.  The council is composed of the Blue Moon office staff dressed in period costumes (need to get our money's worth out of that Atomic Shakespeare garb!)  The Mayor stands, back facing the room.  The chatter in the room grows louder, and the Mayor whirls around and bangs on the table.

The Mayor is Agnes DiPesto.

There is an uproar, and with one voice the council responds.

Council:  The Mayor?

Mayor/Agnes:      Hell yes, the Mayor.  Don't be surprised - after all this is the eighties…..and this is a very progressive town for the fifteenth century.

The council begins to shout.

Council:       We need to solve the problem!

            It's a health hazard!

            They're everywhere!

            We're not safe in our homes!

            What can we do?

Mayor/Agnes:      Do?  Why who's to know what to do?  My head fairly aches from looking for a solution.  How I wish one would come to me.

There is a rap at the door.

Sheriff/O'Neill:  However did you do that?

Mayor/Agnes:      It's in the script……Come in!

She continues.

Mayor/Agnes:      And fortunate that may be…….saved my a….

She looks up at the figure in the doorway.

Mayor/Agnes:      A……afternoon, sir.  How may we help you?

The figure in the doorway is quite unique - in fact, quite out of place in fifteenth century wherever this is.  This is twentieth century David Addison.  He is dressed all in black - jeans, T-shirt, and distressed leather jacket.  He wears Ray Bans, and his hair (or what there is left of it) is spiked.  He walks over to the Mayor and plants one booted foot on the chair next to her.

Mayor/Agnes:      What manner of creature are you?

David looks around.

David:  What an intro….music, gentlemen…….

He pulls a harmonica from his jacket pocket and plays.  He then begins to sing….

David:  I'm a man, yes I am, and I can't help but love you so…….

Mayor/Agnes:      Excuse me?

David:  Babe, I am Prince Charming --- no wait, that's Sue's fairy tale!  I am the Prince of Charm here to help you with your problem!

Mayor/Agnes:      Our problem?

David:  Those big furry mamas with the long tails?  The rats?  Is this an English speaking village?

Mayor/Agnes:    Help with the rats?  Are you the Orkin man?

David:  No, but let me tell you…this buckaroo knows rats!  I come from New York City, home of the biggest, toughest rats on the planet - they have to be to deal with the alligators in the sewers.

Mayor/Agnes:    You talk and talk sir, but I hear no solution to our trials.

David winks at the camera.

David:  I believe we discovereth PMS.  So much for the social amenities.

He climbs onto a chair.

David:  People, let me introduce myself.  They call me the Pied Piper, and I'm your man!  I can rid this town of all the unwanted vermin - well, at least the rats.

Mayor/Agnes:    Is it true?

Piper/David:  Do bats bat?  Do rats rat?  Take a look at my references…gnats in Tartary - gone!  Vampire bats in Asia - vamoose!  In fact, I'm squeezing you in before my next appointment - scorpions in Bagdad.  Your rats are but a small annoyance to me.

Mayor/Agnes:    But how do you do this?

Piper/David:  I told you….I am the Prince of Charm…..I charm them away.

Council:  Charm them?

David glares at them.

Piper/David:  What, like I'm not charming enough for you?  You just wait and see.  Anyway, what have you got to lose?

The council all speaks at once.

Council:                                    He seems charming enough.

                                                Let's give him a chance.

                                                The tabloids say he's charming.

Mayor/Agnes looks over the room carefully.

Mayor/Agnes:    All right, Pied Piper, you may try.

Piper/David:  Ho…ho…ho…ho…..I haven't heard anybody discuss compensation.

He looks out at the puzzled faces.

Piper/David:  Recompense, remuneration, salary?

Still no response from the council.

Piper/David:  You know ----  bread, scratch, bankroll, filthy lucre?


Piper/David:  GUILDERS??????

The council nods.

Council:  Ahhh….guilders!  

Mayor/Agnes:    What is your wish?

Piper/David:  Let me toss around a few figures - labor, supplies, liability insurance, overtime.  Let's say, I'll relieve you of your problem for one thousand…….

He looks quizzically.

Piper/David:  Guilders, right?

Mayor/Agnes:    Such a large job for one thousand guilders.  Should you be successful, we will reward you tenfold.

Piper/David starts counting on his fingers.

Piper/David:  Ten thousand smackers?

Council (shouting):  GUILDERS!!!

Piper/David:  well then, let's get this show on the road.  Lead on, Mayor.

The group rises and exits into the town square.  The curious townsfolk gather around.

Piper/David:  Ladies and gentlemen, if you please.  Stand back and give me some room.

He stands in the center of the square with the harmonica in his hand.  He brings it to his lips, and blows some experimental notes.

Rats start to peek their heads out of their hiding places - all kinds of rats……….fat rats, skinny rats, rats who climb on rocks, tough rats, sissy rats, even rats with chicken pox seemed to be attracted to the Piper's song.  He launches into an elaborate arrangement of "Mule Train".

The rats start to gather around the Piper, and the crowd begins to murmur.  The piper continues to blow on the harmonica, and walks towards the river with the hoards of rats following him.  The townsfolk follow - at a respectful distance.  They finally reach the riverbank.

Piper/David:  Ok, you guys, here's where you get off.  Into the drink with you.  And stay out!

He puts the harmonica to his lips, and continues to play.  The rats begin jumping off the banks and floating away downstream.  He continues playing until the final rat is gone.

A large rejoicing begins on the banks as the people celebrate the liberation of their town.  In the midst of all stands the Piper, grinning from ear to ear.

Mayor/Agnes:  Now go to your homes, to your barns and your sheds.  Remove all the nests and block up the holes - the rats at last are gone!

There is a loud clearing of the throat.

Piper/David:  Yoo hoo…………Mayor lady - isn't there something you forgot?

He extends his hand, and rubs his first three fingers together in the universal symbol for….

Piper/David:  I'll take my guilders in cash, please.

Mayor/Agnes:    We need a moment please.

The Mayor gathers her council around her.  The whispering commences.

Mayor/Agnes:    Our problem is solved.  It cannot come back to hurt us again…… was such a small task, such a small amount of this man's time… hardly seems worth the price he commands.  The money will be better spent at our monthly meetings at the Cock and Bull.  I say we offer him a portion, and he should be glad to receive it.  All agreed?

The council shakes their head in agreement.

The Mayor turns to the Piper.

Mayor/Agnes:  We offer you a hundred guilders.  

Piper/David:  Why you…….. you offered me ten thousand - don't try to go back on this deal.  I knew I should have gotten half up front!

Mayor/Agnes:  Twas a deal struck of despair.  Now that our troubles are gone, our eyes see clearer.

Piper/David:  I am warning you…do not stiff me!  You will live to regret the next time my pipe blows.

Mayor/Agnes:    Blow away, you miserable creature.  What power have you, but over the least of God's creatures?

Piper/David:  Why you conniving……..remember, you brought this upon yourselves.

The Piper stepped again into the middle of the square, blew a long note on his harmonica, and launches into a complicated arrangement of "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide."

He begins to walk out of the town, and as of a single mind, all the women of the town begin to follow him.  They are laughing, singing and dancing.  They head towards the mountains, as their men call after them to return.

At the rear of the group is the Mayor………as helpless as all the others as she is pulled towards the music.  The Piper reaches the mountain, and as if by magic, a door opens in the side of the mountain.  Peering inside, we see it is decorated as would be a harem, lots of flowing drapes and overstuffed cushions on the floor of the cave…….it appears to be one man's dream.

As the Piper continues, the women pass him, and enter the cave, until each of them has entered.  The Piper stands in the doorway for a moment, directs a salute (imagine any kind of salute you'd like) to the men and children of the town, and enters as the door slams behind him.

Maddie's voice:  The men tried for years to get into the cave ……they begged, they pleaded, they left notes offering money and gifts beyond measure.  They tried to drill and blast into the mountain, but never were they successful in reaching the inside of the cave.

In time they had to give up, and take on all the tasks their women had performed:  heading up single parent families, learning to cook, clean and care for their families.  And each evening, before they put their children to bed, they would tell the story of the Pied Piper, and remind their children how important it was to keep their promises.

a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d

Wally:  And they all lived happily ever after?

Maddie:  Well, the Piper sure did.

David:  Gives a whole new spin to the term "paying the Piper", huh?

Maddie:  How long have you been standing there?

David:  Long enough to know that that Piper would never run out of things to do on a Friday night.

Wally:  Another story…another story!

David:  Time to eat buddy………and a surprise for Maddie.

