She was crying in the copier room when I came in, and she looked up at me with moist blue eyes, like pansies under the rain.

I couldn’t remember her name. Too D*mn Young isn’t a name. Even my name is not that weird. Crying like that, she looked about sixteen. No makeup. Blond hair down to the middle of her back. Very pretty. Maybe one of our high school interns?

And then she grabbed a tissue from box on the shelf, wiped her eyes, blinked at me and said, “Oh, Mr. Rumple, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know– It’s just I don’t know what to do. This promotion.”

This story is now part of a collection for sale here:

129 thoughts on “Rumpled

    1. There’s a variation of the story in Patricia Wrede’s LOOKING FOR DRAGONS, which is gentle good fun. Also deals with the problems associated with running The Enchanted Forest, which must be quite a headache if you think about it.

      It’s a sequel to DEALING WITH DRAGONS, which is also fun, and has two more following it, which I don’t recommend anywhere nearly as much.

      1. Well, the problems associated with running The Enchanted Forest in Monster Hunter International would involve both headaches and hangovers. Oh, and delinquent gnomes. Can’t forget the gnomes.

        I would like to see more of Princess Tanya’s adventures with the Monster Hunters.
        Edna Mode: “No capes!!”

  1. I’m noticing a pattern in these short stories of yours: mortal and non-mortal hook up and it works out. Is there something about Dan and the kids we should know? 😛

      1. Oh yes, I remember that now. But now that I think about it, wouldn’t you expect dwarves to be the math savants?

  2. Cool – The one way her giving him her firstborn is not a creepy bargain: “Honey, take your daughter.”

    1. There’s a meme going around. Bargain with the fae.
      Guy asks: “When do we start?”
      Fae: “What?”
      Guy: “You asked for my firstborn.”
      Fae: “Yes.”
      Guy: “So when do we start?”
      Fae (blushes): “Oh.”

  3. I love it. My new favorite take on Rumplestiltskin! (While what they did with him the Once Upon a Time tv series was entertaining, they kept hitting “reset” button on him being an a**hole and it got old.)

    1. I swear the actor doing well with anything was a big part of why I stayed so long, but even he couldn’t make it work forever… yarg.

      This one’s more charming 🙂

      1. Yeah, he was awesome, and clearly enjoying himself hugely most of the time (especially when he was Rumple, and not just Mr. Gold). And truth be told, I loved most of what the cast was doing. I think the last straw for me (though I may yet give it a try to finish out the story–I gather they finally do get most of the ducks in a row and where they needed to be) was when the screwed up Regina’s life yet AGAIN. (Though for once, I gather she didn’t react by going full Evil Queen.)

      1. The wrong…female, in the wrong pantsuit, can be downright creepy and terrifying. It’s been 4 years, and we’re still traumatized. It’s no wonder we’re reacting so badly to the latest one.

    1. There are some women who look good in a pantsuit. It’s a very rare woman who looks better in a pant suit than in a skirt. Felonia von Pantsuit comes to mind. blech

      1. Shrillary would only look good in an orange jumpsuit…or one of those canvas jackets with the REALLY long sleeves, and all the buckles.

        Oh, and a ball gag or Hannibal Lecter mask.

        1. If you’d read Ghost, you’d know a ring gag is safer than a ball gag.

          All together, now: “OH, JOHN RINGO, NOOOO!!”

        2. In a shroud with a stake through her heart buried upside down, 12 feet deep, bound In silver chain, at a crossroads is how she would look good.

  4. I did get he first born, it turns out. And the second and third and fourth. All of which look like their mother, fortunately.

    *seriously going aaaaw*

  5. Well, he did help her turn straw into money. We don’t use gold so much these days.

    Rumple sounds like — dare I say — a Gnarly Man?

    1. Huh. I figured out who Rumple was supposed to be quickly, but somehow I completely missed the straw-into-gold reference until you pointed it out. Thanks.

