Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Quest for the Perfect Husband: A Tale by Emily Barton

Once upon a (not too distant) time (ago), a young princess was whiling away her youth in the tedious kingdom of Winston-Salem. She longed for excitement and adventure in her life, which came in brief installments, like when her parents took her over the Big Pond to the Land of Castles and Knights. King W (her father) would also often take her on his journeys to visit The Great Queen (his mother) who ruled over all of Charlottesville (or, at least, so she and her family thought). The Great Queen was a woman who had managed to smuggle kegs full of water from the Font of Wisdom into her castle, and who made it a habit of drinking a thimbleful every day. Thus, the princess (who just happened, by some odd coincidence, to be named Emily) was exposed to all sorts of wise words when visiting The Great Queen, not the least of which was,

"All men are different, but all husbands are the same."

The young Princess Emily had not the wisdom herself to understand this statement and found she could not laugh along with other women when The Great Queen issued forth such words. Princess Emily listened, though, and being the fool that she was, was convinced that The Great Queen must be wrong, that she had somehow, at some point, taken a sip from her thimble that had been laced with mint julep or something.

Surely, all husbands were not the same. After all, King W seemed very different from other husbands she met and knew in Winston-Salem. For one thing, he read books. For another thing, he did not attend NASCAR races. Nor did he own a gun. And if you gave him a box of tools, he'd be hard-pressed to distinguish the monkey wrench from the pliers. Other husbands (her friends' fathers) spent their weekends in the basement building things, listening to country music. King W spent his weekends grading papers, listening to Bach. If The Great Queen were right, and it was true that all husbands were the same, she would find the rare pearl, the perfect husband, the one who was not like all the others.

But then, Princess Emily grew up. She met her Prince Charming, The Pearl. She was in the midst of living "happily ever after" when she suddenly found herself noticing that he was not so perfect after all. She began to have conversations with other wives to discover that not only was he not perfect, but he also did not seem to be so very different from other husbands. Had The Great Queen been right after all? Were all husbands truly incapable of finding the mustard in the fridge without the help of a wife? Did all husbands whine incessantly about a finger jammed while playing volleyball but carry on without telling their wives when the entire right-hand-sides of their bodies went numb because they "didn't want to worry her"? Did all husbands promise to do things that never got done?

Eventually, she discovered that husbands also had a tendency, at times, just to, well, be bad. She began to wonder if The (Black) Pearl ought not just set up permanent residence in the doghouse. Then, just when she was beginning to despair, her Fairy Godmother arrived on the scene and introduced her to two other princesses, one of whom (Princess Becky) had traveled across the Great Pond from the Land of Castles and Knights to marry her Perfect Husband and the other (Princess Marcy) who had hopes of settling down in the Kingdom of New York one day but was currently stuck with her Perfect Husband in the Kingdom of Connecticut (the Land of Outcast New Yorkers).

The three princesses had all three suffered through a particularly rough winter and spring when they met in May to lick their wounds together. That night, Princess Emily went to bed and had a very strange dream, a dream in which she was visited by a beautiful unicorn who told her that she should embark on a quest to find the truly perfect husband, who, yes, did exist. In fact, the truly perfect husband had last been spotted in Charlottesville (now The Land of the Perfect Husband), home of The Great Queen (who still ruled over her family from beyond the grave and where King W and his wife Queen A now lived in The Great Queen's castle).

No quest is complete without companions, so Princess Emily invited Princess Marcy and Princess Becky to brave the wilds of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia with her. The two princesses, eager to meet The Perfect Husband themselves, readily agreed to the adventure that would take them to the Land of The Perfect Husband.

The July day set aside for their departure arrived wet and rainy, but they bravely mounted their 21st-century steed and set off to follow the unicorn's directions. The perils of the journey were many. First, Princess Marcy and Princess Emily discovered that they could not live without ice cream. Surely, ice cream, in the middle of the summer, could easily be found. Surely, if nothing else, dwarfs would set up ice cream stands on the shoulders of the road, drive-thru stands with multiple flavors of soft serve. But the dwarfs were all on strike, and no stands could be found for miles.

Then, there was the Legend of the Used Book Store in New Oxford. Princess Emily had been hearing about this bookstore from other travelers far and wide, but when they got to New Oxford, despite the help of Princess Marcy's oracle/compass (which has the peculiar name of "iPhone"), they could not find the bookstore (nor did New Oxford seem to offer any ice cream to weary travelers passing through). Because they were without husbands, though, and thus were not required to whiz through the town, never dismounting their steed, they did stop and take a look around. However, the rain soon drove them away.

Not long afterwards, they discovered that they were ravenous (probably because they had not found any ice cream). They seemed to have driven through the worst of the rain by the time they hit Gettysburgh, and there the mighty Abe Lincoln fed them such healthy fare as grilled cheese sandwiches and omelets. They remounted their steed, determined to find ice cream, which they eventually did, when an old roadside post indicated that a Dairy Queen could be found "this way." Princess Emily nearly killed the steed and all aboard in her eagerness to follow the arrow.

And then it began: the endless trek on the Never-ending Highway (sometimes known as Interstate 81). The sun set. The road became pitch dark. The princesses wondered if they would ever get there, and if they did, would they really find The Perfect Husband?

(To be continued...)

4 comments:

liliannattel said...

I love this story. I'm totally hooked. I can't wait to find out what happens next. And I have every sympathy for the princesses who were lured by the DQ sign onto the Never-ending Highway. Did they ever get their sundaes? With brownies? Did they find the perfect H? I'm in total suspense.

Charlotte said...

I'm agog! Can't wait to know if the Perfect Husband does really exist ...

Stefanie said...

I think the Perfect Husband is already married to the Perfect Wife and the rest of us just have to make due ;) I loved Princess Emily's obsession with seeking ice cream!

Emily Barton said...

Lillian, sundaes and blizzards, and today's post should answer your question about The Perfect Husband.

Charlotte, perhaps he's The (Almost) Perfect Husband.

Stef, I think you are right. That's Princess Emily: ice cream and later on, pastries.