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Happy to Help

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The three evil stepmothers sat at the Villain Conference Help Desk, readying themselves for the next frantic attendee.

The Big Bad Wolf stepped up to them and slammed on a paw on the table. “My panel has been cancelled!” he snarled. “This is outrageous!” A wisp of dense drool sunk from his teeth to the table.

“Well, let’s see what we have here,” the first stepmother said. “Which panel was it?”

“The one on Devouring,” the Wolf grumbled.

She paged through the Conference program and found the information.

“I see what happened,” she told him, “The whale cancelled, and the witch with the candy house was moved to the panel on Reclaiming the Woman Within. The conference organizers must have decided that there wasn’t enough of an audience for your paper alone.”

“What? They can’t do that! I was supposed to present my paper, ‘Proper Cooking Methods for All Ingredients, from Supple Young Things to Stringy Old Grandmothers.’ Can’t you put me on another panel?”

“Maybe if your talk weren’t totally ageist,” the second stepmother muttered loudly.

“I’m sorry, we don’t have the power to do that. Maybe you can talk to the organizers,” the first stepmother said.

The wolf growled but walked away.

“Who would want to hear him talk anyway?” the third stepmother said when he was gone. “Everyone knows he’s just going to say to eat everything sashimi style.”

Another attendee hurried up to the table then. She said, “Excuse me, I can’t seem to find my scheduled location.”

“Okay, happy to help. Fairy tale please?” the first stepmother asked.

“Are you serious? You don’t know who I am?” the attendee asked.

“Please just let me know so I can look you up.”

“I’m the mother in The Juniper Tree!”

“Okay, let me find you….”

“I can’t believe you don’t know who I am, I know who you three are.”

“We’re the evil stepmothers. Everyone knows us,” the third stepmother answered.

“I’m an evil stepmother too! I was evil stepmothering before you were born!”

“But not everyone’s equally evil,” the third stepmother pointed out.

“I killed my stepson, got my daughter to think she did it and cut him up into pieces, and fed the pieces to the boy’s father!”

The three looked at her, unimpressed. “Sounds like an on-the-fly plan if I’ve ever heard one,” mumbled the second stepmother.

“Oh, here you are! You’re supposed to be on the fourth floor, Ballroom C,” the first stepmother answered.

The woman stormed away toward the elevators, mumbling obscenities at them.

“I’m starting to think that everyone at this conference is a complete egomaniac,” the second stepmother said.

Soon enough, a man approached them, a dark smile on his face, framed by a blue beard. “Good afternoon, ladies. I’m very pleased to meet all of you. I’m afraid I have a favor to ask. I’m leaving on the train tonight, right after my presentation on the Home Décor panel. But I’ve already checked out. Is there any way I could leave my suitcase at the Help Desk while I present?”

“Yes, we’re letting attendees keep their luggage in that area over there, but you’ll have to pick it up by six,” the first stepmother said, “Here, just put the suitcase on the table and we’ll take care of it.”

He lifted the suitcase and placed it in front of them. “You can see, ladies, that I’ve left the key right in the lock of the suitcase. But this is very important: do not for any reason, under any circumstances, open the suitcase. It is strictly off limits.”

“Your luggage will be fine, sir,” the first stepmother said, “As I said, we’ll put it with the rest.”

“Good. Good. And remember, do not be tempted to open the suitcase. Even though I left the key right there. If you open the suitcase, there will be … consequences.”

“Yeah, got it,” the third stepmother said.

“Do not think that I will treat the matter lightly if you open the suitcase. For the suitcase is not intended for your eyes. The suitcase--”

“Okay, I’m opening it just to get this guy to shut up,” the second stepmother said, turning the key and lifting the lid.

They stared at the luggage filled with body parts, dark blood soaked into the lining of the case.

“Dude, it’s called Ziploc,” said the third stepmother.

“How dare you! I’ll kill all of you!” the man yelled.

The first stepmother casually flicked a poison thorn at him. It landed right on his nose and he fell over, unconscious.

“You know,” the second stepmother said, “We could have just called security.”

The first stepmother shrugged. “It’s not even fatal if someone removes the thorn before sunset.”

None of them moved.

“Yeah, we’ll do that if we have time,” the third stepmother said.

“We’re really not supposed to leave the Help Desk,” the first stepmother concurred.

They didn’t have time to rest, however, since a group of angry looking people soon stepped over Bluebeard’s unconscious body and walked right up to the desk. Including one of their stepdaughters.

“We demand to be allowed to participate in the conference,” one of them said, and the rest nodded vehemently.

“Heroes and Heroines Conference is in May,” the third stepmother said dismissively.

“H&H sucks. Plus there’s the archaic gender stuff. Not even just the name of the conference, all their panels are like ‘Your Feet Are Too Big So Your Heart Is Not Pure’ or ‘How to Stay Asleep Until Your Prince Shows Up: If You Wake Up Early, Try Punching Yourself in the Head.’ VillainCon is way more progressive. ”

“Tough. This event is for villains only,” the first stepmother said, particularly eyeing Snow White.

“Whatever, mom. We deserve to be here,” Snow replied.

“We shoved an old lady in an oven,” one said.

“We killed a dragon who was just trying to protect his eggs,” said another.

“I convinced my boyfriend to try to kill my stepmother,” Snow said with a smirk.

“Yes, sweetheart, but he failed,” the first stepmother answered, “Just like he fails at everything.”

Hansel and Gretel snickered at that until Snow shot them a dirty look.

“Goldilocks is allowed to go to both,” the mermaid argued.

“Goldilocks is a special case,” the third stepmother said.

“You know what? You have to let us in. The conference website says that anyone is welcome,” Snow said.

“That line is there so minor villains and villains’ assistants feel welcome,” her stepmother countered.

“Well, we’re as good with a sword as any villain,” a man in the crowd insisted.

The second stepmother rolled her eyes. “Heroes have swords. Villains have plans.”

“We have plans too. Good ones. We’re sneaky, we’re violent, we’re vengeful, and we like to win. We want in,” Gretel demanded.

“You know what? Let’s let them in,” the third stepmother said. “At the very least, it’ll make cocktail hour bloodier. I mean more interesting.”

The first stepmother let out a sigh. “Fine. Fill out your nametags, and take a program. You’ll have to pay the late fee since you’re doing same-day registration.” She glared a bit at Snow as she threw forward several empty nametags and markers.

“Ooh, late fee,” Hansel mocked, “How eeeevil….”

Snow elbowed him. “Dude, my stepmother sucks but she’ll totally kill you, shut up.”

They were silent as they filled out their nametags and wrote checks.

“See ya at the holidays,” Snow called back sarcastically to her stepmother as the group finally went their way.

“What a bunch of assholes,” the second stepmother said.

“Yeah, but they had a good idea,” the third said. “If they can come to our conference….”

“Then we can go to theirs,” the second laughed. “Perfect!”

“How are we going to convince anyone that we’re the heroines of our stories?” the first asked, looking a bit disgusted by the idea.

“Hey, we’re strong women who stood up to powerful forces and went after what we wanted,” the third said. “And we earned what we have with hard work.”

“Yeah,” added the second, “And we’ll deviously destroy anyone who tries to say otherwise.”

The first stepmother smiled. “Okay. We’ll meet up in May and go to H&H Con. But I have one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“We figure out a way to make sure our stepdaughters are all working the Hero Help Desk.”

They all laughed.

The other two answered, “Sounds like a plan!”