General Fiction posted December 6, 2017


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A new look at an age-old story

Privvyella

by Ogden


I hope this will be as much fun to read as it was to write. My goal was to tell the whole story, just the way everything happened, with occasional commentary along the way. Here it comes:

Many years ago, when real magic was not unusual, an unusual mouse with very unusual powers became a big part of the life of a teenage orphan called Privvyella. That was not her real name, but it was the one hurled at her, day and night, by her jealous aunt and cousins, the only other people she knew, and her only living relatives. No name but that disparaging one had she ever known.
Privvyella was very pretty, and her aunt and cousins were…decidedly ... not pretty. Her aunt, her closest adult blood relative, was her guardian, and the laws of the kingdom made Privvyella her unpaid apprentice, receiving  free room and board, in turn.

I'm sure you’re anxious to hear more about Privvyella’s magical mouse, Melvin. He comes into the story somewhat later, giving us a chance to bring you the skinny on the state of affairs in the Middlewassel household, (Well, i'm just relating the story, and Middlewassel was their last name) and of the state of Incontinent, the kingdom of the royal Charmins. By and by, you will witness a scene introducing the dashing Prince Charmin.

 (For the sake of simplicity, and our warm feelings tor the hapless teen subservient, let’s can the ”Privvy," and refer to her as ”Ella,” much easier on the ear, and a considerable improvement on her given name, ”Edna.” (No offense, just compassion, Ednas.)

In those days, privvies all were outdoors, and wealthy households tended to indulge themselves in larger and more advanced features, Some even splurged on silver-threaded velvet pull-cords. Now, the Middlewassels were of modest means, but were known to be gauche social climbers, and boasted of no fewer than three such structures. Of course, it was Ella’s responsibility to keep them always spotlessly, immaculately, clean. After each use, even in the theretofore still of the night, a piercingly loud voice would be heard to demand, "Privvyella, I’m finished! Get out here now! I made another mess!”  ”Oh sh-t!,” Ella would moan as she trudged privvyward through the snow in her threadbare nighty.

Ella’s lot left a lot to be desired.

  Enter Melvin, whose remarkable magic powers, unfortunately, were limited to three applications per lunar month. Sensibly, Ella was circumspect about using them up. But one morning after a sleepless night, Ella whispered, "Mel, if you’re not too busy, please pay me a visit.” As always, seconds later, the dutiful little mouse was at her bedside, saying, ”I apologize for the delay, mistress, friend, and confidant. What’s up?”

”Well,” Ella replied, ”my Aunt and cousins somehow managed to finagle  themselves an invitation to the Semi-Annual Charmin Ball, the day after tomorrow, and although I'm reluctant to use up my third and final request of my lunar month allotment, I’m going to shoot the works. I respectfully request you to somehow get me to that ball, with a chance to sneak a glance of the handsome Prince Charmin. He seems to be all my family is interested in - my cousins, in his looks, and my aunt in the money he'll inherit.”

”No problema,” responded Melvin, whose dad was part Spanish on his madre’s side, ”You will be there.”    

”Oh goodie!,” was all that Ella could muster, but then she remembered her manners. 

"Mel, I haven't thanked you for granting me my other two miracles. The dustpan has been a huge help to my daily workload. And, boy, do I appreciate that bucket of reusable sponges!  I can’t thank you enough!”"

”Don’t mention it, my dear, replied Melvin, who really was a sucker for compliments. "You will look stunning at the ball. Now, I really have to get moving, Ella. There’s so much to do. Next time, please try to give me a little more notice. Let’s see…extra large pumpkin…. and a couple of uniformed rats - Ech!" 

With that, he was gone in a puff of musical stardust! Melvin was a bit of a practical joker.

The night of the ball, the magical mouse arrived early. Aunt and the sisters had already left for the palace, hoping that would provide the over-eager Middlewawssel ”girls" with an edge for an early shot at the prince. Melvin gave the elegantly gowned, breathtakingly coiffed, Ella, a reassuring pep talk, and then a stern warning - ”Um, Ella…I’m sorry..no…I’m not sorry…I don’t want to scare you…but, er.…"

”Melvin,” Ella interrupted, ”get to the point! Scare me, already!”