Maddie:  Spaghettios with meatballs???

David:  Nope, spaghettios for the guys, and a Cobb salad for the princess.

Maddie:  Oh bless Terri.

David:  Yep, she sure knows just what fits.  OK, group off to the kitchen……..

Wally continues to chant.

Wally:  Story, story, story……………..

Commercial Break

Act III - Maddie's Kitchen


Maddie:  So these are Spaghettios.

David:  Yep.  Appetizing ain't they?

Maddie:  Did Terri say this is all he wants to eat?  That can't be healthy.  What about vegetables?  What about fiber?

David:  Food jags, Maddie.  All kids have em.  All kids survive em.

Maddie:  How do you come by all this knowledge about children, David?

David:  I used to be one.

Maddie:  Used to?

David:  Yeah, but I wasn't into Spaghettios.  My vice was PB&J and swiss cheese sandwiches.

Maddie:  Sounds about as appealing as Spaghettios.  Hey, look who's getting sleepy.

Wally yawns widely and rubs his eyes.

Maddie:  Why don't you take our guest up to the guest room while I clean up.

Wally (looking up at David):  Will you tell me a story?

David:  You're stalling kid.  

Wally:  Story! Story!  Story!

David:  Alright, alright.  Upstairs.  Uh, Maddie, know any more stories?

Maddie:  Sorry, I'm fresh out.  You're on your own, Addison.

David and Wally make their way upstairs as Maddie smiles after them.  A few minutes later she peaks through the guest room door to see them side by side on the bed talking.

David:  So that's how you handle women, Wals.  If that little girl tries to steal your ball again-Oh hi Maddie.

She looks down at Wally nestled in the crook of David's arm, his eyes closed, a tiny smile on his little face.

Maddie:  I think he's asleep.

Wally:  Nuh uh.

Wally giggles and squirms in David's arms.

David:  Oldest trick in the book, Maddie.  The old fake snooze trick.  I used to pull it all the time so I could read comics under the covers.

Maddie:  So that's what you're always doing under there.

David:  Look kid.  It's getting late.  You really need to get some shut eye or your mom won't let you come back any more.  And you wouldn't want that would you?

Wally shakes his head, looking up at David, hanging on his every word.  His eyes begin to tear up and his bottom lip to quiver.

Wally:  Story.  You turn.  You pwomised.

David:  Okay, okay.  Jeez.  This kid talks pretty good for a two year old.  Look, I found this book of fairy tales in his bag.  I'll just change a few things to make it more interesting.  Feel free to jump in any time Blondie.

Maddie:  Only for historical accuracy.

Maddie snuggles up on Wally's other side as David begins flipping through the book.

David:  Well, Wally.  This is the story of, uh, um…

A huge grin overtakes his face as he selects a page.

David:  This is the story of:


a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d

Once upon a time, there was a great and shiny kingdom ruled by a beautiful queen. Her beauty was so great that, if not for her station in life, she would have been very sought after for the spring and fall fashion shows or to grace the covers of the just invented Ye Old Vogue Magazine. She was very tall and flaxen-haired and very lovely, but she was a lonely queen without a king.  All the princes in the land were clamoring for her love, sending her flowers, candy, Hallmark greeting cards, fine jewelry, some even going so far as writing poetry verses to her, always dedicated to her luminous eyes and her charm. In one instance, a suitor had even painted her portrait and gotten her involved in art theft and murder.  But that's another story…

She was the constant subject of various scandal sheets of the time, Ye old Royal Enquirer for instance, because the people of the land were very interested in her love life and speculated much about who would be her consort.  Would it be Sam the Lesser, Walter the Wim- Wise, Peter the Bogdanovich?

But the beautiful queen was unimpressed by the lavish gifts and attention.   She was looking for something else.  Someone who would look beyond her ravishing beauty.  Someone who would look into her icy blue eyes and see the intelligence behind them.  Someone who would want more than a beautiful queen by his side.  Someone to banter with, someone to make her slam the castle doors, someone to yell at, argue with and generally drive her crazy.  Okay, I never said she was the picture of mental health.

In this same land lived a young man, David of Addison.  He was just an assistant innkeeper in his father's business, Ye Old Planet Hollywood.  However, he poured a mean ale and was very quick-witted.  The customers loved to watch him and actually came to the inn just to hear him jest and play the harmonica.  He fancied himself quite the musician-

Maddie:  but if the truth be told, he looked better than he sang or played.  

David glares at her.

Maddie (shrugs):  Historical accuracy.

David:  Now where was I?  Oh yeah…

The maidens in his village all wanted to be the object of his affection and constantly threw themselves, literally, at the feet of his donkey as he made his way down the cobblestone streets to the inn every day.  And he, being not quite the gentleman, often climbed down from his ass to pick them up, dust them off and take them up to his place to enjoy ye old good time.  But these maidens, comely though they were, never kept his attention much past the first date.  Well, one time, there was this maiden named Jillian…but again we digress.

The maidens loved his fun loving, carefree ways and his grin left them weak in the knees. But the young man had no respect for maidenhood, and for some reason, this endeared him even more to the maidens of the kingdom.  Go figure.  He felt that maidens only existed to make fools of men and he refused to be a fool, even if he was only a lowly innkeeper's son.  He vowed that no mere woman would ever tame him; he would never be a one-maiden man.

David lived with his father, David the Senior, his brother Richard the Neverlionhearted and their faithful manservant, Herbert the Hairy.  They were happy bachelors, living their happy bachelor life.  Well, as happy as one can be in a medireview serfdom where one isn't part of the upper echelon of society and dies at the ripe old age of thirty.

Anyway, one day, while on a much needed trip into the countryside to get away from the paparazzi and visit her friend, Annie the Insipid, the beautiful queen's carriage got a flat tire, er  I mean, a broken wheel.  This was her plain and simple country carriage, not her silver chariot… and she was in her traveling frock not one of her magnificent gowns… and she had left her scepter and crown in her other bag.  So even though she could never pass for a peasant, she appeared to be just a country gentlewoman in distress.

"Madam, I will go up ahead to the village and return with some peasants to help fix the wheel", said her faithful, yet old footman.  "You and Lady Agnes should remain in the carriage until I return, for there are many bandits about this territory."

"Nonsense, Frederick!" her highness protested.  "Lady Agnes and I are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves."  Lady Agnes stood behind the queen and rolled her eyes.  "Besides you are too feeble and old to ride that far.  We will take the horse to town while you wait here with the carriage."

"As you wish, Your Majesty.  But please be very careful."

"We will be.  Now you rest here and have a bite of food,"  she said gently to the old man.  She was a very kind, loving queen to her subjects when she wanted to be.

The queen and Lady Agnes took turns riding while the other led the horse.  Although Lady Agnes protested that this was beneath the queen she insisted.  She also prided herself on being very democratic and considerate of her subjects.  All in all, the queen thought herself to be pretty darn great.

By and by, they came to a small village.  The queen led Lady Agnes and the horse to an inn near the center of town.  

"Lady Agnes, let me do-est the talking.  I don't want to draw a crowd so please do not letteth on that I am the queen.  We'll never get out of here and our pictures will be plastered all over the Enquirer tomorrow morning.  The way we look right now no one would ever suspect who we are unless we blowest it."  Before she could help Lady Agnes down from the horse, a small hirsute man ran out of the inn to take her hand and guide her down from the horse.

"Allow me, ladies.  I will lead your horse to water and make him drink.  Why don't you go into ye old inn yonder and have a pint whilst I do so."

"Thank you, kind sir,"  Lady Agnes replied.  Their eyes locked momentarily and she smiled down at him.

"It is truly my pleasure, maiden.  But you flatter me, Lady.  I am no sir.  I am a simple manservant to this family of innkeepers."

"Well, thou art our knight in shining armor today, little man," declared the queen.  "Canst thou tell me where we may find some strong men to help fix our carriage which sits broken at the bottom of yond hill?  We wouldst be eternally grateful."

"Why lady, I'm sure my master and I could be of service to you.  In fact, it would be an honor," replied Herbert as he bowed to the women.

"An honor?  Why would thou sayest that?"  the queen asked suspiciously, thinking he may have recognized her.

"Why, I am always honored to be of service to beautiful maidens such as yourselves.  My master will die when he gets aholdst of thee!"  exclaimed Herbert.  "Oh, forgive me, ladies, I have forgotten my place.  I have been dazzled by your beauty."

