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Fantasticoe 1997

Through the Hole in the Wall

Anne Dybsetter

The hole in the wall is what started all the trouble. I told the king we should have the hole patched, but the fact is no one really knows how to go about patching it. You can't just slap some Spackle on a hole like this. Nail up a poster one day; find a little bit of Ontario oozing into your castle the next. That's how it goes when you share a wall with a parallel world. I suppose the whole parallel world issue ought to be my gig, since I'm what they call the wizard of the kingdom. I can muddle up a bit of magic when I need to, but mostly I don't. I'm no expert, so I do what I can and try not to worry about parallel worlds.

But one day the parallel worlds caused a serious ruckus. The princess just stepped out through the hole in the wall, and she was gone. I admit I chuckled when the laundry maid told me what happened: one moment the princess was gazing at her father's posters in the king's chambers, and the next moment she sort of wafted away. The princess' eyes got a glazed look to them, and her pale little hand rose up to the wall in fascination. Her fingers touched the wall, slid into the wall, not into the wall-iness of stones and mortar, but into fresh, cold air. Suddenly she couldn't pull back any more, so she stepped forward. The wall swallowed her up, and . . .

For me it was downright providential that Miss Majesty stumbled upon the hole in the wall. Her lazy Highness was missing a few marbles anyway, if you ask me. She was always moping about, hoping that she would look sick and weak, whining that her head hurt. "The castle's too cold," "The day's too long," "The sun's too bright." "I'm tired," "I'm tired," "I'm tired." I would have tossed her off the parapet, if there was one, into the moat, if they had one, to feed her to the vicious dragons, if any existed, but all the proper means by which to dispose of a prissy princess were defunct. The parapet was all a-dazzle with a clothesline of the king's long johns flapping in the wind. The moat was drained and planted over in tulips, and the only dragon was snoozing placidly in the doghouse out back.

You may be realizing, as I quickly did, that this is no ordinary kingdom. For one thing, the king was wacky. He collected travel posters for a few years, and the walls of his chambers are covered with them. I don't know where he acquired them all. Some of them show some foreign-looking places that I'll do my best to avoid. One of the posters, however, looks pretty familiar to me: a panoramic view of the Dusty Municipal Golf Course in Dusty, Ontario. It's a dull, dog-eared picture of a shabby golf course where a bunch of farmers and elementary school teachers are swinging their clubs with poor form. It was the poster the princess was looking at when she stepped through the hole in the wall.

Listen, I'll tell you something about that poster. I know what's behind it. And to tell you the truth, I know more about that hole in the wall than I've let on. Even though I wasn't nearby when the princess stepped through, I know what happened to her.

You see, there's a simple story behind it. I didn't really start out a wizard. I don't know if wizards are born, or made, or if they sprout from a little wizardtree, or what, but whatever they do, I didn't. I used to be head maintenance guy--the only maintenance guy--at a shabby little golf course in Dusty, Ontario. On occasion I liked to play a round with a couple farmers and some elementary school teachers, and that's how it happened. One day I went looking for my Topflight number three on hole six and never returned to the world as I knew it.

Just past the last sand trap, I was scrounging around in the rough for my ball, moving into territory where the grass was sort of tall and pasturely. I was muttering under my breath and parting the boughs of a thorny bush when my head thonked something where there ought to have been nothing. It was glimmery--a wall, in a way, but more like sky. I reached up to poke it, wondering what new sort of weather this was. My fingers touched the wall, slid into the wall, not into the airiness of sky, but into stone and mortar. Suddenly I couldn't pull back anymore, so I stepped forward. The wall swallowed me up, and. . .

And suddenly I was in the king's castle, where His Majesty himself found me. I discovered right away that he's not the brightest candle on the cake, but he's harmless enough.

"Who are you?" he asked, upon finding me sprawled ungracefully on the floor of his chambers.

I was wondering the same thing about him at the time, but I thought better of asking.

"You stepped right through that wall, there," he pointed out. Astute fellow. He thought for a moment, and I could almost see the gears in his brain grinding away. "You can do things," he observed.

"Indeed," I said, too unsettled to argue.

"Wizards might need to do things."

I could follow his logic, but I couldn't follow his gyrations of thought.

He made me a wizard right then and there because the job was open. No experience necessary beyond tripping through a hole in the wall.

I was confused, but I tried not to let it bother me. I protested that, no, I was not a wizard. I explained that, yes, I could truss up his roof or fertilize his grass, but I could not be his wizard. His Simple Majesty just smiled patiently and nodded, agreeing with my every word.

"So you see, then, that I am no wizard. You'll need to find someone who's a bit more magically inclined." I looked at him hopefully. "You understand?"

