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Fairy Godmother Express

by Tansy Rayner Roberts





Okay, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I like community service and pink glitter nail polish, so fairy godmothering just had to be my ideal profession.  I talked my best friend Candy into joining up with me.  She's a fairy tale addict so she didn't take much convincing.

Lesson one was two big glossy parcels tied with green string, each carried in the mouth of a snow-white wolf.  The animals just padded up to our back door one morning and waited patiently.  We were brave enough to remove the packages from their slavering jaws, throw a few biscuits in the air and lock the screen door securely while they were distracted.  When they finished chomping the biscuits, the wolves went away.

We opened our packages - two beautifully bound copies of Grimm's Fairy Tales.  Very pretty editions, although the house was already full of Grimm, Perrault and the rest of the fairy tale mob.  A note inside the cover of my edition said (Lesson One: Read This.)  The note inside Candy's edition said (Lesson One: You've Already Read This.) Ha ha.  Very funny.

Lesson two appeared in hot pink envelopes, garnished with sugar violets. They appeared on the kitchen table one day, a week after the wolves.  Candy and I opened ours together, eager to get started.
 



 
 
 
Lesson Two

Spit & Polish.


An F.G. has certain obligations as far as appearance is concerned.  She must be physically attractive, with no obvious flaws or deformities, and also present an image that we at F.G. Express like to call sparkly fabulous.

The F.G. must at all times wear:
        a) a dazzling frock, preferably a ball gown.
        b) outrageously cute accessories.
        c) glitter makeup.
        d) a happy, twinkling smile.

Presentation Tips

        1.  The F.G.'s voice should be dulcet and melodious at all times.
        2.  No matter what provocation, the F.G. must never lose her temper.
        3.  If your name seems unsuitable for an F.G, change it.
Lady Artemis Applebottom, esteemed founder of F.G. Express, would not have gotten anywhere with a mundane name like Muriel Smith.  The F.G's name should be fancy, feminine and if possible, amusing.



 

Candy and I had the best fun that week.  We scoured op-shops for glitzy old ballgowns, and stocked up on sequins, bugles and glitter glue.  We found a broken disco mirrorball and glued the bits to all of our shoes.  I bought a second-hand Jackie Onassis pillbox hat and covered it in rhinestones.  Candy dyed her hair pink.  I started curling mine.  While we worked, we discussed our new names.  Candy settled on 'Glamcastle'  as a new last name, since it sounded more fairy godmotherly than 'Johnson'.  I came up with 'Serena Sparkle,' dumping the entirety of my own mundane name with some relief.

 A week later, we looked and felt fabulous.  We got some funny looks whenever we went down to the corner shop in our ballgowns and mirrorball stilettos, but that couldn't be helped.

The third lesson came in long, thin packages, elegantly wrapped in vanilla scented tissue paper.  We squealed as we tore off the paper, revealing our new wands.  Mine was lilac with a silver spiral and a graceful spear of amethyst glued to one end.  Candy's was pink, with a gold spiral and a ball of rose quartz.



 
 
Lesson Three

Romancing the Wand

The wand is the F.G.'s most important prop.  Carry it with you everywhere. Make sure all your handbags are long enough.  Do NOT use the wand carelessly, since great power is contained within.  Do NOT ever point your wand at another wand-carrying fairy godmother.  DO treat your wand kindly, since it will not work for you if it is sulking.

Now try saying these simple spells aloud:
        a) Darling itty bitty cutie ickle wandie, pleeeeeeese make this nice teapot pink for your bestest ever friend! (NOTE: do not use this spell if you already have a pink teapot.)
         b) If I'm reeeeeeally nice to you, sweetest wandie, will you make a lovely-wuvly bunch of flowers appear?
         c) You're such a beautiful wand.  Could you possibly make me float three inches in the air, pretty please with sugar on top?

 It is very important to thank your wand after a spell, even if the spell has not been successful.  Failure to do this may hurt your wand's feelings or, in a worst-case scenario, destroy the universe.

