The Fairy Tree, a short story by David L Painter at
Ralph Nas

The Fairy Tree

The Fairy Tree

written by: David L Painter


I had long suspected that fairies lived in that large bumpy tree out by the lake’s edge, and they could see me. Sometimes I would get a fleeting glimpse of something with wings flying fast and low over the smooth lake’s surface. Other times they made a beeline straight for that old grotesque tree that they called home. It reminded me not so much of a tree, but a frog, with all those bumps and knobs. I just knew that if you touched it, it would give you warts and if it did the only remedy that I know of that is sure to work is to rub the wart with your mom’s best and I mean “BEST” kitchen dish towel. But that’s not the half of it; you have to get a shovel and go out in the backyard under the light of a full moon and bury it. Once the dish towel rots away, Voila! That awful affliction is gone. Call it magic. Call it an old wives’ tale. Call it what you will. I’m here to tell you that it worked.

Now sometimes on a warm summer’s night, the mist gets thick as pea soup as it creeps up from the water’s edge and wraps itself around and around that scary tree, like some snake that had snared a poor unfortunate prey.
As the night wore on the fog would climb up inch by slow inch until all you could see were the bare dead branches reaching out for me. On nights such as these, the tree fairies were sure to come out after me.
Some nights I would swear that the tree would move. “Look There! See?” I’d whisper to myself while I watched as it moved back and forth with those long boney arms that were distorted beyond belief. I watched as they would come after me.
The only safe place is in my bed with a mountain of blankets heaped on top of me. They had to cover me from head to foot. The trick was to roll into a tight ball where I would remain like a rabbit, just motionless, that way the tree couldn’t see me, and the fairies couldn’t find me either.

Summer was soon over and winter came and went, but the tree was still watching, just waiting for a chance to grab me and turn me into one of its fairies. Spring came then summer. I am older now and much bolder so I devised a plan. It was a beautiful scheme, the best plot in the whole world. I would show that tree, that Sir Ugliness, that hideous fairy-turning, the child-scarring thing that I could not be intimated. No siree. I would run out with a stick in broad daylight and whack that tree, not once, not twice, but three, four, five times, maybe more. I would beat that tree to within an inch of its child-scaring, fairy-harboring life.
No more shivering from the fright that tree gives me. It had to go! It was either him or me. After all, my childhood was at stake. Looking around I found the right stick. No that’s not it. It was more like a pole. No. it was a …LANCE. A long heavy tree conquering lance. Just the sort of thing that a knight would carry.
Now what I needed was armor. That old three-gallon bucket would do fine. I just poked a couple of eye holes and put on Dad’s heavy leather work gloves. I was cool and ready for the fight of my young life. It was High Noon, 3:10 to Yuma, Gunfight at the O K Corral. Or to be more correct it was Sir Lancelot or Prince Valiant. My heart was beating so fast as I stood there with that heavy lance ready to do battle with my mortal enemy. Adjusting my helmet one last time I stomped the dusty ground a time or two just for good luck and gave a blood-curdling yell that echoed around and around in that galvanized helmet setting on top of my head. Then I charged. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” had nothing on me. I was fearless. However, as with the best-laid plans sometimes they can become a mess and so it was when the helmet moved. I lost sight of my ugly foe and charged right past ending up with a huge splash in the lake.
Sloshing back to shore I’m sure I heard a deep buzzing laugh that was mocking me. Facing that tree, I raised my fist and shouted “You have not seen the last of me not by a long shot! Tomorrow you WILL meet your doom!” That’s when I noticed my trusty lance drifting out to the middle of the lake. Giving my pants legs a shake a minnow flopped out and back into the lake.

Tomorrow’s battle plan stretched into two, then three tomorrows. These things take time, you know. First, my steed had to have its tires promptly inflated. The chain had to be tightened and oiled, and the handlebars, well, they had to be straightened as a result of that grand jump off the barn last year, but that’s another story. Then there was also the lance. It had come to rest on the other side of the lake where it was tightly wedged between a log and some reeds. Shooing off a frog, two dragonflies, and a bee I retrieved the glorious tree slayer from the lake. Finally, there was a mom’s scarf to tie around the lance; a token from a lady most fair. I was set, except for the helmet. It didn’t fit right. It needed to stick like glue. No more aimless charges. No more sliding around. No more of that silly water fun. No more failed battle plans.

The attack was set for three and it was a little before one. I still had time for a fast raid to the pantry. Grabbing a sack of Martha White flour, and some water to make a nice thick paste, I cut strips of newspaper, mixed all of the ingredients well, poured it into the helmet, and pressed against the sides. I waited until it was almost dry and upended it on my head. I hoped it would work and it did!! Just a little smoothing around to make it fit just like a helmet should.

It was now quarter to three. Say your prayers you hideous misshaped frog tree.
Mounting my steed, resting the instrument of the tree’s ultimate destruction on the handlebars, and taking careful aim with a deep breath, I narrowed my eyes and I peddled off gaining speed.
It was as if my own epic charge of the light brigade was being filmed in slow motion and kind of out of sync until the whole scene caught up. Suddenly I was there, ready to strike the fatal blow. That’s when it happened. Sir Ugly thrust up a concealed root. What deceit, what vile villainy, what a bump.
The bike and I took off into the air. The lance struck with a trouble-glancing blow, wood chips, bark, and splinters exploded filling the air. Next, my devoted steed smashed headlong with a crumpling sound, spokes, tire, and wheel caved in. Following, the recently straightened hand bars expired, they were now bent beyond all recognition.
The last to give it all was me, with a splat my helmet hit first, the blow knocking me back and depositing me dazed and sitting upright on the ground. Looking up I watched as the tree shuttered, then gave a low groan.
That’s when the tree fairies came out, not one or two but hundreds making an awful buzzing sound…
I ran, I ran for all of the brave knights that ever lived, I ran for all the future tree slayers, I ran for my life. I ran as fast as my spindly legs would carry me. But those fairies are fast and they gave me a stinging reminder that you don’t mess with them. I was reminded five or six times of that fact. Screaming I slammed the screen door shut.
Now is the part where Mom almost fainted and Dad took me by the hand and showed me another one of his home remedies. Turpentine and baking soda. Saying, “Hold still it will take the sting away.” As he came toward me with that awful-smelling paste.
Oh yes another thing, my hair was now a perfect copy of the inside of my helmet, with white bits of paper stuck in it. I smelled and looked like a pine tree with polka dots and blue eyes.
Mom took one look at me and laughed. “Vicky Sue Mallory, what are we going to do with you?”

A truce of sorts was called between me and that tree, it won’t send any more fairies after me and I would put my lance away. And that tree lived on and is still there today.

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