“Off with her head!” About the rudest thing I’ve ever heard. So queenly. That’s me. I wear my robes, do what I want and dare to keep the crown on my head. The rabble and nobility alike get angry. And jealous. But some just sit back and smile because they know that a crown-bearing, get-what-you-wanting royal eventually, eventually, comes to no good. And I know it too.
I stand at the top of the royal mound, the card guards scattered about the hillside of the valley. Today I’m hunting a yellow-haired ninny. Ah! I see her now; her bright curls spill over the top of a pen made of mere fives and threes. Can’t feel bad about harm that comes to one silly enough to fall down a hole and share a table with a dormouse.
“Ace! Come here!” I command.
As usual, the Ace of Hearts comes sniveling towards me.
“Not you,” I say.
He backs away; bending so low I can see most of the design on his back. Then the Ace of Diamonds tries to approach. His usual smirk turns to a frown the second my right eyebrow starts to rise. He retreats, taking solace with the usual inappropriate low company — that convivial Jack of Hearts.
Ahh… finally, the fine Ace of Spades approaches. So sleek, so sharp, so useful. He toys with me, he does. I appreciate his cleverness, letting the other Aces show their weaknesses before bringing his bold shape into my presence. He smiles the deadliest of smiles and I know that he knows that I see the crippled Ace of Clubs, still struggling on all corners to climb the hill behind him.
“What is your pleasure, my Queen?”
Out of the corner of my eye I see the Queen of Spades wobble.
“I wish to rid our… my land of fools and foolish invaders.”
“The guards have captured the ninny. We’ve heard tale that she understands The Smiling Cat and has ruined Old Woman Smith’s house by trying it on.” He pauses, then leans in towards me. “And that she drinks water. “ He whispers this last in my ear, so warmly, so close.
“She… it’s a she?” I ask.
“She has pledged to do no harm here in the land that is not her land.”
“Do those who have met her have a taste for her?”
“They report her to be ‘interesting’.”
I see the golden curls turning rapidly this way and that and sense that the ninny realizes that her need to escape grows urgent. More urgent than she could know.
“Ah, then she is dangerous,” I say.
“Wickedly so,” he responds, running his hand along his razor-sharp edge.
“Then we must be rid of her.”
“I am sure that is the fairest thing to do.”
He flatters me. I’m red and cleaved; he’s whole, but we share a point. His up, mine down. We’re a good match.
“At your word.” He bows to me.
“Well, then. Off with her head!” I scream, raising my right arm and swirling my purple royal banner in the air. A great shuffle arises on the fields below as the card guards rush to be the first to the golden flame of curls. The threes and the fives slide away and now, for a moment, I see the ninny in her splendor.
I blush at her simple beauty. But I will have my way.
The ninny attempts to run through the breaches between the cards, but the Jack and Ten of Spades and the Nine of Diamonds stride towards her. I see her plead with them. They knock her flat on her back. Silly weak thing. One by one the rest of the card guard flap up in the air and flop down on her until they are all as one on top of her, up to her neck.
The Ace of Spades still stands.
I begin to descend the hilltop, eager to see the beautiful soft neck of the ninny. (Why are they always so pretty?)
I finally reach the pile. The Ace of Spades nods at me and takes a step back, making way for me to circle the pile. I stop, standing directly behind her head. The muddy, striped hem of my skirt rests atop her curls that are sprayed on the ground around her head. The ninny, red of face, struggles and unintelligible noise seeps from the stretched, soft throat. We look into each other’s upside down face, which is the way it is for those who fall down the hole and up into our land.
I look up. The Ace of Spades has already begun to move. He stands beside me; we share a point of view. With grace and flair he lifts in the air, ever so gently turns on his side and with a great flourish, descends and slices.
’Tis done well.
The Ace of Spades stands, his side glinting scarlet in the lowering sun. As he bows to me he bends a corner, our secret sign. He returns to stand by the Spade Royalty. The King of Spades stands stiffly, the Queen of Spades sighs. The card guards at once rise and form a cart to carry the ninny and her head to the lands beyond, where those with no will dwell.
Janet Savage says: “I am an empty-nester, re-starting the writerly life that I missed. I have a wonderful husband and two splendid children and two dogs. Upon discovering that a genre existed that took advantage of my penchant for brevity and power in stories, I felt validated.”