They came from all
northern forests, southern castles,
eastern gingerbread houses, western wells.
They met somewhere in the middle
out of convenience and symbolism,
for they all dwelt in the middle,
players in stories yet to be resolved.
One woman in a tiara went on and on
about a frog who had been stalking her,
rattling his long tongue, craving a friend.
She explained to the group that good friends
maintain the proper amount of distance.
They respect one another's need for silence,
private times to play with a golden ball.
Falada the talking horse disagreed,
having spent too much time alone,
his stolen head nailed high to a pillar.
He suffered from phantom pain,
longing to race through the woods,
to hear voices other than his, even
the faint ramblings of a jilted amphibian.
Two self-mutilating sisters spoke next,
recounting their "cries for help,"
the lengths they went to for attention.
"At least we were never alone," one said
to the other. They would spend the days
stumbling from store to store, searching
for deals on shoes that fit mangled feet.
A couple of brothers, Jake and Will,
spoke last. They explained to everyone
that nothing was wrong with them;
they were merely sitting in, listening,
absorbing, for reasons they didn't understand.
They couldn't see the symptoms of kleptomania
as they collected all the stories without morals.
Daniel M. Shapiro
Shapiro (email@example.com) enjoys the Russian fairy
tale "The Snotty Goat." Although he has never
dreamt of marrying a goat, he is not a bit squeamish.