"And I think we've been dazzled by BS-eth,"  the queen whispered to Lady Agnes, who had her eyes glued on the little man's derriere as he showed them inside.

"What a great time to be alive,"  Lady Agnes whispered.  "I love the look of men in tights."

Herbert led them into the inn, to a table in the back.  They happily sat down, eager to wet their whistles and wipe away some of the grime from the journey.  The tavern was bustling with happy hour commoners come to spend their wages and eat, drink and be merry.  As she surveyed the crowd, the queen pulled Lady Agnes aside.  "My name is Lady Madelyn if anyone asketh."

"Yes, Your Majesty-- I mean your ladyship."

Just then the queen spied a handsome young man holding court in the tavern.  He had a sheepskin slung over his broad shoulder, and occasionally he would fling it down to wipe the tables.  She watched him carefully for a time, drawn to him although he had none of the aristocratic qualities which should have drawn the queen.  His profile revealed a flat, not a pointed patrician nose such as her own, his hairline was, well, dwindling.  She could hear him joking with the crowd gathered around him.

"Do hares hare?  Do crusaders crusade?"

He appeared cocky and coarse, definitely not princely…but he looked damn good in his codpiece.

Herbert left the ladies and went to the bar to talk to his master.  When David of Addison looked up at the women in the corner, a small but very smug grin appeared on his face.  The queen decided then and there that she disliked him intensely.

She approached another patron of the tavern.  Pointing toward the bar, she asked, "Sir, pray tell, who is that man?"

"Why he be Cinderdave of the house of Addison, wench.  Why doth thou want to know?  Doth thou want to get in his breaches?  That may be easily arranged,"  the patron bellowed.  He had obviously been enjoying happy hour for more than an hour.

"Of course not!"  replied the queen, quite insulted.  "But why doth thou call him Cinderdave?  I've never heard such a name as that in my life."

"Well, it all goes back to when he was not more than a lad."

The queen softened her tone a bit.  "Do they call him that because he slaved around the fire all day providing for his family?"

The drunkard laughed, "Why no!  They call him that because of a dalliance with a gentlewoman with a cigar-"

"Never mind!"

At that moment the man known as Cinderdave sauntered over to them.  "Good day, ladies.  So sorry to hear about your troubles.  My man, Herbert, and I would love to come to your rescue."

"We don't require rescuing, sir. Nor do we require that impudent grin," the queen said haughtily as she looked him up and down.   "What we require is a strong back to fix our carriage.  Art thou up to the task?"

"Me thinkest--Yeah!"

"Very well, then.  Doth thou have a carriage in which we may ride?"

A carriage?  Not exactly a carriage, per say.  More like a… wagon…with a few bales of hay in the back…to cushion your ride, my lady.  After all, I'd hate for anything on you to get bruised…until you're done rolling in the hay with me,"  he smiled.

"How darest thou!  Doth thou knowest who I am?"

"Careful, your highness.  Icksnay on the een-quay,"  Lady Agnes whispered in her ear.

"Of all the conceited, egotistical, narcissistic things to say-"

"Oh, did I offend thee?  I apologize from the depths of my soul, your ladyship.  But hey, try it.  Thou mightst like it."

"I doubteth it."

"Thou mightst be in need of it.  Thou hast a stick shoved so far up--"

"Enough!  I shall not listen to such talk.  Lady Agnes and I will find someone else to help us."

"Okay, give it your best shotteth," he warned.  "But this is Friday afternoon happy hour; they've been tilling fields all week.  Unless you have some huge reward to offer I doubt you'll get any takers."

"Some men are not motivated by riches alone.  I shall prove to you that there are still gentlemen in this world!"

The queen stood up on the table and shouted, "Attention!  My friend and I are in need of two men to fix the wheel on our carriage."

"Where is your carriage?"  she heard from somewhere in the crowd.

It is five miles hence over the tall hill,"  she replied.  No sooner had she gotten out the words "five miles"  when all the tavern customers turned their backs on her and went back to their ale.

The queen looked back at Cinderdave, who shrugged and smiled that infuriating smile at her.

So, minus the wagon, they made their way out of town: the undiscovered queen, her lady-in-waiting, the arrogant David of Addison and his faithful servant.  Along the way, they made small talk.

"So, Lady Madelyn, where art thou from?"

"From?  Us?  We're from… the great city to the west."

"Ahh, too rich for my blood.  And too many royal types."

"Not all royalty are tyrants and snobs I'll have thee know.  Some are kind and loving."

"Yeah, they kinda love their money.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I love money just as much as the next plebeian.  I just don't wanna walk around acting like I'm better than everybody when it's all really just an accident of birth."

"That is treasonous talk, sir.  To be of noble birth is a gift from above."

"Ah, noble, schmoble.  It's all an excuse to keep the same people on top.  Speaking of which, what is your preference, lady?"

"Excuseth me?"

"Your preference…  Doth thou like it on top?"

"Why you insolent, impertinent, egotistical-"

"Oops, you already used that one."

Due to their querulous discussion they did not notice a horseman lying in wait for them beside the road.

"I am Billy Bob of the house of Thornton," the horseman declared.  "I've come to rob you."

"Well, sorry, my man.  I find my pockets somewhat light today.  And the ladies here, well they are just as poor and simple as myself as you can see."

"In that case, I'll just slit your throats!"

"Not if I have anything to say about it!"  David of Addison shook the reins of their horses and cracked his whip, hitting the hind quarters of the robber's horse.  The horse reared, knocking the scoundrel to the ground.  Before he could remount, David and Herbert had taken the ladies' horses by the reins and they had galloped to safety.

"You saved us, Sir David.  We shall always be grateful that you were with us today.  For all your vulgarity and brashness thou art a very brave man.  Thank you."

"Didst thou just knight me, my lady?" he grinned.

"If it was only in my power to do so…"

The queen moved in to kiss his cheek, but he turned his face at the very last second and planted a huge wet one on her mouth.  Fighting in his grip at first, she suddenly went slack in his arms then began to return his kiss intensely, wrapping her arms around him tightly.

"Ahem…"  Bert said, embarrassed by such a display, especially in front of Lady Agnes.

They reluctantly broke the embrace, pulling back but staring at each other fiercely.  The queen felt a sensation deep within her that she had never felt in any man's presence before.  And she could see that he felt it too.  There was no smirk gracing his countenance now.

They rode along in silence until they came upon the disabled carriage in the middle of the road.  The queen's footman heard them approaching and leapt up when he saw her.

"Ah, your majesty!  I'm so happy to see you!  I was so worried,"  the footman called out.

"Your majesty?"  David exclaimed.

"I uh…" the queen stammered.

"Of course!  I thought thou lookest familiar.  Remember sir?  We gazed at her likeness last month when that moveable type salesman came through town."

"Your majesty…the man jests no doubt," Cinderdave said in disbelief.

"I'm afraid not,"  the queen sighed sadly.

"Why my good man, she is the queen of all the land.  The queen of all she surveys, from sea to shining sea--"

"Zip it, Fred,"  the queen said tersely.

"Why did thee not tell me?  Ah, I understand.  It was an embarrassment to be seen with a commoner," Cinderdave stated angrily.

"Nay, sir.  Thou ist way off base!" the queen protested.  "We only wished to avoid publicity."

"Then why didn't thou utterest the truth once we were alone?  Wast thou toying with me?  Wast thou afraid I might not try and kiss thee if I knew the truth?"

"I beg your pardon?  I never asked you to kiss me.  I didn't want you to kiss me."

"Did too"

"Did not."

"Did too."

"Did-"  well, you get the idea.

"Thou art an idiot!" the queen cried as she struggled down from her mount.

"Well, thou art a BEEP!"- Wouldn't want little Wally to go home with a new word in his vocabulary.

"No problem, Your Highness.  It'll never happen again."





"Might I suggest a muzzle for thy mouth?"  Cinderdave taunted her.

"Why I never-"  the queen found herself suddenly speechless.

"Come on, Herbert.  Let's fix this wheel and get the hell out of here.  I don't want to be anywhere near this royal pain in the ass any longer than I have to be."  Oh, sorry, Wally.  Got a little carried away there.

Herbert looked sadly at his master then back at Lady Agnes.  He realized now that he was out of luck.  Lady Agnes would never be his.

Days passed.  The queen returned home safe and sound.  But she moped around the castle day and night.  She grew restless and irritable.  She took to her chamber and gazed for hours out the window toward the village over the hill.  Her staff couldn't understand what was wrong with her.  But Lady Agnes understood.  She approached the queen one night in her chamber.

