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  Fairytale - A Rewrite

Once upon a time there lived a middle-aged woman. She lived in a house on a hill, with her neurotic husband and two video game addicted children. Sometimes she dreamed of a fairy godmother who would come and rescue her. But like the rest of her dreams it was swamped by reality.

The woman lived in a small country town. It was near, but not in, a city. The city too was small, but still a city. The town planner said so. At the bottom of the hill, on top of which the woman lived, was a creek. On the bank of the creek was a caravan. It wasn't a shiny new Glendale or Viscount but a dirty old No Name van, and in the van lived a dirty old No Name man. People tended to avoid the old man, which suited him just fine. He didn't like people anyway. Except the woman. Every day when she finished her cleaning and cooking and washing, and the ironing she took in to help pay the bills, she walked down the hill to the van. The man made tea in chipped enamel mugs. It burnt the mouth. They were friends, the woman and the man with no name.

One day when she walked down the hill, the old man didn't come out to meet her. She called, but there was no answer. She looked along the creek bank, but she couldn't find any sign of him. The woman thought about looking in the van. He had never asked her in. She couldn't pry. The woman headed back up the hill. But a niggling doubt pulled her back. She returned, called again, banged on the door. No response. Reluctantly, she opened the door and looked inside. The old man was on the bed, unconscious. The woman tried to rouse him, but to no avail.

She ran back up to the house and drove her car down the hill. Luckily she was a big woman and the man was a small man. She half dragged, half carried the man to the car, and headed for the hospital in the city. It wasn't a long drive and the man seemed comfortable enough. His breathing was laboured, but he was breathing.

When she got into the city the woman drove in the left lane, because she was logical and knew her place. Also she didn't like changing lanes. She knew the way to the hospital. Once she had worked there as a clerk. Before she married. She knew the two lanes didn't go all the way to the hospital. They merged, then split into two again. But the turn-off to the hospital was on the left, so she drove in the left lane.

The woman felt concerned for the old man. She blamed herself for not insisting he see a doctor sooner. He had been coughing all week. But he hated hospitals and refused to go into the city. It wasn't far now to the hospital. They were expecting them, because the woman had rung and told them she was bringing the old man in. So she continued along in the left lane.

From time to time she glanced in the rear-view mirror and the side mirrors to see what was going on around her. She saw cars come up behind her, change lanes and dash past. Some turned off onto side streets. Cars went past in the right lane. She caught sight of the old white Holden in the side mirror. It was a station-wagon. Like so many of the cars it was going too fast.

Before she could think another thought she felt the jolt. She braked. The car kept going, towed along in the wake of the great white Holden. The monster had a big chrome rear bumper bar, and as it was changing lanes it had hooked it under her front mudguard. She was stuck fast. Finally both cars stopped.

The woman sat. She looked at the old man. Still breathing. She sprang out. She had to get rid of the other car and get to the hospital.

"You stupid bitch. Why don't you watch where you're going? This is all your fault."

Yes, thought the woman, all my fault. I should have taken him to the hospital yesterday. I must get there now.

"Yes", she said, "I must get to the hospital".

The man ripped his car free.

"What's your name? You'll be hearing from my insurance company about this," he.

"Yes," said the woman, "I have to get to the hospital."

She drove to the hospital. It smelt of pain and analgesics. The old man was taken away on a stretcher.

"Now madam, I just need to take down a few particulars."

"Yes", said the woman.


"Sylvia ..."

"No, no. The patient's name."

"He doesn't have a name."

"Don't be ridiculous, of course he does."

"Yes. But I don't know what it is. I'm sorry."

"Are you a relative?"


"A friend?"


"Good, then you must know his name or at least where we can find a relative."


"His address?"

"Oh yes. He lives by the creek. In a caravan. He'll be all right won't he?"

The woman heard from the insurance company. She had to go to court. She had to go into the city once more. The court was even colder than the hospital, more hostile. Alien. The woman became the witness.

"Do you recall the events of the morning of ... ?"


"Do you ... ? Did you ... ? So, you drove all the way to the hospital in the left lane?"


"But there isn't always a left lane, is there?"

"Yes, there isn't always a right lane."

"So, you admit you constantly hugged the left side of the road."

"No, don't put words in my mouth. I drove in the left lane, in the middle of the left lane, whether the right lane was there or not."

"Would the witness please restrict herself to answering the questions."

"Yes, your Honour. Could he please restrict himself to asking them?"

"Did you observe the other traffic?"


"So you saw the white Holden before the accident?"

"Yes, briefly."

"Yet you failed to avert the accident. In observing the traffic did you glance over your shoulder for a direct view?"


"So, you failed to properly observe the other traffic."

"Look, if you keep turning around looking over your shoulder there's a fair chance of hitting the car in front of you if it stops. You might drive like that, but I use my mirrors to look behind me, except

when I'm pulling out into traffic."

"Will the witness please refrain from giving unsolicited comment. Restrict yourself to the questions Madam, or you will find yourself in contempt of Court."

"Yes your Honour."

"Isn't it true that immediately after the accident, you admitted causing it?"


"Come now. When told by my client, 'This is all your fault', did you or did you not, say 'Yes'."

"Well, not really. You see, I was thinking ... "

"Madam, answer the question, yes or no."

"Yes your Honour."

They were doing it again. Putting words into her mouth. Turning her into a dummy that mouthed their words. Not the truth, not her truth. Facts don't make something true. She wanted it to stop. She wanted out of that room, with its smells of timber and age, leather and after-shave. She wanted air, and to be away from all those angry eyes. Where was her fairy god-mother when she really needed her? No, she was alone. If this was going to stop, she would have to stop it. If she wanted anyone to listen, she would have to talk. This was life, not some dumb fairytale. The only fairy god-mother around was herself.

"No your Honour. No. I did not say I was to blame for the accident."

"Sit down".

"No your Honour, I haven't finished. This creep ran into my car and now you want me to say I did something wrong when I didn't and I won't."

"Madam you are in contempt of Court. Fourteen days might quieten you down. Bailiff."

The woman went to jail. Reporters came. People listened when she spoke. The judge reviewed his decision and she was released. But she kept talking.

Not just to the old man when he came out of the hospital, but to neighbours, and to people at the school. She embarrassed her family. She talked to people in the street, and people in shops.

And sometimes, someone listened.




    © 2012