”Boo!,” replied Melvin, attempting to ease the tension with an attempt at levity. (I'm going to start skipping the "said Melvin"s and "replied Ella"s, and all, because, as temperements get challenged, the pace of the conversation increases, and I want you to feel the tension. So we'll pick it up from when Melvin was hemming and hawing about his warning, and Ella was getting impatient.)   

”Melvin!”

”Sorry, Ella..um..you have to pay attention to the time tonight, because...”

”Melvin, you know I don’t have a watch!”

”Okay, that can be your next wish, but tonight just keep asking people for the time!”

”Oh, all right! …But…Why?! ”

”Because, you’ll be sorry if you’re not out of the palace at 11:15!”

”Is this another of your jokes, Melvin?”

”You won’t think so when your hair’s all stringy, and you’re back in your tattered excuse for a dress, and those raggedy slippers, will you? And you can’t ride a pumpkin, can you?”

Realizing her questioning wasn’t getting anywhere, and losing her customary patience, the soft-spoken Ella decided to speak up, and said,  ”No, I can’t ride a stupid pumpkin, Mel. I guess I’d better just get the time from some old man. I can’t take a chance on a young one thinking I’m coming on to him, whatever that means, and maybe making me miss my shot at getting a peek at Prince Charmin! And I certainly don’t want to walk home in my raggedy slippers! Oh, all right! I’ll make it a point to be outside by midnight."

”I said 11:15!” We have to get you home before the hands of time mark another day.”

”Okay!”

That was, to the best of my knowledge, the approximate exchange between the nervous Ella and the magical mouse, only moments before the uniformed rats whisked her away to the Semi-Annual Charmin Ball.

End of part one. 

The palace ballroom was more sumptuous than Ella could possibly have imagined. Everything about it, from the priceless crystal chandeliers to the extraordinary tapestries, were acquired by the royal acquirer from far curves of the Earth. (FYI: He was the most successful acquirer in the business, because, unlike his competition, he lost no time looking for far corners, aware that the earth doesn't have corners.) 

Despite all the Royal Ballroom's splendor, what fascinated Ella more than anything else, were the guests, or more specifically, their profusion. The dancng had not begun, and there were hundreds of Incontinentalians, as they called themselves, interacting in small groups, and unashamedly ogling the other groups. It was not their finery, or anything they were doing that Ella found so compelling; She had never seen so many people at once. In fact, she had never seen that many people in her whole life. Her aunt and two cousins were the only other human beings that the cloistered Ella had ever come in contact with. To avoid prying eyes, many years before Ella had become her aunt's charge, the secretive woman had erected high walls surrounding her property. All Ella knew of the wide world, was what she overheard from those three very talkative women, and from Melvin. The ambitious spinster sisters and their greedy mother were always gossiping about the unbelievably handsome, and fabulously wealthy bachelor prince (and the community property laws of the kingdom).

Now, Ella, a very pretty girl in her own right, although she didn't know it, was devastatingly beautiful this evening, resplendent in an exquisite new gown, and  meticulously coiffed in a hair style never before seen. All who set eyes on her, male and female, were enthralled by the elegance and grace of the mysterious stranger. Attractive women kept a careful watch on their husbands, and single men desired her, but not one had the courage to approach her, certain that such extraordinary pulchritude could only be the province of Prince Charmin. As the evening wore on wihout a glimpse of the prince, and as the anticipatory tension eased, so would their fearful restraint.

Meanwhile, Ella, surreptitiously was scanning the men. Surely, from all she had heard about him, she would recognize the Prince, who, without his retinue, was known to mingle with the people, not clad in royal regalia.

You may have noticed, it's been a while since I mentioned the Middlewassels.  Unsurprisingly, no one had noticed the unsociable three were not in attendance. They'd had devious plans to arrive early, but now were going to be conspicuously, and insultingly, late. Perhaps by simple happenstance, or some magical influence, or an even Higher Intervention, the unfortunate Middlewassels encountered unpredictable difficulties en route, including a fallen tree blocking the road, necessitating hours of detours. When they finally reached the palace, the guards denied them entrance. They did not believe such homely women, arriving indecorously late, could possibly have been invited to the royal event, even though they were splendidly attired. They must have been impersonating the yet-to-arrive Middlewassels, and the diligent royal officers detained the suspects until exonerating them  after intensive rapid-fire questioning. 

