Sep 302010
 

Dot glanced over at the wall of snow globes, looking for a sign. She could feel a blessing coming on. Surely today was the day.

Sunlight leaked around the edges of a plastic curtain hanging over the kitchen sink. The faded daisies gave the double-wide a muted cheer. Dot, squinting in the dingy light, leaned across the kitchen counter and adjusted her mirror. Just a touch more sparkly pink on the eyelids. She leaned back and admired. “Dot, my girl, you are one hot momma.” Pushing away, she gave her wings a buzz and lifted off the kitchen stool and into the living room.

She floated over the maroon carpet, past a series of frames that hung on the wood paneling above the lime green sofa. Her “kiddies”. The first was an oil painting of a princess in pink satin trimmed in ermine, her conical hat tipped with a spray of chiffon. As Dot buzzed past the paintings, the hats became flatter and cluttered, then disappeared altogether. The gowns became tighter, richer, looser, simpler. In the last image, a formal photograph, a young woman in a frilly teal dress with padded shoulders smiled out with worried eyes, her blonde hair pouffed up in the front, long and silky in the back.

Opposite them, a bookshelf held dozens of snow globes, her traveling globes. Most showed scenes from all over the world. Big Ben, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower from Paris, France, as well as the Eiffel Tower from nearby Paris, Texas, which looked the same but with a cowboy hat on top.

But the globe on the highest shelf, that was special. That was the one Dot kept glancing at. It hadn’t lit up in no telling how many years. But today was the ball–what did they call it? The prom. It was always them dances. That’s when they passed her along. Surely today was the day.

Dot set herself down by the closet, next to her favorite easy chair. She grabbed a wand off the patchy arm. Lately she favored a collapsible steel rod mounted with a foil star. She pointed it at a boxy TV set that had a matching rod cocked out to one side. “Nope, nope! Ain’t gonna do it.” She pulled back the wand and set her resolve. Instead, she dug into the seat cushion and found the remote.

After flipping past some news channels, she settled on a talk show. Two young ladies were screaming at each other with some fellow sitting in the middle looking like a dog after a good whupping.

Bending over with a grunt, she tied her white tennis shoes. Whether she walked or flew, a lady needed sensible shoes. Besides, they went well with her white jeans. She pulled her favorite sweatshirt over her head. Folding her crisp dragonfly wings flat, she tugged the shirt down so that the slits in back lined up just right. One at a time, she pushed just so with her shoulder blades until each wing popped out. With all four through, she gave her wings a buzz. They might look like veiny cellophane but they were as tough as old Dot herself.

She straightened her shirt. A cotton-candy pink, it read “You touch-a my wings…” on the front. And on the back, “I touch-a your face” with a little fist under it. The letters were trimmed with silver glitter accented with purple plastic gems that she’d put on with a glue gun. She turned, hands on her hips. The jeans were tight around the butt and her boobs sagged almost to her belly (bras didn’t go well with wings), but overall the old gal looked pretty good.

She buzzed back to her makeup table on the kitchen counter, flipping channels behind her back to a rerun of “Rockford Files.” She snapped star-shaped silver buttons onto her ear lobes, then touched up her pink lipstick and rouge. Given all the deep wrinkles, it was like dressing an old goose in a new bonnet, but it made her feel good. With bejeweled fingers, she picked and teased her white hair into a round pouf before laying down a coat of Aqua Net to fix it in place. She leaned forward to admire her handiwork, squinted, then put on a pair of owl-like bifocals. “Perfect.”

Glancing at the globe, she tamped a pack of menthols on the counter. She lifted out of the chair and flew to the bookshelf. As she did, she dropped the pack’s plastic wrap on the floor and tugged on a cig with her teeth.

She’d been saving up her magic for weeks. No little charms of any kind–no heating up her coffee, no stretching the waist on her nice orange pantsuit, which surely must’ve shrunk. Not even a twinkle to fetch more sherry. She’d been dry as a bone for a week now. And proud of it.