If you have mastered the simple spells before the next lesson, here is a more advanced one with which to practice:
        a) You wonderful wand, you.  If you make me invisible for five minutes, I'll give you a kitten. (NOTE: it is illegal in most countries to make idle  promises to wands.  If this spell works, you must actually provide a kitten.)


We thought the wandwork would be even more fun than the shopping, but it turned out to be plain hard work.  Sometimes we had to grovel on our knees, weeping and pleading for our wands would obey us.  Boy, they were strict.  If our voices weren't dulcet enough, our gestures weren't graceful enough or our outfits weren't sparkly enough, the wands would roll over and play dead.  I tried a spell one morning before I'd taken my curlers out, and my wand rapped me hard across the knuckles.

The graceful thing comes more easily to Candy than me - I always feel like a clumsy elephant around her, she's so dainty - but I improved rapidly that week.  You get inspired to work on your deportment when a bad case of the
slouches might piss off a highly magical object with a very sharp stone on one end of it.

Finally we had an almost-pink teapot, dozens of bunches of magically-produced flowers and the ability to float 3 inches in the air.  We didn't dare risk the invisibility spell, since we didn't have a spare minute to find a kitten.

The fourth lesson arrived as a scroll of parchment, tied with a raspberry-coloured ribbon to the leg of a dove.  I think Candy's dove was prettier than mine.



 
 
Lesson Four

Zen
& the Art of Zapping Things
into Other Things

Now you have fully mastered the preliminary skills of an F.G, you must turn your attention to the most vital skill of all:  transformation. What would an F.G. be without the ability to turn rats into footmen, pumpkins into coaches and extraneous princes into frogs?

The transformation principle is so complex that mere groveling will not affect your wand.  Instead, you must feed your wand a piece of chocolate (the mouth is found at the other end), point the wand at the object of the spell, state in a loud, clear and yet dulcet voice the desired result of the spell, hope for the best and stand well back.

NOTE:  Recent rumours of wand instability are little more than wild speculation, and the statistics revealed in the media are entirely false. Only one in every 50 transformations using F.G. Express wands have gone horribly wrong.  In at least half of these cases, the F.G. survived with all limbs intact.  Such rare incidents of disaster are usually caused by using the wrong kind of chocolate.  Please remember that carob is not chocolate. Any attempt to substitute some kind of 'healthy' alternative may prove fatal.

By next lesson you should have transformed:
        a) an umbrella into a flying goat;
        b) a newspaper into a fabulous frock (preferably with designer label);
        c) a postman into a rampaging warthog (charity collectors and encyclopedia salesmen may also be used).

All transformations will reverse automatically at midnight of the same day (ordinary milk chocolate), within a fortnight (soft centres, Jaffas, marshmallow-filled Santas) or within one hundred years (Belgian cherry truffles only).  Have fun!


I won't discuss how we felt when we discovered that our pretty wands had hungry, slobbering mouths which opened up when you wafted chocolate in their direction.  Ick.  Still, we completed the first assignment easily enough. What they don't tell you is what to do with the flying goat once you have one.  We eventually had to barricade it in the bathroom while we tried to turn newspapers into fabulous frocks.

My first attempt was reminiscent of the gown Audrey Hepburn wore in Sabrina, only  covered in newsprint.  I claimed it looked better that way, but Candy was skeptical.  Cow.  Her first attempt was supposedly a copy of the pink Ralph Lauren thing that Gwyneth Paltrow was falling out of a few Oscars ceremonies ago.  Unfortunately, it came out a strange shade of murk, far from fabulous.

We gritted our teeth, combined our efforts, added a glossy magazine to the mix and managed to turn the two fashion disasters into one mildly fabulous Versace.  It would do.  It wouldn't last long anyway, in the same house as a flying goat (which we had for a fortnight, thanks to Candy using Snack instead of Dairy Milk).  We'd both lost favourite shoes already, and it was currently chewing its way through the remains of our broken mirrorball.

