Yes, Dorcas. In Greek, it means "gazelle", but in the little town of Pleasant Falls, it's the name of a plain but enthuasiastic girl who just wants to be a princess. When her local theme park teeters on the edge of destruction, Dorcas shows that being a princess takes more than a tiara.
Her parents, her teachers, her friends — none of them think Dorcas is princess material. She's too loud. Her hair's too big. But not as big as her dreams, and no one will keep her away from the princess auditions at Princess and Pirate Land, a theme park with more than a passing resemblance to Disneyland.
But all is not well at Princess and Pirate Land. Crowds are down. The rides are old. And a mysterious "Phantom" stalks the park, sabotaging rides and disrupting events. Someone wants Princess and Pirate Land shut down for good, its property sold to developers who want to build a shopping mall on the site.
Can Dorcas rally the princesses and pirates to fight for their park, to stop the Phantom and bring back the lost magic? Can she make them believe in dreams again? And will she ever realize her own dream, and become a princess herself?
Chapter 1: The Princess Pledge
Chapter 2: Princess and Pirate Land
Chapter 3: "Costumes - Miscellaneous"
Chapter 4: Fairy Godfather
Chapter 5: Aloysius Ginger-Beard
Chapter 6: The Amazing Papadapanicoloskis
Chapter 7: Secrets
Chapter 8: Princess Auditions
Chapter 9: So Long, Farewell
Chapter 10: Not Such a Good Day
Chapter 11: The Wicked-Wicked Queen
Chapter 12: The Meeting at the Great Story Lodge
Chapter 13: Visitor Services
Chapter 14: Runaway Coaster
Chapter 15: The Phantom Palace Fire
Chapter 16: Setting the Trap
Chapter 17: Show Time!
Chapter 18: The Princess Pirate
Epilogue: Happily Ever After
Leslie Le Mon is an American writer and designer. Raised in Germany and New England, she graduated from Mount Holyoke College and has lived in Los Angeles since 1992. She is the author of the unauthorized Disneyland Book of Secrets series (history and guide books) and the YA novel Sircus of Impossible Magicks.
If Dorcas added up all the people who believed that she has what it takes to be a princess, she would have ... zero believers.
When Dorcas announced at supper that night that she was taking a job at Princess and Pirate Land, her older brother, Nick, grandly ignored her, her younger brother, Alex, made a face, her mother frowned, and her father shook his head. Her tiny, doll-like grandmother merely said, “Of course you are, Dorcas. They’ll be lucky to have you. Now, someone pass the peas.”
“Dorcas, how many times have I told you,” asked her father, as he passed the bowl of peas to his tiny mother, “that being a princess is not a solid career choice?”
“Lots of times,” said Dorcas.
“So, when are you actually going to listen to me?”
“Listen to your father,” said Dorcas’ mother.
“There,” said her father. “You hear what your mother says. Listen to me.”
“I always listen to both of you,” said Dorcas. “But you’re wrong about this. I was born to be a princess. I’ve always known it. Since I was young. You remember how I’ve always talked about being a princess?”
“Do we remember?” Her father threw his hands up in the air. “Who has to remember? You still talk about being a princess. All the time. But it isn’t practical. It isn’t logical. It isn’t realistic.”
“It isn’t sensible,” added her mother.
“For gosh sakes,” laughed Dorcas, “I don’t mean I’m going to be a real princess. I’m not crazy or something. But I can play a princess at Princess and Pirate Land.”
“They should make you a pirate,” giggled Alex, sticking out his tongue and rolling his eyes.
“OK,” said Dorcas. “I know you’re trying to be a creep, Alex, but I think you’re onto something. There should be princesses who are pirates. That might be a whole new kind of princess.”
“They aren’t going to make you any kind of princess,” said her father. “That isn’t the way the world works. In the first place you have my height—or, my lack of height. You aren’t tall enough to be a princess.”
“And you’re not willowy enough to be one of their princesses,” said her mother. “You’ve got my shape.”
“And you have my hair,” said her father.
Dorcas gazed doubtfully at her father’s shining bald head.
“My hair when I was younger,” her father explained. “My big, crazy hair. That’s not what they’re looking for in a princess. What princess do you know of that ever had big, crazy hair? OK, yes,” he held up one hand, “that Rapunzel had long-long hair, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking big, crazy hair. What princess has that? None—that’s who.”
Dorcas’ mother put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Dorcas,” she said quietly, “you’re beautiful. But you’re just not princess material.”