    1. Yeah, as another old fart, I caught it medium quick. “Rumple” was a strong hint, and “not human” and “thouseds of years” sealed the deal.

      Got a grin from me for this one. No dust; just a nice sweet tale.

  6. A bit heavy on the foreshadowing in the title. Got to the last line and said, “Knew it!”

    1. Well, the name ‘Mr. Rumple’ was a pretty big hint.

      Either that, or he was a British lawyer.

    1. The feeling I get is along the lines of “Fairy Tales Fulfilled” They are living happily (enough) ever after in today’s world rather than immigrating into some fantastical landscape that smells of nostalgia for a place that never ever existed. (You know, beautiful, bucolic, leisurely. Farmish, Medievalish, or Magicalish). It brings the fairytale forward in time, or the magic into the modern without twisting people to fit or without making them bitter about staying in this world and appreciating what it is.

      Umm. Is that an acceptable comment or is that annoying to the writer? I don’t want to be rude.

      1. A Youtuber who goes by Betsy Lee did an animated series about a modern dance club run by mythical beings. They made their living running the club, but their real mission was to help other mythical beings adapt to a world of humans who no longer believe in them. I didn’t find the animation or voice acting to be all that great, but the concept was amusing. It only went 6 episodes before being abandoned, though.

        The playlist starts here:

        1. P.S. I suggest watching it with closed caption on. Like I said, the voice acting’s not that great and the dialogue can be a bit hard to understand.

  7. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

    GOOD ONE!!

  8. I did like that ending better. Now if you would please get to work on Snow White? The original ending where they forced the evil queen to “Dance in red-hot shoes until she died” always kind of nauseated me.

    1. I always thought she would have been better off staying with the Dwarfs…but that’s because Prince Charming suffered from the common look of non-funny humans in early cartoons, and looked like a twerp.

      1. Snow White by Matt Phelan puts it during the Great Depression and works around the magic — seven boys, not seven dwarfs — and you might like the ending. (Graphic novel.)

  9. I lurv this! Thanks for the pick me up Sara. I was mad because I had to fast all day today and they wouldn’t take my blood bc of a few drops of lemon in my water this morning. Now I gotta do it again tomorrow.

  10. NICE. A perfect Hoyt. Beautiful.

    If you’ll accept some well-intended advice from a cranky old man, maybe spend more time considering this type of thing and less time worrying about the political bullshit. This one story will change a lot more minds than a thousand rants about the friggin’ idiot DemocRats.

    That’s why they won’t publish this kind of thing. It is amazingly subversive to their narrative.

    1. If we’ve already lost…. what’s the difference?
      I’m rapidly approaching the point of “Sooner will I go to the Republic than it will come back to me.”

          1. It is perhaps an overstepping of commenter bounds…. but I submit that the back of your head is not currently in a state to give accurate assessments.

            1. Well, I’ve had a cold for five days. But it’s not that, Ian. I’m “smelling” the stink I smelled when Clinton won and when Obama won. The back brain is staying, “accept the suck, the fix is in” even as most of my friends are going “this is in the bag.”
              IT WOULD be a trumpslide if the fix weren’t in. With the fix in…. I hope Trump gets his family and himself out safely. I hope he knows how bad it will get, and he doesn’t deserve it.
              I’ve seen pictures of him from his rallies today. He is embracing the suck, too.
              Only this might be the final blow. And I’m at the end of what I can do, now.

              1. I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong nor bread to the wise nor riches to men of understanding nor favor to men of skill but time and chance happen to them all.

                Fear not and be of good cheer. Whatever the outcome, we’ll need all the good people we can get.

                  1. Of course and you for me and we for all of us.

                    Read Ecclesiastes, it helps.

                    And remember, as Damon Runyon said it may be that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong — but dats da way ta bet.

            2. ^^What he said^^

              And I suspect she knows that– going off of how pissed I get when I know there are non-rational factors screwing with my judgement. Which just does *so much* for improving the situation. -.-

              The monkey brain is freaking out. Remember, Sarah, Crossoverqueen predicted this, months ago. This is set up to screw with your monkey brain.
              Yes, it’s still real, even if it’s not true– but take the advice we’ve been saying the whole time, don’t take council of your fears!