"Madam, I have a suggestion to help ease your pain."

"Pain?  What pain?  I'm not in any pain.  I'm just-"

"Lovesick.  And for that sickness, there is only one cure."

"Oh really.  And what might that be?"

"A man.  One man in particular me thinks."

"Well, thou thinkest with thy corset, Lady Agnes.  Okay, he was attractive in a trashy sort of way.  But the man is a knave, a cad. What would my subjects think?  No, I could never live happily ever after with such a rogue."

"But your Majesty, every rogue meets his match…eventually.  And every dog has his day…at some point."

"Lady Agnes, wouldst thou please come to thy point?  Soon?"

"Me thinkest this man is the one thou hast waited for.  And me thinkest he needs a reason to leave his merry minstrel days behind him.  If thou threw a ball…"

"Please, not another boring ball," the queen murmured.

"No, this ball would be different.  At this ball, you proclaim that you will choose your consort that night from the appropriate suitors who attend."

"Ah, there's the rub - `appropriate'.  Would anyone look at Cinderdave of Addison and deem him an appropriate consort for the queen?"

"I bet he cleans up pretty good," Agnes stated matter-of-factly.

"You thinkest?  But this is all for naught.  I despise him and his shameless grin!  I have no intention of letting him know how I-how he makes me-oh you know what I mean!"  The queen threw herself down upon her bed in frustration.

"But remember how he looks in his codpiece," Lady Agnes wisely pointed out.  (Lady Agnes had a way of cutting right to the heart of the matter.)  "Let me take care of everything.  You just make the proclamation."  And with that, Lady Agnes flew out of the queen's chamber to make her plans.

A few weeks hence, late one night, David of Addison slept soundly in his bed in his room above the inn.  He woke to the scent of a maiden's perfume.  Very expensive perfume.  Then he noticed the outline of a presence in his room.

"What the-"

"Shhhhh.  I need to speak to thee," a maiden's voice whispered.

"About what?"

"Think of me as thy fairy god mother," the voice whispered again.

"Okay, toots, whatever floats your boat," he said, reaching out to bring the figure to him.

"What?  Oh you have the wrong impression.  I'm here to get you ready for the queen."

"Why?  So she can lop off my head?"

"No.  She's throwing a very important ball.  At this ball, she has sworn to choose a consort.  She'd kill me for telling you this, but she desires you as her partner in life."

"You mean I'd be king?  I'd be rich?"  he puffed out his chest as he asked.

"Don't get uppity, sir.  Thou wouldst be the queen's husband.  Thou wouldst have a title, but king is reserved only for those of noble birth."

"Here we go again.  Well, tell her majesty I'm not interested."

"Sir…thou art a sharp man with a rapier wit.  Thou wouldst be very popular with the people.  Thou mightst even get to go on tour," Lady Agnes said slyly.  Again, she knew how to get to the heart of the matter.

"On tour?  With a band?" Cinderdave asked.

"And thou wouldst have a wide audience of adoring fans, all come to see thee and thee alone.  However-thou wouldst have to keep thy hands to thyself.  Thy tomcatting days wouldst be over."

"Hmmm.  Thou drivest a hard bargain, Lady."  He thought for a few moments.  "A ball, eh…But I have no proper duds.  And the queen was none too impressed by my manners ere the first time we met."

"You have me!  I will help you, school you in the proper ways of gentlemanly behavior, then when you arrive at the ball, the rest will be…"


"I was thinking more along the lines of Camelot, but whatever floats your boat."  The two conspirators smiled at each other affectionately.  "Now, about your servant, Herbert…"

One week later, it was the night of the lavish ball.  Suitors were lined up three deep around the moat.  The queen was behaving in a most peculiar fashion for a queen.  She couldn't stop bouncing up and down and pacing around her chamber while her ladies-in-waiting attempted to dress her and fix her beautiful golden hair.   She felt a very strange sensation in her stomach as well.

"What if I don't see him?  There are too many admirers out there.  I shall be surrounded all night," she fretted as she paced and glanced out the window to the crowds of wooers below.

"You will sit on your throne.  They don't dare surround you up there," Lady Agnes assured her calmly.

"He might."  The queen said in a hushed tone.  "But what if I don't know him.  I only saw him in a dark, smoky tavern.  Then when he went into the sunshine he wore those strange shades over his eyes.  It's been over a month.  What if he's right there and I don't recognizeth him?"  she cried.

"Your majesty, relax thyself.  All will be well,"  Lady Agnes reassured her as she patted her hand.

The ball was truly the most extravagant gala ever seen in the kingdom.  There were fireworks, much food and drink of the highest quality, jesters, minstrels and even the biggest band of the day, Knights in White Satin, played for the entertainment of all.  The nobility were there plus a fair amount of commoners, all of them straining to see the queen and trying to pick the man she would choose that night.  It was certainly the place to be seen that season, and the guests would be talking about it for years to come.  The queen sat above the fray, gazing over the crowd, looking for that one recognizable smile among the many in the rabble.

"Is that him?"  She asked Lady Agnes.

"No, I don't think so.  He's way too…pretty.  Remember, your Highness, this man was ruggedly handsome, not merely cute."

"Oh, this is impossible.  I give up.  This was a silly idea."  She began to rise from her throne then stopped suddenly.  "But I promised my subjects that I would choose a mate from those present here tonight.  I have to pick someone."

"Let's have them all try these on," Lady Agnes said as she proffered a pair of strange sunshades from her skirts.

The queen gasped when she saw the shades.  "Yes!  If he's here, I'll surely recognize him in these."

The men of the kingdom were instructed to line up single file in front of the queen's throne to try the shades.  And quite a long line it was.  The first man placed the glasses on top of his head like a hat.  The queen shook her head and the man was taken away.  The second man placed the shades upside down over his eyes, and again the queen shook her head.  The third man folded the shades and placed them over his top lip like a mustache!  The queen vehemently shook her head and the man was led away.  And on it went, hour after hour, suitor after suitor, long into the night, long after the food and drink was gone and long after the minstrels and troubadours had gotten too exhausted to go on entertaining the crowds.  But the queen's search continued and her heart grew heavier as she reached the end of the line with no sign of the man of her dreams.

"Your Majesty.  You've gone through them all.  There is no one left.  You must make a decision,"  her royal advisor said.

"Are you certain there is no one else?  Did you look under the tables?  Did you look under the stage?  Did you look under the serving wenches?"

"I'm sorry, my queen, there are no more gentlemen.  It is time to choose."

The queen's panicked gaze went from her advisor to Lady Agnes, who chewed on her bottom lip, to the expectant crowd all watching her.

"Oh dear…But I…Oh well, no use putting it off any longer.  I'll choose…"

The crowd held its collective breath as her finger went up and surveyed the men who sat, spent, some asleep at her feet.

"I choose…"  she said again as a commotion started brewing in the throng.

A man broke through the crowd and approached the throne.  He was dressed in very fine garments and wore a golden cape and a magnificent tri-brimmed hat with a huge ostrich feather sticking out of it.   He made an elaborate show of taking off his hat and performing a sweeping bow with it.

"Your Majesty.  I have come," he stated grandly.

"Is it really you?  Well, it's about time!  What took you so long?"  she shouted as she saw that accustomed grin come across his face.

"I didn't want you to think I was easy, Madam.  Besides I had to check around the joint, make sure I'd like it here."

"And do you approve?" the queen asked sarcastically.

"Do lions lie?  Do the crown jewels shine?  Yeah, I'd say it's a pretty good gig…Your Majesty."

"It's really you all right,"  she smiled.

"Tis I,"  he said as he took the sunshades from the queen's advisor and put them on expertly.  "The one you've been waiting for your entire life."

"Well, I wouldn't go that far."

"Oh admit it.  You've been hoping I'd come along to save you from all this.  Although now that I see all this…"

"Save me?  You? Save me?  Please-"

The crowd cheered as he took her into his arms then and kissed her like she needed to be kissed once and for all.

And they lived happily ever af-

"Hold it!  There is still the matter of the prenuptial agreement."

"Is that anything like a pact?"

a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d

Maddie:  Very … Creative David.

Wally:  Yeah!!!  Tell another one.

Maddie:  No, no Wally … that's your last story.  Now it is time to go to sleep.

Wally:  NOOOOO!  I want another story.  I want Uncle David to tell another story.

David and Maddie exchange a look.   Maddie wonders what David will do.

Maddie: You're a hit.

David:  I am fresh out of stories, Wally.

