by Michal Reibenbach
Big Maddie knocked on the scratched, weathered beaten, wooden door of the tired looking house. Some of the houses large, whitish grey, stones were covered in moss and the white paint of the window’s wooden frames was flaking off. It took a while before an old, plump woman opened the door; peeking out from behind her was a little girl. Big Maddie recognized them: the old woman was her grandmother and the little girl was herself as a little child. She didn't understand what was happening; 'had she somehow gone back in time?!'
"What do you want?" asked the old woman. In her heart, Big Maddie felt she wanted to cross the threshold, enter into the house, and somehow help the motherless girl that had once been herself as a little child; so she said, "Please don't be alarmed! I just thought you might need some help around the house?"
"Yes, actually I do," answered the old woman, “The house is in an awful mess and I don't feel very well. I really do need some help but I'm afraid I won't be able to pay you very much."
"Oh that's alright," said Maddie. "You can give me whatever you can afford."
She didn't tell the old woman that she was even willing to work for free, for it might have seemed strange and suspicious. The old lady let Big Maddie into the house, "If you could begin with cleaning the kitchen and the sitting room, and then folding the laundry—I'm afraid I'll have to leave you now to go and lie down for a while, for I feel rather dizzy," said the old lady, and she shuffled off to a back room to rest. At the same time, her grand-daughter scurried up the stairs and out of Big Maddie's sight; as a result, she was left alone.
Big Maddie began to look around curiously. As she did so, she could see the belongings of the little girl's father lying about everywhere; and that brought back memories as to how much he used to resemble an Ogre, which was what everyone had called him: ‘The Ogre.’ She could feel his presence all around her, even though she couldn't see him. She thought to herself, "He's made himself invisible, to make it easier for him to torment me!"
Upon entering the kitchen which was in an awful mess; she set about washing the dirty dishes and cooking-pots with great gusto; until there was a large pile of them drying on the draining board. Next, she washed the floor down with a cloth, until it shone. Then, as Big Maddie stood still waiting for the damp floor to dry, she called out to the Ogre, "Even though I can't see you, I know that you are around here somewhere, for I can feel your presence! I've journeyed back in time in order to help the pathetic, motherless child that used to be me all those years ago. Now that I've cleaned your filthy kitchen and washed your dirty dishes, will you show your little girl some love?"
The Ogre roared with laughter, "Ha-ha-ha-" and then he shouted out in a slurred, cocky voice, "I can't give her any love, for I don't have any emotions!" Big Maddie could tell that he was drunk. The Ogre was so enraged with her request; so much so that, with the force of his anger, he managed to knock some clean dishes off the sideboard and consequently they smashed down onto the floor and broke into tiny pieces. In despair, Big Maddie sat down on the kitchen floor with her shoulders hunched over and began to cry into her chest, tears burst forth spilling down her face for the little girl. Finally, she pulled herself together, got up and wiped away her tears with an old tea-towel she found in a kitchen drawer, then she set about sweeping up the broken dishes with a broom and threw the pieces into the dustbin. Next, she dried up all the pots and dishes with her tear-soaked towel and placed them in the cupboard. Having finished cleaning the kitchen to her satisfaction she took the towel, along with a broom, mop and a bucket of water with her into the sitting room; where she set about tidying it up and scrubbing the floor. This also involved dusting off any toys she found lying around and placing them into the toy-chest; while she was doing this, her tea-towel got caught in the wheels of a toy car and as she pulled at it, she accidentally tore the towel---she thought to herself dismally, 'All I'm armed with to help the poor, motherless child fight her battles, is a wet, torn, tea-towel..'
Maddie cleaned the sitting room until it sparkled. Once again, in desperation, she called out to the Ogre, “Now that I've tidied up and cleaned your previously messy sitting room, will you agree to help your little girl, at least in ways that don't include love? For example, give her a little kindness and please stop beating her, you're damaging her, taking away her dignity and making her feel very lonely!"
"You're making me furious!" roared the Ogre, and this time he used the force of his anger to pull all the toys out of the toy chest, causing them to tumble onto the floor.
