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The Princeless Ride

Fiona-cup was raised in a small suburb in the county of Maricopa. Her favorite pastimes were playing on her computer and hassling her father, though she never called him “Father”, just “Hey!”

“Hey, I’m hungry. Fix me some waffles!”

“Whatever.”

“Whatever” is all he ever said to her.

“Hey, I’m thirsty. Why isn’t my water bottle full?”

“Whatever.”

“Hey, it’s cold in here. Turn off the air conditioning!”

“Whatever.”

One day she was amazed to discover that when he was saying “Whatever” what he really meant was “You are beginning to get on my nerves, young lady, and it’s high time you learned to show a little respect for an old man, what do you think I am, your servant?”

It was a very irritating time for the little girl.

Her father, hoping to find a way to make her happy without going crazy himself, knew he had to find a miracle pill, because after all, it would take a miracle, wouldn’t it?

As he prepared for his trip, she warned him about the ROUSes.

“Readers Of Uninteresting Stories? I don’t believe they exist.” As usual, he was correct.

(“As usual? If I was writing this story—” “Whatever. Sit still and listen to the story. Don’t make me tie you to that chair.”)

Glad for a bit of quiet, the father trudged wearily but contentedly toward Florence, in the next county.

Along the way, he met a handful of poor lost circus performers. Rather than violate intellectual property or copyright too blatantly, we’ll skip over their rhyming conversation, though it should be pointed out that neither the father nor the goofy guy in tights he thumb-wrestled are left-handed.

During a battle of wits with another of the circus performers it was agreed that war—not only a land war in Asia, but in fact any war—makes as much sense as installing Windows on a Mac.

Upon hearing that the giant circus performer could drink 119 bottles of beer in 6 hours, the father thought to himself, yup, these guys are circus performers all right.

To avoid being roped into whatever evil plot they were hatching to foment financial discord between Maricopa and Pinal Counties by finally, finally incorporating San Tan Valley as a real city instead of, well, a place generally to the southeast of Phoenix but not clearly defined by borders or anything useful like that, he climbed the long flight of stairs to the Dire Romp. (What, you thought he was some kind of cliff climber? That’s insanity. He’s an old man for Pete’s sake. Like, pushing 50. And not in great shape, either.)

The Dire Romp was all dire, no romp. After scampering over pavement so hot his trouser legs burst into flame, trudging through what he came to call “slow death by sand I realize it’s a desert but it’s suburbia for crying out loud could we install some sidewalks already?”, and proving once and for all that there’s no such thing as Readers Of Uninteresting Stories, he came out the far side of the Dire Romp.

There he found a thatched hut outside a smelly village. Upon banging on the door of the hut, he met an ancient couple who, while quite talented at witty improvisation, were wholly useless at miracles, in pill form or otherwise.

The nonmiracle man had an idea. “Marry the little brat off, that’ll fix her little red wagon.”

“Whatever.”

But upon reflection, the father thought perhaps it was indeed time for the little brat to become someone else’s problem.

He searched high and low, but all the princes were either married, poor, or otherwise unsuitable. Sitting on the battlements of the local Sweet Tomatoes while pondering the incongruity of the California Pizza Kitchen right up the street, because, what, Arizona has to import pizza now? Anyway, he was so distressed he didn’t even want pizza.

Okay, I’m kidding. Nobody skips pizza. But as he ate his pineapple and bacon pizza, he made the sound of ultimate boredom. Tasty as it was, the pizza, like his travels, brought him no closer to a solution. Beer being a sort of a solution, he had a couple as he nibbled the pizza crust.

The only problem solved was his hunger.

Sad as he was, he knew he must go home and explain what was what to his little girl. To effect a prompt return he allowed himself to be captured by the Dread Pirate Elderberry, who upon discovering that the father was looking for a husband for his brat of a daughter immediately put him ashore.

His plan for a free ride on a sailing ship thwarted, he bought himself a dark blue Toyota to drive home. Other drivers on the freeway soon tired of him shouting repeatedly “I drive an Indigo Corolla. You cut me off. Prepare to die!” Good thing it was a short drive home.

Parking in the garage of their suburban home, because after all, this isn’t California, out here people actually use their garage to store cars in believe it or not, he went inside to find his little girl playing on her computer.

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find you a prince.”

“A what? I don’t want a prince.”

The father realized that perhaps he had misread the clues.

“You’re probably right. You don’t need a prince. After all you’re what, nine or something?”

“Twelve. Practically a teenager.”

The father spent a moment in silent contemplation.

Then, he delivered a lecture. Since the invention of the lecture there have been five lectures that were rated the most irritating, the most bombastic, the most dogmatic.

This one left them all behind.

“And since you’re all ‘nearly a teenager’ young lady, how about you make me a cup of tea and get me some of my favorite lemon cookies. Now!”

Fiona-cup hung her head and went to the kitchen. As she clattered the crockery and boiled water for his tea, he clearly heard her mutter something under her breath.

“Whatever.”