The Romance of the Unicorn
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by Cynthia Joyce Clay
Description: Something in Elayne's refridgerator turned her pedigree Siamese cat into a troll, and Elayne's boyfriend dumped her. This is why, on Halloween night, Elayne was not celebrating but washing out her fridge. The lights went out, but Elayne continued to scrub out the fridge by candlelight until she found an entrance to a magical world of intrigue. There she finds the king mad, the queen imprisoned, and the city suffering the Plague. Elayne must find the Royal Talisman of Faye ot set things right. She finds her true talent, friends, and love.
eBook Publisher: Oestara Publishing LLC, 2004 www.oestarapublishing.com
eBookwise Release Date: October 2005
20 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [429 KB]
Reading time: 296-414 min.
"The Romance of the Unicorn is a marvelous ride on a flying carpet through a magical world of wise women, gallant men, and magical creatures. It carried me away from my humdrum world with its suspenseful quest and gentle humor. I loved the strength of the women in this world and the balanced relationships between the genders. It is a fairy tale for our time."--Rochelle Weber, Reader Review
The Icebox of Vengeance
The enormous white cube stood in its accustomed place in the kitchen; it's ill contented workings rumbling. The growl of this great white appliance was not the happy purr of young refrigerators new to their work and pleased with their purpose; nor was it the soft whir of high-tech fridges self-importantly chilling their contents. No, this refrigerator had suffered abuse when moved to this new setting. Its labor to keep cold its charges was destroying it. This made it angry, as disease tends to make the sufferer hostile.
Elayne took the can opener from the green pitcher where she kept the serving spoons, knife, sharpener, and such, to open the can of cat food for Keen who sat patiently and quietly by his plate. The refrigerator which she had owned for two years sounded worse. She forked the food out for Keen who waited for her to pet him before he ate.
"Yes, yes," she coaxed the cat as she petted him, wondering worriedly all the while if the refrigerator would break down and she would be forced to get a new one.
She grabbed her carved wooden box which contained the silk wrapped deck of regular playing cards; stuffed her wallet and key in her pocket; left the two-room apartment she enjoyed as home; and walked rapidly to the spiritual center where she met her clients.
That evening, drained from the day's work, she slumped in front of the television and, during the commercials of the evening's suspense thriller, she perused a book on the health related signs found in the palm. Pleasantly relaxed, she was utterly oblivious to the suffering of the appliance in her kitchen.
Her refrigerator realized its misfunction was now past fixing, Its demise was upon it, so it roared and fumed. Elayne, alarmed by the fierce grinding groan emanating from her kitchen, jumped up from her navy blue couch and rushed into the butler's pantry, which connected her two rooms, in time to see the plume of blue smoke curl In a furiously twisting cloud above her refrigerator. The appliance cursed her with its death rattle. Psychic though she was, Elayne did not understand the language of the suddenly inert white box. She knew she was now in the midst of aggravation and bother, but she didn't know of the curse laid upon her.
Elayne unplugged the refrigerator and opened the kitchen door and windows to let the smoke escape. Sorrowfully, she removed the scant amount of food from the evil smelling fridge--the milk, the damp bread, the slightly slimy head of red-leaf lettuce, the two remaining eggs, the whole wheat flour, the beloved grape juice, the stick of butter, and the two, no, three containers of mold. Out of the freezer came the drum sticks, the chicken pot pies, and the frozen French cut beans. All of these vitals, except the flour, she packed neatly in the large sink. Then she put on a light jacket and walked to the corner store to buy a bag of Ice. Home again she dumped the ice on the food. Next, she counted out all of the money she had earned that day, scrutinized her check book, tallied up the few bills still to be paid, and decided she could, indeed, buy a used refrigerator.
Tired, exhausted really, she prepared for bed. This took some doing because the sofa bed had to be pulled out and made up. Elayne fell asleep visualizing a refrigerator that would never break down.
