Jeanette and The Beast

Introductory Remarks:

Le Manoir de La Bête sits perched on a hill like an animal crouched over its kill. The grounds sprawl for acres, the forests where The Beast hunts are their own little country in the middle of the property. The land crawls with cursed servants; they writhe like the proteins in a double helix, each one intent upon its own trajectory; like planets captured by gravity, never able to stray from their orbits.

Jean-Paul, the kitchen servant, is cursed to know the innermost thoughts of every man and woman; Philippa’s hex leaves her believing that she will be set free every day only to have her hopes dashed every evening; and Pierre has syphilis, though some say he has had that all along.

Marcel, the chaplain, is perhaps the most tortured by his curse, as he is doomed to remember everything that happens on the property. Marcel longs to be cursed in the way Alain the cook is cursed. The culinarian is forced to know everything that will happen before it happens, but as soon as one of his forecasts occurs the memory of the event blows away from his mind like crumpled newspapers scattered by the wind. Marcel and Alain, jealous and resentful toward one another are each like two halves of the same Janusian coin, one seeing only the past and the other only the future.

And of course there is a woman there. Marie, Leonna, or Camille. Belle, Cecily, or Angela. Or perhaps it is Jeanette. Whoever she is, not unlike the servants at Le Manoir de La Bête, she is cursed to never leave the grounds for as long as The Beast lives. And he will always live.

The Beast tries to be benevolent. He makes sure that the entirety of the property is maintained and beautiful, the manor itself, the topiary, and the chapel where prayers are sent like messenger pigeons to a God just out of range. He does it in the hope that it will make them happy with their stay, but even beautiful things lose their appeal when adored for eternity. The fecund fields seem greedy for the light of the sun, the idyllic innocence foisted onto animals is sullied once they turn on one another, and the waltz of the light from the stained glass windows in the chapel seems wasted when the pews are empty.

Alain says someone will come to rescue The Beast from his immortality, from his gruesome form, from his brutishness, but Marcel does not believe that. After all, Marcel is the only one who remembers Jeanette.

Part I: Wherein a Brief Description of The Beast is Proffered

His head is too big. His face is ponderous. His coin-sized nostrils burst open like a door kicked from its hinges. Dark, stiff hair droops off of his face like the brown leaves of a dying willow tree. Far beneath the lengths of tangled hair, his face is that of a man, but his visage is so unnatural that the faint whiff of his humanity only makes his appearance more disturbing. His little black eyes are set all the way back in his head and they move back and forth like flies flitting over a bowl of rotting fruit.

His ears are immense. They emerge from his head like mountains springing from the plains. When he hears a rustle in the distance those ears become sharp and ridged, weapon-like on his head as he scans the horizon as his black, wet nose twitches with furious curiosity.

His body is bulky and he moves it around indiscriminately, knocking over his cursed servants, ancient busts, and furniture alike. So big is his body that he does not fit in the bath that was installed when he was a man. He is too proud to bathe in the river that runs through his property, so his dark fur is caked with black patches of blood, bubbling white smears of saliva, and his own excrement. When he is angry his eyes glow like a full moon and his lips curl back from his great, saber-like teeth.

When he roars the earth stops spinning underfoot.

Part II: Wherein an Even More Brief Description of Jeanette Can Be Found

Jeannette was not beautiful; her hair was red and her body was short and thick, her legs like wide stone pillars. She smiled often and she was tender with The Beast. He was surprised by the way it made him feel. Like clay being cut by wire.

Part III: How The Beast Longed to Become a Man Again and Did So Because of Jeanette’s Love

Jeanette was not the first young woman who came to live with The Beast. There had been many before her. There was Marie, the fair-haired daughter of a politician who was used to getting her way, Leonna who loved chocolates but never got fat, Camille who wanted to dress in the dazzling clothes of the great ladies of the theater, and Rochelle and Estelle who were equally covetous.

The Beast would pick bushels of roses for them, gathering the thorny flowers in his thick, furry arms. He would yank a bundle of roses as big as a hay bale from the garden and present them. Marie, or Leonna, or Camille, or whoever he was courting, would smile, turn away, and giggle. Once the roses had served their purpose, they would begin to rot immediately and he would drop them in a heap at their feet. The flowers would undulate on the ground before them, like water disturbed by a stone.