The king's moony face beamed brightly. "Of course you're right," he said. "You're the wizard, and wizards are always right."

At this point I was unable to continue any sort of interaction with His Witless Highness. I employed the laundry maid to show me the wizard's quarters and retired for the evening. The time was spent deep in thought, mostly plotting how I might plaster the damp castle walls. In the morning I was ready to try a different tack. I returned to the king's chambers and inspected the place where I came through the wall. That was when I saw the poster for the first time.

The poster was a picture of Dusty Municipal, all right. I was downright startled to see it there. Upon pressing the king for details, I finally squeezed out of him that he had nailed up the poster the day before I stepped through. He couldn't say where it had come from; the laundry maid found it somewhere. I stared at it for hours, thinking that if I looked into it long enough, my friends would turn away from the number seven tee-off and realize what had happened. Over the next few weeks, I tried more times than I could count to go back through the hole in the wall so I could join them and finish my game. But try as I might, I couldn't step back through the wall, and I resigned myself to life as a wizard. I got used to it. There was no demand for wizardry to speak of; instead, I used my existing skills to fix up the castle. Since then, I have done more than my fair share of tower maintenance and grounds keeping. The one thing I never got around to was patching up the hole in the wall.

A while back I was fiddling around in the basement (no dungeons for these folks) trying to rig up some weather-stripping around the windows and such. Moisture was seeping in and destroying the place. Shelves upon shelves of books were rotting away under His Majesty's nose, and the king paid no heed at all. I'm not much of a reader myself, but I started poking through one musty volume and didn't come back to the surface for hours. Among other things, I discovered that our little hole in the wall was a one-way ticket between worlds. Barring some tricky little magical maneuvers, you can't just saunter back again once you pop through it. I'd say that would be useful knowledge to have before you get suckered into stepping through the wall, but nobody asked me.

But I digress. The point to all of this is that the princess was gone.

The king sent for me as soon as he heard that his beloved daughter had stepped through the hole in the wall and disappeared. He was in the kitchen, tears running down his nose into his blueberry pie.

"Get me my daughter," he said, wiping his purple-ringed mouth sorrowfully with the back of his hand. "I must have my daughter."

I didn't want to remind the king that he had hired me as wizard with no qualifications; I also didn't want him to think that I was actually going to fetch back his silly princess.

"Sire, I . . . uh."

He looked up at me like a droopy-eyed dog, sad as could be. It's not like me to dive right into the fire and go for the hero role, but something got into me, and I said, "Yes, Sire, fear not, Sire, I know where the princess is. As a matter of fact . . ." I paused. My hero urge had suddenly flickered and died.

"Um, do you golf, Sire?"

His Majesty's watery eyes searched mine blankly. I looked back as solemnly as ever a real wizard did. Without the foggiest grasp on what golf was, the king raised his head high and puffed out his chest with royal pride. "Of course I golf. I'm the king," he declared.

I nodded grimly, impressed at my own wizardliness. "Come, sire. I'll take you to your daughter."

About the time we got to his chambers, the king started looking slightly more confused than usual. I was all business.

"First, Sire, hand me your crown. It will be cumbersome for you." Distractedly, he hoisted it off his head, and I deposited it on the bureau. "Now, Sire, while I am saying the spell, concentrate on those men in the picture--the funny-looking ones with metal sticks in their hands. Then put your hand on the wall and step forward." If I were him, I would have wondered what conking my noggin against a brick wall had to do with finding the pestersome princess. Apparently His Majesty did not think so discerningly. He only nodded, eager to see his daughter again and not realizing that he would never see his castle again.

"Gizzard of loon and liver of otter,

Let this king go after his daughter.

And, um, well, some more of the same,

Give His Majesty par for the game."

I don't mind admitting I tossed in the spell at the last minute for a little added drama. It wasn't the world's sharpest statement, when you think about it, but His Highness was not the world's sharpest fellow.

He stepped through the hole in the wall with the greatest of ease. I stepped back and thought for a moment . . . of the farmers and elementary school teachers teaching the king to play golf; of the princess building sand castles in the bunker; of my new kingdom and the crown on the bureau. It was all such a satisfactory arrangement. I positioned my crown on my head and went to locate a recipe for magic Spackle.


Acknowledgments:

Thanks to all these people for their help in producing this story: Carrie O'Connor, who can discuss golfing wizards with utmost seriousness; Andrea Etter for stapling seventeen copies; Dr. Terry Heller, who takes me just seriously enough; and all my classmates, for their own great stories and ideas for improving my story.
 




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Fantasticoe 1997