Rocket

2018-1012.Tower

There once lived a striking teenage girl who was named Rocket and was being raised by a witch, for reasons having to do with her mother, her father, an herb garden, and a rash promise. Let this be a warning.

Rocket and her stepmother, whose name was Dame Darnet, lived in a cottage in a vast wood, but still Dame Darnet was afraid that some dashing young prince would come along, notice how striking Rocket was, and spirit her away. It was her opinion that Rocket was just the kind of girl who would fall for some dashing stranger and want to run off with him, so for Rocket’s own good she locked her in a chamber high in a tower she had built for that purpose. Rocket protested loudly that she wasn’t the least bit interested in dashing young princes, having decided that what she really wanted was to join a nice, quiet little convent somewhere far away from witches and towers and dashing strangers. She had read about convents and dashing young princes in the Märchen Times.

There were no stairs to the tower, and the only way up to Rocket’s high window was by climbing. The witch cast a spell on Rocket’s striking Bavarian hair causing it to grow so long it touched the ground. Then every day she would come and stand beneath the tower and cry out,

     Rocket, Rocket, drop your hair
     And I’ll climb up the stair of gold.

(It didn’t rhyme in German, either, and scanned even less.) Rocket would let her tresses fall, and the witch would climb up the hair like a ladder.

One day sure enough who should come along but a dashing young prince. He spied a tower out in the middle of the woods, which was odd. He saw an old woman come out to the foot of the tower with a pail of food, which was unnormal. He heard her cry out the strange poem, which was intriguing. He saw the hair cascade down from the high window, which was alluring. He saw the witch climb the tower and disappear into the window above, which was … well, you get the idea. After a time the witch climbed down and ran away into the woods, and Rocket pulled her hair back into the tower. (It looked like rain was coming, and when that much hair gets wet it can take days to dry.)

The dashing young prince went and stood at the foot of the tower and cried out in his best imitation old woman voice,

     Rocket, Rocket, drop your hair
     And I’ll climb up the stair of gold.

“Again?!” came an exasperated voice from above.

“It’s a girl!” thought the dashing young prince. He was thus marveling when the hair plopped onto his head. Immediately he started climbing, and before long he was standing in Rocket’s chamber.

“Who are you? Get out!” cried Rocket.

“You’re beautiful!” said the dashing young prince.

“Don’t make me call my stepmom,” said Rocket. “She’s a witch and doesn’t take kindly to dashing young whatever-you-ares.”

“I’m a prince,” said the prince. “And I say, you need a man.”

“Like I need a hole in my head,” said Rocket. “Get out.”

She was more than a little unnerved, both by the sudden appearance of the dashing young prince, and by some things she had read in the Märchen Times about their sometimes-unsavory carryings-on.

Just then Dame Darnet climbed into the room. The dashing young prince drew his sword, but the witch drew her wand first. The sword flew from the d.y.p.’s hand and clattered harmlessly on the floor behind him.

“You wicked child,” said the witch to Rocket.

“Give me a break,” said Rocket. “This interloper imitated your voice and climbed my hair. I told you we needed a better signal.”

“Look, if you’re a witch, why do you need to climb the hair?” asked the prince. “Can’t you just fly up here on your broom?”

“My broom has been in the shop for 200 years. Sir Ectoplast keeps saying he’s going to work on it, but it’s never done. Anyways, who are you?”

“I’m a prince,” said the prince. “And I say, you need a man.”

“Like I need a hole in my head,” said Dame Darnet. “I’ve been single for many centuries now, and that suits me just fine.”

“No, I mean you need a man to go with you to the shop. Those broom mechanics don’t respect women customers, and never give them the same service they give men. Let me come with you and you’ll see.”

“Worth a shot,” said the witch, and quick as a wink, she and the dashing young prince were climbing down the hair and heading to the broom shop.

Rocket, fearing that another dashing young prince would come along, pulled in her hair and cut it off in a bob. She then affixed the long tresses to a nail and climbed down them to freedom. As she reached the bottom, a wizened old woman came up to her with a beautiful apple on a small platter.

“Ain’t this a beauty, eh, toots?” said the woman. “Best apple this side of—”

“Wrong Märchen,” Rocket interrupted. “Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got an Abbess to see.”

Later that same day the witch and the dashing young prince flew to the tower on the witch’s now-fixed broom. When they saw that Rocket had escaped, Dame Darnet thanked the prince for his help, and flew off to her arugula farm. The prince climbed the hair to the ground, where he was offered a beautiful apple by an old woman. He gladly took the proffered fruit and took a profound bite, whereupon he fell into a prolonged—

Sorry, wrong Märchen.

Copyright © 2018 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

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