Dangling the cigarette between her pastel pink lips, she stuffed her fingers into a front pocket to dig out a Bic lighter. She shielded her hair with the back of her hand and lit the cigarette, exhaling a smoky, satisfied sigh.

Dot looked over her beautiful domes. One showed a thick jungle. She picked it up, leaving a perfectly round clean spot in the dust. As she wiped off the surface, it began to swirl, lit from within by a subtle blue glow. A flock of parrots tumbled through the trees. She smiled and set it back down. The one next to it showed a double-wide trailer, much like hers. When she wiped off the plastic, a flurry of garden gnomes scattered through the gel inside the dome as the trailer began to glow.

She picked through her globes, giving each one a long overdue dusting. Lovelies, all of them. Wards of her kin, or some special folk she liked to look in on every once in awhile. But only one was hers and hers alone.

She floated up to the top shelf, careful not to smash her ‘do on the ceiling. The lone dome up there was already pristine, its shelf wiped clean. She picked it up anyway and gave it a little shake. Rose petals flew up to encase a palatial estate. When they settled, she saw a thin woman wearing a tight sleeveless top that showed off tan arms, frozen in mid-jog on a treadmill. Her mouth was open and a little gadget in her ear glowed with a blue dot, like someone stuck a Slim Jim up in there and got after it with a glue gun.

She shook her head and put the globe back. Eloise. Always running. All that yard outside and she’d rather run in place, like a gerbil in a wheel. Dot wondered if the woman even remembered her. Surely today. Maybe when she tired out.

Dot smiled wistfully as she floated over to her easy chair, leaving a trail of menthol. Settling into the worn out cushion, she picked up a sweaty glass of sweet tea. She glanced back at her globes one more time. Tapping her ashes into a coffee cup from Excalibur Hotel, she turned to the TV and settled in for the day.

By late afternoon, she’d stopped checking her globes. Just another empty day after all. She sipped her tea and took a long drag on her cig, blowing a stream of smoke out the corner of her mouth so it wouldn’t block the TV. Some little starlet on Oprah was smiling too much and talking about a movie where she got to show off her body.

She raised the remote to change the channel. But just then the 8-track crackled. A thin voice came through the speakers. “Godmother, godmother, please hear my cry. I’m in need of you now, as fast as you’ll fly… oh wait, I gotta take this call.” Eloise! Dot looked at the globes. The top one was glowing blue. Not the red of an emergency, but good enough for her. She was needed!

Dot sprang into action. She stubbed out her cigarette on the scarred coffee table. Lifting herself off of the sofa in a blur of buzzing wings, she floated to the kitchen, grabbed her wand and handbag, zipped to the card table, touched up her lipstick, then flew to the bookshelf.

She grabbed the top globe and gave it a shake. The petals swirled, then settled. The estate was replaced with a bedroom done up in lace and pink satin. Eloise clutched her necklace in both hands. It was off her neck! A 17-year-old girl sat on the edge of an enormous bed, huddled over an elaborate lavender dress. One of the sleeves of the dress dangled, obviously torn. The girl was frozen in mid-wail. “Oh, my poor dear,” said Dot.

Focusing on the globe, she sank into the scene, pushing into the plastic bubble like a finger into jello. With a pop, she found herself floating in a corner of the room, looking down at the girl. Her wings buzzed furiously. She slipped the globe into her handbag.

“You look like you need some help, girl,” said Dot.

Eloise looked at her and grinned. The girl looked up, face streaming with mascara. In an instant, her pain turned to annoyance. “Who the hell are you?”

“Glory! Hasn’t your mother told you nothin’?

Eloise touched the girl’s shoulder. “Brittany, sweetie. I want you to meet someone very, very special. This is Dot, your Fairy Godmother.” Dot floated down to the lush ivory carpet and landed with her hands spread out daintily, wand clutched in the fingertips of her right hand.

Brittany scanned Dot from her tennis shoes to her white poof. Dot recognized that look. It was the same as the one those ladies from the auxiliary used. The snooty ones with the sharp noses and shoulder pads. Dot swallowed and gave her a sweet smile, tugging down her sweatshirt with her free hand. “You have got to be kidding me,” said Brittany.

