First 2 Chapters from
And Don’t Forget to Rescue the Princess

Chapter 1

Being an unemployed actor is no fun. I ought to know, I’ve made a career of it. Not that I’ve never had an acting job, I’ve had a lot, but Al Breen is not exactly a household name.

I’ve had roles on soap operas (mostly extras or under fives). I’ve been in quite a few Off Off Broadway shows, especially in Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the parts of Connecticut that they don’t put on postcards.

I’ve also acted in independent films, which sounds very impressive till you look at the script and see that the character you’ll be playing doesn’t even have an actual name, but is only referred to as “second pedestrian,” or “man behind counter.”

My succession of temp jobs hasn’t been much better than my acting assignments. I’ve worked as a waiter, telemarketer, a zoo keeper’s assistant (somebody’s got to clean up after the monkeys), and anything else you can do in an office or retail business with no known skills.

Pretty depressing, huh? I suppose the only thing that’s helped me get through it all is joking about it. The old expression ‘if I didn’t laugh I’d cry’ comes to mind.

It had been a particularly lousy winter for me. I’d had to find a new apartment due to a roommate who had a bad habit of stealing my food, smoking (I’m allergic), and walking into my room without knocking, usually in some severe state of undress. Also, I broke up with my girlfriend. All right, she left me, but let’s not get caught up in semantics.

Anyway, I’m thirty years old, I was born and raised in New York City, and, as I said, I’m an actor. You may have seen some of my work. I recently played a roll-on underarm deodorant in a commercial. Twelve years of acting lessons studying Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Moliere, just to say, “Perspiration making you fret? Your worries are over with ‘No Sweat!’ ” In my most recent spot, for a chain of pizza restaurants, I play a Viking. And, as everyone knows, the Vikings loved pizza. Lots of times they used to rape, loot and pillage a town just for its valuable stores of anchovies and other assorted toppings.

That commercial, six months ago, was my last acting job. Since then the only speaking part I’ve had is the line, “You want fries with that?” only there’s no camera there when I say it, unless you count the one on the ceiling near the cash register.

When July came, I decided to get out of New York for a while. I rented a little house in a remote area of Cape Cod. Like all actors, I have the fantasy that I’m a great writer. My plan for the summer was to write a play (that would star me, of course), and then in the fall I would go back to New York and try to get it mounted on Broadway. Or Off Broadway. Or in Cleveland.

I was sitting in the living room of my rented house, poised at my state of the art, reconditioned, previously owned manual typewriter, when I happened to look out the window and saw a grey cat walk by and call my name. I thought this was pretty weird since I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood.

The cat stopped at the window, looked up at me and said, “Hi, Al, what’s new?”

At first I thought it was someone playing a trick on me, like a kid, or a ventriloquist. Having nothing else to do, I said to the cat, “Not much, and you?” which I thought was a pretty good comeback, considering it was my first sentence to a species other than my own (not including a blind date eight years earlier).

“I’m just taking a walk,” said the cat. “Are you busy at the moment?”

“Actually, I was writing a play,” I replied.

“How’s it coming?” asked the cat.

“Very well, it’s really starting to flow. So far I have the words: Curtain Up.”

“Apparently it seems to be writing itself,” said the cat, as it paused to lick its paw.

I leaned out the window and tried to see if there was someone hiding in the bushes. I saw no one.

The cat noticed me gawking and said, “What’re you looking for?”

“A ventriloquist.”

“Ah,” said the cat, “am I to understand that you doubt the authenticity of my anthropomorphism?”

“How’s that?”

“You don’t think I can really talk.”

“Well, it’s not every day that I meet a talking cat.”

“You ought to get out more often,” it said. I climbed onto the window ledge and dropped to the ground. “Going somewhere?” asked the cat.

“I just wanted to get a closer look at you.”

“Not too close, after all, we’ve just met. What would the neighbors think?”

“What exactly are you?” I said.

“I’m a cat, of course,” it replied, “what did you think I was, a Tyrannosaurus Rex?”

“Well, no, it’s just that cats can’t talk.”

