The Pea and the Princess

by Ptim Callan

 

 

 

 

11298

Once upon a time in a far-off kingdom there lived a pea.  This pea went through the normal pea-growing season until on one occasion it, along with a whole bunch of other peas, was picked.  All the picked peas found their way into a burlap bag in which they were whisked off to market.  There the pea was purchased, along with a smaller sack of other peas.  Now it underwent a second carriage ride, shorter this time, and eventually found itself, still in sack, deposited on a counter top. 

Some time later the pea’s shell was shucked and, separated from its podmates, the pea wound up sitting loose in a metal pan.  Through all this activity the pea did not feel fear or trepidation, even when separated from the familial pod, for it was a pea and therefore didn’t experience emotion.  And now, facing the fire, the fearless pea did not quail, did not shiver.

But at the last possible moment the pea was saved from certain destruction.  “Hold it,” a voice called authoritatively, “hold on to those peas for a moment.”  A soft and manicured hand reached into the pan and removed purely at random our pea.  A courtier’s hand.  “Another of the prince’s ladies,” the hand explained, and the pea was rushed from the kitchen.

Through corridors and rooms, up and down stairs the pea flew and at last it found itself placed gently but efficiently on the bare baseboard of a bed.  The pea had no time to think (nor ability) before the smothering weight of a feather mattress was placed upon it.  The crushing weight of additional mattresses followed.  Mattress after mattress until an incredible, crushing, stifling weight lay on that pea.  And finally, to top it all off, the weight of a would-be princess.  Were it able to discern, this pea may have discerned through all those mattresses that this was a lady exceedingly delicate and genteel.  A mere 105 pounds, that lady still presented an additional load on the already overworked pea.

Now here’s where this story differs from others before it.  On dozens of occasions, this exact same sequence—more or less—played out.  A pea is grown, harvested, nearly cooked, rescued, placed under the combined burden of mattresses and princessly pretender, and finally smashed.  Flattened.  Demolished.  Obliterated.  And in the morning the lady stated, correctly, that she had slept perfectly.  Like a baby.  Like the dead.  And in each case the lady, owing to some special fetish on the prince’s part, would find herself kicked out on her delicate, genteel behind.

But this time.

This time it was different.  All the details were the same.  Same ultrasoft feather mattresses.  Same ultradelicate fair-skinned lady.  Same manicured courtier.  But this time there was something special about the pea.  This pea appeared the same as its fellows before.  Small, green, not really worthy of note.  And while this pea certainly was tender and succulent, easily worthy of a king’s dinner table, somehow it offered up a little more resistance than its predecessors.  If one did not know better he would be tempted to speculate that perhaps this pea had just the slightest bit more willpower than those previous.

Whatever the reason, the pea held.  On this occasion the pea retained its circularity.  And in the morning the lady (not one for polite dishonesty, not this lady) complained her way to a crown.

And they all lived happily ever after.  Except the pea.  Of course.

 

 

 

©  2002 Ptim Callan

 

Ptim Callan’s writing has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Poetry Midwest,
Eyeshot, Coelacanth, SoMa Literary Review, and others.  He has written and produced films that have been screened at The Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, San Francisco Independent Film Festival, and other festivals.  He took my English degree from UCLA, where he was fortunate enough to study creative writing under Robert Coover and John Barth.

tim@ptim.org