The fifth of December in Lululand
Saw the beautiful Marinne sitting in despair
Upon the steps of Rumspiel Castle
As she drank a Slurpee made
Of raspberry tea.
“Oh woe,” she said to no one in particular,
Eyeing the gardens of viorose and dandunia.
“What is wrong?” asked Groundskeeper Joe,
Sitting upon the steps with a broom across his knees.
“Well that Larga has forbidden me from the gardens, Joe.
No longer can I tend the pettriffids and the barigold,
Or the daffdulas or the lilikes. I am not allowed again
Into the gardens I have tended for so long.”
“Well,” said Joe, lighting his coal-pipe with his fingers.
“I’m sorry for your woe. And that you won’t be able
To work any longer in your gardens of gold.
But I think it might be because Larga, though a Countess she may be
Is not so pretty as you, Marinne, and not nearly so full of glee.”
“Sigh,” sighed Marinne, “that may very well be, Joe.
But why must she be so so so awful to me?
What ever did I do to her? Why does she dislike me so?”
The day was sunny when it heard Marinne’s remarks.
And one might have thought that better days awaited
The slight, blond-haired maiden.
But the next day she was sent to a storage room,
Deeper than even the deepest dungeon,
With a broom and a sack, and nothing but
For day upon day of back-breaking cleaning.
“Cough cough,” she said to the mice and the cats.
“Well hello,” said a ghost in the rafters.
“Who are you and why are you cleaning so hard?”
“Larga sent me,” sighed Marinne. “She dislikes me.
And dearly likes to spite me. So here I am, with
My dress dusty and my skin all crusted up,
As I have a conversation with my first real ghost.”
The ghost beamed at the compliment, and from his phantom cloak
Took out a bottle of scotch that he downed quite promptly.
“Well don’t despair, young maiden of what – twenty years?
That Countess Larga simply dislikes you because she is rich
And you are achingly poor and without parents of which to speak.”
“But I’ve been down here six weeks now,” said Marinne.
“Without so much as a thank you or a moment in the sun.
When does this work end? When do I have some fun?”
“Well there is the Christmas Ball coming up,” suggested the ghost.
“Ghosts are not invited but personally I do not feel slighted,
For ghosts are bad at dancing and worse at conversations.”
At mention of the Ball, Marinne obtained a smile
From between the motes of dust hanging in the air
“Yes, that is a tradition and right that even Larga
Cannot take away from an orphan such as myself.
I shall prepare. Thank you so much, Sir Ghost.”
And so Marinne went about collecting pieces of a dress:
A glove here, a bonnet there, some fabric for a scarf.
Nothing really matched,
And everything looked a bit patched,
But after a good bubble bath while drinking
A Starbucks venti bold doused in minty sprinkles,
Marinne looked a blond Princess
Fit for a ball, a rave, or anything else worth mentioning.
“Oh but Marinne, haven’t you yet heard?”
Said a voice belonging to Larga’s favorite Blue Bird,
“That only those of noble blood are allowed
To the grand Christmas Ball this year?”
“Really?” said Marinne, head bowed in grief.
“How could she? Why would she?
“Why did she? Woe is now with me.
Oh Blue Bird, whatever shall I do?”
“Well,” said the Bird, checking his phone.
“It’s getting mighty late. And you are very pretty Marinne
In your thatched up dress partly made of blue jeans.
So I suggest you head down to the Ball
And see if Larga will let you dance for a while.”
And so Marinne did just that,
Though her heart beat and beat real fast.
She came upon a great Ball full of high society,
Of lawyers and accountants and dressed up ladies,
And somehow or another she slipped right in,
Taking one hand, then another, until Marinne -
Until Marinne fit right in.
Oh there was joy for the blond-haired girl,
Who received a thousand looks from the men
Struck by her twirls and smiles
And by the twin spots of red on her cheeks.
Flustered and famous, the girl danced a while,
The centre of attention for miles and miles and miles.
In the middle of it all, a rapper bowed before the girl.
“Oh strange lady, do you enjoy the company of homeboys?
Do you like rappers and jewelry? Please marry me yo yo?”
“Dearest Count Keepn-It-Real,” said Marinne.
“Oh. What a twist and a turn. What an amazing night
Started by a tiny little Blue Bird.
What can I say?
What can I do?
But say yes, and say it to you.
I will marry you, Sir Rapper. Please take me away,
From this land and all this misery, and if it’s okay,
Could I grow a garden in our new home, eh?”
But before the deal could be completed,
The Countess Larga descended on the rabble.
