The Beautiful Beast / by Academy Monthly

             In my short story, I used Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” as inspiration for my fairy tale adaptation. The intended audience for my tale is young adults. I adapted Beauty and the Beast to create a “parallel universe,” in which there is a negative father figure, and a deceased, yet emotionally influential, mother figure. In many fairy tales that we read, there was a father that never let the his daughter down, but there was no mention of the mother. Conversely, I created a negative father figure. In addition, Bonnie, the female character, is transformed instead of Adam, the Beast character. Bonnie is a variation of the name “Beauty,” and Adam is Disney’s name for the Beast after he transforms. To do so, I used the prostitute from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye as my heroine. In 9th grade, I examined the perspective of Sunny, the prostitute on a point of view assignment. In the novel, I noticed that Holden was not interested in doing anything with Sunny. Adam yearns for the company of another person, which is why he is not interested in her services. Holden took an interest in Sunny’s green dress, so I used the green dress to represent Bonnie’s mother. Moreover, I referenced Holden’s clavichord injury to demonstrate that he wanted the company of another person, not the services of a prostitute, so he claimed to have a fake injury. Adam is wealthy and could afford to pay $10 instead of $5, but this is an additional reference to Catcher in the Rye and something for George to yell and further demean her. Because Bonnie is working as a prostitute, she has difficulty recognizing her self-worth when she attempts to sell her body. Furthermore, Bonnie’s father is a raging alcoholic, demonstrating that she was abandoned and treated poorly by the male figure in her life, who is meant to love her unconditionally. Bonnie’s relationship with her father only adds to her insecurities. This father/daughter relationship was inspired by Angela Carter’s “The Tiger’s Bride.” Therefore, she is unable to recognize that the way George treats her is wrong. I created the character George to represent Gaston. Similar to Gaston, George is a misogynistic pimp, who damages Bonnie’s self-image. After her self-esteem is shattered, Adam helps her transform into a confident woman, who recognizes her many opportunities in life. Adam sees the value in Bonnie from their first encounter, thus Bonnie is transformed when he helps her see the value in herself. Bonnie’s transformation begins when she does not take the dress off. Therefore, her mother, who is represented by the dress, gives her much-needed confidence. When the plot opened, Bonnie is so beat down that she believes the only way to be successful is to sell herself. Adam completes the transformation by assuring her she is a smart and capable woman. Eventually, she does not wear the dress anymore, marking the end of her transformation. Adam has a transformation of his own when he meets Bonnie in the diner instead of the hotel room because he is not afraid to be out in public, despite his appearance. I did not create a traditional happy ending, but one that was still positive for both characters, but it does not tie everything up in a bow. Several happy endings that we studied this year featured a heteronormative couple running off into the sunset which is not always realistic.  This ending leaves the door open for a relationship of their terms.

 

 

 

 

“Hi, I’m here to apply for a job at your diner,” I said.

“Sorry, sweetie, we’re not hiring,” the waitress replied. I sighed and dropped my shoulders. “But you can leave your number, hon, and I’ll let you know if anything opens up.”

“Down on your luck, kid?” asked the greasy man next to me.  

“I’m broke,” I said.

“What would you say if I told you I could help you out? What’s ya’ name?”

“Uh, Bonnie. It’s Bonnie.” I nodded to encourage myself.

He laughed, “Like hell it is.” I didn’t quite know what that meant. He asked me to leave my phone number and said he’d let me know when an opening appeared. There was something peculiar about the way he said it, but I was desperate.

A few days later, I got a call from George, the grease ball from the diner. “Sunny, there’s a fella in Room 212 at the swanky hotel on Main Street innarested in having a good time.” Shortly after the phone call, it dawned on me the type of business he was inarrested in me working, and Bonnie isn’t sexy, but I had to make money somehow.

“My name’s not Sunny,” I croaked

Well, it sure as hell ain’t Bonnie.” He was right, my name wasn’t Bonnie, Bonnie was my mother’s name.