“Nope. I’m real! Flesh and bone and wings. And good looks, of course.” She lifted off her feet and gave a little swirl for effect.

The girl blanched. “Phew! What is that smell? Is that menthol?”

“Oh, sorry.” Dot spared a flick of the wand, bathing the room in the scent of roses.

Eloise glanced from Dot to her daughter with an awkward smile. “Brittany, I’ve been waiting for a long time to do this.” Dot felt her heart leap. It beat faster than the wings on her back. With an air of grand ceremony, Eloise unclasped her necklace and fastened it around Brittany’s neck.

Brittany lifted the pink diamond heartstone dangling on the thin platinum chain. “I can’t wear this,” she said.

“What?” asked Eloise.

“Are you kidding? It doesn’t go with this dress. It doesn’t go with anything I have.”

Eloise grabbed the gemstone. “Sweetie, this is a real diamond! Do you have any idea how much this is worth?”

Dot floated back a bit. This wasn’t going at all like she expected.

Brittany took another look at the gem, angling it in the light. “Fine,” she said. “But I can’t wear it with this dress.”

Dot raised her wand. “Oh that’s all right, girl. I can fix up that dress and change the color to boot. Anything you want.”

The girl sneered at Dot’s shoes and pulled the dress toward her. “Like hell you will. What do you know about chiffon?”

“Brittany!” said Eloise. “What’s gotten into you? Let her fix the dress!”

“Ohmigod, mom! This is like the biggest night of my life. Trevor’s taking us to Mt. Tam after the prom. Everybody’s going. I can’t go looking like I got puked out of a trailer park! Besides, I already texted Usha.” They heard a gong through a speaker in the ceiling. “Oh! There she is.”

She dumped the dress on the floor and ran to an intercom built into the wall. An older woman’s voice crackled through. “Usha Rama –”

“Let her up,” she said.

“Now wait a second,” said Eloise. “When did you have time to text her? I came in right when you started your hissy fit.”

“It was so not a hissy fit,” said Brittany. Somehow she looked petulant and guilty all at once.

The door burst open. A girl Brittany’s age charged in and screamed at the dress. Brittany screamed with her. Dot held her hands over her ears. They sounded like tea kettles.

“Ohmigod, Brittany!” said Usha. “Your dress!” Usha wore a slinky black dress with thin shoulder straps and a hem that made Dot think surely the rest of it was in that garment bag she carried. “Don’t worry, girl, Usha’s here with backup.” She threw the garment bag on the bed and unzipped it.

When Brittany pulled out a tiny black number identical to Usha’s, they both started screaming again. Eloise stared at the dress in shock. “Oh, hell no,” she said. “You are not wearing a hoochi dress to the prom. No way.”

“Oh, mom. Come on! I look like a reject from the 80s in that thing.”

“Do you have any idea how much that ‘thing’ cost me? I’m not going to have my daughter looking like a ho. No offense, Usha.”

Usha crossed her legs and grinned. “None taken.” Dot looked down and turned beet red. From her vantage point she could tell the girl had forgotten more than pants. She floated backwards, hugging her arms over her chest.

“Oh my god, Oosh,” said Brittany. “You totally saved my ass!”

Eloise rolled her eyes. “Spare me,” she said. “You really think I didn’t try that crap with my own mother? You ripped that dress on purpose.”

“Mom!”

Brittany glanced up at Dot, as if embarrassed by her presence. Trying to sound cheerful, Dot said, “Don’t worry. Your friend can’t see me.” She fluttered back up to the ceiling.

As mother and daughter argued, Dot watched the carpet. She patted her hair into place and tugged on her pretty sweatshirt. Nodding with a sad half-smile, she pulled the globe out of her handbag. It showed a gleaming silver double-wide trailer on a small plot sprinkled with fairy lawn ornaments. Pushing her owl glasses up her nose, she stared into the globe.