“The idiots at that park,” said her father, “will never see your beauty. Those imbeciles!” He clenched his fists over his head, and shook them at the ceiling.
“Calm down, dear,” said Dorcas’ mother.
“OK. OK, I’m calming down.” Dorcas’ father lowered his hands.
“Listen—Mr. Smithman invited me to apply,” said Dorcas. “He invited me to audition. And he’s the VP of, of, um—well, he’s a VP.”
“His glasses must be broken,” giggled Alex.
“He wasn’t wearing glasses,” said Dorcas.
“Oh. So that’s the problem. He must need glasses.”
“Alex—go to your room,” said their father. “And that’s another thing,” he said to Dorcas, “this Mr. Whoever popping out from behind a hedge. What kind of way is that to do business? He sounds like some kind of nut.”
“It was just a coincidence,” said Dorcas. “We were walking down Oak Street, and he was walking down Center Street, and he happened to hear us when we were singing. That’s all. It was like they say—a happy accident. Or, you know, maybe like fate, even.”
“Putting your hopes in ‘fate’ is like putting your hopes in an empty bucket,” said her mother.
“Not just an empty bucket,” said Dorcas’ father. “A bucket with a hole in the bottom.”
“Well, I think it was fate,” said Dorcas, setting her chin, “and I’m going to apply and I’m going to audition to be a princess. And there’s nothing you can do about it! Except, well, you do have to sign the permit slip, since I’m just a rising junior. I can’t work unless you sign it. But other than that—there’s nothing you can do about it!” She lifted a hand dramatically.
“Not sign it? Of course we’ll sign it,” said her father. “It won’t ever be said that we stood in our daughter’s way of getting a job. But you’ve got a sad surprise coming. You’ve been this way since you were a baby, Dorcas.”
“Believing in things. You think everything’s possible—well, it’s not. It just isn’t.”
“That,” said Dorcas, “remains to be seen….”
Continued in "Princess and Pirate Land"!
Dorcas' wish comes true! Princess and Pirate Land hires her to work in the park. Only problem is, they don't hire her as a princess; they hire her as a kitchen drudge.
The castle kitchens under the Princess Pier were vast, and dim, and broiling hot, and looked like a castle dungeon from an old movie. They were also loud. Metal trays and pots and pans and lids clanked. Utensils stirred. The doors of half a hundred ovens slammed open and shut. The heat of the ovens rolled through the great kitchens in ferocious waves. People shouted to each other—the words blending with the kitchen’s other sounds and voices. It was all incomprehensible and a little terrifying to Dorcas.
For a long moment, Dorcas stood at the top of the rickety wooden steps that led down to the kitchens. Nobody noticed her until—
“Hey—you!” shouted an older woman in a grey dress, with a grey-and-brown turban-type covering on her head. She stood at the base of the steps, an enormous ham under one arm, a bowl of what looked like biscuit batter under the other. “Are you lost?” she called to Dorcas.
Dorcas shook her head.
“No—not lost. I’m Dorcas. I’m the new drudge,” she called down to the woman.
Dorcas’ musical voice was carried away on the current of super-heated air and loud voices and the clanking of trays and oven doors.
“Can’t hear you,” the woman shouted irritably. “You have to speak up to be heard in here! Are … you … lost?”
Dorcas shook her head again.
“Then you must be the new drudge. They said they were sending someone. Are you the new drudge, then?”
Dorcas nodded. She held her scouring brush over her head.
“Oh, good,” said the woman. “Thank heaven for small mercies. Well, come on, come on, those pots won’t scrub themselves!”
Dorcas descended the wooden staircase.
“Hurry now!” the woman said impatiently.
Up close, the woman was rather frightening, Dorcas thought. She was very tall, and tremendously strong, though scarecrow-gaunt—it was indeed a large ham, nearly as big as Dorcas, tucked under one of the woman’s arms. The nametag on the woman’s grey dress read “Dotty—Kitchen Manager.”
Dotty must have been at least as old as Dorcas’ mother, but Dotty had a perfectly smooth, very red face, and very pale grey eyes. Dorcas suspected that the terrific heat of the kitchen had smoothed out all the woman’s wrinkles, and broiled her face red as a boiled lobster, and steamed the color from her eyes.
“You’re not very big,” Dotty said disapprovingly. She glanced at Dorcas’ temporary nametag, on which Skip had scrawled “Dorcas—Drudge.” Dotty frowned. “Well—are you strong, at least?”
