General Fiction posted November 27, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
Psst! Ever tried to catch a fairy?

I Knew It!

by visionary1234

Story of the Month Contest Winner 

“Granddad! Granddad!  You’ve just got to see this! Look! Look! Look!”

Young Janie blew into the room like a mini hurricane of tumbling words.

How could one small body hold and emit so much energy?” the old man mused.  If only he could absorb even a little of it, by simply breathing the same sweet air.  At eighty-six, Frank felt he could use a little infusion.

“Slow down, young lady. Come on in.”  He patted the fat cushion beside him on the comfy sofa.

“Granddad, I am not a young lady.  I’m nearly seven you know,” she assured him seriously, dropping her school bag on the floor and marching over to him.  She wriggled up to sit beside him, her feet dangling, not yet able to touch the floor.

“Well goodness me, old lady!  Wasn’t it your birthday last week, and didn’t I count six candles on that lovely chocolate cake your mum made you?”

She screwed up her nose when she heard herself called “old” lady, and started to giggle.

“Yes, of course you did, but that means six is gone and I’m nearly seven now, silly!”

 “Oops, pardon me!  Hadn’t realized that’s how time was counted these d-“
“You’re teasing me!" She interrupted him, jiggling up and down with excitement and still bubbling with laughter. "I can tell when you’re teasing me, you know.  You blink your eyes lots and lots behind your glasses!”

“Busted, hmm?  Oh dear …”

She gave him a light, fast peck on his rough cheek. “But you can call me “young lady” for a little while longer if you like,” she continued, seriously, “maybe till I’m all the way to seven.  Not after that though, ok?

“Deal, young lady.”  Old Frank’s eyes smiled behind his thick glasses.  “Now, what did you want me to look at?”

Janie opened her mouth to reply, but her grandfather held up a creased forefinger.

 “No.  Wait!”  He closed his eyes, as if in deep thought.  “Let me guess … hmmm … would it be something to do with – “

Janie just had to burst in. “I’ll give you one clue.  Just one!”

“All right then.”

Janie bounced up from the sofa and stood right in front of him – so close he could feel her rosy little-girl freshness.  Aaah to be that age again … The old man  allowed himself to drift.

“Granddad!  Look!”  She tugged at him and gave him a smile so big and so wide he thought it would meet her ears on both sides.  “See?  See the hole?” 

And he saw it – the brand new space in her mouth, a space which this morning had been filled with a perfectly good, small, white tooth.  Her Big Secret - like her first tooth - was out.

Already.  Frank caught his breath.
“Well, goodness me,” he said finally, peering into her mouth and pretending to see nothing.   “You look perfectly normal, as far as I can see.  Two big blue eyes as big as your mother’s dinner plates, two bright pink cheeks like my favorite apples …”

“Granddad!  Look!  Here!”  She pulled her cheek back and pointed directly.

“Aaagh!” he responded, with mock horror.  “Who knocked it out?  What happened?  Should I call the police?”

Janie erupted into another gale of giggles, jumping up and down again, like an over-energized Jack-in-the-box.

“No-no-no-no-no, silly!  I lost my tooth!”  Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

“Well, where did you put it?” Frank asked, deliberately being obtuse.

Janie fell to the floor, shrieking with delight. 

“Granddad, stop! My sides are hurting and you’ll make me have hiccups! Then you’ll have to say boo and scare me!”

And so they stayed for a few minutes, in the bright amber light so typical of Australian late summer afternoons.  Anyone looking in the window could be forgiven for thinking they’d wandered into a  Norman Rockwell painting.  Old Frank, smiling, with his wizened face and rheumy blue eyes behind gold-framed “Grandpa” glasses, and his seven-year-old granddaughter, Janie, right at the beginning of her ooh-I-can’t-wait life ahead, her laughter like silver bells to the old man’s ears. 

