Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Old Woman in a Shoe (Redux)

Last year in my writing class, our last big assignment was to do straight fiction. We'd already done creative autobiographical stories, as well as poetry, both of which could, and in my case did, have fictional elements, but we had not yet completely made up a story from scratch.

When I was deciding on what I wanted to submit, I decided to submit one story that I'd already written, just to get some feedback on it. I wanted to know what people other that my family and friends thought about it. I decided to go with one of my "Real" fairy tales, and I submitted the first one I'd ever written, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

Everyone seemed to love the story, but the feedback from my teachers made me want to revisit it before I turned in a final portfolio at the end. The most helpful bit of feedback I got was that I should rewrite the whole thing to be in Martha's (Old Mother Hubbard's) voice. I had started it out as an omniscient narrator, and then switched from following Gladys to following Martha, and then back to Gladys. Two different teachers independently told me that the story would be much stronger if I focused on just one character, and they both thought that that character should be Martha.

So, while this is technically the same story that you may have already read, (and if you're curious you can read the old version HERE) the story I am sharing now has been completely reworked, with more details, more jokes, and told completely from Martha's perspective.

The Old Woman Who lived in a Shoe
"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread,
Then whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed."
Does this sound like a stable parent? I don’t really think so. But Gladys Foote was not always the insane old lady portrayed as an unstable, abusive mother-figure in this nursery rhyme. I should know, I am her best friend after all. Hi, they call me Old Mother Hubbard, but you can call me Martha. Or Sgt. Hubbard. Maybe you’ve heard of me. I was kind of a big deal back in the day. Anyway, Gladys is my best friend and I am here to set the record straight. Six months ago Gladys was a great mother. Six months ago, before she moved into the secondhand, lace-up, knee-high boot that she’d found at Goodwill.
With 27 children, Gladys couldn’t afford to shop anywhere “Fancy,” like Walmart or Payless. With the children getting older, some of them needed their own rooms, and the midsize sneaker they were living in just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The octuplets, Schuyler, Skylar, Skyler, Skyla, Skye, Sky, Sky2 and Skylark, were at that age where they just needed their own rooms, and they were tired of having to share their beds with 19 younger siblings, who were total bed hogs, including 8 year-old Beans, who had three pet Bed-Hogs. When the front of the shoe split open sending 8 children falling out into the garden, Gladys really had no other options left, so Goodwill it was. She was looking for the biggest, cheapest shoe she could afford. She did find one, a huge boot that would easily hold the entire family.
One evening I came to visit. I hadn’t been there in awhile, so I brought 14 dozen cookies for the family. When I got there, Gladys was lining up all of her children and whacking them all over the head with a limp beanstalk for no reason whatsoever. This was so unlike her! I’d known Gladys for years, and I’d never once seen her lay a finger on any of her children. Even when Julesgard had tied 7 of his sisters into the shoelaces of the house and thrown figgy pudding at them, she had just sent him to his room with no dessert. Of course, no one else had gotten any dessert either, since it was all over Margret, Marjory, Marmalade, Mariska, Marzipan, Marcella, and Clyde. 
I ran down the road toward Gladys and grabbed the beanstalk from her. “What are you doing?” I exclaimed. She gave me this crazed look and grabbed the basket of cookies and began to wildly cram as many as she could into her mouth. She cackled wildly, flinging cookie crumbs everywhere and ran up the nearest tree singing Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. Now it was me who didn’t know what to do. I thought about calling Fairyland Child Protection Services, but they were well known for doing pretty much nothing at all, in even the most severe cases. I’d called them dozens of times about the VonSchneider family but nothing was ever done. Then one day poor little Hansel and Gretel were just gone, and no one has seen them since. Besides, up until now, Gladys had been a perfectly good mother. Something had to be wrong and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. Falling back on my police skills, I started interrogating the kids.
“Mamma’s been like this for weeks.” said Farnsworth. “She started making soup for supper out of rutabagas, grapes, and Marigold’s Teddy bears. And I HATE rutabagas! And then she whacks everyone with a beanstalk before bed.” 
“It all started after we got this shoe,” Romantha told me. “Mother was never like this before. I think this shoe is haunted.” “Yeah!” yelled Tromas. “I hear her talking to the ghosts, every night! Her room is right under mine!”
“Let’s go have a look in her room,” I suggested, leaving Gladys to belt out Juicy J’s Dark Horse rap solo. When we stepped into Gladys’ bedroom, I was overwhelmed by the smell of glue and I knew exactly what the problem was. Years ago, I was one of the top Drug Recognition Experts in Fairyland, and I had discovered a gang that had been repurposing BootShoe Glue, and selling it to teenagers for “Sniffing” purposes. Ultimately I was able to get that particular brand of hallucinogenic glue outlawed. Evidently this boot was so old it had been made before that ban had gone into effect. The seam by Gladys’ bed had split, filling her room with psychedelic fumes. Immediately I evacuated the boot and called the head of my former department as well as Fairyland Rehab.
Two months later Gladys was released with a clean bill of health, but now faced a new problem. She needed a new home. The Fairyland Department of Health had deemed her home to be a hazard and had ordered it be burned down. With winter coming on, she needed to find a new home and fast. But she didn’t need to worry long. I’d taken in all 27 kids while she was in rehab, and I’d set up an Indiegogo campaign to help pay for a new home. It brought in so much money that Gladys was able to buy a brand new pair of Uggs! That winter they were warmer than they had been in their entire lives. And they lived happily ever after.

This was not the only piece of fiction I submitted for this class, I also wrote a brand new story completely from scratch. It was literally the weirdest thing I've ever written. I'll share that one soon. :)

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