Bête’s Off

This is another short for which I haven’t been able to find a home. It started out as a Flash Fiction piece on Authonomy (theme: Beauty Treatment) but I think it fits quite well with some of my Friday Fictioneers pictures. It’s not particularly original but I couldn’t bear to let it rot on my hard drive.

You can take the boy out of the Beast, the enchantress always said, but you can’t take the Beast out of the boy. Arguably, that’s forcing an idiom into a usage that it was never intended for, but you have to take her point. Really, after spending a decade in throes of lycanthropy with only anthropomorphic kitchen utensils for company, you’d expect him to have learned a lesson or two about humility. Maybe he did, but when a good looking lass like Beauty started fluttering her eyelashes at him, that all went out of the window. Before, he’d been egocentric, thoughtless but there’d been a modicum of self awareness there; afterwards, he thought he was God’s gift to women.

He started by flirting with the villagers and ended up taking a milkmaid for his mistress. If Beauty wasn’t happy, he said, she should be grateful for the free yoghurt and the use of the stool. Beauty only sighed and wondered under her breath why he couldn’t remember she was lactose intolerant. Later, there would be other girls, and mysterious trips to Prague, though by then Beast wasn’t even bothering to ask for freebies for his wife.

When they’d been married five years, Beauty started on about wanting a baby but Beast said he wasn’t ready to settle down. She tried her best to win him over, but he wasn’t having any if it and, in the end, he paid a passing witch a few groats to perform a makeshift vasectomy. It hurt for a while, and he’d never be able to look at eglantine in the same way again, but it won him the argument.

After that, they settled into an uneasy routine. Beauty took the east wing of the castle, Beast the west. She took up yoga and he carried on with his philandering. Later, he got into whiskey and horse racing.

When he turned thirty-five, Beast was getting fat and struggling to attract the attentions of the local maidens so he decided to rekindle his relationship with his wife. Trouble was, she wasn’t interested. He tried to buy her affections by paying for a boob job but she didn’t fancy becoming Beauty and the Breasts. He offered to take her on a second honeymoon, but she pointed out that one fortnight in Cleethorpes was enough for anyone. Finally, he took the bit between his teeth and promised to change. He’d stop the adultery and start treating her with respect; he’d turn himself back into the man she fell in love with. But Beauty told him that was the problem: she didn’t love him anymore. It didn’t matter how many Steak Nights at Wetherspoons he took her to; the fairytale was over. It was about then that Beast noted the first hairs on the palms of his hands.

Without the love of a beautiful woman, the enchantress’ spell started taking hold again. Beast started getting stockier and furrier, his features coarser and more animal. He tried winning Beauty’s affections back but it was all to no avail. By the time he was forty, Beast was beastly once more, and it was all his own fault. He was devastated that his selfishness had cost him everything he held dear.

Then he got himself a sports car and it didn’t seem to matter so much.


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