Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

A Story of Sibling Rivalry and Bullying Based on a Cuban Folktale

by Dawn Pisturino

A long time ago, Sun and Moon lived in a deep, dark cave on an island in the Caribbean Sea. 

Sun could not bear to live in such claustrophobic quarters. Day and night he paced the floor, grumbling and complaining, until one morning he said to Moon: “Sister, this cave is too small, and our light is too bright. It’s blinding both of us! You’re smaller and weaker than I am. You must leave and find a new home.”

“Me!” Moon retorted, stamping her tiny silver feet. “This cave belongs to both of us. Since you’re so unhappy, you move out!”

Sun said no more. He paced back and forth, wringing his hands until they were raw. Glimpsing his reflection in the mirror he shrieked, “Look what you’ve done to me! My face is breaking out with sunspots!”

“What do I care,” Moon responded. “I’m not leaving, and that’s final.”

Enraged, Sun loomed over Moon, his face growing redder and hotter until bright orange flames shot from his fingers and toes and the ends of his hair.

“Stop it, Sun!” Moon cried, shielding her face with her arms. “You’re scorching me with your hot flares!”

Moon waxed and waned with terror, moaning in pain, until Sun grabbed her silver locks and threw her out of the cave. “And never come back again!” he roared.

Leaning against a banana tree, Moon wept until her full, shiny face shrank to a thin silver crescent.

Air, grieved by Moon’s distress, wrapped the pale, weak maiden in her arms and carried her into the sky above. “You’ll be safe here,” she reassured Moon. “The stars won’t mind sharing a little space with you.”

But Moon, ashamed of her scorched face, hid behind a passing cloud.

The stars welcomed Moon and tried to make friends with her. Gradually, Moon’s scorched face healed, and she peered out from behind the cloud. She revealed more and more of her radiant face until it lit up the sky with soft, silvery light.

Sun burned with jealousy when he heard about his sister’s spacious new home. “I’ll show her!” he fumed; and leaped into the air. 

Blanching with fear, Moon shielded her face from Sun’s blazing wrath and raced across the sky until she disappeared from view.

Sun proudly took her place, filling the sky with so much brilliant fire the stars covered their eyes and ran away.

One evening, feeling bereft, Sun left the sky to search the cave where he and Moon had once lived together. As he approached the entrance, Moon suddenly appeared. Overcome by remorse, Sun pleaded with her to return with him to the sky. “There’s plenty of room for both of us,” he said.

But Moon could not forget her brother’s bad behavior. “I hate you!” she shouted. “You’re nothing but a big bully! I could never live with you again!” And so saying, she leaped into the air, leaving Sun standing all alone at the mouth of the cave.

Dawn Pisturino

2012; March 22, 2022

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.      





18 Comments »

The Magical World of Lord Dunsany

The King of Elfland’s Daughter is one of Lord Dunsany’s most popular books. Written in 1924, the book is a clear forerunner of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. I recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy fiction.

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett (try saying that real fast three times) was an Irish aristocrat who inherited the title of 18th Baron Dunsany in 1899. He lived in Dunsany Castle in County Meath, Northern Ireland and married the daughter of the 7th Earl of Jersey, Lady Beatrice Child-Villiers. The couple had one son who went on to inherit the title and the castle.

A close friend of William Butler Yeats and Rudyard Kipling, Dunsany became a prolific writer, producing a large opus of poetry, plays, short stories, and novels based on Irish folklore and mythology. He was part of the late 19th century “Celtic Revival” started by Yeats. Other influential contemporaries included Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) and Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows).

In America, he was dubbed “America’s Favorite Peer” because his plays were in great demand in New York City. At one point, he allegedly had five plays running simultaneously on Broadway.

Dunsany was a soldier who fought in the Boer War, World War I, and the 1916 Irish uprising. During World War II, he served in the Home Guard.

Although J.R.R. Tolkien is regarded as the father of fantasy fiction, Dunsany’s style and imagination had a profound effect on all the prominent fantasy writers of his day, including Tolkien, Lewis, and H.P. Lovecraft. His influence has extended to modern fantasy writers such as British author Neil Gaiman.

Dunsany’s stories have been described by other writers as magical, ethereal, dream-like, and surreal. Writing in long-hand with a feathered quill pen, his intuitive imagination wandered beyond the boundaries of intellect to produce stories in magical and poetic prose which capture the heart and imagination of discerning readers.