“I guess,” Dorcas said doubtfully. “I’m strong in spirit, anyway.”
Dotty shrugged. “Well, your voice ain’t too strong—cause I can’t hear you. But as long as you can hear me, that’s what matters. You need to go there,” Dotty couldn’t point, because her arms were full of ham and biscuit batter, so she tipped her head toward the back of the chaotic kitchens, “where all the worst pots are. Soak ’em and scrub ’em. Got it?”
Dorcas nodded. It sounded simple enough, if not very pleasant.
“Soak and scrub,” Dotty repeated. “You try to scrub before you’ve soaked, and it’s just wasted effort. Well. What are you waiting for? Go on, kid!”
Navigating between her frantically rushing coworkers, Dorcas was nearly brained with a tray of sandwiches, a leg of mutton, and a pot of royal spaghetti. She then managed to step in front of several people at exactly the wrong moment, so that they tripped, and a big tureen of Irish stew and a pot of Indian curry splattered across the already damp and greasy stone floor.
“Och!” yelled a beefy man in a grey tunic and smock—one of the chefs, apparently. “Get along to yer pots, drudge!”
Dorcas got along to her pots.
For a moment, after she located the pots, she thought she might faint.
She put out a hand and held the edge of the counter to steady herself.
At the very back of the kitchens tottered dozens of columns of heavy metal pots, each column tall enough almost to touch the ceiling.
Dorcas felt like a little girl lost in a forest of metal trees, the pots towered so high above her.
A channel ran down the center of the counter, a channel lined with faucets. The channel was, she realized, an incredibly long sink. A big pink box of powdered scouring detergent sat on the edge of the sink.
Dorcas took a deep breath.
Flora had told her once that you couldn’t tackle a word problem in math by looking at everything at once. You had to break it down, break everything down into pieces and steps.
“There are the pots,” thought Dorcas, glancing up at the forest of grimy metal columns. “And there’s the detergent. And here’s the water.” She turned on several of the faucets that lined the channel and tipped in a scoop of pink detergent powder. “So I take a pot,” she grabbed one from the shortest column, “and put it under the water, and let it soak. And then I put another pot under the water. And then,” she lifted her scouring pad wand, “when the gunk starts to loosen on the first pot, I scrub….”
After only a few moments, her arms began to ache. The pots were so large, and so heavy, and she was so small.
“I’ll never complain about washing the dishes at home again,” she thought.
Dorcas continued her system of soaking and scrubbing and then stacking the clean pots. Her arms ached more and more.
She distracted herself by picturing all the fun people were having many, many levels above her head, in the restaurants and shops of the Princess Pier.
The Princess Pier was one of Dorcas’ favorite lands at Princess and Pirate Land. It was a large lagoon on one corner of the park, encircled by a boardwalk. This was the international part of the princess lands—the water was lined with castles and palaces and temples representing princesses from every part of the globe.
The Patrick Princess reigned in a gloomy old Irish castle—complete with a ghost. The Punjab Princess ruled in an ornate marble Indian palace. The Proper Princess was British, of course, and the Parisian Princess was enthroned in a miniature version of Versailles. The Petersburg Princess ruled in an onion-domed Russian palace, and the Pagoda Princess reigned in an intricately carved Japanese castle. And so on, all around the Princess Pier, all around the globe.
Every shop and restaurant along the pier was themed to each princess’ region. The architecture, the décor, the merchandise, the colors and fabrics—and the food.
Dorcas had always liked to stroll around the pier with her family or Flora, choosing among everything from teriyaki steak to sushi, seafood to pastries, kosher deli meats to pastas, poi to hamburgers. Eating at the Princess Pier was like taking a quick trip around the world. Somehow Dorcas had never thought about where all those foods actually originated.
“And now,” thought Dorcas, blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes, “now I’m here—where everything I ever ate at the pier was made.”
After a couple of hours her hands were red and blistered from scouring the pots. But she had scrubbed clean dozens of the metal containers. They stood in bright, gleaming spires at the other end of the counter from the grimy pots.
Dorcas paused for a moment, drying her hands on her apron. She nodded happily at the clean pots.
“Positive attitude,” she thought. “Positive attitude, and hard work, and….”
“Is that all you’ve done?” demanded the beefy cook in the grey tunic and smock whose curry she had spilled.
Continued in "Princess and Pirate Land"!