This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Wish

In those late summer days the sun was hot and the fruit ripened on the tree, and the farmer decided he had been lonely quite long enough and then some more.

A wife, a woman to share his joys and sorrows, to keep his home and hearth, that was what he needed. But he couldn’t take just any wife. He had his needs, his tastes. He had seen what happened to those who chose the wrong woman.

And he sighed, because he was only a farmer, poor and unlettered, bowed by work and stained by wind and weather, burnt by the sun. Which woman would look at him, indeed, but one of the red-faced shrews souring in their spinsterhood, aching for a man, any man, on whom they might vent their spleen?

He thought long and hard, and then at last he had an idea.

Those were days when the fairies still walked the earth and peeked at the farmer from behind the trees, and had to be placated with gifts of honey and cake. There were other tales told about the fairies, some of them far from pleasant, but the farmer was both brave and unhappy. He hesitated only a moment before putting his plan in action.

The trap was a simple one, a box propped on a stick with a rope tied to it, camouflaged by a few sprigs of leaves. It was baited with a piece of cake and a small pot of honey. The farmer was not a complete idiot, so he left the bait out several days without springing the trap. Only when the fairy came regularly and confidently to the bait it was that he acted.

Afterwards, when he raised the box, he put his hand inside, well gloved and grabbed something that wriggled and scratched and tried to bite. Drew it out then, a little green horned man with sharp teeth.

“Let me go,” said the creature. “Or I will make your wells run dry.”

“I want three wishes,” said the farmer. “It is my right.”

“Let me go,” said the creature, “or I will make your fields forget their fertility.”

“Three wishes,” said the farmer, giving the creature a shake.

“One wish,” said the creature. “That’s all. Take it or leave it.”

“One wish? You’re cheating me.”

“Not at all. It’s the custom. Three wishes is too much. Our magic couldn’t afford it.”

“Two wishes then.”

“One wish,” repeated the creature. “Take it or leave it. After all,” it added, “you can’t hold me forever.”

“All right,” said the farmer at last. “You make me a wife. A beautiful wife.”

The creature went to snap its fingers, and at the last moment paused. “Any other characteristics you’d like to specify? The Fairy Union is sick and tired of people complaining about their wishes not measuring up to expectations.”

“Oh. Well…she should be young, and faithful, and devoted to me, and fun-loving. And she must be silent. Yes, she must be silent. I don’t want a wife who chatters.”

“So be it.” The creature snapped its fingers. “Now let me go. The wish doesn’t come true till you let me go.”

“What if you’re cheating me?” asked the farmer, but reluctantly released the green fairy. It promptly bit his wrist, drawing blood, and vanished.

Cursing, the farmer returned to his hovel – but it was no longer a hovel. It was clean and decorated with flowers, and a beautiful young woman came nude to the door and embraced him lovingly.

She was everything he had asked for – playful but silent, she followed him everywhere. He got her to wear clothes, and went walking with her every morning in the fields, which she enjoyed immensely. She covered his face with kisses at every opportunity, until he grew quite embarrassed by the attention. And she never talked. It was altogether amazing how she was just what he had needed.

True, sometimes he asked her questions, but she never answered. It was disappointing, but not very. Better by far than a garrulous wife.

Then one day, a week after she had arrived, he had a visit from his neighbour, whom he had not seen in a fortnight. The man came when he was with his new wife in the kitchen, whistling all the way up the hill, from his farm far down the valley.

“I was just looking,” he said from outside the kitchen door. “My pup still hasn’t come home, and she vanished just a week ago…”

The farmer looked round at his wife. At the sound of the neighbour’s voice, the young woman jumped up, wriggled frantically and then burst out in ecstatic yapping.  

Copyright B Purkayastha 2008

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