The PC Hansel and Gretel
by James Finn Garner.
Copyright James Finn Garner. All rights reserved.
Deep in a forested bioregion stood a small, humble chalet, and in that chalet lived a small, humble family. The father
was a tree butcher by trade, and he was doing his best to raise his two pre-adults named Hansel and Gretel.

The family tried to maintain a healthy and conscientious lifestyle, but the demands of the capitalist system,
especially its irresponsible energy policies, worked ceaselessly to smother them. Soon they were at a complete
economic disadvantage and found themselves unable to live in the style to which they had become accustomed,
paltry though it may have been. With the little money that was coming in, there was not enough to feed them all.

So, regretfully, the tree butcher was forced to devise a plan to be rid of his children. He decided to take them deep
into the woods as he went about his daily work and then abandon them there. It was a sad commentary on the
plight of single-parent households, but he could see no alternative.

When the father discussed this plan on the phone with his analyst, Hansel overheard the conversation. Instead of
alerting the proper authorities, Hansel came up with a plan for protecting himself and his sibling. The next morning, the
tree butcher packed them all sensible, nutritious lunches in reusable containers, and they set off. Hansel, however, had
filled his pockets with granola, and as they walked deeper and deeper into the woods, he dropped large chunks of it on
the path to mark the way.

At a clearing deep in the woods, the tree butcher finally stopped and said to Hansel and Gretel, "You pre-adults wait
here. I'm going to look for some trees to harvest, and maybe explore my primitive masculine psyche against the
backdrop of nature, if I have the time. I'll be back before too long." He handed the children their lunches and walked off.

After morning had turned into afternoon and afternoon into evening, Hansel told his sister their father's plan to abandon
them. Gretel, always level-headed and practical in such situations, suggested they collect materials for a lean-to shelter,
as they'd learned in their Outward Bound Aboriginal Survival Techniques class.

"No need," said Hansel. "I've left us  a trail to follow back, without even littering or defacing a single tree." But when they
went to find the trail, they discovered a cadre of survivalists busily eating up the granola. The survivalists screamed a the children to get away from their newfound rations and,
after firing a few warning shots in the air, disappeared into the woods.

Hansel and Gretel wandered along different trails, but after some time they became hopelessly lost and very hungry. Then, around a sharp
bend in their path, they came upon a wondrous cottage made of carob brownies, sugarless gingerbread, and carrot cake. Even without a
reassuring FDA label, the cottage looked so good that the children dived at it and began to devour it.

Suddenly a wommon in her golden years (actually, quite past them) emerged from the cottage. The many bangles on her wrists and ankle
clattered as she moved, and she gave off the aroma of patchouli, burnt sage, and clove cigarettes. The children were startled. Hansel said,
"Please forgive my bluntness, but are you a wicked witch?"

The wommon laughed. "No, no, my dear, I'm not a witch, I'm a Wiccan. I'm no more evil than anyone else, and I certainly don't eat little
pre-adults, like all the rumors would have you believe. I worship nature and the Goddess, and mix herbs and natural potions to help people.
Really. Now why don't you both come in for a nice cup of coltsfoot tea?"

Inside the functional yet edible cottage, the Wiccan advised the children to forget the propaganda and slander that had been spread about persuns like her. She told them
stories from her life in the forest, making potions, casting spells, communing with non-human animals, and healing the many wounds inflicted on Mother Earth. It took some
time for Hansel and Gretel to free their minds from the stereotype of a green-skinned, temporarily advanced crone in a pointy black hat. (Ironically,
the Wiccan did have a long warty nose that resembled a moldy cucumber, but the children were too polite to ask about it.)

They were finally convinced of the Wiccan's sincerity when they met her neighbors and kinsfolk. To welcome the children, these gentle people
held a gathering that night in the moonlight, in which they stripped off all their clothes, rubbed mud on each other, and danced in a circle to the
wound of ocarinas and panpipes. It was an inspiring sight, and it felt so right and natural that  Hansel and Gretel decided then and there to give up
their old lives and join the forest people.

Over time, Hansel and Gretel came to love the Wiccan and their lives in the forest. As they grew older and more empowered, they began to
assert their bonds with Mother Earth in more direct and tangible ways. With courage and vigor, they planned and engaged in many deep ecology
actions to protect their arboreal home. Hansel and Gretel merrily spiked trees, monkey-wrenched mining and bull-dozing equipment, and blew up
power plants and electrical lines that stretched over nearby farmland with explosives made from all-natural ingredients. They even learned 15
completely organic remedies for powder burns.

They were very content and self-fulfilled protecting their adopted habitat until one day terrible news came. A huge multinational paper conglomerate had purchased their entire
forest, intent on turning it all into wood pulp. Hansel, Gretel, the Wiccan, and all their compadres and com-madres geared up for the
confrontation of their lives. The eco-defenders gathered up their wrenches and their plastique, their picket signs and their panpipes, and
started off for the headquarters of the conglomerate, alerting the media along the way that they were ready to defend Our Mother to the very
last person.

Hansel, Gretel, and the Wiccan marched at the head of the crowd, chanting and swaying and itching for a fight. As the headquarters of the
paper company came into view, the two siblings saw something about it that was very familiar. The huge plant and building complex took
up nearly four acres of land, but on the circular driveway, smack in the middle of the main entrance, sat a small, humble chalet. It was in fact
their childhood home, squatting like a hermit's shack in front of the sleek steel and glass facade of the HQ.

