Once upon a time there was a witch and even the strongest man would not dare
step near the witch. She was ugly, as most witches are, and scary, as most 
witches are, but she was meaner than most witches. This is because the witch
had six toes on one foot and seven toes on the other, so none of her shoes
ever fit her well. This made the witch very angry, because she loved shoes
and thought they were the prettiest things in all the world, but they all
made her feet hurt like they were being poked with sharp thorns, because all
the shoes were made for normal five toe feet. So she was the meanest witch
there ever was, meaner than a hundred normal witches, and anyone who went
near her would be turned into a worm or a squishy bug or a frog, all of
which the witch liked to cook up in her soup for dinner.

One day a strong warrior called Prince Geoffrey came to the little town near
the woods where the witch made her horrible home. Everybody in the town was
scared silly of the witch, but Prince Geoffrey was not. "I will fight your
witch," he said to the people in the town, "and then you will not have to be
scared." The people all cheered Prince Geoffrey and said how brave he was,
but when he wasn't looking, they also said he was crazy and would soon be
soup for the witch. But Prince Geoffrey didn't hear them and wouldn't care
if he did, because he was so brave that once he fought three giants with
only a stick, the first giant having eaten his sword in one gulp.

So Prince Geoffrey went into the woods with his sword shining and his shield
strong to find the witch and fight her. It was not long before be found her
little hut in a clearing in the forest. Smoke was coming out of the crooked
chimney, and the witch was nowhere to be seen. Fearlessly, Prince Geoffrey
banged on the door and shouted, "Come out, you old hag! Come out and fight
me!"

The witch came out, and when she saw the prince with his shining sword and
strong shield, she knew she could not fight him. So quick as a cat she said
a magic spell and turned him into a tiny slug, all slimey and wet.

"Ha ha!" she cackled as she scooped up the sluggy prince, "you will be
delicious in my dinner soup!" She hobbled back into her horrid hut with him
in her wrinkly hand, and because it wasn't dinner time yet, she put him into
a glass box to keep him from running away, with a heavy rock on the top to
keep it closed.

Now the Prince was surprised to find himself a slug, but the shock soon wore
off and he began watching the witch as she limped around her house, mixing
potions and polishing her best flying broom. He saw that she always walked
gingerly and often said bad words, words no child should ever hear or say,
when she walked.

"Oh witch," he called out from his box, "why do you limp? Do you have rocks
in your shoes?"

"Rocks!" she replied, "Rocks! What kind of a fool would have rocks in their
shoes?"

"Well then, perhaps you were hurt in a fight?" he said.

"A fight?", she answered, "A fight? No, my putrid prince, no, I never fight, 
because my magic is so strong. I always turn my enemies into snacks for my
supper, oh yes! And then I eat them up, just like I will eat you in a bit!"

The prince didn't like the sound of that eating thing, not even a little, but 
since he was a slug he was very weak, and he could not break out of the glass
box, even though he had been secretly trying. The best he could do was to
wiggle his eye-stalks around a bit. So there was nothing better for him to do
than to keep talking.

"Maybe another witch cast a spell on you, then?" he offered.

"Hah!" she spat, "as if any other witch could do that! Do you really want to
know why I limp so, you stupid slug, do you?"

"Why yes, witch, I do," Prince Geoffrey replied.

She sat down heavily on a stool (which was once a brave knight from Barstow)
and pulled off her lovely purple shoe. "There," she cried, shoving her
six-toed foot up against the glass of the box, "now do you see?"

Not only did she have six toes, but they were long and twisty, and she never
washed between them nor cut her toenails. Her feet were the ugliest,
dirtiest, most painful feet that the prince had ever seen, and he was quite
shocked to have one of them shoved suddenly in his face. "Oh!" was the
best he could manage to say.

"Yes," she whined in her witchy voice, "they hurt all the time. It's
terrible, and none of my lovely shoes fit me." She used her magic to open
her huge shoe closet, which was bigger than a child's bedroom, and made
pairs of shoes float out for the prince to see. "Look," she said, "these
silky slippers? Too tight. These lovely loafers? Too tight. These perfect 
pink pumps? Too tight. Even the snow boots are too tight for my extra-toed 
feet!" And she began to cry.