“They can’t? Gee, then maybe I’m a chicken,” said the cat.

“I’d like some answers,” I said.

“Okay,” said the cat, “I suppose you’re entitled to an explanation. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you follow me and I’ll explain everything.”

“Where are you going?”

“Over there,” said the cat, pointing to the moors with its tail.

“Why can’t you just tell me here?”

“I have my reasons,” said the cat as it leapt into the bushes.

Well, I wasn’t about to let the talking cat get away. As I ran after it, I thought about what I would do with it when I caught it. We’d appear on TV, movies, on commercials and become superstars. I pictured the billing: “Al and His Talking Cat.” The licensing tie-ins alone would bring in millions. The gifted feline and me on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and lunch boxes all over the country. My days of working dead end temp jobs to pay the rent were over. Not to mention the women I would meet. It’s a little known fact that women love talking cats and especially their owners.

The bushes were tall and turned out to be a lot thicker than they appeared from my window. After a couple of minutes, I was sure I’d lost the cat, when suddenly I heard its voice. “Looking for someone?” it said.

“Yeah, where are you?”

“You’re getting warmer.”

I moved forward and continued the search.

After a couple of minutes with no progress, I was debating with myself whether or not to give up and go back home, (I’m extremely ambitious unless it involves work), when I heard it call out again.

“You can’t be thinking of quitting already?” said the cat. “I’m just a few feet away.”

I walked past brambles and bushes, till I came to a small clearing. There, standing in front of a shack not much bigger than an outhouse, was the cat.

“Having fun?” said the cat.

“As a matter of fact, I’m not,” I replied.

“Oh, well,” it said, “that’s how it goes.” Then it turned around and went through a small opening in the door of the shack and vanished inside.

I opened the door. It was dark inside and smelled musty. “Where are you?” I said. There was no answer. I took a couple of steps and the door slammed shut. There was a burst of light and colors, and then everything went black.


When I opened my eyes I was lying on a stone floor in a large room. I stood up and looked around. The walls were lined with shelves that held parchments, scrolls, dusty volumes, small statues, and a couple of human skulls. On a wooden table was an hourglass and a lit candle. In one corner, some diagrams hung on a wall. A brazier stood in another corner, a thin curl of incense wafting out of it.

I spotted a wooden door with a metal handle and walked to it. The door was locked. I looked through a big keyhole and saw darkness on the other side.

As I was trying to figure out what was going on, (and my mind reeled with possible explanations, most of which fell into three categories: joke, drug-induced illusion, or very disturbed person’s hobby), when I heard a voice behind me say, “Hi, Al.”

I turned to see the grey cat sitting on a shelf. It jumped to the floor and then sparks and smoke filled the room.

When the smoke cleared, a man in a grey robe and pointed hat stood before me. He had a long grey beard and moustache and sparkling blue eyes. “Hi, Al,” said the man, “don’t you recognize me?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “did you ever work in Macy’s during Christmas?”

“I’m the cat,” he said.

And then I realized that he had the same voice as the cat. “Sure, why not, ” I said, “makes as much sense as everything else.” I watched him stroke his beard and brush some dust off his costume. “Nice place you have here. What happens now, you tell me it’s all a joke, you give me more drugs, or you torture me?”

“None of the above,” said the old man, “you are my guest.”

“There’s no talking cat?” I said, my dreams of stardom vanishing like a politician’s campaign promise not to raise taxes.

“No,” said the old man, “I am a wizard. The cat was just an illusion.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, “so who are you?”

“My name is Merv, I am a wizard.”

“Merv the Wizard?” I said, squinting.

“You don’t like my name?”

“I like it, I just think it sounds a little un-wizard like.”

“We can’t all be Merlin.”

“So it seems.” I looked at a long table covered with bottles and bits of metal, then back at Merv and said, “Where are we?”

“You are in my laboratory, in the Castle Furley, in the land of Flemp.”

“Wait a second, hold on there. We’re in the Castle Curly, in the land of Shemp?”

