Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: Magical Princess Dreams
Angelica was having a good day in comparison to what she’d experienced of late. Though the drugs she’d been taking were reported to have a “low incidence of side effects”, it was unfortunate for her to have experienced the worst of them. Her joints were so painfully swollen most days that she could only lie or sit, as still as possible, and try to wait it out. She tried so very hard to be brave, but it was not so easy sometimes.
She’d grown terribly weak and thin since, it seemed, nearly anything she tried to eat did not agree with her. If it wasn’t a stomach ache or intense waves of nausea, she couldn’t keep the food down at all. They tried to keep a civil tone about themselves in front of her, but she knew it was a source of friction to her parents. “Damn it, Francince, if she wants a Happy Meal, I think the poor thing deserves one. Lord knows she’s got precious little to be happy about.”
“But you know as well as I do, if she tries to eat that much salt and grease she’ll be up all night with the runs and, likely, vomit until she has to spend a night at the hospital getting re-hydrated.”
They didn’t know she heard them but she did. It wasn’t easy for a five-year old little girl to cope with being so very ill, but the unhappiness it caused her mommy and daddy threatened to break her little heart. She promised herself she would do better. She promised herself she would get strong and well and then she would be just like every other girl and her parents wouldn’t have to argue and worry and try to find the money for her pills and…and…well, she would try.
Today was all about trying. Dr. Meliankos was sending her to see, what he called, “a very special specialist” who would be trying new ways to make her healthy. Dr. Reed had his own hospital! He must be a very, very good doctor if he had his own hospital, right? She just knew he would be the one to make all the pain and the bleeding and the sick tummy and make it all go away once and for all.
Since she was in such a fine mood and seemed free of the worst of her persistent issues, mommy and daddy had said it was alright for the pretty nurse to take her on a tour of the wonderful gardens and let her get a little sunshine while they spoke to the doctor. Angelica thought it a grand idea and scarce noticed when her parents went into the office. She was too busy listening to the nurse describe all of the very colorful flowers and things the gardens had.
She had hardly gotten to see even the smallest part of them when a man who looked like her Uncle David, kinda, came over to speak to the nurse. With little explanation given, she found herself back inside and wheeled straight to Dr. Reed’s office. The nurse knocked and, upon being told, wheeled Angelica into the room.
Angelica knew,instantly, that she must have done something very bad or wrong. Were her test results not good? She had been concentrating so very, very hard on getting better,. Was she not trying hard enough? She knew that something wasn’t right because she could see that mommy had been crying. Daddy’s face was so very stern and he barely smiled at her when she was brought in. So concerned was she with her parent’s distress that she’d not even noticed the doctor.
He was the tallest man she had ever seen and he was quite old…old like her grandpa. He had almost no hair and the top of his head was so shiny she nearly giggled at it. He had the bluest eyes she had ever seen and a smile that was so warm and friendly she could see why he had his own hospital. Why, he must be the most fantastic doctor ever with a smile like that and such big hands and…her thoughts were all awhirl.
His voice was deep and rumbly like a big old bear’s must be. “Well and you must be Angelica. I’ve heard an awful lot about you, young lady. Your parents have been telling me about all the nasty symptoms you’ve been experiencing and how you have done such a fine, fine job of dealing with them. I am very proud of you, young miss…very proud indeed.”
Angelica smiled. He had a funny way of talking and she knew he was probably from some other place than America. She didn’t mind. He was the special specialist and he would make everything all better. She barely noticed he’d been speaking again.
“…mommy and daddy have asked me to speak to you about something, Angelica and so I need you to listen very carefully to what I’m going to tell you. If there is anything you don’t understand, why you just pipe up and tell me just what it might be, okay?” She nodded happily.
“Alright then. I know you have been very sick for what seems like a very long time and that you have done everything you have been told will make it easier for us. But, my dear little one, I am afraid that I have some news for you that is not so good. Can you try to listen to what that is before you ask me questions, yes?” Again, Angelica nodded.
