The Bad Fairy by Lita Kurth

The bad fairy keeps showing up with stinking teeth and scornful glare. We turn in our soft pastel dresses, back to our teacups.

She stands there in her dirty dress, open to the thigh, wrecking the atmosphere, and we? Suddenly we feel silly and inadequate.

We had cut the roses at dawn, each fragrant fist of pink carried carefully to vases cleaned with vinegar. Where was she then? Sprawled in a ditch? In the backseat of some heap?

Her dirty fingers grab our warm biscuits. All our work for nothing. Her sarcastic laugh turns hopeful watercolors stupid, creations we made over days, vexed but faithful, keeping the edges from bleeding, dabbing messes, or restarting from scratch on stiff blank paper.

Here she is, the one who never looks over the valley, never considers mosses and lichens, green and varied on the trunks and arms of hillside trees, never waits in silence for a deer, too busy telling dirty jokes, looking around for liquor.

The easiest thing is to ignore her, pretend she isn't there, hope she'll go away and won't up-end the table we so carefully prepared.

The hardest is to look her in the eye. And what to say? I wish you'd go away? (Wish you didn't exist.) And if I asked her "What do you want?" not hostilely, what would she say? ‘I want to sit like you at a table and wear pastel’? ‘I want to wreck you and all you stand for’? Is armistice possible? Or will we be picking up broken dishes and ripped napkins, finding another hidden spot to make beautiful as long as we can, thankful she didn't take us by the hair and grind our faces in the ground? Or do we find others like ourselves and build a delicate chain of help?

"Would you like some tea?" I could ask.

"Yeah but I don't need your permission." She tastes. "This sucks," and pours it on the ground.

Maybe forgiveness is in our future. Or maybe we'll sharpen sticks and practice with cudgels, neglect our biscuits, give up making butter and buy it from the store, fashion cowhide armor, leather caps, ugly stiff protection. Maybe our tea parties will be marred by talk of when she’ll come and what she'll wreck and how this can't go on—unless… someone among us, extreme and over the top, packs a basket and seeks her out in her garbage cave…

Someday the bad fairy will age, and we'll hold milky tea to her lips as she raves barely able to flail, her arms thin on the blanket, no longer weapons. And what will she give us? Whispered curses, strands of hair turned white, the miracle of her fight.

I have seen her child mixing mud by the river, putting a teacup back together.


Lita Kurth, MFA (Rainier Writers Workshop) has published in three genres, fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. “Are We Not Ladies,” was nominated by Watershed Review for Best of the Net 2017 and “Fish Genesis” was nominated by Rabid Oak for Best of the Net 2019. “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” (CNF) won the 2014 Diana Woods Memorial Award (Lunchticket). Her creative nonfiction “Pivot,” and short story, "Gardener's Delight" (Dragonfly Press DNA) were nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She is co-founder of San Jose’s literary reading series, Flash Fiction Forum. A sampling of publications: The Millions, Atticus Review, Brain,Child, Main Street Rag, Microfiction Monday, Concis, Rappahannock Review.

Author's note

Originally, I was thinking of the bad fairy who ruined Sleeping Beauty's party. I wanted readers at first to dismiss the teaparty gals as stuffy and shallow. Then, I wanted to turn the reader’s sympathy gradually to the very real dilemma of coping with someone disruptive, sneering, and destructive (but often charismatic too). I saw two choices: to fight and perhaps become more like her, to lose gentleness; or to approach her with kindness and try for peaceful co-existence. Sometimes that’s not possible, but I wanted to leave hope that the next generation might take up reparation.