“No,” said Merv, “we are in the Castle Furley, in the land of Flemp.”

“Oh, well, that’s an entirely different story. Uh, it was nice talking with you, now, if you don’t mind, I’ll just be on my way,” I said, as I went to the door, grabbed the handle and pulled. It was still locked. “I have an idea, why don’t you open this door, let me out of here and then we can just forget about the whole thing. I won’t even press charges.”

Merv made a fist. When he opened it, there was a big key in his hand.

“Not bad,” I said. “You do any card tricks?”

“No,” he said in an annoyed tone, then went to the door and unlocked it. The door creaked open and I stepped into a dark hallway that was illuminated by a single torch on a wall. To the right I saw a set of winding stone stairs that led upward. “Would you like a tour of the castle?” said the wizard.

“No, just of the exits,” I said.

“Then perhaps I can tell you why I brought you here.”

“You’re not in some kind of weird cult, are you?”


“Well, that’s a relief,” I said as we started walking up the long stone stairs to the darkness above. “In fact, I don’t even know why the thought occurred to me.”

I had no idea what was going to happen next, but I figured that being led through a shadowy castle by a stranger in a beard and robe wasn’t a good sign. Was I being taken to a pagan temple, about to be offered up as a human sacrifice to some cloven-footed demon god, or was this part of some disturbed fraternity hazing ritual? Then again, what if someone had slipped me some powerful knockout drug? I couldn’t remember being with anyone who’d had the opportunity to do that, let alone the motive. Even as these things occurred to me I had serious concerns that I was simply in denial, and that the real explanation would turn out to be a lot more frightening.

Chapter 2

The stairs seemed to last forever. Finally, the wizard and I stepped out into a hallway. There were lit torches on the walls. He motioned for me to follow him, which I did with some reluctance. After all, I reasoned, he could be leading me into a dungeon where he was going to boil me in oil. Although it did occur to me that most dungeons that I’d ever heard of were located below ground, and you didn’t have to walk up a hamstring-aching flight of steps to get to them.

At the end of the hallway we stepped out onto an open terrace-like area where I could see that it was night. I wondered how much time had passed since I’d walked into that outhouse. It was a very clear night with a bright moon and lots of stars. I looked out at the landscape, then realized that we were standing on some kind of observation deck, of yup, you guessed it, an honest to goodness castle. In the distance were fields and just beyond them, a forest for as far as the eye could see.

I turned to the wizard and said, “We’re in a castle.”

“Of course we’re in a castle, didn’t I tell you we were in a castle?”

“Well, yes, you told me we were in a castle, but I didn’t realize that when you said we were in a castle, you meant we were in a castle.”

“Well,” said the wizard, “we’re in a castle.”

“Now that we’ve established that we’re in a castle, can you tell me where this castle is located? I don’t know of any castles in the northeast.”

“We’re in the land of—”

“Yeah, I know, Shemp.”



The wizard said, “Must you go on about this ad infinitum? You are in another land, Al Breen, a land very different than your own. You have been brought here for a singular purpose.”

“And what purpose is that?”

“To undertake a quest.”

“Ah, well, that explains it. Uh…” I said, as I looked over the edge of the wall at the moat far below, “where exactly is the land of Flemp located? I mean, what country is it in?”

“Flemp is Flemp,” said the wizard.

“You’re just a well of helpful information,” I said.

I looked out at the landscape and noticed that none of the roads were paved.

“Okay,” I said, “this is the land of Flemp.”

“That’s right.”

“How did I get here?”

“With magic.”

“Ask a silly question.”

“For such a great warrior, you seem most uncomfortable,” said the wizard as he rubbed his long white beard.

“A great warrior,” I said, pointing at myself, “are you talking about me?”

“Of course, you must be used to being taken to strange lands to undergo quests.”

“Wait, hold on, let’s go back to the warrior thing. What makes you think that I’m a great warrior?”

“I saw you through my crystal with your spear and sword all dressed in your battle regalia.”

