A short story by Elizabeth Hausladen
There once was a princess as fair as the day, with hair like gold and eyes like cornflowers. She was renown for all princessly virtues (dancing, embroidery, singing and the like), and her kindness made her beloved as well.
She was the only heir of her father the King, and this fact along with all her less political assets made her desired of men the world over. Suitors came as far as China, Russia and the South American jungle to woo her. Some, like herself, were royalty (princes and dukes and film stars and such), and others were merely wealthy, famous or talented (one had invented Orange computers, which are sort of like Apple computers, only less famous).
Every night the Princess danced with dozens of these young men. Some she liked much, some she liked little, and some she just found boring. Because of all this dancing the Princess was very strong, and her feet were well hardened. She could easily dance into the wee hours of the morning, long after the hardiest football player had given up in exhaustion.
Then, one night, everything changed.
It was still early, and the Princess had just started dancing with the sixth suitor of the night (a Wall Street Tycoon), when suddenly a sharp pain shot up her foot.
“Ow!” cried the princess.
“Terribly sorry!” said the Wall Street Tycoon. “I'm a very bad dancer, I know, but –,”
“Oh, it wasn't your fault!” said the Princess, giving him the sweetest smile she could under the circumstances. “I think there's something in my shoe.”
Quickly the Wall Street Tycoon led her over to a chair and she slipped of her shoe. To her surprise she found no pebble or bead or (heaven forbid!) pea. However the pain was still throbbing. So she stripped off her stockings and found, to her horror, a hard sort of callous with little black dots in it.
In terror the Princess let out a scream. Immediately the music stopped and everyone came running to her side. The Queen pushed her way through the crowd and asked her daughter what could possibly occasion such a cry.
“There's something horrible on my foot!” said the Princess.
“Let me see,” said the Queen. She bent down, picked up the Princess's foot and turned it over. After examining it for a moment she declared, “My dear, I'm afraid you have a WART.”
A wart! The Princess has a wart! The news ran through the assembly like wildfire. For warts were well-known to be painful and persistent things that often defied all remedy and made dancing quite impossible.
The Princess went to bed in tears, and the King gathered his counselors.
“What shall we do?” asked the King. “For the Princess cannot dance if she has a wart, and if she cannot dance, she cannot choose a suitor, and if she cannot chose a suitor, she cannot marry and if she cannot marry she can have no children and there will be no heir to the kingdom and all I have worked for will vanish in fire and sword! Well, machine guns, anyways...”
“The situation is dire indeed,” the counselors agreed. “However, there may yet be a solution. The Princess's suitors are from all over the world. Surely, somewhere, someone has found a cure for warts. What if we were to make a proclamation that whosoever of honorable and chivalrous character shall produce a satisfactory cure, will then become the Princess's husband?”
The King was delighted with this idea, the Queen set about drawing up an addendum that detailed what constituted “honorable” and “chivalrous” and the Princess was in so much pain that she begged them to issue the proclamation as quickly as possible.
So the heralds went out through all the kingdom and the Queen posted it on her official Facebook page and all the suitors added it to their twitters and within twenty-four hours the world knew of the Princess's plight. Almost immediately every plane, train and boat coming into the country filled up with prospective suitors and their 'cures.'
The Princess got up, allowed her nurses and maids and make-up artists to pretty her up, and went down to the throne room. Then she began to receive the hopefuls and their remedies.
The first cures were traditional ones. A respected doctor tried to freeze it off. A medical student in his residency proscribe beetle juice. A pharmacist brought in antibiotic bandages. A world renown-surgeon attempted to remove it.
The medical professionals stepped away and more obscure healers came in. A Brazilian brought in an herbal remedy. A Chinese teacher made her drink three pots of his secret tea for three weeks. An Indian politician suggested a combination of spices.
Still, the wart remained.
Then came the faith healers, the psychics, the hypnotists and the psychologists. They tried telling the Princess it was all in her mind, to pray to every deity they could name, and tried driving out evil spirits.
The Princess drove them out.
