Mythical figures and other childhood illusions

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I just saw the Dairy Fairy.

I know! Can you believe it?

The Dairy Fairy is the name Laura coined for the mythical figure who comes in the night and leaves milk, cream, eggs, and other assorted breakfasty goodies on our front porch. Every Friday morning, I rise at 5:00 am, dress, and descend to the porch to discover what bounty the Dairy Fairy has left for us this time, and to haul it back up to the kitchen. Most weeks I remember to leave a white cooler out for the Dairy Fairy's use, but on those rare occasions when I forget, a magical light Styrofoam container springs up mushroomlike from the concrete to safeguard our precious dairy treasures.

For the more than two years this has been happening, never once have I caught the Dairy Fairy at his/her/its nocturnal labors. I wasn't even sure the Dairy Fairy took corporeal form. For all I knew, a milky mist floated numinous through the night to make its weekly deposit on our stoop. Until this morning, that is.

As usual, I dressed and descended the back stairs, but instead of the usual birdcalls, a rumbling truck engine broke the morning stillness. Palms perspiring, I peeked around the corner of the house. The Dairy Fairy! There before my disbelieving, sorely disabused eyes! Our preternatural benefactor took the form of a stocky man in brown knee-length shorts and a V-neck pullover shirt the color of wet sand. His body was broad and rounded, like a muscular armature shrouded in layers of wet plaster. His head was shaved but not recently. The black stubble was like a wheat field after burning season.

In his hands he carried a carton of eggs and three vials of half-and-half. He bent to place them in our cooler on the porch at the side of the house. Beyond him an idling truck awaited in the street. The legend Oberweis Dairy had been painted on the side by true artisans in a careful hand.

But as he squatted, he seemed to cock his head slightly in my direction, to where I stood in the shadows behind the gate at the back of the house. I shrank back, but again as he returned to his metal carriage he seemed to incline an ear toward my hiding place. I knew he'd caught my scent. He knew I knew, and I knew he knew I knew.

No matter. With a graceful bound, he sprang onto the buckboard of his mechanical wagon and growled off into the incipient dawn.

When I judged it safe, I scampered out from the shadows and collected the Dairy Fairy's semifortnightly gifts. I climbed the stairs with the heaviness of despondency weighting my footfalls more and more at each step. I could have dealt with the Dairy Fairy's prosaic appearance. Such disappointments are part and parcel of adulthood.

But a mechanical wagon? Not so much as a creamy white sledge pulled by flying cows?

The cream in my coffee just doesn't taste as ambrosial this morning.

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William Shunn

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on August 28, 2009 6:20 AM.

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