Mary Anneís Tale: Tiny Marianna
By Emma Redmer
Cannon: between the 3rd and 4th seasons (epilogue)
Characters: Mary Anne, Harriette, Jennifer, Mr. Twinkicetti, Lydia, Mr. Gorpley, Larry, Balki, Olivia Crawford (from the 3rd season episode Sexual Harassment in Chicago)
Synopsis: A tiny girl has a series of fantastic adventures.
Disclaimer: Lorimar Productions, Miller-Boyett Productions, and Warner Bros. Television own Perfect Strangers.
Notes: This is the third in a series of four classic fairy tales featuring the Perfect Strangers characters.
Once upon a time, a little girl lived in a nutshell with her friend, Miss Harriette. Harriette named her Marianna and gave her everything a very small girl could want. She made a blanket out of rose petals and a mattress from cotton balls. She had a little tea set of her own, and loved to play with Miss Harrietteís children, and her childrenís strange friends. Miss Harriette was smart and funny. Marianna liked how wise she was. She always knew what to do when she was scared or ripped her tiny flower-silk dresses, or how to make her feel better when she scraped her knees on the dirt in the garden box where she lived.
One night, as she slept, a fat, green frog with small eyes and a big, wide grin saw her and carried her nutshell off to a lake in the park, where he lived. Marianna was frightened when she awoke to find herself on a lily pad in an unfamiliar place. "Where am I?í she asked, dazed, "Who are you?"
The fat frog grinned. "Iím Donnie Frogicetti, and I brought you here. I thought youíd make a great maid. My wife Edwina needs help with our tadpoles. She keeps asking me to watch over the eggs, but Iíve got better things to do then spending the day sitting on my rump and reading the turtle-racing sheets."
Marianna jumped out of her nutshell. "Please take me home! I donít know anything about watching tadpoles! I just want to go back to Miss Harriette. Sheíll miss me, and Iím losing valuable beauty sleep."
"Nothing doiní, baby cakes," Mr. Frogicetti snapped. "Youíre stayiní right here and working your little fingers off for me. Iíll go get Edwina and tell her she finally has a maid. Everybody ought to have a maid." He hopped off, singing show tunes off-key.
Marianna looked around the lily pad, trying to think of a way to get back on land. The lily pad was anchored to the lake bottom by a thick vine that wouldnít budge, no matter how hard she pulled it. None of the other lily pads were close enough to jump on. "What am I going to do?" Marianna wailed. "I donít want to be a maid for some olí frog! I want to find Miss Harriette!"
Marianna screamed for help at the top of her lungs, hoping someone would hear her. A lovely bird with gold-and-brown plumage landed on her lily pad. The bird frowned. "Whatís all the noise about?"
Marianna sighed. "Thank goodness! Miss Bird, could you give me a ride off of this lily pad? Mr. Frogicetti stole me from my home in Miss Harietteís garden box."
"I canít give you a ride, but I can help you," the bird explained. She snapped the vine in two easily with her beak and pulled the lily pad along the lake with her beak. Marianna was delighted to leave the frogís home far away. The bird, with help from Marianna, tugged the lily pad on the shore.
"Thank you!" Marianna exclaimed. "You saved me!" She stuck her tongue out in the direction of Mr. Frogicettiís lily pad. "Thatíll show that mean frog he shouldnít go stealing other peopleís nut shells!" She pulled her blanket out of her walnut hull bed and wrapped it around her shoulders. She turned to the bird. "I wish you could fly me home. I donít know my way."
"Iím looking for my mate," the bird explained. "He vanished in this park a few days ago. I was hoping to find him before the frost sets in." She shook Mariannaís hand with her wing. "My name is Jennifer. If you see my mate, tell him Iím really worried. I donít want him buried under a rock or a pinecone. Heís a small bird with brownish-red feathers and big hazel eyes, and his name is Larry."
Marianna agreed to send her message along if she encountered her mate. She waved good-bye to Jennifer, watching her until she was no more than a speck in the huge blue sky. Marianna followed the bank by the lake, eating nuts and berries and listening to the other birds sing.