The next morning, around ten-thirty, found Elayne trudging along Broadway--past the brick town houses; past the big wooden houses that sported porches and token stained glass windows; past the intersections congested with manic drivers, past these vistas of Cambridge life to the used refrigerator store. The houses began to look weathered and not very well loved. This alerted her to the fact that she would soon be approaching the store she had noticed on other jaunts. Sure enough, the structures suddenly transformed from seedy looking three family houses with flat roofs, to decrepit looking one story stores. Was that it? Yes, that was it. The most ill reputed looking of the pieces of real estate was the used refrigerator store.
Elayne crossed the street and stepped over the threshold. Bright and sunny outside, it was dim and dusty inside. The store had seven times the floor space of her apartment and was crammed with refrigerators--all of them dirty, some of them positively grimy, and only a few with a mere dust of gray over them.
The refrigerators regarded her coldly. Elayne, a sensitive, felt the nagging sensation of the chilly reception but she attributed it to the. appliances not liking their homeless state. Elayne wandered the rows of the varying sized fridges. Most of them were doubtless white beneath the grime, a few were tan, a couple were light blue, and one was peach colored. A pert, blond young man, a teenager really, catapulted out of a roughly cut square in the floor.
"Lookin' for a fridge? Let me help you out," he called eagerly, bounding up to her,
"Yes, I am," Elayne said nervously. Aggressive sales men always made her want to flee, but the thought of the souring milk stayed her feet.
"How much did you want to spend?"
"About fifty to eighty dollars."
The young man threw open the door to a diminutive modern looking fridge. "This one I can clean up for ya and let ya have today. How do you like it?"
Elayne didn't want a new refrigerator. It seemed suspect a new refrigerator would be in a used fridge shop for such little money. She wanted an old one. One of those old ones that had barely any freezer. Those old things, she knew, ran forever.
"Um, no, what else do you have?"
Undaunted, the young man bounded over to another row of fridges, "This one I'm still repairing but I could let you have it in a couple of days."
Frowning to herself at the idea of REPAIR Elayne stalked through the ramshackle rows of appliances. "How much Is this one?" The fridge was a beauty: very old with a gracefully rounded top, ornate handle, and stood on slender, curving legs.
"That's a collector's item; can't let it go for less than four hundred dollars."
Elayne sighed; the antique refrigerator regarded her with sympathy. It remembered its last owners' tales of the Depression; it knew people did not always have money to take care of the things that served them well. With its years it had learned wisdom, and pity, but the curse would be fixed on this nice young lady. She did have a respect for age, and an eye for beauty, the collector's item observed. Maybe the young lady would find something she needed through the trial of the curse, this elder of the coolant community hoped. The other fridges, after cool reflection, concurred to relent in this small respect.
The fridges directed her steps to THE REFRIGERATOR. Elayne walked purposefully up to a besmeared fridge set against the wall. "How about this one?"
The young man bounded over to her with a worried frown on his face, "I haven't had time to check that one out yet. I don't know if it needs any work. It just came in today."
The fridge looked just like one Elayne's family had owned when she was a child. She had a pleasant memory of her mother pulling an almost frozen ice-box cake out of the tiny freezer. Elayne opened the door of the fridge and saw it looked exactly like the one of her nostalgic recollection.
The salesman saw she wanted this fridge, "Tell you what, I'll check it out today, and let you know if it works okay."
"Oh, that would be great!" said Elayne, really pleased. The tension in the air lessened. Elayne thought it was because the salesman had relaxed now that he had her interested in one of his sorry looking appliances. Actually, it was the gloating relief of the clan of refrigerators.
Elayne gave the salesman her phone number, and he told her all about the free delivery. Later In the day, as Elayne labored over the Numbers of a client who had written to her from prison, the used refrigerator salesman called her.
"That fridge you wanted works just fine. I've just got to give, it a fresh paint job, that'll take a day to dry, and then you can have it."
"How much will it cost?"
"I can let you have it for a hundred and thirty-dollars."
