April 18, 2015
When I was growing up, The Sound of Music (the movie version) molded my vision of motherhood. I just knew that making clothes out of curtains, dancing across the countryside, singing our way through thunder storms and displaying extraordinarily good manners at all times would be the way it went down if I were ever lucky enough to become a mom. Since I lost my mother at an early age, I had no other metric for being a mom.
The first five years, give or take, for each of my children was sprinkled with considerable fairy dust and just as, if not more, picturesque than a Hollywood musical set against the backdrop of Salzburg, Austria.
After that, I don’t know what happened. Life got complicated. Suddenly, there I was, wanting to be like Julie Andrews but the music had changed. The matching outfits no longer looked cute. No one wanted to sing the same songs. Manners were, you know, okay. And when the frequent Southern thunderstorms came rolling in, I thought we would have to use an elephant tranquilizer on my youngest child because no amount of singing was going to convince her to crawl out of the utility closet and join us on the screen porch.
Naturally, I love my children the way they are now. I value our ever-evolving relationships as they get all growed up. But I have to admit to getting a little misty over the days when my childhood fantasy of family life more closely matched the reality of what I had with my own children. I mean, sure, I couldn’t actually play the guitar and I was sort of, well, far from a nun.
But still. Those were sweet times.
Now, life has changed and my kids live much too far away. And, when they do visit, normally pleasant things, like Lives Oaks, will attack us in our sleep. It isn’t what I expected. But I will do my best to practice the art of acceptance and embrace my life as it is.
(Nighttime, Phoebe’s house, the girls’ room)
Pearl puts something in her suitcase and finds the statue, which she’s forgotten to give Phoebe.
She takes statue and carries it down the hall to Phoebe’s room.
(30 feet behind Phoebe’s house, in the crook of a large tree)
Thor is sitting and looking at the back of Phoebe’s house. Her bedroom is visible. Phoebe is sitting in bed reading when Pearl carries in the jade statue. The statue has an envelope tied to it with string. Phoebe says something to Pearl. Pearl responds and Phoebe pulls a note out of the envelope and seems to be reading it. Thor watches.
(About 20 feet behind Thor, on a small branch)
The fairies Gus, Balthasar and Clementine (who are about two inches tall), sit and watch Thor watch Phoebe.
Gus: I knew an Extremist would find her. But I didn’t think it would be so soon. Remind me again, guys, why the Exam has not begun. This Large One, Phoebe, is completely unprepared.
Balthasar: Well, first of all, you told us to watch her and takes notes. Nothing else, you said.
Clementine: Then there were the werewolves and him, Julian. Plus…she really could do something different with her hair.
Gus: We are not discussing hair at the moment. But, thank you for your input, Clementine.
Balthasar: She always seems to be surrounded, Sir.
The fairies continue to watch Thor watch Phoebe. Gus looks through his binoculars and sees the jade statue up close.
Gus: Wait a minute.
Balthasar: What is it, Sir?
Clementine grabs the binoculars from Gus and looks toward window.
Clementine: Ooo! I know! That’s a Guanyin.
Balthasar: A what?
Gus takes the binoculars back and looks.
Gus: Are you sure?
Clementine: Of course I am! Why wouldn’t I be?
Gus and Balthasar look at Clementine like they want to comment.
Balthasar: What does it all mean?
Gus: It means we’ve missed our shot at preparation and now need 90% perspiration. Wait a minute…did I say that right?
Gus looks like he’s thinking.
Clementine: I think you mean, “Success is 10% preparation and…”
Balthasar: Oh, oh! I know. “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
Gus looks at Balthasar, who shrugs.
Clementine (ticking off her fingers and murmuring): Let’s see…Success is…pure chance, no…fortune favors the sweaty 10%? No, that’s not it…
Gus: Never mind! The point is we must act now.
Gus raises his wand and a light shoots from his wand to the house. The bolt of light shoots past Thor, who nearly falls out of his tree. After regaining his balance, Thor looks behind him and narrows his eyes. A strong wind seems to impact only the backyard and there is a rumble of thunder. Leaves fly everywhere.
(Meanwhile, inside Phoebe’s room…)
Phoebe: What’s this, Pearly Pearl?
