Cosmic Debris is a free humor column including science fiction humor, family humor, observational humor, and other types of humor
along with a few serious and/or poignant thoughts by award-winning newspaper columnist Gary Greenberg.
by Gary Greenberg
The Story of Morning Glory
When I was a little boy, my Nana Pauline used to tease me.
"Do you want to hear the story of morning glory?" she'd ask.
"Yes," I'd reply.
"Shall I begin it?"
She'd laugh. "There's nothing in it."
I always was fooled. Always disappointed.
But I got over it, and I totally forgot about the story of morning glory
until I became a father. Like all four-year-olds, my son Glen loves stories
and makes me tell one after the other whenever we’re in the car, especially
on I-95. When my imagination waned on the way to Miami one day, I
remembered Nana Pauline's little joke and asked Glen if he wanted to hear
the story of morning glory.
"Shall I begin it?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied.
I laughed. "There's nothing in it."
"But I want there to be something in it," he shouted from the back
Hmmm. Me too, I thought. I always wanted there to be something
other than nothing in it, so I took a deep breath and began...
Once upon a time, there was a wicked witch who lived in a tall black
castle surrounded by a thick forest of thorn trees with sharp, pointy thorns
as long as your arm. This witch, whose name was Cirae, was very ugly.
She had snakes for hair, a long crooked nose with warts, pointy brown teeth
and mottled skin. And if you don't know what mottled skin looks like, you're
lucky because it's the kind of thing that can give a little kid like you
As ugly as the wicked witch Cirae was, that's how strong her
magic was. She could conjure up a spell for just about anything--rain, fire,
bugs, serpents, plagues, telemarketing--anything except to make herself
beautiful. Like most evil people, and witches in particular, Cirae was
wicked mainly because she had a poor self-image. Instead of looking inside
herself to find the problem, she instead decided to take it out on everyone
else in the world.
Then one day, she found an old book of black witchcraft in a secret
chamber of the castle, and it had a spell for beauty. All she had to do was
drink the blood of the most beautiful girl in the world, and she would capture
all of that beauty.
Cirae gazed into her crystal ball and saw that the most beautiful
girl in the world lived in the village of Ives Dairy and her name was Morning
Glory. Cirae’s problem, however, was that she couldn’t leave her
enchanted black castle without breaking a clause in her occupational contract
and turning into dust. So she caught a little lizard, and with a thorn she
pierced her skin and let a few drops of her blood fall on it, chanting:
Blood of my blood,
Pricked with a thorn,
Change this little lizard ,
Into a king’s first-born.
Lo and behold, the lizard turned into a handsome prince named
“Go to the village of Ives Dairy,” the witch commanded. “Find the
maiden Morning Glory. Tell her you’re a prince come to carry her off to your
castle.” She cackled like the Witch of the West: “Ah-ha-ha-ha. Then you’ll
bring her to me.”
“But how shall I get there?” Prince Chevron asked. “It might not look
princely to fly there on a broomstick.”
The wicked witch Cirae picked a wart on her chin, then flicked a
gnarled finger straight into the air. Another drop of blood would do the trick.
She plucked a juicy palmetto bug from its perch on a plate of gingerbread
cookie crumbs and turned it into a beautiful white stallion named Skipper.
“Now go!” cried the witch. “Ride off and don’t return, till you have
Morning Glory safely secured in your arms. Ah-ha-ha-ha!”
So Prince Chevron, who was really a lizard, rode his white horse
Skipper, who was really a giant roach, to the village of Ives Dairy, where he
found Morning Glory singing a song as she worked in her garden:
A hundred bottles of beer on the wall,
a hundred bottles of beer...
Just kidding. The song went more like this:
Come little birds,
to this garden of mine,
where the star flower blooms,
and the sun always shines,
Come little squirrels,
to this garden so fine,
where gonzo nuts grow
on the dragon claw vines,
Come little kittens,
“Yaaah!!! A snake” she shrieked, then hacked it to pieces with her
Just kidding. Morning Glory was so nice and loving that she would have
let even a poisonous snake go on its way. And so Prince Chevron found her
singing merrily in the garden, surrounded by feathered and furry little
creatures. He told her he’d come to sweep her off her feet, to take her back
to his kingdom and make her a queen.
Well, Morning Glory was quite impressed by the look of this prince,
who was tall, strong and handsome. But she wasn’t the type of girl who was
about to run off with the first guy who happened to come along claiming to
be a prince.
