Please don’t tell anyone. They’ll make fun of me and already they do enough of that. Boys aren’t supposed to have fairy godmothers. And boys have other meanings for the word ‘fairy.’ They already call me enough names.
My fairy godmother’s name is Fée Marraine. I can’t pronounce it. I always say Pee Marinade. She doesn’t seem to mind. Some years ago, I try to tell my mother about her. I climb onto the counter while Mom cooks chicken for dinner. I know how Mom like to share recipes with her friends. Pee tells me a chicken recipe and I want to share it with Mom. I say, “Ma, want help from Pee Marinade?”
Mom looks at me with a horror-filled face. “Why would you say that?”
I cry. I know I disappoint her terribly. I’m not very good at understanding what someone else is feeling. But, when she looks at me, I see love in her eyes while the rest of her body is frustration and sadness. I know I should be a better boy. I try so hard. I never know why I fail. Every night, I pray about it. I know all of the incantation’s magic words like hallowed, kingdom, trespasses, and temptation. But I never be a better boy. Pee says it’s not my fault. She says: “Contrary to the wisdom, the fault isn’t in ourselves but in our stars.”
I looked that up in a book. A library lady helps me find the right one — a book by William Shakespeare about somebody named Brutus. The book has it backwards, just like Pee says. But, there’s another word just after stars and ourselves — underlings. I know about underthings. My Mom calls, “Bring down your underthings,” when she wants my underwear and socks for the wash.
So, I ask the library lady, “What’s underlings?” She takes me to the big book on a special pedestal, like the Bible in church. We look the word up together. Can you believe she reads the definition to me? As if I’m too dumb to read. But I find the important definition — inferior. I’d been called that before. I stand at the wooden pedestal and cry.
Pee kisses my tears. “You’re superior, just like the biggest of the Great Lakes.”
“Duluth,” I say.
Pee giggles and we play our game. “Youth … truth … vermouth.”
“The sleuth with the bad tooth sat in the booth,” I say, winning the game by using three more rhymes in a sentence.
“What are you talking about?” Library lady asks, but I ask Pee to vanish her.
I don’t like school but I like the nice lady who is the crossing guard ‘cause she always smiles and gives me a candy. Teachers tell me I’m special and send me to a special room with all of the other special kids. I don’t think it’s a compliment.
They make Dad take me to a doctor who gives me a bunch of funny tests. She has a jar of Jelly Bellies on her desk. I try really hard on the tests ‘cause I hope she’ll give me some.
Then, she says “Your son has Asperger Syndrome.”
I scream ‘cause it doesn’t sound like a fun thing to have. I want to give it away.
Pee tries to cheer me up with our rhyme game, but it doesn’t work. “I’ve got hamburger, but I can’t come up with another rhyme.”
I try. “A doctor who has no class tried to harass the poor boy with the burger ass.”
Pee says, “That’s cheating.”
Dad’s mad ‘cause I use a bad word. The likelihood of Jelly Bellies goes out the window.
I curl into a tight ball on my chair and cry. Bad words and bad syndromes make for an especially bad day. Dad’s head goes down and his shoulders slump. “I’m sorry, Dad,” I say.
Pee wants to kiss my tears, but I don’t let her. I ask Pee to vanish my syndrome. She says, “It’s a long term project.” What do you think she meant by that?
Dad reaches for me, tries to hug me. “No! No!” I yowl. I don’t want to be touched, can’t stand to be touched, not on especially bad days.
“I love you,” Dad says.
“I don’t love me,” I say.
The doctor makes us leave her office. Her Jelly Bellies never leave the jar.
When I got a little bigger, Dad says, “All boys play sports.” I didn’t want to. Isn’t it hard to get a Dad to listen to you?
He just says, “It will be good for you.” I get on a soccer team.
One day, Dad yells up the stairs, “Kiddo, ready for your soccer game?” Kiddo, that’s my name.
Pee says, “Not really. Alexander Bartholomew Davidson.”
“Eleven,” I say.
“No, 9:30,” Dad yells back.
Pee giggles. “Counting syllables again?” I smile. Pee knows me better than anyone. Pee knows me even better than God. And Reverend Matthews says God knows everything. But Pee is not God, she’s a fairy godmother. That means God is in her.
I put on my soccer shin guards and roll my tall socks down over them. “Do it!” I tell Pee.
