|The Queen's Secret|
Photo Credit: Katie Tegtmeyer
My drunken father's boasting started it. "I'm just a miller, but my daughter, she has a real future ahead of her. Smart as a whip, beautiful as the day is long, and what's more, she can spin straw into gold."
He said it once too often, leaning against the bar, downing shots with his cronies. Next thing you know the King had me locked in a tower with orders to spin straw into gold. Three days, three nights, and then I'd be executed if I hadn't performed my trick.
I stared at the spinning wheel and piles of straw. A spoiled only child, I barely knew how to do ordinary household tasks. Given three days to spin fleece into wool or darn a sock or bake a loaf of bread, I would have had trouble. I curled up on a pile of straw and hugged myself, sobbing softly.
When I awoke, twilight had fallen. The most curious creature was staring at me from the corner of the room. No taller than my waist, he looked like a child with a cunning old man's face. His long blond hair was greasy and matted. "I can spin straw into gold," he whispered. "Give me your ring and I will start." The next night he asked for my necklace. On the third night I had nothing to give. He crossed his arms and refused to finish the task. I begged, I pleaded, I cried, I stamped my foot. He shook his head. "Give me your first born and I will finish spinning this straw into gold," he said. Never one to think of the future, I acquiesced.
You know the rest, or you think you do. How the King married me and the strange dwarf showed up nine months later as I cradled the young prince in my arms. Already I loved him beyond measure. I offered the wizened creature all the wealth in the kingdom if only he would leave us alone. "Keep your riches. If in three days you can guess my name, the child stays with you." The King's Secret Service fanned out into the mountains and forests and did their job. "Rumpelstiltskin is your name," I called out in triumph three days later. Such a tantrum! His face turned red. He spun in circles and stamped his foot so hard that it created a deep crevice, which he fell into, never again to be seen.
I hold my son close, cooing in his ear, inhaling his sweet scent. He screws up his little old man face and bawls until he turns beet red. I rock him tenderly, crooning, "Hush little baby, don't say a word. Daddy's secret name nevermore will be heard. Don't you cry, no, don't you frown. One day soon, you'll wear a crown."
My drunken father brags that his grandson is the richest, cleverest boy in the kingdom. "Drinks are on me," he cries, spreading his arms wide. "I'm sitting on a pot of gold."
Jacqueline Doyle's work has appeared in elimae, 5_trope, Monkeybicycle, Prime Number, Front Porch Journal, Blood Orange Review, Prick of the Spindle, Pear Noir!, California Northern Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, and elsewhere. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she teaches at California State University, East Bay. Email: jacqueline.doyle[at]csueastbay.edu