* * *

The guy from Room 212 was about as I nervous as I was. The room itself was elegant and he dressed like he belonged there. His clothes were well-made and tailored to his broad frame. His hair was a little long. I wondered if he kept it long to try and hide his features. He was way too dressed up for a prostitute. What was he expecting? When I looked at him, he was staring back at me as if he expected me to run. Quite frankly, I should have because he was a man of immense proportions sitting in a wing chair deep in the corner of the room. He just watched me take in his features bracing himself for my reaction.  He was the least attractive person I had ever laid eyes on. But when I met his gaze, his eyes were gentle, and he dropped his head.

“Want a cigarette?” he asked. I refused politely. My father used to smoke or still smokes. Who knows? I didn’t even bother to learn the guy’s name. I sort of just took my green dress off, but I wish I hadn’t. I guess I wanted to get it over with. I couldn’t stand the idea of my mother’s dress getting wrinkly, so I asked him to hang it up. He was only too glad to get up and do something. As I sat in the desk chair, I was distracted by the sound of the soft rain. It was raining the last time I saw my father. He had smelled of whiskey and cigarettes, he stared at me like he had no idea that I was his daughter and he had responsibilities at home. God, I hate whiskey. That night my father left me, he took more than just the money, he took my childhood, and I will never forgive him for that. I hated that drunken jerk. I wanted to put that dress back on, I didn’t feel right with it off. Like my mother wasn’t with me. As I nervously jiggled my foot, wearing nothing but my pink slip, I had one thing on my mind: what would my mother think of me if she knew where I was right now? I wanted nothing more than to put her green dress back on and run home, but I knew I was in too deep with George. I didn’t want to be a prostitute, but there was no way he would let me leave without ten dollars from this guy. I mean, I needed the money right? The guy cleared his throat and brought me back to the present.

“What’s the matter?” I said.

“I recently had an operation on my….uh, clavichord,” he said.

I nodded. I heard those could be pretty serious, but why did he want a girl? He offered to pay me just to sit and talk with him. “Tell me about your childhood,” I asked. He began talking about growing up on a farm in Iowa with his parents and sisters.  It was a remote farm so most of the time it was just their family working the land. He had no idea that his appearance was offensive to people until they went into town once a year for supplies.  Only then was he made aware by the gasps and stares of strangers. His mother would rush him home and make him apple pie to help him forget about the cruel comments.  His happiest memories were being on the farm and the smell of apple pie. After a couple of hours, he handed me five dollars instead of the ten that I expected. I knew George would be angry but I felt sorta relieved.“So long, crumb-bum,” I thought.

* * *

After I did the dishes, folded the laundry, and mopped the floors, I was finally ready to relax for the night. As soon as I lay down, the shrill scream of my telephone phone sliced the fleeting moments of stillness. I reluctantly picked it up. “Sunny, it’s George,” he squawked. I jerked my head back as his abrasive voice assaulted my ear. ”Listen, I got anotha job for ya’. It’s the guy from the other night.”

“Are you sure?” I questioned. “He wasn’t--”

“Of course I’m sure,” he interjected, “and you better get all of the dough this time. What the hell’s the matter with you anyway, leaving without the cash?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again,” I pleaded. I hung up and felt my shoulders slump. I needed the money, right? I carefully put on the green dress, and quickly slipped out of the rowhouse into the city streets. When I entered the hotel room, he was sitting on the bed. I made swift strides towards the closet to hang the green dress up, as if it were part of my routine. I shuddered at the thought of having a routine.

“You don’t have to take your dress off,” he said. I shot him a look of confusion. “I mean, you can if you want to, but I was wondering if we could just talk again.  You are easy to talk to.” I shrugged my shoulders in agreement. I didn’t know how these things worked. I took my seat in the desk chair across from the him. He began to chatter nervously. Soon enough, his lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear the words. I studied his face. He resembled something out of a Salvador Dali painting, but there was a kindness in him that began to overshadow his appearance as talked about his life after he left the farm. He watched me for a minute. I met his gaze and instantly recognized the immense sadness he carried in his eyes.

