The words weren’t coming out of Lurleen’s pen onto her purple spiral notebook with college ruled pages. She’d come in early on a Tuesday, knowing that it would be slow until after seven, so she would have some writing time.
Plenty of time but no words. She couldn’t bear to write down the mundane things that happened in her life, the divorce, the miscarriage, the family’s redneck crudities, even the small dramas of the bar that sometimes ended in bloodshed. That was too real. She wanted to escape into another world, one that made more sense, where the good guys looked different from the bad guys.
She sighed in despair until someone walked through the wall of the Café O’Lay.
Lurleen stared at the wall at the corner of the bar near the bathrooms, where the old projector room had been when the café had been the concession stand at the drive-in, back when Lurleen was a little girl. It was a plain cinderblock wall, many times painted but showing every impact of bullet, chair and redneck skull. The woman had walked right through it, just like it was a beaded curtain.
The woman was chubby, dressed like a fairy in lavender gossamer that draped and flowed around her, making her look like a cross between an ancient hippie chick and a salvation army lingerie counter. She had dragonfly wings that vibrated and buzzed every so often. She appeared to be fifty-ish with some wrinkles and, short salt and pepper hair. She could have been anyone’s aunt–probably the cheek-pinching kind.
The woman hitched her hip up on a bar stool. “While you are deciding what you want to wish for, you can get me a beer. Draft. Guinness if you got it.”
Lurleen’s professional habits kicked in while her brain refused to process what was going on. She grabbed a mug, filled it and handed it over. “Want a tab?”
The woman didn’t answer at once. She was too busy sucking down the beer. When she came up for air, she said, “Sure. Now about that wish. You only get one, so think carefully.”
Maybe I’m dreaming, or this is some kind of flashback, Lurleen thought. She’d been heavy into the drug scene in college, but that was years ago. She didn’t even drink now, not even coffee, coke or sweet tea. She wet her hand at the sink and wiped the cold water over her face. The woman quaffed the rest of her beer and held out the mug for more.
“Okay, who are you, and how did you get through the wall?” Lurleen took the mug and filled it back up, though she had a premonition that the beer would never be paid for, not even in fairy gold.
“Maven’s my name. I’m your fairy godmother,” Maven said. She turned to look at the wall behind her. She fished a wand out of a hidden pocket in her gossamer and waved it across the wall. “I’m not sure how I got here. Must be some kind of dimensional door.” She walked over to the wall and ran her hand across it. “Interesting. Maybe you have to make your wish before I can go back.” She came back to the bar and sat on a stool. She didn’t seem at all concerned, except that she reached for her mug.
Lurleen pulled the mug back, out of reach. “You got any money on you? I believe in what I can see and feel for myself, some chick who promises wishes.”
“Fair enough,” Maven said. “Clients aren’t supposed to pay for their wishes. She dug back into her pocket and brought something out. She blew dust off it and wiped it off with a corner of her sleeve. “Twenty bucks do me for a while? Of course, the piece might be worth more as gold.”
She handed Lurleen a twenty-dollar gold piece, dated MCMVII–1907, with the figure of Liberty holding a flame and a branch. The back said United States of America. It looked real enough. Lurleen bit it, although she wasn’t sure what that was supposed to prove. She handed the beer to Maven. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the deal?”
“You were wishing hard enough that I heard you all the way to Faery–which isn’t so far away from here.” Maven cradled the sweating mug in her hands and sucked down the beer as if it were the last water for 500 miles. “So what do you want? Books? How many and what subjects?” She brought out her wand again and waved it over the bar. A stack of books appeared, some hard backs, some paperbacks, all over two inches thick, all with bright covers that proclaimed Lurleen Snipes much larger than the titles. The subject matter was hidden in the graphic design.
“Wait, no! I want to write them.” Lurleen pushed them away, although the feel of of her name in red foil letters under her fingertips was hard to resist.
“So, write.” The books disappeared. “You want a bestseller. Just give the word.” Maven drained the mug. “If that’s what you want.” Her voice had an edge of warning, just a note of ‘be careful what you ask for.’
What Lurleen wanted was to get away, to live out there in the world where life made some sense but to make it this time. She’d failed out of college, she’d failed out of marriage, she’d failed out of motherhood, and she wasn’t even much good as a barmaid in her momma’s whorehouse. She couldn’t face leaving this hellhole and then having to come home again with her tail tucked and her ears pinned back.
Maven handed her the mug, nodding at it significantly. “Take your time. There ain’t no beer in Faery.”