Friday, August 19, 2011

A New Ending to a Problematic Story

Last year when Dave and I lived in Maine I worked in the home care field. While there were horrible days (the day I cleaned blood off a bathroom floor will go down in history as Yucky Day #1), there were some great moments. I worked for a 99 year old guy who would tell me stories about life in Maine almost a century ago - he will get his own post someday. There was a 27 year old with a spinal cord injury who became more of a friend than a patient. And there was another older man, 95, who was an absolute sweetheart and a total physical mess. Mostly blind, no sense of balance, no muscle tone, lots of memory loss - much of him had deteriorated except his love of books and music. I went to see him three to five times a week and every day I would put on a record, make him some food, and read.

He didn't have any books in his apartment that really lent themselves to being read aloud - non-fiction on herbal remedies and trolley cars. I had to think for a while about what book to read to him - nothing with too much violent or sex or swearing obviously, but I wanted something that might interest an older man. Anything by Neil Gaiman was out - too much of all of those no-nos - none of my many heroine fueled fantasy novels, and no murder mysteries. It gave me some consternation to discover that I don't own many books suitable for all audiences when I found my savior. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, has been one of my favorite book for over a decade, and my paperback copy is worn to fuzzyness. I have read it more times than I can count but it was only with this reading, done aloud with many repetitions of chapters (that's what happens when you read to someone with memory loss), when I noticed a problem with the story. Maybe it isn't a problem with the story itself, but it certainly created a problem for me, so much so that I will never read it the same way again. I could explain it to you, but I think what I would rather do is address it in the form of a short epilogue to the story. That said, I give you Buttercup's Epiphany.

Buttercup's Epiphany

Ten years after Westley relapsed again and Buttercup's horse threw a shoe, they lived in a small house on the Florinese coast. Buttercup was no longer the most beautiful woman in the world, not even in the top fifty, but she still turned heads at market. Westley was no longer as strong as he had been - the death had taken a lot out of him - and he had developed a gut that no amount of wood chopping could banish. They had two golden haired children, a boy and a girl, who were both beautiful, though not particularly intelligent.

Buttercup was washing up after dinner when she paused, suds making her hands prune in a way that dropped her another few levels.



"You were the Dread Pirate Roberts."

Westley looked up from his paper. He stared at his wife for a long moment. "Darling, now I know that you have never been the brightest, but..."

"Don't make fun of me, Westley. I'm having a revelation. It only just occurred to me. You were the Dread Pirate Roberts. For years, you told me."

"Yes." He returned to his paper.


He carefully folded his hands and looked up. "Yes?"

"The Dread Pirate Roberts never leaves survivors."

Westley stared. "Well, yes."

"So you never left survivors. In all those years."

Westley said nothing.

"Westley. You killed people for money. For years."

Still he said nothing.

Buttercup turned back to the sink and looked out the window. The boy and girl played outside.

"Get out. You are not my farm boy. He died on that ship."

Westley got up from the table and went into the bedroom. Buttercup was finishing scrubbing the stew pot when he came back out, a bag over his shoulder.

"Out. Don't ever come back."

"As you wish."

All characters belong to William Goldman. There is no copyright infringement intended.

1 comment:

  1. An epilogue to your epilogue:

    As Westley walked away from a life that had become unbearably humdrum, he reflected on his youthful days as the Dread Pirate Roberts. So much of reputation is poppycock. It's not reality that is counts but what people believe is reality. Happily ever after, for example, the end of so many tales is seldom happy or ever after. He crested a hill and brightened at the sight of the sea coast. I must find Inigo.