Now when most women cry, a person feels sorry for them. But the witch's
crying was as ugly as her toes, all scrunched up face and a sob that sounded
like a howling hyena, and Prince Geoffrey didn't feel even a tiny bit sorry
for her. But it did give him an idea.

"There, there, old witch," he said in the nicest voice he could (though
being a slug, it was a rather hissy and unpleasant voice anyway), "perhaps I
can help you."

"Help me?" she wailed through her weeping, "What? Are you the prince of
shoemakers, then, come to make me lovely shoes?"

"Well, no, I am not," he said, which caused her to wail even louder, "but I
think that maybe I can fix your feet instead."

"Fix my feet? So you're the prince of podiatrists!"

"No, again no," he said, "but there is another way. Perhaps you saw my fine
sword when we were outside?"

The witch quieted down to a slight snuffle and said, "That silly little
butter knife you were waving? I suppose I might have noticed it."
	
"Well," said the prince, "that sword is so sharp that I could cut off your
extra toes and you'd never even notice. It would cut right through you like
water, and you wouldn't even bleed a drop. Then you could fit into those
perfect pink pumps as easy as a frog in a log."

The witch was a very vain witch, and she would have done anything to wear
those perfect pink pumps without pain, but she wasn't a stupid witch. "How
do I know your sword is so sharp, then, hmmm? How do I know this isn't some
sort of heroey trick, hmmm?"

"This very morning," he said, "I slipped when I was putting my sword in its
scabbard and it cut my pinkie finger clear off. If you turned me back into a
person, you could see for yourself that there's not even a scab left."

"Turn you back into a person?" she cackled. "Do you take me for a fool? Why,
then you'd jump on me and do some kind of warriorly whacking to try to kill
me, now wouldn't you?"

"Oh, no, witch, that would be cheating. You spelled me fair and square, you
did, and no prince would ever cheat like that!" said Prince Geoffrey (even
though what she said was entirely true). "But if you don't believe me, just
make my hands human again so you can see, and leave the rest of me sluggy.
I'll be doing no jumping that way!"

The witch hemmed and she hawed, but in the end she could see no harm in
it, and she wanted to wear those perfect pink pumps so badly that she
said a quick spell and POOF! The prince's hands popped out of his slimey
sides right next to his eyestalks, and sure enough, the pinkie on his left
hand was gone, neat as you like, without even a scab. (Of course, the prince
had really lost that pinkie years ago when an ogre cut it off, but the witch
didn't know that).

"It's true!" she cried, "all true! Oh, goodbye, my terrible toes!" And she
positively dashed out of her hut to find Prince Geoffrey's sword. In a trice
she was back, and she put her foot up on the breadboard, ready to slice off
her very own toe.

To get to the breadboard, though, she had to turn her back to the slug
prince. Even though he had only hands, he knew this was his best chance to
escape, and so he made a mighty fist and smashed right through the glass
box, though he had no idea how he might slither away from the witch
afterwards.

The crashing of the glass startled the witch, who was almost ready to chop
at her toes, and she jumped. The sword, which was every bit as sharp as
Prince Geoffrey had said, slipped and it sliced her foot clear off.

"No!" she shrieked, looking at the stump of her leg, "No! Now I can never,
ever wear my perfect pink pumps! Even my ugly Oxfords are no use! Nooooo!"

She was so overcome with rage and anger that she spun about in a circle of
fury, faster and faster, until her hatred turned her into a whirlwind and
she popped like a balloon, sending little black wrinkly bits of skin all over
the room like torn umbrella cloth. And that was the end of her.

With the witch dead, all her spells ended too, and Prince Geoffrey turned
into himself again (though if he wanted to, he could still poke his eyes out
on stalks like a slug, which came in useful sometimes at parties or on
Halloween). He went back to the town, and at first nobody would believe he
had defeated the witch. But eventually the bravest men in the town went
sneaking into the woods, and when they found the witch's hut empty and her
leathery skin all over, they came singing and rejoicing back. Then the
townsfolk believed, and they threw the biggest party ever for Prince
Geoffrey, and brought him three chocolate cakes and all their best treasures.

And then, of course, they all lived happily ever after.


Copyright 2003, Kevin Vigor.

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