Judy McDermid's Garden of Faeries

Jamie Fitzpatrick
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Honourable mention for the Cuffer Prize 2012

Angel

The first one arrived right before her eyes. She was in the sunroom, deadheading the begonia, when it tumbled from the sky like a bird with a broken wing, bouncing off a flagstone and skidding to a halt in the long grass. Judy watched as it struggled to get airborne again. But its ugly brown wings were soaking wet, and at least one leg appeared to be bent the wrong way.

When it stopped flailing, Judy saw that the creature had her brother's face. Not life-sized, but a face that suited the body, about the size of a fist. Judy hadn't seen her brother since the racket over the money. She had stopped speaking to him after that, and he died quite suddenly before they had a chance to reconcile.

She called his name, but the creature didn't answer.

°°°

The second one must have walked from somewhere, because its wings were damaged beyond repair. It was more interesting to look at, with a fuzzy green body like a caterpillar. It staggered about the garden, restless and apparently in pain.

Judy followed at a distance, and when she got a good look she saw the face of the first boy she ever had sex with, the summer after Grade 11. Her friend Martha had said she would live to regret that night. Martha was wrong.

The act itself was something of a disaster - Judy should have given the poor guy some advance warning - but once she lost her virginity she understood what a worthless commodity it had been. So she always had a soft spot for the boy. He was dead now, too.

°°°

The third one was hateful. Judy shooed it away with a broom, then watched it return and perch atop the shed, all high and mighty. It was lovely, coloured like a monarch butterfly. But in the face Judy saw that batty English professor, the one who dressed like a slut and gave her a failing grade in romantic poetry. Romantic poetry was a required course, so failure was quite a blow. She went into a tailspin for about six months after that.

For three days this monster strutted about the garden, flipping its hair and wiggling its bottom. On the fourth morning Judy opened the door and threw a heavy glass ashtray at it. Pretty good shot - clipped a wing and sent the thing into spasms of pain. The sense of triumph was like nothing she had felt in years.

°°°

The fourth one touched down a week later. It was small and grey, and fat like a moth. The face was that of a little boy who had played with Elizabeth on summer days.

Judy remembered them always running, across lawns, between houses, down the street to the playground. Watching the fat faerie skip over wet grass, Judy could scarcely believe her luck, how happy she had been back then. But she hadn't known the boy's family very well. She couldn't recall his name. Why had he appeared?

Maybe she was dying. Odd that faeries - if that's what they were - would keep turning up in her yard, bearing faces from her past. Could she be having a stroke or aneurism?

Maybe only a few seconds had passed since the day she had been deadheading the begonia, and she was still there, collapsed over the plant, hallucinating as life slipped away.

°°°

The fifth one left her heartsick. It was long and slender, and shimmered metallic blue. She knew before she saw the face. It was that awful, beautiful man from human resources.

Everyone assumes a woman will choose a dull, workaday fellow for marriage and save the hard case for her affair. But it had been quite the opposite with Judy. Neil was always a bit of a wild man, even after they were married and the kids were born.

The guy from human resources was the quiet one. They used to sit together without talking, or even moving. That's how Judy remembered him.

She understood this creature, the way it looked sadly about the garden, hovering in the air and touching lightly on tree branches. Its long antennae moved with grace and purpose, like a matching set of conductor's batons.

°°°

The sixth one convinced Judy to seek help. It didn't look like anyone she had ever known, but after several days she recognized the face. It was a minor actress from the movie she had watched the night after Neil passed away.

A stupid movie about aliens who invade Earth and suck everyone's guts out. She had just sat there on the couch and watched it, relieved to have a few hours to herself, a few hours away from Neil's hysterical family.

Judy called Elizabeth and told her everything. Elizabeth listened without interrupting, then asked, "Are you sure they're faeries, Mom?" Judy said she didn't know what they were. Elizabeth suggested she call the MUN folklore department. "They know all about faeries over there."

°°°

The seventh one was awful, spitting and snarling and making guttural noises that sounded like curse words. It abused itself, flying into walls and fence posts, climbing into the grey sky to make hurtling kamikaze runs into trees and shrubbery.

Once it crashed into the picnic table with a crack so loud Judy heard it through the kitchen window. It could only be her father. But he looked so young, the way he must have looked long before Judy was born.

°°°

The eighth one was her mother, black and feathery and haggard.

Dreading the battle that was sure to erupt between her parents, Judy finally called the folklore department. After explaining her situation to a receptionist, she was handed off to a man who sounded too young to be an expert in anything.

"It doesn't sound like any faerie story I've ever heard," he said.

She asked if he might come and take them away, but this wasn't possible.

Judy was scared. She wasn't sure she could live in the house anymore.

The man asked what she was scared of.

"I'm afraid I might be dying," said Judy.

The man paused. Then he said, "We're all dying, Mrs. McDermid."

Jamie Fitzpatrick's debut novel, "You Could Believe in Nothing" (Vagrant Press), is a winner of the Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers from the Literary Arts Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a freelance writer and broadcaster, and an online columnist for the About.com network.

Organizations: Vagrant Press, Literary Arts Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, About.com

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