"Oh, that's more than I could spend."
"Well, all right a hundred and twenty-five."
"How about a hundred dollars?"
"Well, it's a real good fridge."
"I'll stop by today and pay you in cash."
"Okay. I'll call you tomorrow to let you know when it'll be done dry'in. Then we can talk about the delivery."
"Thanks a lot."
Elayne, pleased, replaced the receiver of her French phone. She went into the kitchen. The milk was sour. She decided to make a sourmilk chocolate cake, before her two eggs went bad, too.
Naturally, the new paint job on the refrigerator took longer to dry than expected. Naturally, the salesman happy with his cash payment was no longer in a hurry to see to the refrigerator needs of Elayne--that is to say the delivery of the Ice Box of Vengeance was a low priority on his list of things to do. However, the march of time deems that regardless of what delays and hold-ups chance or the salesman may throw in its path, the morning of the delivery does arrive. The modest sized white refrigerator with the word PHILCO done in art-deco lettering upon its door was Installed with grunts and ample sweat in the spacious kitchen of Elayne; and the silent inert fridge was removed.
Elayne, who had been reduced to eating peanut butter sandwiches and drinking tepid tap water for several days, gleefully grabbed up her cart to shop for groceries to fill her new acquisition. At the grocery store Elayne sailed a grocery cart around the isles, exuberantly tossing her choices into the cart; a couple of loaves of whole-wheat bread, a jar of grape, juice, chicken, fish, and chocolate pound cake. It was a luxury to be buying real food again. She wouldn't be able to face peanut butter for months. She had better get a move on though, she still had to put the prisoner's Numerology chart in the mail to him and meet with a client for a palm reading before she readied herself to go to the movies with her friends.
The next day, Elayne found several more orders for Numerology charts in the mail, and spent the morning working on them. She was looking forward to lunch, especially the cold grape juice. When her stomach growled its readiness, Elayne sauntered into her blue-walled kitchen to get some food to eat out of the fridge. She opened the door of PHILCO and reached in for the juice, the bread, the lettuce and the mayo. As she rummaged for these things she found a small plate of food neatly covered in wax paper. She took it out to see what it was. It looked like stuffed grape leaves. That was funny. She didn't remember buying any stuffed grape leaves. Why were they on this little handmade dish? The dish was pale blue and edged in gold, real gold. Elayne owned no such china. This was very strange.
Keen nipped her gently on the calf. He was hungry and she hadn't been paying any attention to the elegant Siamese. She petted him, told him "yes, yes, yes," and fed him his dry cat food. She also gave him some fresh water.
Then Elayne turned back to the strange plate of grape leaves. She sniffed it. It smelled okay. She decided, why waste good food?, and she ate the three stuffed grape leaves with the tuna sandwich she made. Now Elayne had never eaten stuffed grape leaves before, and therefore did not have any preconceived notion on how they should taste. They tasted delicious, however, even though they definitely were not stuffed grape leaves. She put the left-over tuna in a little plastic container which had originally housed cream cheese, and put the tuna in the fridge . As usual she forgot about it. She never noticed when it disappeared.
The next time something unexpected appeared in the refrigerator Douglas, Elayne's boyfriend, was visiting. They were making dinner together. Elayne was getting the bread she had made out of the oven when Douglas exclaimed delightedly, "Kail! I love this stuff!"
Elayne turned to see Douglas pulling strange vegetables out of the fridge that were shaped like carrots but were black. Douglas was also pulling out some other equally evil looking vegetables out of the fridge oval, brown, furry things with spikes and brownish red nettled leaves.
"What are these?" Douglas asked happily.
"I don't know but aren't they interesting looking."
Douglas had brought along a bottle of vinegar, and so he cooked the weird vegetables up in the vinegar. Since Douglas was a vegetarian they had Elayne's whole wheat bread, the vegetables and a miso fish soup Elayne made up out of the previous day's left over cod. Elayne found the vegetables inedible. Douglas loved them.