“I said, what’s your name,” he inquired with agitation.

I blinked and smoothed my brow, “uh, Bonnie,”

He relaxed. “Bonnie? That’s a nice name.” I smiled sheepishly in response. It is a nice name. “My name’s Adam.” Adam told me how his parents made him go to college, so he could have a better life than that of a farmer.  He asked me about my goals and what I wanted to do with my life.  I realized my goals included paying my bills and not getting kicked out of the rowhouse this month. I didn’t have anything to share so, I looked at the clock on the bed and realized that hours had passed since I entered room 212. “I better get going, it’s getting pretty late,” I said.

“Oh, sure of course,” he remarked, clearly disappointed, “here you go.” He handed me $10. I furrowed my brow and looked at him doubtfully, which he responded to with a subtle nod of his head. I made my way to the door, and when I grabbed the handle, I looked back at Adam before I went. He sat on the edge of the bed with his shoulders slumped, hands clasped in his lap, head down, his eyes fixed on the ornate pattern of the hotel room carpet. He met my gaze and forced a weak smile. This time, the sadness in his eyes was accompanied by its close friends, loneliness and defeat.

I paid a visit to Adam every night the following week. Adam told me that I shouldn’t sell myself short. “I can tell that you are clever, intelligent, and beautiful, Bonnie,” Adam said. I don’t recall anyone ever using those adjectives to describe me, but the way Adam said it, I started to believe him. I never took my green dress off.

Often, I found myself waiting in anticipation for the phone to ring with George telling me that Adam “was innarested in having a good time.” We always had the best converstions. After I finished my chores one day, I jumped for my phone when I heard it’s cheerful jingle. “Sunny?” George hissed.

“Yes?” I chirped.

“There’s a guy in the hotel down on 42nd & Lexington innarested in having a good time.” My heart dropped.

“What?” I breathed.

“You heard me. Now hurry up and get down there.” I hung up the phone. I had a lot of anxiety going to meet anyone but Adam. Having an actual customer that wanted a prostitute was unnerving.

When I knocked on the door, I could hear the toppling furniture and loud curses--an angry drunk. I froze mid-knock and realized that this was not the life for me. I took off before the door was opened.

That night, I received a phone call. It’s George. Great. “Sunny, what the hell’s the matta with ya? You--”

“My name’s not Sunny, and I quit.”

* * *

I left the green dress at home and opted for a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I entered Adam’s room, and I was greeted by his gentle eyes. “Where did we leave off,” he said, knowing perfectly well, “ah, that’s right. It’s your turn. What was your childhood like?”

I shot him a smirk and took a deep breath. “My mom died when I was ten, and my father found solace in the bottom of a bottle. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of bottle, and he wasn’t home much after that. And one day he just stopped coming home altogether and I haven’t seen him since. I never knew if I reminded him of my mother or if I reminded him of his responsibilities. Either choice left me to fend for myself. School was no longer an option, and it’s hard to find a job without an education.” I watched his eyes go soft, and the tension in my shoulders was replaced with warmth. It was a relief to share my burden with someone else.

In a soft voice, Adam said, “you’re better than what this life has to offer. I think you should find a way to go back to school. Don’t give up on yourself.” I believed him.  “Alright, Adam, I’ll try but for now I’d better head out.”

I was halfway out the door, when Adam said, “Bonnie, the money.”

“Oh, no, keep it. I insist.”

“But what about George?”

I dropped my shoulders and tilted my head, but kept my eyes locked to his. “Don’t worry about George,” I sighed.

* * *

I was looking through a pile of bills when my phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hi, Bonnie?”

“Yes?”

“We have an opening at the diner? Are you interested?”

* * *

“Of course, that will be out right away.” The bell jingled when the door opened, and my eyes darted to locate the next customer. Adam. My heart began to flutter and a smile spread over my face. I smoothed my apron and made my way to the booth where he sat down. “What can I get for you?” He smiled a beautiful smile and said, “I’ll have a slice of apple pie.”