So, that's why her aunt and cousins were absent when Ella's presence made such a memorable splash. Ballwise, not much else noteworthy had occurred as the night progressed, until untoward events began, following the disgraceful entrance of the Middlewassals. Ella had maintained dutiful awareness of the time. She'd picked out an elderly man and frequently asked him for the correct time. Eventually, he said, "I beg your pardon, my dear, you are being far too obvious, and I'm a married man. Not that that would mean anything to the likes of you!" As she backed away, confused, Ella, suddenly realized, "He believed I was "coming on to him!' And that's what Blabbonia (the older cousin) means when she complains about nobody ever coming on to her. I'll have to remember to ask Melvin to explain that to me." 

Ella didn't have much time to think about it before some of the bolder young men, reassured by the prince's absence from the ball, one by one, started making advances on the dazzing newcomer. And walking away puzzled, when she dismissed them, saying, "No thank you, and by the way, what time is it?"

After a few ninutes of that, all hell broke out!

The Middlewassel women finally entered, steaming over the indignities they had been forced to endure, and the probability that they had missed Prince Charmin. Moments later, the shrill voice of Chlorinia, (the youngest Middlewassel) drew the attention of the entire ballroom, shrieking.and pointing in the direction of Ella, "Look! Look! Look! Look! Help!! Get the constable!! Thief!!! Harlot!!! Don't let her get away!!!" 

All eyes shifted back and forth between Chlorinia, who obviously had lost her mind, and the radiant stranger, who was beginning to feel self-conscious, absently wondering why she hadn't even thought about her aunt and cousins.  At that very time, when his magnificent Royal Ballroom was enveloped in shouting and confusion, Prince Charmin, unobserved, costumed as a civilian, stood transfixed, but unruffled, in the presence of this unprecedented incident. And promptly left, without a word.

Always irrespective and uncaring of all else, time had moved to 11:10 PM! 

 Ella, overwhelmed by the hullabaloo, was unaware of the time and its implications, and everything else but the ruination of her once -in-a-lifetime, potentially life-changing, moment in the sun. She hurried as fast as her legs and her bejeweled high-heeled slippers could carry her toward the corridors that would lead to outdoors, and her waiting carriage. She needed to be at home, such as it was.

As she breathed the cold air, Ella was aware of feeling much different than before. For one thing, she was limping, with some discomfort in her right foot. and she had lost...a slipper! And her "tattered excuse for a dress" had replaced her pretty new gown. Where the fancy carriage had stood, was a huge pumpkin, as Melvin had forewarned! And one raggedy slipper. She had changed into the fancy ones in the carriage. Ella was Privvyella again! She could just hear that Melvin mouse saying, "I told you so." She always hated it when her aunt and cousins said that to her. So, Privvyella, no stranger to pain and hardship, hobbled homeward on one raggedy slipper, to mull over her reversal of fortune, and inspect the privvies. 

You probably are wondering why she still was upset, when all she had to do was whisper a few words, and within seconds, Melvin would be conjuring up a happy-ever-after perfect ending to this ridiculous foul-up, and by now, you certainly would be reading another story, avid reader that you are. Well, it just so happened that Melvin had whispered to her that he had been unexpectedly, and urgently, summoned by his frantic mother, who had taught young Melsie all he knew about the Magical profession. It seems that Warren, the eldest of Melvin's one-hundred-and-twenty-seven younger siblings, a rather imposing mouse himself, was in desparate trouble, being hunted by a voracious tabby on their home planet of Limburger, less than a five-minute sprint for Melvin. Mama mouse was getting on in years, and this cat-and-mouse caper was more than she could pawdle herself. Unfortunately, the planet of Limburger Necromancer Association  (the necromancer industry regulatory agency) by-laws sanctioned only one offspring in a necromantic brood to acquire "The Great Gift," and that was Melvin. Melvin had given Ella a heads-up. and promised to return ASAP. 

But Ella felt very alone, on that long road home. 

