A Consideration of Wishes
A tall woman with a mannish face bearing a hint of a mustache on the upper lip stormed through the streets like a tiny self-contained hurricane beating against the flow of bodies.
If one more person calls me ‘sir’ I’ll scream, she thought.
Then she took a breath, which was immediately followed by an eye roll. Pull it together Joanna, she told herself just before she slammed into a tiny old woman whose neck really was far too bent to see her coming.
When the fairy rose from the ground directly in front of her Joanna realized she may have let her thoughts spin wildly out of control.
‘I can grant you a wish, my dear, if you like…’ the fairy was nonchalantly examining her nails as she spoke to Joanna.
Joanna, however, was not even close to nonchalance. She was ‘chalancing with a vengeance, looking from side to side. But on finding herself alone in an abandoned alleyway, both calmness and wariness took over simultaneously.
‘Any wish at all, dear…’ the fairy said, then stifled a yawn with the back of her hand.
Joanna’s mouth opened as well, but she was much too stunned to even let the air out of it.
‘Just a wish, dear. Any time, now,’ egged on the fairy who had pulled a tiny nail file out of thin air and commenced buffing.
‘Any… any wish?’ Joanna said, as soon as her mouth was finally able to issue words.
But the fairy eyed her warily, as if she knew what Joanna was thinking—which, to be fair, was more than Joanna knew. ‘I cannot make anyone fall in love with you…’
‘Oh, yes… I mean, no… I mean, of course, even the thought… totally absurd…’ Joanna went on for some time, her cheeks flushed. She would never have even… well… ‘Could you make me beautiful?’ she asked tentatively.
‘I could…’ the fairy said, her wand flicking back and forth as if gearing up for the spell.
‘Its just, I have this one tiny problem. Not so much to speak of so much as its just plain well… RUDE. And, if I’m being perfectly frank: ANNOYING.’ Joanna couldn’t help how loud the words came out of her mouth, even as she watched the fairy flinch the first time. ‘Well, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know that people have been known to confuse me for a man.’
‘Oh, not at all dear, not at all. Now if you could just turn around…’
‘Wait!’ cried Joanna, terrified at the speed with which the fairy’s wand was twirling.
Her mind began to spin as her eyes followed the fairy’s wand. Did she really want to be changed? To be made beautiful? Just to fit a bit better? Wasn’t that just… well, so not the point?
The fairy hesitated a moment, then said, ‘I could turn you into a man…’
Joanna looked at the fairy with a raised brow.
‘Just a thought, dear.’
It had taken her long enough to become comfortable with the bits she was born with. In fact, not until she turned forty-two did she really feel like it was indeed a good thing to be a woman. She was not throwing that away any time soon. Besides, what if the fairy made her into too beautiful a man? What then? Perhaps a host of other problems. She could just see the giggling women, the flushed faces, the rather elaborate curtsies she was wont to do when she came across an attractive man… No, better not.
‘I could change you so that you don’t hear any offensive criticism…’ offered the fairy.
Now that’s an idea, thought Joanna about to nod. But then something else struck her. She did so enjoy sharpening her mind. How would she do that if no one could tell her she was wrong? She’d never be able to argue back again… No. Not that. Never that. She shook her head definitively.
‘What, then?’ the fairy gestured sharply as though her tiny hand could conjure up the perfect wish, ‘Unlimited food? A pile of gold? Always knowing what song is playing whenever you hear the first few bars?’
No, no, no, Joanna answered with three shakes. When you got down to it, what was the fun in having everything handed to you on a silver platter? There was nothing that wouldn’t make her life worse in some way. Nothing she could…
‘I’d like a dog,’ Joanna said with sudden resolution.
‘Done,’ said the fairy with slightly offensive relief, and before Joanna could change her mind with a wave of a wand and a puff of smoke a tiny mottled dog appeared yipping at Joanna’s heels.
There’s no point, she thought, bending down the long distance to scratch behind the dog’s ears and desperately hoping that the fairy would never ever come back to taunt Joanna with such terrifying freedoms, in wishing to be what you’re not.