Dot knew she should’ve stayed home. But after Brittany and what-all, the double-wide was just too small, too empty. Too dark. She just had to get out amongst ‘em.

And now she regretted it. She could tell the other ladies were talking. They clumped together, looking at her and whispering, their sequined gowns hanging off their bones like drapes off a hanger. She wondered how they avoided slicing each other with those noses or tangling up their wiry black bouffants.

She hated coming to the Godmother’s Auxiliary. If it wasn’t for the casseroles, she wouldn’t come at all. She was leaned across the buffet table, head propped in her hand. With an idle flick, she zapped a styrofoam plate and a ham and noodle casserole. They both sprouted arms and legs and began to do-si-do, joining some red plastic cups and clear forks in a square dance.

“Dorothea Winifred! What’re you wastin’ your blessins on the cutlery for! I declare.”

A squat woman with curly blond ringlets floated over to the table. Her wand, a slender ivory rod topped with a pearl-white orb, was tucked between her ample breasts. Both hands held cups of punch. Copious amounts of off-white chiffon and tulle rustled as she buzzed over on transparent wings.

“Well what else are they good for, Pearl,” said Dot. She flicked her wand at a vegetable tray, which sprouted legs and skittered across the table, dropping broccoli florets like poop.

“Oh, now.” Pearl set the cups down and pulled up a folding chair. Sitting next to her, she put an arm around Dot. “The other ladies is talkin’, you know.”

“Well excuse me but I just don’t give a dadgum.”

“What’s wrong, Dot. This ain’t like you. D’joo get a call today?” Dot nodded. “I’m guessin’ it didn’t go so well.”

In reply, Dot zapped the potato salad. It gathered itself up in a ball and jumped out of its dish, then rolled itself across the table and into a row of Dr. Pepper cans like a mushy bowling ball. Instead of knocking over the cans, it fell apart in a lumpy white mess. A cluster of ladies glanced back with pinched lips and whispered.

“Now see,” said Pearl. “You done wasted all your magics.” She reached over and gently took Dot’s wand. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut you off, Dot. You ain’t gonna be no good to no one in this state.”

“Well I ain’t anyway, now am I.”

“Don’t say that.”

“I got passed along today.”

Pearl gasped. Dot grabbed one of the square dancing forks and scooped some potato salad off the table. The fork’s little legs kicked as she ate. “I just don’t understand it, Pearl. All I ever wanted was to help my kiddies. That’s all.”

“Aw honey…” Pearl rubbed her back, careful not to touch the wings.

“I been sittin’ in that trailer every day for, I don’t know how long. Waitin’ for the big day. The wonder, the pageantry.” She tried to scoop up another bite, but the fork twisted away and ran off down the table. “I guess they just don’t need me no more.”

Pearl reared back. “What’s all this! That ain’t the Dot I know.”

They heard the clack-clack-clack of hard heels on the floor. “Aunt Dot! Aunt Dot!” A little girl ran up to Dot. She wore a frilly white taffeta and tulle dress with a pink silk bow in front. On her head she wore a crown that looked suspiciously like a molar. Waving a wand made of rolled up purple construction paper, she did a pirouette. “Lookatme! I’m gonna be a tooth fairy, just like my mamaw!” On her back, she’d sprouted two tiny wings, like those of a giant fly.

“Oh there’s my grandbaby.” Pearl scooped her up to give her a kiss, then set her back on the floor. “Ain’t they just the cutest things? Just grew out last week. They’s her first pair.”

“Ain’t you precious!” said Dot. “Can you use those things yet?”

The girl nodded and grinned, showing off a gaping hole where her front teeth used to be. Making little fists, she gave her wings a buzz. They were just strong enough to lift her heels off the floor and pitch her forward. She fell face first into a cloud of tulle. Picking herself up, she straightened her crown, wiped her nose on an arm, and ran off, clacking across the floor with a raised wand.

Dot watched her, smiling. As the girl disappeared, Dot’s gaze drifted down to her hands. “Pearl, you’re a lucky woman. You know that?”

