Dear H.C. Andersen

This selection is part of Nonbinary Review Issue #14: The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Get NonBinary Review #14 from the Zoetic Press website. 

The sun is shining gloriously, the roosters are crowing, and the answers are flowing freely today! Please pen any and all queries about life, love, and everything between and direct to the attention of H.C. Andersen, advice-giver.

Dear H.C.,
The love of my life is a ball, but I am only a whipping top, sadly spinning day after day in hopes she might notice me. But how can she notice me when I know she loves the swallow in the tree outside? How does one compete with a swallow? Yesterday, we were outdoors with the children and she suddenly sprang high into the air. She has not returned! I fear she has left to marry the swallow without saying good bye, and now I have lost my chance forever. What turn can I take?

Dear Pointless,
Fear not, for with the sorry tidings, I bring you good news as well. It does sound as though your ball loves the swallow and not yourself, and it is likely she has gone to join him. Know though that swallows are capricious things, and like the wind, hard to predict. It could be that they are married now, a loving pair. However, it could also be that the wind has blown your lovely ball into the gutter, where she will lay, dirty and discarded, soaked with rain, for the rest of her life and yours. Now, don’t you think you can do better than a filthy used up ball lying in a gutter? I think so too.

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Dear H.C.,
I just can’t stand it anymore! My brothers and sisters are all beautiful, but next to them, I look big, gray, and ugly. They peck at me and mock me, and tell me they wish the cat would drag me away! My own mother used to defend me, to tell them I was a good swimmer and not all that hideous, but even she sometimes seems to wish I’d never been born. To make matters worse, everyone else I encounter seems to laugh at me just the same. How can I get them to look past my ugly facade and respect the real me?
Ugly Duckling

Dear Ugly Duckling,
Good news – you don’t have to! While your brothers and sisters might be fine ducklings indeed, I suspect you are not. I suspect you are something better. Have you ever seen the swans swim by, with their long, graceful necks? How fine looking, how aristocratic they are! However, they are big, lumpy, and gray as cygnets, hardly the most beautiful of birds. Bide your time until the spring, young one, and you might be the most beautiful of all. That will show them, won’t it?

*    *    *

Dear H.C.,
I write with the most dramatic of problems. I have seen the man of my dreams from afar and watched to ensure he is a fine and handsome prince. I also once saved his life, when he was thrown from his ship and nearly drowned! Perhaps I have stalked him just a little, but if you could understand – I am a mermaid, cursed to live in the sea with a fin instead of strong legs I could use to run to him…among other things. I have learned of the existence of a sea witch who will help me, but for a price. Is love worth the price I might pay?
Sick of Swimming

Dear Sick,
My dear, love is always worth it! The sea witch might be a conniving, well, witch indeed. She might give you legs that pain you with every step. She might take your voice that you can no longer sing sweetly, or even tell your prince who you are, leaving you with nothing but your beautiful form, graceful walk, and expressive eyes to sway his favor. She might doom you to spend an eternity as sea foam if you cannot win him, never again to return to your family in the sea. And yet, my dumb child, would it not be worthwhile, even then, to have had the chance to look upon his face in true, mutual love? I think so.

That concludes our yarns for this day, lords and ladies! Return again another day for new quandaries and new solutions.

Heather Talty is a speculative fiction writer who has been featured in Curiosity Quills anthologies Gears of Brass and Cast No Shadows, as well as in Enchanted Conversation. She is the managing editor of Newtown Literary.