As the world evolved technologically around him, one of Lord Dunsany’s favorite themes was the threat of science to the Other World. He ventured into sci fi with The Last Revolution, which explored what would happen if machines turned against their human inventors (foreshadowing The Terminator).

Lord Dunsany died of appendicitis on October 25, 1957.

A Poem to Lord Dunsany

By Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge

TO LORD DUNSANY

(ON HIS RETURN FROM EAST AFRICA)


For you I knit these lines, and on their ends
Hang little tossing bells to ring you home.
The music is all cracked, and Poesy tends
To richer blooms than mine; but you who roam
Thro’ coloured gardens of the highest muse,
And leave the door ajar sometimes that we
May steal small breathing things of reds and blues
And things of white sucked empty by the bee,
Will listen to this bunch of bells from me.

My cowslips ring you welcome to the land
Your muse brings honour to in many a tongue,
Not only that I long to clasp your hand,
But that you’re missed by poets who have sung
And viewed with doubt the music of their verse
All the long winter, for you love to bring
The true note in and say the wise thing terse,
And show what birds go lame upon a wing,
And where the weeds among the flowers do spring.

(Dunsany Castle, County Meath, Northern Ireland. Photo by Tim Wilson. http://www.dunsany.com)

Dawn Pisturino

March 16, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

10 Comments »

The Sleeping Beauty – a Poem

(Artwork by John Collier, 1921)

The Sleeping Beauty

Dedicated to my daughter, Ariel Pisturino

Lying there in sweet repose,

Lips as red as any rose,

The Sleeping Beauty rests her head

Upon a gold and velvet bed;

Golden tresses fair displayed

Around the shoulders softly laid,

Be-decked in sequined, jeweled dress,

Her slender hands across her breast.

Fair Maid! — What evil cast you here

To sleep a full one hundred year

Until a Prince with noble pride

Into the castle court should ride

And climb the steeply winding stair

To find a maid with golden hair

Lying on a couch asleep,

Lost in dreaming long and deep,

And drop upon the tender lips

A kiss so pure the magic slips.

And, lo! — the eyelids flutter wide

And see a vision at her side:

A handsome Prince so near and nigh,

The maiden cannot help but sigh

And stretch out pleading hands to him

Who kissed her softly on a whim,

And thanking him with grateful smile,

Requests of him to stay a while.

The Prince proves better than a guest

And presses her against his breast;

Then carries her, swift as the wind,

Upon his horse across the land

To marble castle rising high

Against the purple morning sky.

And when she curtsies to the King,

The Queen presents her with a ring

And crown of jewels sparkling white —

Gifts of softly glowing light —

That bind her to her Prince’s life:

No more a maid! — but now, his wife!

Dawn Pisturino

April 25, 1987/February 10, 2022

Copyright 1987-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

32 Comments »

The Queen of Hearts – a Poem

(Artwork by Tenniel)

The Queen of Hearts made cherry tarts

On Cupid’s Special Day.

The Knave of Hearts threw out those tarts

And stole the Queen away.

His bow was strong, his arrows sharp,

He drew with deadly force.

His missile pierced the tender heart,

Killing her, of course.

With hungry zeal, he yanked the heart

From Queenie’s bloody chest

And feasted on her royal blood,

Rating it the best!

Dawn Pisturino

December 16, 2011

Copyright 2011-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

24 Comments »

The Gingerbread Boy

Gingerbread is such an integral part of Christmas that it may surprise some people to learn that the first gingerbread recipe came from the Greeks in 2400 B.C. The Chinese followed next in the 10th century. But it was the Europeans — particularly, the Germans — who turned gingerbread into a high form of art. Cookies decorated with gold leaf were a symbol of English nobility and royalty under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Gingerbread cookies were so popular by the late Middle Ages that Gingerbread Fairs became a popular form of entertainment. Germans began creating gingerbread houses in the 16th century. The story of Hansel and Gretel may have been inspired by gingerbread or gingerbread may have been inspired by Hansel and Gretel! Nobody knows for sure.

A well-known children’s folk tale is The Gingerbread Man or Gingerbread Boy, depending on the teller.

