Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: The Fairy

Your child/niece/nephew/neighbour’s kid brings home a fairy in a jar. It’s really pleased with its find. You’re not. Why not?

Fairy in a Jar

By Jan McLeod

He was a wild child always running around making mischief, climbing things that shouldn’t be climbed, picking up things that had no right to be picked up. 

He once brought home a mouse that had a very definite claw mark across its back. I had to pretend to nurse it back to life, while actually watching it take its last breath. Luckily, he was at school when the poor thing, despite all the cheese and milk I could feed it, popped his final little clogs. I told a bit of a “white” lie, as my mother used to call them when the truth was just not appropriate or too painful to tell, and I said the mouse had perked up and run off into the woods. What harm can it do, I told myself, to let him think that life did have happy endings. 

But this one day, right at the end of spring when summer blinked itself into existence through unfolding lime-green leaves and dappled blue skies, Marcus came charging into the garden. His eight year old eyes wider than the planet.

“I need a jar, a big jar!” he shouted. I shut my computer and went to the cupboard with the jars. My stomach churned at the thought of what mangled dying creature would be brought home to me, but I had always said I wouldn’t crush his instinct. Maybe he was going to be a doctor, a surgeon even, maybe he would be a biologist or a vet, a zoo keeper. As a mother, I wanted him to have all options, all doors, kept wide open for him.

“This size?” I said holding up a normal jam jar size. 

“Way bigger!” he said. 

“This is the biggest I have,” I said, holding up a large old jar that used to be filled with coriander honey; my very favourite find from the little honey shop by the park. I prayed it wouldn’t be a rat. I braced for what I might do with a rat and how far away I would need to take it to make sure it never came to the house again.

“Perfect,” he said and ran off back into the woods.

We were so lucky to find a house next to some wood. There is a busy little path of dog walkers who can do a nice loop around, and the streams are paddle size, so not too much of a worry. It was the site, long ago, of a beautiful castle, Dreghorn Castle, which was razed to the grounds in the sixties. What a waste. Remnants of its stonework are still scattered around – ornate lintels, mullion, quoins, long since spread across the woods. Abandoned like the castle itself.

I opened my computer and tried to get back to the piece I was working on. I was only a few lines in when Marcus burst through the kitchen door holding his jar aloft.

It was glowing. A neon glow, like the tail of a fire fly, only green. I let out a little scream. I had been storing it up for the rat, but this seemed far more shocking! He laid the jar gently down on the table moving my laptop out of the way. He peered into the jar. I did the same.

The creature had four paper thin wings, one large and one small, on each side. It was hard to see in the glow, but the wings were flapping gently and seemed to be keeping the thing hovering right in the centre of the jar. I knelt down and held onto the edges of the table, my head at the same height as his. His grin reached right around his face. I couldn’t speak.

The creature bent to the glass to look at our faces. Its eyes were green, but its face was, well human. A human girl’s face the size of a button. What was I looking at?  I turned to look at Marcus. He was grinning and making faces at the creature now.

“I don’t think you should make faces,” I whispered.

“Why not?” he said, “I made faces at the mouse.”

“But this,” I said, trying to hold onto my words, not let my thoughts be carried by them, to these precious impressionable ears, ‘this is a tiny human.”

“It’s not human!” said Marcus, “you are seeing things. It’s a butterfly.”

The little face was surrounded by long, yellow, curly hair. It blew a raspberry back at me. Startled. I jumped back. It fluttered. I could see now that it was wearing the prettiest green dress, like a ballerina tutu with pretty little green ballet shoes. She was showing off now and twirling. She was making Marcus laugh. I shook my head. 

“Would you like some water?” I stood up. Was this it? I shook my head. Traumas like we’ve faced have a way of tangling the world around us. I let the tap run to seek out the cold water from underground. I poured two glasses and sat back down, observing the fairy from a safe distance. She was dancing for Marcus now. Twirling and waving her wand. As she danced, he danced. As she twirled, he twirled. I peered inside the jar again. She turned from Marcus and stared at me. She pointed her little fairy wand at me.  The light from the end of the wand almost blinded me. I jumped back.

“What’s wrong Mummy?” Marcus said putting his chubby little hands on my face and staring into my eyes. Tears were streaming down my face. He hugged me tightly. My chest was heaving now as I let out all the emotions of the last few difficult years. Marcus looked at me again.

“Don’t be sad Mummy. I will let the butterfly go, I promise. It needs to be free.”

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