One perfect day in the Province of Pixieland a plump pony pranced down a pebble strewn path that led through the pine trees of the Plutonian Park. Sitting astride her back was the pixie princess Penelope. She was perfectly pleased with the picturesque beauty of the park and wasn't paying attention to the path before her.
Suddenly from seemingly nowhere a poisonous python slithered underneath her pony's paws completely petrifying the poor creature. In a state of panic the pony leaped over the python pitching Penelope off of her back, pell mell down the path she landed with a plop in a patch of wild peonies. The pony ran away in the direction of the palace.
Panting, Penelope picked herself up from the ground. "Oh Pshaw!" she cried when she saw the dark purple stains on her party pinafore from the peonies. She wiped the few tears pooled on her cheeks and tried to clean the stains from her pinafore. But hard as she tried it still looked as if someone had spilled plum juice all over her and she realized the stain was permanent. She straightened her pointy wings and shook them gently to drop the speckles of dirt from them.
She reached into her pocket and pulled forth a packet of pistachio flavored popcorn kernels. The magic kernels were supposed to make you feel pessimistic and Penelope felt the need to pamper herself. So she popped one in her mouth and was quite perplexed at the speed with which it dissolved on her tongue.
The powerful potion of the popcorn made her feel so good that she began to dance around the park. Suddenly she felt the presence of another person and turned to see a peasant boy coming from behind the pomegranate bushes. Not wanting to be seen she quickly hid behind a pudgy pine tree.
The peasant boy saw the pale pink of her pinafore sticking out from the tree and quickly he drew forth his pencil shooter and aimed it at the pine tree. He pulled the trigger. Pencils and occasionally a pen flew through the air and pegged into the trunk.
Penelope screamed at the pointless persecution and ran out from behind the tree. When the peasant boy noticed the pixie princess he promptly fell to his patched knees and plead for forgiveness. The putrid smell of his filthiness filled Penelope's nostrils but when she looked at the pitiful peasant she couldn't help but laugh and forgive him.
At the sound of her perfectly pleasing laugh Peter, the peasant, lifted his head. His eyes probed her face and when he saw the mess she was in he too began to laugh.
Penelope's pride was hurt at his prank and she turned on the pathetic peasant. "How dare you poke fun at me." she cried.
"I'm so sorry," panted Peter, "but you are such a mess."
"I'm a mess!" cried Penelope, her pupils growing to twice their normal size. "I presume you haven't seen yourself lately. You smell like pig poo and don't look such a perfectly painted picture either. You provoke me with your prideful personality."
"Please pardon me Princess!" Peter sobered up, "I forgot my place. I hope you don't take it personal." He bowed his head again.
"It's alright," said Penelope. "People always say mean things to me then, remembering the power my parents have as rulers over the Province of Pixieland, they beg pardon, which of course I properly give."
"I know I should pay a penalty for my persecutions, but I promise to protect you from whatever pain I can as a penance for my meanness," Peter pledged.
"Thank you," Penelope smiled. "But that seems a pointless pledge as when we part I don't presume we will be in each other's presence again and this whole incident will become part of the past."
"I pray that the princess doesn't thing me pushy, but these parts of the land are very perilous especially for one lone person. You are much better off to travel in pairs and I would like to be your partner and see you safely to the end of your journey," he said politely.
"That pleases me very much. I am only going to the palace which is not more than a few paces from this place. I was out riding my pony when he was petrified by a poisonous python on the path and he ran away leaving me in a heap on the ground. Hence the mess. Now I'm trying to make my way home before my parents panic."
"I don't have a pony or any other mount for the princess, but I will walk alongside you to the palace and protect you from anything, whether it be demented penguins or famished piranhas. So Penelope pointed in the direction of the palace and off they pattered.
Penelope tried hard to keep up with Peter's fast pace and soon she began to perspire profusely. She persuaded Peter to stop for a moment of peaceful rest.
They parked beside a pure pond. Penelope sat beneath the shade of a giant poplar tree. A pair of peacocks spread their plumes and strutted around the pond. "It's like poetry!" sighed Penelope as she pondered on the particular peace of their small paradise.
"I hope you don't think me presumptuous for asking but why don't you fly from place to place?" asked Peter. "After all, you are a pixie and you do have wings."
"Well, people do try to persuade me to tell them the story and I don't like to but you seem to probably be a caring person so I shall tell you. When my mother was pregnant with me she received a parcel of pickled peas. She ate the peas and they were poisoned. She came down pneumonia and as a result I was born with a paralyzed wing." Penelope sighed, "My mother took my problem to the most professional pediatricians and they all prescribed pricey pills for their patient to take." She then chuckled, "One pathetic physician even said I should wear polyester pajama pants and sleep without a pillow but of course nothing worked and still I can't fly. I'm able to float a little but it takes a lot of patience and practice to keep from falling."
"I'm sorry. I'm sure your parents tried everything for their precious baby. As I believe there is no price too great to pay for health and perfection." Peter patter her arm reassuringly.
He took the pack from his back and pulled some cold potatoes out. He passed one to Penelope. It was wrapped in wax paper to preserve the freshness. "Sorry I have no plate to put them on," he apologized. He then put a small pile of black pepper in her palm and she pinched a sprinkle over her portion of potato. The taste was unlike anything Penelope had eaten before and her stomach rumbled with pleasure as it was filled.
Next Peter pulled forth a perfect peach and a pastel pear. "You pick," he offered. She took the perfect peach and with pleasure she sunk her pearly whites into it's fuzzy peelings. The crisp sweetness pleased her immensely and she thanked Peter profusely for his kindness in allowing her to partake of his small picnic.
"No problem," Peter assured her. "Most people would perish to dine with a princess. Especially one that presents such a pretty picture as yourself."
