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Oberman, the Footnote

The Snow White tale retold by Mike Walsh

Section 3: The Doldrums

For the next few weeks I was not quite myself. I spent much of my time lying about my quarters in the doldrums. Around the office I was just as taciturn. I couldn’t stop thinking about Snow White.

At staff meetings I made no suggestions and offered no resistance to any plan, no matter how absurd or cruel. The Queen was busy consolidating power and purging the ranks of all political opposition.

Everyone assumed that Snow White had gotten lost in the forest and that she would never be heard from again. The police chief conducted a cursory investigation, and, since I was the last person she had been seen with, I was questioned. However, the investigation ended quickly, which did not surprise me. The Queen herself had appointed the police chief, and he was another of her puppets.

The Queen was far too observant to let my stupefaction go unnoticed. One day while staring out my office window at the forest and the mountains beyond, I heard her voice. "She was just a girl, Oberman, a stupid little girl."

I was startled and turned to find the Queen standing behind me. I’ve no idea how long she had been there.

"Where’s the pugnacious, incorrigible, scheming Oberman I’ve come to know and love?" she asked. "And speaking of love, I haven’t had any late night visits from you recently either. What is it? Snow White was just another obstacle that had to be removed. Have you lost sight of the ultimate goal, the throne? How could we let a teenage girl stand in the way?"

"It wasn’t necessary," I replied.

"Of course, it was necessary," she responded. "Don’t be daft. And once we have everything under control, I don’t see why we couldn’t institute a couple of your cherished political reforms. How does that sound, Obie?"

"It will come back to haunt you."

"It won’t, goddamn you," she said.

I was sweating and shaking. I turned back to the window. "I don’t want to talk about it," I said. "Please, just leave me alone."

She began massaging my shoulders. "What is it, Oberman? What happened in the forest?"

I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t tell her the truth, and I didn’t have the energy to lie.

"I’m sorry I had to put you through such an ordeal, darling," she said, "but there wasn’t anyone else I could turn to. Besides, I was feeling somewhat insecure about us, and I needed a sign of your loyalty."

"What do you take me for?" I asked.

Ignoring my comment, she took me by the hand and led me out of my office, whispering to me as she often did during our lovemaking. "Come with me, my dear. Come with your Queen. I know how to soothe your affliction."

The next few weeks weren’t much better. I continued much as I had. I worked but only routinely. I could find passion for nothing, and at night I had recurring nightmares of Snow White being ravaged by the Queen, who in my dream had taken the form of a giant lizard with vicious, razor-sharp teeth. I awoke shaking every night with the Queen lizard’s ferocious roar and Snow White’s horrific screams echoing in my ears.

Wherever I went I was haunted by Snow White’s confused, terrified, and betrayed expression just before she ran off into the forest. I kept visualizing Snow White dying in the forest from almost every conceivable cause — being raped and murdered by thieves, being torn apart by wolves, starving to death, or freezing in the mountains. Certainly she was dead. Certainly she could not have survived. Not a young girl. It was impossible.

Then one day at the office, I heard a commotion in the hallway. I went to the door and asked my secretary what it was all about.

"Oh, Mr. Oberman, a rumor is spreading that Snow White has been seen alive in the mountains. From what I heard, she turned up at the house of some midget miners. Apparently, the midgets allowed her to stay and live with them, provided she do the cleaning and cooking and — " She stopped abruptly and, with a look at the receptionist, started giggling.

"Well, what is it?" I demanded. "What’s so blasted funny?"

"We’ve been wondering just what else those midgets make her do, Sir."

I thought of a half-dozen lonely midget miners who hadn’t had a woman in years. I imagined what must’ve gone through their sex-starved minds when they discovered the blossoming, helpless Snow White at their front door.

"I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes," said the receptionist.

"Don’t be shy, Evelyn," replied my secretary. "You’re just jealous." They both started giggling again, cackling like evil witches.

"Enough," I shouted. "We’ll have no such talk about members of the royal family in a government facility." I went in my office and slammed the door. Then I was struck by a sickening revelation. Surely the Queen would hear the same rumors, and when she did—

I ducked my head into a nearby trash can and vomited. When there was nothing left in my stomach, I raced out of the building and across the street to the stables.

I was saddling a horse when several guards came at me. I put up a good fight, temporarily at least, but I didn’t stand a chance. They had me cornered. Then everything went black.

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