              1. Overall morale is pretty high from what I can see, but the people with low morale have zero. Feels like I’m running from place to place putting out morale fires.

              2. What’s that thing I keep hearing around here? “Be not afraid?” Or was it “We win, they lose?”

                If only I could remember who keeps saying stuff like that…

                1. (Note: Sarah, we’re saying this with love! You’ve told us this, and it helped– so we’re trying to pay it forward, even if that means payback. 😀 )

                  1. Which is why I said I plan to gloat once.

                    Because the accounting must be done. But belaboring the point gets cruel fast, and leads to an inflated head on the part of the gloater.

                    1. BIL (won’t say which one) has a plan to call two people, one a SIL (not me), another a sibling, when the results are in. One sentence “4 more years!” At least that is what he is hoping. He isn’t real sure it’ll happen. More like going in the backyard and screaming “C***” (can’t swear in front of the grandkids).

      1. Also it is good to put work into something longer term, even if you don’t believe it will come. Not unlike faking a smile until to can do it for real.

      2. This is one of those things that is a question of where to direct your efforts. Currently you and I are not in a position to affect the outcome of the election, stop the cheating, stop the riots, or any of that. We -can’t- do anything about it except bravely post on our websites.

        Worrying about something you can’t change is a waste of perfectly good liver cells.

        What you and I -ARE- in a position to do is write and publish stories. We can do that. We can write them and send them out like nuclear submarines into the vast sea of unconscious culture, where they lurk until its time to inspire some guy who can stop one riot, or can stop vote fraud in one little place. One inspiration delivered on target is worth a million scoldings.

        Plus writing stories is fun, and they PAY you! Win win win! Spend a little more time having fun writing the cool stories and a little less time worrying about bullshit you have no control over. For your own personal edification and nothing else.

        And by the way. We didn’t lose. We’re not dead yet. Right? Every day I can wake up in the morning and give them all the finger is another huge win. Just by existing I fuck up endless Socialistic plans. That’s a worthy goal all by itself. ~:D

        1. So how do I find your books? You’ve never mentioned a title, and looking under “Phantom” doesn’t give anything useful.

            1. Thanks very much. Looks like I bought it back in February, so it’s in my Kindle waiting for me to finish the books in front of it.

      1. As I am an adult, I begin to see it as a gift. If nothing else (and it’s not) it’s the assurance that evil will end. It cannot go on forever.

  11. LOL Right, so when the Young Master next asks for Rumplestiltskin, he may be getting this one! The ending where he tears himself in two is… bizarre.

  12. D’awwwwww! That was neat. Love the illo, though I says it what shouldn’t: The textures are so yummy!

    If you ever do the Juniper Tree I have some art that’s all yours.

    1. I don’t think I ever READ the Juniper Tree.

      On my list right now are Sleeping Beauty (probably two of those, completely different)
      Snow White
      seven swans
      One of the ones of swapped wives. Maybe more than one. You know what I mean….
      And Then others will offer.

      1. Two takes on Sleeping Beauty?

        I’ll have to compare the basic premise of both of them with the Sleeping Beauty novel that Orson Scott Card wrote quite a while back.

      2. I’ve long thought the Seven Swans ought to be an expanded version, or a Part Two, of Snow White: all the time she’s in the forest, and then after the prince wakes her, she’s making coats for her brothers (the swans) and isn’t allowed to speak. And although the dwarves may help defeat the witch (thank you Disney) it is the swans who lead the prince to her casket.

  13. The story does leave a question, though. After Amber had her first child, did she horrify and disgust Maddie by quitting to stay home full-time?

  14. Utterly charming! And so very well addresses the modern young woman’s dilemma. Thank you for writing this series of lapidary tales.

