Since the hippie-formerly-known-as-Prince said “Okay, honey, let’s leave the land of the free, and play house in yellow submarines”, no one really remembers that they had a son. Skin as white as snow? Check. Hair as black as ebony? Check. Lips as red as roses? (Or blood, if you prefer.) Check. But see, nobody realised a wish could be hereditary. So the son gets away with everything. Which is his birthright, after all. Not everyone can sleep in the beds of dwarves (vertically challenged uncles), or sing to animals (‘The Lion King’, stage right, exit), and get away with it looking even better.
I know I’ve forgotten his name, the way you’re supposed to, with old stories. Not stories like Odysseus’ Odyssey, where he becomes his story in all its epic length and flowery verse, but the stories that distil themselves. The one where people are known as the third wife, who sacrifices herself to save her daughter, or the eldest son, who defeats rampaging evil #3.
The sun is out, like a Sunday night miracle. It’s farmer’s market day, in the heart of this old city. With the shopping centres and the mobile phone shops a two-minute walk away. The castle’s in the background, with the rabbits like warriors on its craggy granite rock foundation, charging up the hill for God and country.
He’s standing there at an apple stall. Poison green, acid green. I wonder if he’s doing it for the sheer dramatic irony. Standing there, a knife in one hand, an apple in the other. Obviously the knife is small, sharp bladed, its hilt as black as his nails, painted like a heartbreak in July. He takes another apple. The sun paints half of it gold, leaving the other half purple. He holds it like a woman holds her prayers, close to her, where they will do no harm. He winks.
JUGGLING? That’s just too much. Even old ma queen witch woman would have complained. The story has to make sense. When you’re standing there, the sun burning the movement of curls across your cheek, your eyes not quite staying the same colour from one moment to the next, there has to be a big show. Juggling is so Punch and Judy, I expected something from The Globe.
He beckons me over. Cuts the apple he’s just caught. The knife pops the acid skin, into the flesh as white as his. It’s sibilant, the sound of the blade through the apple, like the snake tempting Eve. He takes the half that used to be gold, I take the purple. I watch him bite into his half before I do. He notices, and the roses in his face twitch.
“The same as last week, luv?”
“I’ve been thinking, maybe we should start calling these ‘Wicked Witches’, eh? Instead of Granny Smith. Pity the old girl, someone must have loved her so much they named these after her. Only sweetens up when someone cooks her goose in the oven. What d’you think, luv?”
I smile, red hot iron.
“Maybe she danced for joy.”