Chapter 2: The Tale
The clock started in on his story. Some dame called Potts was causing problems in the castle. Potts. Sounded to me like a moniker for a reefer magnet, or a snow-bird. I suspected this dame was most likely a chippy who’d been shaking everybody down for her next hit, but had since gotten a bit out of hand. I don’t get involved with that kind of thing; and I was about to tell him just that, when he hit me with, “She’s been using her husband to grow herself a family of children!”
I felt like saying, "Welcome to the circle of life, pal." But there was something about the look in his eye, the way the minute hand on his face began to twitch and the second hand spin backward, that made me curious as to the reasons why the concept of childbirth made him appear so uneasy. Sure, the “Where do babies come from?” talk is not without its pains—but I suspected this mug had a different angle, that something far more twisted, some kind of shady operation, was going down at the castle.
It was then that I learned the clock and candlestick, along with Potts and the rest of the servants, were once humans, cursed to the form of household objects because of a bratty eleven-year-old taking a sharp tone with a witch. It’s times like these I wonder why I quit drinking.
Onward with his story went the clock, yapping away about some mug named Charles—the dame’s husband. He said Charles and Potts were an odd couple, hired on as a butler and maid. The staff had suspected that Potts, an older woman, had married the young, short, and slender Charles to father the children she’d never had. Only Charles wasn’t so well equipped, you see; and Potts was a little worse for wear, if you know what I mean. Basically, it was like shooting a .38 loaded with blanks into a desert and hoping to hit the broadside of a pine tree—not happening.
Anyway, as you can imagine, Potts didn’t take too kindly to this; and she and Charles began arguing day and night. It wasn’t long thereafter that the curse was placed, and the petite Charles was transformed into a teacup, and the heavyset Potts into a teapot. I guess even witches aren’t without a funny bone.
“Naturally, this pushes Mrs. Potts over the edge,” said the clock, very matter-of-factly, as if turning into a teapot is an everyday headache we all must face from time to time.
“And then—sacré bleu!” interrupted the candlestick, in his stereotypical French manner. “She tried to murder Charles!”
“Excuse me, sir!” whined the clock, with extra emphasis on the ‘me.’ “I was just coming to that!”
“And I beat you to it!” declared the candlestick. “Seems you’re running a bit slow!”
“O, you think you’re so bright, do you?”
“Enough!” I hollered, drawing some attention from others in the pub. “No more puns, get me? I’ve had it up to here!”
Both scrubs slunk back in their seats.
“Now,” I continued, tapping ash off the end of my cigarette, “tell me more about this dame.”
“As Lumière so eagerly blurted out,” asserted the clock with a disgusted glare toward his partner from the corner of his eyes, “Potts tried to kill Charles.”
“Beat him with a saucer, is what she did!” cried the candlestick.
The clock cleared his throat, though it sounded more like, If you interrupt me again, I’m gonna rip out your wicks with my teeth!
The candlestick sealed his lips, and the clock went on to tell me the gruesome tale of how Potts savagely beat her husband with a saucer, until a piece of his head—or, since he was a teacup at the time, a triangular shard of glass—broke off.
“The attack proved devastating—Charles’ mind was irreparably damaged,” whispered the clock, holding back tears. The candlestick bowed his head in reverence.
Did I think the dame was crazy? You bet. But evil? No, not really. I’ve known tons of squares who’ve seen the nasty end of a rolling pin during a domestic squabble. Sure, most of those guys go into those fights with preexisting brain damage; but this Potts character didn’t sound as evil as they’d originally suggested—just a bit loopy between the ears…and violent.
“Charles’ brain damage left him believing he was a boy again,” continued the clock, “a young boy, not quite ten years old. And Mrs. Potts in turn nurtured his condition by declaring him to be her son, and naming him Chip.”
It was at that point I started feeling like I’d spoken too soon.
“She then took the severed piece of his head, and bounced her way into the west wing of the castle, where an enchanted rose was kept. Though given to our master by the witch who’d cursed him, as a sort of doomsday hourglass, Mrs. Potts collected some of the glimmering petals that had fallen; and in grinding them up, discovered a magic she could harness to satisfy her deepest desire. She began—” The clock stopped. Froze. Locked up. “I can’t!” he sobbed, burying his face in his hands. “You tell him, Lumière! I just can’t!”
The candlestick stared at his friend, looking like my grandfather the day John Hart replaced Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger. Of course, I was only a boy then, with no understanding of the tragedy; but I heard fans everywhere were devastated.
He swallowed hard, the candlestick, and turned his melting mug toward me and said, “Grinding up the piece of Chip’s, I mean, Charles’ head, Mrs. Potts began—” There was a catch in his throat. He inhaled deeply, and started again. “She began creating her own children, one teacup at a time, until she had an entire cupboard filled with hundreds of teacups, all identical replicas of Charles.”
“She named them all,” chimed the clock. “Chipsy, Chipper, Chippette, Chipford—on and on, boys and girls, hundreds of them! And we don’t even know which are boys and which are girls! I mean, how do you tell?”
I almost said, Why don’t you just turn ‘em over? But if my own cupboard was any indication, I figured they’d probably just say, “Made in China.” Well, maybe not. After all, this was France.
Anyway, I still wasn’t sure what all this had to do with me. What did they want me to do? Heck, I’m just a private eye. A lone dick. A city sleuth. Sure, I thought the dame was crazy—borderline certifiable, if you ask me. Actually, no. Not borderline. She’d hurdled that border a while ago. This broad was ruin-your-cookie nuts. Still, what was I supposed to do?
“You must help us get rid of her,” begged the candlestick.
Once again, my unasked question was answered—which reminded me, I’d forgotten to pick up my wife’s dry-cleaning.
“Look, buddy,” I said, smothering my cigarette on the table, “makin’ stiffs really ain’t my line of work, you know?”
“O, no, no, sir,” reassured the clock, “we wouldn’t even think of such a thing! No, we need you to take her away, possibly sell her to a pawnshop, or an antique collector. We just need her out of the castle.”
Although I was relieved these scrubs weren't trying to put a hit out on the old lady, something still wasn’t quite adding up.
July 6, 2015
C. K. Conners
©2015 by C. K. Conners