“… and so,” amanda concluded, “ having slain in mortal combat the dragon who had, in the guise of a handsome prince, presumed to ask for her hand, xarelia declared her intent to mount the throne alone, and rule alone as empress. she did so, and ruled the empire wisely and well forever and a day, until time had a stop.”
the class clapped politely, and ms faraday, known as “the goalpost” to the girls, clapped a bit longer than the class. “that was lovely, amanda, very nice. very inspiring, and with a resoundingly positive heroine.”
amanda sat down. she ranked 5th in the class in looks, 2nd in athletic ability , but only 21st, fifth from the bottom, in popularity, because of her sarcastic and haughty manner.
bedelia got up to read her story. bedelia ranked at the bottom of the class, number 26, in all categories. and on this rainy day, she had also happened to draw lot number 26, so that she would be the last to tell her story. the class, therefore, was prepared to give her a rousing ovation at the conclusion of her story, as they always did to the last storyteller.
“once upon a time,” bedelia began, “ a newborn female child was left in a basket at the back gate of a great castle. it was taken to one of the under chambermaids.
‘looks kind of scrawny,’ noted the servant who had brought it to the under chambermaid.
‘yes, agreed the under chambermaid, ‘but the stars predict a great harvest in three years, when it will be ready to be put to work, and the great lord says we will need all the hands we can get, especially if he loses this war, and and can not bring back hordes of slaves from his conquests. so, take this little beauty and feed it.’
the little child that thus began its passage through this strange world, was never given a name. for the purposes of this story, we will refer to her as xyz.
xyz survived, but when she reached the age to be put to good use and earn her keep, she was judged not strong enough to work in the fields. she was instead assigned to the castle cleaning force, where she was put to work cleaning the worst filth from the foulest corners of the castle. she was given a little brush for this purpose, and the brush lasted her for twenty years and was her only friend.
she helped clean the castle for twenty years. she never complained. when the other servants spoke bitterly of the great lord and his lieutenants and courtiers and high flunkies, she always took their side, and reminded her hearers that fate had placed them in their positions and that they were doing the best they could. this attitude did not win xyz any popularity contests with her fellows.
then one day the castle was stormed by the troops of the rival empire, and xyz and a few hundred other servants and soldiers who had survived the assault were taken prisoner and marched through four thousand miles of desert to the capital of the empire.
when they finally reached the capital, xyz was one of the only seventeen prisoners who had survived the march, out of the original three hundred or so. she had also lost her friend, the brush, along the way.
the imperial capital was not as merciful an employer as the great lord’s castle had been. a slave was a slave, and no allowances were made for weakness.
xyz was assigned to a work gang in the desert. the work consisted of collecting stones to be brought to a gigantic rock crusher and cement mixer. the sun only set every fifteen years, and xyz missed the cool atmosphere of the castle’s noxious chambers. but she never complained, never disrespected the guards and whipmasters, and survived another thirteen years.
one day one of the whipmasters took her aside and told her, ‘you can’t pull your weight any more. i give you a choice - you can wander off into the desert, or be hanged.’
xyz thanked the whipmaster for his thoughtfulness, and chose to wander into the desert.
when she got about nineteen miles into the desert, she found a water hole.
she knelt down in front of it to take a drink, and was bitten by a scorpion.
the scorpion’s bite caused her body to swell up, and to be covered with a foul green fungus.
she tried to crawl away. the sky above her suddenly turned black.
a giant meteor crashed into the planet she was crawling on and smashed it into a trillion little pieces.
so ends the story of xyz,” bedelia concluded.
all the class applauded, as ms faraday had known they would.
“good one, bedelia, old girl!”
“way to go!”
“best story ever!”
“i am sure you put a lot of work into your story, bedelia,” ms faraday told her. “perhaps your next effort will be a bit more positive.”
“perhaps,” bedelia replied.
the class broke up, it was the last one of the day. most of the girls went to their rooms, but a few went out into the rain, headed for the donut shop in town .