Once upon a time, or maybe twice; at least some of the time, and up to but not including all of the time—there lived a beautiful princess. Well, not necessarily beautiful, or necessarily a princess, but there did live a boy. He was not a prince, either, or even an artist formerly known as one, although he did sometimes wish he would find his princess. Fat chance of that, there was, or perhaps a slim chance—really, there was no chance, since he lived in a democracy, and there was no royalty of any kind, other than Queen Latifah. Besides, he thought, there was no reason anyone like that should ever be interested in him; he was just an average Joe. In reality, Joe was actually quite unique—just like everybody else is unique, but in a different way. See, Joe was the most average person on Earth, a fact which may have made him feel better about himself, had he known it. As it was, he thought he was nothing special.
Eventually Joe grew up and out, got married twice and moved to the suburbs. He had a typical life, of course, with a cat and a dog and 2.3 children. The non-integer kid bothered him for a while, but Joe got over it. Every day he would go to his middle-class job, and every day he would come home and watch basic cable. He tuned in to reality TV as a form of escapism and never once considered the irony. At night, he sometimes wondered if the American Dream were supposed to be a good one.
One day, out of the blue, he received a phone call. This startled him, because he did not even realize he had a blue, let alone that phone calls could come out of a color. The call was from a strange man in a strange land, offering Joe great fortune and adventure and a lower interest rate on credit card debt.
Joe hung up. He turned and stared into the mirror on the wall, thinking that there was surely supposed to be more to life than this and that he used to have more hair. Where was his princess to sweep him off his feet? What kind of a butch princess could pick him up like that, anyway?
The problem with “happily ever after”, he decided, was the “after” part. “After” what? Was he destined to live his life in the “unhappily ever before”?