|GATOR SPRINGS GAZETTE|
a literary journal of the fictional persuasion
Rampion. My daughter for a salad. That is the choice my parents made. When my mother was pregnant, she did not desire ice cream or pickles or horseradish on pretzels. Instead, she yearned for the rampion—its dark green leaves for her salad and its pale blue blossoms for her table—growing in the ogress’s garden.
My mother paced the house, rubbing her growing belly. “Please,” she begged my father. “A few of its leaves or my dinner.”
Unable to take her moanings any longer, my father attempted to steal a basket of rampion and was caught by the ogress. Fearing for his life, he offered mine in exchange. After I was born, the ogress locked me in a tower. My parents died soon after of broken hearts. Lest I forget my origins, she called me Rapunzel, which is another word for rampion.
The irony is that I have a gift for making salads the ogress craves. Four years ago, at the age of twelve, I prepared my first concoction of greens for her lunch. Now, she cannot live without it. Every day around noon, she appears at the bottom of the tower.
“Rapunzel,” she cackles, “let down your hair!”
I heave my long blond braid out the window, and she climbs up it and takes a seat at my table. From a garden that grows under my tower’s skylight, I select that day’s ingredients. Once sated, the ogress returns to her castle for her afternoon nap.
Oh, she lets me have some amusements. I read. She likes intelligent conversation, and I am well versed in the affairs of the world, although I have never left my tower. To make sure I never prepare the same salad twice, I have a library of cookbooks. I intensively study the properties of the plants, herbs, and flowers that flourish in my garden, and I know all their possible combinations, effects, and interactions.
I am forbidden to own sharp objects or anything with a blade.
However, if I am fated to make salads for the rest of my life, I wish to do so on my own terms. The ogress puts my new sullenness down to my age.
“Teenagers,” I hear her muttering as she rappels down my hair.
I spend a lot of time leaning out the window. Sometimes a knight rides by and catches sight of me.
“What ho!” he yells. “Do you need rescuing?”
I always say no. From what I know, Prince Charming turns out to be a toad more often than not.
I ask the ogress for something frivolous to read. I am tired of discussing petty tyrants, the use of metaphor in contemporary literature, and how tax money should be spent. Surprisingly, she agrees to send me some light reading. Perhaps she thinks it will improve my mood. In the afternoon, a maid calls down my hair and attaches a basket of magazines for me to pull up.
I spend a pleasant afternoon reading back issues of Damsel’s Delight. I learn How to Have Lips Like Sleeping Beauty’s and Easy Ways to Get Goldilocks’ Curls. I fill out the card to enter the Win Cinderella’s Ball Gown Contest and throw it out the window, hoping someone will mail it.
The next day I tell the ogress I want more magazines. That afternoon, when I throw my curly ponytail out the window, a girl my age climbs up it with the basket.
It is Cygnella, the kitchen wench I have often watched peeling vegetables in the yard. She wants out of the scullery as badly as I want out of the tower. Two heads are better than one, and we make a plan. When she leaves to return to the castle before the ogress awakens from her nap, I hide Cygnella’s shears under my pillow.
The next day I prepare a special salad with chamomile leaves, sprigs of lavender, and a garnish of lemon balm and valerian root. While the ogress eats, I excitedly tell her how I used cherry juice to make my lips dark red. She nods slowly and fights her heavy eyelids before finally sliding out of her chair and onto the floor. I will be long gone when she opens her eyes.
I fetch the shears, cut off my braid, and pin it to the windowsill. I carefully remove the bag of gold coins the ogress always has tied to her belt. Just before I climb down my own hair, I grab a packet containing seeds from my garden.
Cygnella waits for me by the barn, and we hurry to the river, where she pulls a bottle of Tress Relief from her basket. In a few minutes, I am disguised as a redhead. It is the first time I can ever remember feeling air on my neck.
We walk for several weeks before coming to a hamlet at the edge of a harbor. With the ogress’ gold, we purchase a small two-story building. We live upstairs. On the ground floor, we open a cafe called Petrosinella’s, the Italian version of my name. I plant my garden in its courtyard and oversee the kitchen. Cygnella manages the day-to-day operations. It turns out that she was wasting her talents chopping vegetables. Through her skills at marketing, we make money hand over fist. Of course, we specialize in salads.
The village’s chief of police would do anything for us. His pregnant wife craves my salads, and each day I send her one free of charge. Cygnella and I call it our insurance policy.
One day, the ogress comes in. Our restaurant is famous, and after all, she is smart enough to connect its opening with our disappearance. I have a waiter take her some tea laced with dried daphne petals and crushed opium pods. She asks him to fetch the owner because she wishes to know if Petrosinella is the renowned salad maker who once lived in her town.
“You don’t look well,” I come up to her after she has taken a few sips of the tea. “Why don’t you lie down in my office and then we can talk?” As Cygnella and I lead her unsteady body to the office, I can tell that her vision is already too blurry for her to recognize us. I send the cashier to fetch the chief of police.
When he arrives, I point to the ogress, temporarily comatose on a blue leather couch. “If you don’t get her out of here,” I threaten, “the salad your wife ate yesterday is the last one of mine she will ever eat.”
He tells me there is a boat in the harbor leaving for a penal colony in New South Wales within the hour.
After his officers carry the ogress away, Cygnella gives him a certificate for a lifetime of free salads.
A few months later, I send the ogress a copy of Rapunzel’s Garden, my best-selling recipe collection.
On the flyleaf I write: Dear ogress, do not worry about me. I am living happily ever after.
© Margaret Foley
Margaret Foley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer and historian living in Portland, Oregon. When she is not pondering alternative plotlines for fairy tales, she is working on a novel set on the Oregon Trail.
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