The sun sank low on the dirty gray horizon, and Ulrich the Goblin watched the tiny glows of the fairies rising into the sky as they hurried to their assignments. He imagined the fading red rays shining on their iridescent wings, and he craned his neck to stare at his own bedraggled wings hanging rodent-like down his back.
“What you lookin’ at, Uls?” his friend Marv asked. “You ain’t got no new boils or rashes there.” He patted Ulrich’s back apologetically. “Sorry. I mean, you still look hideous and all. Don’t worry about your looks.”
Ulrich sighed. “What do you suppose it’s like?” he asked wistfully.
“Being a tooth fairy.”
Marv guffawed. “Oh man, I bet it sucks. Flying around on paper-thin wings – probably get caught in tree branches all the time, and I hear them fairies get fired if they don’t stay pretty. You got to sneak into the kid’s bedroom without settin’ off alarms or getting chewed on by the family dog. Then you have to crawl into some snot-nosed brat’s bed, squirm under the pillow without getting caught or crushed, grab some half bloody tooth and stuff it in your bag, and then YOU have to pay for the privilege of returning the teeth to the Mother House.”
“But they’re so beautiful …”
Marv stood up and shouldered his arrow sling. “Yeah, they are. But I’d take making elf-locks in babies’ hair any day. At least you can stick around to see ’em cry. A goblin needs to see the results of his handiwork, you know, job satisfaction. Anyway, see you later, Uls. I got some new kids I gotta terrorize.” He scampered off.
Ulrich looked down at his copy of Nognirpook’s Guide to Torturous Knots: The Best Knots for Fine Baby Hair and Beyond and sighed. Was there some law relegating goblins to spilling milk and knotting hair? His wings were only good for flying a few feet off the ground, unlike the sinuous, glittering fairies flying high above the trees.
“I wish there was some way for me to join them,” he mumbled to the empty forest floor. “I know how to scramble into dark places. I know how to avoid detection – goblins are great at that! And I could do so many artistic things with baby teeth. This job is wasted on the fairies! They probably cry after every assignment because their little flower dresses get rumpled,” he grumbled.
Suddenly a voice rumbled from the tree he was slumped against. “Fine idea, Ulrich, but you cannot fly as the faeries do. It would take you too long to reach your destination.”
He recoiled in shock and stared open-mouthed at the tree. There had not been a talking tree in the forest for eons. “What, you’ve just been sitting around for the past 300 years without saying a word?”
“Goblins rarely have anything interesting to say,” the tree boomed. “You’re always bragging about turning milk sour and stealing chicken eggs. Your species as a whole has low ambition. Except for you, Ulrich. You’re fascinating with this foolhardy desire to be a tooth fairy.”
Ulrich scowled and shuffled his feet. Great, now the whole goblin village would hear about his unorthodox desires. He’d be a laughing stock! He could already hear the crowd at the goblin pub, chortling and throwing dead flower petals at him in mockery. “Uh, yeah. Thanks and all, but could you keep that to yourself? It was just a silly idea.”
“It isn’t silly, my goblin friend. I’m going to help you.” And with this, Ulrich grew queasy. The ground seemed unstable and he stumbled, smacking his head on a tree branch. His vision grew dark and he remembered nothing for several hours.
When he awoke, he rubbed his aching head. “Hey, what kind of help was that, you jerk?” he groaned, but the tree was silent. Could he have imagined it all? Perhaps he’d hit his head and dreamed the whole thing. He reached back to scratch an itch behind his shoulder blades.
He froze in astonishment. From the site of the itch sprang a third wing!
He screeched! His wings, including the new one, jerked involuntarily. First in fear, and then with growing delight, he flexed his new wing. The muscles were long and powerful. Perfectly capable, in fact, of –
“HAULING MY GOBLIN HEINIE ABOVE THE TREES!” he crowed. The extra wing-strength sent him careening into the air, propelling him through tree leaves and birds’ nests. “Sorry!” he called to the angry avians as they dove to repair his damage. “New wings!”
Such fabulous wings! He soared into the clear air and his goblin village dwindled below. Without the haze of the never-ending goblin fires, the horizon was a delightful pink and purple rather than the dull gray he was used to. He smelled clear air instead of the stench of bone stew and smoke. By flexing one wing up and the other two down, he flew in a lazy circle, which he did blissfully until a collision sent him sprawling into a tree branch.
“Oh! My! I’m so terribly sorry!” cried a velvet voice. He tried to catch his breath as he hung limply from an oak tree branch. A flutter of shiny wings and glittery skin brushed against him.
“Did I hurt you?” asked the voice – a fairy’s voice, he realized with excitement.
“No, no, I’m fine,” he managed. He pulled himself up the branch and crouched. The fairy’s smile, which had been beaming brightly and apologetically, faltered.
“I … I seem to have dirtied your … um … dress …” said the fairy. Her eyes traveled over his goblin loincloth in horror. “You’ll be let go if you return to work in that condition, fellow flower fairy! Oh, do let me help you.”
“My dre–oh. My dress, right.” He coughed and raised the pitch of his voice. “I am so clumsy for a fairy, yes indeedy! I am always messing my pretty shiny outfits. Where might I get another, dear fellow fairy?”
