idol prize fight | week 19 | 1170 words
No one really understood the wolf. We wouldn't have blamed him for not coming to the meetings, but he did, every week. He was the only wolf there.
He was the only one who ever tried.
Me, I was just a frog. I had problems too, of course. All those princesses who balked at the thought of a simple kiss? I wasn't some toad who spent his days in the dirt, I was a clean, shiny frog. I had standards! What was so hard about a kiss? If I had to repeat the same stupid storyline over and over again, was it too much to expect a little cooperation? Instead, I'd been slapped with a sexual harassment suit. Now I was stuck in Anger Management therapy to work on my "issues" with women.
Hey, at least I never ate anybody.
Though if I had, would anger management really be the solution? I mean, if eating people was in your nature, well… that was disgusting, definitely, and no one liked to talk about it. But was that an anger problem, or just a fact of life?
It was tough on predators, for sure. Like that song—People who eat people are the loneliest people in the world, or something like that. Maybe the song was true?
But wolves were not people.
The real problem there involved witches, though only a few of them ever ate children. They were always the ones who refused to be reformed, of course. They were old-school witches, they didn't care what anyone else wanted. The witches who actually came to the sessions were there to work on their resentment of other people and their apparent need to curse the entire world.
Well, some of them, anyway. A lot of them were just everyday spell-casting hags, who were usually pretty nice. They only came to the meetings because their friends did, and because they liked the donuts.
While the ogres also ate humans, their situation was more like the wolf's because technically, the ogres were not people either. Their problem was that they were almost 95-percent anger, with the rest being 'stink.' They were in therapy because they couldn't get along with anyone, including other ogres.
It didn't do them much good, though, and they were lousy at sharing. They usually complained about the concept of therapy itself:
It often seemed as if half the fairytale world showed up at those group sessions, though. Everyone was angry about something these days. A lot of it had to do with modern thinking bleeding over into our world, along with slang and expectations of self-awareness. What a joke!
The three little pigs were riled up over building permits. The woodsman fumed about dating algorithms that kept matching him up with child-haters. A bridge troll argued that his right to refuse service to goats was being denied, and a witch ranted about something called 'helicopter parenting' diminishing her food supply.
One week, a new witch from the other side of the forest even complained that the girl she'd imprisoned in her tower had Oppositional Defiant Disorder. That was some irony, right there—the witch was angry that the child she'd mistreated was angry. She actually belonged in therapy, but honestly, what could you do with a person like that?
Or with dragons, who kidnapped princesses and scorched entire villages, and were worse than all of the other fairytale residents put together? Dragons definitely had anger issues, but nobody was going to tell them that —let alone try to force them to come to meetings.
So overall, I wasn't sure our group discussions actually helped anything. It was the same old stuff, week in and week out. When my turn came, I talked about the usual things: reluctant maidens, and how so many girls these days had overinflated egos and thus thought of themselves as princesses when they really weren't. Not to mention how little time I spent being a prince anymore, what with the frog-kissing shortage and all….
The wolf only talked a couple of times.
"I wouldn't have eaten her," he said. "The girl they called Red."
Everyone knew who Red was, though she wasn't part of anyone else's story.
"I'd planned to," the wolf went on, "But just as I was about to pounce, I hesitated. She was such a simpleton, you know? It seemed wrong. But then the woodcutter came, and it was all over..."
I was really surprised by that. But who knew if any of it was true? Could you really trust the word of a wolf?
How did you explain the fact that the story still kept repeating the same way afterward, with the wolf stalking the girl and then pretending to be her grandmother?
The wolf said it was because he was trapped in a loop, the same as the rest of us. That was how fairytales worked.
"I still have to go through the motions, even though I know it's wrong. It gets harder every time."
I didn't know what to believe. But that was one depressed wolf, and I'd never seen that before. After he talked about sparing the girl, one of the ogres shouted out "Me eat!" and everyone laughed. Everyone but the wolf—he just looked horrified.
He did seem to be listening during the group sessions, which was more than most of us did. Whether his revelation was sincere or not, he'd clearly done some thinking. The others mainly bickered and looked bored, and then went back to their usual habits as soon as the meeting was over.
A few months later, the wolf spoke again. He seemed almost happy.
"I've decided to embrace a new archetype," he told the group.
An archetype? What on earth was that?
The wolf explained that it was bigger than a fairytale—more of a meta-concept. That was just as confusing.
"It's called 'The Lone Wolf.' He does things his own way," he said. "And I was already becoming that."
So now the wolf could just be who he really was, instead of fighting with who his fairytale said he was supposed to be. And he had more flexibility now, too—the Lone Wolf didn’t even necessarily have to be an animal.
It got me thinking.
Could we change the path our lives were on? After all these years, I was tired of searching for princesses and trying to coax them into kissing me. And I was really tired of going to therapy.
What if I decided to just give the whole thing up? Was that even possible?
I'd spent so much time as a frog by now that I'd kind of grown used to it. It wasn't so bad.
Maybe full-time frog-dom was the answer? At least the rain would never bother me again…
And then someone else could deal with the problem of curses and kingdoms—and the credentials of all those would-be princesses—instead.
I liked how that storyline sounded.
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