As her coppery hair caught the last of the afternoon light, he thought, as he often did:  “Nell’s hair.  Nell’s laughter. Nell.  Not long now, light of my heart.”

How long had it been now? Two?  Two and a half years, since she’d passed? And not a day went by that he did not yearn for her.  
After she died, Frank’s life, for a while, was lost in a numb blur. Then – a miracle. His son, John - their son - invited Frank to come to live with him and his small family, his wife and daughter.  For the old man, it had been a breath of life again, and a chance to be the father he could have been – should have been – if he’d not always been a captive of his own dark moroseness.  Some of that was a crippling inheritance from two humorless, puritanical parents and some of it was generated by his own fears after he’d married Nell and watched her nearly die, screaming, in childbirth.

He never wanted to experience even the possibility of that kind of loss again.  There would be no more children. 

Nell – his radiant Nell, always dressed in her favorite filmy blue – had been the only warming ray in his relatively joyless life.  Somehow, he was able to let in her miracles, her warm laughter, her flaming beauty – and bask in the vibrant life she generated … strong enough, it seemed, for both of them.  But to almost lose her?  His fear became a crippling obsession, freezing him into a life of moody withdrawal, even from his own son. 

However, his son had grown up and bloomed under Nell’s nurturing and, despite the distance between himself and the old man, he’d offered his father a home.  Nell had been an angel for both of them.

Frank, much to his own surprise, had emerged from his bereft daze for long enough to accept.  Somehow he knew that Nell would have wanted it that way.

And so he came to live with his son’s family and unexpectedly, he, too, bloomed - in a strange reversal of nurturing which he could never have predicted.  But here, in this house of generous warmth and laughter, he came to know his son – almost for the first time – and his wife, Jenny.  She was lovely, and reminded him of Nell with her unflappable temperament, her easy laughter. 

Then of course, there was Janie – his granddaughter – who charmed and teased and cajoled  him until she  had him wrapped  firmly around one small, plump, imperious finger.

Every afternoon, she would come bursting through the front door after school. 

“Hi, Granddad! You’ll never guess what happened to me today,” she’d usually begin breathlessly, and the words to describe her latest dramas would come pouring out of her small, sweet mouth. 

A few  more breaths, some shared chocolate milk and cookies, and then, invariably:  “What bed-time story are we going to read tonight, Granddad?”

But before he could answer, she’d add “And did you see any fairies today?  Did you go over to my Fairyland?”

“Her” Fairyland was a deeply shaded, distant corner of their large Australian garden full of giant eucalypts and scented yellow puff-balls of wattle.  This particular corner, though, was  home to an old, twisted and rather brittle Poinciana tree which still bloomed in clusters of bright scarlet each year.  Its roots were gnarled into rolling folds of mossy hills and valleys amongst the wild ferns, creating fairy-size peaks, knot-hole caves and soft green velvet valleys.

Janie would lie down on her stomach so she could be at eye-level with the ancient miniature forest landscape, always so sure that a fairy would peek her head out at any moment to see who was at her door.   Sometimes the breeze would shake the red blossoms loose and they’d come raining down on the fairy hills like a fiery confetti snowstorm.  This was Janie’s kingdom - her special, enchanted place.

Frank smiled.  He knew how much she loved her Fairyland.

“No, little one, I didn’t get there today.”  His creaking  joints discouraged garden ventures these days.  “Perhaps tomorrow.”

“Oh Granddad, you always say that, lazy daisy!”

Aaah, yes.  Tomorrow.  The old man smiled, and his attention wandered.

Janie tapped him on his shoulder to bring him back to the present, and she snuggled up beside him again, looking serious. “Look at this, Granddad!” 

Digging deep into her pocket, she extracted a small piece of bloodied Kleenex tissue and reverently unwrapped it – displaying her prize in the palm of one small hand. “This” was a small white tooth, still with some tiny points of blood clinging to it.  She thrust it under his nose.

 Yes ... soon now ...