Time to add a rampaging warthog to the mix.  We lay in wait for the postman.  Unfortunately, he whizzed past on his bike so fast that we couldn't zap him.

"Isn't the Red Cross supposed to come around this week?" Candy asked hopefully.

"That was last week."

"Oh."

Eventually we stuck a sign on our door saying, 'Please sell us an encyclopedia.'  It didn't work.  The last day rolled around and no encyclopedia salesmen had appeared.

"Maybe encyclopedia salesmen are extinct," said Candy.  "You know, with CDs and the Internet and everything."

"Bugger,"  I said, thinking she was right.

We would really have been sunk if those two Girl Guides hadn't shown up. Candy and I performed the spell simultaneously and KABLAM!  Instant result. Well, not the result we wanted, but a result all the same.

"What are you doing?"  I screamed.  "Rampaging warthog, it says."

"It said pot plant!" Candy screeched.

We checked.  Sure enough, we had different assignments on the last spell. We stared at the Girl Guides.  They did look pretty, their little warthoggy noses surrounded by shiny green leaves.

"Put them in the cupboard," I suggested.  "No one will know the difference."

We had just closed the cupboard door behind our little transformed disasters when the fifth lesson arrived:  tiny flying postcards.  They both had a picture of Artemis Applebottom on one side (looking like a drag queen
version of an eighty-year-old Marilyn Monroe) and our instructions written on the back in purple and green ink.

Candy, still sulking about the pot plant thing, glanced at the back of her postcard and went off on her Vespa.  I called a taxi, and read my instructions while I waited.
 
 

Lesson Five

Practical Experience



Now is the time for you to go out in the big bad world and show us what a fabulous F.G. you can be.  Remember: improvise, improvise, improvise!  We will contact you later with graduation details.  Please inform us which colour you would like your diploma to be - the choices displayed in your introductory brochure are teal, magenta, lilac and butter yellow.

Personalized instructions for F.G-in-training Serena Sparkle: contact Esmerelda Tatterclothes at 4 Lonely Muse and help her with her problem. Extra points will be awarded for any corrections you can make to your client's dress sense and/or social skills while you're at it.

Make us proud!


It felt like a special day, so I put on my Doris Day wig, my rhinestone pillbox hat and an ex-wedding dress we had spruced up with glitter, silver ribbons and heart ornaments made from aluminum foil.  Also, my mirrorball
stilettos - the ones the goat hadn't eaten - and a fake Hermés handbag.  I was ready to rock.

The taxi let me out at the end of Lonely Muse, and I click-clacked towards No. 4, trying not to get my stiletto heels trapped between the cobblestones.  I went around to the back door and knocked.  No answer, so I just turned the knob and walked in.  I'm pretty sure fairy godmothers are allowed to do that.

A girl sat at the kitchen table, staring miserably into space.  Her t-shirt was ragged and her jeans were too tight.  She was wearing black lipstick.  A hopeless case.

"Hello," I said, concentrating on making my voice dulcet and melodious. "I'm Serena Sparkle, your fairy godmother."

The girl, Esmerelda, stared at me.  She appeared to have coloured in her eyelashes with a black texta, and the colour was starting to run.  "You're a bloke," was all she said.

"That's true," I agreed.  "And I'm here to help you in your darkest hour!"

The girl scowled.  "I asked for a fairy godmother and they sent me a fricking drag queen?"

"It's not my fault," I snapped back.  "They make you wear frocks and stuff. It's compulsory in this job.  It's not like I'm a drag queen by inclination."  I tried not to wither under her unfriendly gaze.  "Okay, maybe I am a drag queen by inclination.  I'm also an almost-trained fairy godmother and I'm the best you've got.  Try me."

Esmerelda sighed.  "There's this prince," she muttered.

"No problem!" I said gleefully, glad that I had bothered to slog through the collected works of the Brothers Grimm.  "You shall go to the ball, Esmerelda!  I need six rats, a pumpkin and a copy of Cosmo."

