The Bad Seed

“Good morning, Princess,” the Storm Trooper says. He calls all women Princess, yet it never gets old. His sidekick, Darth Vader, is a glorified hand truck.

Stormy and hand truck“Morning, Stormy,” I say, and fist-bump his glove.

It’s unfortunate that one of my arts is dread. I am a master of a useless craft. As a well-intentioned but truly crazy lady I once worked for used to say, “Ooooh, that’s up in my Wheelhouse!” Dread is up in my Wheelhouse.

ladder, sideways tree


“Family is the most awesome thing ever!” Facebook is always telling me. “Share if you agree!” But the truth is closer to what my coworker Man once told me on a bad day.

“Be courageous, Erika. Only God knows.”

Indeed, I find current circumstances so bewildering that I’ve been asking myself, “What Would Grimm’s Fairy Tales Do?”

I like to imagine I’m at a banquet where karma is about to be served.

Dad birthday portraitThere once lived (LIVES!) a King who was both handsome and very wise. His passion was writing books about history, so the people of the future could know what transpired before them. The King was beloved by all, for he had a gentle, gracious manner, and was that rare combination of great talent and no pretense. If he had any weakness, it was that he was sensitive and felt things, and thus was dismayed by the shortcomings of the world.

Dad at partyThe Queen took excellent care of the King. So that he might enjoy a life of the mind, she tackled more practical pursuits like running the household, while also working as a lobbyist to help families in need. But the Queen fell ill and died. She was thirteen years younger than he, and this was not what he thought would happen. In fact, he is still pretty pissed about it.

Mom and Dad 11-11Though the King’s joy was diminished by her passing, he made every effort to adjust to the new reality, cooking for himself and all the rest. But the King is getting up in years, or “long in the tooth,” as he likes to say.

Dad w-watchThe King and Queen had two children. The eldest, a daughter, grew up near a beautiful forest and was always reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales, each experience fostering an appreciation of the other.

EL silhouette

When she grew up, she moved to where some of the most enchanted and ancient trees can be found. Unfortunately, it is on the opposite side of the country from the King.

forest ripplesThe youngest, a son, was an obstinate type. He had an arrogant and selfish manner, imagining that the world owed him something, while never creating anything more substantial than an excuse. He had trouble holding jobs and was always broke.

DL silhouetteThe daughter had an idea! What if the son moved into the family’s nearby 3-bedroom rental house, where he could get on his feet while being close at hand to keep an eye on the well-being of the aging King!

blurry tracksAnd it came to pass. But within a few months, it became evident that there was a Broken Agreement. The son’s one assignment was to check on the King daily, to provide aid and conversation and help in case of emergency. You know, drive 10 minutes to check on the nice guy paying all your bills. But the son could not be bothered, as he had no conscience.

spooky forestThen, quite by accident, one day, the King went to the bank which contains the money of the dead Queen. To the King’s great surprise, he learned that the son had made up an ATM card in the King’s name, so that he might conveniently steal her money through the Machine.

spooky path end treesThe King, ever genteel, wrote his son a letter, criticizing this turn of events. But since the son  will not abide any criticism, now or ever, he simply stopped taking the King’s calls.

motor vehicles sign and raindropsIn Grimm’s Fairy Tales, loyalty and integrity are a big deal. Actions have direct consequences. Those ducks you won’t let a hunter shoot? They’ll show up to retrieve the ring of the Princess when she  tosses it in the lake for you to find.

fake ducksThat ant colony you won’t let the horses stomp? They’ll gather every last pearl of the necklace the Princess scattered throughout the forest for you, arranging them into a tidy pile while you sleep.


And the hive of honeybees, for whom you chased off a bear because you “will not suffer them to be harmed?”

When you have to determine which of the three identical Princesses has had honey for dessert, the Queen will come and land on her sleeping mouth. (“The Queen Bee”).

honeycomb and spoon

All those years I fed the crows at the beach. Saving Baggies of all my crappy uneaten Seattle Center French fries for them, plus the occasional chicken neck. It is about time they threw down a cloak of invisibility for me, the quintessential spying tool.

crow silhouette group

 Or what about the always-beautifully dressed older woman who sits on the ground in Seattle Center, constantly rocking back and forth?

crow and mexican hat“Help me out,” she says. I give her my last three dollars, hoping to change my luck. She carefully tucks it into an elegant pocketbook.

crow in alder“Go to the Machine,” she says. “It’s my birthday. I want a hot chocolate.”

The Machine is a nearby ATM which dispenses twenties. I wasn’t having it. It’s been her “birthday” since before Christmas.

purple crabBut now I see my short-sightedness. If I had only followed instructions, she might’ve given me more instructions.

seattle center crows“Hark ye. I will make you a present because of your good heart. Go on your way and you will come to a tree on which nine birds are sitting. They will have a cloak in their claws, over which they are fighting. Take aim with your gun and shoot into the middle of them. They will drop the cloak and one of the birds will fall down dead. Take the cloak with you. It is a wishing cloak. When you throw it round your shoulders, you only have to wish yourself at a place to be there at once. Take the heart out of the dead bird and swallow it whole. Then you will find a gold coin under your pillow every single morning when you wake.” (“The Salad”).

dead birdAs the real artists will tell you, sometimes you have to go through some nasty process to get to a lasting reward.

periwinkle footstepsBut what is the fate of those without a good heart, who would neglect AND take advantage of the old King, who provides everything? Steal money from the dead Queen? Hmm, let’s see here.