All too quickly, summer turned to fall. The leaves fell off the trees. The berries and nuts vanished, and the snow started. Marianna wrapped her rose-petal blanket around her shoulders, but it really wasnít much protection against the cold. This was the first time she was ever out in the winter. Miss Harriette always took her nutshell inside during the snowy season and put it on the mantel.
She trudged through the snowdrifts, looking for a place to stay. She was hungry, tired, and lonely. All of her animal friends were sleeping in their nests and homes, or flew to Miami for the winter. She found a little wooden door set in the ground and knocked on it, hoping to at least inquire about the nearest hotel or abandoned birdís nest where she could wait out the chilly weather.
A small, reddish mouse in a ruffly purple dress opened the door. She carried a candle in one paw. "Hello? May I help you, young lady?"
Mariannaís teeth chattered. "C...could you t...take me i...in? Iím cold, and I havenít eaten in more than a week."
The mouse immediately put her paw around the shivering girl. "You poor dear! Come in and warm yourself by my fire. Iíll make you some sassafras tea and cheesecake. That will get the cold out of your bones in no time!" She led Marianna inside. "Iím Lydia Mouseham. I give other mice advice in the spring and summer if they have problems with their mates."
Marianna accepted the cup of tea and the chair the mouse pulled out for her. The little burrow was warm and snug, cozily decorated with wood furniture and wooly rugs. "Miss Lydia, Iím trying to get back to my friend Miss Harriette, but I donít know where she lives. You wouldnít have a map or something, would you?"
"Iím afraid not," the mouse explained. "And I wouldnít attempt to wander around out there, anyway, if I were you. The blizzards are terrible at this time of year. You probably wonít be able to get home until spring." She took another cup of tea and joined the disappointed girl. "Would you like to stay with me? I donít sleep all winter, only when the weather is at itís worst. We could keep each other company."
Marianna smiled. "That would be wonderful," she agreed. "Certainly better than being stuck outside with only a rose-petal blanket to keep me from freezing to death!"
The first two or three weeks with Lydia were very pleasant. They spent quiet days playing card games, making cheesecakes, sewing new frocks for Marianna, reading Lydiaís old columns, and having chats over cups of sassafras tea. When it was very cold and Lydia slept, Marianna wandered around the intricate chain of tunnels created by various underground animals over the years.
Marianna was out and about one particularly cold day, exploring the tunnels, when she came discovered a small, brown bird in one of the most remote corners of the burrow. Marianna knelt by the creature. Its right wing lay at an unnatural angle. She leaned against its chest and barely heard a heartbeat. For some reason, the bird seemed familiar. She knew she heard about a bird with reddish-brown feathers somewhere before, but she couldnít remember where.
Marianna brought the bird heavy blankets and bandages borrowed from Lydia. She carefully bandaged the birdís wing and placed the woolen covers over his body. She felt its chest. The birdís pulse remained weak. She stroked the poor creatureís feathers, hoping her body heat would help. It seemed a little warmer when she returned to Lydiaís burrow, but remained unconscious.
The next day, Lydia introduced Marianna to Mr. Sam, an oddly tall, gold and gray mole. He had squinty eyes, fancy clothes, and a toothy smile Marianna did not like. It made her feel colder than when she was outside in the snow. He talked about his many burrows, his ex-wife, and his poker-playing prowess, all of which Lydia found fascinating and Marianna considered very dull.
Marianna now divided her time between amusing Mr. Sam and nursing the bird back to health. The bird was recovering well. It hadnít opened its eyes, but it moved its wings, and its heart was much quicker. She wove it a beautiful blanket of wheat and grass stalks. She even brought Sam and Lydia to meet her new friend, but they didnít think too much of it.
"Sweetheart, you shouldnít be wasting your time with that loser," Sam snorted. "All it does is sing and bother my sleep in the summer and run off to San Jose the moment the frost set in. What good is an animal who canít survive a little frost?"
"I agree," Lydia added. "The bird will die, anyway. Itís a lost cause, Marianna."
