This story is by Joy Gillingham and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Cleaning Catastrophe. “Are you sure you don’t want me to show Princess Snow what to do? I was her royal tutor after all and know the child.” “Princess Snow needs to learn discipline and hard work, not lessons or left to do what she wants. I’ll teach her how to clean and cook. Now, go off to the mines, we’ll see you at sunset.” “The first thing I’ll teach you to do is how to wash dishes. I’ll fill the stone sink up with water, you gather all of the dishes on the table and bring them over here.” Figuring that she could get more dishes in one trip, Snow stacked them up and barely held the cups by their handles with her fingers. Turning, Snow slowly began to make her way to the kitchen, which was made difficult by the fact that she couldn’t see where she was going. As a bowl began to slip, Snow reached out to catch it, only for three cups to slide off her fingers and come crashing down onto the hard, wooden floor. Red spun around to see Snow frozen in shock at what she just did. “Snow, what in Afaraway Land do you think you’re doing?” Red gasped, upon seeing Snow trying to balance several dishes in her arms and walk at the same time. Snow jumped in surprise and before she could do anything else, the rest of the dishes she had so carefully balanced moments before joined the one bowl and three cups already lying in pieces, with a large shatter. Snow stared at the broken dishes before her, an icy sensation rooting her to the spot. “Great, now we have to go to Crate and Barrel Grocery to get more dishes, thanks to your clumsiness,” Red grumbled, “this is why you carry china in small piles at a time, instead of piling them haphazardly like you did.” Noticing the silverware not broken, Snow picked it up, feeling the icy sensation beginning to thaw. “Look, at least the silverware is still in one piece!” Snow smiled, brightly. Red glared in response and swiped it out of her hands, demanding that she get the broom and dustpan. Snow quickly located the broom in the corner of the kitchen and ran back to Red, handing it to him. “Oh no, you made the mess, you clean it up,” Red harrumphed, crossing his arms over his chest. Holding the broom, Snow started sweeping it back and forth across the floor, scattering the pieces. “No, no, no, stop, you’re making the situation worse!” Red yelled, yanking the broom from Snow’s hands. “You grasp the top of the handle with your right hand and the bottom with your left hand and guide it in short sweeps, like this,” Red advised, demonstrating for her, then handing it back to the princess. Snow then imitated Red, sweeping the broken crockery up into a little pile, while Red held the dustpan still. Motioning Snow to follow him, Red led her to a pile of junk, which he tossed the broken pieces onto. Next to it was a compost heap, used for the garden. “We feed the garden with the compost, this is how we grow our vegetables. I’ll teach you how to tend one.” Dumping the silverware into the stone sink, Red rubbed the bar of soap against a rag and handed it to Snow, who wiped the silverware and the pot with it. Both worked in silence as Snow cleaned the remaining dishes and Red rinsed them and put them into the wooden strainer. Once the water was drained, Red led Snow back outside, to show her how to chop wood. “I’ll hold the log, while you lift the axe and bang it onto the wood,” Red directed. Slightly surprised at how heavy the axe was, Snow brought it swishing down, barely missing Red’s hand. “You nearly cut my hand off!” “Oh, I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” Snow gasped, dropping the axe to inspect his hand. “Yowch!” Red yelped, as the axe fell on his foot. “Maybe we should wait to teach you how to use an axe. For now, let’s go to Crate and Barrel Grocery so we can have something nice to eat our lunch off of…I cannot believe I am wasting my hard earned money on a new set of dishes, when I had a perfectly good one an hour ago,” Red grumbled, as he grabbed a leather drawstring bag from inside the flower pot on the mantlepiece and stomped onto the porch, slamming the door behind him. “Aren’t we taking a horse and carriage?” Snow asked, looking around for a stable. “We can’t afford such luxuries as a horse and carriage and the six other dwarves are using our wagon and donkey so now, we have to walk!” Red yelled, stomping toward the Woods, with Snow following timidly behind him. “Oh, what a wonderful day!” Snow exclaimed, as she walked behind Red. “Look at those beautiful flowers, oh, we could pick some and put them in a vase to brighten up the cottage! Maybe I can grow a flower garden in those window boxes, it would make the outside look so pretty!” “Yes, until the flowers wilt petals everywhere, what’s the point in having something that will die in the fall and winter and can’t produce food!” “Oh but flowers are lovely to look at and give bees and hummingbirds their food.” The moment Snow and Red stepped into town, a ringing silence fell as people turned to stare at them. One mother cast a fearful glance at the two and pulled her daughter closer to her side. A man glared angrily as he passed. Snow felt that familiar, icy cold sensation enter her heart at seeing the reactions of everybody. She was accustomed to people staring at her when she went into town but in admiration, not hatefulness. “Why are people staring at us like we have contagious diseases?” “Ever since the queen banished dwarves from her kingdom, we have become outlaws. There’s very few people who will do business with us anymore, that’s why we live in a cabin in the woods, despite mining for coal, gold and precious jewels.” Crate and Barrel Grocery was on a side street, the sign above the door painted in green letters. Stepping up to the door, Red pulled it and held it open for Snow to pass him as a little bell above them tinkled, announcing their presence. Crate and Barrel Grocery had piles of different types of food on wooden shelves, in barrels and in crates, each labeled with a name and a price tag. Behind the counter was a set of white dishes. “Hello Red, what brings you out on this fine day?” A stocky, white haired man asked as he stood next to the iron cash register. He wore a blue shirt, a leather apron, brown breeches and brown leather shoes. “Hello Mr. Barrel, between you and me, my family and I are looking after Princess Snow White, while she hides from the queen.” “Ahh, yes, the whole town saw the hunts man’s execution yesterday. So the princess escaped you say? Well, she must have had inside help, no one gets passed those guards on their own.” “Yes, Master Cornelius taught her how to use the secret tunnel from her bedroom to the Enchanted Forest but that’s to remain a secret.” “I won’t say a word about the matter, I know how to mind my own business. Now, what can I get you?” “Well, Snow here doesn’t know anything about housekeeping and broke our dishes when trying to carry them all at one time, so we’re here buying a new set.” “Well, you’ve come to the right place, then, we have some beautiful dishes right here.” “Oh how lovely, look Red, they have little animals around the sides!” Snow gasped, noticing paintings of small, woodland creatures along the edges. “We’ll take them,” Red stated, paying for the dishes with two golden coins. “Where can we sell some satin and velvet gowns?”