Maddie:  (snidely) I wouldn't stay that.  You can usually come up with a pretty good whopper when you need to.

David:  Not for the juice box set.

Wally:  I want a story.  I want a story.  I want a story.  I want a story.

David:  Hey … How `bout a video instead?

Wally: (momentarily distracted)  Yea!!!!!

Wally jumps up from bed and runs to the bag of stuff that Terry had packed for him.  He pulls a video from the bag.  Clearly he has seen it more than twice.  He turns on the TV and plugs in the video all before Maddie and David can say anything.

Maddie:  (Amazed by Wally's ability with the VCR).  I'll bet her could program the clock too.

David:  What are we watching buddy?

Wally:  (fast forwards through the previews) Belle's Beast.

David:  `Scuse me?

Maddie:  Beauty and the Beast.

David:  Sounds familiar … kind of like my daily life.  (to Maddie) But I don't let anyone call you "beast" anymore - not since … well you know… now that you're MY beast.  (He gives her a wink.)

Maddie:  And they said chivalry was dead.

Wally runs back over to the bed and jumps in.  He directs David to sit on one side of him and Maddie on the other.  The movie comes up.

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle.  Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind.  But then, one winter's night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away, but she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again, the old woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.  The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart, and as punishment, she transformed him into a hideous beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle, and all who lived there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world.  The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year.  If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken.  If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.  As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?

David:  OH PLEASE!!!  Is this the drivel that they are feeding our kids these days?

Maddie:  DAVID, this is a classic tale of the true meaning of love and beauty.

David:  This is the DISNEY version … not even close to the real story of Belle.

Maddie:  And I suppose you know the REAL story?

David:  You bet I do.  Uncle Ray used to tell me when I was a kid … and he is old enough to know.


David:  Alright … if it will keep you from believing this … this propaganda … this watered down Hollywood version ….  First of all it was not "Beauty AND the Beast" it's BEAUTY IS A BEAST.  Ok, Ok --- there was this … what?  KINGDOM? a far way … as far as say Philadelphia ---

Wally:  That's not how stories start.  They start with "Once Upon a Time."

Maddie:  He's right David.  (She smiled) If you are going to … make up … this version you better do it right.

David:  What are you the Fairy Tale Police?  I'm not making it up --- this is how it really happened.  …. Once Upon a Time ………………

a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d a b c d

… In a land far, far way, lived a King and Queen.  They were really cool.  They were called the King and Queen of Tunes.  Their real names were Al and Ginny Tunsdale.  Music was their life, even though neither of them could carry a tune or play an instrument.  But they loved music.  All kinds of music: rock n' roll, blues, jazz, ballads.  There was music playing throughout the castle all day, everyday.  The acoustics in ever room were incredible and there was this fantastic recording studio in the back part of the castle with all the latest equipment.  That's how they made their money.  They'd sign musicians and recorded them and sell the records.  This was long before royalties, rights and back end deals.   The album library at Tunsdale Castle was second to none in the land.  

The King and Queen were constantly looking for new and young musicians - minstrels they were called - to come and play for them.   Minstrels would come from far and wide just to play before the King and Queen and jam with the other minstrels staying at the castle.  It was a great time to be in the music business.  It was like Woodstock, Haight Ashbury and the Monterey Blues Festival every weekend.

Anyway -- In the woods outside of Tunsdale lived an evil witch.  Her name was Nessy - A. G. Nessy.  No one ever knew what the "A G" stood for.  Nessy loved poetry and words and animals and all the little things in life but --- Nessy hated music of all kinds.  The speculation was that she could not carry a tune in a bucket with both hands - but that is an unsubstantiated rumor.  Consequently she did not visit Tunsdale often.   There was a major battle between Nessy and the King and Queen.   You see, the music echoed over the castle walls, across the rivers and dells through the woods to Nessy's broken down ramshackle cottage.  Her walls were paper thin.  She tried earplugs and earmuffs but Nessy was never able to get back her precious sweet silence.  It made her really mean.  She vowed to one day to pull the plug on Tunsdale.  Nessy worked her fingers to the bone to come up spells, but nothing Nessy could do would shut the music off.   

Al and Ginny's had a wizard of their own.  His name was Mystic V (a short hairy man) and he lived in the castle and was chief counselor to the King.  Mystic V thwarted any spell that Nessy came up with.  Nessy and Mystic V were students of the same Wizard Master, and V graduated TOP of his class.  There is one other little thing that should be mentioned.  Nessy and V … well they had had a "thing" during the school years.  Suffice it to say that it ended - badly --- VERY, VERY badly.  It was about Mystic V taking the job for the king … but that is a whole different story.  What is important is that Nessy and Mystic V were locked in a battle of wills and egos.  Scorned love and all that … you know how women are… well you will soon enogh.  Anyway … many years went by Nessy blamed the king for taking Mystic V away and she got meaner and Mystic V … well he didn't change much.  

Finally, one day,  Al and Ginny were blessed.  They had a child - a daughter.  She was the sweetest, most beautiful baby in the world and was growing up to be one hel- heck of a babe.  Her eyes were the color of deep blue sapphires, her skin was milk white and silk soft and her hair shone like spun gold.  People said that to look upon her was like music for the eyes.  But when she spoke - ah … that was a sweet treat.  Her voice was like a song bird - a lark or a sparrow.  And when she sang … angels wept.  She was truly special.  Her name was Belle Mélodie.  People of course called her Belle.

Al, of course, was a very proud papa.  He had visions of his lovely daughter having a very successful singing career and then taking over for him when he retired.  Ginny and Al were very careful to raise her with a mind and goals of her own.  She was not spoiled, or selfish or fussy.  She was all that any parent could hope for: beautiful, bright, talented and with a heart of gold.

However - Belle developed more independence than her parents expected.  She loved her parents and the people but ruling the kingdom was not her dream job.  She loved music and singing and it touched her deep in her soul.  She loved the attention that her beauty brought, but at the same time she loathed the fact that people were tongue tied when she spoke to them.  What she wanted above all was to be young and have friends and laugh and play and to love and be loved in return.  Since Belle was the princess - and near goddess material - most people were very nervous around her.  Al and Ginny knew that Belle longed for a more normal life, but there was not really much they could do.   Belle spent much of her time alone reading.

One day - about a week before Belle's 18th birthday, Belle met a boy - real boy - not a prince or hero of one of her novels - but real flesh and blood boy.  Actually it was more of a young man - well man.  He was tall and thin and dark, with eyes that were deep blue pools enough to drown in. He was exciting and fun and made Belle laugh.  He was not tongue tied around her - in fact he was more familiar with her than she had ever experienced before.   They met the day King Al was auditioning a band called OUT TO LUNCH.  Belle could not take her eyes off him.  He was the bass player - his name was C'awFord (pronounced See-Ahw-Ford).  

Belle and C'awFord would talk for hours about books and music and whatever came into their heads.  To Belle, it was all very innocent, but not to C'awFord.  C'awFord was married and had no intention of divorcing his wife but a notch on his belt a big as the virgin princess of Tunsdale and an IN with the Tunsdale Recording studio was too great a carrot.  Naturally Belle wanted him … but she did not know what that meant.  All she knew was that she enjoyed his company and she liked herself more when she was with him.  

King Al witnessed their time together on several occasions.  He would have been happy to write it off that Belle had found a new friend that got her out of her library but … he saw something that he could not get out of his mind.  One day Belle and C'awFord were walking in the park below the King's window.  They were talking about music and bands that would be playing at the festival for Belle's party.  It all looked innocent until Belle did that HAIR FLIP thing that women have been doing since the beginning of time and "dropped" her scarf on the ground in front of C'awFord.  He retrieved and took the liberty of demanding a kiss in return for the scarf.  

Al went ballistic.  He of course banished SPACE COWBOYSfrom the kingdom and tore up their record contract, all without Belle's knowledge.  But that was not enough to calm King Al down.  He was worried - no he was more terrified that Belle was going to fall for some musician - some lousy bass player or drummer - if not that one then another.  How many men would break his little girls heart before she found someone worthy?  Father and musician son-in-laws have never been a match made it heaven.  I wonder if it started with the Tunsdale's?  At any rate the only thing in Al's mind was how to keep his daughter away from musicians.

That night Al discussed his feeling with Ginny.  She tried to soothe his mind but nothing she could say had any effect.  Al tossed and turned in bed.  He couldn't get the image of Belle and that scum from the band out of his mind.  He flashed forward on her miserable life waiting at home for this low life to come back from the road with god knows what disease he picked up from the latest groupie, how could she ever know if a man truly loved her or was just trying to get a record deal? Then he'd flash back to holding her as a young child.  Ginny finally kicked him out of bed at 3AM and told him to walk it off.