The fairy looked troubled. “I’m sure it’s difficult to find clothes in your size. But perhaps we can stitch together a dress of flower petals and tree leaves.” The fairy extended a graceful hand, which Ulrich shook enthusiastically. The fairy winced but politely led the way through the forest, flying in fluid arcs as Ulrich followed in a bumblebee-style, narrowly missing branches and spiderwebs. “We’ll stop at the Fairy Fashion Tree,” she chirped brightly. “The Fashion Fairy will be able to help us!” They touched down. Ulrich stared slackjawed at the giant sycamore adorned with wispy moss and flowering vines, and especially at the stream of fairies and pixies wandering in and out, all arrayed in carefully-fitted flower-petal attire. He ducked under the low door frame as they entered the shop, trying to ignore the stares and shocked murmurs.
A pixie in a magnolia dress lounged languidly in a clamshell, her perfect complexion offset by the gleaming mother-of-pearl. Her bored face brightened as she saw the fairy who led Ulrich.
“Rosehippina!” she cried, her voice like birdsong. “How lovely to see you! You look splendid, darling. Oh! And you’ve brought …” she gaped at Ulrich. “You brought, a, um … um …”
Rosehippina turned to Ulrich. “Oh I’m terribly sorry! I didn’t catch your name.”
Ulrich froze. A name? He needed some ridiculous, sappy fairy name quick! “Uh .. Huggy … Fluff-Berry?” He cringed. Goblins did not hug, nor did they eat berries, nor did anything fluffy adorn their abodes. But he knew he’d have to make some sacrifices if he wanted to be Tooth Goblin.
The two fairies nodded. “Rosehippina, dear,” said the Fashion Fairy, “would you come here momentarily? Let us converse about what might best flatter Sister Fluff-Berry’s figure.” They disappeared behind an embroidered curtain and Ulrich toed the carpet nervously, disrupting the delicate weave of maple stems and moss. Ulrich tried not to eavesdrop, but their bell-like voices carried well.
“…know she’s surprisingly large and perhaps a bit ungainly, but we must help …”
“…face will make children scream! We can’t ….”
“…fairy creed of sweetness and light, and we must extend to all fairies regardless of ….”
“…could use a bark dress, they aren’t so fashionable but …”
“…add a little lily pollen for color and accessorize with sweet grass …”
“…go for a more earthy look to compliment her hair color …”
The curtain shuddered and fluttered, and Ulrich heard sawing, popping, and cracking. When the fairies called him inside, the light was blotted as they immediately yanked a rough dress over his head. He sputtered as they dumped bright pollen over his scalp, and wheezed as they deftly wove a necklace of grasses and leaves around his neck and wrists.
“Oh dear!” fretted the Fashion Fairy. “You have three wings! We’ll have to modify the dress to allow for them. How ever did you gain a third wing?” She began cutting the bark dress carefully.
“It was a gift from a leprachaun,” he said, pleased with his quick wit.
“A leprechaun!” cried Rosehippina. “Oh, I’ve heard they’re dreadful. Well, how lovely that diversity flowers and even those we view as ill-tempered still have a compassionate heart, is it not, dear Sister Huggy Fluff-Berry?”
“Oh yes,” he said, his voice squeaking as the Fashion Fairy yanked on a tangled lock of his hair. “Lovely. Lephrechauns aren’t bad, actually. They taste like – ”
“The Fashion Fairy looked alarmed and dropped her twig comb.
“I mean they have taste! Very fine taste like you fairies. They often dine on gardenias and, erm, unicorn hair, and wear fancy leggings made from, uh ….”
The fairies giggled. “Oh my, well that certainly explains the disagreeable demeanor of leprechauns!” said Rosehippina, tinkling merrily. “Everyone knows that unicorn hairs taste wonderful but simply don’t digest.”
“Oh,” said Ulrich as he surveyed his new look in the mirror. “I never realized that. No wonder my guts are always rumbling after a unicorn meal.” The Fashion Fairy hurried to her rose quartz counter and pulled out a handbag made from pastel flowers. “Here, dear sister, we notice you have no Tooth Collecting purse. You must have lost yours in the collision. I’ve an extra you may have. This is an unauthorized replica of a more fashionable designer, and it will soon wilt, but it will do for now.”
Rosehippina gazed at him and smiled. “There! While you may not be the kind of fairy who will be sent to the most fashionable dwellings, you certainly look presentable. I hope you can forgive me for my careless flying today.”
“Oh, of course,” said Ulrich heartily. “I am grateful for your special fairy happy smiles!”
“As we are with yours, dear Huggy. Now, off to the Mother House with you. It’s time to get your assignments!”
And with a smile, Ulrich squeezed out the door and traipsed down the stone path to the shining crystal palace. He would soon see Tooth Action!
“Dear Marv, I
I aint returning to Gobblinz Hal. Plees take care of ChiChi, my pet cockroach. He likes dead squirrel for brekfest, but sumtimes eats rotten apples.” Ulrich put down the pen and re-read what he wrote. He inhaled the stench of the substandard cafeteria food and smiled as he listed to the angry talk of the children in their barred rooms. He continued. “It sumtimes hard to get into these places, because of all the barred windows and locked doors, but I like the challung. The Muther Fary always say ‘Juvenile deelinquints need Tooth Farys, too. Bring them hope for better lifes, and quarters.’ Sumtimes I leave cigarettes, tho. I will not return to Gobblinz because I now Sister Huggy Fluff-Berry, Tooth Gobblin, and I work the Juvie Hall route. Send my luv to ChiChi.
P.S. Next time yoo kill unicorn, pleez leave entrails by old oak tree across from Gobblin Central. Tell tree thanks from Uls. Don’t eat unicorn hair! Causes diarrhea.”