toppling giantIn all likelihood, you’ll have to “forfeit your life.” That’s pretty standard operating procedure. But there are worse outcomes.

bruno's 1-16“Now hear your sentence. You shall be turned into a black poodle with a gold chain round your neck, and you shall be made to eat live coals, so that flames of fire will come out of your mouth.” (“The Pink”).

dog calligraphy“The old King put a riddle to the waiting-woman. ‘What does a person deserve who deceives his master?’

magic dusk smudge

“The false bride answered, ‘No better than this: he must be put stark naked in a barrel stuck with nails, and dragged along by two white horses from street to street till he is dead.’

bruno's outlets“‘That is your own doom!’ said the King. ‘And the judgment shall be carried out.'” (“The Goose Girl”).

surf unsafeI go to the beach, yet I cannot escape my mind. I am exhausted by the dread of worrying. What, and when, will something happen? I cannot bear the thought of anything happening to the King, or the sheer jackassery of neglecting him.

mossy clump and branches

Yet here at Washaway, there is an unrelenting message of impermanence. Probably I should be taking trips to L.A., instead.

sideways tree

Alas, dear Rock Hound, there thou hangest!

sideways rockhound“Alas, Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest. If thy mother knew thy fate, her heart would break with grief so great.” (“The Goose Girl”).

spooky rockhound front view

Rock Hound, you wrote me some years back. You said you’d never return to Washaway, and so I should find and avail myself of your pile of special rocks. But I went to the wrong trailer.

rockhound interior 2Last summer, local legend Les Strange tripped and fell onto the overgrown, tarped pile of geodes. He gave me two 5-gallon buckets’ worth. Some are in my garden, but my favorites are in my kitchen.  No houseplant can live in my cave, so I heaped the best rocks on the scorched earth of a dead plant.

fossil rockThe very best rock is on top of the pile. While it it is not colorful, it is bejeweled with tiny fossils, the exoskeletons of ancient sea creatures.

No one can tell me there is no magic.

hugo and alder reflections


About washybeach

Washaway Beach This Week is a blog by photojournalist Erika Langley. See more work at
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11 Responses to The Bad Seed

  1. But who will rescue the bereaved king? How does the story end? My own parents lived a fairytale. My mother was a magical nurse who cared for my father the counselor-preacher whose heart was strong while Parkinson’s nibbled away at his body. (Wash-Away Beach was near one of his parishes; Twin Harbors Lutheran.) On Jan. 6 he flew to heaven where he found his missing right hand, lost when he was only 18. We will fly to Washington in February for the memorial service. At the service, we will remember that all are made whole once we get to heaven. Even the pieces of our hearts are returned to us by the hand of God. Wishing for a happily-ever-after for you, Erika. In the darkness, there is always a grain of light to plant.

  2. N says:

    Beautiful! Love your writing .
    I too lost our place that saw 3 generations of fun, bonding, and beautiful memories. The yellow compound was my great aunts, my moms place was just behind it. My Dad took his last breath laying on that ground with his grandson by his side. Now gone all washed away. The sea has no respect for even that small piece
    Of treasured land.

  3. I hope there is justice for the King.

  4. Sara says:

    Praying for you and your dear father, Erika.

  5. Have him arrested. It won’t stop.

  6. patricepb says:

    You have so much talent! This is enchanting, beautiful, heartbreaking and angering all at once… which is what an excellent writer does; invoking all those feelings. I hope you figure out what to do, stopping the undermining prince in his tracks… Would it be extremely difficult for the King to move to the PNW?

  7. Howlin' Houndog/Erik 4-A says:

    Miss Langley, I have been reading your posts about Washaway Beach for many years. Your photos have moved/inspired me in many ways. My Family had deep ties to that area going back a generation (all gone now though), but I do remember in my childhood going there and enjoying it very much. My Grandma (Tutu in Hawaiian) passed in 2006 used to spend here summers in Westport until she could not longer travel from Hawaii to Westport as she got older. My Grandpa’s old charter boat still resides in the harbor there (The Hula Girl). It is about the last legacy we have with that place. All the rest has been taken by Neptune and/or progress.

    I want to write a reply to your most recent post about your story about the Good King and his (sadly departed) Good Queen. My Good King lost his Good Queen in 1989. She was his Light. Now I must palely follow in her footsteps and guide my aging Good King through his final days of this relm. It is not an easy quest. Sometimes I find myself being my own worst enemy.

    BUT take Heart. There is a mighty strength that resides within us all. One that you can tap into. It is called the Good Heart. It gives you the strength of 100 (or 1000) when needed. I see your heart is Pure/Noble/Strong/Loving. This is not a weakness. This is strength. You have LOVE and that can bring you more than just a warm puppy/kitten sometimes.

    I gain strength in knowing folks like yourself are out there. I gain strength in knowing that I am not alone in my quest for being a Good Person either. I am by no means perfect (but who is?), still it is nice to find there are people who are doing Good Things (as best they can) under trying circumstances.

    I just wanted to post this message so you will know there are others who have parallel quests they must follow.

    My parting wisdom (and this is by no means mine), “Do not drink of the poison called Resentment and expect others to die from it. They won’t, but you will.” The temptation is strong to do this, but you must resist. Take Heed and Be Well.

    Erik “Howlin’ Houndog” 4-A
    (Owner, Vagrant Records & Studio V of Seattle Washington)

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