Service

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In this story a preacher feels he should help an old woman, but he’ll have to walk in the cold to get to her house. He goes anyway and meets a fairy on the road who is bent on stopping him.

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Service

A Short Story by Manelle Oliphant

A light snow hDwarf, leprechaun or fairy walking a ferret on a leashad fallen on that early December night. Not enough to wrap the world in a blanket of white, only enough to give the air a biting edge. I’d settled in for the night next to my toasty fire when I got the impression I needed to visit widow Miller to bring her some wood. I’ve found impressions such as this come to me often in my line of work and it’s best to heed them, even if one didn’t want to. The reception I’d receive from the widow Miller would be unkind, but service carries its own rewards.
I dawned my coat and ventured out into the frozen night with a bundle of logs. It was a fair walk from my house to the widow’s. Sometimes I wished these tasks could fall to someone else.

I hadn’t walked for long before I met a tiny man. Despite his great beard, he was only the height of a small child. He wore no cloak but the cold didn’t seem to bother him. Beside him walked a ferret tied to a lead.

I suspected his faerie origins and knew unkindness was a bad idea. I nodded down at him. “Good evening Sir.”

He squinted through the dark at me. “Evenin’ Churchman. Where are you headed on this cold night?”

I pointed to the firewood I held. “I thought to bring the widow Miller some firewood.”

The faerie looked it over. “Fool thing to do on a night like this for an ungrateful person like her. You won’t get much for your trouble.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but if the widow needs wood, I can provide it.”

The faerie scoffed at my words. “You’re a fool to be out on a night such as this based on an impression.”

I started at his words. “How do you know my reasons for venturing out tonight?”

Service carries its own rewards.

 

“I have my ways. You will get naught from the widow for your trouble. It would be best to turn back now.”

Part of me did want to turn back, but the faerie’s presence alone urged me forward. “I’d better press on.”

The faerie flicked his finger. As he did so, a great wind blew down the street and flapped my robes against my ankles. The frozen snow blew off the ground and into my eyes. I pressed forward ignoring the faerie trick.

After a time the wind stopped. Snow covered me. The Faerie still walked beside me, a smile on his lips. The wind hadn’t touched him.

I shook off the snow. My toes froze in my boots and my fingers stuck around the logs they held. A gloom settled around my heart. The loss of Widow Miller’s husband and sons to disease had left her bitter. She never had a kind word to say to anyone. The most I could expect from her would be a hard word and a slammed door. Perhaps I should turn back like the faerie suggested.

I looked back. The road looked cheerful as if it wanted me to walk on it. I could still see the silhouette of my home. The fire was probably still glowing. If I turned back now, I could be home before it went out. I turned toward the widow’s house. The view was desolate. There were no stars, and the darkness pushed me away.

I was about to return home when I looked down at my short companion. He grinned in a most mischievous way, and an evil light glinted in his eye. My mind came back to itself. The call home had been a faerie trick. I closed my eyes and stepped forward.

The Faerie sprang in front of me. “Stop it. Stop it! Where are you going?”

I pressed forward. “To give the widow Miller some wood.”

He stomped his feet. “No. No! NO! You must go home.”

I walked around him. “I know you are trying to deceive me for some reason of your own.”

The faerie’s face twisted into a grotesque image of fury. He flopped down and rolled about, getting under my feet. The ferret hissed at my boots, but I kept going and arrived.

I’d thought the Widow’s cabin was still two miles off. Another faerie trick no doubt. I moved up to the house before the faerie could stop me and knocked.

I waited. Through a small window a candlelight burned. I knocked again.

“Who’s there?” said the widow’s craggy voice from behind the door.

“It’s Father Simpson.”

“What do you want?”

“The night is bitter cold, and I’ve brought you some wood.”

The widow opened her door. She pointed at the floor. “Put it there.”

I did as she bid me. The room was freezing, and her fire had gone out.

She crowded me back outside. “This don’t mean I’m coming to watch you preach,” and slammed the door.

I waited. Soon the warm glow of a fire could be seen through the window. I smiled, warm inside despite the bleak surroundings, and started home.

The faerie met me on the road. “I knew you’d get nothing for your pains.”

I studied the faerie. “You are wrong. I got much for my efforts.”

“Humans!” The faerie snorted as he disappeared.

My walk home seemed much shorter than what it had taken me to get there and when I arrived my fire was still warm.

I don’t know why the faerie was so determined to stop me, and I’ve never seen another faerie before or since.

 

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Manelle is a professional illustrator and writer. She's illustrated over ten children's books and she loves stories. When she reads a novel it becomes impossible to get anything else done until the end of the story.

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