by Gordon Cash
At the Boys’ Day School, they called themselves the Gang of Ten and oozed bravado. Like all bullies, they were cowards, so they taunted and harassed only the weakest they could find.
Brian was a particular favorite. They called him the fairy. Whether Brian actually fancied other boys, the Ten neither knew nor cared. They found him an unresisting target.
Out in the evening and up to nothing good, the Ten crossed paths with Brian, running an errand. With, “Hey, look, it’s the fairy!” the chase was on.
Down the side streets and alleys he knew well, he nearly lost them, but they were ten and had split up. In an empty square with a decrepit but functioning fountain, he stopped and took stock. First, they were nowhere, then everywhere. Determined at least to make things difficult for them, he headed for the fountain, waded in, and crouched behind the statue at its center. Cries of “Fairy! Fairy!” followed him.
As the gang closed in, a column of water the size and shape of a human adult rose from the fountain. In a voice like the burbling water, but amplified, it said, “You called for a fairy. I am here. What do you want?”
A frozen minute later, they scattered home, those who had wet themselves to change, all to cower in their sleepless rooms. Brian had heard but was too close behind the statue to have seen. He peered out just as the column collapsed. Satisfied that his tormenters were gone, he made his own, cautious way home.
School became less stressful for Brian, as the Ten stayed far away. None was in his advanced English course, so none saw him smile as his classmates read from King Henry IV, Part 1:
Glendower. I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur. Why so can I, or so can any man;
but will they come when you do call for them?
— end —
Gordon Cash is a lifelong professional scientist. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with his wife and their six cats.