Fairies in the woods

Darrell Case

When I was a child, I wandered the forest behind our home. I searched for the fairy princess. I believed that the fairy princess lived in the old hollow tree down by the creek. The frogs at night paid homage to her with their songs. Their croaking helped her to sleep. The birds greeted her each morning with their music.
“Mamma, why does the fairy princess live in the woods?” I ask one spring morning with a mouthful of oatmeal.
My mother, not a believer in fairies but a believer in little boys, smiled. “I believe she likes it. It’s light and airy. And she doesn’t have to go to school like some people I know.” She reached over and tickled my ribs.
I laughed, as I always did when she tickled me there. On my way to school, I waited at the end of his lane for my best friend, Bobby. He was forever late, but today he waited for me. The sun's warm turning to hot. The classroom was lazy on this 5th day of May.
“Did you hear them in the woods last night?” I said breathlessly as he came running up. I wanted to be fishing, but we still had five more days of school. Then we would be free.
“Yes.” He said. “I think they were having a dance.” We discussed it on our way to school. Mr. Jochaps didn’t share our glory. He didn’t believe in fairies or anything he couldn’t touch. He sure believed in the math test. He said mathematics was something we could use all our lives, no matter what profession we chose. We didn’t tell him about the fairies he wouldn’t have understood.
On the way home I would have stopped at Bobbies but I had to hoe the garden. Besides, we only had four more days of schools. Tomorrow we would find out how we did on the test we took today.
Dad came in at 5 and did the milking. He finished before supper and washed up in the dishpan on the back porch. We set down to a meal of fried pork chops, gravy and corn from last year. My mother canned corn beans and everything else she could. It was really great to have vegetables on Christmas or anytime the snow flies.
That night it was so warm I slept with the window open to my bedroom. The full moon lit up the yard. Something woke me about midnight. The moon hid behind a cloud. A cow mooed in the south pasture and the hogs down by the barn were making noise.
The clouds drifted away from the face of the moon. Then I saw her. A slight figure. She seemed white, reflecting the light of the moon. I drew back so she couldn’t see me. My breath caught in my throat. If she saw me watching her, would she turn me into a frog? I didn’t want to chance it. She danced around for a minute or two, then disappeared. I waited, hoping she would come back, but she didn’t.
I stayed awake for the next hour, but she didn’t reappear. I finally drifted off to sleep. The next morning, I checked the ground by the barn, to no avail. There were no markings, nothing to prove it wasn’t a dream.
I met Bobby halfway up his lane. I couldn’t wait to tell him what I saw.
He stood there, his mouth open, books dangling from his daddy’s old belt.
“You saw her?” He said, his eyes bright. I nodded my head, smiling. I had one up on him. “We gotta find her.”
” What if she turns us into frogs?” I said.
“Bruppppp.” He croaked. Running toward the school.
All he had to do was make that sound to send both of us into a fit of laughter. By the end of the day, it was getting old. Plus, the teacher did not find it amusing. Three days to go. We planned our strategy. Next week we would catch us a fairy.
No general planned his campaign better than we did. At age eight, almost nine, I felt more grownup than I did last year. Bobby and I drew out our battle plan. I wasn’t so afraid of her turning us into frogs, but rats. Each spring, my daddy killed the rats in our corn crib. I could just imagine me running for my life as my daddy chased me with a big club. Bobby’s daddy did the same. We figured if we could catch her without her magic wand; we had a chance.
On the last day of school, we thought we were ready. Mr. Jochaps speech was something he had worked on for the last few weeks. At nine that last morning, he gave it. By 10:30. He was on his way to the train station to go back home to visit his family for the summer, and we were free. We hurried home, changed out of our school clothes and met at the creek.
We approached the big hollow tree on the bank on tiptoes. I almost freaked when Bobby stepped on a stick. He carried a rope in his hand and I had a piece of board to deflect her curse to turn me into a frog.
