Author Archives: Steve


Once deep down in the underground kitchen of a great palace a little sculger toiled for all she was worth day after day after day. The sculger, being the lowest servant possible, didn’t even have a name. The cook ordered her about with ‘Here, you!’ or ‘Hurry up with that, you!’ The sculger, up early to build the fire, up late to sweep the ashes, hardly had time to think. But think she did every night for up to three full minutes before she fell exhausted on her straw to sleep.

O twig, she would think, one day perhaps if I work long and hard enough I‘ll be allowed to go outside and look at the sky. I really would like to see it just once before I die.

The little sculger confided in her twig. She had found it among the kindling scraps one morning and had hidden it away in her smock pocket until she was able to shelter it out of sight in a wall crack next to her straw bed. She sang to it three minute songs and told it three minute stories before she slept, no longer able to keep her eyes open.

One morning Her Most Glorious Eminence, the Queen, descended unannounced to the kitchen. The cook nearly fainted. The little sculger, standing by the oven, tried to wish herself invisible.

‘Cook, what is that little bit there?’ said the Queen, pointing a finger burdened with jewelry at the sculger.

‘It’s the sculger is all it is, Your Most Glorious Eminence,’ said the cook.

‘Have it approach me,’ ordered the Queen.

The cook’s fierce glance caused the little sculger to shuffle forward a few feet, head bowed.

‘Hmm, have it cleaned more often, cook, and no excuses!’ said the Queen, and she turned and ascended the stairs without another word.

The cook, who normally never moved from her position standing by the table ordering the sculger to bring her this or that or the other, fetched a bucket of water and dumped it on the sculger.

‘There, that’s done then,’ she said before resuming her position by the table and calling out her next order.

At the end of the day, the little sculger wept her despair to the twig for three full minutes, then fell asleep. The twig shivered, lurched, began to glisten in the night. It became supple. It became a golden serpent. It twined around the sleeping sculger’s wrist.

The little sculger opened her eyes in the morning. How green and soft was the grass! How lovely the stream and the flowers! How sweet the perfect little cottage! And yes, how heavenly blue was the sky!


Here is an example of the flash fairy tales I post now and again at


In the time of castles a sad queen slipped into the woods on a blue moon midnight. She hurried along the glow of a path lighting up in front of her as she muttered over and over again, ‘Never forever.’ When the cottage appeared under a drapery of vines, as she had been told it would, she stopped in her tracks and shuddered. Summoning courage for her child’s sake, she walked forward and resumed repeating, ‘Never forever.’ The cottage door swung open.

‘So here a visitor, is it? What would ye ask of Old Nan, daughter?’ asked a cracked scrape of a voice. ‘Stand still and advance not one more step.’

‘Never forever, never forever,’ repeated the sad queen, standing stock-still.

‘That’s right, my dear. Say it again and again. Ah, I see, but your daughter doesn’t,’ said Old Nan, and she cackled. ‘What reward for a daughter’s sight restored? Hmmm, Old Nan, what do ye need? Not a thing. I have all I want … but wait. I know. A troubadour to sing to me two evenings a week. More would be annoying, that’s true. If ye agree, continue repeating “Never forever.”‘

‘Never forever, never forever,’ repeated the queen with increasing urgency.

Old Nan beckoned. The queen entered the cottage, and was instantly struck blind. Or so she thought. Blackness all around, fear in her heart, nevertheless she continued to say, ‘Never forever.’ Soon a tiny flicker of a flame danced in the blackness in front of the sad queen’s eyes.

‘Never forever, never forever,’ she said, an ember of hope reborn in her soul.

Old Nan cackled. The queen awoke in her chamber. Her daughter, the princess, rushed in singing, ‘I can see! I can see!’



Following the death of L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson was asked by the publishers of the Oz books to continue the series with new stories. She accepted the honor of becoming the 2nd Royal Historian of Oz by producing one Oz book each year through the 1920s and 1930s. My own particular favorite of hers, The Gnome King of Oz, was the Oz book for 1927. It boasts an impressive mound of humor, wordplay and imagination. For instance, the Quilties of Patch make quilts, and their Queen, Cross Patch the 6th, falls to pieces one day. This, however, is no cause for alarm, because, as Ruth explains:

When a Quilty goes to pieces, his relatives or friends sweep up the scraps and put them away in a tidy scrap-bag and in ten years or so he comes out of the bag as good as ever.

Ruth loved adverbs and peppered and salted her prose with them. Some examples:

Giant fish wallowed desperately…

‘Blunderoo!’ breathed Peter softly.

‘Come on! Come on!’ wheezed the old Gnome King frantically.

…a golden haired mermaid plunged boldly from the window of a coral castle…

mumbled dizzily – scowling terribly – brushed rudely – nodded gloomily – yawning tremendously – answered saucily – and so on and so forth and 5th and 6th and 7th.

Why did she love adverbs so much? She couldn’t help it. After all, her middle name was Plumly.

And so, in honor of Ruth Plumly Thompson, 2nd Royal Historian of Oz, I am pleased to announce that the character narrating my new fantasy from Wild Child Publishing is to be called Plumly.


A pun jumped into my brain the other day, and I had to use it before it escaped. So here goes:

‘The wife’s lookin’ for ya. She’s to the bottom of the hill,’ Matty informed his shipmate, Dave.

‘Oh, she is, has it?’ said Dave, and he drained his tapered glass of ale. ‘Draw me another, Tim.’

Tim refilled Dave’s glass.

‘There now, I’ll be back before I’ve gone,’ said Dave, raising his full glass in a farewell salute and sauntering out the door.

Nursing his glass of ale, he went down to the she in sips.