"I lock her up and beat her because she annoys me, and anyway it's good for her to be frightened of me!"
Big Maddie could tell that she wasn't making any progress with the Ogre, that in fact, she was simply aggravating him, making the situation worse. In despair, she tidied up the toys back into the toy chest and moved on to her next task: folding the enormous pile of washing which she found in the little washroom. She placed the dry laundry in the airing cupboard and laid out the still damp clothes to dry on the sofa. As she worked, she had an idea: turning to the ogre, she said: "If you keep on being cruel to your motherless child, I'll report you to social services!"
"You can report whatever you like; they're much too busy, they won't interfere!" scoffed the ogre at her in his gruff voice. Then, in order to annoy Big Maddie even more, he called out to his little girl, "Maddie, Maddie, come down to the sitting room.
Soon Little Maddie appeared. "Go and jump on the sofa, on all the damp washing, It'll be fun," he urged her.
Little Maddie did as she was told to by the Ogre for she feared him; she climbed up onto the sofa and jumped up and down on the washing. From time to time, she looked at her older self guiltily, expecting her to be angry, but Big Maddie just stood by silently. Inside she felt like a deflated balloon and a useless failure; for she had gone back in time to help the poor, unloved, motherless child that she had once been; and she was failing pitifully in her task.
Suddenly, much to Big Maddie's surprise, an enormous soap bubble came floating in through the open window and landed on the sitting room floor. There it popped; revealing inside of it an old, white-haired lady who was holding a large ginger cat in her arms. The old lady smiled at Little Maddie, who was staring on in amazement, and said: "I'm your ‘fairy godmother’, dear."
Then she turned to Big Maddie and said, "I think I know how you can help her: you can sit down beside her and encourage her to tell you her sad story; and while she tells it to you, you can write it all down. It'll help her to know that you care for her and that you want to hear her story. It will make her feel better about herself."
Big Maddie rushed over to the fairy godmother and hugged her, "Thank you so much for coming to help us,” she said.
Swiftly she went and collected a paper-pad and a pen from off the table, then briskly walked up to Little Maddie, caught hold of her hand, and said,
"Come with me, we’re going to write a story together."
They walked over to one of the sitting room’s large, old, battered armchairs and slumped down into it. Thus snuggled up close, little Maddie began to tell Big Maddie her sad story: about how her mother had died and even though her granny had come to live with her and ‘the Ogre’ her father, he had been continuously nasty to her ever since then…Big Maddie wrote down everything that the little girl recalled. All the while the ‘fairy godmother’ watched over them, stroking her cat, and waving her magic wand at the invisible, outraged Ogre to keep him away, for he was continuously trying to interrupt them. When Little Maddie had at last finished telling her story, and Big Maddie had finished writing it all down; Big Maddie hugged little Maddie and said, "Never forget that I love you." Then she turned to face the ‘fairy godmother’ and said, "It's done, it's written."
"Good," said the ‘fairy godmother’, and then to little Maddie, "I'll leave you my ginger cat so that you won't be so lonely; she's a magic cat and if your father, ‘the Ogre’, tries to hurt you or her, she'll turn into a tigress and frighten him away. Does that make you feel better? "
"Yes it does make me feel much better," answered Little Maddie, adding, "and thank you so much for your cat."
”I'm glad I could help you. Good-bye, Little Maddie, and good-bye Big Maddie," said the ‘fairy godmother’ and then she vigorously waved her magic wand, twirling it around above her head. This caused an enormous flash of light to bounce off the wand and up into the sky; thus the ‘fairy godmother’ was able to travel up along the beam of light she had created, and she disappeared up into the sky…
A few moments later, a rumble of thunder could be heard from far away beyond the blackened clouds…. It woke Big Maddie up and she found herself in her bed! When she looked up and out of her window she saw that a storm was raging outside; there was a downpour of rain and streaks of lightning split the sky. It was then that she realized she had been dreaming.
As she snuggled deeper into her soft eiderdown so that it enclosed her with its warmth, she thought to herself, 'I didn’t have a very happy childhood, I'm glad that I'm all grown up now!'