THE GINGERBREAD BOY

Now, you shall hear a story that somebody’s great-great-grandmother told a little girl ever so many years ago:

There was once a little old man and a little old woman who lived in a little old house on the edge of a wood. They would have been a very happy old couple but for one thing — they had no little child, and they wished for one very much. One day, when the little old woman was baking bread, she cut a cake in the shape of a little boy, and put it in the oven.

Presently, she went to the oven to see if it was baked. As soon as the oven door was opened, the little gingerbread boy jumped out and began to run away as fast as he could go.

The little old woman called her husband, and they both ran after him. But they could not catch him. And soon the gingerbread boy came to a barn full of threshers. He called out to them as he went by, saying:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

Then the mowers began to run after him, but they couldn’t catch him. And he ran on ’til he came to a cow. He called out to her:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

A barn full of threshers,

A field full of mowers,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

But, though the cow started at once, she couldn’t catch him. Soon he came to a pig. He called out to the pig:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

A barn full of threshers,

A field full of mowers,

A cow,

— And I can run away from you, I can!”

But the pig ran and couldn’t catch him. And he ran ’til he came across a fox, and to him he called out:

“I’ve run away from a little old woman,

A little old man,

A barn full of threshers,

A field full of mowers,

A cow and a pig,

And I can run away from you, I can!”

Then the fox set out to run. Now foxes can run very fast, and so the fox soon caught the gingerbread boy and began to eat him up.

Presently, the gingerbread boy said: “O dear! I’m a quarter gone!” And then: “Oh, I’m half gone!”

And soon: “I’m three-quarters gone!” And, at last: “I’m all gone!” and never spoke again.

Traditional Folk Tale

Story from St. Nicholas Magazine, 1875

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Dawn Pisturino, RN

Copyright 2020-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

22 Comments »

Reprise: Bluebeard in Beverly Hills

Bluebeard in Beverly Hills

by Dawn Pisturino

My mother, having squandered a considerable fortune, resolved to marry a wealthy man. Several candidates appeared — mostly middle-aged men of diminished means eager to marry a wealthy widow. Since my mother wore her desperation as flamboyantly as a pair of designer blue jeans, she soon found herself without any prospects at all.

When the bank foreclosed on our estate in upstate New York, my mother’s tawny tresses, once stylish and shiny, seemed to wilt around her shoulders. Her lively blue eyes clouded over with despair. And in one final act of desperation, she contacted a distant cousin residing in Beverly Hills, California.

The news startled me. This cousin, I had heard, was so rich, his name regularly topped the lists of the world’s richest people. He refused to have his photo taken or to make public appearances, for he had been born with an unnatural blue beard that made him look so ugly and weird, most women and children ran away from him in fright.

“He wants to marry me,” my mother announced over breakfast one morning.

My older sister, Charmaine, exchanged terrified glances with me. The idea of our mother marrying this ugly, disfigured, middle-aged man repulsed us. But more importantly, dark rumors circulated the newspapers and celebrity gossip shows that Bluebeard, as he was dubbed, had been married several times before, and the authorities could find no traces of his former wives.

In spite of our objections, my mother booked three airline tickets to California. We were to meet Bluebeard at the dock in Marina Del Rey and accompany him on a cruise to Catalina Island aboard his luxury yacht. This should have thrilled my sister and I, but a deep foreboding troubled us both.

And what a strange and terrible creature greeted us at the dock! His eyes glittering with cruel amusement, Bluebeard scooped each of us up in his big, burly arms, brushing our tender checks with his coarse blue beard. His graying, shaggy brown hair contrasted sharply with his deeply-tanned face, giving him the appearance of being half-man and half-beast. Even his teeth seemed unusually long and sharp when he opened his mouth in a loud guffaw and led us up the ramp onto his huge, expensive yacht.

My sister and I cringed with fear, but my mother’s face glowed with youth and excitement. How could we tell her how frightened we were? She would never listen.

During the day, while my mother hung out with Bluebeard, my sister and I soaked up the sun in our colorful bikinis, flipping through fashion magazines and painting our nails. At night we savored fresh lobster tails, dripping with butter, and watched the stars twinkle overhead like millions of Tiffany diamonds spilled across a black velvet sky. Upstate New York seemed far away then, and since nothing sinister had happened, our fears began to fade away.

Two weeks later, relaxed and tanned, my mother married Bluebeard under a billowy white awning at Marina Del Rey. My sister and I were the only guests.