“No way! It’s contrary to the union contract,” she says.
“Go on strike. I don’t care.”
Reluctantly, she acquiesces. “Bippity! Boppety! Boo!” Suddenly my soccer socks are pink.
“No! No!” I howl. “Pink is for girls!”
“What color do you want?”
“Blue!” With a wave of her wand, my socks turn blue. “Yellow!” I command. Pee obliges. I grin. “See, I knew the union wouldn’t care.”
“Disney will sue me for copyright.”
“Does Disney have a fairy godmother?” I wonder aloud. “It might explain his movies.”
An impatient Dad appears at my bedroom door. “Kiddo, in the car. Don’t want to be late.” I step past him. “Did you have to wear yellow socks? Your team color is green.”
I tap his arm. “Boo!” And scamper downstairs. When he makes it to the car, I’m already in the back seat with my seatbelt fastened.
When we get to the field, I run onto the green grass. There’s a blue bird singing a pretty song in a tree at the park. I want to stop and sing along, but the other boys are ready to play, doing an exercise I call Kicking and Fetching. They kick the ball and I fetch it. Sometimes, they laugh when they kick it really far. They think I’m too stupid to find it and bring it back. Dad says I should get mad at them and make them get it, but I don’t care. Pee says to pretend I’m a golden retriever on a hunt. I do, sniffing all over the field until I find the right ball scent.
As I run around, I wonder what it’s like to care. I don’t care about most things. I don’t care for friends. I don’t care for people who tease me. Pee says I should think about things that I do care for. I care for ice cream cones. I care for chocolate cake.
I don’t have time for caring any more. Coach whistled and it’s time for Kicking and Catching. I have to stand near the goal. Why they call it a goal I’ll never know – it never moves, if it is so easy to get to the goal, how can it be a goal? My job is to catch the ball when the other boys kick it. They call me “goalie” and that’s a lot better than some other names. Sometimes, they kick the ball really hard and it hurts when I catch it. Dad says I must never cry. One time, it really hurts and I said “Fuck you!” to the boy who kicked it. That upset the referee. He shows me his red card. I have prettier red cards in my deck at home; his didn’t even have a picture. So, I said “Fuck you!” to the referee. He goes berserkers and waves his card at me. Dad took me home. I don’t care for red cards. I don’t care for referees.
Today, though, I’m catching lots of kicks. When I catch them, people cheer. The sun is warm on my face, it almost tickles. I hear the blue bird singing in the tree. The breeze makes the leaves sway like waves on the ocean. People are yelling “Run! Run!” I see the orange boys running at me. Their eyes wide with excitement, looking off into the distance, determination set in the thin lines of their mouths. I wonder if the goal has finally moved. It’s grown more distant, farther away, making the struggle to achieve it more challenging. I follow the orange boys’ eyes to the blue bird singing in the tree. They’re going to kick the ball and try to hurt him, I know. It is my job to catch it, to defend the pretty, innocent bird. I sprint to his tree, turn, and stand in defiance, ready for any challenge. But the orange boys stop at the stationary goal, celebrating, the ball clutched in the net. The green boys call me names.
I want to cry, but I don’t ‘cause my Dad says boys must never cry.
I ask Pee, “If we’re not supposed to cry, why did God invent tears?” Pee shrugs and suggests I should learn what others think about boys crying. Do you think boys should cry?
Coach tells me to “sit on the bench,” but there isn’t a bench. So, I sit in the grass and eat orange slices. I listen to the song of the distant blue bird. I don’t care for soccer. I don’t get an ice cream cone ‘cause I let the orange boys win.
Dad says, “You have to start learning to be a man. You’ll be in seventh grade when school starts.” I don’t know how I can be a man; it’s hard enough trying to be a better boy. Pee says, “Getting to the seventh grade is quite an accomplishment. You don’t have to learn to be a man. Nature, not learning, makes men.” I wonder if she could just bippity-boppety-boo me into being a good man. I think maybe Pee is holding out on me.