He also presented these various ladies with magical necklaces and jewelry, but when they reached out to take the earrings or necklaces, the jewels and precious metal would turn to bugs and snakes in their hands. They would drop the writhing mass and wipe their soiled fingers on his vest. Jean-Paul, the kitchen servant who was cursed to know the innermost thoughts of every man and woman, wouldn’t even try to suppress the sound of his own laughter. He did not laugh loud enough to be heard by The Beast, however. Had The Beast heard he would have sliced Jean-Paul with his powerful claws, though not deep enough to kill him and set him free.

All of the ladies who were guests of The Beast would enjoy the courtship at first, inhaling the attention like it was the sweet scent of the roses dying at their feet, but the pursuit, and the strangeness of The Beast, were soon stripped of all novelty. The ladies would begin to refuse to eat the meat he had hunted for them, and they would eat only the desserts they specifically demanded the kitchen staff prepare. They would stop being interested in The Beast’s gifts, denying the many packages, wrapped in gold paper or encased in ornate boxes that cost almost as much as the gifts inside.

He would ask them for their hand in marriage so he could try to break the spell, but they would always deny him. They were compelled by his might and his wealth, but they were reluctant to give of themselves. The fair-haired Marie even accused The Beast of lying. She squawked that he was a deceiver and a tyrant. An animal who deserved to be drawn and quartered. A thing that she would never love. When he sunk his claws deep into her, the blood turned her dress from a dazzling white to a deep, horrifying red.

The Beast was not merciful with her. He could have killed her before he ate her, but he didn’t. He worked from the outside in. He ate her until she was just a lump on the floor, limbless and screaming. She would pass out from pain and blood loss and he would stop eating her. He would go away, read the paper, put on his spectacles, take them off, continue a game of chess he was playing against himself, catch up on sleep, groom himself. Then, when she woke up again, screaming and sobbing and begging him to help her, he would go to work on her again. Alain claimed that The Beast used magic to keep her from dying so that her pain would last longer.

By the way she screamed it seemed as though her death came as a surprise to her. She tore into it like it was one of her many gift wrapped presents. She looked around the room, desperate for someone to help her as he bit into her. She squirmed her body away as though she could escape him, as though she weren’t already dead. Her eyes were a frenzy right to the end.

It wasn’t the first time The Beast’s servants had seen something like that. Their eyes were treated to all manner of violence and pain, so Marie’s death did not come as much of a surprise for anyone. But Marcel was the only one who remembered. His memories collected like tickets thrown away after a show and pocketed as if they will be worth something one day.

Marcel remembered things that no one else did, like the sound of The Beast’s teeth when they punctured the flesh of Leonna’s neck, biting down until her head dangled from her shoulders, like the way the green dress turned dark with fluids when he plunged his massive claws into Camille, like the sound Rochelle made when The Beast tossed her through a window, the glass cutting her to pieces and killing her before she even hit the ground. The lingering, rotten-egg smell of the gunpowder when he shot Estelle. He hadn’t even realized The Beast owned a gun.

Marcel remembered all of these things. And he remembered Jeanette.

* * *

Jeannette was different from the other women who came to live with The Beast. She did not have small, dark little features, or a smile that was never full but always at work. She was kind and loud, her nose was fleshy and her skin had blotches. Even her arrival was different. She was not traded to The Beast to gain vengeance upon an enemy or to attain power. She came of her own volition, giving her own freedom for the life of her father who had found himself facing execution because of an unfortunate incident at a tavern.

“A man from the bar is going to testify against him,” Jeanette explained to The Beast when she proposed the deal to him in his study while Alain served them tea and Phillipa stood by to remove the plates. “My father was just drunk and that connard picked a fight. Daddy doesn’t mean to lash out like he does. He just doesn’t know his own strength, especially when he’s drinking. Now he is facing jail, or death.”

“You know what this means don’t you?” The Beast asked. “You know what I’ll ask in payment?”

“I do,” she answered.

After The Beast killed one of the witnesses, everyone in town knew to keep quiet. Had anyone tried to testify in Jeannette’s father’s case, the townspeople would have colluded against the surviving witnesses and killed him themselves. No one wanted The Beast to come down from his manor into the town again.

So Jeannette’s father never went to trial and Jeannette came to live with The Beast. She moved in just like the rest of the women, trunks of clothes appearing one after the other, as if by magic. She looked around the mansion trying to decide how she should make her face look. In the end she decided on rigid lips and a countenance of pinched determination.

