Photo courtesy of Mihael Simonič, Wikimedia Commons
Inside the flower, a light burned, like a miniature sun captured in the heart of spring. It was the first flower in Patrick’s yard. He’d been watching all the green shoots since they first pushed their heads up through the grey dirt. Impatient as any eight year old should be, he tried to help one of them along. The fallen crocus lay off to the side, unfolded, its limp baby petals fading to brown.
So he learned to leave them alone. And this one opened — all by itself. It opened, and inside, this light. He ran to get his mom, but she said it was just the sun reflecting. “It’s the sun captured in the heart of spring.” She was always saying stuff like that. Metaphors. That’s what she called them.
But Patrick knew it was something more than a metaphor.
“Hello?” He said to the flower. The light and the petals shook. Patrick lowered his voice. “What’s the light for?”
It made a sound! Patrick didn’t want to touch the flower. Not after what happened last time. But he figured maybe if he used a twig, it wouldn’t be so bad. So he got one, and carefully pressed on one purple petal.
The light flicked out and something scampered deeper into the yellow middle.
It’s just a bug, Patrick thought. But in his vast experience of bugs — as an eight year old boy he knew an awful lot — none of them had ever said “bzzzeep.” Bzzz was common, and so was eeep, but never together.
He pushed the petal farther down, careful not to let it snap off. But the flower was strong, and soon the bug had nowhere to hide.
Patrick stared and stared. This was no bug. He saw little green legs, only two, and tiny green arms. He saw fluttering lights near its head and flashes of see-through wings.
“Are you a fairy?” He asked, careful to speak quietly.
“zeep! zeep! zay!” It waved its arms, the lights above its head flashing on and off, on and off.
It was terrified.
“I won’t hurt you,” Patrick said. Then he remembered his bug catcher. He could go get it, and he’d be the only kid in the world with a real live captured fairy!
But he didn’t dare abandon his post.
“Mom?” He said. Then a little louder. “Mom?”
The poor bug-fairy quivered inside its flower.
“bizzzz ZEEP!” it protested. He let the petal lift up, hiding it away.
“What is it, Patrick?” Mom came over from the garden, hands coated in dirt.
“Get my bug catcher? Please? I don’t want it to get away.”
With Mom safely off on her mission, Patrick pushed the petal down again. The fairy was all curled up now–her wings folded over her face and the lights burning a dull red. He could almost see her green arms and legs quivering.
What do fairies eat? He wondered. Sugar water, like hummingbirds? Or nuts and berries? Maybe they eat bugs?
Mom came back with the plastic contraption. “What’ve you got there?” she asked.
“I dunno,” Patrick said honestly. “I have to look it up!”
“Insects are the little, underappreciated janitors of the world. Without them, we’d drown in our own garbage. Did you know that?”
Patrick nodded, hoping she’d go away. Thankfully, she did.
He dropped the plastic container over the whole crocus. “Got you!” He said, louder than he’d meant to.
He couldn’t see inside the flower any more, but the reddish light flickered through brown and orange. The fairy was in there.
But in order to close the trap, he’d have to break the flower. The first flower of spring. The flower the fairy chose to live inside.
Then he lifted the plastic trap and backed away. “It’s okay,” he told the flower and the creature inside. “I think you’ll be happier on your own. But I’ll make you some sugar water, just in case. I think you’ll like it!”
“Did you catch it?” Mom asked when he passed the garden.
“No. It got away,” he said, and went into the kitchen to get the sugar.