Al left, he went out the gate and walked and walked and walked.  He walked so long and so far that he did not notice the sun come up nor did he know were he was.  He was so tired that he slept by a stream and woke up to an old haggard woman standing over him.

"I know who you are."  She croaked.  "What are you doing so far away from the safety of your home?"

Al was confused and did not know who the woman was.  He was still upset about the turn Belle's life might take.

"I am worried about my daughter."  He said honestly.

"I thought she was PERFECT … what are you worried about?"

"Who are you?'

"Let's just say … I know all about you and your family."  She softened her voice and it became like a Siren's Song to Al.  "You can trust me… I only want to help."  

"I worry that she will fall in love with someone who is not worthy."

"Worthy of what?"

"Her beauty, her spirit, her goodness, her Je nes se pas."

"Well - not being a mother myself --- I can't say I know how you feel.  However, I do know that you can't control the heart - yours or anyone else's."

"So what do I do?"

"Trust her?"  She smiled at him knowing that that was not a possibility.  "Well there is something I could do."

"What could you do?"

"I could make sure that no one unworthy would fall in love with her."

"How could you do that?'

"I have my ways … but I would need to get close to her --- it would have to be in total secrecy.  NO ON MUST KNOW.  I would need a lock of her hair and something that she loved - some trinket that she never has out of her sight."

"Well I could get you into her room at night while she slept, and I could get the hair from her brush but I don't know what you mean by `trinket.'"

"A ring, a necklace, something that she holds near and dear to her heart."

"She wears a locket that my wife gave her … it has been in the family for years."

"That will do."  She smiled a sly smile that King Al did not pick up on.  "This must be done before she turns 18."

"That's in two days."

"We had better hurry then, hadn't we?"

"I'm not sure."

"Look - Your Highness, no harm will come to your daughter --- no I can assure you nothing will ever touch her - she will be entirely safe."

"Are you sure that this is the only way?'

"I am."

King Al nods reluctantly.

"Then I will meet you this night, when the moon is full up, outside the west gate to the castle."

"Why are you helping me?"

"ME?  I am a very helpful person - my king is in pain - if I can help him … it is my duty to help him."

The king bought that line of … malarkey … hook, line, and sinker.

The king left with this final word of warning from the old woman,  "You must not tell anyone - ever.  I do mean ever - that we had this conversation."  He nodded and left without thinking.

That night the king met the old woman (who by now you know is Nessy) outside the west gate.  He led her in silence to his daughter's room.  He handed the old woman the lock of hair, and the locket that he had gotten from his daughter earlier that night.  She assured him that all would be well and using that Siren-like voice she sent him back to his room with sweet restful dreams.

The old woman stood over the sleeping girl and was over come with hate.  This beautiful young child could be and have anything she wanted in this life.  Her future was open and full of possibilities.  Nessy took great delight in knowing that she would be the ruin of this girl and consequently the entire kingdom.

Nessy chanted her evil charms over Belle as she slept.

            A Bella Donna in the daylight,

A Belle Donna in the moonlight.

Enticing all with your Beauty,

Men - nay boys to win your booty.

Like Moths to a flame,

They want to be in your game.

To gaze at the fire in your eyes

And to hear the sweetness of your lies.

Who could resist you?

Who could not pay their due?

To destroy such a face,

Would be a disgrace.

Like destroying a Picasso

So …

She when on for more than an hour chanting and making her evil work.

The next day was Belle's birthday.  She woke up early and dressed by herself.  She wanted to finish a chapter in the book she was reading before the festivities began.  She spoke to no one that morning.

At noon, her mother called for her and Belle came directly.  The party was in full swing.  The hall had been decorated and there was food aplenty, singing and dancing and games and joy were coming in from all parts of the castle.  Finally the King and Queen announced Belle Melodie as the new Queen.  Al and Ginny were retiring and allowing their daughter to run the kingdom.  This was a total surprise to Belle - quite frankly she would have preferred a sweater or a book or something else for her birthday.  The formal swearing in ceremony was completed and Belle was the New Queen.  

She turned to face her subjects.  "I will do my best …" she coughed and swallowed hard.  "… to be as good and kind a ruler …"  Her voice was cracking.  "… as my father and mother before me."  She cleared her throat one final time and screeched out: "Thank You."  

A look of panic crossed Belle's beautiful face.  Gasps from all over the castle could be heard.  Her voice - her sweet and lyrical voice - was as harsh and chilling as nails on a blackboard.  No one was more surprised than Belle.  She covered her mouth with her hands.  She tried to recover and spent many minutes clearing her throat. Finally she spoke again.  "Excuse me - I … I -."  The voice had not changed.  Every time she tried to speak it became worse - the sound was shrill and ear-piercing … it was a nightmare.

The king was totally flabbergasted - he had no idea what was happening.  Then in the crowd he saw the old woman.  She was smiling up at him and nodding.  Without moving her lips he heard her say, "No one will want her now - she is safe from all men."

The king let out a cry that can still be heard echoing through the hills as he realized that it was his fault.  The spell that Nessy had cast was to change her voice from enticing to repelling - no one would fall in love with her, heck no one could stand within 5 feet of her when she spoke.  No longer did she sound like a lark - rather she sounded like at cat being sent through a grinder, or breaking glass or a car alarm at 3AM.  

King Al fell to his knees.  Mystic V was immediately at his side demanding to know what was going on.  The king - who could not take his eyes from the old woman - explained all to Mystic V.  V of course recognized Nessy immediately.  He loved the turn of her neck and the way her ratty gray hair blew in the breeze. (Oops sorry … that again is the other story.)

There was an ear piercing scream that came from Belle.  She was clutching her ears as she dropped to the ground.  Nessy laughed and grew to an amazing size.

"I warned you … I warned you … You pathetic little man.  Don't tell anyone … ever.  Now not only will she sound horrific to all who can stand to hear her, but every sound that enters those beautiful ears will be deafening."

Belle was screeching for the noise to stop.  The band finally silenced and the crowd hushed.  Nessy knew and so did Mystic V.  The punishment for breaking a promise to a witch was the same fate that others suffered -- 10 fold.  It was rule number 8 - there was nothing that Mystic V could do.  

"Nessy!  Nessy stop this."  Mystic V called to her.  "This girl has done nothing to you."

"HA - Nothing to me eh?   Now she knows what I live with every day.  The noise … the clamor … the clatter … the din.  Finally after hundreds of years … I will have my sweet, sweet silence."

Nessy swept away … gone in a puff of smoke and a hail of laughter.

King Al pleaded with Mystic V do to something, but nothing he could do would reverse the spell.  Finally King Al told Mystic V all that had happened.  When he mentioned the locket Mystic V realized that the only way to save Belle and reverse the spell was to get that locket back.  Mystic V discovered that Nessy had cursed (or blessed depending upon what side you are on) the locket with a love spell - a real  love spell -which is tougher to break than a True Love Spell.  

True love is a love from afar the kind that makes a man attempt feats that he never believed he had the strength for.  We all have seen these loves: Prince Charming and Cinderella, Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming and any of the fairy tale bimbos that turn a prince's head.  We all know how superficial that kind of love is and how ridiculous it is to expect a "happily ever after" and how easily it is to believe that love is true when there are dragons to slay and witches to fight.  Nessy kicked the LOVE SPELL up a notch; she added REAL LOVE.  Nessy knew was that the prince, the man, the guy … would need to love Belle purely - in spite of her curses.  He would need to return the locket to her freely without any knowledge of what the outcome would be to allow the spell to be broken.  

The details of the next few years are very involved - covert operations, pleading, cajoling, heck even Mystic V tried to woo Nessy again - but all was to no avail - the locket could not be retrieved.  A call went out for men from all over the land - with a promise of Belle's hand if the locket could be returned.  In the beginning many stepped forward but none succeeded; the rest were driven away by her voice.

Belle's condition grew worse - or maybe it was just her attitude.  All music in the kingdom was silenced.  No one spoke above a whisper.  Since Belle was now the Queen she was forced to rule - there is no reversing the passing of the crown.  She could not forgive her father … even if he were allowed to forgive himself.  Al and Ginny banished themselves to the outskirts of the woods - well Al did, but Ginny followed as a dutiful wife.  

