“Tell me a bedtime story,” the kids insist, because they know the ones I tell will be weird.
Tonight I was babysitting my niece and nephews, and like a lot of kids, their parents read a book with them before bed. They’re still little, so the bulk of those books are picture-books. I’m not a big fan of picture-books. I’d rather the kids use their imagination. But if I read ’em a book which doesn’t have pictures, it’s gonna take too long to get through the whole thing. And I can’t just read a chapter and leave ’em hanging. Although, as I recall, Encyclopedia Brown novels have stand-alone chapters. I’m gonna have to acquire some of them.
Well anyway. “What do you want me to tell a story about?” The oldest two have seen Tangled a whole bunch of times, yet even so they said, “Rapunzel!” and so I gave them my Fractured Fairy Tale version of the story.
Once there was a little girl whose name was Rapunzel, which is a really weird name, because in German or one of those European languages it means “lettuce.” I know, lettuce. Why’d she get named after lettuce? Well, the way they tell the story, her mother was really into salad. She loved salad. Had to eat it all the time. Some weird diet, maybe. Anyway, one day she told her husband, “There’s some lettuce growing in the neighbor’s yard. Go steal some for me.”
So he did, and he got caught by the owner, who was very angry with him, as she should be, ’cause you don’t sneak into people’s yards and steal their produce. She was gonna call the cops. “Please don’t call the cops,” he said, “please please please. If you don’t call the cops, I’ll give you my firstborn daughter, whose name is Lettuce.”
The lady said, “Your daughter’s name is Lettuce? What is wrong with you people? Stealing vegetables and naming your kids after them. You’re probably unfit parents. Of course I’ll take your daughter.”
So she took little Lettuce—I mean Rapunzel—for her very own daughter. She decided she was gonna be the best mother ever to this little girl. Rapunzel got her very own room, at the top of a tower, with an amazing view of the lettuce fields.
And her new mother spoiled her rotten. She never ever had to go play outside; she could spend all day indoors on the xBox and the Internet if she wanted, and watch TV until her eyes stopped blinking. She never had to go to school. She got to sit on the couch all day, in her pajamas, and eat bonbons. And she never bothered to cut her hair, so it just grew and grew and grew until it was in a big messy pile next to the couch she always sat on.
One day, when she was a teenager, she was playing some video game when she heard a boy outside. (What’s the boy’s name? Um, Tomato. She’s named Lettuce, he’s named Tomato; they go together. Or whatever is German for Tomato. I don’t know German.) So she heard a boy outside, and she actually got off the couch for once, and dragged her big pile of hair to the window, and looked down, and there was Tomato, and she said, “Tomato, Tomato, wherefore art thou Tomato? Deny thy father and refuse thy name…” —Wait, wrong story. We’ll tell you that one when you’re older.
So Tomato tells her, “I hear you’re playing ‘Storm the Castle XII,’ and I would like to play ‘Storm the Castle XII’ with you. Can I come up?”
”Sure,” she said, “but the elevator’s broken, so you’ll have to climb the wall.”
So Tomato started climbing the wall, but it was a smooth wall and he was a bad climber, and kept falling down, and Tomatos bruise easily, so you never want to drop them. But Rapunzel thought it was funny, and laughed every time he fell on his tomato, and laughed and laughed, and then it wasn’t funny anymore; it was actually kinda sad and pathetic. So she said, “I’ll throw you a rope,” and grabbed what looked like a rope, but it was her really long hair, which was all dirty and sticky and a twisted together, and smelled a little bit like foot cheese.
Tomato grabbed the stinky rope, and Rapunzel said, “Ow. You’re pulling my hair.”
“Ow. You’re still pulling my hair.”
“Wait, you threw me your hair.”
“Doesn’t mean you gotta pull it.”
“I’ll climb up quick,” said Tomato, and he did, and they played video games all afternoon. And then he went home. Out the window. Which was a lot faster than climbing up.
So that night, Rapunzel’s mom came upstairs to tuck her in, and saw Tomato had left some of his stuff there, and said, “Has somebody been in your room?”
“Um, yeah,” said Rapunzel. “It was a boy.”
“How’d he get in? The elevator’s broken.”
“He climbed up the wall.”
“I don’t want strange boys climbing up your wall into the window. That’s not safe. You don’t do that. If a strange boy tries climbing into your window, you scream and call the police. Stranger danger. If this boy wants in, he has to come through the front door like a normal person.”
“But the elevator’s broken.”
“I don’t care,” said Rapunzel’s mom. “He can’t come in through the window.”
Well, the next day, Tomato came over to play “Storm the Castle XIII,” and the elevator was still broken, so he climbed in through the window using Rapunzel’s nasty foot-cheese-smelling hair. And that night, Rapunzel’s mom found out about it, and was really really angry with her. Because you’re not supposed to disobey your mom like that. You know better, right? Well, so did Rapunzel. “You’re grounded,” said her mom. “No video games for a week.” And she took her xBox. And Rapunzel threw a tantrum, and kicked, and shouted, and whipped her hair back and forth like a big stinky whip, but she was still grounded, and that was that.
So the next day, Tomato came over to play “Storm the Castle XIV,” and Rapunzel said, “We can’t. Mom took my xBox.”
“Well then I will go home and get my xBox,” said Tomato, and he did, and came back, and said, “We’ll play it on my xBox. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”
So she did. But this time, her mom overheard Tomato shouting, and came into the room, and said, “What’s going on here? You’re supposed to be grounded!” And Tomato was so surprised and freaked out that he let go of Rapunzel’s hair, and fell to the ground, and dropped his xBox, and broke both his head and his xBox. Poor Tomato. But Rapunzel’s mom called an ambulance, and he went to the hospital, and he’s all better now. But now he knows not to climb strange girls’ hair in order to sneak into their windows, which was a good lesson.
Rapunzel’s mom finally said, “Your hair is so long enough,” and gave her a haircut, and made her wash her nasty head for once. And while she was grounded, Rapunzel couldn’t play any xBox or go on the Internet, and couldn’t do anything but read books. But she found out that she loved books. ’Cause books are cool. And so when she wasn’t grounded anymore, she kept reading books, and left the house sometimes to go to the library, and lived happily ever after. Okay, it’s bedtime. Go upstairs.