Pearl: I’m sorry, Mommy, I forgot.
Pearl hands Phoebe the statue, which has an envelope tied to it. Pearl startles at the thunder and looks nervously at the window, where she sees the flash of light.
Phoebe (whose tree pendant glows blue at the flash of light): Ouch! I think my necklace just shocked me! Forgot what? Where did you get this? It’s beautiful. Heavy! But beautiful.
Phoebe cradles the statue in one arm and rubs her chest where she got shocked.
Pearl (still glancing at window while she talks): Well, Uncle Claudius told me to give you this for safe keeping.
Phoebe: When did you see your Uncle?
Pearl: At the BP station on the way down here.
Phoebe: The BP station? How strange!
Phoebe opens the envelope and pulls out the note.
Phoebe: But, I suppose that’s Uncle Claudius for you. Let’s see, it says, “Dear Phoebe, I hope this letter finds you well…” You know this is how he begins every email, text or letter he has ever sent to me. “This Guanyin statue is, quite literally, priceless and extremely rare…”
Phoebe takes a moment to gingerly place statue on the pillow next to her. Pearl tucks the statue in with the sheet and blanket.
Phoebe: “Please keep it from harm and I will arrange for it to be picked up as soon as I can.”
Phoebe (peers at statue): Huh. A Guanyin. Not sure I’ve heard of that before. But, then again, it sounds familiar.
Pearl: Is that it? That’s all he said?
Phoebe (looks at note again): He was never a Chatty Cathy, that’s for sure.
Pearl (smoothing the blanket over the statue): I like her.
Outside the wind has begun to howl and the thunder sounds very close. Something bangs against the window and Phoebe and Pearl follow the sound with their eyes. This is when Briggs and Chelsea run into the room.
Briggs: We were just checking on you and Pearl.
Phoebe: I see. Well, thank…
A tree branch breaks through the glass window, sending shards of glass onto the floor. The branch shoots across the room, wraps itself around the bed frame and pulls the bed, with Phoebe and Pearl on it, toward the window.
Pearl: What’s happening?
Briggs tries to wrestle the branch free but the branch whips around like an angry snake. Chelsea dives for Pearl’s arm, pulling her onto the floor, while Phoebe, still on the bed, sails across the room.
Phoebe: Briggs! Let go! Briggs!
But Briggs has hopped on top of the branch and rides it like a rodeo cowboy.
Another branch shoots in through the window and grabs Phoebe by the waist.
Phoebe: Briggs! Let go! Let go! Chelsea! Pearl…
Phoebe grips the window frame.
Phoebe: Get the wand!
Chelsea: The what?
The tree thrashes and creaks outside the window. The wind reaches a deafening pitch and fills the room.
Phoebe (clearly being squeezed too tight): Wand! Drawer!
Briggs (who is thrown from the branch to land next to his sisters): The what? Mom!
Phoebe disappears out the window.
Pearl runs to the dresser and pulls out the top drawer. She throw socks and underwear over her shoulders as she searches. Phoebe can be heard screaming and Pearl begins to cry. She slams the top drawer and opens the middle one.
Briggs and Chelsea run to window.
Pearl pulls sweaters out of drawer. She sees the wand hiding at the bottom.
Pearl: Briggs! Here!
Briggs turns and catches the wand. He stares at it.
Briggs: What’s this?
Pearl: Give it to Mom! Hurry!
Confused, Briggs looks out the window at the thrashing tree. Leaves swirl at high velocity in the shape of a funnel cloud.
Briggs and Chelsea: Mom! Where are you?
The leaves, which seem more like soggy missiles, seem to turn into bats. The children cover their heads and duck while still trying to peer out window for a sign of Phoebe.
Dimly, Phoebe’s voice can be heard.
Phoebe: Here! I’m here!
Suddenly a glimpse of Phoebe and her outstretched hand. Briggs looks at wand, still confused, but aims it toward his mom. Phoebe grabs it and disappears inside the angry commotion of leaves, branches, rain, hail and bats. Phoebe’s shrieks can be heard.
The children: Mom!
