Dear Fairy Godmother: I work as the housekeeper for a collective of seven men. It’s a non-normative living situation, but it works for me. (I am estranged from my family, due to my stepmother being crazy.) Lately, however, I’ve been harassed by a woman trying to sell me apples. She is constantly offering me free samples and acting hurt when I don’t buy. My employers have forbidden me from letting anyone into their home, and I value their trust. But I also know there are a lot of prejudices about old women who wander around forests selling apples, and I don’t want to play into that.
By the time Bose Roberds spied the lone, empty wagon, he got the nagging suspicion that he was meant to follow the stranger’s trail easily. The noon sun beat on him like a whip in a heavy hand. He’d followed the tracks across the plains for quite some time. Whoever he tracked could’ve traveled through thickets so dense that neither man nor horse could see for more than a few yards at a time. More than once, Bose feared that the man might lurk in the brush, hiding in the draws and canyons. The other cowhands lingered a few lengths behind him, more than a mite cranky.
Visshki, now the eldest and most senior of the Serpents, had heard of the curse pronounced by his own mother. He called a meeting with Airavata and all their other siblings. “Brothers, as you know our own mother has cursed us. Anyone who is cursed by his own mother has no hope of remedy. What is more, Brum himself was witness to this curse, which makes it immutable. Now, we are all doomed to die in the serpent satra of King Majaya which is but the same curse of our mother Kadrush brought to fruition.
Many years ago, in the Age of the Gods, there lived the Seed-Giver Drakka. He had two beautiful daughters, Kadrush and Vina’at. Drakka married both daughters to the Sage Kushir. One day, feeling generously disposed to his wives, Kushir told each of them that they could avail of any boon they desired. Both sisters were overjoyed. Kadrush was the first to ask for her boon and she demanded one thousand serpents as her sons, each fiercer than the other and equally splendid.
When she got to Yume’s room, the first thing Ruriko did was slip off her mask and remove her prosthetic jaw. There was an ache in her fake bottom teeth. It was going to rain, although one look at the sky could have told her that. Across the room, Yume dimmed the lights and sat on the edge of the coverlet. The bed was obscenely red, round and mounted on a rotatable platform, as one could expect from a pay-by-the-hour love hotel. Yume’s pale, gauzy skirt rode up her thighs as she shifted positions.
Byeong-Woo strides through the door. His face says I’m in trouble. Hopefully, it’s the delicious, sweaty kind. I step forward and push into him, ready to embrace his flesh, his taste—but he becomes a mountain, still and immutable. I step back. “We should talk,” he says. Fine. I’m good at talk. I’ve known for a whole moon what he’s going to say, and I won’t change my mind. I gesture at the low table, the only furnishing besides the thin mattress in the corner. This sparseness is intentional; a reminder that I won’t stay here, that my resources are for other things.
You remember when those rappers robbed a bank and killed a cop, that summer the girls from Wing turned green? I didn’t think it was connected then—the robbery, the gold, and the hordes of teens who were rotting from the inside. But I know better now. Back in the day, we thought anyone signed to a record label was rich. We eyed the expensive Fila sneakers and trunk jewelry and thought of new money. We peeped the shiny album covers in Funk-O-Mart, heard Jazzy Jill’s song “Money, Mics & Madness” blaring from passing cars, and thought of mansions.
It’s a few minutes before seven on a cold October evening and I’m just reaching into the bottom drawer of my desk for the Old Monk and my well-thumbed copy of The Big Sleep when I hear footsteps hurrying up the stairs. A new case, has to be. I sigh, give the drawer a regretful look and shut it again. I sit up, awaiting the knock. It never comes. Instead the door swings open, slamming into the wall, sending plaster chips flying everywhere. Then I see her standing in the doorway.
I have heard it on the rumors that when the tale-spinner’s guild gathers in its secret places, a full half of them are sworn to never tell the truth, and the other half to never tell a lie, even if it mean their life. Being one of that trade myself, I can tell you that that’s more or less the shape of it, and I tell you this so that you will know that the tale I tell you now is true, just as it happened and just as it was told to me, for I am one of the ones sworn to the truth.
First, three stolen months ago, scroll through fifteen hundred wistful words about a white woman’s transformative trip to Egypt before getting to the recipe. Only absorb every fourth sentence because your fingers keep straying to refresh Twitter. Soak up words like “nourish” and “sacred grains” and “fauna,” but mostly just stare at the pictures of bread swaddled in linen and tucked inside wicker baskets like baby Moseses, sailing between islands of polished lemons on stone countertops.