Just in case it wasn’t clear.
I rolled my eyes at him. “More importantly,” I added, “you cheated me out of two places. I’d like to see the top two on my list.” I was thoroughly enjoying number eight. Why not shoot for the stars, you know?
“No, you wouldn’t,” the fairy said.
“Yes, I would.”
“No, you wouldn’t.”
“Yes, I would, and I’ll tell you why.” I’m not sure what argument I was going to attempt at that moment. It slipped my mind when I saw the fairy smiling, and I realized that he knew what he was doing all along. “You knew what you were doing all along,” I said.
He smiled and fluttered in the air.
“If you knew my top ten list, you knew that none of that other stuff I saw today was on the list.”
“Yes,” he admitted. “Trust me, I’ve done this before. It’s better that your best moments remain a mystery. That’s how you people work.”
He was probably right. Some things you don’t want to quantify. “How do you know so much about how “˜us people’ operate?”
“I have to do this once a year.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have to appear to a human once a year.”
I began strategizing. It would really impress girls if you could get a fairy to show up. “And can you appear more often?”
“Yes, I can, but to any one person I can only appear twice in a lifetime.”
“Twice?” That made things more complicated. “So will I ever see you again?”
He flew over to the boy version of me and landed on his shoulder. It made a pretty picture – the fairy, the boy, and the rolling hills of medieval Missouri in the background. “You’ll see me just before you die,” he said. “But you won’t need me then.”
And before I could respond, I was back in my bedroom, staring into my sock drawer.
We transported to a quiet, scenic overlook perched atop a sparsely forested hill. On a bench sat a boy who looked to be about 11 or 12 years old. It took me a while to remember the scene.
I think it was during spring break of my 6th grade year. We had taken vacation in the Ozarks, of all places. All my friends were going off to exotic locales like Cancun, Key West, Disneyworld, or South Padre Island. Meanwhile, my family got in the car and headed for Missouri. It was only a day’s drive away; it was cheap; and as my pre-pubescent self was discovering whilst sitting on a bench taking in the hilly countryside, it was actually quite pleasant.
The fairy buzzed over to the boy and sat on the bench beside him. He waved me over.
When I joined them, it was like I was back in my 6th grade head. The sun, long absent in the months leading up to spring break, warmed my face, and a slight breeze tousled my hair. I remember it was actually warmer in Missouri that year than it was in Florida or California. And as I sat alone on that bench, looking out over the rolling hills, I imagined I was no longer an anonymous boy from a nameless suburb in Wisconsin who never got noticed in class and who was facing several years’ worth of unrequited crushes. Instead, I imagined that the hills before me were those of medieval England and that I had discovered, in the middle of America, a portal to a fantasy land. It was a silly invention, and I didn’t take it that seriously. But I remember taking my shoes off, just as the boy was doing now, and digging my bare feet into the moist ground and smelling the scent of mud and new grass and feeling like I could change, like I could re-invent myself.
“I’ve forgotten all about this,” I told the fairy.
“I know,” he said. “This happens all the time. You people have no concept of the defining moments in your life. And your memory sucks.”
“So this is it, huh?” I closed my eyes and filled my lungs with the fresh air. “This is the best moment of my life.”
“Oh, Goodnes, no!” the fairy said. “This is number eight.”
I opened my eyes. “What do you mean number eight?”
“I know your top ten. This is number eight.”
“You know my top ten and you took me to number eight?” I said. “That’s random.”
“Yes it is!” He smiled.
“I suppose all of our best moments are somewhat random,” I added.
“Who’s the smart-ass now?”
I shot him the most skeptical glance I knew how to give. “I don’t think you know what that word means.”
“Did I forget to mention that? You only get four places.”
“Yes, you forgot to mention that!”
“Sorry.” He flashed a sheepish grin and crouched low. “Choose well.”
My baby self was beginning to cry as the priest poured water on its head. It was kind of humiliating, actually. Who wants to see a more helpless version of himself? Not me. “I need something a little more confidence-building,” I told the fairy.
“Ooh, I know!” I said. “Prom!” It was perfect. I could go back to Prom night and watch as Julie Davis begged me to go all the way with her.
“As you wish,” he said, taking a bow.
And then there we were, looking on as Julie and I smooched in the back seat of my car. What came next was not exactly how I remembered things going.
Julie pulled away from my teenaged self and said, “We should get going soon.”
“Okay!” my boy version said, and he dove in with new zeal.
She pushed him away. “That’s not what I meant!” she said.
“Oh come on! It’s prom night!” he replied. “We may lose or we may win, but we will never be here again.”
“Oh no,” I said to the fairy. “Did I actually quote an Eagles song?”
“I’m afraid so,” he said, fluttering onto my shoulder. “And the sad thing is, it worked.”
“The Eagles!” Julie said, brightening. “I love The Eagles! I have this huge crush on Don Henley!” Her expression was vacuous as the teenager next to her kissed her neck.
“”˜Should old acquaintance be forgot?'” the fairy asked. “The answer is yes.”
Julie stopped me once more and asked, “Can we at least put on some Eagles?”
The fairy sat down and patted my shoulder. “I think I know of a better place.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Let’s go.”
I was horrified. “Get me out of here,” I said.
“You’re the boss,” he replied. “Where to?”
My mother was screaming her head off in between fits of Lamaze breathing. She exhaled, “Hee hee, who who,” contorting her wide-eyed face to disturbing proportions. It was creepy. We’re talking clown creepy.
“Where to?” the fairy asked again.
“I don’t care!” I screamed. “Anywhere.”
And poof! Just like that, we were sitting in a church. My mother and father were standing next to a priest.
“Is this my parents’ wedding?” I asked.
The fairy shook his head. “You wouldn’t have been alive for that, now would you?” He shot me a condescending look.
“Are all time fairies smart asses?” I asked.
Before he could answer, we were interrupted by a baby crying. My mother was holding the child, attempting to calm it down by whispering to it and making mother faces.
The fairy buzzed in my ear. “Guess who that is.”
“This is my baptism!”
“Who’s the smart ass now?” he said.
The priest was droning on and on about “the sacraments” and “efficacious signs of worship” and “bearing fruit.” I turned to the fairy. “Look, why did you bring me here?”
“You’re the one who wanted to leave the hospital.”
“I didn’t want to come here.”
“I thought this was an important moment for you people.”
“Well, yeah, I don’t know,” I stuttered. “You’ve seen one of these things and you’ve seen them all, you know?”
“Alright,” he said. “Your call. You got two places left.”