Frank paused just for a moment more, then reached for his special lamp, turned it on in the softening light, and  picked up his magnifying glass from the coffee table in front of them.  Together, they contemplated the wonder of Janie’s first milk tooth.  He looked particularly thoughtful as they sat with their heads together, raptly focused - one tired, old, white-haired man and his seven-year-old copper-headed granddaughter. 

It was almost dark outside and they could hear the comfortable clinking of dishes in the kitchen as Jenny, his daughter-in-law, prepared dinner.  Very soon, John would be home from work and then Janie would run into her dad’s arms and spin the tale of her day’s excitement all over again. 

Time paused for moment in their bubble of lamplight.  Finally, Frank said, “You know what this means, right?”  Janie looked up at him inquiringly. He continued. “The You-Know-Who?”

“I know! I know! I know! The Tooth Fairy!” she squealed, all in one breath. Again, the old man quickly placed his gnarled forefinger to her lips.

Shhhh! She might hear you!  We wouldn’t want to ruin her surprise now, would we?”

Janie shook her head seriously.  “Granddad … are you sure?  Are you really really truly-ruly sure there’s a Tooth Fairy?”

“See for yourself! Pop your tooth in a glass of water – I’ll lend you my very special crystal glass – and you go to sleep, just as you always do, and then-”

 “I know that bit, Granddad!” she cut in.  “You already told me, silly-billy!” 

Of course she knew.  She’d been living for this day ever since she was  four years old, sitting on the old man’s knee, listening to his magic stories.  They spent countless evenings looking for green flashes - fairy-lights, he said - in the old jacaranda tree outside their window. 

But the green flashes they’d seen in the summer twilight were only fire-flies.  Or were they? 
Almost exactly two years ago.  Frank caught himself thinking back, hardly believing how quickly  time had passed.  Another summer, and the tree was covered with frilled lavender bells again.  Closing  his eyes, he inhaled their light, sweet perfume as it wafted in through the open window. The cicadas were just starting to tune up their orchestra.

“Look, Granddad!  They’re here again!”

He opened his eyes, and sure enough, there they were, flickering at the very top of the tree – small, green lights, darting up high, then low, almost within reach, teasing, beckoning.

Aaah, yes.
  “I thought they’d be here tonight,” said the old man, smiling mysteriously.

“How come, Granddad?  How did you know?  We haven’t seen them for a long long long time.”

 “They point the way,” he answered softly, indicating the small lights, elusive again now, circling under the purple-belled roof.  Fireflies … he mused …  or fairies?

He held his knowledge deep within. Oh yes, he still believed.  He’d always believed.  It was the one treasure his parents had never been able to beat out of him. 

“Point the way? Where?”  Janie was puzzled.  “To me?  To my tooth? So they can come and find it?”

“Absolutely.  It’s a very special tooth.  Your very first one.”  He paused.  “It means you’re growing big, yes?”

“It sure does, Granddad!”  Janie puffed up proudly, sitting even taller beside him.

For a bitter-sweet moment, Frank caught a glimpse of the beautiful young woman his granddaughter would one day become – the one he knew he would never --  could never --  see.  He stored it in his memory, like one of those new-fangled cameras he’d seen.

So,” he said, “do you think the Tooth Fairy will bring you a small silver coin, or a big one, tonight?” 

Janie laughed.  “Big-big-big!  I’ve been a good girl, haven’t I, Granddad?”

“Of course you have,” he chuckled.

“But Granddad?”

“Yes, young lady.”

She was suddenly serious.

“Granddad, are you sure she’s coming tonight?  How do I know it’s not just you or Mummy or Daddy tricking me?
“Good question. What brought that on, child?”

“Well, some of the kids at school laughed at me when I said the Tooth Fairy was coming for sure to my house tonight …”

The old man’s heart faltered at seeing the doubt in her small face.

“Granddad,” she continued, “how do I know they’re real?”  The tips of her long black lashes were starting to dampen with tears.  This was a very important question.