That should have told me something, but I no longer cared about idle gossip or our former life in upstate New York.

I had become entranced with Bluebeard’s house in Beverly Hills, which loomed against the sunny blue sky like a great castle, surrounded by ornamental gardens reminiscent of the great castles of Europe. I felt like a princess, my long yellow hair braided in a single braid and adorned with fresh roses from the garden. I stood for hours before the full-length mirror in my bedroom, applying mascara to my large blue eyes, and modeling dozens of dresses purchased from the fancy boutiques on Rodeo Drive.

One snap of my fingers brought servants that catered to my every need and desire. I hugged myself over and over again, not daring to believe it was true: I was sixteen, beautiful, desirable, and rich.

“Isn’t it fabulous, Jeanette,” Charmaine exclaimed one day, throwing herself across my pink-ruffled bed. “I’m in love, I’m in love!”

Her sing-song voice irritated me, and I pouted in response. “Beverly Hills is full of eligible young men. Robbie Ray offered to give me tennis lessons.”

“That creep! You know what? When Mom and Mr. Moneybags leave for France, we’ll throw a big party. You’ll find your Prince Charming, for sure.”

My face glowed in anticipation. After all, didn’t a princess need a handsome young prince?

A few days later, my mother and Bluebeard boarded an airplane for France.

“The servants will take good care of you,” my mother said at the airport. Bluebeard stepped forward, a great ring of keys dangling from his finger. He handed them to Charmaine and explained which key went to which room.

“But this one,” he told her, indicating a small gold key, “unlocks the closet door in the wine cellar. Explore any room in the house that you like, but never, ever go into the closet in the wine cellar. If you do, something terrible is bound to happen.”

My mother gasped. Charmaine’s face turned a ghostly white. I stared at Bluebeard, chilled by the taunting tone in his voice. He turned his gaze on me, and a slow, sinister smile spread across his face. “You would do well, Jeanette, to remember the story of Pandora’s box.”

I watched my mother walk away with this monster, and my heart cried out: Don’t go! Don’t go! But it was too late. My mother was gone.

Charmaine assuaged her fear by working on plans for a party. I suggested that we host a fancy dress ball, and she agreed. Invitations were sent, a caterer engaged, decorations put up, and the house cleaned from top to bottom by the housekeeping staff. All we needed were costumes.

Charmaine pulled out Bluebeard’s key ring and found the key to the attic. Inside a great leather trunk, we found long silk dresses and big fancy hats. Excitement overcame our fears. Our party would be the hit of the year!

The ballroom gleamed with color and light on the night of the ball. We threw open the French doors, letting in the moonlight and soft summer breezes. The sweet scent of roses perfumed the air.

Our masked guests danced beneath the fire of crystal chandeliers, their colorful figures reflected in numerous mirrors lining the walls. Couples slipped away to explore the house, admiring the exquisite artwork and collectibles from around the world. Charmaine and I puffed up with pride, convinced that we had pulled off a successful social coup.

“Everyone is so impressed,” Charmaine said. “If such wonderful treasures can be found openly around the house, how much more special must be the treasures locked up in the closet in the wine cellar?”

I looked at her in horror. “Don’t do it, Charmaine. Bluebeard warned us not to open that door.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “We want to keep our guests impressed, don’t we?”

Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we crept downstairs into the murky depths of the wine cellar, urging our guests to follow behind. With trembling hands, Charmaine unlocked the door to the forbidden room, ignoring Bluebeard’s warning. A powerful stench of rotting flesh greeted us as she pulled back the door. The floor was sticky with slime. Charmaine gasped, dropping the flashlight at her feet. I picked it up and shone its light around the room. Piled up against the wall were the dead and decaying bodies of several women. Bluebeard’s missing wives!

Charmaine fainted. The guests screamed and scrambled up the stairs. I hurried behind them to call the police.

When my mother and Bluebeard returned home several days later, Bluebeard glared at me and said, “Why so nervous, Jeanette? And you, Charmaine — your face is so white. What have you two been up to in our absence?”

Charmaine handed him the ring of keys, her hand trembling so much, she nearly dropped them.

Suspicion clouded Bluebeard’s eyes. “You’ve been in the closet!” he roared. “Now, you will join the rest of my victims! He grabbed Charmaine by the hair and dragged her across the floor to the kitchen. My mother fainted.

