Toil and Trouble (Part 2) by Barbara Ardinger

Continued from Part 1.

“Mirror, mirror, on the table,
Show us all that you are able…”

The witch and her ad hoc coven and the ravens are leaning forward to see and hear more clearly what the mirror is showing them. The scarecrow wearing the human mask and his Gollumesque advisor are suddenly standing in a formal garden and addressing an audience that consists of a dozen rows of handsome but uncharming and self-important princes and (possibly) some princesses.

“Those girls are all captives,” Ella says. “Like I was until I started thinking for myself.” She gasps. “Oh, look—my sisters Annette and Darlene are there, too. When did they surrender?” As she begins weeping (she can’t help it), Mrs. Bezukhov pulls her into her arms. “Look, my Pierre is there, too,” she whispers. “He was always so kind, so smart…he spent his days helping other people. How could he stand among those, those—I don’t know what to call them.”

Suddenly—is that the shadow of a pair of black wings they see? Another raven? But the bird is barely visible.

“Wow, there’s ol’ Bunbury!” the ravens standing around the mirror exclaim. “No one can ever tell for sure if he’s real or not, but he sure is one smart bird.” “I bet he’s directin’ this here mirror,” Kahlil says.

“We have many treemates,” Domina informs the women, “I suppose what you’d call a flock. We’re everywhere. It’s our duty to keep an eye on the humans.”

Mrs. Worthington points at the princes, rows and rows of them, every one in a spotless uniform and decorated with innumerable medals that commemorate nothing. “Bah! They look like a male chorus in some old operetta set in some nonexistent kingdom. Which is what El Presidente is turning our nation into. What nonsense!” She looks around the room. “What do we do now? Where’s our magic?”

“You’re right,” says the witch. “We’ve turned El Presidente into a scarecrow, but what can we do with his disciples?”

And as the women start rubbing their hands together and humming, plumes and veils of nonsense (not to mention chaos and confusion) begin flowing around the room. The ravens flap their wings to help it move. Even the magic mirror gives a hiccup of approval and pans again across the rows of handsome but totally uncharming princes.

“Think of the fairy tales,” says Ella. “The handsome prince rides up on a white horse. He begins singing in that pure tenor voice. The downtrodden girl sings back. Even the cute little forest critters start singing. And it’s love in bloom. Well, yeah, I fell for it, too, didn’t I. And so did my sisters. And practically every other girl I’ve ever met. Are we all suckers for those dumb songs? Ladies, we have to help those enchanted, besotted, captivated girls.”

The witch stands up. “She’s right. Let’s do it! Let’s throw chaos and nonsense at those princes. Take away El Presidente’s audience…and see how he acts then. Hah!”

The circle is cast. Mrs. Janedoe, standing in the north, begins the invocations. “Powers of Earth, come to our circle and help us fling nonsense at those princes. Spirits of mischief, you’re the rise in the ground that will make them tumble head over heels, the mud and beer they’re gonna spill all over their tidy white uniforms. Powers of nonsense, we send you to the capital city!”

Mrs. Bezukhov is standing in the east. “Powers of Air, come to our circle. You’re their brain dumps, their lost logic, their open flies. Blow clean winds through their empty heads. Powers of nonsense, we send you to the capital city!”

Mrs. Worthington is in the south. “Powers of Fire, come to our circle. Spirits of mischief, you’re the the fart and the belch that overcome them in polite company. Scorch those princes and burn their male privilege out of them. Powers of nonsense, we send you to the capital city!”

The witch is in the west. “Powers of Water, come to our circle. You’re the dirty jokes and silly lies they tell us, the dirty water they spout. Give those princes a reality bath. Powers of nonsense, we send you to the capital city!”

And Ella, with a raven on each shoulder, has climbed up to the center of the table. She looks down at the rows of princes on view in the mirror. “Powers of the Nonsense underlying what only looks like law and order—come to life among those ugly, uncharming princes that are blind and deaf to real people like us. Exercise your role in creation, destruction, and re-creation. Don’t just touch their lives—knock ’em over! Make them see what’s going on, what they’ve been doing.” A brief pause. “And free my sisters. Free all of our sisters.”

The cone of power is spinning around the table so fast now that Ella is nearly knocked off her feet. The women all have to sit down. Even the ravens have to flap their wings to maintain their balance. Whoosh! Boom! Whoosh-boom! The cone of power strikes the surface of the mirror. The video disappears as the mirror opens like the mouth of Pinocchio’s whale. The cone flies in so fast it sucks the ravens along with it.

Ahh, the video is back. The princes are all on their feet, knocking the folding chairs over, jumping up and down, striking heroic poses and falling down. Some are hurling their plumed hats and golden swords into the air. Now they’re all down. Crawling on the ground, pulling up the grass and stuffing it into their mouths. Up again. Throwing chairs at each other. Trying gymnastic tricks. Throwing up (that grass they ate) on themselves and each other. Making other body noises. Ripping their phony medals off their chests. Doing some sort of circle dance, in and out, up and down, do they think they’re the Rockettes? Are they levitating? They all fall down again.

The ravens, led by Bunbury, flashing in and out of visibility, begin diving into the piles of princes. But look closer—they’re herding the captive girls out of the corral (so to speak). They’re leading the so-called princesses, all of them totally dazed and confused, out to the street, where there just happens to be a magical school bus waiting at the curb. That bus will be heading out of town.

It’s almost an afterthought—El Presidente and his Gollumesque puppeteer are down, too, curled into fetal positions.

To be continued…

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (, is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.

Categories: Art, Fiction, Folklore, General, Women's Voices

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8 replies

  1. “…every one in a spotless uniform and decorated with innumerable medals that commemorate nothing.” Love it! Looking forward to what happens next!


  2. “…Throwing up (that grass they ate) on themselves and each other.” Oh this just keeps getting better! I too am looking forward to what comes next.


  3. good one Barbara … a good strategy indeed!


    • Thanks, Carol. I love your comments that question a point in a post or correct or give more information. Do you know any ravens personally??


  4. what a gripping drama!


  5. Many thanks.


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