“You sure you’re talking about the right guy? I’m just an unemployed actor. Well, not unemployed, actually, I’m between engagements at the moment, currently at liberty you might say. Well, the point is, I’m no warrior.”

“You were leading your troops into war with the battle cry, ‘One for all and all for Pizza.’”

That’s when I did a double take and stared at the wizard. “Did you say pizza?”

“That is correct. This ‘Pizza’ that you spoke of, was no doubt the kingdom for whom you were employed as a mercenary, eh?”

“Hold on, just a second,” I said, “are you telling me that you think that my commercial, the one where I played a Viking, the commercial for Pizza House restaurants, is real? You think that I’m some kind of real Viking?”

“You are a warrior.”

“This crystal ball of yours, do you pick up TV on it?”


“Television, moving pictures, game shows, commercials, the news.”

“Your words are strange to me.”

“Yeah, well, what you’ve said to me isn’t exactly my idea of normal, either.”

Just then I heard footsteps coming toward us and turned. A group of men dressed in costumes and carrying swords approached and stopped a few feet from us. One of the men stepped forward and said, “The king awaits, Master Wizard.”

“We hear and obey,” said the wizard.

“Wait a second,” I said, “what king? There’s a king here? I thought it was just you.”

“No,” said the wizard, “I am merely the wizard. The king asked me to summon up a warrior for him. That is why I have conjured you.”

“Me? I tell you, I’m no warrior, I’m an actor. In the commercial before the one where I played a Viking, I played a germ on someone’s big toe that causes athlete’s foot. I wore a big piece of foam rubber that had purple hairs sticking out of it.”

“I would not mention all this to the king, if I were you,” said the wizard, “he might not find it amusing.”

“The king has a low threshold for humor?”

“He hung the palace jester last week,” said the wizard, “then, when he was dead, he beheaded him. And after that he had him drawn and quartered.”

“Er, exactly what kind of joke did the jester tell?”

“Something about a chicken crossing a road.”

The guard stepped forward again and said, “The king awaits.”

“Okay,” I said, “we heard you the first time.”

The guard drew his sword, pointed it at me, and he said, “Do not be insolent.”

“Put your sword away, Bowen,” said the wizard, “this man is a great warrior, summoned by the king.”

“Pardon me, Master Wizard, I was ignorant,” he said, and sheathed his weapon.

“You’re not the only one around here who’s ignorant,” I said.

The guards turned around and began marching, as the wizard motioned for me to walk. We began down the long corridor and found another set of steps.

As we descended I said, “Look, Wizard, this has gone far enough. I’m no warrior. A worrier maybe, but not a warrior. Why don’t you just take me outside to the drawbridge and I’ll catch a cab.”

“I cannot do that. If I were to release you the king would have my head.”

“But you’re a wizard, you could make another one, besides, you could turn the king into a toad.”

“I am sorry.”

“You’re sorry, imagine how I feel. Hey, do you have a phone I could use?”

“A what?” said the wizard.

“It’s gonna be a long night,” I said.

We went through a number of corridors, till finally, at the end of a long hallway, two huge doors were opened and then the wizard, the guards, and I walked inside a giant chamber. There, against the far wall, was an empty throne. The walls were lined with elaborate gold inlays, paintings, and giant tapestries. I was beginning to think that this might not be a practical joke. Nobody I knew had a budget large enough to pull this off. Rent a castle? Furnished? The people I hung out with fought over who would pick up the tab on a grilled cheese sandwich.

I was about to say something to the wizard when some men with trumpets showed up and blasted out a few notes. A guard the size of a Guernsey cow pushed me onto my knees as everyone bowed. Then, a small man wearing a crown appeared from behind a curtain and walked into the room. He went to the throne and sat down on it. “Arise,” he said. Everyone stood up. “Master Wizard, please approach the throne,” he said. The wizard stepped forward and stood in front of the king. Then the king said, “Master Wizard, were you successful in your search for a warrior?”

“I was, Your Majesty,” said the wizard. “The warrior that will save your kingdom is standing right there.” The wizard pointed at me.

I turned to see who was behind me. No one was behind me.

