A Bedtime Story

once upon a time there was a little girl who did not want to go to bed. it was long past her usual bedtime and she was growing very sleepy. her faerie nursemaid (for all children in bedtime stories have faerie nursemaids) could tell she was growing very sleepy by the way she kept yawning with her mouth open so wide it seemed it would fold back on itself and swallow her head. normally she was very good about minding her bedtime. she would drink her glass of milk, listen quietly to her bedtime story (faerie nursemaids tell only the very finest of bedtime stories) and once she tipped up her chin to be kissed, she nestled down under her thick red blanket and was asleep even before she was tucked in. (but, of course the faerie nursemaid finished all the tucking even though the little girl was asleep and would not know the difference.)

on this most different of evenings, the little girl was wearing a new pair of shoes and she did not want to take them off. everyone knows that one may never wear one’s shoes to bed, so even though her red blanket looked particularly warm and her pillow looked particularly soft, she would not drink her milk and she would not take off her shoes. they were brown and lovely, with pointy toes and a strap that fastened around the ankle (instead of over the middle of the foot) which made them look very grown up and beautiful. she walked around and around her room in circles, looking at her feet and would not hear of bed.

she would probably have continued walking thus, in circles about her room, until she had worn holes in her beautiful new shoes, or grown up and out of them, if it had not been for her faerie nursemaid. she was very small (not much taller than the little girl herself, though much rounder) but she was very old (much older than human nursemaids, for they do not live as long) and very very wise. she knew all about the ways of little girls and new shoes and bedtimes. as the little girl continued her endless circles, the faerie nursemaid sat in her rocking chair by the fireplace knitting a sweater from spunspidersweb yarn (the warmest and softest and most beautiful for winter. it makes the wearer nearly invincible to the cold and nearly invisible in the snow.)
“did you know, my child, that those are magic shoes?” she said, calmly observing her charge from over the tops of her tiny, perched-on-the-end-of-her-nose spectacles (they were magical, of course, and would allow the wearer to see motives as clearly as shadows.)
“oh yes of course.” said the little girl, beginning to be a trifle out of breath from all her walking. she did not actually know this, however. “what do they do?” she asked.
“they have a mind of their own.” the faerie nursemaid replied mildly. “they will take the wearer wherever they want to go. only the strongest person can control them.” she continued knitting.
“i will control them.” the little girl panted. she was walking faster now, keeping her knees straight.
“i see they are growing sleepy.” the faerie nursemaid said. “they are beginning to slow down.”
“i will go faster.” said the little girl, who’s feet were now moving so quickly she would have been running if she had been willing to bend her knees. her circles were growing smaller and smaller. “see how strong i am? i am not letting these magical shoes slow me down.” her face was growing a little flushed.
“mmm. yes i see.” said the faerie nursemaid. “you had better not slow down or they will get the best of you.” by this time, the little girl was so sleepy her eyes were beginning to cross. she had been walking for so long that the new shoes were exacting revenge on her feet for being so overworked their first day on the job. the circle she walked had now grown so tight, that if a mirror were placed exactly across the middle of the loop, she would think another of herself stood on the opposite side of the ring, with her nose pressed against her own. not to be outdone by the magical shoes, she raced ever on, all the while wondering why she could not catch up with the spinning of the room about her no matter how fast she walked.

there was a moment of confusion, in which the little girl suddenly found herself looking at the ceiling instead of the floor and it was spinning, though she appeared to have stopped moving.
“Effem?” she called (for that was what she called her faerie nursemaid,) “i am tired of being in control of the magic shoes. i think i want to walk slowly for a while. will you help me take them off?” which, of course, the faerie nursemaid was more than happy to oblige. and when they had successfully removed the shoes (and frock and put on her nightgown) she found she was very thirsty, and her glass of milk waited for her calmly on the table by her bed, which she found was a very comfortable place to sit, and recline, and lie down in, snuggled under her warm red blanket. “tell me a story, please” she asked, but yawned in the middle so it sounded less like words and more like tired.
“once upon a time,” began the faerie nursemaid, “there was a little girl who did not want to go to bed.” but before she found out what happened, the little girl’s eyes closed without permission, and she dreamed her magical new shoes had taught her to fly. (which, [with the faerie nursemaid’s help, of course] in the morning, they might.)

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~ by ifindthisamusing on February 19, 2008.

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