I ran behind, beating Bluebeard’s back with my fists. Angrily, he shoved me away. I fell to the floor, hitting my head on the hard ceramic tile. Just as Bluebeard was about to slit my sister’s throat with a long, sharp knife, Inspector Jack Barnabas and several policemen jumped out of the walk-in pantry. “Drop it, Bluebeard! You’re under arrest.”

Bluebeard made a dash for the door. Bullets rang through the kitchen, bringing him down. A pool of blood oozed across the floor. My sister screamed and threw herself into the arms of Inspector Barnabas.

The ogre of Beverly Hills was dead. Since he had no other heirs, my mother inherited his vast fortune. She shut up the house, paid off the mortgage on our estate in upstate New York, and threw herself into planning a huge wedding for my sister, Charmaine.

Six months later, I walked down the aisle in a rose-colored chiffon gown, carrying a bouquet of pink roses. Charmaine followed behind in a white designer wedding dress. Inspector Jack Barnabas, looking uncomfortable in a black tuxedo, waited impatiently for her at the altar.

Jack and Charmaine lived happily ever after, making me an aunt three times over.

Dawn Pisturino

March 6, 2013

Copyright 2013-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

6 Comments »

Legend of the Giant’s Causeway, Antrim, Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Antrim, Ireland

Although the Giant’s Causeway was formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, the boundless imagination and creativity of the Irish people saw something more magical in its origins.

Legend has it that Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) was an Irish hunter-warrior of great height and strength who could not get along with a Scottish giant named Benandonner (Red Man). The two went back and forth at each other until, finally, Finn challenged the giant to a fight.

Finn hauled tons of rock from the coastline of Antrim into the sea in order to build a causeway between Ireland and Scotland. When it was completed, Finn bravely and proudly crossed the sea and met his Scottish enemy on Scottish territory.

To his great surprise, Finn discovered that his enemy was, indeed, a giant and much bigger and stronger than himself. He high tailed it back across the causeway. But Red Man spotted him fleeing and gave chase.

On his way back to Ireland, Finn lost a boot — which can still be seen today. The giant’s roars were deafening, and Finn stuffed moss into his ears to deaden the noise.

At home, Finn confided in his wife, Oonagh. She hid him away then greeted the giant which had followed him home.

Oonagh craftily showed Red Man huge boulders and other large weapons to give the giant a false impression that Finn was much larger and stronger than himself. She baked griddle cakes for the hungry giant, inserting the iron griddle itself inside one of the cakes. When Red Man bit into the cake, he broke his front teeth.

Feeling outsized and out-smarted by Finn and his wife, the giant left the house and headed back to Scotland. Finn came out of hiding. He dug up a huge chunk of Irish soil and threw it at the giant. The chunk of soil missed Red Man and fell into the sea, forming the Isle of Man. The hole which Finn had made filled with water and became Lough Derg — the largest lake in Ireland.

There are other variations to the story, of course, but whichever tale is told, the Giant’s Causeway will always be a marvel of natural science, a source of Irish national pride, and the creation of legendary hero, Finn McCool.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Dawn Pisturino

March 10, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

1 Comment »

Saint Nikolaus’s Companion, Knecht Ruprecht

From out the forest I now appear,

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

For at the top of every tree

Are golden lights for all to see;

And there from heaven’s gate on high

I saw our Christ-child in the sky.

And in among the darkened trees,

A loud voice it was that called to me:

“Knecht Ruprecht, old fellow,” it cried,

“Hurry now, make haste. Don’t hide!

All the candles have now been lit —

Heaven’s gate has opened wide!

Both young and old should now have rest

Away from cares and daily stress;

And when tomorrow to earth I fly

‘It’s Christmas again!’ will be the cry.”

And then I said: “O Lord so dear.

My journey’s end is now quite near;

But to the town I’ve still to go,

Where the children are good, I know.”

“But have you then that great sack?”

“I have,” I said, “It’s on my back,

For apples, almonds, fruit and nuts

For God-fearing children are a must.”

“And is that cane there by your side?”

“The cane’s there too,” I did reply;

“But only for those, those naughty ones,

Who have it applied to their backsides.”

The Christ-child spoke: “Then that’s all right!

My loyal servant, go with God this night!”