* * *

Being that Jeannette was different from the other women who had come to live in the mansion, The Beast was not quite sure what to think about her. He liked when she would stroke his mane and put her tiny fingers up to his mighty mouth to feed him. He liked she would click her tongue and coo. He liked when he wrapped jewels and pearls around her neck and she thanked him. He liked that the gifts never turned to rot, nor to snakes.

When he asked her what it was she wanted, just like he had asked all of the others, she told him that she wanted to help children.

“Help them do what?” The Beast asked her and laughed.

All the servants laughed too. They laughed loud and raucous, not because they thought it was funny, but because they hoped that if they pleased him he might have mercy and murder them to set them free from the prison of their curses.

“Quiet,” he demanded after all of the captured sycophants had laughed for too long.

“I want to help children to learn. To play. To read. To be fed. I want to help children who no one else will help.”

None of the other women who had been The Beast’s guests had ever wanted something so selfless. The Beast stroked the twisted hair dangling from his face and he thought for a long time, his forehead bunched in thought.

“I will bring you chocolate,” he told her. “And a dress. And a horse.”

She smiled and nodded, recognizing that it was all he knew to do.

The Beast did other things to make Jeanette happy, hoping that she would one day want to marry him. He picked bushels of flowers for her, just like he had done for Marie and Rochelle and Leonna before her. They had all enjoyed that so much and The Beast thought it would make the already happy Jeanette even happier. But Jeanette didn’t like it.

“Leave them be,” she said. “They look pretty right where they are.”

The Beast took a handful of the flowers and yanked them from the ground, the roots dragging dirt and grass with them.

“I asked you to stop,” she said.

The sound of The Beast’s paws on her were like cannon fire.

He didn’t kill her, but the fight over the flowers was nearly the end of things. As she crawled back to her room after he had broken her legs and thrown clumps of dirt and handfuls of petals on her back, it seemed as if things with Jeanette would end. After her legs healed he broke them again just to make sure she never walked again. It was hard to tell if it was from the betrayal, from the pain, or because she missed her walks in the garden.

To try to make amends The Beast brought her wheelbarrows full of flowers but she refused to even look at them. He arrived with strange blue lilies, arms bursting with green, purple, and magenta irises. The daisies smiled for him, but she would not smile back.

It surely seemed to be over then. Almost all of the servants thought so. They thought that she would refuse to marry The Beast and that The Beast would drop her from the third floor balcony, or impale her on the gates out front, warning others not to betray him. Alain, however, who insisted he could tell the future, said that they would make up.

He explained that Jeanette would somehow find a way to pick a flower from the broken heap and to drag her broken body into his bedroom and leave the flower on his pillow. Alain explained that it would be the first time anyone had ever, or would ever, give The Beast one of the plump, vibrant flowers. They would never speak of it again, Alain said, but The Beast would one day carry her into the garden, swinging her close to the flowers so she could smell them. He wouldn’t pluck any more flowers for her, but they would always smile when they passed the rose bushes as if they knew something about the roses that no one else did.

Alain turned out to be right. One day The Beast carried her into the dining room where he tried and failed to situate her mangled legs in a way that might mitigate the discomfort she felt. She held his hand as she weathered the pain as if it had not been him who had broken her. Everyone was very still while she tugged on his paws and she teased him over how clumsy he was. Marcel expected him to swipe at her with his claws, but The Beast just laughed. That’s the kind of connection they had.

* * *

No one ever saw Jeanette eat very much. She picked at her food and described to the kitchen staff complicated diets that included strange rituals and days and times when certain foods like grapefruit and cheeses and carrots could and could not be eaten. It all sounded like madness to The Beast who would eat an entire deer to maintain the energy he would need to go and hunt more deer.

The Beast was constantly distracted by the scent of animals to hunt. He smelled them in the air at all hours of the day, no matter what task he was in the middle of. He could be exercising, or painting a still life, or trying to fix a leak in the roof. He could be in the middle of a conversation with a gentleman delivering eggs from the farm, or the stablemaster, or getting fitted by Pierre for a suit, and he’d have to stop what he was doing and run off into the woods after some bounding antelope or rabbit.

“Certain powers obey him. Others, he must obey,” Alain liked to say.

“Is that from The Bible?” Jean-Paul asked.

“It’s from a movie,” he said, “by a man named Cocteau, who has not yet been born. He will one day tell The Beast’s story in a film.”

“What’s a movie?” Jean-Paul wanted to know.

