I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE A FAIRY
(Read to the tune of Twilight Zone by Golden Earring)
Dead zones are places without life, without feeling, without air. I’ve seen them in pictures of polluted oceans and read about them in descriptions of the cold void of space. Sometimes I think parts of my body have turned silent and dark like those pictures and descriptions. Sometimes I think I’ve become a dead zone.
I mop sweat off my forehead with a dirty handkerchief, reposition my ear buds and adjust the iPod in my pocket, then pick up my shovel. It’s hot, and it’s late afternoon, and this is a graveyard. It’s a quiet place, down a long country road and sort of in the middle of nowhere, like graveyards people write about in horror stories—only this cemetery isn’t creepy, at least not to me. It’s not huge, but it’s big enough, and it’s full of headstones and plots. My job is to dig the graves then close them up again, and it’s time to move dirt from one spot to another to bury a body that really, truly has become a dead zone. I’m glad for the pine box that hides the sewn eyes and the blank face. Some things just don’t need to see the light of day again.
Before I can turn the earth and start filling in the grave, I catch the whisper and flow of movement in the distance and glance up to check what it is.
Not much of a thought, but it’s hard to be coherent when a sight clubs you square in the eyes and leaves you standing on a pile of dirt, clinging to a shovel like it’s some kind of anchor to life and reality and graves that you shouldn’t fall into and bust your face. And my second thought is, She looks like a fairy. All she needs is gossamer wings.
The music in my ears blasts so loud it seems like it lives in my brain. Something catchy. Something fast. It’s all wrong for the girl. She deserves something slow and classical and thoughtful. There’s nothing jangly about her. She’s my height, or close to it—and my age, or pretty close on that point, too. She has dark hair.
Is she real?
Because she seems like a dream—something out of another world. She walks like she’s barely touching the ground, flowing toward a clutch of trees and newer graves, and she’s wearing a yellow dress. The fabric makes her skin look tanned and smooth.
For a second, I can see the girl’s face. Her dark eyes have a darker glimmer at the center, like she knows, like she really understands how the world works, in all the ways people like us aren’t supposed to be old enough to grasp. Her expression seems distant, and it’s sad in a way that clubs me all over again, this time in the heart. She’s tired. She’s worn down. I can see the hopelessness and resignation sketched across her features, and it makes my chest ache for her even though I don’t know her.
This Fairy Girl, she’s sad like me.
I don’t think she sees me. Guys who dig graves tend to be invisible to sane, normal people.
My heart’s beating too fast and I’m not breathing right.
Stop looking before she sees you. Stop. You just need to stop.
I shiver even though I’m burning up, and I step back, jerk my shovel out of the dirt, and ram it down to pick up a good load. Yeah, that’s better. Go back to the digging, get back to the music, and pay attention to the hard, loud beat. It blots away the hot wind and the plink-and-crumble of my digging. If I play it loud enough, music shuts out everything, even dreamy girls who float through lonely, boring graveyards. Ignoring her is definitely the right thing to do, because dreams and Fairy Girls, they aren’t for me.
Soft, pretty things don’t belong in a dead zone.
“Del’s story—alternating between flashbacks and the present day—is tragic, frustrating, and believable, and teens should have no problem empathizing.” —Publishers Weekly
“A valuable look at the downside of prosecutorial discretion and its impact on teens.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This ripped-from-the-headlines story is heartrending but also hopeful. As a cautionary tale, this novel gives teens pause to consider their actions under the law.”—School Library Journal