Lydia made her announcement nearly five months after Mariannaís arrival. Marianna, Lydia, and Sam were drinking tea and eating Lydiaís special apple and cheese tarts when Lydia cleared her throat. "Sam has something very special heíd like to tell you, Marianna."
"Uh, oh, yeah." Sam stood and bowed. "Marianna, Lydia and I made a decision. Weíd love it if youíd stay here forever and be my wife."
Marianna laughed. "Weíre serious, Marianna," Lydia insisted. "Sam is very rich. He could provide for both of us. Heíll even give up poker." She glared at him. "Right, Sam?"
"Hey, that wasnít part of the deal!" the mole grumbled. "All I need is someone whoíll sit and talk to me and keep my burrow clean."
"Iím sorry," Marianna said between giggles, "but I really canít accept. I want to get home to Miss Hariette someday, and I couldnít live under the ground all the time. Itís too dark and damp."
Lydia screwed up her face in shock. "Is that how you plan on repaying Sam and I for all weíve done for you? I took you in, and Sam provided these lovely burrows and all your pretty new clothes and all the cheese for the cheesecake."
Sam glared at her. "Whatís wrong with it being dark and damp? I hate the sunlight! It makes things too hot and it gets in my eyes."
Marianna sighed. "Iím not used to it. I canít live in the dark all the time. It makes me sad and really depressed."
"Well, get used to it," Sam snapped. "Face it, sweetheart, you have nowhere else to go. Youíll never find your friend. You can barely find your way back to the burrow without getting lost. You owe me and Lydia, and weíre going to make sure you pay every cent."
"I...I understand," Marianna sobbed. "Can I have a moment to myself?"
"Certainly, darling," Lydia told her. "Take all the time you need."
"But be back in less than an hour with your answer," Sam added.
Marianna went in her door, but went out again when Lydia and Sam werenít watching and hurried down the corridor where her bird friend lived. She threw her arms around the small, feathered creature. "Dear bird! Now neither of us will ever escape this hole! Lydia wants me to marry Mr. Sam, but I donít really like him. Heís a great big snore. Heís not interested in me. He just wants someone to listen to him jabber about poker and his burrows. Miss Lydiaís usually either sleeping or busy with her column."
The tiny girl felt the bird move. Its eyes opened slowly. It raised its wing and shook it, pulling the bandages off with its beak. "Thank goodness!" it exclaimed. "That crash landing really hurt."
"Youíre alive!" Marianna hugged him as hard as she could. "I didnít think you were going to make it."
"I almost didnít," the bird admitted. "I was about to give up when you brought those blankets. A falcon chased me down here. I broke my wing while making an emergency landing and couldnít get out of the hole." He pointed his wing upwards, indicating a circle covered with dried grasses and surrounded by jagged rocks. "Thatís how I got in."
Marianna gentle moved the birdís wing. He watched her, but didnít wince or jump away. "Do you think you could fly now?" She hopped to her feet. "I hate to abandon Lydia, but she wants me to marry Mr. Sam. Iím not in love with him. I donít even like him that much. I donít care about money or burrows or how good someone is at poker. I want someone to be interested in me, not in how good I keep house."
"I canít let you become the wife of that dusty dirt squatter," the bird exclaimed. "Iíll get us both out of here. I miss my own mate Jennifer terribly."
Something went off in Mariannaís mind. "Are you Larry? Jenniferís looking for you," the tiny girl squealed, "or was, a few weeks before it snowed. Sheís really worried about you."
"Jenniferís worried?" Larryís eyes tripled in size. "Oh, my lord! I hope she didnít wait up for me!" He nodded over his wing. "My wing should be good enough to fly. Get on my back. Weíre bustiní out of this one-horse town."
"Donít you mean one bird-burrow?" Marianna asked.
"Itís an expression."
Marianna climbed on Larry, between his wings. "Ok. Keep all feet and hands on the vehicle at all times, and, whatever you do, donít look down." He backed against the wall, took a long running start, and burst out of the burrow and into the blue sky.
Marianna sighed as the wind whistled through her hair. It felt good to be out in the sunshine again. She hadnít seen any light at all since the snows came. The snow was gone from the ground, and flowers and plants bloomed in abundance. "Larry?" Marianna asked as they waved to a flock of crows going north.