“Bring this great warrior to me,” said the king.

The wizard took a few steps back, then walked over to me and said, “Come, you must stand before the king. Don’t talk until he speaks to you first.”

“But, you’ve got the wrong guy here, Wizard.”

“Is something amiss, Master Wizard?” said the king.

“No, Your Majesty,” said the wizard, as he pushed me toward the king.

“Hey,” I said, “I can walk over there without your help.” The wizard gave me a mean look as I strolled over to the king and took a little bow.

he king stared at me, then said, “You don’t look like a great warrior, most of the great warriors I’ve seen have been more muscle-bound.”

“Well,” I said, “I have been known to do the odd push up, now and then.”

“What is your name?”

“Al Breen, Your Honor.”

“Your Majesty, he means,” said the wizard, “he is new to our ways. He comes from a land far away from ours.”

“Ah,” said the king, “a wandering warrior. What is the name of your land, Master Breen?”

“New York,” I said, “although I was spending the summer on Cape Cod—”

“Enough,” said the king, holding up his hand, “we must speak of quests and survival.”

“Look,” I said, “this whole thing has been one big misunderstanding…”

There was a gasp in the room amongst the guards and assembled spectators. The king’s expression changed. “A misunderstanding?” he said.

The wizard stepped in front of me. “Your Majesty, as I have stated, he does not know our ways, also his voyage here has been most tiring and he is confused.”

“I for one would like to hear of this misunderstanding,” said the king. “Speak, Warrior Breen.”

“Uh,” I said, “you see…” I glanced at the wizard, who was shaking his head ever so slightly. “I was brought here under false pretenses.”

“What?” said the king.

“It’s all a mistake. I’m an actor. This wizard saw a commercial I made and thought I was the guy in it. Well, I was the guy in it, but not the guy he thought I was. Anyhow, I’d like to go home now.”

“Home?” said the king.

“Well, actually, I don’t want to go home. I was on vacation. I’d like to go back to the house I was renting.”

;“You say you’re not a warrior?” said the king. “Is this true, Master Wizard?”

“Your Majesty, he is delirious from the journey,” said the wizard.

“Can you bring me another warrior?” said the king.

“No, Your Majesty, it took all my magic to transport this man. It will be months till I can again summon up enough mystical energy to even begin a search for another.”

“And by that time it will be too late. No, our only chance rests with this man.”

“You mean me?” I asked.

“Yes, you,” said the king. “So I ask you once again. Are you a warrior that can carry out the royal quest or are you not?”

“Just out of curiosity,” I said, “what happens if I say that I am the warrior?”

“Then,” said the king, “you will be given the details of your mission. A mission so dangerous that it has already cost the lives of all my other knights. A mission so deadly that one hundred men have died in an attempt to carry it out. A quest so impossible that the odds at best are fifty thousand to one that you will ever live to complete it, much less return alive.”

“And what about if I say, hypothetically, that I refuse to go on this mission?”

The king said, “Then I will order you to be tortured, beheaded, and burned.”

“Oh,” I said, swallowing.

“What is your answer, warrior, yea or nay?” boomed the king.

I glanced at the wizard. He gave me a stern-faced expression, then looked back at the king.

“Uh,” I said, “Your Majesty, let’s say, just for a minute, that I say yes. What’s in it for me?”

“In it?” said the king.

“A colloquialism, no doubt, Your Majesty,” said the wizard. “I think he means what in the way of payment, what rewards can he expect?”

“I see,” said the king, “the knight wants rewards for undertaking a kingly quest? He wants material gain for what is to be an honor? Is that what I am hearing? I will give you your answer in four words, OFF WITH HIS HEAD! Guards, take him away!”

Oh no, I thought, my wiseass comments were finally going to get me killed. The wizard had warned me to be careful what I said to the king. Why hadn’t I listened to him? I silently cursed the day I’d taken the acting job on that pizza commercial. My agent at the time said that he thought it was a good career move. Like he knew anything. The man used to manage trained dog acts in Atlantic City. I froze as the two large guards lunged at me.