Just as the brother and sister were beginning to digest this, the small wooden door of the shack opened and out stepped their father, the
tree butcher. He was dressed in an Armani suit with Italian loafers, and on either side of him crowded a phalanx of lawyers. It was obvious
that the woodspersun had done OK for himself.

"Well, well," said the father, "the wheel of fate spins around again. Good to see you again, Hansel and Gretel."

"Please don't call us that," said his biological but not spiritual son. "We have changed our names to symbolize the birth of our new
consciousness and to separate ourselves from our heartless, exploitative upbringing. From now on, you may call me Heathdweller."

"And my name is Gaia," said his sister.

"Change your names to Thumper and Bambi, for all I care," their father laughed. "You people are still going to have to relocate from
the forest. We've made a deal with a nice trailer park down by the Interstate for you, and hired a relocation counseling firm to help--"

The Wiccan cut him off. "Death to the rapers of Earth! Death to the rapers of Earth!" she screamed, and the rest of the crowd picked
up her chant.

"No need to get personal," the father muttered. He moved to calm the crowd. "All right, all right. We'd like to meet with your
spokesman--"

"Spokeswommon!" insisted one protester.

"Spokespersun!" shouted another.

A lawyer whispered into the father's ear. "We'd like to meet with your persun of spoke," the father said finally, "the Wiccan."

Amid shouts of encouragement the Wiccan raised her fist and walked into the building with the suits. The ecoteurs were very happy
and confident because they placed their complete trust in the Wiccan. She would never back down in the face of these planet
ravishers. To celebrate, they formed a prayer circle in the parking lot and began to dance.

The sound of ocarinas and panpipes was still in the air when the negotiators reemerged from the building. The father and the lawyers
were smiling, while the Wiccan had a more sheepish expression, although it is an insult to sheep to imply that they could ever look so
guilty.

Gaia, nee Gretel, immediately sensed that something in the established order of things had changed. "What happened?" she
insisted. "What went on in there?

"A prominent member of your group has decided to wake up and face reality," said her father. "The Wiccan has agreed to join our
staff, as our new Vice President of Holistic and Spiritual Wellness, Mother Earth Division."

An involuntary gasp escaped from the ecowarriors. "How could you?" screamed Gaia.

"Child, I had no choice," she said in a pleading manner. "They gave me complete medical and dental, including experimental
cures that most policies won't cover."

A confused murmur went up from the ecosquadron. This was indeed a stunning blow. If their wisest and most earth-conscious
persun-in-arms could be so easily bought, what chance did the rest of them have?  Along with the lawyers around him, the tree
butcher wore a grin like the cat that had satisfied its nutritional needs at the expense of the canary.

But Hansel -- oops! -- Heathdweller and Gaia were well acquainted with their father's ruthlessness and had devised a back-up
plan. With great pomp and flurry, they each put on hooded robes, drew a pentagram on the ground, and burned dried herbs in a
small crucible. Everyone looked on in curiosity, and perhaps with a little fear. Then the brother and sister chanted an invocation
in a  language that even the Wiccan had never heard. The wind began to blow and the air crackled. Then, with a flash of light, it
was done. The entire paper making operation -- headquarters building, plant, and warehouse complexes -- had changed from
steel and concrete to  peppermint sticks, gingerbread, and gumdrops.     

The ecoteurs' mouths hung open, then they let out a cheer. The lawyers conferred among themselves and jotted notes about
possible action plans in their Filofaxes. The Wiccan just stood there while her mouth formed a silent "Wow."

The tree butcher put on a brave front. "Nice trick, kids, but you haven't stopped me. The plant is still as sturdy as ever, and now
my maintenance costs are down to a little frosting and fudge. Thanks very much. We'll still keep operating, and we're still going
to tear down your forest."

Heathdweller and Gaia didn't answer him, but instead burned more herbs and breathed more incantations. The wind again blew
and the air crackled, and before everyone's eyes, the entire squad of lawyers turned into a horde of mice -- very hungry mice -- who immediately
swarmed over the huge, sticky-sweet industrial complex that lay before them and began to devour it.

The Wiccan had no idea that the siblings were so well versed in the black arts. She tried to appease them with flattery: "That was very impressive.
We have a lot to teach each other, don't we? I'm looking forward to sharing our knowledge together in an open and supportive--" but her words
were cut short as Heathdweller and Gaia flicked their paranormal whip and transformed her from a wommon in her golden years to a slinky,
white-bellied weasel. The former Wiccan then ran off to join the mice in their factory feeding frenzy.

Their father was now visibly shaken as he watched the work of a lifetime being squeakily devoured. Ever the master of the guilt trip, he finally said,
"And this is how you kids repay me? Do you think it was easy being a single working parent? If I hadn't brought you into the woods that day, you
wouldn't have found this whole new life for yourselves. And this is the thanks I get? What about my needs? I've been in the wood business all my
life, now what am I supposed to do?"

So Heathdweller and Gaia did him a favor and turned him into a beaver.

After this ordeal, the ecoheroes picked up their placards and headed back into the forest. Heathdweller and Gaia worked hard at perfecting their supernatural skills, which they
put to use solely for defending the planet. Their neighbors respected the siblings' privacy, lest a stray incantation turn them into a different (though certainly not inferior) species.
And the magickal brother and sister, their friends, and, most important, the trees of the forest lived happily ever after.