Cinderlad by Robert Borski

The Ugly Stepbrother’s Revenge
by Robert Borski

Legally, despite what the papers
claim, he’s little more than a houseboy
tasked with a mountain of chores
each and every day; and even though
that morning he spends long hours
in the scullery
up to his elbows in pot water,

he still smells of char and cabbage,
has bootblack on his ears, bits
of straw in his hair, and raging lice
the size of mouse droppings.

And yet oddly enough, when
the young widowed queen, still dressed
in her ball gown of the evening past,
presents herself to the family,
seeking the owner of a left-
behind appurtenance,

and neither of the stalwart
young sons
come close to filling out the
swan-necked, gourd-shaped
device, on a whim (or perhaps
fatigue, since this is the umpteenth
household she and her retinue
have visited), the queen asks:
What about him there?

All present gasp at the ill fit:

no eel, but more like a tentacle,
and no more containable
than a whelk in a thimble.

Why, clearly, your majesty, our
lad here cannot be the one
you seek
, says the burgher’s
wife, feeling faint.

Only after they’re gone, and
the burnt rind of the codpiece
smoulders in the grate,
does she seek to ask of
her husband and sons,

So which of you princes will tend
the fire now?

Robert Borski lives, writes, and toddles toward infirmity in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.