The Palace was in despair. The King spent long hours with the court geneologists, trying to locate distant cousins who might make suitable heirs. The Queen searched the internet for any possible mentions of the word “wart” and any cures that had not yet been tried. The Princess shut herself away in her room and read the Twilight series for the fifth time.
Then, late one night, a knock came at the palace gate. When the guards opened it, they saw a scruffy young man in a hoodie and torn jeans, with a canvas messenger bag slung over his shoulder.
“Hi,” said the young man in an American accent. “Is this the place with the Wart Princess?”
The guards stared in astonishment.
“Our princess does have a wart,” said the Captain. “But what could you possibly want with her?”
“Oh, I have a cure,” the young American explained.
The guards were skeptical, but seeing that all the other applicants had failed, they decided to admit him. The Chamberlain was even more appalled, but he was tired of being asked by the princess when the next “Twilight” book was coming out, so he brought the young American to meet the King and Queen.
“You believe you can cure our daughter?” said the King incredulously.
The young American nodded. “Absolutely. I had a wart myself, once, and I got rid of it, so I'm pretty sure my cure works.”
The King and Queen looked at each other. The King shrugged.
The Queen turned to the young American. “Are you honorable and chivalrous?” she asked.
“I think so,” said the young American. “I volunteer at the soup kitchen every Tuesday, I took my younger sister to her prom when her boyfriend bailed out on her, I've never had a library fine in my life and I've read every single Jane Austen book twice.”
“Well then,” the Queen said with a pleased smile. “You absolutely may try your cure. Only, would you please shave first?”
While the young American shaved, the King and Queen got the Princess out of bed, bundled her up in a bathrobe and hurried her down to the Throne Room. When they got there, the young American was waiting with a thick roll of silver tape.
“What is that?” asked the Princess.
“This is the cure,” said the young American.
The Princess frowned. “Tape? You're going to cure me with metallic tape?”
“Oh but Princess, this is no ordinary tape!” the young American told her. “This is Duct Tape, the most marvelous creation ever invented by man.”
The Princess stared skeptically at the duct tape.
“Here, let me show you,” said the young American. He bent down, lifted up the Princess's bare foot and smoothed a square of duct tape over her wart. “There. Now leave that on for a week.”
The King, the Queen and the Princess weren't quite sure what to say, so the young American just smiled and walked away. The Chamberlain offered him a room in the palace, but the young American said he wanted to do some sightseeing and disappeared into the night.
Every day that passed the Princess looked at the duct tape. At least six times a day she debated whether to pry it off and see whether it was doing any good. However, at the last minute she would always remember her pain and leave the tape on.
On the seventh day, right at daybreak, the young American returned. They summoned the Princess and the young American immediately proceeded to take the tape off and soak the wart in hot water for a quarter of an hour. At the end of that time, he called for a pumice stone and cleaned out the wart.
“How is that?” he asked the Princess.
She twisted her foot up to get a good look at it. “Why, it's half gone!” she exclaimed in surprise.
“Of course it is,” said the young American. “Now, you'll need to do this for a couple more weeks, but you shouldn't have any more pain.”
The Princess let out a delighted shriek that brought her parents running. Then, to the surprise of the young American, the Princess bent down and kissed him on the cheek.
“You are my hero,” said the Princess. “Will you marry me?”
The young American scratched his head. “Well, I've never tried ruling a country. I'm not sure I'd be very good at it.”
“That's all right,” the Princess replied quickly. “Father will teach you everything. Mother says you read Jane Austen, so I'm sure you'll be very quick to learn.”
“All right,” said the young American. “Let's get married.”
So they did. And if the Princess was surprised by some of her new husband's louder music choices at their wedding, she didn't show it. Because he looked so very handsome in a suit (more so, even than Edward Cullen) and he really was a superb dancer. But more than that he could actually talk while he danced, and the Princess realized that was what she'd been looking for all along.
And they lived, more or less, happily ever after.
(The author makes no claims to be either a princess or have scores of suitors. She does, however, know first-hand that duct tape is the best weapon against a wart and this story is a celebration of the near conclusion of a long and frustrating battle.
The author also wishes to recognize Red Green (of the Red Green show) and Miles (of Lost) for their inspiration in carrying on the crusade of the duct tape)