“Janie,” he replied sternly, “did I tell you fairies are real?”

 “Yes, Granddad.”

“Then that’s that then.”


“Tell you what,” said  Frank, temporarily silencing her. “This is what we’ll do, if you’d like proof.  You’ll put your tooth in the glass on your bedside table, just like we talked about, right?”

Janie nodded, still teary.

“Then, the tricky part,” Frank continued.  “You know that lovely talcum powder you sprinkle on yourself after you’ve had a bath?  The one that makes you smell so nice?  Lavender, I think …”

She nodded.

“Well, you take that talc, and very, very carefully, you sprinkle just a teensy-weensy touch all around the tooth glass – but very light!  Our fairy must never know what we’re doing.  Otherwise we might frighten her off and then you’ll never know if she’s real or not.”

By now, Janie’s eyes were round as full moons as she let her Granddad’s plan sink in.  But she was still puzzled.

“But ... why, Granddad? What’s the powder for?” 

“Well, what happens when someone walks over … say… powdery snow, that’s lying on the ground?”

“You see footprints!”


Her eyes grew even rounder.

“If we see the footprints, we’ll really know, won’t we?” she whispered.

The old man chuckled.  “Yes, we will. And you know what else?”

She shook her head silently.

“If it’s the Tooth Fairy, there’ll be another special gift she’ll leave you.”

“You mean a silver coin?”

“There is that, yes, but something more …”

“Another present?” Janie asked, hopefully.

“Well, more of a calling card, really.”

Janie wrinkled her small freckled nose, and looked at him questioningly.

Old Frank explained. “A calling card -  something she’ll leave behind to show you she has visited … and only a fairy who’s been appointed the special Tooth Fairy for the night may leave it …”

“What is it?” the little girl asked, not taking her eyes from her grandfather’s face.

He lowered  his voice.  “A tiny piece of green fairy fern, that she’ll have picked specially from an enchanted fairy forest,” he said.  “That’s how you know she’s real.”

“Wow!”  Janie mouthed the word noiselessly.

 “Uh huh,” he nodded.  “Green – for fairies, remember, but if by any chance, a different kind of visitor calls, an angel perhaps-“

 “Blue!” Janie couldn’t stay quiet a moment longer.  “Blue, Granddad! I remember! That’s the color we saw before! That’s the color of angels!”  She paused, worried.  “But there’s no such thing as a blue leaf, is there?” 

“Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe not.”  Frank smiled, popping a kiss on top of Janie’s sweet-smelling bright red hair.  “But you must keep it all a secret, right?”

“Okay.  Swear!”

“Good girl.  Now off to your bath, then dinner.  Do you have any homework?”

Janie shook her head.

“Maybe a story later?” asked the old man softly.

His granddaughter nodded vigorously.  “About fairies, please, Granddad!”

“Fairies it is,” he confirmed.  “Now, go put your tooth in that special glass, and just before I come for my good-night kiss, we’ll sprinkle the special talc powder, all right?  And remember,” – he put his finger to his lips - “not a word.”

The little girl ran to get ready for her bath. Frank turned off the lamp and sat quietly for a moment, watching the evening stars pop out one by one from the sunset sky.   When all the pinks had melted to dark, he stood up with a sigh, holding on to the arm of the sofa.  He was less sure on his feet these days.

Walking over to the window, he leaned on the sill and squinted up into the giant jacaranda.  The purple bells are starting to fall early this year.

Suddenly, high up in the tree – there! Flash! Green! Flash! Green! Flash!

Nell? Are you there?  It’s our time, light of my heart, as we promised each other.  The little one’s first milk tooth.

He stayed there, in the dying light, staring upwards through the gnarled branches.  Flash! Green! Flash! Green! Flash! Then, he saw what he’d been looking for … one lone, steady, glowing light … and it was in the most beautiful blue imaginable.

