We last left our story with rumors circulating around the town of Storybrooke that Zemelda, the most rotten of town witches, died right before her 100th birthday…(read the Preface and Chapter 1 here)
The next day, there were three words that were spoken more than any other in Storybrooke: “Have”, “You”, and, “Heard,” exclusively in that order. No one in Storybrooke had dared to say Zemelda’s name out loud for years. They might have written the letter “Z” on a scrap of paper or just raised their eyebrows in a dark way that had somehow come to mean “Zemelda,” but saying her name out loud was not done. It was just asking for trouble. Even now, with rumors of her death spreading like wildfire, people couldn’t bring themselves to say it out loud.
Everyone knew that her birthday was in two weeks, so there was no shortage of suspicion that this was a trick. Zemelda was not above faking her death in order to pull off something supremely nasty.
Those suspicions were put to rest with the arrival of Gus, the newspaper delivery man.
Now, just to manage your expectations, Gus is not a significant character in this story, so you shouldn’t expect to see much of him. The fact is that Gus is pretty boring, and if pressed to describe him with few words, most people would probably choose,“unimpressive,” or “newspaper delivery man,” or maybe even, “Oh…that one guy. With the…van.” But now is his moment in the spotlight, so let’s let him have it.
Gus parked his white delivery truck in the center of the gray brick circle that made up the town square, between the statue of Hansel and Gretel and the “Lotsa Matza” deli. As Gus brought out his stack of newspapers for the Town Center Market, he was surprised to find the crowds of people waiting for him, clamoring for the news and confirmation of rumors people hoped to be true. He was suddenly the most popular guy in Storybrooke. He had an extraordinary amount of fun asking the crowd what the big deal was as they gathered around him, waiting for the papers to be displayed at the stand. Finally, when he had had enough fun (and he thought he might have seen someone holding a pitchfork), he laid out the newspapers on the newsstand counter for all to see.
On the front page of the Storybrooke Times, in bold letters were the words:
“ZEMELDA ROTTENTOOTH CONFIRMED DEAD AT 99”
The town erupted in celebration of the confirmed good news. School was cancelled that day for the children, and work was cancelled for the grown-ups, except for Gus and the printers at the Storybrooke Times, who had to print and deliver eight extra runs of the paper. They weren’t supposed to join in the celebrations between runs of printing, but that didn’t stop them. In fact, there might have been more than eight runs of the paper had the last three headlines not read, “ZELDA DEADTOOTH ROTTEN 99”, “99 ROTTEN TEETH FOUND MELTED” and “YOUR MOM FOUND 99 DEAD ROTTEN TOOTHY TOMATOEZ KEITH LOLOLOLOL”. The last of which caused mild concern about one of the printer’s (Keith’s) mom, and lead them to decide that they had probably done enough printing for the day.
After a long day of delivering papers, Gus decided to capitalize on his newfound popularity and kick back with the rest of the jubilant town by singing Karaoke for the first time. With far more enthusiasm than skill, he sang several hits from his high school days plus one round of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz. No one was impressed.
Ada Burke watched the celebration unfold from a hilltop that overlooked the town square. She had gotten there first, but was soon joined by the twins, Lyle and Leela Totenbush. Alongside Ada, the 11-year-old brother and sister watched the celebration the same way they watched nearly everything: with pale blue suspicious eyes. Their silver-blonde heads on matching thin necks craned over to scan the crowd, searching for…whatever it was that they searched for, wearing matching looks of worry and apprehension..
Lyle and Leela had four siblings, each of whom met a horrible end since the arrival of their stepmother. There was no evidence that she was directly involved, but just the same, since their father remarried, the Totenbush children had been dwindling in numbers. Larry, the oldest, was sent into the woods one day and never returned, presumably eaten by a wolf. Lori, the youngest, was sent to deliver a basket of goodies to their grandmother and was also presumably turned into wolf food. Loreli and Luna had been sent to go look for their siblings, ran into some unsavory, magically inclined folks, who turned into them into turnips, which were then cooked in a stew and served to wolves for their dinner. Or so they assumed.
After the demise of their 4 siblings, the twins had decided never to leave each other’s side lest they be the next of the Totenbush children to go. And since all of this happened under the watchful eye of their stepmother, they, in turn had no doubts that their stepmother, Brenda, had wolf-inspired plans for them as well.
The word “Brenda” was actually impossible for the twins to say without emphasizing the “EN” sound and rolling their eyes and sneering, so that the word sounded like “Buh-REN-duh”, which was exactly how they felt about her. They complained about her regularly to Ada. So much so that Ada joined her friends in their healthy, collective suspicion of the new Mrs. Totenbush.
None of them could figure out how Mr. Totenbush, who worked at the lumber mill as a woodcutter, had fallen for this evil woman. Yet, nearly every male over the age of 13 seemed to forget how to speak in full sentences when Brenda walked into the room. She had a way of getting whatever she wanted. Usually for free.
It should be noted that in Storybrooke, there were only a few children that had families where both biological parents were still present. Many families had only a single father. Other families had dads that re-married proverbial stepmothers.
To be clear, among the unusually high number of stepmothers in Storybrooke, most of them were not evil. Most of them just did normal mom things like pack lunches and plan birthday parties. Perhaps, as a group, they tended to make their stepkids do more chores than average and say no when their stepkids got invited to fancy parties, but, all things said, they weren’t evil.
Brenda, however, wasn’t like the others…
Chapter 4 (Preview)
Ada had come to her conclusion.
“I don’t like it.”
Ada was short for a ten year old, but her magnificent afro more than made up for her height. Her sharp dark, coffee bean eyes, that often lived under knitted brows, continued to gaze down at the town celebration from the hilltop. She was a sweet girl at heart, but had to grow up quickly in order to watch after her father. He was a brilliant inventor, albeit a bit absentminded.
And by a bit, I mean completely.
A cool breeze ran over the hilltop and the trees gave a shush.
“Where’s your dad?” Leela asked Ada.
“Did he hear about…?” Lyle asked, making the “Zemelda” eyebrow gesture.
Check back in a few weeks to find out what happens next! Chapter Four is posting soon!
Kelly Raine is an artist, writer, and educator. He teaches children and likes the idea that he is pitching in to make the world slightly better. He wears a lot of black and wakes up very, very early.
© Kelly Raine, 2017 All Rights Reserved.