Alex in Wonderland
A Fairy Tale for the Twenty-First Century
By Fred Gielow. Posted here for April 1, 2013.
Alex awoke from a sound sleep and looked around. He wasn't in bed. He was lying in the grass next to a small pond with lily pads. The sky above was a brilliant blue. A big, warm sun was shining directly overhead. He could see an inviting forest nearby and in the distance: beautiful mountains. It was just like make-believe. A pleasant breeze danced around him. Had he died and gone to heaven? Or, if not that, what?
"So, why are you here?" asked the frog.
Alex looked about to find who had just spoken. He spotted the head of a large frog looking at him from the water near the edge of the pond. "I didn't know frogs could talk," said Alex.
"You're here because you didn't know frogs could talk?"
"No no! I'm here because I guess I've lost my way."
"Couldn't you have lost your way somewhere else?" inquired the frog.
"Where am I?" Alex inquired with a slight quiver in his voice.
"Haven't you ever heard of Wonderland?" responded the frog as it hopped out of the water onto a rock at the edge of the pond. Then the frog flicked its tongue at a nearby insect, snatched it, and made a snack of the catch.
"How did I get here?"
"You think I'm in charge of your itinerary?"
Just then two owls swooped down and perched themselves on an old fallen tree trunk near to where Alex and the frog were conversing. One was a spotted owl, the other a hoot owl. The spotted owl cleared his throat, spun its head around once, blinked three times, and in a voice with a slight southern accent spoke. "I'm absolutely delighted to welcome you to Wonderland," he said, flashing a big smile. "We're a happy community of forest animals here, all living together in harmony. Everyone is equal here. No one gets any special privileges." The hoot owl smiled, then nodded in agreement.
"Well, thank you very much," said Alex.
"Don't you know you should always address the king as 'Your Majesty'?" interjected the frog.
"Oh my goodness!" said Alex. Then with a grand, sweeping bow, he said, "I had no idea you were king, Your Majesty. Please forgive me, Your Majesty. I'm so sorry, Your Majesty."
"Doesn't bother me a bit," said the spotted owl, as it raised its beak and looked away. The hoot owl again nodded in agreement.
The frog looked quickly at the spotted owl. "Shouldn't he say 'King Oliver' when he speaks to you, Your Majesty?"
Alex spoke right up. "Oh, I beg your pardon, King Oliver, Your Majesty."
"I'm quite a lenient king," said Oliver in a serious tone. "I'm very humble, very cordial, very obliging. Not one single animal here in Wonderland has been executed simply because he or she has insulted me." The hoot owl quickened the pace of his nodding.
Oliver continued, "But now I have important royal business to attend to, so I must be on my way. I hope you enjoy your stay here in Wonderland." And with that, Oliver spread his impressive wings and with a single flap of them was off. The hoot owl flapped his wings furiously and slowly took flight, nodding as he went.
"What a nice king you have," remarked Alex. "So pleasant, so welcoming, so handsome. And he has such a beguiling smile. But the owl with him seemed like he didn't know what he was doing. All he did was nod in agreement."
"Didn't I introduce the old hoot?" asked the frog. "Come to think of it, don't you think the king should introduce his next in command?"
"Well, the old hoot, as you called him, seemed a little confused. Old and confused. Old and stupid and confused. But the king was nice."
"What would you say if I told you Oliver was a tyrant? Did you happen to notice that every single one of his statements was a bald-faced lie?"
"Would I deceive you?"
"Well, for all I know, the king was telling the truth and you have been lying."
At that point, the frog's attention was diverted as a hedgehog sauntered by. "Hey, Hillary," the frog called out, "don't you think you've been plumping up quite a bit lately?"
Hillary paid no attention.
"Hey, Hillary," the frog called out again, "don't you think your hair is looking more and more like the nest of a dodo bird?"
Again, Hillary acted as if she hadn't heard.
