Allergic to Good Behavior


Well who isn’t? Here’s a very short fic following the tribulations and triumphs of a little girl who is allergic to good behavior.

Little Gail Grey

Little Gail Grey was marvelously horrid.

She had her own room and her own set of colored pencils. She had her very own dollhouse, a closet that was two feet by six which is not bad when you think about it, and a bathroom that was hers approximately seven months out of the twelve because when her older sister Betsy came home on holidays, she had to share. She had a frog in a bowl who was spotted and fat, a sticker collection, and a pillow that was lavender on one side and pink on the flip.

Gail thought that if the frog were a nice frog, it would rouse enough energy at least to die, because it was very boring and she wanted another one. She thought Betsy, her sister, ought to clean the bathroom without their taking turns since she was borrowing it after all. She thought that she—Gail—should be paid per usage, since her ten dollar a week allowance wasn’t nearly enough.

“It isn’t fair,” said Gail Grey. “No one cares what I want! No one ever listens to me.”

It occurred to her that it would be terribly useful if fairies were real. Then everything could be put right. After all, Cinderella would never have gotten her prince if she hadn’t had a fairy godmother first. So Gail invested a very little of her time and began to wish. She wished on stars, pennies, and birthday cakes. But no matter how she wished, her wishes didn’t seem to work.

One night, Gail was scolded for putting glue in her sister’s chest of drawers and cutting the cord for the charger when she was hushed during a phone call. She was sent to her room without dessert.

Gail kicked her dollhouse so hard one of the tiny windows broke.

She had just flung herself on her bed when she realized she was not alone.

Perhaps you just have to be in a temper first, or things must be very, very bad indeed, for wishes to work. Even so, this fairy wasn’t at all the fairy Gail Grey had wished for.

He was thin and pressed in grays. Pressed, because he wasn’t so much wearing as wound in them, from scarf to stocking, neck to heel. Most particularly, his shoes were nicely tied with gray laces and gray bows. His nails were gray; his skin was gray; and his lips were almost blue. If a fairy had been strung out, wrung out, squeezed and shaken, Gail imagined he would look just like this.

“Well,” said the fairy, looking around the room. “This is nice.”

He went straight to Gail’s basket seat.

“Who are you?” asked Gail. She frowned. “You’re not my fairy godmother, so I suppose you must be my fairy godfather. I think you are very ugly. I hope you won’t shed on the carpet.”

The last was a reference to the fairy’s hair, which was wild and gray as the rest of him.

“I’ll shed if I want to,” said the fairy. “What are you going to do about it?”

Gail opened her mouth and closed it.

“Your fairy godmother,” the fairy said, “was altogether too frightened to visit you. I don’t see why. This is quite the place for me. We shall work wonderful mischief together, little Gail Grey.”

“What sort of mischief?” asked Gail.

“The best kind,” said the fairy. “The kind that works for you.”

Gail thought that did sound nice.

“But what should I do?” she asked.

“Simple,” said the fairy. “Make another wish.”

Gail thought. She said,

“I wish I didn’t have to clean my room or brush my teeth.”

“But you don’t have to,” said the fairy.

“Yes I do!”

“No you don’t. Just don’t, silly, silly child. Something else? Anything else?”

His tone made Gail cross. It was almost disappointed, as if she had mismatched names in history or added instead of subtracted, or committed subject-verb disagreement, or something.

“Fine,” she said. “I wish everyone were just as miserable as I am!”

The fairy smiled. He crossed his arms and ankles, and his bright eyes gleamed like a wolf’s.

“Good as done,” he said.

Next morning, Gail stayed in bed as long as she could. She hoped her mother would come in with breakfast and an apology. But when the clock struck eleven and there was still no knock, she began to worry. She thought about her wish and hurried out of bed.

Imagine her astonishment when she looked down the hall and saw the heads of her parents, her sister, and the family cat, thrust around their bedroom doors and looking straight back at her!