At the end of the meal, Douglas produced a small box of chocolates of excellent quality he had brought for dessert. Elayne arranged the elegant chocolates on the little blue, gilt edged-plate. The two watched Mystery! on channel two, and ate some of the chocolates. Elayne put the plate of chocolates wrapped in wax paper into the fridge and then went to cuddle up in bed with Douglas.
The next day, when Elayne wanted a chocolate, the entire plate was gone. She hunted for it methodically. To her dismay it simply was not in the fridge. A few days later Elayne found a jar in the fridge containing pickled eggs. She tried one. After eating it she felt very sleepy and had to lie down for a cat nap. She had a terrible nightmare about containers of mold which invariably filled her fridge, sprouting little goblins who would come out at night to bite her arms and legs with their mean little teeth. Elayne woke up feeling very dehydrated. She drank a tall glass of water, a tall glass of juice, and then she threw those pickled eggs away.
As her life went on, and the days and weeks passed, Elayne found that food disappeared rather frequently from her fridge, and that strange, ugly, or bad smelling things would appear. She would be just at the point when she thought the fridge was accursed, when something nice like candied violets or smoked duck would appear in it.
One day, an elegant, small soup tureen of the blue and gilt-edged china appeared in the fridge. Elayne opened it up. The tureen contained a thin, black broth which smelled incredibly delicious. Elayne set it on the counter and went into her pantry to fetch a bowl. When her back was turned Keen jumped up on the counter to lick with his dainty pink tongue the, black broth. Seeing her cat do this, Elayne was amazed. Keen knew he was not allowed on the counter, and what's more, he didn't like people food. He only liked dry cat food. Suddenly there was a blast of light around Keen and a sound like a firecracker going off, and blue-gray smoke consumed the cat. Elayne screamed and ran to protect her pet. When she reached him a small naked troll looked up at her affectionately out of blue eyes. Keen, her altered Siamese cat, had turned into a miniature, eunuch troll.
Elayne stared at him, appalled. Keen made a bloodcurdling rumbling sound. He was purring, albeit in a new and terrifying way, so that he wouldn't get into trouble for being on the counter. Hesitantly Elayne scratched him behind the ear; his ears were still situated on top of his head even though they were not furry anymore. Keen rumbled more fiercely with pleasure.
"Get down!" ordered Elayne, and Keen complied with a loud crash. His new size, bulk, semi-retractable talons simply did not allow for feline precision and finesse of movement. Keen trotted into the living room. Since his claws could not retract completely into the new stubby feet, they clicked as he went. He seemed to have the hang of walking upright, though. He didn't seem to be bothered at all by his uncanny transformation. Elayne decided she had better go lie down on the sofa. Sleepwalking was quite dangerous.
Once she got herself comfortably settled on her stomach, she shut her eyes and willed herself to sleep. A great weight thumped down beside her head. Stubbornly she refused to look at her pet. After a few minutes of patient waiting Keen did what he always did in this situation--he clawed gently at Elayne's lips in an effort to get her to talk to him and turn over onto her back. Elayne opened her eyes. A blue-eyed troll was peering earnestly into her face.
"Meow?" whined Keen. His teeth were still the long sharp teeth of a cat, but they were much, much bigger now.
Elayne groaned and rolled onto her back. Keen promptly accepted the invitation and climbed onto her chest to squat. If she had thought his poky little paws had hurt her boobs before when he stomped on them, now the pain was unbelievable. She lifted the troll off of her and sat up. Keen jumped up on top of the back of the couch and perched himself there.
Elayne got up and went back into the kitchen. She took the tureen and poured some of the black broth into a little jar for a sample, and then poured the remainder down the sink. (She was a renter who didn't think much of her landlord, which was a corporation, not an individual; and so she didn't worry about ruining the pipes.) Sparks of blue and purple shot out of the sink as the black broth swirled down the drain. How was she ever going to find a way to turn her beautiful, pedigree seal point Siamese back into a cat?