* * *

They were married the next time it turned spring. She made him promise not to throw a lavish wedding, nor to invite anyone she knew from before she was his captive. Marcel wed them in the chapel as the rest of the doomed servants stood silently as witnesses to the matrimony. Philipa and Jean-Paul helped Jeanette walk her twisted legs down the aisle to the altar that The Beast had constructed years before. Like most rooms on the first floor, it looked out over the rose garden and she sat perched on a stool, looking demure throughout the short ceremony. When it was over The Beast carried her up the stairs to his room and the next time he came down was no longer a beast, but a man.

Part IV: Correspondence from Jeanette to Her Father, Du Mercredi 22 June 17__

Dear Daddy,

I am married now. I so wish you could have been there to give me away, but alas I know that was not possible. Please know that the ceremony was lovely and that my marriage was presided over by a priest as pious and devout as our own Father Gabriel.

As I write this, a now married woman, I am sitting with the windows open, looking over the rolling hills while red deer and white rabbit frolic, beavers scurry, and genets squeak out their cryptic messages to one another. It can be like Eden here. Even when peregrine make a meal of one of their compatriots. It’s just as God intended, as Father Gabriel used to say. I sit and watch the fauna each morning as I sip my tea and eat my jammed toast. Sometimes I’ll even see Ibexes, heaving their great, curved tusks. They seem so sour and burdened that they make me think of you. Perhaps I just miss you. I do so miss your stories and the dinners we used to have. I even miss your moods and taking care of you when you are sick. My poor little Ibex.

I want you to know that I am living the life of luxury from the tales you used to tell me, spun from your memory like the finest cotton. You have given me the life you have always imagined for me, the life for which I have always longed. I have all the finest foods, jewelry, and clothes. The fires burn in every fireplace every night and the servants make sure I want for nothing.

And Daddy, he is not like they say. He can be gallant and charming. If you could only see the way he smiles when they bring him his dinner, or when his feet sink into the soft grass of the courtyard. And he is sad. So sad. Don’t you feel for a creature who is sad? Like that wounded opossum we found in our attic all those years ago? My beloved (and yes I do love him) has kindness in him too, but one must be patient enough for it. Sometimes he makes me think of the distant music you and I would hear on rare evenings when the sun was setting. We never figured out who was playing (you thought it was the St. Jacque brothers but I always imagined it coming from the Italian comedia troops as they rehearsed in town), but the sounds moved us so. Daddy do you remember how we would sit near the window and hold our breath and listen, afraid to move for fear we would scare the music off like it were a frightful bird? I know it’s silly but that is what I think of when I am with my beloved. I think of that music and how we had to be patient and still to wait for it to come.

He deserves this patience for no one knows the type of hardship he has endured. When I tell you, you’ll not think of him in the same way. It was a group of secretive men who cursed him; men more powerful than even the bankers and the governors who you so loathe. It turns out you were right about how men like that conspire. It was just like you said. There really are men who are cajoling the unrest we are experiencing now. And many years ago these same men caused unrest in the breast of my beloved.

When he was a young man, a handsome man, a rich man, he thought it prudent to join them. He inherited this enchanted property and like any man of wealth and means he thought it necessary to maintain his fortune and position, so he attended their meetings, wore their strange robes and participated in their rituals. They all wear robes and masks to obscure their identity and their intentions while they separate the world into lots they can trade like horses they no longer ride.

But my beloved, who did not look then the way he does now, was attacked by their strange magic because of his relationship with a girl who turned out to be the granddaughter of the leader of the group; a person my beloved calls The Owl. These men transformed my beloved into the shape he is now, the form that has haunted the countryside for so long. Do you know what they did to the granddaughter? I wish I could say, but you raised me to speak of things so horrid.

But the tales told about my beloved make me sad. He is not like they say. He is like any man. Like you, or Father Gabriel, or grandfather. Sometimes when we are together he reminds me of when I was a little girl and how you would chase me through the cottage and pretend to be a great lion. It is so long ago that I can only remember it as a smear of colors on my memory. The thrill of being chased and being caught stays with me to this day, as does the stir of emotions I felt when I was in your arms. But that was so long ago. It was back even before momma left for the nunnery. I hope she remembers us. I hope she prays for us.

I know you cannot write, but I know you love me and miss me. And I miss you so, my Daddy. Please Take care of the horses. I hope that they have enough to eat and that the dogs are keeping you warm at night. Tell Bon Bon to share his treats with Creeper and Blackie.