  15. These stories are a nice break from the gloom n’ doom of the present moment.

  16. Warms the old cockles it does that so very many here jump in to do my job for me.
    Which of course is to nag you to write MOAR dag nab it.
    These, while technically urban fantasy, are going to make a fantastic collection for the general public to enjoy and demand many more of.

  17. Please do write more of these. You have a gift that shouldn’t be wasted on worrying about a bunch of idiots in DC. Better for us, better for you.

      1. All the more reason to write things like this. Christopher Booker in his Nine Basic Plots observed that something had gone wrong with the stories after the “enlightenment”. They became twisted and sour. This has accelerated to the point where all the stories seem to be twisted. Everything is dark. Since story is how we are human, your telling the stories is much more important than anything else you might do since you are able to tell them and so many of us are not. The story is the stick in the eye of the oppressor. Take away the story and we are not human anymore, which is why the enemy tries so hard to suppress them, to twist them, to make us less than human.

        Sing your stories and should the worst happen you will know that they feared you. What more could you want than having the powerful fear you? As long as we remain human, we win and they lose. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.

        Who could want more than that?

      2. This is changing your country, just in a different, necessary way.

        Politics is often downstream from culture, and good stories move the culture. These are good stories. Keep writing, keep publishing, and keep building eternity.

        Whatever happens Tuesday, this will matter more, longer.

  18. Awww… so cute. Sondheim (and also ABC’s Once Upon a Time) made me wary of fairy tale twists but I like these.

    1. At some point, producers seem to have smudged the word “twist” and now misread it as “pissed,” so when they want to do a “twist” on something that people love, it involves dragging it down rather than trying to find a new direction to take it.

      Contrast with Spindle’s End, Beauty and Rose Daughter, which are all three twists that keep the original spirit and build on it.

      1. Beauty by Robin McKinley is my absolute, hands down favorite take on Beauty and the Beast. I’ve want to write my own take on Sleeping Beauty for years; I love the Disney cartoon.

    2. I go around telling people that The Princess Seeks Her Fortune HAS a typical fairy tale princess in the lead, which makes her just about unique.

      This startles some people, but no one’s ever argued the point.

  19. I needed this.

    If you noticed I hadn’t been commenting as much lately, I had to get a second job to make up for paycut and reduction in hours at work due to Pima County shutting down Old Tucson for COVID hysteria.

    Of course when interviewed about the now indefinite closures of OT and the termination of our lease with the County, no County official was willing to take responsibility for the County’s part in the shutdown.

    I’ve been very salty about that.

    1. I’m sorry about that. I had a blast at Old Tucson when I went with my sister and her children.

  20. Sarah, the stench of defeat and of the fall of the Republic is, I think, a fog put out by the MSM in hopes that no one will notice the abject unsuitability of their candidates.
    I think that we pull this one out, even though there will be senseless violence, possibly in the hopes of pulling a “color revolution” as was done in the Ukraine.
    That would be doomed to failure, as our compatriots would not tolerate such tyranny.
    If the worst should happen, and the Left thinks that a stolen electoral victory is a basis to destroy the Constitutional basis for our nation and society, your words will be needed more than ever, even if all you can write are lovely asides like the Rumplestiltskin here.
    Trump has forced the Left to unmask. That cannnot be unseen.
    Should they act against us as tgey have stated that they will, they will be met with an insurgency, more of foxes than of wolves, though there may be a few Kitsune in the mix, and focussing individual efforts at those who paid, planned, and dircected these attacks upon the yeomanry of America.
    I looked at numbers, and 2/10 of one percent of a modest count of American gun owners is still over 100,000 people, swimming invisibly in our populace.
    Hold on to our Flag, if only as a scrap, and fear no darkness. We win, they lose.

  21. I think this is what the Wrights would call superversive, even though it subverts the classic fairy-tale by making a hero of the villain, for the same reason that Shrek is “superversive”: it isn’t the species nor the name of the hero that makes him a hero. It’s acting heroically. It’s being the hero.

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