After a thought, Elayne counted out some money and walked the longish distance to Central Square. She went into the EL Cheapo clothing store to the baby clothes section. She bought a pair of toddler's blue sweat pants, a toddler's tee--shirt that had a bird on it, a pair of toddler's blue jeans, and toddler undies. Elayne decided against shoes, his claws would just rip them out. She bought a box of disposable diapers and prayed that she wouldn't need them. She took the subway back to Harvard Square and lugged the purchases the rest of the way to her apartment.
As she walked, clutching at the unwieldy plastic bag, she hoped that when she got home, it would all prove to be an illusion. Of course, she would have to have herself committed, but that would be a small price to pay to have Keen back to his cute, furry self again. This noble plan of going willingly to the bin, proved fruitless. When she unlocked her back door, her troll came clicking up to greet her. What would Douglas think of this? She had better not tell him. She had better not tell anyone.
Elayne sighed and set about to dress Keen. Now as a cat, Keen would not have stood for this, but as a troll he grinned and was eager to sport clothes. He wouldn't allow a diaper. He was much stronger as a troll, and still just as stubborn as a cat. This meant he won the diaper battle.
Except for having to hide him whenever guests came by, Elayne got rather used to having a troll for a pet. True he ate more now, but now he sat in a chair at the table scooping his dry cat food up with his clawed hands and shoveling the food into his mouth. As he had when he was a cat, he bit the dry food into a thousand crumbs with his long, sharp teeth, and half of the debris littered the table. When he drank, he plunged his face into the bowl feline fashion, but then he would use his napkin to wipe his face off. He continued to be as fastidious as a feline, but in a troll sort of way. He would climb into the kitchen sink and turn on the faucets to bathe himself. Just like a cat, he liked to wash at least four times a day. Elayne had to train him to a schedule for bathing, otherwise he doused himself in water before she could get him out of his clothes.
When Keen went outside, he found a stout stick that he wielded like a club. He was no longer afraid of the neighbor hood alley cats, or the dogs--or anybody, for that matter. Sometimes he tried to satisfy a cat urge and run up a tree, but his new form didn't allow him to get up as far as he use to. When he had been a cat, Keen had liked to walk with Elayne along her dead-end street and home again. Now that he was a troll, he liked to walk with her as far as she wanted to go, clicking alongside of her in his blue-jeans and tee-shirt and wielding his club. Elayne only took him on walks in the evening when his strange looks--gnarled skin, powerful rippling muscles, long claws, pug face, pointed feline ears, and nocturnal eyes--were shielded by the dark. Some passers-by gave her pitying looks, obviously thinking she had a monstrosity of a toddler. She didn't have a monstrosity of a toddler. She had a monstrosity of a cat.
Once, three teenage boys were walking, smoking pot, and chasing cats when they saw Elayne and her pet. The boys startled Keen, who leaped onto all fours and tried to puff out the fur he used to have. Keen hissed and howled like an unnatural, weird, and fierce beast. The boys ran away. This pleased Elayne enormously, and she praised her pet warmly.
One summer night, Elayne slept soundly with all of her windows open to allow for the occasional breeze. Keen, ever attentive to nocturnal doings, sat in a window fascinated as policemen with dogs chased a criminal through the backyards of Elayne's neighborhood. The criminal headed directly for the very narrow and fenced-in area between Elayne's house and the house next door. One of the policemen fired a shot--the bullet lodged into the wood of Elayne's house right next to the window where Keen intently surveyed the scene. The criminal decided things were desperate and so he grabbed at the screen of the window of the room in which Elayne slept. But the criminal did not see Elayne. He gaped in terror at the monster which glowered at him with upraised club. The criminal dropped to his knees and crouched next to the fence, whimpering. The policemen arrived a few minutes later and dragged the criminal away. They did not see Keen because Elayne's pet had vacated the window to curl up beside her.