"Don't be stupid," sneered Esmerelda.  "I don't want to marry the prince and I don't want to go to any fricking ball.  I've just started a post-post-feminist rock  lesbian grunge band, and I can't afford to have some stupid royal boyfriend screwing up my image.  Plus if my mum finds out I've got a prince after me she'll make me marry the stupid rich bastard."

"Right," I said hesitantly.  "Shall I turn him into a frog, then?"

"Okay," said Esmerelda, cheering up.  "He's coming over in an hour to plight his troth, whatever the fuck that means.  If you frog him then, I can have the Ugly Sisters over later to rehearse."

"No problem," I said, sounding a hell of a lot more confident than I felt. "Got any chocolate?"

We lay in wait for the prince.  Well, Esmerelda was lying on the couch reading a copy of Post Punk Rock Chick Monthly, but I was lying in wait.  My palms were sweaty, my silver nail polish was starting to peel and I had a handbag full of melting Tim Tams.

"Serena?" said Esmerelda from the couch.  "What's your real name?  From before you were a fairy godmother?"

"Bruce," I told her.

She sniffed, unimpressed.  "I prefer Serena."

"Yeah, me too."

The door swung open, and I stuffed a Tim Tam into my wand's voracious mouth.  I readied myself to frog the prince.

It wasn't a prince.  A badly dressed post-punk rocker chick stood in the doorway.  She had dreadlocked hair, lace stockings and a metal rod injected into her forehead.  "Babe!" she exclaimed.  "Guess what?  I got my fairy godmother to turn me into a lesbian bass guitarist so you'd love me."

Esmerelda looked horrified.  "Rupert, you stupid prick.  We've already got a bass guitarist.  We needed someone on keyboards."

"Not a problem, my dearies," said Rupert's dainty fairy godmother, smirking in the doorway.

"Candy!"  I exclaimed.

"Bruce!" she said, mimicking my surprise.  "I know it's hard, sweetie, but try and keep your voice dulcet and soft, like a good F.G."

"Bitch," I growled, and pointed my wand at her.

"Don't you call me a bitch, you - you bloody drag queen!" she screamed, forgetting momentarily to make her voice dulcet and soft.

I narrowed my eyes and fed another Tim Tam to my wand.  I yelled, "1950's tupperware collection!" just as Candy screamed, "Orange vinyl coffee table!"

The world exploded.  Everything went sparkly for a moment and then everything went black.



 
 
 
Dear Ms. Serena Sparkle (a.k.a Bruce Barker)

It becomes necessary to remind you of certain irregularities during your F.G. practical assessment.
        1) wands should never be pointed at other F.Gs, even under extreme provocation;
        2) the F.G. should never raise her voice in the presence of wands.  They are easily traumatized;
        3) in the future, please double-check the labels of all chocolate products before feeding them to your wand.

Due to your present circumstances, you may think this reminder a little pointless, but I'm sure you will appreciate it when you and Ms. Candy Glamcastle return to your natural bodies.

Since the chocolate you most recently fed your wand originated from the newly released Belgian cherry truffle Tim Tam range, your predicament will last for approximately one century, but hopefully this letter (and enclosed
diploma, in butter yellow) will have been kept for you in the meantime.

You may consider yourself lucky that your wand (and Ms. Glamcastle's) corrected your respective spells to fall within more tasteful parameters, and you will not be spending the next hundred years as an orange vinyl coffee table, but as a 19th century silk lined hat-box.  Likewise, Ms. Glamcastle will not spend the next hundred years as a 1950's tupperware collection, but as a glow-in-the-dark lava lamp (they're back in, you know).  We hope this offers you both some comfort.

We at F.G. Express are certain that we will still be in business when you awake, so please feel free to apply for any of our postgraduate courses.  We value your custom.

Hugs and kisses, sincerely yours,
Lady Artemis Applebottom
Fairy Godmother Supreme.

PS:  Also enclosed is a bill for a hundred years of care and maintenance for your wand.  Please arrange payment before picking up your wand at the Loving Home for the Rest and Recuperation of Traumatized Magical Items.
 


 

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