The Wizard Stuyvesant stood contemplating the thing on his kitchen table. He paced with measured tread around it, studying it thoroughly. From every angle, it seemed the same. No shimmer of subterfuge, no glimmer of glamour gave evidence that it could be anything but what it appeared.
He sighed, his heart sinking. The thing in the exact center of his kitchen table was a human liver. A living, functioning human liver, in the pink of health, no less. Still magically performing its liverly duties, though physically removed from its owner.
Somebody out there was walking around without their liver; somebody thought the gift of a liver an appropriate message. But who? And what message?
He closed his eyes and ruminated as only a wizard can. The liver: producer of bile; seat of anger. When lost, magically regenerated by the body. Thus, a throwaway thing. A dismissive gesture to leave it on some poor wizard’s table.
With a feeling of resignation, he placed his hand gently on top of it. It was warm. And it was the Lady Beatrix’s, as he had known it must be. Her pointed response to his ever-so-earnest query.
So this was her answer. For a moment, he allowed himself the luxury of anger, then as quickly tamped it down–unprofessional, and all that. He closed his eyes and wondered distantly what emotion would come upon him next.
A thick blanket of gloom settled over him, comfortable as an old cloak. Ah, my old friend loneliness. He had dared imagine his days of gray sameness might be over. This missive, unmistakable in its intent, had dashed that dream. He was sentenced to resume the persona he had always worn. Stuyvesant the Dour. Wizard of the Waning Ways.
Lord of the Lonely.
He sighed again, reproving himself for having entertained, even briefly, such a frivolous notion as love. A lesson learned. Love is for the mundane. Work that is the Wizard’s lot.
Best to keep busy. Dismissive though the message may have been, he was honor-bound to return it personally to its owner. He moistened a towel in the washbasin and carefully wrapped the pink and russet thing for his trip.
And so the Wizard Stuyvesant set off on his lonely journey to return her liver to the Lady Beatrix. Sunk in his familiar gloom, he did not heed his route. When one is a Wizard, all roads lead eventually to one’s destination. The liver would keep should he end up taking an extended route to the Lady’s castle, and he welcomed the solitude of a long walk. It would give him time to compose himself.
His steps led him to the Trip-Trap bridge. The Trolls gathered; their gnarled fingers tightened about their cudgels, thick as thighs. They closed in around him, slobbery, clobbery. Then they looked in his eyes, and paused. The largest and hairiest of the lot stepped aside, his bowed head acknowledging, “Nothing we could do to you compares to whatever it is has already been done.”
He walked on. Soon he was wading through the Plain of Poppies, expecting with each step to be overcome by their soporific exhalations and lulled to sleep, dreamless and eternal. But no sweet lassitude overcame him; rather, within yards of him in all directions, flowers turned their heads, shed a single dewlike tear, wilted, and died. He looked behind him and saw a swath of prone poppies reaching to the horizon–his lonely path limned by flowery fatality.
Finally he arrived at the demesne of the Lady Beatrix. The sky was clearest blue, clouds gamboling across it like fluffy sheep with not a wolf in sight. Pennants snapped smartly from spun-sugar battlements. The happy grasses swayed in unison to a lilting tune, and bluebirds kept counterpoint from the branches of gumdrop trees. All seemed designed to mock his melancholy.
As did the Lady Beatrix herself. “Stuyvesant, my darling!” she cried, wrapping her arms around him as soon as he had passed over the drawbridge. Her embrace felt like a knife to his heart.
“I return to you what is yours,” he said, battling grief and anger to a draw. He held himself erect, stiff and perfectly proper. And removed.
She held him at arm’s length, smiling. “As I knew you would,” she said. She closed her eyes, and with an indrawn breath was whole again.
He turned. “I shall take my leave.”
“Oh, but dearest love, you’ve just arrived! Please stay–we have so much to discuss!”
“What have we to discuss? You’ve rejected my troth, and me, in no uncertain terms.”
“Sweet Stuyvesant. I haven’t rejected your proposal–it’s ages I’d waited for you to speak your heart. I’d nearly given up on you.”
His heart leapt, and he struggled to put name to a newly burgeoning emotion. “But the liver…”
“My poor darling. I didn’t know how better to express the depth of my feelings for you.” She turned away, suddenly shy. “I guess I’m rather a poor thing with words, you know. And–anatomy.”
This thing he felt–it was hope. He decided he liked it. Even so, he could not bear the thought of another cruel twist: “But, Beatrix–your liver?”
She looked up at him, her eyes heartbreakingly clear and as blue as the sky above her castle. “Stuyvesant, I thought you would understand. I had to present you with some token of my feelings for you, something near and dear to me; but I had nothing left to give. You see, my darling… you had already stolen my heart.”
Robert Goffeney works in manufacturing for his bread, and writes the odd story in the odd moments. He currently lives in a state of contented bemusement in a leafy suburb of Detroit.