Pearl watched her, opening and closing her mouth. Finally, she reached down and hugged Dot close. “Dot, you don’t need young ‘uns to make your mark. You mean the world to more people than you can imagine. And you are loved by all of them. Don’t you ever forget that.”

Dot looked up. Pearl smiled warmly at her friend. Chuckling, Dot grabbed Pearl’s fingers and shook them in silent gratitude.

“C’mon,” said Pearl, helping Dot to her feet. “Let’s get you home.”

Dot sank into her chair. It was late. The moon had risen over the trailer park. She set her wand on the nightstand and poured a glass of sherry. Lighting a menthol, she pointed the remote at the TV and brought up static. A few channels later she settled on an infomercial. They were showing off a blender to a bunch of friends who laughed and slapped each other on the back when one of them made guacamole.

After a few minutes, she couldn’t take it anymore. She had to have one of them blenders. She flicked her wand at the phone across the room but it only lurched slightly. “Dadgummit,” she said. “Dry as a bone.” She rose out of the chair, shoving the wand into her back pocket.

Halfway across the room, she saw it. Brittany’s globe held a small storm of rose petals.

It was glowing red.

Gasping, she shot to the bookcase and snatched up the globe. When the petals cleared, she saw a two-lane mountain road, bordered by a cliff. Someone in a black dress was clinging to an outcropping several feet below the edge of the cliff.

In a heartbeat, Dot was through. She popped into the sky and shot down toward the girl. The tea kettle scream pierced the air as Brittany hugged the cliff face.

“You hold on, Brittany!” shouted Dot. She snatched her wand out of her pocket and flicked it at a nearby branch. The branch shuddered and lay still. She tried again. Nothing. “Shit!”

Shoving the wand back in a pocket, she circled the girl. “Hang on! For glory’s sake, hang on!”

The girl spoke in sobs. “Trevor tried to…he tried to…I got out…was dark…I didn’t see…Help me! Oh God, help me!” She screamed.

Dot buzzed over the road, looking for something, anything. In the faint glow of the moonlight, she could see a scrape at the edge of the cliff beside the road. That must’ve been where the girl slipped. She’d fallen about six feet and hit an outcropping, then grabbed the edge of that on the way over. In the dark, Dot couldn’t even see the bottom of the drop-off. She put a hand to her mouth when she saw how close the girl had come.

“Do something! Please!”

“Hang on!”

Dot buzzed back and forth along the cliff. Nothing. No tree. No scraps. Nothing she could use. She tossed her globe onto the side of the road, useless for now.

Dot pushed up her sleeves. She dove into the abyss, then looped up and over, coming up from beneath the girl. Grabbing Brittany around the waist, she beat her wings furiously. Brittany relaxed her grip slightly. One hand slipped off. “No! Don’t let go! Hold on!”

“Can’t you carry me?” shouted the girl, sobbing.

“Darlin’, I can barely keep my own big ass in the air. Now _grab that ledge!_ Dot pushed upward, willing the girl toward the road. She felt a sting at the base of her wings. She’d never pushed herself like this and she wasn’t in the best shape to begin with.

Brittany clutched at the rock with fingers bent like claws. Dot could feel the girl’s back tighten.

“Pull yourself up, girl! You can do it! I know you can!”

Brittany cried and relaxed, barely keeping her grip.

Dot began to panic. She should’ve been there sooner. She’d never been late to a call. Looking at the abyss behind her, Dot made up her mind then and there. If the girl let go, they were both going down.

In a calm voice, she leaned toward Brittany’s ear and said, “Listen to me. I been watching you your whole life, girl. I watched over your momma and her momma before that. And I know you come from strong stock.”

She grunted, pushing upward. Her wings felt like they were going to fall off. “Now just focus. And put some back into it. You can pull yourself up.”

“Don’t let go. Please.”

“I ain’t lettin’ go. Now pull.”

She felt something shift in the girl. Dot felt Brittany’s muscles tense, felt a surge of strength that held for a moment, then released. “I can’t,” said Brittany.