When seventh grade starts, it’s a new school — Junior High School. I used to have just one teacher. Now, teachers take turns being mean to me. They call each turn a period, like the one at the end of a sentence. But they never seem to end anything. There’s a science teacher, an English teacher, a math teacher, a social studies teacher, and a reading teacher. I asked Pee why my teachers were so dumb they could only teach one thing. Pee said, “They’re very smart, so they specialize in teaching just one thing.” I don’t care for just one thing. I care for everything. God made everything. We didn’t need a science God and an English God, and a reading God. There used to be lots of Gods though. I read about their stories in a book called Bulfinch’s Mythology. I saw Bullfinches at the zoo one time. I never knew birds could write a book, but I liked their stories and their pretty feathers. Pee is giggling right now. She thinks I’m being funny. Do you?
I don’t care for junior high. Eighth grade boys are big and mean. They’re also hairy; but Mom would say I shouldn’t talk about things in their pants. In the lunch room, they make lots of noise. They pushed me out of the lunch line. And, when I stood back up, they asked me if “I wanted to make something of it.” I just wanted to eat. They circled around me and kept touching me and wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I sat on the linoleum floor in the middle of their circle, laced my fingers over my head, held my forearms over my ears, and counted to a million as fast as I could. By then, Pee makes them vanish.
Sometimes, I wish she could make me vanish. Pee says, “Running away never solves the problem.” I don’t want to run, just vanish.
Do you know a singer named Elvis Presley? Once, I bought one of his albums at a yard sale for a penny. It was called Elvis Country. Do you know what an album is? It’s like a plastic Frisbee that plays music. It had a song I wanted to hear called “Make the World Go Away.” But I didn’t have any way to make the plastic Frisbee play. For my birthday, Aunt Matilda gives me an iTunes gift card. I find that song in the iTunes store and buy it on my cell phone. Anyway, after my first day in junior high, I go home and put that song on repeat and play it in my headphones. Sometimes, I think that should be my prayer. Pee says, “You don’t understand the song. It’s about loving and forgiving. Like Jesus does.” So, I try to forgive eighth grade boys.
Eighth grade girls are different. They wear make-up and have breasts and look like ladies on the cover of magazines I see when I buy my comics. They are nice to me in the hallways and lunchroom. They help me find my classrooms and the bathrooms and the principal’s office when I need a tardy slip. I ask Pee to turn the eighth grade boys into eighth grade girls. She laughs and says, “I don’t do surgery.” But, I figure she could. When eighth grade boys bother me, I pretend that Pee’s bippity-boppety-boo does some surgery. It makes me grin.
By now, you may think I hate life and am going to kill myself. You’d be wrong. There is so much beauty in life that I want to live forever to see it all. This morning, there was grass growing in a crack in the sidewalk. It is amazing how the grass brought a little pedestal of dirt with it. It stood on its pedestal, tall and proud, a sprig of green in a slab of gray. And this cloud, shaped like one of Harry Potter’s flying brooms drifts across the sky. I close my eyes and Pee lets me fly on it like a Quidditch seeker. And there is a squirrel digging acorns beneath a tall oak and he splashes my toes with dirt. Everybody else hurries on to school, but I notice these things. That’s the beauty.
“236,” I say to Pee.
She dusts the dirt off my toes. “God preaches, a noted Clergyman – And the sermon is never long.”
Social studies teacher, Mr. McGovern, makes me stay after school. I did something bad. I’m sure of it. That’s the only time they notice me. When I ask Pee what bad I did, she says, “I just wear my Wings.” So, I’m standing at his desk and he gets out of his chair and says for me to sit down in his teacher chair. Like, I’m looking for whoopee cushion or some practical joke to tease me. But, there’s nothing. I sit. He goes to the front row and sits in a student desk. I look around. “I’ve never seen the world from here,” I say.
He smiles. “You talk. That’s good. I wish you’d do that in class.”
Why would he want me to do that? I wonder. “What should I say?” I’m expecting a trap.
“Say whatever is on your mind.”
Seriously? I shrug. I look at my toes, finding some specks of dirt that Pee missed. I look at the flag hanging above the blackboard and count every star, four times. Still, teacher is staring at me. Smiling, expectantly, not mean, not like I’m stupid, not like I’ve let the enemy team score a goal, not like I don’t get ice cream. I fidget. The pressure is intense. I tell Pee that I have to pee. Whatever is on my mind?
“He got fined for tossing the rind into the blind,” Pee said, claiming victory.
“He was inclined to act so refined before he declined,” I said.