"Where are we going?"
"Iím taking you to a garden in the same yard as my nest. I have a friend named Balki. Heís a Myposian flower fairy and will probably be able to help you more than I can. He hears all kinds of news and information from the bees and birds and other animals who live in the garden with him. I have to get home and square myself with Jennifer. Sheís probably furious for my being away so long."
"Iím sure sheíll understand when you tell her you broke your wing and almost froze to death."
"Sheíll never believe that. Iíve used that excuse before." He landed on a rose bush covered with tiny white rose buds. "Balki?" Larry called. "Where are you?" The diminutive brown bird sighed. "Why is Balki never around when I need him, but when I donít want him around, he finds excuses to bother Jennifer and me in our nest?"
Marianna walked across the bush, making sure to be careful of thorns. Beautiful strands of a sticky, silk-like substance hung from many of the branches. "Whatís this pretty, gluey stuff?"
Larry pulled away from the silk as fast as his wings allowed. "Itís spider webbing. Most spiders are harmless, but their leftover silk gets all over your feathers and makes it hard to fly."
"Look!" She touched one soft strand. "This one isnít broken, like the others." She followed it, Larry trailing behind her. The silken rope ended at a huge spider web roped between two thick rose branches. Marianna pointed to a long, squirming thing in the center of the silk. "Thereís something stuck in the web!"
Larry gasped and put his wing over his beak. "Itís Balki!"
Marianna squinted. Larry was right. The thing in the middle was, indeed, a small human man. He was several inches taller than her, but still very tiny. He was dressed all in white, from the wreath of white roses in his dark hair to his white satin vest, white balloon-sleeved blouse, and white boots on his feet. Two odd lumps on his back were covered with spider webbing. The thin silk bound his wrists and ankles. He struggled against the sticky rope, but to no avail.
Marianna drew back as a large Black Widow spider sashayed onto the branches. She was obviously older, and quite lovely, in her way, but Balki was petrified of her. Marianna couldnít blame him. Black Widow spiders were poisonous. One bite would probably kill him.
Balki tried to twist out of her reach. "Queen Olivia, please, how can I be your mate? I donít know you! Canít we just be friends?"
The spider pressed her face against his. "I have far too much passion for mere friendship, my fine fairy. With my poison and your magic, weíll rule the flora of this garden together."
Marianna saw the lumps on the Myposian Flower Fairyís back twitch. "Take the webbing off my wings, Queen Olivia. I canít fly without them. I donít want to be your king, or rule the garden. I like helping the bees and the other animals find the nectar and pollen, so there will be more flowers in the spring."
She patted his cheek. "Iíll give you a few good weeks wrapped from head to toe in my silk to let you make your decision. Youíll think better without so many distractions."
"No!" Balki wailed. "My flowers..."
She leaned against him and put one of her arms over his mouth. "Uh-uh, my fair fairy. I gave you your chance. Itís Queen Oliviaís turn to play."
Marianna couldnít stand it any longer. "Isnít there something we can do to help him?"
Larry nodded. "Yes, there is. I have a plan."
Marianna thought Larryís plan was brilliant. He distracted Queen Olivia by singing loudly and pecking at her. She chased him, and Marianna ran to the web, introduced herself, and freed Balki from his bonds. Larry took off for his nest as the spider tried to bite him. Balki climbed to the top of the white rosebuds. Olivia saw him and followed him, but tripped over a wire of her own silk and got several arms stuck in netting. Marianna felt someone gently gather her in their arms and flutter away with her, leaving Olivia and her plotting far behind.
"Balki?" Marianna looked up, and into Balkiís deep, burgundy-colored eyes. "I didnít know you were a bird."
"Of course Iím not, donít be ridiculous!" He smiled. His huge, toothy grin made Marianna melt. "Iím a Myposian Flower Fairy. We all have wings that let us fly from garden to garden, and magic that can help us make pollen and nectar."
"How did that nasty Queen Olivia get you in her web?"