Belle's temper was impossible to manage, and her rulings were short and decisive but always fair.  Many of the people moved away, the recording studio was shut down and the castle fell to ruin due to lack of money and attention.  Belle's self-imposed solitude weighed heavily upon her and turned her already sour temper to curdled milk.  Those people who were left in the town started calling Belle the Beast of Tunsdale - Beast for short - hence "Beauty is a Beast."

Mystic V never gave up trying to counter act the spell, but he was also banished from the castle.  The Beast … well Belle lived entirely alone - in silence with her books and her writing.  Of course she could not bare the sound of turning pages - it was like a base drum  - and sound of her own pen scratching on the page caused indescribable pain.  The hey day of Tunsdale was now a story to be told to children - whispered to children.  The Beast of Tunsdale was the bane of all who remained.  

Two decades went by … painfully slowly.  One day a man came looking for Tunsdale.  He was devilishly handsome - in his own mind and incredibly talented - again from his point of view.  The truth of the matter was that he was tone deaf and could play only a mouth organ … harmonica.  His name was Harmon E.  He was the leader of a band called Tres Pat Harmon E.  His band mates were Tres and Pat.  He had heard of the King and Queen Tunsdale as people who could make or break a career, and Tres Pat Harmon E were sorely in need of a break.

They approached Tunsdale from the west edge of the forest and followed the river toward the castle.  They came to a ram shackle cottage in the woods and hoped to find someone living within.  They were very hungry.  The three entered the cottage, but no one was home.  It looked as if no one had lived there for many years.  Over the hearth was a picture Belle with the locket draped from the edge of the frame.  The guys of course did not know it was Belle or that they were in Nessy's cottage nor that this locket was Nessy's most valuable possession.

"Who's the Babe?"  Asked Harmon E.  As he took the picture down from the wall and twirled the locket around in his hand.

"She's outta your league - brother."  Answered Pat.

"Look at her eyes … never seen blue like that."  Continued Harmon E ignoring Pat.

"The picture was probably touched up."  Tres helped.  "What you go there?"  He was referring to the locket.

Harmon E tossed the locket and chain to Tres who dropped it like it was on fire as soon as it touched his hand.  "Ow … what did you do to that thing?"  Harmon E picked it back up and shrugged.

"Let's get out of here and see if we can make the castle by night fall."

Harmon re-hung the picture, but "absentmindedly" stuffed the locket into his pocket.  

They did not get to the castle until late the next afternoon.  When they arrived it was not the reception they were looking for.  People spoke in hushed tones and it was dirty and dingy.  The rumors of music and dancing in the streets and a constant jam session was far from the truth.  

Pat of course came down on Harmon E saying that they made the trip for nothing blah, blah, blah.  Tres tended to agree with Pat this time and the two of them wandered off to find food and a place to stay.

Harmon E found some old man and started questioning him about what was going on in Tunsdale.  The old man told him about the Beast Queen that rules over the land.  There hadn't been music in Tunsdale in more than 20 years and it was because of the BEAST - the only thing worse than her voice was her shriek when anyone spoke above a whisper.  When the Harmon E questioned him about the King and Queen Tunsdale and the record label … the old man said nothing.

Harmon E found his way to the old recording studio in the back part of the castle.  20 years ago the equipment was state of the art and it could hold it's own in the current market as well.  Along the walls were pictures of artists dating back many, many years.  Al, Ginny, and Belle with every musician that came through Tunsdale.  It was a who's who of the music world.

While digging through the old tapes, Harmon found one that was not completely destroyed.  He dusted off some of the equipment and hooked up the tape.  The label said: "Belle's Demo."

Harmon E fussed with the dials and knobs a bit and finally let the tape run.  Out of the speakers came a sound that Harmon had never heard before.  Tones and melodies so full of emotion and heart he was stunned.  It was a lullaby …

Summertime, time, time,

Child, the living's easy.

Fish are jumping out

And the cotton, Lord,

Cotton's high, Lord so high.

Your daddy's rich

And your ma is so good-looking, baby.

She's a-looking good now,

Hush, baby, baby, baby, baby now,

No, no, no, no, no, no, no,

Don't you cry, don't you cry.

One of these mornings

You're gonna rise, rise up singing,

You're gonna spread your wings, child,

And take, take to the sky,

Lord, the sky.

But until that morning,

Honey, n-n-nothing's going to harm ya,

No, no, no no, no no, no...

Don't you cry - cry.

"TURN THAT OFF."  A woman whispered harshly from behind.  He quickly turned it off.  She spoke in hushed voice so that he could barely understand her.  "Who are you and what are you doing in here?"

"I'm sorry - I didn't --- ."  

Harmon E spoke in a normal speaking voice which sent sharp pain through Belle's ears.  She covered her ears and motioned for him to whisper.  He did not notice the wince … he was too enamored with her beauty.

"I'm sorry … but … hey you're the one from the pictures."

"I don't know what you are talking about."

"The pictures. The pictures."  He waved toward the wall and his voice got a little louder before he stopped himself.  "You are more beautiful today than you were when these were taken."

Belle was strangely attracted to this man who clearly had no interest in why she was whispering or why he needed to whisper.

"You are not supposed to be in here - you have to leave."

"I know all about THE BEAST … I say bring her on."

With that Belle turned on her heel and left.

Harmon E found Tres and Pat eating and drinking at the local pub.  The place was strangely quiet.  No one spoke above a whisper and the juke box had been unplugged.  Harmon was totally jazzed about finding that demo tape of Belle's and discovering that the equipment still worked.  Harmon E had yet to put together that the woman that kicked him out was Belle and that Belle was the Beast.  He joined his friends and was talking a mile a minute.  Finally the still of the room overcame him.

"What is wrong with this place?  What we need is a little music."  Harmon E pulled out his harmonica and started to wail away until the waitress yanked it out of his mouth and slammed it down on the table.

"Do you know where you are mister?  Do you?  This is Tunsdale … there ain't NO TUNES in Tunsdale."

"Then you ought to change the name."  He reached to pick up his harmonica again.

"Look - buddy let me use little words so that you'll understand.  NO MUSIC, No Loud talking no noise of any kind.  OK?"

"WHY!"  He shouted just to show that he could.  "You people can't be afraid of some little SHE BEAST can you?"

"Look … the Beast is not called BEAST because that's her name … this …woman … this Queen … is a … well she's … what rhymes with Witch.  She says no music, no noise, no talking above a whisper - END OF STORY."  

"Then she needs to get over herself.  Or get some earplugs."

The next day Harmon E snuck back into the recording studio.  He was sure this time to lock the doors and make sure the sound was only coming out of the head phones.  He played everything he could possibly find to play … it was like dying and going to heaven.  He must have listened to Belle's demo tape at least 18 or 20 times before he found the actual records of her voice.  He could not get enough.  He studied each of the pictures and listened to her voice for hours.  Finally he made a resolve … to find this BEAST and convince her that the music in Tunsdale library should no longer be hidden from the world and particularly Belle's voice needed to be heard.  If truth were told, he fell in love with Belle.

Harmon E found the chancellor and demanded an audience with the Beast … Queen.  Harmon E would not take "NO" for an answer and was thrown in the dungeon.  Very late that night - after much debate and lots of yelling - Belle showed up at Harmon's door.  He could not see her and thought that she was the Beast.

"Who are you?"  She demanded in a voice that would plate glass.

"WHOA … HO!  My God Lady … you might want to think about another form of communication … say miming?"

"Why are you here?  Who are you?  Why won't you leave my town?"  Her voice was so horrible he shrunk away from the door.

"Look … "

"KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN!"  She barked which nearly sent him screaming to the other side of the cell.

"Sorry"  he whispered.  "I am just a guy - well musician - composer actually.  I write music and lyrics and I wanted a break in Tunsdale."

"There is no music in Tunsdale."

"I head that.  But … that is a mistake.  I met Belle yesterday ---"

"I know."

"You have no right to keep her voice from being enjoyed by the world."

"You need to leave this town - leave my castle - leave my zip code."

"Do you know they call you Beast?"

"I have been called worse."

"So why don't you lighten up?  Music is the food of love."

"In your ears it maybe … in mine it is like breaking glass."

Harmon E laughed.  "Well some does sound like breaking glass - I heard this band the other day SPACE COWBOYS--- ."

"No … all of it.  The sweeter the music the worse it sounds to me.  Do you know how hard it is to think or rest or just be with your ears are full of horrible, vicious sounds?  It is like having your body covered with millions of stinging ants."

"I have heard of people who are not music lovers but this is …."