“You’re doing great. Just try again.” Dot wanted to cry, her wing muscles burned so bad.

Brittany tensed again. “There you go,” said Dot. “Now pull. I gotcha.”

Slowly, they lifted higher. The girl hugged the outcropping with both arms.

“You gotta do this, darlin’. Now take a deep breath and pull.” Dot pressed her head against the girl’s back and squeezed even harder. The intense buzz of her wings almost drowned out the girl’s pounding heartbeat. With a grunt that turned into a growl, Brittany began to pull herself up.

Inch by inch, they lifted higher. “That’s it,” she whispered. “That’s my girl.” Dot could feel her trembling. “Almost there.” Brittany’s growl rose into a bloody scream. Pulling herself up to her shoulders, she found a hold closer to the wall.

“That’s it. That’s it,” said Dot. She could feel some of the weight lessen.

Boosted by Dot, Brittany threw her other arm forward and found a crack Dot couldn’t even see. The girl’s chest and stomach scraped across the rocks as she pulled herself over.

Brittany’s waist cleared the edge of the outcropping. She lifted a knee over the edge. “That’s it! Climb on up,” shouted Dot.

“There’s not enough room!”

“There’s room. Just hug the wall. And watch those feet.”

The girl pushed with her leg, supported by Dot, and brought her other foot up. Dot held onto her as she stood. She stepped forward and hugged the face of the cliff with about a foot’s clearance behind her. Crying, she said, “I’m so scared. Please don’t leave me.”

“I’m right here, girl. Don’t you worry.” Slowly, she eased up, keeping one hand pressed against the girl’s back. “Now just stay put.” She let go.

“No, don’t go!” shrieked Brittany.

“It’s ok, it’s ok. I’ll be right back.” Massaging her wing muscles with one hand, Dot zipped over the cliff and scraped together dried leaves and grass into a pile. She felt for wind. Fortunately, the night was still. Scooping up the pile, she flew to the middle of the road and formed a small mound.

She fished into her pockets, her fingers getting stuck on her rings. “Glory!” she said, yanking the rings off. She pulled out her Bic and lit the pile of leaves.

Diving over the cliff, she joined Brittany. “Wh-what are you doing?” asked the girl.

“Welp, no one can see me but you. And no one can hear you if they’re truckin’ along past you, now can they?” She hovered next to the girl and smiled.

Brittany looked at her with glistening eyes. Her makeup was smeared, her hair in wild tufts around her head. She wiped her nose and sniffed. “I-I never asked your name.”

“All my friends call me Dot.”

The girl sniffed again. “Thank you, Dot.” She sobbed. “Thank you so much.”

“Oh, now. It’s what godmothers is for.” Dot put a hand on the girl’s shoulder. Pressing close to the wall, Brittany turned and put out her arms. Dot flew into her hug. The girl shuddered, gripping Dot in a tight embrace.

“I am so, so sorry,” said Brittany through her tears.

“Hush now. Shhh.” Dot patted her on the back.

Above them, a car screeched to a stop, and a face peered over the cliff’s edge. “Ohmigod! Brittany! What are you doing!”

“Claire! You’ve got to help me. Call 911! Please!”

As Brittany stretched her arms across the cliff face again, Dot drifted back and wiggled her fingers in parting. She snatched up her globe, then soared into the sky. Brittany watched her the whole way.


Justin Whitney recently returned to Texas after a 10-year stint in San Francisco, California, where he consorted with fae of all kind. He brought a bit of that magic with him to the small town where he now lives with his black cat. As a mediator between the magical and the mundane, he writes redneck fantasy, in which mystical beings make a home in rural East Texas.

Image: Paper Moon, vintage postcard, public domain.

 Posted by at 4:24 pm

  One Response to “Dry Spell by Justin Whitney”

  1. I remember reading this story at Clarion, laughing out loud and scaring the day-campers on the campus. It’s as touching and funny as the first time I read it. (And I’m proud to be toc-mates with you.)

    - Keyan

     

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