Balki made a face. "I took a nap this morning after herding some very young worker bees to the daffodils. I was tired, and I didnít feel Queen Olivia string me up like a line of clothes. When I woke up, I had a stiff neck and sticky wings. Queen Olivia spent the day breathing down my chest, telling me that she wanted me to be king with her."
He landed on a lilac bush in a very familiar backyard. "I have work to do here today, but I thought you might like to help me. You seem very nice."
Marianna looked around her and gasped with delight. "Balki, this is Miss Harietteís yard!" She threw her arms around his neck. "Thank you! Youíve taken me home!"
"Youíre welcome." He led her to the largest spray of lilac blossoms. "I have a present for you, my kittenish little tiger lily." The agile fairy gathered the spray in his arms and waved his slender fingers over them. They slowly, and with a great deal of sparkling dust, transformed into a beautiful pair of gossamer, lavender-colored wings. "These are for you," Balki explained. "I want you to be a flower fairy with me, and help me with my work. Itís the least I can do for you for rescuing me from Queen Olivia."
Marianna blushed. "Oh, Balki, Iíd love to be a flower fairy with you! I like you! Youíre so sweet, and you knew where to bring me home."
"Oh, that." Balki smiled. "We Myposian Flower Fairies have an sick sense of direction." The taller fairy proceeded to gently attach the pretty purple wings to Mariannaís back.
Marianna looked at her reflection in a drop of water on the lilac bush. Purple was a good color for her, and the wings looked like two delicate, shimmering bits of fabric.
"Thereís one more thing," Balki added. Marianna watched in the drop as Balki tied a wreath of lilac blossoms around her head. "Now youíre a true flower fairy." He dropped to one knee before her. "Beautiful blossom and great girl hero, would you be my mate?"
Mariannaís eyes sparkled. "You bet I will!" She gave him her most passionate kiss to prove it.
Balki finally emerged, dazed and rumpled, his rose wreath slipping over his left ear. "Wow! That had more kick than a the sting on a beeís behind!"
Balki took Marianna back to the garden box, where she was reunited with Miss Hariette and her family. She and Balki often visited Larry and Jennifer at their tree in the garden. Jennifer remained by Larryís side, despite her annoyance and anger over his long absence. She also took Balki to meet Miss Lydia Mouseham, who was delighted that her friend had found such a perfect companion. Mr. Sam, however, refused to come out of his hole, especially when he heard Mariannaís mate thought poker "was that thing you poke at a log with on a fireplace." She even encountered Donnie Frogicetti in the park. Tadpoles begging him to take them for a swim or to the sunning rock or to Royís Froggy Land to ride the Great Green Frogcoaster surrounded him. The fat, lazy frog told Marianna that the maid job was still open, if she wanted it. She declined.
Marianna and Balki moved into the garden box next to Miss Harrietteís home. They had children of their own and watched Miss Harrietteís children grow, and Marianna never, ever again left the side of her beloved Balki, or her dearest friend.
"That was a very sweet story, Mary Anne," Jennifer complimented her friend as she finished the fairy tale. "Iíve always liked Hans Christian Andersonís books."
"Thank you, Jennifer." Mary Anne turned to Larry and giggled. "Well, Larry, did you like being a bird better than being a toad?"
Larry smiled. "Yeah, I did." He looked up at Jennifer. "That story certainly has the ring of truth around it."
"I liked that you made me a fairy," Balki added. "Iíve always wondered what it would be like to fly! It would be fun to see the world as an airplane would."
Jennifer cleared her throat as a softer roll of thunder startled her boyfriend. "You know, Larry, you havenít told a story yet."
"Cousin" Balki exclaimed, "why donít you tell them the story you once told me? The one you said you asked your mama to read to you every night when you were a little lipless boy."
Larry blushed. "Aw, Balki, thatís a corny old story."
Jennifer smiled. "Iíd like to hear it, Larry. I like corny old stories."
Larry gulped. "Well, then, Iíll tell it." Jennifer turned the flashlight on Larry as another bolt of thunder purred across the semi-dark room. "Once upon a time, there was a pair of sweethearts who lived in a distant country. They were inseparable, until they day they became lost in a deep, dark wood..."