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Oberman, the Footnote

The Snow White tale retold by Mike Walsh

Section 2: A Proposal and a Crucial Decision

That afternoon I found myself chatting with Snow White as we walked along the path between the castle and the forest during our regularly scheduled tutoring session. Snow White and I were on good terms. I had watched her grow up. I had tutored her on Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli, and Rousseau. She was a model student, and now she was blossoming into a young woman, soon to be monarch. She was also on the verge of being murdered over a political post she did not yet hold, over a political intrigue she couldn’t possibly fathom. At least, I thought to myself, with a quick, painless death, she will be spared this nasty business.

I’d also sensed during the past few months that Snow White was developing a romantic interest in me. I’d made no acknowledgement of her infatuation, hoping it would pass. Nevertheless, I was flattered. I kind of liked the kid. She had a certain style.

As we walked along chatting, she stared up into my eyes, but I couldn’t look at her without a rush of guilt that almost staggered me. How could I kill such an innocent creature? Her mother had died when she was born, and Snow White had been brought up by a slew of nannies, bodyguards, and tutors. Now she had a stepmother who wanted her little throat slit, and she wanted me to do it — me, Oberman, political theorist and campaign manager. It didn’t make any sense.

"Snow White, my dear," I said, "with your father’s failing health, you and I both know that you’ll soon be rising to the — "

But before I could finish, she grabbed my hand and pulled. "C’mon, Obie," she shouted — "Obie" was her pet name for me — "I’ve got a secret to tell you." And with that we ran into the forest. I didn’t try to stop her. The deeper into the forest we went, the less likely it would be that anyone would see or hear the evil deed.

Finally she stopped, and we sat together in a small, secluded clearing far from the castle. Everything around us was coming to life. The ground was warm and the spring air was rich.

She leaned against my shoulder and whispered, "Now close your eyes."

"Don’t be silly," I said. "You’re supposed to be studying."

"Not today. Today’s different."

"So I noticed," I said.

"C’mon, Obie, close your eyes. I’ve got a surprise for you."

"Snow White, really, I can’t," I said.

"Close your eyes at once! I command you. I’ll be Queen soon. Therefore, you must do as I say."

"Oh, for goodness sakes," I said, "if you insist." She had never pulled rank on me in such a manner before, but I did as I was told.

"Now don’t move," she said.

A second later I felt her move close to me. Slowly and carefully, I removed the bowie knife from my back pocket and held it behind my back. Suddenly her lips were against mine. I stiffened and opened my eyes, but she continued delivering an extremely delicate kiss.

When she finished, she wrapped her arms around me and coyly tucked her head against my neck. I could’ve killed her just then. I could’ve shoved the blade into the soft flesh of her young back, yet I didn’t. I didn’t move. Her kiss had paralyzed me.

"Snow White," I said, "I’m quite flattered, but my role is that of instructor and counselor. Clearly, this is beyond the scope of–"

She brought two fingers to my lips to silence me.

"I’ve fallen in love with you," she slowly whispered. "As if you couldn’t tell."

"Why you silly, sweet girl," I said, deeply touched, and now even sicker at the thought of killing her.

"You must have noticed, Obie. You’re not blind."

"Snow White, my dear, it’s only a teenage crush, a simple infatuation. Surely, it will pass."

"Listen to me, Oberman," she said. "I know you think this is silly, but I’ve given this matter a great deal of thought, and I’ve decided that we are to marry as soon as I’m crowned."


"It will be my first executive order."

"Snow White, you simply need to meet a young prince from a neighboring kingdom, and you’ll forget all about me. Besides, your father would never — "

By then she had taken my left hand and had placed it against her breast. I stammered, and she giggled, but I did not remove my hand.

"Obie," she said, "your face has gone white."

I gasped as she undid a couple of buttons and slid my hand beneath her frock.

"Oh, your hand is so cold," she said softly.

My mind reeled as my hand touched the warm, soft flesh of the young, beautiful Snow White. My immediate concern was that we would be seen, and I would be beheaded forthwith.

"I’m not a child any longer, Obie," she said. "I’m a woman and soon I’ll be Queen."

I stared at her as she said this. She was absolutely right. She was not the awkward colt I thought I had seen, but a sensual, dark-haired beauty. Again, changes were taking place, and as usual I was just now noticing. I suddenly felt a pang of what I can only assume to be desire.

"I love you, Oberman," she said, "and soon I’ll need your help to lead the kingdom out of the Middle Ages. I admire your theories of democratic reform, and I plan to institute them as soon as I’m crowned."

I was stunned. "Did I hear you correctly?"

