Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of more than a dozen books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Her recent books are American Galactic, Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience, the collaborative book Intimates and Fools with artist Sally Deskins, and the flash novel The Bottle Opener. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, and Feminist Studies. Currently, she teaches English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Dollar Store Fairies
At the dollar store, I buy the coloring book—maybe it can tell me how to find the fairies. I also buy a coffee mug with snowflakes, condolence cards, and crayons, too. As I wait for the bus as the snow falls still, as I ride across the city, as I walk from my stop to front door, as I unlace boots, strip damp clothes, shrug from Midwest winter gear, I think this is what it’s like to be alone. At my desk, I write all of the expected sorrows. I sip instant from my mug. I color, but the crayons are waxy, bruising where I grip. I find a handful of mismatched markers, some bold, a few pastel, many dry, even if I lick the tips. I color the kissing fairy in reds, the kissed fairy in blues. A busty yellow butterfly hugs the air. It takes me two hours to maker in the lines. You might’ve asked me if I did anything else while coloring—sang a little jazz, chanted nonsense to all the forgettable songs, hummed anthems—or what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking, more like meditation as birds flit from feeders to trees. My mantra is always the same.
The fairies are ticked off by Tinkerbelle, how she gave them a bad rap, as if death was based on belief, as if kids had that much power. The fairies are ticked off about the forest, how they’re expected to help the idiots who’ve lost their way—the tweedledums and dumbers, bumbling through the woodland shadows, the ones doped up on Oxy. The others, the ones like us, not even aware of how good the Oxy is, thump the table, lost and unable to pay, just the same. Fairies don’t want to live among dewy flowers in someone’s garden, that space between ferns and hostas, doll furniture and kid trash. They don’t care if the builder teaches yoga, designs toys, or lingers unemployed in perpetuity. The fairies lack dust to make us fly and that ticks them off. They’re ticked by Sleeping Beauty cartoon features, the creation of Disney’s princesses of which they have no part—no doll, no accessories of plastic round hand mirror, no car, no box on the shelves of Walmart. They’re ticked by being presented as helpers, as gifts giver, as fantasies. You would be ticked, they say as I’m pinned up in their tree, sure ticks are leaping into my hair, ticks crawling up my pants leg, ticks sinking their mouth parts into me to suck, to give me the rare, incurable disease. I nod, not angry but ticked, sure I can feel the red bump rising.
The fairies on the feeders don’t have breasts, no triple Ds, no softness to place in torpedoes, no mosquito bites to itch, no melons for demi-cups. I don’t mind. I don’t touch mine. I prefer them touchless, like the carwash down the street with the plastic sign, property available, that one full of shadows, motor oil stains, and cracked cement. When I look in my bathroom mirror, stretching and turning to find my best side, I see only breasts, molded mounds hidden in foam to make my almost A match my mostly AA, so I’m equal, balanced, same woman on the good side, as the bad. You don’t have to wear a bra, you say, and I think of my mother as I button my shirt, I think of yours. I think of all the breasted women and then of all the unbreasted women, some Amazons, most just dead. I leave you to shave. In films, fairies wear leafy tops, matronly shelves to give wishes to blonde girls who will always find the glittering sharp spindle to sleep in the briar—no one ever considers she found the prick on purpose, no longer interested in the movement from girl to woman. We always name her Aurora, always offer a Charming, always summon fairies to grow thorns, to keep her bust manageable, small. At Walmart where you sent me to buy a cat door for our front door so the fairies can come and go on whim, I also search for sleepwear, PJs where women can sleep as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with bright orange belt, mask, and shell, Superman plus satin cape, or Tinkerbelle—big yellow tee-shirt, teeny cartoon fairy body, no nipple hair, no inner upper thigh hair, no chance to be mistaken as hunger.
There are fairies on our nieces’ backpacks for school, fairies on headbands, fairies on pajamas, furry slippers, pink polyester sleeping bags, nightlights that glimmer or turn a fairy galaxy on their white ceiling and walls. Figurine fairies with rubber legs gather in toy boxes. Plastic fairies stand shelves—their mom’s collection of ceramic knickknack fairies painted in 70s hues with big, floppy hats, soft pointed shoes, and mascara. The top of the dresser features fairies from Happy Meals® and cereal boxes of frosted marshmallow flakes, the words, kids love, mothers approve. On their windows, looking out into a suburban backyard of fairy chimes, metallic orbs on pedestals, fairy lights twining trees, and fairy cement guardians, are fairy window clings. The girls hold in their hands game consoles with fairy choices—Ice Fairy Dress UpTM, Fairy Café, Trendy Autumn Fairy. You want to parent these girls, even if their dad still lives. I said on the way over, You can’t adopt them, and you tossed your thumbs into the air. Two of them show you how to play Magic Fairy Factory, Fairy Cooking, and Fairy Makeover. I ask one of them what they wrote to Santa, knowing you thought fairy wands, fairy wings, fairy skirts, a fairyland of fairyism come xmas morning and a personal request for you—their mom’s favorite sibling—to be their fairy queen. We want our Mom back, the youngest said, climbing up into her bunk alone. One sister shushed her. The eldest sister took the toy from your hands. She said, Dad says she’s being a baby, and nods towards her sister. We’re reading a trilogy about amazons, zombies, and fairies. Zombies lack brains, a little like chemo brain, I think, they called it. When I asked you if you wanted to talk on the way home, you gripped the wheel, your mouth hard, like a flute embouchure, though you never made such music. I thought about patting your back, but knew better.