“A word game?” Mr. McGovern smiles. That was when I realized I’d said it out loud. I nod and blush and cross my legs ‘cause I really do have to pee. “I think you are smarter than you pretend to be, Mr. Alexander Davidson.”
“Not to offend, but I intend to be your friend,” Mr. McGovern said.
“He won,” Pee gasped.
I look at Mr. McGovern. I see no frustration or sadness but honesty and caring. “Will you let me?” He asks.
I nod. “Can I go now?”
“Sure,” he said. I’d almost reach the door when he asks a question about today’s lesson on Conquistadors. “How did Cortes conquer the Aztecs?”
“Smallpox,” I answer and scamper away. I really did have to pee. I ran past the boy’s room ‘cause my radar told me eighth graders were in there. I could smell them. So, I did it in the bushes behind the bicycle rack.
In seventh grade they have these mixers. Boys stand on one side of the lunch room and girls on the other. They play music and we’re supposed to dance. No one does. I don’t know why they call them mixers. I thought they were more like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Chocolate and peanut butter that are supposed to mix, but they really don’t, each remains in its certain place. Teachers dance with each other. Mr. McGovern dances with Mrs. Hemingway. They are more like M and M’s and raisins in trail mix. I hunker in the back, hiding behind the dorky tall guys whose feet are as big as surf boards.
Mr. McGovern got a girl to dance with him. Mrs. Hemingway got the 7th grade quarterback to dance with her. Soon, boys and girls actually dance. “You should dance,” Pee says.
“You should dance,” Mr. McGovern says. Somehow, he finds my hiding place by the quilt tapestry PTA ladies made. “Do you see Becca from our class over there? She’s looking at you.”
When I find her, our eyes meet and she smiles. I choke and gag and think I’ll die. Pee laughs and so does Mr. McGovern. “She won’t bite,” he says.
My heart races. I discover I have asthma. My knees turn to jelly. My stomach revolts on cafeteria spaghetti.
Pee pulls out her wand. “Are you going to make me use this?”
I move across the floor. I look down. There are a dozen tiny mice with sewing needles and thread looped into my sneakers, tugging me across the floor. “Pee, stop!” I scream. Mrs. Hemingway points to the boy’s room. But the mice are relentless and determined. I find myself face-to-face with Becca. When she smiles, I look for fangs.
I stand there, dumbfounded. What do I say to a girl?
“Do you want to dance?” Pee suggests. I try the line.
“I don’t know how,” she says.
“Do you want to try?” she asks.
I shrug and she takes my hand. Alarms sound in my brain. Fire engines shriek. Ambulances warble. My muscles twitch to jerk away.
“540,” says Pee.
“I was twice as bold,” I say, demanding silence in my body. I take control. I allow myself to be touched, my hand taken.
“See,” Pee said. “Nature makes men. You have the power.”
We dance. I’m sure it isn’t pretty. I feel spastic. Becca is so graceful. But, she never laughs at me. She smiles, graciously. Others around laugh, especially the boys. If I could, I’d give them a red card. But I was too busy having fun. There must have been ten songs passing while we dance. Only beads of sweat slippering from my brow make me realize. “Do you want some punch?”
“I like that,” Becca says. “I know your name is Alexander, but can I call you Lexy?”
I nod. It makes me think of the word lucky. She could have called me dog-face and I’d have loved it.
Holding hands, we get the punch. It is sweet. I care for it. And I care for Becca, too. I care for Mr. McGovern. Soon, I even start caring for school. And it wasn’t time to count my blessings for Thanksgiving.
Sometime, during 7th grade, I lost Pee. One day in the spring, suddenly, I missed her. I couldn’t remember when I saw her last. But, I know I still have a fairy godmother. My report card has straight A’s. My father says I’m turning into a fine young man. My mother beams at me with pride.
Slowly, I make a world where I belong. I never play the Elvis song. I write poetry in English class and can rhyme most any word. I still find life’s beauty and allow myself to live it fully, no matter how many red cards it waves at me.
If you still think I’m not normal, then I have one more thing to say. “Which, sir, are you, and which am I upon an August day?”
Gary Kidney lives in Pearland, TX and recently completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT. “I Have a Fairy Godmother” was written during his MFA program and has been expanded into a novel, One Most Important Thing. Gary is currently seeking an agent for it. Gary’s Web site is http://www.garykidney.com.