Looking into the tree, Bobby whispered loudly. “She ain’t here.” About that time, I felt a hand on my neck. I screamed and tried to get away. Bobby screamed. I struggled, but the grip held me. It felt like iron.
She began chanting. “What you doin’ in my woods? Stay outta my woods. Little boys get turned into frogs.” The voice was female and young. It was her. The fairy had me. I was a goner.
Then her grip loosened. She screamed. “Let me go. Let me go.” Bobby. He had her. He tied the rope around her legs. She fought him. He was running around in circles. Pulling her back against a tree. Loose, I helped him. She fought like a wildcat. We put the rope around a sapling and yanked her against the tree.
Finished, we grinned at each other. We had caught the fairy. She cried. Now I can stand about anything but a female crying. I remembered when my baby sister died of the fever last year. My mother cried for days. It tore me up inside.
“What did you do that for? I wasn’t going to hurt you.” Big tears were rolling down her cheeks.
“We’s afraid you gonna turn us into frogs.” I said. Her face was dirty. The water was making streaks down her cheeks.
“Or rats.” Bobby said. I nodded in agreement.
“I can’t do that. I’m not a fairy. I live here.” She said, really crying now.
“She’s trying to fool us,” Bobby said. “We let her go. She’ll turn us into frogs, or worse.”
I started to really look at her. She seemed to be just a few years older than us. Her dress was ragged. Her face streaked with dirt. Her hair a matted kind of blond.
“You promise? Cross your heart and hope to die if you lie.” I said, feeling sorry for her. She didn’t look like a fairy.
“I promise. Cross my heart.” She tried to lift her hand but all she could do with her fingers was move them a little because of the rope. I let go of my end of the rope.
“you’re an idiot. You’re a fool. You let her go. You’re no friend of mine.” Bobby screamed, his face red. He backed away, still holding onto his end of the rope.
“Bobby I gotta do it.” I said, big tears running down my cheeks. The girl was sobbing. Her head hanging down.
“She’ll turn you into a frogggg.” He screamed.
“I hesitated. What if he was right? What if she had me under her spell? I pulled the rope tighter. I saw something in the corner of my eye. What a fool I was. Other fairies were coming to her rescue.
“You let that girl go right now.” My mother said, grabbing the end of the rope from me.
“But…but mom, she’s a fairy.” I cried. Bobby was staring bug-eyed, ready to run if she proved dangerous.
“Nonsense, she’s just a little girl.” Despite our protest, she turned her loose. The girl fell to the ground, weeping. Mom picked her up and gathered her in her arms. She led her out of the forest, careful where she walked because the girl was barefoot.
We followed them. Bobby, further back, expecting my mother to be turned into a frog at any minute. We crossed the pasture and the barn lot with no incident. At the door to the kitchen, my mother turned to us. “You boys go play and don’t come into the house until I call you.”
“But…but mom, she’s a fairy.” I said, trying to warn her.
She turned to me and raised a finger. “Not another word, young man.” I turned away in sorrow. My mother was about to be turned into a frog and there was nothing I could do about it. She closed the door. I stared at it for a few seconds, then joined Bobby down by the barn.
Bobby and I did more staring at the house. Mom came out a few minutes later and pulled the wash tub off the tool shed. I wanted to peek in the window but mom had covered it with a blanket. She did the same thing when she took a bath on Saturday night, getting ready for church on Sunday. When she bathed me, she left the blanket down, but when she took a bath; she covered the window and if it was good weather shooed me out of the house. After about an hour, she welcomed us in. We came in cautiously. The fairy was gone. In her place was a freshly bathed girl. Her hair shone in the sunlight. She wore a dress of my mother’s. It hung on her shoulders. Her feet were still bare, but clean.
Bobby and I just stood there, staring. “She’s beautiful.” I said.
“Yeah, she looks like a fairy.” Bobby said, still not convinced she wasn’t.
“Boys, meet Cristan.” The girl smiled. It lit up her face.
So that’s how Cristan became my sister. Her parents died with the fever epidemic last year. She wandered into the woods and kept drifting until she found the falling down Miller place. I still couldn’t believe she lived there during the winter months. Mom and dad adopted her, and I became her little brother. I guess you could say she kinda got roped into it.


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