Rosemary and Gyp
Historically, the variety of jobs available to a city fairy has never been very numerous. Yet, of these, few are very hard or unpleasant. Out of these few, young Rosemary’s occupation had the unfortunate distinction of being one the most unpleasant that existed.
Rosemary the fairy was, by title, a beautician, but her clients were not other female gnomes or fairies such as herself. For the most part, they were vermin, generally one more vile than the next. Only that morning she had visited two cockroaches who wanted their wings polished and their antennae straightened, an ill-humored pigeon who wanted its gray feathers dyed black, and a mangy rat with a flea problem —an unnerving costumer at best.
Rosemary particularly detested rats, given that her father had been eaten by one. That the rat was soon afterward eaten by a rather large cat was cold comfort, since the same cat then proceeded to devour Rosemary’s mother, leaving her an orphan at the tender age of eleven. But times were hard, she told herself, and she could not afford to be picky about her clientele, not with little Gyp to take care of.
It was late fall, and a damp chill permeated the unused sewer pipe that served as Rosemary’s home, becoming harder to bear with every passing morning. That night the cold seemed worse than ever, and as Rosemary approached her modest abode coming home from her rounds, her long brush over her shoulder, she knew that it would not be much better inside. But still her heart grew warm when into view came a bright little face poking out from behind the leaning board that helped keep the wind out.
“Rosemary, Rosemary, you’re home!”
With these words, the little moth-imp Gyp flittered outside and up to Rosemary with a whirr of his white-spotted gray wings, wrapping his arms around her neck with such zeal that the fairy was forced to stoop down, dropping the heavy, human-sized toothbrush she used for her trade in the process.
“Easy, Gyp! You’ll break my neck,” she chided him. But she laughed, and put her arms around him in turn, cradling him lovingly, as one would a baby. Rosemary was not yet sixteen, but Gyp was much younger, barely five years old, and small for his age.
“I’m so glad you’re back!” he said, his voice stifled by having his face buried on her shoulder, “Rosemary, I am so hungry.”
Rosemary felt her heart sink, but she kept her voice merry as she put him down and answered, “Let’s go inside, and I will give you something to eat.”
She picked up her fallen toothbrush and went inside the sewer pipe after Gyp, who turned a few joyful somersaults in the air, so happy he was.
“What did you bring me, Rosemary, what?”
The fairy placed her little knapsack on the wooden spool that served as their table and only piece of furniture; this not counting a tallow candle that, half-melted, reached up to Rosemary’s shoulder and gave a little warm glow to the grim, cold room. From inside of her knapsack she took out a half-spoiled strawberry, a peanut still in the shell, and a small piece of bread.
“Eat up,” she said, “I’ve already had dinner.”
This was not true, but while the whole of these scraps would have made a somewhat decent meal for herself, they would not do much for Gyp’s voracious appetite.
The latter inspected his spare victuals with a grim face; then, understanding his loving caregiver’s sacrifice, proceeded to devour the peanut, the bread and the berry with a broad smile on his face, not even leaving the spoiled bits behind.
“Oh, Gyp!” moaned Rosemary presently. She was holding up the woolen sock that they used for a sleeping-sack, “Not again!”
Gyp looked up as he swallowed his last bite of bread, and upon having the proof of his misbehavior presented to him, promptly hung his head. The sock was full of patches —and holes.
“It was only a little bit, Rosemary,” said he, with sincere contrition, “I only took a bite. I was so hungry.”
“Now Gyp, don’t lie to me. This was more than one bite. There was only one hole on it this morning, and look, there’s six or seven now, and oh! I can put my hand right through this one! I fear we will be very cold tonight.”
Gyp began to sniffle miserably. He loved Rosemary more than anything in the world, for, indeed, he had nothing and no one else in the world save for this young fairy who’d picked him up on the street when he was so little he could no longer remember it. Nothing upset him more than causing her any grief or trouble, and Rosemary felt the same way in turn.
“Oh dear, I’m sorry,” she said, embracing him, “We’ll fix it in the morning. I’ll hold you so you won’t be cold, but please don’t cry, Gyp, there’s a good boy. Don’t cry.”
This was not the only reason that Rosemary always kept a tight hold on Gyp throughout the night. The appetite of a moth-imp is something to behold, and Gyp did not eat nearly enough as he needed as it was. Rosemary’s wings were made of natural fairy silk, which was very sweet and fairly irresistible to little Gyp, and so it often happened that he chewed on them in the middle of the night, not unlike a young puppy who seeks his mother’s breast in his sleep. As a result, Rosemary’s wings often sported almost as many patches as the woolen sock that served as their bed.
This did not cause the fairy any physical pain, or even rouse her (though she often wished that it might) but she could not fly as a consequence. Being naturally unable to sew on something that grew out of her back, there was no choice but for the patches to be crudely sewn into place by Gyp, whose little fingers were not yet quite adept with a needle. And, alas, before the holes could fill out on their own, he would chew new ones.
Thus was Rosemary forced to walk to her appointments on the grimy city streets, and as a result, she regularly came home covered in dust. This, coupled with the appearance of patchy wings, was the reason Rosemary’s clientele consisted mostly of vermin —or imps when she was lucky— rather than the gnomes and fairies that dwelled in the city’s more affluent residences. To most of them, she was a pariah.
Having consoled Gyp, Rosemary undressed him, scrubbed him clean and put him to bed. Then she took off her own garments, which consisted of carefully cut scraps of newspaper sewn together to form a makeshift dress and hat, and placed them on the spool-table, taking care not to crease them.
As she slid inside the sock beside Gyp, the hungry, tired fairy wrapped her arms tight around the sleeping moth-child, holding him close to her bosom. She shut her eyes and tried not to think too hard about flea-infested rats or roaches with dull wings, or about the bleak prospect of spending winter inside that cold pipe, with so little to eat.
Having long learned to ignore her sore feet and back after a hard, long day’s work, as well the clamor of her stomach when the choice came down to feeding Gyp or herself, Rosemary began to doze off despite the cold. But when she heard Gyp’s own belly growl feebly even as the little moth-imp slept, she was worried awake, and it was a long time before she could sleep again.
END CHAPTER ONE
Copyright 2012 by Marina Neira.