She was wearing a dress of black and yellow,
And looked a bit like a bumble bee or a really hairy fella.
Her glowering looks turned all aside,
And cowered Count Keepn-It-Real back into the crowd
“Well Marinne,” said the Countess named Larga.
“I see you ignored my decree and came to the Ball.
What do you have to say for yourself, I wonder?”
“Larga,” said Marinne. “Why are you always so mean?
What did I do to you that made you, for example,
Kick me out of the gardens that I showered with love so ample?
And why send me to that horrible storage room in Rumspiel Castle?
And then forbid me from coming to this Ball for some dancing?
And now worst of all, Larga Countess of Rumspiel,
Why would you stop me from marrying Count Keepn-It-Real?”
All the Ball stopped before the two ladies in the middle.
The guests paused with drinks at their lips or
Pizza pockets in their mouths, waiting for the outcome
Of this unexpected turn.
“Well,” said Larga, towering over the blond girl.
“Here’s a story. Of a girl named Marinne. A blond-haired
Orphan that was left on our doorstep, I believe.
A nice girl but troubled and a little bit untruthful
About the woes and tribulations of her life to date.
Well Marinne, let us talk about the gardens that you tended,
The same ones I planted with my hands those years ago,
And let us talk about the woe you brought upon the filigro
And the dasdatas and the billmarys and the roo-roo-ro’s.
For you over-fertilized them, dear Marinne,
And occasionally soaked them with hot raspberry tea.
What could I do, dear girl, but save the gardens I so loved
By moving them out of your care and you into the castle forthwith?”
“That’s not true!” cried Marinne. “That’s a lie!”
“Oh?” said Larga. “Ask Groundskeeper Joe. He might indeed
Tell you a completely different tale of woe.
But let us continue and talk about the dungeons
And why you were sent there to clean day-upon-day.
By the way, did you perchance meet a ghost in the gloom?
A scotch-drinking spirit dressed in pantaloons?
Well he is going to get some company at last,
When I move in all the orphans of the kingdom
To be fed and clothed and housed, and fast.
It’s a noble cause that I’ve had in mind ever since
A certain baby (you) was deposited on the castle steps.”
“You would do this?” asked Marinne with a start.
“Are the orphans to be tended at last?”
“Yes, certainly. And they will run in the gardens, totally free.”
“Well this still doesn’t explain why you won’t let me marry
That fine fella Count Keepn-It-Real,
Who proposed to me in Castle Rumspiel.”
“Ah Marinne, that is the most simple matter of all.
For yes, all are typically invited to the Christmas Ball.
But this year we were obliged to invite a certain crowd,
A number of lawyers and accountants and rappers, you see.
The very lowlifes of the kingdom, with the worst of habits:
The selfishly rich, the unscrupulous, the money addicts.
Here they are, desperate for wives but truly
Not too gentle unto women.
I simply kept the girls away from the castle,
So that they would not be scooped up and
Bartered or ransomed.
I do not think you would have liked your life
With Count Keepn-It-Real,
Who would make you long for the days that you spent
Here in Castle Rumspiel.”
“That’s not true!” cried Marinne. “He’s a gentleman!”
“Um, not so much, to tell you the truth babe,” said Real.
“Mostly just wanted a servant girl to polish my Porsche’s wheels.”
“Oh woe,” said Marinne.
“Oh no,” returned Larga. “That is the problem, my girl.
Your expectations are set in wagon ruts made of pearls.
You believe that the world is against you and that I
Am destined to bring you a life of sighs.
Well, dear girl, I have tended gardens,
And I would save orphans
And I would keep you from a fate worse than
Any woe you can yet imagine.
I am not a bad person, Marinne. Though I be ugly,
Though I be a bit thick around the hips,
Though my nose be crooked and my voice be grating,
I have a heart big enough to care for you,
And all the others who are lost and need love too.”
And on that note, the music was struck,
And Larga took Marinne’s hand and gave her a dance,
Then bid her go to her room and think on what she had seen,
What she had learned, all that she had gleamed.
And when the Christmas Ball concluded with presents,
And Larga had given out gifts to the peasants,
She walked alone out into the gardens she had made,
And thought of beauty under starlight in a glade,
On the blessings that she had, though of beauty perhaps none
And there Larga, for a moment under the moon, glowed like a sun.
When the story was struck thereafter,
By some stranger in the streets, some spell-caster,
We should have seen it coming, that this tale
Is not about some blond-haired orphan in the castle,
But rather is about a good-hearted girl named Larga.