From out the forest I now appear;

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

Now speak, what is there here to be had?

Are there good children, are there bad?

Theodor Storm

Translated from the German by Denis Jackson, Isle of Wight.

BIO: Theodor Storm (1817-1888) was a German poet, novelist, and lawyer known for the lyrical quality of his work. He died of cancer in 1888. Knecht Ruprecht (Krampus) is still a popular figure seen in Germany at Christmas, even today.

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Bluebeard in Beverly Hills

 

bluebeard

Bluebeard in Beverly Hills

by Dawn Pisturino

My mother, having squandered a considerable fortune, resolved to marry a wealthy man. Several candidates appeared — mostly middle-aged men of diminished means eager to marry a wealthy widow. Since my mother wore her desperation as flamboyantly as a pair of designer blue jeans, she soon found herself without any prospects at all.

When the bank foreclosed on our estate in upstate New York, my mother’s tawny tresses, once stylish and shiny, seemed to wilt around her shoulders. Her lively blue eyes clouded over with despair. And in one final act of desperation, she contacted a distant cousin residing in Beverly Hills, California.

The news startled me. This cousin, I had heard, was so rich, his name regularly topped the lists of the world’s richest people. He refused to have his photo taken or to make public appearances, for he had been born with an unnatural blue beard that made him look so ugly and weird, most women and children ran away from him in fright.

“He wants to marry me,” my mother announced over breakfast one morning.

My older sister, Charmaine, exchanged terrified glances with me. The idea of our mother marrying this ugly, disfigured, middle-aged man repulsed us. But more importantly, dark rumors circulated the newspapers and celebrity gossip shows that Bluebeard, as he was dubbed, had been married several times before, and the authorities could find no traces of his former wives.

In spite of our objections, my mother booked three airline tickets to California. We were to meet Bluebeard at the dock in Marina Del Rey and accompany him on a cruise to Catalina Island aboard his luxury yacht. This should have thrilled my sister and I, but a deep foreboding troubled us both.

And what a strange and terrible creature greeted us at the dock! His eyes glittering with cruel amusement, Bluebeard scooped each of us up in his big, burly arms, brushing our tender checks with his coarse blue beard. His graying, shaggy brown hair contrasted sharply with his deeply-tanned face, giving him the appearance of being half-man and half-beast. Even his teeth seemed unusually long and sharp when he opened his mouth in a loud guffaw and led us up the ramp onto his huge, expensive yacht.

My sister and I cringed with fear, but my mother’s face glowed with youth and excitement. How could we tell her how frightened we were? She would never listen.

During the day, while my mother hung out with Bluebeard, my sister and I soaked up the sun in our colorful bikinis, flipping through fashion magazines and painting our nails. At night we savored fresh lobster tails, dripping with butter, and watched the stars twinkle overhead like millions of Tiffany diamonds spilled across a black velvet sky. Upstate New York seemed far away then, and since nothing sinister had happened, our fears began to fade away.

Two weeks later, relaxed and tanned, my mother married Bluebeard under a billowy white awning at Marina Del Rey. My sister and I were the only guests.

That should have told me something, but I no longer cared about idle gossip or our former life in upstate New York.

I had become entranced with Bluebeard’s house in Beverly Hills, which loomed against the sunny blue sky like a great castle, surrounded by ornamental gardens reminiscent of the great castles of Europe. I felt like a princess, my long yellow hair braided in a single braid and adorned with fresh roses from the garden. I stood for hours before the full-length mirror in my bedroom, applying mascara to my large blue eyes, and modeling dozens of dresses purchased from the fancy boutiques on Rodeo Drive.

One snap of my fingers brought servants that catered to my every need and desire. I hugged myself over and over again, not daring to believe it was true: I was sixteen, beautiful, desirable, and rich.

“Isn’t it fabulous, Jeanette,” Charmaine exclaimed one day, throwing herself across my pink-ruffled bed. “I’m in love, I’m in love!”

Her sing-song voice irritated me, and I pouted in response. “Beverly Hills is full of eligible young men. Robbie Ray offered to give me tennis lessons.”

“That creep! You know what? When Mom and Mr. Moneybags leave for France, we’ll throw a big party. You’ll find your Prince Charming, for sure.”

My face glowed in anticipation. After all, didn’t a princess need a handsome young prince?

