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"The Beldam of the Ball" - by Aimee Kovac 

Aimee's work has appeared in various journals.  She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


© 2008 Aimee Kovac


There once lived a girl who was so beautiful that the cameras loved her.  Her mother and father were poor and unhappy and ate for fun.  "Why are you not fat?" the mother was often heard asking her daughter, and the father would glance sidelong at the girl and remember his wife when she was that beautiful.  The father was consumed with bitterness, and since he was averse to being on the receiving end of consumption, he replaced bitterness with enterprise and decided then and there to make an investment.  "We shall make our daughter famous, and then grow fat with riches instead of just food."  Both parents thought this was a fine idea, so they drove their daughter to New York City to seek representation.

It was not long before the public took notice of the girl's beauty, for she was the newest and prettiest famous face.  Cameras shot photos upon photos of her, and people were hired to color the photos to perfection, for no one's perfect, not even the prettiest.  The girl was on television.  The girl was in movies.  The girl was on the computer, on official and unofficial websites, and websites that posted images of her head attached to various naked female bodies so it was easier for viewers to imagine.  As her popularity soared, screenplays were molded around her.  She was supplied freshly written songs and a band, and she released a hit single called "(I Can Make It On My Own) Just Me" that made it to number three on the charts.  Over time, she lost more and more of her clothes until she was barely dressed before the lens and while walking on any red carpet.  With no fat on her bones, she was cold.  And life in the city was cold.  And her parents were toasty in their riches.

Unshaven men with cameras began to appear out of thin air.  These wizards of the unkempt realm had powers to sense when she was at her worst and POP! -- out from behind a corner they came, and SPRING! -- up from a sewer grate they sprung.  Before long, the girl was on the front page of magazines, above such captions as "Whose thighs are these? Celebrity cellulite, page 8!" or "Exposed! Young actress hides a 5-foot tail!"  She often shared the front page of magazines showing a baby sporting an alien head or the head of the Devil himself, or other images of like phenomena.  For the men, the girl was nice to look at, even with cellulite or a tail; for the women, the girl was fun to learn about.  All in all, everyone was happy, and there wasn't much change to life as everyone knew it.

Meanwhile, the girl became quite pale from a diet of celery sticks, the Maria Juanita, and microwavable Mexican food.  Her apartment had a sofa to sit on, which was sometimes all she needed.  The girl spent more and more time alone in her apartment until eventually she left only when summoned by her agent.  One day, she got a visit from her wise, old landlord.

"Girl," the wise, old landlord said, knowingly puffing his cigarette, "you mustn't sit in your apartment all day like this.  Go, and enjoy the sun."

"But there are wizards out there, wise landlord!" the girl cried out.  

"Child," the landlord insisted, "one can not sit for too long with one's only company being the sandwich baggies in the recesses of a coat closet."  He took a long drag of his cigarette and exhaled two fantastic smoke rings.  The rings rose and hovered around his penetrating eyes.

"Oh, wise landlord, I know this.  But I don't like it out there.  I don't know who I am anymore."

"Fine. Now listen carefully."  The landlord leaned forward.  He lowered his voice and slowed his speech and thus became extremely mysterious.  "There is someone you must seek, someone in whom your answer lies."

"What do you mean?  I don't even have a question."

"But child," he replied, "you do."

And with that, the wise, old landlord disappeared.  A sheet of paper drifted down from the remaining cloud of smoke and into the girl's hand.  Written on the paper was the address of the ugly, old woman from the girl's hometown.

"Why would the wise, old landlord send me to see the hag of Buffalo?" she wondered.  But she trusted the landlord's wisdom and took a cab to LaGuardia.


Upon arriving at the house of the hag, the girl's breath caught in her throat.  She had seen this house before in her dreams, or maybe in a movie or a book.  The house was covered with candy.  This seemed delicious at first, but as she drew closer to the house, she noticed the following: pieces of chocolate were melting and had bites taken out of them; lollipops were fuzzy with bugs; every marshmallow had a dirty fingerprint on it and was squashed; and chewed wads of gum of every color were stuck in impressive patterns resembling flowers, George Washington, Elvis, an Olympic diver in a back somersault tuck above a pool of wadded gum, Gandhi, and other such images.  One piece of hard candy looked good enough to eat, but on further inspection she saw it was a colorful button, stuck in some gum.

The door to the candy house opened before she could step on the porch.

"Can I help you?"

A stooped, heavily wrinkled woman stood in the doorway.  Her milky eyes squinted at the girl, then they sprung open and a dry smile split the woman's mouth ajar.  She had as many teeth as she had hairs on her head: three.  Clasping her hands together, she invited the girl in.

"No, that's okay," the girl said, "I think I'll pass."