"There was … an accident.  It wasn't always this way - for me.  I used to love music."

The hood of Belle's cloak fell away and the moonlight lit her still beautiful face.  Harmon E's jaw dropped.

"Oh my god - you're Belle - that is you - your voice."

"It WAS me … the operative word being WAS."

"What happened?"

"An accident … like I said.  Do not mention it again."

Harmon E was stunned for a moment.  He wanted to help this poor creature.  To have been reduced to this state was a wretch cross to bear.  It didn't stop him in his quest.

"OK … so you can't --- sing anymore.  That sucks, buy you of all people should know what a gift it is.  Thank god it was captured for all time on those recordings.  How can you take it away from everyone else?"

"You don't understand."

"I understand that a blind man does not take away all the colors of the rainbow - and you as ruler should not force your people to suffer with silence."

"What would you have me do?"

"Hell I don't know --- have you spoken to a doctor?"

"It wasn't that kind of accident."

"Then you should learn to deal with it.  But the people - your people -  should not be made to live without music."

Belle let Harmon E out of his cell and again suggested STRONGLY that he leave town - quickly.

Harmon E of course did not leave town.  Instead he started wooing Belle.  First it was with his lyrics written on paper, and then he would read them in a hushed tone to her.  Belle could not figure out why she just couldn't turn away from him.  She avoided him as much as she possibly could but somehow he would always find her.  She was mean to him and more than a few times did not hush her nasty voice or temper.  But Harmon kept coming back for more.  She shared her writings with him and he wrote music for the poetry.  Eventually she told him most of the story about her Father and Nessy.  He was more than sympathetic but was more interested in moving forward than gaining retribution.  She of course did not mention the locket.   

They spent much if not all of their time together.  They talked - well whispered -- about music and words and life.  Slowly over many, many months Belle was able to tolerate soft music from another room.  Together they rigged up some head phones that would block out the highs and the lows so that Belle would not feel like her head was being ripped off.  Belle enjoyed the attention and Harmon made her laugh - she hadn't laughed in more than 20 years.

One day they were taking a walk outside the castle gates.

"Why are you doing this?"  She asked still in her hushed voice.

"I don't know … maybe I just want to have an opportunity to record with the Tunsdale Label."  She smirked at him.  "Maybe I'm a nice guy."  She shook her head again.  "Maybe it's because you are so easy on the eyes I would do anything to be close to you."  She looked away believing that to be very close to the truth.  "Or maybe I really … like you?"

"You have something that belongs to me."  A crooked old voice called to Harmon from behind.  

He turned with a start and so did Belle.  As soon as Nessy saw that he was with Belle she disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"Who was that?"  Harmon asked.

Belle was annoyed - she had hoped that the old woman had slipped in the bathtub or choked on a hotdog years ago.

"That is my accident.  The only person to win from the silencing of Tunsdale was that witch - and I do mean WITCH."

"That was Nessy --- let's break the silence."

"It would be worth it just to see her run screaming from this land forever."

"You've got one hell of a record collection and I'll be we could rig those speakers to reach the end of the woods and back.  Night and day for about a week ought to do it."

"I'm not sure I could live through that."

"We'll figure something out."

Harmon reached out to take Belle's hand.  A shock went down her spine.  She leaned against him and they kissed.  It was a sweet seductive kiss - one that neither had ever experienced before.  Belle pulled away quickly and ran back to the castle.  Harmon was just about to chase after her when Nessy reappeared.

"I said you have something that belongs to me."

"Look - lady … what ever I have OR DON'T HAVE is not an issue.  You have done more than enough damage.  You best start watching your own back.  Retribution day is coming."

He ran after Belle and caught up with her in the garden but she kept moving away from him.

"Belle - Belle … HEY BEAST!"  

She turned and glared at him.

"Don't turn away from me and don't run away.  You love me - you have since the moment you met me."

"WHAT AN EGO."  She retorted.

"Admit it.  You love me."

"What if I do."

"Doesn't it feel great?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Ain't love grand - Jesus Belle I have loved you before I even knew it was you."

"You loved my picture or my voice - by OLD voice - not me."

"You are wrong - and you know it.  Yeah, you're easy on the eyes and can be pretty tough on the ears but that is only a part of you.  You are warm and sweet and good and kind.  It was in your music and it is still in your eyes.  You are smart and funny and have a way with words that is incredible.  I have never known somebody who could so completely live in their head and in the world at the same time."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that I love you.  And if you'll have me - a mediocre musician and composer, with better than average looks and a heart that is as true blue as your eyes - then I would spend my days and nights making you the happiest woman on earth.  I am pretty clear that I can cover the nights - the days will take a little more work."  He grinned and stretched his hand out toward her.

Belle took his hand.  They embraced and kissed again.  This time Belle did not pull away, Harmon had to before it got a little out of control.

"Hey, Hey … gotta save something for the wedding night, eh?"

Belle smiled.  "I do love you."

"I know."

"And it does feel great."  A sad smile washed over her face.  "Are you sure you can live with a beast like me?"

"Baby … you don't scare me."  He grinned.  "You are not a "nagger" are you?  That scares me a little."

Belle Melodie and Harmon E. were married a short time later.   The night of their wedding Harmon presented her with a family heirloom.

"This has been in my family for generations.  I want you to have it and to pass it on to our children."

Belle opened the box to see her long lost locket.  Tears flowed freely down her face.  It was a mixed blessing - but in the end all that mattered was that he was her one REAL LOVE.  It didn't matter that he was a con man too.

"This has been in your family for generations, eh?"  She teased.

"Well … at least one or two."

"How about none?"

"Excuse me?"

"You don't know what you have done do you?"

"OK, Ok … I found it … but it could have been in my family for generations."

"Or it could have been in mine for generations."

"That is yours?"  She nodded.  "Well … guess this means … I don't know … what does it mean?"

"It means that you are stuck with me for the rest of your born days - and nights."

"I can live with that."  He smiled.

Belle slipped the locket over her head and a warm wash of light came over her.  The pain in her ears was gone - like magic - but she dared not try her voice just yet

"Belle?  Are you alright?"  

Harmon E was struck by something different about her.  His voice in Belle's ears was sweet and kind.  The first sounds to enter her ears in more than 2 decades that warmed her heart.  

She wrapped her arms around him, held him tightly and whispered sweetly into his ear; "You tell me - I love you."

Harmon pulled back to look at her to see if it was really her.  It was.  "You're voice it's back?"  She nodded.  "And the sound in your ears."  She shrugged.  "Say it again."

"Say what again?  That I love you?"

"Oh No, I'm in trouble now."  She cocked her head quizzically.  "With that voice … nagging will now become foreplay."

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Maddie:  David! … He's a little kid."

David:  Come on Maddie … he has been a sleep for the past 8 pages.  That story was for you - my Bella-Beast.

David leaned over and kissed Maddie.

Wally:  So did Belle and Harmon E live happily ever after?  

Wally's voice cut through the room.

Walter:  I was wondering the same thing.

Terri:  I think the jury is still out on Belle and Harmon E … but if we don't get this little prince home and to bed - you will all hear some real screaming.

Walter and Terri were standing in the doorway.

Maddie:  How long have you been standing there?

Terri:  Since about the time Belle became the Beast.

Terri and Walter gathered up a sleepy Wally who was begging to come back the next night for more stories.  Terri apologized for the major mess that the living room was in and Maddie assured her that David would clean it up.  They said their good nights and made arrangements to meet for dinner the following weekend.

David walked Walter and Terri out and Maddie was surveying the damage to the living room.  It was a nice night and she really enjoyed seeing David with Wally.  It felt very natural.  She was smiling to herself when she realized where her next thoughts were going to take her.  She shook it off  and pushed those thoughts away just as David re-entered the house.

David: So … Belle-Beast … that was fun.

Maddie:  It was.

David:  I think I got one more story … short story … left in me.

Maddie:  Oh yeah?

David:  Yeah - It's for mature audiences.

Maddie:  It is a bed time story?

David:  You bet … but you won't be wanting to sleep.

Maddie:  Does it have a fair maiden and handsome prince?

David:  Well there is a guy is pretty HOT and the chick is a knock out … but it is better told from the beginning.

Maddie:  Is there a HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

David:  You know it sweet cheeks - you'll be more than happy after.

David grinned and led Maddie up the stairs.

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Respectfully submitted by the Virtual Staff writers.  Diane, Sue, Sarah and Lizzie all had a hand in brining this fable to you.  We all hope that you enjoy it.  Thanks for reading.