“When you wish upon a star, it’s actually a satellite. Your wish has been recorded and an agent assigned to your case.”
She’d just passed the written test. She knew the rules. When it came to wish granting, they gave the toughest one of the day to the rookies. To see what they could do.
It was all part and parcel of being a F.A.I.R.Y. Facilitating All Invocations, Responding Yesterday.
It was a tough job, granting the wishes of children in a world with over seven billion people. It required enormous fortitude, wings and guts of steel, and a heart seven times too large.
She, like all the other rookies, waited in line to be presented the Pointy Hat. Each in turn would pick out a simple scroll and that would be their assignment.
Too soon, her turn came. Her hand trembled as she flicked around the scrolls with her fingers. Her heart hammered in her chest as she pulled it out.
And then fell into the heart of a star as she read the words:
I wish my Daddy would come back.
Wishes like that could ruin a F.A.I.R.Y. They shouted of broken homes. Of fights in the night. Of death and destruction.
There were two things any F.A.I.R.Y could do - follow the letter of the wish, or follow its spirit.
She waited for dismissal and made a beeline for the research station. The simple-looking scroll was coded with all sorts of metadata. The wisher, their location, a slice of history… all viewable on the crystal ball.
She watched every last minute. The child’s father had not run off. He’d been in an accident. He’d died. And no F.A.I.R.Y had the power to bring back the dead.
And now that she looked, that father hadn’t been much of a Daddy. He was rough and violent and had never learned better ways to vent his frustrations. He left his family helpless, because he had to be the ultimate power in the home.
Mama was lost. She had no idea how to pay the bills, and currently no access to the household funds. She was selling belongings just to get by. Making do with sausage-meat, beans and rice.
They didn’t need Daddy back. They needed a better Daddy.
And it was her job to find one.
He was lost. The GPS had lead him on a series of wrong turns and now was no longer talking to him. Well, there was a garage sale, here, so that meant someone was amenable to strangers coming by.
Then he saw what was in the garage sale.
This was a collection of things on the far side of desperation. The scattered belongings of a man; belongings that nobody wanted for the asking price. The clothes that didn’t fit any more. The toys out-grown. The tupperware un-used.
The silent auction of a prized possession.
This was a garage sale desperate for money. Too many signs with prices also had ‘make an offer’. The lady of the house had that air of desperation that spoke of falling slowly into ruin and trying so very hard not to.
And there came the solemn child carrying out their toys.
He introduced himself. Told her about the fritzing GPS. Cancelled his plans. Asked her about her story. Found out about a man of many subtle cruelties. Offered to help out.
The first thing he helped with was the finances. Showing her where she could get help and assisting with the filling out of forms. Told her where she could sell all of her former husband’s man-things at a better price. Helped her haul them there.
And what slowly emerged behind the cautious veil of fear and tears was a wonderful woman. It never occurred to him to control her. She was much better as a free agent. And so was the kid.
And, as a free agent… she asked him to stay.
Of course he said yes.
“It took you three years,” said the chief. “On one wish.”
“Most of that was convincing a fellow to do the right things.”
“Didn’t need much pushing, sir. Just a series of excuses to hang around.”
“And you didn’t grant the wish as stated…”
She dared glare him in the eye. “How could I have done so, sir? It states in our charter that we aim to make lives better.”
There was a ghost of a smile on the chief’s face. “Exactly so. Welcome to the force, Rookie.”