Penelope blushed a dark pink and absently played with a stray lock of her golden tresses, which was her habit when embarrassed. "I'd forgotten who I was being here with you and looking like I do," she chuckled.
"I beg pardon, but your look is priceless," Peter laughed as Penelope pushed the stray lock behind her ear and giggled. A lone pigeon flew down from her roost in the overhanging branches and began pecking at the fallen crumbs of their forgotten picnic.
The sight of another life reminded Penelope where she was and she quickly stood. "We must get moving before it gets any later. There is to be a party at the palace tonight in honor of some pompous Prince Paganini. I've never met him but my parents hope I will choose him to spend the rest of my life with. I hate having to perform before the public but I guess I chose my lot in the preexistence."
Peter stirred uncomfortably at the name of Prince Paganini but he stood and said, "Then I guess our hour of a perfect picnic is over and we shall leave this small paradise to some other passerby to partake of it's perfection." He packed the remains of their picnic and then followed Penelope down the path.
They reached the palace gates just as Polaris was beginning to twinkle in the sky. Peter took Penelope's hand and gently placed a kiss on her fingers. "I never believed it possible that I could enjoy such a day with a princess and though I will not be seeing you again I want to thank you for this pleasurable afternoon."
"Don't be silly," Penelope laughed. "You shall see me again for I shall order you to the palace where I shall delight you with a performance on my pianoforte."
"Would that the pleasure could be mine," Peter sighed, "But one day you will understand." With these peculiar words of farewell Peter parted from the pixie princess and disappeared into the darkness.
"Wait!" Penelope called out. "Come back!" there was no answer and the perplexed princess turned to the castle.
"Who goes there!" a voice called from above.
"It is I, Princess Penelope."
The guard laughed to himself at the thought of the princess being out on such a night. "What is the password?" he asked.
Penelope quickly recited a popular poem about painting poppies and the guard let down the portcullis. "Pardon me for not recognizing you but I couldn't see you well in this darkness," he stammered.
"It's quite alright." She ran quickly across the patio and up the porch steps. She paused before the huge pine doors to catch her breath then realizing that their could be people already there for the party she frantically ran around the side of the palace and through a small secret passageway not many people knew about.
The passage led into a small parlor next to the family's private living quarters and as Penelope moved the large painting covering the opening a surprised maid screamed.
"Polly it is only I the princess," Penelope quickly revealed herself.
"Oh Princess, I did not know. My, what a panic the palace is in looking for you!" cried the startled maid.
"Find my parents and send them to me quickly," Penelope ordered as she hurried from the parlor and into her rooms. She threw her stained clothes into the closet and donned a plush robe just as her door was thrown open and her parents flew in.
"Oh my precious princess!" Queen Pamela sobbed as she enveloped Penelope in her pudgy arms. "I've been so paranoid. When I learned your pet pony returned without you I thought some horrible peril had befallen you. I knew we shouldn't have let you ride alone! I was running around the palace like a possessed person, calling the police to send a search party out for you. Fortunately my physician said my condition wouldn't be permanent and once you returned I'd feel better and I already do."
"I can't breathe!" Penelope choked.
"Pamela! You are suffocating our daughter," King Phillip pointed out.
"Don't patronize me Phillip," Pamela puffed as she released her hold on her daughter. "Can't you see I've been panicked at the thought of losing my darling pixie!"
"I'm fine Mother."
Queen Pamela suddenly remembered the party and gasped, "We must make a plan, guests should be arriving any moment and we are not ready to present our princess. Quickly Phillip you must keep them preoccupied while I perform magic and transform this dirty pixie into a princess! Polly! Perdita! Come quick!" she called as she grabbed Penelope's hand and rushed to her powder room.
"We have your gown ready to throw on. It's nowhere near plain!" Queen Pamela assured her.
Polly rushed in with a pale periwinkle gown set in pearls. It was exquisitely perfect, made from the most popular pattern and Penelope forgot about her tired muscles as they pulled it over her head and around her wings.
Her mother pinched her daughter's cheeks and primped her hair then she took some slippers from atop her dresser and placed them around her tiny feet. She took a pricey peridot pendant and placed it at her throat. Then stepping back she admired her daughter with all the pride only a mother can feel. "Perfect," she whispered.
"Let's move dearest mother," Penelope prodded, "We can't be too late."
"Prince Paganini is going to adore you!"
"Don't remind me."
As the double doors opened the music ended and the dancers stopped their promenading around the floor. Everyone stood tall and bowed their heads as a beaming Queen paraded her darling daughter through the room and up to the throne where her father awaited her.
Penelope curtsied low before her father as was the custom. King Phillip took her hand and led her up the steps to stand beside him. "I would like to present you to the Prince of Picasso, Peter Paganini. You will honor him as his partner for the first dance."
As Penelope met Peter's eyes she gasped slightly in surprise. A broad grin split Peter's face as he took her arm and led her down the stairs and onto the dance floor.
"Your Highness," he bowed and the music started. Penelope placed her palm in his and they twirled around the floor.
"The peasant boy! I don't believe it. Is this your punishment for my pride?" she asked.
"Oh certainly not. But I would have given all the pennies on the planet to capture your look of surprise when you saw me."
"So you pretended to be a peasant? Why?"
"I wasn't pretending. You never asked my if I was the prince."
"I don't normally make it my practice to ask every peasant I meet whether he is secretly royalty or not."
"Well my Pixie Princess, do you find me as pompous as you presumed me to be?"
"No," Penelope smiled, "You're perfect."
"I think it would please your parents and mine, if you chose me to be your prince, pompous as I may be."
"I think it would please me very much to be your princess," Penelope laughed her perfectly pleasing laugh as Peter picked her up and twirled her around the room and onto eternity!
THE END, of a perfectly plotted parable!