A few days later, my mother and Bluebeard boarded an airplane for France.

“The servants will take good care of you,” my mother said at the airport. Bluebeard stepped forward, a great ring of keys dangling from his finger. He handed them to Charmaine and explained which key went to which room.

“But this one,” he told her, indicating a small gold key, “unlocks the closet door in the wine cellar. Explore any room in the house that you like, but never, ever go into the closet in the wine cellar. If you do, something terrible is bound to happen.”

My mother gasped. Charmaine’s face turned a ghostly white. I stared at Bluebeard, chilled by the taunting tone in his voice. He turned his gaze on me, and a slow, sinister smile spread across his face. “You would do well, Jeanette, to remember the story of Pandora’s box.”

I watched my mother walk away with this monster, and my heart cried out: Don’t go! Don’t go! But it was too late. My mother was gone.

Charmaine assuaged her fear by working on plans for a party. I suggested that we host a fancy dress ball, and she agreed. Invitations were sent, a caterer engaged, decorations put up, and the house cleaned from top to bottom by the housekeeping staff. All we needed were costumes.

Charmaine pulled out Bluebeard’s key ring and found the key to the attic. Inside a great leather trunk, we found long silk dresses and big fancy hats. Excitement overcame our fears. Our party would be the hit of the year!

The ballroom gleamed with color and light on the night of the ball. We threw open the French doors, letting in the moonlight and soft summer breezes. The sweet scent of roses perfumed the air.

Our masked guests danced beneath the fire of crystal chandeliers, their colorful figures reflected in numerous mirrors lining the walls. Couples slipped away to explore the house, admiring the exquisite artwork and collectibles from around the world. Charmaine and I puffed up with pride, convinced that we had pulled off a successful social coup.

“Everyone is so impressed,” Charmaine said. “If such wonderful treasures can be found openly around the house, how much more special must be the treasures locked up in the closet in the wine cellar?”

I looked at her in horror. “Don’t do it, Charmaine. Bluebeard warned us not to open that door.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “We want to keep our guests impressed, don’t we?”

Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we crept downstairs into the murky depths of the wine cellar, urging our guests to follow behind. With trembling hands, Charmaine unlocked the door to the forbidden room, ignoring Bluebeard’s warning. A powerful stench of rotting flesh greeted us as she pulled back the door. The floor was sticky with slime. Charmaine gasped, dropping the flashlight at her feet. I picked it up and shone its light around the room. Piled up against the wall were the dead and decaying bodies of several women. Bluebeard’s missing wives!

Charmaine fainted. The guests screamed and scrambled up the stairs. I hurried behind them to call the police.

When my mother and Bluebeard returned home several days later, Bluebeard glared at me and said, “Why so nervous, Jeanette? And you, Charmaine — your face is so white. What have you two been up to in our absence?”

Charmaine handed him the ring of keys, her hand trembling so much, she nearly dropped them.

Suspicion clouded Bluebeard’s eyes. “You’ve been in the closet!” he roared. “Now, you will join the rest of my victims! He grabbed Charmaine by the hair and dragged her across the floor to the kitchen. My mother fainted.

I ran behind, beating Bluebeard’s back with my fists. Angrily, he shoved me away. I fell to the floor, hitting my head on the hard ceramic tile. Just as Bluebeard was about to slit my sister’s throat with a long, sharp knife, Inspector Jack Barnabas and several policemen jumped out of the walk-in pantry. “Drop it, Bluebeard! You’re under arrest.”

Bluebeard made a dash for the door. Bullets rang through the kitchen, bringing him down. A pool of blood oozed across the floor. My sister screamed and threw herself into the arms of Inspector Barnabas.

The ogre of Beverly Hills was dead. Since he had no other heirs, my mother inherited his vast fortune. She shut up the house, paid off the mortgage on our estate in upstate New York, and threw herself into planning a huge wedding for my sister, Charmaine.

Six months later, I walked down the aisle in a rose-colored chiffon gown, carrying a bouquet of pink roses. Charmaine followed behind in a white designer wedding dress. Inspector Jack Barnabas, looking uncomfortable in a black tuxedo, waited impatiently for her at the altar.

Jack and Charmaine lived happily ever after, making me an aunt three times over.

Dawn Pisturino

March 6, 2013

Copyright 2013-2017 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

 

 

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