"Hey, Hillary," the frog continued, "don't you think you're rubbing the aging cream in the wrong direction?"
The hedgehog's face flushed red, she stopped in her tracks, frowned an ugly face at the frog and blurted out, "What difference does it make?" Then she stomped off in a huff.
"That wasn't a very nice thing to say," said Alex.
"Why do you suppose hedgehogs are so sensitive?" responded the frog.
"You were insulting."
"Did you hear that?" asked the frog.
"Hear what? I don't hear anything."
Alex listened intently as the faint sound of babbling and screaming got a bit louder. "Now I can hear something," said Alex. "It sounds like some sort of bird screeching and wailing and jabbering. Is it injured? It it crazy? What is it?"
"Can you see that big, fat bird flying around way up in the trees over there? Can you believe it's a gooney bird?"
"I can believe it's a loony bird! It sounds like Chicken Little shouting that the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end. Sounds like the critter is about fifty-one cards shy of a full deck."
"Then you've heard of Al Gooney? You've heard he thinks the oceans will rise up and submerge everything? You've heard he's off his rocker?"
"I've heard there are lots of nitwits running around. Flying around, in this case," said Alex.
Al continued his ranting and raving, but eventually flew off toward the mountains. Then a rustling sound could be heard in a nearby bush. "I think I hear a rustle," remarked Alex.
"How did you know his name?"
"Didn't you say Russell?"
"I said I heard a rustle in the bush."
"And you didn't mean Russell the raccoon?"
Russell emerged from the bush and wondered over to the edge of the pond. He had a big bag filled of groceries, 37 books of food stamps, and three cell phones. "Hell-o," he said.
"Hell-o," said Alex.
"Got anything that's free?"
"Well, no," said Alex, "I don't."
"Bye," said Russell, and he wondered off aimlessly into the forest.
"Do you know who that was?" asked the frog.
"Was it someone who broke the law to get into Wonderland?"
"How come you're so smart?" said the frog. "Can you believe he brought along 387 relatives with him?"
"As a matter of fact, I can believe it," said Alex. "Does King Oliver give food and cell phones to all the raccoons?"
"Are you kidding me?" responded the frog, "and where do you think he gets all the food and phones to give away?"
"I guess by taking away food items and phones from animals who have worked hard to obtain them."
"And you wonder why so many animals don't like the king?"
"I can imagine a lot of successful animals would be resentful," said Alex.
Their conversation was interrupted by a low hissing sound. The frog swung his head around and spotted two beady eyes peering right at him from a nearby mound of grass. Looking more closely, the frog could see the body of a snake coiled up and almost totally concealed.
"How long do you think that snake has been there?" asked the frog.
"I don't know," said Alex. "He could have been there all the time we've been talking."
"How do you suppose the king keeps the animals in control?"
"You mean he has snakes in the grass spying on everyone?"
"Does a bear poop in the woods?"
"Well yes, I suppose."
"Don't you get it when I use analogies?"
"Do you think he's heard what we've said?"
"What do you think will happen to me when the king finds I've been disloyal?"
"If Oliver likes frogs' legs, the word 'quadriplegic' comes to mind."
"Do you think that's funny?"
"Sorry." Alex took a deep breath. "I have to ask you a question, Mr. Frog. Everything you've said to me -- every single sentence -- has been a question. I don't understand. Why do you do that?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"Yes, of course I do."
"Can you imagine what it would be like, being under a spell, where you can only pose questions, and if you make any statement, you'll immediately vaporize, and whomever you're talking to will immediately turn into a frog?"
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've every heard," said Alex with a chuckle.
"No, it's absolutely true!"
"Wait!" said Alex, his face turning pale. "That was a statement!"
"Crap," said the frog.
Then there was a sound: "Poof!" And a small white cloud of smoke appeared where the frog had been sitting.
Alex looked around and the frog was gone.
"Crap," said Alex. Then he said: "ribbit!"