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Oberman, the Footnote

The Snow White tale retold by Mike Walsh

Section 6: Man on a Mission

So off I went, seeking Snow White, not knowing if I would survive the journey and, if I did, if she would still be alive. I was snuck out of the castle that night through a series of secret passageways. I was still in terrible physical condition, but I stopped at farmhouses of those loyal to the King, gave them the secret password, and they put me up for the night.

Despite the difficult journey and the cold weather, within a few days I’d gained back much of my strength. Even the sunlight, which I had not seen since my imprisonment, strengthened me. Once I reached the border, however, there weren’t any more friendly farmhouses. I was completely on my own.

I camped and traveled over mountainous, rocky terrain. I wandered through endless forests. One of the horses ran off after it was spooked by a gang of those damned wild boars, but despite that minor setback, I eventually found the midgets’ cottage. Actually, it was more like a small stone fortress. Situated on a ridge, the only approach was up a steep rock incline. After looking things over, I wasn’t at all surprised at the dwarves’ hard-nosed reputation. They had to be tough, resourceful sons-of-bitches just to make a go of it in such rough territory, where thieves and smugglers were known to frequent.

Getting Snow White out of there wasn’t going to be easy. I became depressed just thinking about it. Lonely and jumping in fright at every sound, I decided that after all I had been through, I didn’t care what happened to me. I’d confront the little bastards head on, and if they didn’t like it, well, the hell with them. The only way I’d leave without Snow White would be in a body bag. Dying bravely for a worthy cause suddenly seemed honorable, and my political theories insignificant and trivial. What people needed, myself included, I decided, was love and security, not freedom of choice. To hell with politics, I declared, as I began scaling the stone precipice under the cover of darkness.

When I finally reached the top, I peered in one of the windows. The little bastards were short, muscular, hairy, and filthy. They were lying around drinking beer, scratching, and eating. A couple of them had passed out on the floor in their longjohns, and a couple of others were arguing and slapping the hell out of one another.

Snow White was unconscious and lying in a bed toward the back of the cottage. It was the first time I had seen her since the afternoon I was supposed to kill her. Now she looked as if she could be dead.

I loaded two lightweight crossbows and taped them to my arms, strapped on some extra darts, smudged my face and arms with charcoal, and prepared to do battle with the little bastards. Death can kiss my ass, I thought. I’ve been dead once already, and I wasn’t impressed.

Before I went on, however, I stopped to consider what I had become. From a seemingly polite, yet scheming, behind-the-scenes political manipulator, I had been transformed into a desperate, savage beast with murderous intentions. Amazing what you discover within yourself when you no longer care about living or dying. Tortures, beatings, and lost love can change a person.

Hyperventilating myself into a froth of savage rage, I burst through the front door to begin negotiations.

"All right, you nasty little bastards," I shouted. "I’m Oberman, political theorist and campaign manager. I’m here with orders from the King to return Snow White to her rightful place on the throne, and if one of you little pricks tries to stop me, you’ll get a dart in your fat gullet." I scanned the room with the crossbows. No one moved. The two on the floor woke up, and the two who were slapping one another stopped. "Have I made myself clear?"

"But it’s seven against one," a particularly ugly and muscular one said smiling shrewdly.

"Yeah, but I’ll take out at least two of you before you get to me."

Another one began stuttering. "But—but—but—Snow White’s almost de—de—de—dead. Ta—ta—ta—take a loo—loo—"

"Shut up, Gummy, you pain in the ass," the rough looking one said to the stutterer. He took another long draught from his beer stein. "The crazy broad is deader 'n' shit. If you can wake ‘er, you can take ‘er, for all I care."

"Stumpy, you br—br—br—brute," yelled Gummy.

"Pour me another brewski, Gummy," said Stumpy. Gummy didn’t seem too happy about it, but he did as he was told.

Stumpy pointed at Snow White. "She couldn’t cook, she couldn’t clean, and my noble brethren wouldn’t let me have at her. So what good was she?" His cavalier attitude disturbed me. He didn’t seem at all intimidated by my weaponry.

"She’s in a coma, and I’ve got the serum to revive her," I said. "After that, I’ll pay mucho coinage to any of you willing to escort us safely back to the castle. If everything works out, we might even have a few positions open for you with the new administration. I also know a couple of chambermaids who might be interested in ugly little bastards like you."

"Now you’re talking," said Stumpy. "Nuthin’ I like better 'n' bangin’ chambermaids."

"Shut up, Stumpy, you’re embarrassing us," said another dwarf. "Hello, my name is Meyer, and I speak for the majority here. Your proposal has possibilities, provided the price you’re willing to pay is equitable with the risk. However, we refuse to negotiate under stressful circumstances. Lay down your weapons and we’ll talk. You have nothing to fear."

"Nice try, counselor," I said. I wasn’t about to drop my weaponry, so we stood staring at one another for a long time, weighing our options. No one moved.

After a good, long while of eyeing each other up, a dwarf with a pipe and reading glasses stepped forward. "Pardon me for interrupting, my name is Stuffy. Perhaps I can be of some assistance. First of all, are you aware, Mr. Oberman, that we too are in the employ of the King?"

"‘The employ of the King?’ Doesn’t bribery describe your relationship more accurately?"

