The assignment was to write a fairytale. In the Bronx,
twenty-eight fifteen-year-olds typed the words: Once
Upon a Time and everything that came after, was ugly.
The Girl with the Black Bird, begins like this: “Once Upon a time
a girl was in love with a boy, but the boy did not love her back
because she was too ugly.” Unable to endure the heartache,
she turns the boy into a black bird and carries him with her
where ever she goes. He pecks away at her shoulder, sings
the word ugly into her ear. She avoids mirrors.
In The Legend of AppleHead, a would-be-dazzling debutante’
has been cursed with a gigantic head. By story’s end, we learn
that she is not from this planet, and that her head is a bomb.
When it explodes, chunks of brain and ten bloody eyeballs
are splattered across the land. They hang from tree limbs like frogs.
The Rare Glove is the story of a man who always wore one ugly,
yellow, rubber glove on his left hand. Fed up with the pig-skin
look of it, his wife feverishly yanked off the sleazy mitt.
Her husband choked on his own tongue.
In the Silver Fang, the heroine is buck-toothed. Even her own mother
cannot stand to look at her. She wears an eye-patch on both eyes.
In The Tale of the Evil Lipstick a haggard old witch has concocted a velvety
purple varnish that will turn a woman’s face inside out when she smears it on.
In The Girl from Mud Swamp, an orphan lives in a dump out in the woods.
Her hair looks like a 10-year-old broom stick, and she stinks like fish.
Once Upon a Time, fairytales were decked with golden thread,
pearls the color of snow, and pouts in the fashion of perfect
red figs. Even the odd duckling or beast was always denied the fate
of ugliness by tale’s end. Be it by kiss or needle or ladder of hair.
I’m beginning to fear that my students
can’t seem to dream-up any beauty in the world.
Then I read the story of The Huge Ugly Man and the Princess.
It seems that this pink-lipped doll prefers her man dog-faced,
and that her love for him is fervent, despite his mammoth-like warts,
gargantuan thumbs, and nests of hair that grow between his toes.
When he asks her if her affection is true, she tells him,
“Yes, Huge Man, I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
And so, they are joined. A ceremony is held in the dark of the forest,
and every single ugly person from their town is in attendance.
Believe it or not, despite the ugly,
they live happily ever after.
Erica Miriam Fabri