“Excellent. Now you have been told what your illness is and what it means, I know, long ago. I, also, know that my fine colleague Dr. Meliankos has used every trick in his bag to help you but not had as much luck as we wished for. That is why he sent you to see me. Well, you know we had to take more of your blood and we look at it and we check how it looks, yes? Good. I am most sorry to have to tell you this, little angel, but it is not getting better…will not be getting better. Though it is not common, medicine does not always have the answers to questions. What I am trying to say…what you need to know is…”, he faltered before continuing, “You are going to be getting much, much more sick very soon Angelica. But this time, there will be….nothing…we can do to help you very much. When the pain gets to be bad, then we can give you magical medicine that will let you sleep most peacefully. But, this time when you go to sleep, little one, you will not be waking up from it.” His blue, blue eyes were moist with tears.
“Then…then…will I be like Sleeping Beauty and sleep and sleep and sleep and dream beautiful princess dreams until a brave, handsome prince comes to rescue me?”
She heard her mommy sobbing and Dr. Reed turned away from her for a moment. She thought she must have, perhaps, asked the wrong question. When he turned back, his eyes were less and his smile was as wide as could be. “Yes, Angelica, you will be just like Sleeping Beauty…a magical princess in a land without pills or pain or any of that. Just like Sleeping Beauty.”
Angelica was so happy to think she would be just like one of the princesses in her big storybook that mommy read to her from, that she never noticed how quiet her parents were during the long ride home. She was very tired when they got home and barely managed to swallow a few spoonfuls of soup before she fell soundly asleep. It was the most peaceful night’s rest she’d had in quite some time.
Daddy made much more noise than usual when he came home the next day. He came straight to her room, his arms loaded down with books and pictures.
“Hey, sweetie. How’s my girl, today? Boy, has Daddy got a surprise for you. Look at these!” He spread a bunch of photos on her bed and began pointing. “It’s a place called Fairytale Fun Park. Would you like to go to someplace called Fairytale Fun Park? See the castle? It’s a real, honest-to-gosh castle they moved stone by stone all the way across the ocean. It’s a motel now and you get a room in the castle just like in the stories. And they have musical shows and games to play and see…see? They have lots and lots of really cool rides. Roller coasters and spinning tea cups and well…just look at it all. Wouldn’t it be grand if we just took a couple of days or wait…wait…we can go for a whole darned week. Would you like that Princess Angelica? Would you?”
She was so awestruck by, not only the pictures but Daddy’s excitement, that all she could do was nod her head so hard it started to make her headache return. She settled back on her pillows and gave him a wan smile. “That sounds wonderful Daddy. But I think I need to take a nap. Is that okay Daddy? I’m very tired.”
“Well, of course it is sweetie. You get some rest and Daddy will go talk to mommy about our adventure.”
She knew she hadn’t been asleep for very long when she heard her parents voices talking very loudly.
“Oh for God’s sake, Stewart! What the hell were you thinking? You know Dr. Reed said she’s hanging on by a thread right now and you bring this up to her? It’s out of the question and you damned well know it. I know you’ve been doing your own version of medicating lately…a lot…but have you seen our freaking bills? If we don’t find some kind of program to help us out and I mean fast, we’re gonna be living in a cardboard box under the overpass. Where the hell did you think we were gonna get the damned money for something like this? As usual, you didn’t think. I’m tired of being the one that has to do all the hard stuff while you drink yourself silly every night. I can’t take this anymore.”
“For God’s sake, yourself, Francine! Our daughter is laying upstairs dying. Dying! She’s not gonna get any better. I get that. But, do you? Whether it’s today or tomorrow or next-the-hell friggin’ week, our only child is going to die! If I have to sell crack on the street corner, give blowjobs to Eskimos or sell my soul to the fiery-assed demons of the Pit, my daughter is gonna die with a smile on her face and one last good memory in her heart. So, no, I didn’t think this to infinity and beyond like you do, Francine. All I thought about is my daughter and making her happy. It’s all I think about. It’s all I’ve ever thought about is making you two happy. Excuse the beejezus out of me for even trying!”
“Oh don’t make this my fault, too, you pathetic drunk! You know I spend 16…20 hours a DAY doing everything I can for her. Christ, I quit my job and walked out on my pension plan to stay home with her, so don’t you..”
Angelica squirmed down under the covers and pulled a pillow as tightly around her head as her frail, little arms would manage. She cried and she cried and she cried, wishing only that she had the magical medicine right then and there so that she could be like just like Sleeping Beauty and never have to wake up ever, ever again but only surrender to the irresistible pull of magical princess dreams.
Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at http://www.jeffreyhollar.com.