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Oberman, the Footnote

The Snow White tale retold by Mike Walsh

Section 1: The Queen and Her Ruthless Plan

I knew the Queen was jealous, vengeful, and power hungry, but I didn’t know how desperate she had become until she called me into her office that fateful spring morning.

"Take Snow White out into the woods and kill her," she said coldly while staring at herself in a mirror.

For as long as I had worked for the Queen, first as her speech writer and later as her campaign manager, I had tried to inject a voice of reason and moderation into her decision-making. But it wasn’t until that very moment that I realized just how far she had gone off course. Things change, but it is only on occasion, it seems, that we stop and notice.

"I know you’ve been under a lot of pressure lately, my lady, with your struggle for control of the kingdom and all that, but don’t you think that’s a bit rash," I asked.

She didn’t respond. She was sweating, gritting her teeth, and pacing. I had seen these moods before. After being her lover for fifteen years, her nasty, impersonal moods always reminded me that our personal relationship was far less important than our professional relationship. We never let the personal interfere with the professional, and we never, ever acknowledged our personal involvement in public.

"Considering the risks, I’m not sure that murder is in your best interest," I said. "If the mere mention of this plan gets out, your head, as well as mine, could roll—literally. This is the Middle Ages, and they still use the guillotine around here, as you know. It’s treason, for God’s sake. Let’s examine this problem from a different perspective, shall we."

"Spare me, I beg of you," she moaned.

Ignoring her remark, I continued. "Now, if I read the situation correctly, you consider Snow White a threat to your rule once the King passes on, which, from all reports, could happen any day. Since you are the King’s second wife and not the mother of Snow White, his only child, you are second in line for the throne, and Snow White is first."

"Tell me something I don’t know, damn you," she hissed.

"Okay, here’s an alternative plan. Once the King kicks the bucket, we drum up some phony charges to weaken Snow White’s position. Nothing serious — treason, adultery, a questionable family heritage, something along those lines. I’ll get the boys down in PR on it right away. Snow White and her people won’t know what hit them. There’s no need to spill blood."

"I’m not in the mood for this nonsense, Oberman," she said.

"Once she is discredited, we form a ruling council, over which you preside, naturally. Then we’ll be in a position to strike the autocratic powers of the throne from the constitution once and for all."

"No, no, no! That’ll take too long. Kill the little twit and get it over with, quick and easy."

"My Lady, ever since we forced the King into marrying you, you’ve run the show in this kingdom, and everybody knows it. You are in complete control of the government, and I can’t imagine a fifteen-year-old taking power from you even if she is crowned."

"Enough, goddamnit," she shouted. "I’ve made up my mind. The little worm is too pretty and bright. The people would love her. Besides, the first time I turned my back, you’d be advising her on ways to get rid of me. I know you, Oberman. You’re too damned smooth to be trusted." Then she turned and stared out the window at the forest.

"How dare you question my loyalty. When we started out together, you couldn’t win a council seat in your home village. Your name recognition was zero, and look where you are today. Who did it for you? Me, that’s who. Who wrote your speeches? Who went from door to door during the grassroots fund raisers? Who invented the political action committee just for you? Me, that’s who."

She seemed unmoved, so I knelt before her, grabbed her around the waist, and began whimpering. "How can you think that as we approach our final goal, the throne, that I would abandon you? And once we have the throne, we can institute our reforms."

She pushed me to the floor and turned away. I crawled after her. My voice was breaking. "I’ve been with you all these years. I guided you through innumerable difficulties. You were hotheaded and vengeful, but I showed you the benefits of discrete maneuvering and public relations expertise. And now, at the most critical juncture, when we could finally bring self-determination to the Middle Ages, you give in to the lure of power."

"Don’t give me that drivel, Oberman," she said. "I was in it for the power from the git-go. They were your theories and your dreams, and I went along with them because I needed a popular platform."

"No, stop," I cried out. "You’re only saying that to hurt me."

"I didn’t give a shit about representative government then, and I don’t now," she hissed. "Those serfs in their leather jerkins couldn’t give a damn about free elections. All they want is booze, broads, and money. The political theory bullshit is out. Get it through your thick skull, Oberman. I’ve got a kingdom to take over, and I didn’t come this far just to give up power to a silly-assed schoolgirl or to the ignorant masses."

I felt a bit queasy and feverish as well. It was as if the structure of my very being was collapsing. In short, she was blowing my mind.

I stood and wrung my hands. "So, we start with the murder of a child. Then what? Secret death squads raiding your opponents’ homes in the middle of the night? Where does it end? Mass executions? My God, is that how you want to be remembered?"

She grabbed me by the shoulders and slapped me across the face sharply. "Stop your pathetic gibberish. The King is out of town seeing a specialist, so we’ve got a perfect opportunity to snuff the twit. It’s time to play hardball, Oberman, and you’re either in or you’re out. You ice Snow White or your ass is mud."

I fought for my composure. "No, absolutely not," I said. "I can see a little corruption for the common good every now and then, but I don’t believe in the acquisition of power through violent means."

"Bump her off," she said, "and we have one hell of a good time on the throne — lavish living quarters, chambermaids, extravagant expense accounts, hashish, anything you want. But if not —"

"If not, what?" I asked.

She was silent.

I repeated the question.

"If not," she said, "you spend the rest of your life chained to a dungeon wall."

I gasped. "You wouldn’t."

"Care to risk it?" she asked.

"But what about us?" I cried out. "You’d ignore all that?"

She looked at me for a moment and then laughed. "Like I said, You’re either in or you’re out, Oberman. The choice is yours. You have ten seconds to make up your mind."

She started counting. I slumped to the cold stone, and for exactly nine seconds I grieved for her lost sense of justice and compassion. At the count of "10," I came to my senses, so I got back up and brushed myself off. I may have been the architect of the most progressive political ideas of the Middle Ages, but I wasn’t stupid. When a decision comes down to a lifetime of decadent indulgence or ungodly but principled suffering, well — right and wrong are subjective terms.

"And bring me the little snot’s heart," she said, handing me a bowie knife, "as proof of your loyalty."

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