Yr. most affectionate and most gratefully humble Daughter,

Jeanette

Part V: Of Arrangements Regarding the Beast’s Wedding Gift to Jeanette Made Over an Opulent Dinner

After his marriage to Jeanette, The Beast was no longer a beast, the sacrament of matrimony, smashing into the curse with its own strange power, had made him a man again. His servants were still unable to leave the property; after all, no one had done anything to change their particular destinies or toss off the yoke of their oppressive consequences, but an era had come to an end and a new one was beginning. Everyone could feel it.

He was shorter when he was no longer The Beast, but he maintained the gravitas, the regal menace of an animal. It was as if all those things that had happened to those other women and to Jeanette’s legs had been done by someone else, but his eyes still looked like two fires in the distance, crackling and burning against a nighttime sky.

While the staff prepared for the dinner whereat The Beast would present his gift to Jeanette, he sat in the study and read volumes by Voltaire and de Sade. He wore that face that looked human, but wasn’t quite. The staff would pause what they were doing and look. They saw him as if he were someone new, someone different than The Beast they had come to know,

His clothes were different, newly tailored by Pierre to fit his slight frame, but the smell of him never changed. That acrid mix of wine and anger. And when they looked into his eyes and at the way he stood, they knew he was the same master they had always known, the one who used cunning and ancient magic to trap them all into his service.

The dinner that was being prepared was, in a history of lavish meals, the most singularly profligate. Alain cooked fennel and roasted the vegetables, a pig was on a spit, and venison that The Beast himself had hunted was slowly baking in its own juices. Jean-Paul, the kitchen servant cursed with knowing the innermost thoughts of every man and woman, busied himself with the desserts, taking over an entire auxiliary kitchen, filling every available surface with butter, cracked eggs and spilled sweet wine to make his signature parsnip pie, while Philippa, who because of her hex believed she would be set free that evening and so carried some food and the things most precious to her in a small bag, washed everything that could be laundered, including some linens and napkins that were not even soiled. Father Marcel made sure that the chapel was properly prepared, filling the basin with enough holy water so that it would not run out, but not enough that it would spill, replenishing the missals at each pew, and preparing the reading for when The Beast who was no longer a beast and his guests wanted to worship.

The gift was supposed to have been a surprise, but of course Jeanette discovered who was coming and what The Beast, who was no longer a beast, was planning to present her with. She wheeled into the kitchen in her wooden carriage, crafted for her by The Beast, and she oversaw the activities of the men who looked like men, but were somehow not as there was something ghostly in their faces and their demeanor.

“I am going to run an orphanage,” she said from the carriage in which she always sat since her legs had been broken. “I am married and I am going to run an orphanage.”

She said it as if it were a good thing. No one responded. Marcel and Alain just looked askance at one another and continued about their duties.

“And my husband loves me in a way that has transformed him,” she continued. “My love did that.”

The staff nodded and Jeanette smiled and she wheeled herself around the kitchen while the great feast was being prepared, one too extravagant for the four people who would be in attendance. She made decisions about the table settings and the color of the ribbons that would be tied around each and every utensil, and what foods would be served for each course.

“Would you like some help with the venison?” she asked Alain.

Alain looked up from the meal he was preparing. He breathed out and didn’t answer for a long time, and then sent her off to help Jean-Paul with the parsnip pie.

“I love parsnip pie,” she beamed as she coasted from the main kitchen.

When she left Marcel thought Alain might say something to him, something about what might happen at the dinner perhaps, but he didn’t. Alain and Marcel had not spoken for a long, long time and this new, post-Beast era couldn’t change everything.

Part VI: What Transpired at The Opulent Dinner Where Arrangements Were Intended to Be Made Regarding the Beast’s Wedding Gift to Jeanette

The Beast’s wedding gift to Jeanette was to be the orphanage she had always dreamed of. The day after the wedding, The Beast invited an official from the county to bribe him so he could obtain permission and permits to build the orphanage. The county official’s wife was vain and shallow, beautiful and mean. When The Beast saw her with her makeup, her corset yanked tight, and her perfume wafting behind her like a cloud, he understood exactly why men of power had wives like that. It was because they could. The Beast thought of The Owl and his beautiful wife and his beautiful daughter and beautiful granddaughter and how he had had such a beautiful family because of his status and his power.

When The Beast, who no longer looked like a beast, looked across the table at Jeannette who wore no makeup, whose stomach and bosom squeezed from her dress like dough, who smelled not like perfumes and soap but like body odor and his own musk, he snorted. The Beast knew that the official’s wife would never care to help the children no one else would help and he knew that made Jeanette a better person than the official’s wife, but she was homely and fat and that wasn’t the kind of wife he thought he deserved.