A blue flash erupts from inside the swirl of branches. Another blue flash. Then, from somewhere on their right, a large flash of red lightning zaps the outermost branches. The swirling, lashing branches freeze in mid-air. The wind, the bats, everything stops abruptly.
The children: Mom! Where are you?
All three children scramble onto roof and climb into the tangle of branches. They continue to call for their mother. They snap branches and twigs to work their way toward the middle.
Chelsea: Wait! I think I see something!
Sure enough, Phoebe is hanging upside down by the ankle, which is still in the clutch of a thick branch. She’s holding her wand but also trying to free herself.
Phoebe: Over here! I’m okay. Just…(pulls at branch on her ankle) need to…(hits branch with her wand, causing a flash of blue) get…
There is a cracking sound and the branch holding her breaks. Phoebe drops out of sight.
Another flash of red lightning zooms toward the tree, in the direction that Phoebe went. The kids call out to her and look down into a deep hole of tangled tree parts.
Phoebe (from down below): What a handy pile of leaves! I think I’m okay.
(Meanwhile, the fairies watch from their perch…)
Gus looks through binoculars.
Clementine: Did she pass the first test?
Gus: I’m not sure. This has never happened before. The Extremist helped her.
The fairies watch as Thor jumps to the ground, scowls in their direction and runs away.
Clementine: Now what?
(Much later, back inside Phoebe’s house, the family room area…)
Lit by a nightlight, Phoebe and Pearl, who is clutching the Guanyin to her like a doll, sleep on the pullout sofa. Chelsea and Briggs are spread out on floor in sleeping bags. Everyone is out cold, including Briggs who has his hand on a baseball bat. Phoebe is sleeping on her stomach and her arm drops off side of pullout so that her fingertips rest on her wand. At the end of the hall, the door to Phoebe’s room has been cordoned off by duct tape.
(The next day, late afternoon, Phoebe’s house)
Phoebe kneels on floor next to window and sweeps up glass. The Guanyin stands atop a chest of drawers. Maude and Irving appear.
Maude: Hello, darling! How did the visit with the children go?
Phoebe (only slightly startled): Hello.
Phoebe dumps the dustpan of glass into small wastebasket.
Irving: Uh, oh. A little sad to see them go?
Phoebe shrugs, picks up stray twigs and tosses them out opening where window used to be.
Maude: Of course you are! Who wouldn’t be?
Irving: Hey! Maybe this news will cheer you up! Word has is you passed the first test on The Exam.
Phoebe stops picking up twigs.
Maude frowns at Irving.
Irving (to Maude): What? Were we saving it as a surprise?
Maude (to Phoebe): That sure was quick thinking, Phoebe. Quick thinking. Having Briggs throw the wand like that. We were proud of you and the children!
Phoebe (stands and dusts off): If you were there watching, why didn’t you help? I almost got squeezed and thrashed to death and, worse, my children were in danger! My guardian angels need an upgrade!
Phoebe walks out of room and Maude and Irving follow.
Phoebe fills kettle and boils water.
Maude: Good! I could use a little tea.
Phoebe looks at Maude, sighs, then adds more water to kettle.
Irving: I think she’s upset.
Maude (to Irving): A busy weekend. Not much sleep last night.
Phoebe: You ARE aware I can hear you, yes? What exam?
Irving (to Maude): I thought we told her about that.
Maude (to Phoebe): Like Irving said, you passed the first test.
Phoebe: Is it an exam or a test? Who’s the teacher? I want to break his arms.
Irving (flinches): Don’t talk like that, Phoebe! An enraged fairy can go dark just like that. (he snaps his fingers) None of us wants that.
Phoebe: I might want that. Don’t assume. You know, I never thought I’d want to fight a tree. I like trees. Of course, I’ve never been attacked by a tree either.
Maude: That’s just it, Phoebe. You didn’t attack the tree. You allowed it to take you and you tried to save your kids. You only used your wand, which, if the fairy is still in the light, can only do good things. Plus, fairies exist to protect nature, even the worst of nature. It would be almost impossible for you to hurt anything of the natural world. What you can do is manipulate the forces of nature. You know, harness them. You only broke one branch, and that branch had been manipulated to go after you.
Phoebe: Cooper! You’re a life saver!