Something in their owlish eyes frightened her. Gail shut her door fast.

When she regained her breath and gathered her wits, she decided her family must be playing a game just to annoy her. Well she would teach them. She wasn’t going to be bothered.

So there.

She stamped out, furious, in her pajamas.

She was more surprised than ever before, when her entire family stamped out in their pajamas, too!

They followed her downstairs to the kitchen. They were a solemn and peculiar parade. They sat down at the table with her and no one said a single word. When Gail took the chocolate pie out of the refrigerator and cut herself a large slice, they all cut themselves large slices too, and never said a word about vegetables or scrambled eggs or milk.

Gail went into her sister’s room and started drawing moustaches on all Betsy’s posters.

She had just finished when she realized that Betsy had gone into her room, and the dollhouse was upside down and her pencils were broken. Betsy was as mean as could be, maybe meaner, and threatened to pour Gail’s frog down the sink if she didn’t leave her room alone.

“Are you very miserable now, Gail?” she asked.

Gail shut herself in her room and shuddered to hear three doors slam at almost the same instant.

“I suppose if I cut off my finger they’d cut off their fingers, too,” she said. “This is the worst morning ever.”

She sat down next to her ruined dollhouse and hid her face against her drawn-up knees.

“What’s that? What’s this?”

There was the gray fairy, sitting comfortably in her basket seat as if he had never left it.

Gail scrubbed her eyes.

“This isn’t what I asked for,” she said. “This is awful. We’ll probably eat chocolate for supper and no one will tuck me in at night or help me with my homework or want to talk to me ever again!”

“You wanted your family miserable,” replied the fairy, “—as miserable as you. Well they are so like you at your worst, I daresay they’re insufferable, and the most miserable people on earth.”

“Well I don’t want them miserable!” she cried. “I want them like they were before.”

“That is a shame,” said the fairy. “Wishes are more easily made than taken back.”

Gail could believe it.

She wished—a singular and peculiar wish—that her mother had scolded her for sleeping late and Betsy had teased her like always. She wished her father had called her a little red pepper, and hugged her. She wished that she had brushed her hair and washed her face, because she felt very sticky and unhappy and hot for skipping. Most of all, she wished she had never, ever wished.

“Isn’t there anything I can do?” she asked.

“What’s done is done,” the fairy said. He looked up from studying his fingers. “Unless of course, you know the right words.”

“What words?” asked Gail. “I wish—”

“No problem was ever solved by wishing,” said the fairy.

“Then how?”

The fairy pursed his blue lips.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I prefer making mischief, not fixing it. If I step on someone’s tender feelings, squeeze glue into a drawer, cut a wire, or call my frog a great dull fatty, what do I care?”

“That’s it!” Gail said eagerly. She took a deep breath. “I’m—I’m so—so—”

A lump rose in her throat and stopped her.

“Precisely why I never say it myself,” said the fairy.

Gail’s eyes filled with tears.

“But I am sorry,” she said. “I’m very, very sorry.”

No sooner had she spoken than there was a curious change. The air felt suddenly clearer, if a little cold. It was as if a thick fog had cleared, or a very big bird sitting on her head had suddenly spread its dull musty wings and flown somewhere else. Gail shivered and looked eagerly around.

The pencils were still broken. Her dollhouse was turned over and her stomach was still sick from having nothing in it but chocolate. But there was something different, too. Wasn’t there?

“A proper ‘Sorry’ mends insides, not outsides,” said the fairy.

Gail thought she understood.

“But they’ll want to know what happened, won’t they?” she asked anxiously.

“Well why not.”

“Will you tell them?”

The wild wolfish glint was in the fairy’s smile and eye. He held out his hand.

“The real mischief,” he said, “will be if you tell it. Goodbye, Gail Grey. I am sure we will meet again.”

“I really wish—” began Gail.

She hesitated.

She reached out, carefully, and shook the fairy’s gray finger.

“Well,” she said. “I do hope not.”

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