Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Old Beggar Woman

Wow, it's been a while since I posted, eh?

So, I like to listen to this podcast called Writing Excuses. It features some authors I really admire: Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells. It's an awesome show, if you're not listening to it, you really should be.

Anyway, at the end of each episode, they offer a writing prompt. Well, a few episodes back, they offered this prompt:

Adapt the unadaptable fairy tale Mary introduced us to (the one about the little old lady who catches on fire and dies.)

After some research, I find out that the fairy tale they are referring to is from Grimm's Fairy Tales, and it's called The Old Beggar Woman. It's incredibly short and very strange. I decided to take the challenge, and wrote the below story. Note that before you read my version, you should read the original, to get an idea of what I was going for. Then, let me know what you think of mine! ('Cause I'm self serving that way. I mean, why else have a blog if it's not to get approval from strangers?)


The Old Beggar Woman

Once there was an old woman who had been driven to a life of poverty and forced to beg on the streets of San Diego. If you’ve ever been there, you’ve most likely passed her getting on the trolley, or walking through Balboa Park. Late one night, she found herself in Mission Bay, and made her way towards one of the few bonfires that were still raging. She came as close as she dared, trying to get some warmth from the fire without disturbing the young man who was tending it. When he looked up and saw her there, he smiled and offered her a place by his fire.

“My friends have all left for the night, but I just wasn’t ready to go home,” he said. “Come, share the warmth here, and I’ll make you a hot dog.”

It was the kindest thing she had heard in years, and quickly ambled over to the fire. She sat down next to the pit and warmed herself, happily eating her hot dog. After a short while, she fell asleep, not noticing that her clothing, dry and raggedy, had caught fire.

The young man noticed, and immediately pulled out his phone. But instead of calling the police, he switched it to camera mode and filmed the old woman burning.

“Man, this is going to be awesome when I post this to YouTube!” he thought.

The woman slept through the fire, but after filming for a minute, the young man could smell burning flesh. He jumped up and started screaming. He pulled out his phone again and called 911, who sent a fire truck and an ambulance. All he did afterwards was stand there and watch her burn.

When the trucks arrived, the old beggar woman was dead.

“Why didn’t you try to put out the fire?” the fireman said. “You could have thrown sand on it, or tossed one of these sodas onto it. Instead, you stood there letting her burn.”

All the young man could do was stare at his phone. He didn’t have an answer for the fireman. He just didn’t know what else to have done. Playing on his phone was the video he took of her burning. It didn’t seem so funny now.

The End

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