"I think you did," she said.

"You will institute my reforms?"

"Once we marry, yes."

"Oh my," I whimpered. "Oh my, oh my."

How do I explain my emotions of that moment? Maybe I’m a middle-aged fool, but I suddenly knew, as one so often comes to understand things — with a brutal revelation — that I was falling in love with this winsome young creature, however reluctantly. At the same time I realized that this was my last chance to murder her. If I didn’t act quickly, I would irrevocably change the course of many lives, including my own. I gripped the knife handle so tightly the muscles in my hand ached.

"Certainly, any objection I have to such a marriage is secondary to the welfare of the kingdom," I sputtered.

"Just say, yes," she whispered and pulled my face to her bosom.

I felt her hot breath in my ear, and a tingle ran down my spine.

"Yes," I whispered and dropped the knife behind me, and we fell back into the underbrush together.

Exactly what happened next, I cannot responsibly report. What was dream and what was reality, I cannot discern. My brain was a rush of thoughts and rationalizations that could not account for the crazy facts.

I could no longer comprehend where my allegiances lay. The Queen wanted me to kill Snow White, and I had accepted the dirty responsibility, yet I knew that I was no longer capable of killing this immensely beautiful creature. I also knew that falling in love with her would mean certain ruin for us both. Neither Snow White nor I had the power to confront the Queen and survive.

"No, Snow White, we can’t do this," I said and sat up.

"What’s wrong, Obie?"

"It wouldn’t be right," I said and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Look, you’re playing the grown-ups’ game now, and you might regret it. You’re still part girl, so don’t rush into it."

"Let me go," she said.

"Face it, Snow White, I’m your father’s political enemy. And in case you haven’t heard, I’ve been involved with the Queen for years now."

"You think I don’t know that," she shouted. "Quit treating me like a child."

"Then stop playing dumb," I said. "You’ll be Queen soon, and treacherous risks confront you. It could be a matter of life and death."

She cocked her head, arched an eyebrow, and observed me for a moment before responding. "Life or death? What do you mean by that?" she asked.

I then listened to myself in astonishment as I told her how I had been sent to kill her.

Just then she noticed the knife on the ground beside us and gasped in horror. "And you were going to," she said gulping, "with that thing?"

I felt more ashamed than I ever had, and I couldn’t answer.

"But I was supposed to become the Queen, and we were supposed to be married, and everything was supposed to be wonderful. Now everything’s awful," she said as tears appeared in her eyes. She began fumbling with the buttons on the front of her dress. "Just you wait till my father hears about this," she cried out.

"No, Snow White," I said. "You can’t go back to the castle. It isn’t safe."

"She put you up to this, didn’t she?" Snow White hissed. "She told you to tell me this just to scare me off, to get me out of her way, didn’t she?"

I must admit that the possibility hadn’t occurred to me.

"The Queen won’t rest until you’re dead," I said.

I gave her what money I had and pleaded with her to run off in the direction of the mountains, which I knew was the quickest way out of the forest. The area was disputed by several kingdoms, and if she had any chance of surviving, it was beyond the Queen’s jurisdiction.

She looked at the forest and grabbed me. "No," she cried. "Don’t make me go out there alone. Obie, please, come with me. If you stay, she’ll kill you too."

"If I come with you, she’ll track us down and kill us both within a few days. But if you go now, she may never know I didn’t kill you."

She was weeping and wouldn’t let go. Her innocence was cruelly being torn from her. She was being dragged down into the muck of a sordid political intrigue with the rest of us cretins. I pulled her off of me.

"Be brave, Snow White. Now go, run, hide! It’s your only chance."

With a look of horrific betrayal and confusion, her face streaked with tears, she turned and ran into the woods. I watched her go, staring in the same direction long after she had disappeared into the forest.

When she was gone, I cursed and spat and pounded the ground for letting her go, for not confronting the Queen, and for the terrible situation I was in. In all likelihood, Snow White would perish in the forest. I cursed life, the cruel bastard, for my awful predicament. I could’ve married the wondrous Snow White. I could’ve instituted my reforms, and all was lost because the Queen, that lecherous bitch, was intent on taking power no matter what. Snow White was right. Everything had become awful.

Just then I saw a boar gnawing on a stump, and I remembered the bowie knife. With my teeth bared and the knife in my hand, I leapt on the unfortunate creature, ripping savagely at its flesh with the blade. Its squeals ended abruptly, but they did nothing to soothe my bitter heart. A moment later I stood over it, filthy and hateful, holding the poor beast’s warm heart, the Queen’s bloody supper, out like an offering.

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