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July 15, 2024

A Little Match Girl

By Dan Mulhollen

The Little Match Girl
((way) after Hans Christian Anderson)

There was once a little match girl, who, as minors selling products of microscopic profit margins tend to be, was poor and nearly starving.

One day a ship arrived from Jamaica. A merchant saw the little match girl and took pity.

"I tell you what," he said, taking a small box from his pack, "I have these magic sticks. You sell them. You make money." He then dumped the contents of the box into her tray.

She held up one of the sticks, which seemed to be nothing more than leaves wrapped in paper. "What do they do?" she asked meekly.

"People who know will buy," was his only reply. He left saying, "Be back in two months, we split money fifty-fifty." And then he left.

The magic sticks were an immediate success, and the little match girl sold out her entire stock within two weeks. When the merchant returned, she paid him his share of the profits, and was able to buy twice as many magic sticks.

She knew New Year's Eve would be a good day for sales, and took more than her usual supply, filling her pockets with magic sticks. But as she began her business, she noticed she was being followed. The Town Constable waited until her first sale before stepping in. "What are you doing?" he asked, toying with her.

"Selling magic sticks," she replied.

"Magic sticks are illegal," he said, blowing his whistle. She was immediately surrounded by deputies who took her tray, placed her in handcuffs. They took her down to jail, where after emptying her pockets and conducting a full cavity search (despite her complaints that her teeth were fine) placed her on trial.

She professed not knowing the magic sticks were illegal. She also pleaded poverty, although just looking at her emaciated frame was enough for anyone to know that.

Then she asked, "Why are magic sticks illegal anyway?"

"The brewery guild opposes them," the Judge stated, "as do the tobacco guild and the apothecary guild."

"But don't they care about those they hurt?" she asked, nearly in tears. "I was in a bad way before I started selling magic sticks. Don't these guilds care if people starve to death because of them?"

"Wait here just a moment," the bailiff said, walking towards the door. "There are members of all three guilds sitting out in the lobby. I'll ask."

He was only gone a few seconds. "Nope," he said, "they could care less."

The little match girl was found guilty. Her fine left her penniless.

Well, not quite. She had a few magic sticks the authorities had not seized, and was able to sell those to her previous buyers. She decided she would continue selling the magic sticks, but taking precautions to avoid arrest.

One night she decided to try one. She watched her motions with fascination. First she lit the match, watching the almost magical dance of sparks. Then and then moving the flame over, the end of the stick coming to life, bright red. And then she inhaled.

It was like Papa's beers, she thought. Well, without the drunken rage after he'd had too many. Good shit.

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-05-26
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