“If you’re a prince, then you must prove it to me by doing something
princely,” she said.
“Like what?” Prince Chevron asked.
“Bring me the Gem of Toren,” she said.
With a chivalrous salute, Prince Chevron spun Skipper around and
galloped off into the forest. The Gem of Toren was equal parts diamond,
ruby, emerald and sapphire and reputed to be the most beautiful jewel in the
world. The problem was that no one knew where it was or even if it really
But none of that mattered to Prince Chevron, who had nabbed a small
bag of emergency magic powder from the wicked witch’s private stash of
magic potions and powders. As soon as he was out of sight, he stopped to
sprinkle some on an ordinary rock, which sizzled and popped and turned into a
Morning Glory was very impressed with the stone and saw that this
prince would be a good provider. But equally important was that he have a
“For your second test,” she said, “you must tame a wild beast for me.”
Off again he rode, into the forest. He found a mean old wolverine who
snarled and snapped at him until he threw a pinch of the magic powder in the
air. The wolverine sniffed it and snorted, then turned as sweet as high
fructose corn syrup.
Morning Glory was delighted and hugged the wolverine. Good provider,
good of heart, she thought of the prince, flicking a wolverine flea from her
forearm. What else was there? She knew there had to be something, because
in fairy tales, things always run in three.
“Oh yes,” she remembered with a start. “Kiss me, you fool.”
Being rich and a good guy isn’t enough if there is no true love the mix.
It would have to be a very special heart-fluttering, toe-curling kiss, Morning
Glory thought. Prince Chevron swept her into his arms, and as she closed her
eyes and puckered up, he paused to wipe the last few grains of emergency
magic powder on his lips. Then he planted a kiss like no other before, the
magic powder entrancing Morning Glory for once and for all. This prince is for
real, she thought with her heart.
So she let Prince Chevron take her back to his castle, which was really
the wicked witch Cirae’s lair.
“Close your eyes, dear,” the prince said as they drew near. “I want this
to be a big surprise.”
Morning Glory did as she was told, and when she opened them again,
she was looking at the ugliest witch that had ever been, and that’s saying a
lot. She turned to her prince, but he just stared back with lifeless eyes.
“I’ve got you now,” said the witch with a laugh. “And I’ll have your
beauty as soon as I drink your blood.” Then she turned to the prince and
cried, “Now off with her head.”
Prince Chevron grabbed Morning Glory by her shimmering blond hair
and drew his sword. She gazed into his eyes. They were like zombie eyes:
dark, cold, empty. This dream guy had sure turned into a project, she
thought. Then she focused her thoughts on true love and no more, and she
fixed her gaze . The prince’s eyes blinked once, twinkled twice and his lifeless
stare suddenly filled with human warmth.
“Off with her head,” screamed the wicked witch Cirae. “Cut it off.
And so Prince Chevron swung his mighty broadsword and lopped off
poor Morning Glory’s head...
Just kidding. At the last second, he spun around and lopped off the
head of the wicked witch Cirae. The head bounced a couple of times and
came to rest against a wall.
“What did you do that for?” the witch’s head screamed. “Remember,
without my magic, you’re nothing more than a yellow-bellied skink.”
“I think not,” the prince said, strolling up to the witch’s head. “Or don’t
you remember? Before you turned me into a lizard, I was a handsome prince.”
The witch thought back. It was true. To get her witch’s license, she’d
had to perform various feats of black magic, and one requirement was to turn
a handsome prince into something slimy and/or scaly. This was the one, she
remembered, just as Prince Chevron gave her head a kick that sent it
bouncing down the 3,152 stone steps of the black castle’s tower.
“Ouch! Ach! Oomp! Uhhh!” the witch’s head cried out on each and every
step. “Achch! Ooomph! Oooff! Yow! Ugh! Uhh!” By the time it reached the
bottom, there was no life left, and the wicked witch Cirae’s body upstairs
turned into dust and blew away.
And thus her evil spell lifted from the black castle. It turned a
glistening ivory white and the thorns on the thorn trees surrounding it
blossomed into a most beautiful flower that the people of the land came to
call Morning Glory, after their beloved queen.
And they all lived happily ever after, except maybe Skipper the white
horse, who had never been a horse before the wicked witch Cirae turned
him into one. So when the witch died and all of her spells were automatically
canceled, Skipper turned back into a palmetto bug. But at least he was a
palmetto bug who enjoyed giving horsy rides to all of the fleas in the
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