While the official talked about logistics and how good his constituents would feel about him if he managed to open an orphanage, The Beast, who was not a beast anymore, could not pay attention. He could only see the neckline of the official’s wife. He could only smell her scent. His mouth watered and he became filled with the kind of impulses for which humans were designed. He tried to hide it, but he could not.

“Yes, ramps will be needed so your wife’s carriage can be wheeled into the orphanage,” said the official.

“You don’t think the expense will be too dear?” The Beast who was no longer a beast asked, still looking at the official’s wife.

“Nonsense,” said the official. “There is always money to be had.”

“I don’t see why you’ll need to work there,” the official’s wife said to Jeanette. “You have this mansion. Cette magnifique manoir. I can’t imagine you’ll want to spend your time there when you could spend it here.”

“I wish I could explain it to you,” said Jeanette, reaching across the table to the parsnip pie she had spent the afternoon watching Jean-Paul make. “What do you love to do?”

“I love to look lovely and to greet my husband when he returns from the council chambers.”

“But what do you do when he is not around?” The Beast who was no longer a beast asked, apparently on his wife’s behalf but actually just as an excuse to have something to say to the official’s wife. “How do you spend your time while your husband is in the council chambers all day?”

“I feed parsnip pie to the pigs,” she said, turning to Jeanette without smiling, her eyelids like little guillotines, the blades dropping as she spoke.

“I’ve decided I don’t like you,” The Beast said. He looked more like The Beast than he had since before the wedding.

The official and his wife almost made it all the way to their carriage, but The Beast who looked like a man, but was still a beast, was able to head them off, killing their horses and sending the driver running before they could escape. The Beast used the butt of the driver’s whip to crush the official’s skull and he wrapped the business end of the whip around the wife’s throat and yanked on it until her tongue swelled from her mouth like wet dough squeezed too tight.

When The Beast returned to the dining hall where Jeannette sat, her useless legs twisted like the vines of a rose bush, all she needed to do was look at him to know what had happened. His hair flopped forward into his eyes and his vest was torn and bloodied.

He sat down on the floor, silently pouting, not able to meet Jeannette’s eyes. She sobbed and tried to forgive him for his transgressions, but The Beast killed her anyway. He tried not to. He put it off for many hours, but before the sun came up, she was dead, choked by his hand. He couldn’t take the soft way she was looking at him. He left her body there to rot. He didn’t know what to do with it and no one dared touch it.

Marcel, Philippa, and Jean-Paul hoped The Beast might finally kill them all. They looked on, obedient and supplicating hoping they might be favored with his strikes. They looked at Alain to see if he knew anything. To see if he revealed anything in his face. But, alas, only Jeanette was killed; all the rest were left alive. No one knew what was to become of The Beast once he tore Jeanette limb from limb nor what will become of the rest.

Well, actually, we all know what will happen. Alain can tell the future after all:

Concluding Section: What Will Become of The Beast Now That He Has Torn Jeanette Limb from Limb, and Also What Will Become of the Rest

The Beast will retire to his chambers and when he emerges once again, after many days of howling and screaming, he will be The Beast once again. The Beast we have all always known. The powerful, hairy, awesome beast. With his marriage dissolved, his body will revert to the shape it was when The Owl first cursed him.

Philippa will retreat to the laundry room and Jean-Paul to his mopping; Marcel will return to the chapel, Alain to the kitchen; and the rest of the servants will withdraw to wherever they can cower. They will act in a servant’s capacity until he dies, which he never will. Then, some connard will find his way into the garden and pluck a rose. The Beast will catch him and the coward will beg for mercy and offer his beautiful daughter in exchange for his own life, an agreement The Beast will accept. The belle fille will arrive and she will fall in love with La Bête. He will take human form and they will live happily ever after until he kills her.

At least that’s what Alain says when he tells his stories of the future. He’s never been wrong, but we can all hope that one day he will be. Sometimes his anger comes out in the telling, so perhaps things will work out for everyone in the end. But, then again, perhaps not.


Matt Meade is a stay-at-home parent, a sit-in-front-of-the-computer freelancer, and a once-upon-a-time problem drinker. His fiction has appeared in The Sun Magazine, The Rag, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. Some of his work, as well as the one good picture he has of himself, can be found at matthewthomasmeade.com.

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