"We charge a fee for service rendered based on what the market will bear," said Meyer, "a tried and true business pricing principle."

"Not so fast," I said. "I heard about that guardsman you butchered."

"As you might have guessed," said Stuffy, "that neat little trick was Stumpy’s handiwork, but the irony must’ve caused you at least a slight snicker."

"So what if it did? It doesn’t mean I trust you."

"So be it, but can you provide us with any assurances that you weren’t sent here by the Queen to murder Snow White?"

I thought about that for a minute. "No, I can’t prove that to you," I said.

"So we have something in common then, Mr. Oberman, and that is distrust, a foundation on which to build a more meaningful relationship."

As he said this, I realized that there were only six of the mean little bastards in the room. Stumpy had disappeared.

"Hey, where’s that ugly mofo?" I asked.

"Oh dear," said Stuffy.

"The one with the big nose and warts and — "

I saw a flash of movement to my left, and I fired two arrows in that direction, missing with both, naturally. Stumpy shouted, "Git ‘im," and like flies, they were all over me.

"Get your hands off me, you smelly homunculi," I shouted, but before I knew what had happened, they had me gagged and strapped to one of their short, little beds.

"I protest," said Stuffy. "This violence was hardly necessary."

"A purely precautionary measure, Stuffy," said Meyer. "We can’t take chances with Snow White."

"Negotiations were proceeding smoothly and inevitably toward a mutually satisfying conclusion," said Stuffy.

"Who died and put you in charge, egghead?" Stumpy replied.

"I am loathe to dignify such an ignorant comment with a response, you repulsive vulgarian," said Stuffy.

Stumpy leaned over and peered into my face. "I say we screw him, shoot him, and throw him off a cliff." His breath was putrid. "Even though we’re short, our pricks are real big, and they get real hard." At that point he grabbed my crotch and gave a powerful squeeze. I screamed despite the gag. He threw his head back and laughed.

"Stumpy," shouted Meyer. "Control yourself!" Stumpy moved back, smiling at me in a sinister manner.

"Don’t worry, Mr. Handsome," said one of the dwarves, winking at me. "I’ll protect you." He began massaging my chest, and soon his hands were roving further downward. I strained against the straps to get away from him.

Stuffy smacked his hands, and he pulled them away from me. "Stop it this instant, Vaughn. Your homoerotic tendencies shame us all."

"They do not, you big stinker," replied Vaughn.

"They most certainly do," replied Stuffy.

"Maybe confusion about your own sexual identity is what makes you lash out at those of us with the courage to face the world honestly," Vaughn said.

"That is an absurd and offensive comment, you degenerate."

"I’m not confused about my sexual identity," Stumpy chimed in. "I’ll fuck anything that moves, and I don’t mind saying so."

"Thank you for your input," said Stuffy. "It is illuminating as always."

I saw Gummy rummaging through my knapsack. He pulled out the vial of serum, held it up, and said, "Loo—Loo—Look."

"Let me get a look at that shit," said Stumpy grabbing at the bottle.

"Please, allow me," said Stuffy. "Certainly I’m the most qualified to analyze the contents of the —"

"Quit pushing," said Vaughn, who then pushed Stuffy to get a closer look at the serum.

In the ruckus, the bottle was knocked from Gummy’s hand. I shrieked and threw my foot out, which wasn’t strapped down. The bottle landed harmlessly on my foot and rolled to the wall.

"Ni—ni—nice catch, Oberm—m—man."

"I like the way you move," said Vaughn, rubbing my cheek with the back of his hand.

Stumpy leaned over to pick up the serum, but just as he did I kicked as hard as I could at his tuckus. The kick landed solidly, and he fell against the wall. The other dwarves laughed. Stumpy charged at me, but Vaughn interceded.

"That’s what you get for being so rough with his genetalia," said Vaughn waving a finger at him.

"His what?" asked Stumpy.

"You know, his package. His privates. His gonads."

"What in the hell are you talking about?"

Vaughn whispered in Stumpy’s ear. Stumpy chuckled.

"Oh, that. Why didn’t you say so," he said. "Now we’re even, Oberman."

Meyer removed the gold from my knapsack. They all gasped. He handed one of the coins to Stumpy.

Stumpy bit into the coin and then held it up for the other dwarves to see. "It’s the real stuff," he said. The coin bore his teethmarks.

"We’ll release you," said Meyer, "provided you promise not to become violent. If you can revive Snow White, we’ll guarantee safe journey for the two of you back to the castle in return for the gold. If she manages to gain power, we remain on the payroll as her personal bodyguards with full pay and benefits."

They were demanding the very conditions that I had wanted, and I would soon have Snow White as well. Gummy removed the gag. I tried not to show too much enthusiasm. "And if I don’t agree—"

"We screw you, shoot you, and throw you off a cliff," said Stumpy.

"This probably doesn’t need mentioning," said Stuffy, "but either way, the gold remains in our possession."

"You really don’t have a choice," said Meyer.

Without hesitation, I agreed. Like the man said, I really didn’t have a choice.

"But just remember," said Meyer as a final warning, "we run the show."

"Yeah. One false step, you’re history and Snow White stays with us," said Stumpy.


"Shut your trap," said Stumpy, slapping Gummy on the back of the head. "And get me another brewski, why dontcha."

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