"Oh! but you must," the hag argued.  "I've just put a large pot of water on the stove."

"I'm not hungry," the girl replied, taking a step back.  "I was told to come here.  The wise, old landlord said you had an answer for me."

"Ah.  The wise, old landlord."  The old woman twirled a chin hair while deep in thought.  "Let's see...let's see...aha!  Here is your answer: 546."


"I am that old in dog years.  You figure it out."

"That's not the answer I was looking for."

The old woman thought again for a moment then threw her pointer finger high in the air.  "If you stand downwind from a camel, you smell neither sand nor cactus flowers."

"No," the girl said, mildly annoyed, "that's not it either."

"Well, what is your question then, my pretty?"

Distracted by a sudden movement, the girl asked, "Pray tell, what is that behind your head?"

Without a glance behind her, the hag responded, "Why, that is the arm of my twin who lives at the base of my skull.  She is an arm to just above the elbow, a tooth, and a set of eyelashes.  My hair used to cover her up.  Would you like to meet?"

"Good God, no!"

The hag was not angry.  She was too busy smiling and winking and saying this: "Since I have answered your question, I now will eat you."

The girl took a giant step back and burped up a little vomit.  "No way!" she replied, wiping her lips with the back of her hand.  "You're old and gross!"

The hag pouted and drew circles on the ground with a long-nailed toe.  "Then at least take me to the city with you."

"Fine," the girl replied.

So the old woman and the beautiful girl hopped on a plane to New York City.  And from that day forward, the hag managed the girl's career and together they fired the girl's manager, and they reduced payment to the girl's parents to a reasonable monthly allowance.  The parents were furious at the girl for defying them, but were too afraid of the hag to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, the girl put on more clothes, ate well-balanced meals, quit the Maria Juanita, and became candid about her life.  This didn't bring in as much money, and it didn't do much for her physical appeal, but some women felt empowered by her and these women cried for her as they cried for themselves.  They bought the girl's lengthy, co-written autobiography, and they nodded their heads when the girl spoke of her experiences and her book on talk shows.

Though some people remained loyal to the girl, most were losing interest.  For the women, information about the girl no longer had that je ne sais quoi; for the men, information about the girl was never the point in the first place.  These people noticed the hag at the girl's side, and they were repulsed by her.  Repulsion turned into avid curiosity, and before long the old woman was all the news.  Her ugliness was as humorous as it was encouraging.  Even the women seeking empowerment transferred some interest from the girl to the hag, but not too much because even the empowered need a little beauty.

A ball was thrown for the hag and attendees paid $1,000 a plate.  All proceeds were to go towards WART (Witches Against Religious Tyranny).  There was celebration.  There was dancing.  There was discussion about the hag not being able to practice paganism openly and without discrimination.  The hag went along with the hurrah though she wasn't particularly spiritual and didn't consider herself a witch.  This, she thought, was an opportunity to increase her fame and perhaps get a little action.  She was unsuccessful with the latter, as most women present were beautiful models and actresses trying on witchery for fun; and though some were bi-curious, their interest in the old woman went only so far.

The hag sulked and drank Champagne while her twin snatched itty-bitty appetizers from passing trays and shoved them against its one tooth.  By the end of the night, the hag was happy, happy, happy and had clumps of food sliding off the back of her head.

Finally, it was time for the coronation, and when the trumpets began to blow, two lovely ladies in floor-length evening gowns shuddered and winced as they escorted the old woman to the stage.  Though the hag was in the middle of a well-lit banquet room and being guided efficiently, she groped her way.  The two lovely ladies eventually stepped aside and showed her how to get to the stage by pointing from a distance.

When the crown was placed on the hag's head, someone in the audience sighed, "She's the beldam of the ball," and all others sighed in agreement.  The hag was quite (the opposite of) stunning, and simply (not) ravishing (at all), and a sight for (causing) sore eyes (to bleed uncontrollably).  The sighs in the audience swelled to a cheer, and when the cheering reached such a level that the heavens and the underworld took part in the celebration, the twin raised the crown above the old woman's head and threw it high in the air.

         The story of this night lived in the minds and hearts of all for a long, long time.  And even after the hag died; and the girl got older and made a so-so comeback on a reality show and in a follow-up autobiography with her younger, prettier face on the cover; and the girl's parents moved back to Buffalo and built the biggest house the town had ever seen; the story remained.  And even a long time after that, when all the people in this story were dead, and new children were cropping up all over the world, this story could still be heard.  Each little girl who heard this tale knew that if she had the heart and the will to be something great, she may indeed become great.  If she were exceptionally pretty or horribly ugly.  Or if she knew the right people.










All work is copyrighted property of Aimee Kovac.





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