Nell’s blue. Angel light.

“How you took my breath away, then, dear heart,” he murmured, “and you shall take it away again, and keep it.”  The old man took a deep, but shaky breath, looking around the dark, but warmly familiar room.  “Blue,” he smiled. “Such a color.”

That night was like many nights in this home, overflowing with easy love and laughter.  Frank shared dinner with John and Jenny, his son and lovely daughter-in-law – and Janie, too, of course.  Every so often, Janie would sneak a conspiratorial gap-toothed smile at him.  Her grandfather drank in the images and sounds of his family, and sighed with contentment.

After dinner, he hugged his son and daughter-in-law extra hard, closing his old eyes, feeling their warmth. 

There, Nell … light of my heart … what you always wanted for me. I am … so … happy.

Later, he looked in on Janie, and read her a story in a voice which turned a little quavery towards the end.  He then helped her with her final preparations for proving, once and for all, that fairies are just as real as you or I.  

He heard Nell’s soft voice in his mind.

“Are you sure, Frank?  Are you really sure about this?  What if the child is disappointed?  What if nothing you’ve believed all this time is true?” 

You know it’s true, my love.  You know it is.  I’ve seen them, remember?  

A light white dusting of talcum powder, barely detectable, lay over the top of Janie’s bedside table – a little thicker around the base of the exquisitely fine crystal glass that Frank had lent Janie for the occasion.  He gave his granddaughter a special hug as he breathed in her fresh-soaped softness.

Slowly, the house wound down to sleep. The small milk tooth lay in its clear water bath and all was quiet, except for the steady tick of an old wooden clock that softly chimed the hours.


Tick tock tick tock tick tock …


Tick tock tick tock tick tock … then ...

As the clock struck two in the early morning dark, little Janie stirred and smiled delightedly in her sleep, for she was having laughing dreams. 

And as the clock struck two in the same early morning dark, old Frank stirred and smiled in his sleep too.  At last … there you are … light of my heart

And as the house drowsed, the fireflies rose to dance in a circle of tiny, green flickering lights far, far above the ancient purple-belled tree.  Then, within that circle, first one – then a moment later, two – soft, steady blue lights appeared … merged into one … then vanished into the darkness.

That night, many people in the neighborhood reported seeing a bright shooting star.  It was particularly unusual, they commented, not only for the color, which was blue (a saturated, glowing, heavenly blue, that stayed in one’s mind forever, they say) – but also for its peculiar behavior. As the star arced across the night sky, every so often, it seemed (if we didn’t know any better), to stop in its tracks, spiral into a loop-the-loop, and then explode into two distinct showers of sparks, just like fireworks on New Year’s Eve.  Then the showers would come together again into one bright blue river of light before streaking into the starry vastness of the universe beyond the horizon.  Beyond time.

As for little Janie?  She slept the whole night through, laughing and delighted with her dreams, until the morning light touched its gentle fingers to her cheeks. The early sun made her Granddad’s precious crystal glass sparkle.

Janie rubbed her eyes, then suddenly remembered.  Sitting up quickly, leaning over and peering into the bottom of the glass, she could see a big, burnished silver twenty cent piece – her favorite, with a picture of a platypus on it.

And sure enough, around the glass, there was one set of tiny, tiny footprints.

And laid out precisely on her table-top, were not one … not two …  but three special, lacy ferns.  The first was green.  The second and third were a very rare and special color … of fine and filmy blue.

She picked them up very, very carefully.  They felt warm in the palm of her small hand.  She closed her fingers lightly over the top of them, so they wouldn’t fall.  As she peered down into the darkness of the inside of her hand through the softly glowing cracks between her fingers, she saw something she would never, ever forget.  Each leaf glowed softly, one green, two blue.

Calling cards
. Fairies. Angels.

“I knew it!” she breathed.  “They are real.  They’re BOTH real.  Really really truly-ruly real!”


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