Apparently purely by chance, one of the eye-witnesses to Ella's flight from the

palace, one Lukisko, a long-time, out-of-town employee at the royal palace, who did not later see any of Prince Charmin's wanted posters, had followed the transformed, limping Privvyella in his wagon that fateful night, and gave her a lift home. No dummy he, the savvy old-timer, after kindly asking Ella how she came to be limping down the road in such a state, wearing a tattered excuse for a dress, and one raggedy slipper. Ella could see no harm spilling the beans.  

ASAP arrived in one day with Melvin aboard, of course, and he hinted to Ells that better days lay ahead. "Oh, tell me, Mel. I need some good news," she cajoled.

"The more the anticipation, the better the pleasure," teased the magical mouse.

As the wheel of fortune always has surprised, so it would then. 

Meanwhile, Prince Charmin, after learning from eye witnesses, that as the mystery woman fled, the gown she was wearing morphed into a tattered excuse for a dress, and dissolved into a spray of sparkling frost. All that was found at the scene was a huge pumpkin and a raggedy slipper.

When the Prince left that chaotic ballroom scene, he had decided to summon to the palace the mesmerizingly irresistible mysterious stranger (who with her inexplicable disappearance, immediately became the talk of the town). More fascinated than ever, the determined Charin family heir-apparent of the Kingdom of Incontinent, posted notices throughout his domain, inviting all to come to the palace to try to identify a raggedy shipper, and offering a substantial reward for information leading him to its lovely owner. 

At that very time, enthusiastic about collaborating with Melvin on schemes to result in a happily-forever-after future, Ella was confident of a successful outcome. 

To make a longer story shorter - 

As you no doubt have surmised, with the assistance of Lukisko, the Prince proceeded to woo, and came to love, the delightful and delighted Ella. A wedding soon followed, the likes of which had never occurred in the storied history of Incontinent. The prince was not above pulling strings, and the fire laws were waived. Attended by every notable able-bodied citizen (with the significant exception of the outraged Middewassels), every suitable chamber of the palace bulged to over-capacity. 

Unless I'm wrong about you, you will feel unfulfilled after reading this far, without being given the courtesy of learning what became of the characters.  So no "They all lived happily ever after"cop-out here. Somedid and some didn't. The tale really has ended, but let's tie up the loose ends.

Fulfillment follows:.

Exultant with her devoted Ralph (Prince Charmin's given name) Ella deighted in a comfortable domestic life, as Ralph, a homebody at heart, no longer had to force himself to play the role of handsome, available bachelor, wining and dining, and dancing and prancing with young women who always were throwing themselves at his feet. 

Be that as It may have been, in the event that her sour grapes aunt's frequent rants about married men lying and carousing had any truth to them, Ella knew magical Melvin, on distant Limburger, was only a whisper away.

When he heard through the grapevine, of the Prince's quest and promised reward, Lukisko had lost no time in obtaining a royal audience. Prince Charmin was a man of his word, and Lukisko, now fabulously wealthy, retired anon, and purchased the second largest Incontinent estate, and before long became the founder of a household brand with which you may be familiar, named after the woman who changed his life, and whose life he changed, originally dubbed, "Cottonella."

The spinster Middlewassel "girls," after squandering their savings on potions and wardrobes of enticing gowns intended to attract eligible men, found no takers.

Now broke, they would have to rely on their wite, such as they were. Their mother would be no help, having been exiled forever from Incontinent after attempting to extort a fortune from Ella, Ralph, and the kingdom, demanding her share of the coffers of the Royal Treasury, and having the chutzpah to claim parental rights. 

The Middlewassel sisters, counting on the insight gainrd from life experience, went into business, opening what came to be the first ever "lonely hearts club." Their collective life experience, although ample, proved to be as unhelpful as ever.

They hardly were good examples of matchmaking expertise, and were unable to acquire one single client. With such "bad luck," they decided they had their fill of Incontinent, and would seek their fortunes elsewhere. 

In time, in another kingdom they hit upon an enterprise for which their background actually was more appropriate. For the first time they missed their hard-working "sister." They did adequately well in their new field, and lived long lives. When their times came, each obituary indicated the Middlewassels had ended up in privvies.

A great many years later, the moral of their story would have been, "What goes around, comes around. 

.

                 



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