Cooper (wearing a tool belt and carrying several sheets of glass): I got here as soon as I could. What happened here?
Phoebe: Just a tree attack. No big deal.
Cooper (glances toward Maude and Irving): Somehow I have the feeling there’s more to the story.
Phoebe: Smart man.
Cooper: See? A woman of keen insight.
Maude (to Irving): At least she’s smiling again.
Irving: Yeah, I like to see her smile. Should we go?
Maude: No. We need to tell her the full story about the Exam now that it has begun.
Phoebe: Guys! I’m still here! But I’m glad you’re sticking around to explain.
Cooper (begins to work on window): Really. Even I can hear you and I’m way over here. What kind of exam is it? Some kind of fairy thing?
Irving (to Phoebe): He really is a keeper, this one. Sharp as a tack.
Phoebe: Are you serious? Is there really a test for being a fairy? I haven’t even been to class yet. I barely believe I AM a fairy. Once again, point me to the teacher because I have some constructive feedback of the not so constructive kind.
Maude: Fairies must deal with the unpredictable forces of nature.
Irving: The test is designed to be unpredictable and…difficult in the extreme. Some don’t make it.
Maude (gives Irving a severe look): Most do, though. Not to worry. See how well you did on the first test?
Phoebe: Just how many of these tests are there?
Irving: Let’s see…I remember one exam had upwards of 30 tests. Another, couldn’t have been more than 23.
Phoebe: Twenty-three? I was thinking more along the lines of three. You know, the magic number. It’s not that I want even one test, certainly not two, for that matter. But three? Well, at least I can wrap my mind around that number.
Maude: What Irving means to say, dear, is that one never knows. It could just as easily be three. Or…it could be 100. It’s up to the faction.
Phoebe: A faction of fairies? I would have thought it would be a fluttering of fairies.
Cooper: Or a flowering of fairies. Possibly an infestation. Or a festival, perhaps.
Phoebe: A faction sounds so, so…political.
Irving: Exactly. Fairies, like all non-human beings are highly political and often deeply divided. It’s best not to bring up politics if they invite you for dinner.
Phoebe: Who invites me for dinner? I haven’t met any fairies.
Maude: The ones who vowed to train you are smaller than you are. The Bromeliads. And they are, in truth, trying to help you.
Cooper: How small?
They all look at Cooper.
Cooper: Just curious.
Irving: What would you say, Maude? Two inches, maybe?
Maude: About that.
Phoebe: Get out of here! Are there really tiny little fairy people? How cute!
Irving: I don’t know if cute is the word you are looking for.
Cooper: Bromeliads. Aren’t those pineapples?
Maude: They are a powerful faction, Phoebe. You are lucky they chose you.
Phoebe: I find it hard to imagine a bunch of cricket-sized fairies being powerful.
Irving: Don’t tell them that.
Maude: Keep in mind the test last night.
Phoebe: Yeah, not too cute, now that you mention it. Are they ever going to introduce themselves? Or was this going to be a big ol’ mystery series of disasters?
Maude: I’m not sure. Fairies have their own ways, their own customs.
Irving: Then there’s Thor.
Phoebe: What? I know him. He was talking to Pearl on the Beach.
Maude: He also saved you last night.
Maude: Those red flashes of light weren’t the Bromeliads. Those came from Thor.
Phoebe: Creep me out, big time. What was he doing here?
Irving: He did save your life. Remember those leaves?
Phoebe: I thought those were just from all the crazy ruckus.
Cooper: I know Thor. Don’t like him, but I know him. And just how is it that he can shoot red flashes of light and makes piles of leaves? Wait…no! You mean he’s a fairy? But he’s not two inches tall.
Maude: He’s what they call an Extremist. Watch out for him, Phoebe. I don’t know why he was there last night. Maybe just curiosity. But watch out for Extremists, Phoebe. They’re different from other factions.
Phoebe: And…how’s that?
Irving: They’re not completely dark, relatively speaking. I’ve certainly seen worse. Much worse! But they are not in the light, either. Mostly, they don’t like humans so much. Watch out for him, Phoebe. You too, Cooper.
Phoebe: Hey, do you guys know anything about this statue? She showed up just as the party started last night.