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Every Orphan Child to a Good Home Should Go

Karlo Yeager Rodriguez was born and raised on the enchanted isle of Puerto Rico before moving to Baltimore. When not answering questions, like, "Why Baltimore?" he works with accessibility issues and writes. Contrary to popular belief, he doesn't miss living in a tropical paradise--just don't ask him anytime between November and February.

I couldn't help glancing at the hourglass when Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin shuffled into my office. A few moments more and I would have closed up and been at the tavern down the street. The wisp that had led them in flared and winked out with the sound of tinkling bells.
I took a deep breath. Best to get right down to it, then. The girls might mock me for being late to our after-work get-togethers, but as a fairy godmother at Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather Adoption Services, my work was serious business.
Witching Hour is what they called it: two-for-one drinks down at the tavern. My wand looked forlorn in the umbrella stand, under my hat.
I straightened my nameplate on the desktop, nodded a greeting at the couple who stood at the door, then gestured at the chairs in front of my desk.
"I'll be with you in a moment."
Mr. Bumpkin bowed, but he remained standing behind his wife, hat in hand.
I pinched the air, and the old married couples' file poofed into my hand. I scanned over it while they goggled at this small display of magic. I tamped down a chuckle. It was pure showmanship. I'd pored over their file all last night, expecting them to show early in the morning.
"So, you wished for a child," I said to open the conversation. They traded glances before Mr. Bumpkin ventured a nod.
"That would be right, Mizz--" He squinted at my nameplate.
"Merryweather," I said. "Comma Flavia J. At your service."
I gave a slight bow, dipped a hand into my pocket and pulled out a clear pebble, which I placed atop my desk. Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin cooed as it grew into my crystal ball. Good thing they didn't clap, too. I wasn't sure what I would have done if they had clapped.
"This is the child you wished for," I said. Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin peered into the crystal ball. A scrawny kid swam into focus.
"Why does he have that--?" Mrs. Bumpkin wagged a finger.
"The scar over his eye?" I rubbed my chin and gave a sage nod. "Standard for a child destined for greatness."
"Destined?" Mr. Bumpkin's eyebrows shot up.
"Greatness?" Mrs. Bumpkin's hand rose to her chest.
"Ah," I said. "You have heard of Lord Vermithrax out in your cabin--?"
"Whatever," I muttered. "You've heard what he wants to do? Domination of the land, darkness for a thousand years, plagues?"
Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin nodded, eyes wide.
"This child is destined to defeat him." I gestured at the crystal ball before turning towards the couple. "That is, if you can hold up your part of the agreement."
Mr. Bumpkin started to say something, but all that came out was a croak. I let him cough, clear his throat, and gather his wits. I glanced at the hourglass again. The girls would be dipping into their second cauldron by now.
"Beggin' your pardon, mum." Mr. Bumpkin's hands turned the hat in his hands as he spoke. "What agreement?"
"Simple. You both must be horrid to the child."
"What?" Mrs. Bumpkin's squawk seemed to stretch out of her mouth. She caught her breath. "B-but he's an orphan! Ain't he gone through enough already?"
"Listen." I shrugged. "I don't make the rules, I just follow them. So, yes: horrid parents."
"Like how?" Mr. Bumpkin gave his wife a furtive glance. "Being strict? Sending 'em to bed without supper and the like?"
"Henry, no--" Mrs. Bumpkin put a hand on his forearm, but he shook it off. He stared at me from under the thicket of his eyebrows, quivering.
"No, that will not do." I shook my head and tutted in disappointment as I sneaked another look at the hourglass. Playing catch up with my girls was going to be rough. "Horrid! Like, serving the child half a thimbleful of gruel for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Living under the stairs, forced to cobble shoes for room and board! Punish for no good reason, or better yet, when the child's been good!"
I stopped, arms up over my head, panting.
Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin stared at me, huddled together. Mr. Bumpkin coughed, shook off his fear. He donned his outrage like armor. Good.
"Punishment? Torture, more like!" He pointed one sausage finger at me, quivering. "Why would we do that to the child?"
"Suffering builds character." I shrugged. "Prepares the child for hardship, for not giving up when things go wrong."
"You're a monster!" Mrs. Bumpkin sprang out of her chair, her hand extended in a sign to ward off the evil eye.
"No, I'm not," I murmured. "But Lord Vermithrax is."
They shrank away as I gave them my widest smile.
"It's this way." I turned away from Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin, my voice low, musing. I looked at the child, one finger trailing over the curve of the crystal ball. "Or you treat the child well, bond, grow to love each other... And Lord Vermithrax murders you because you're in his way. What do you think happened to the original family?"
When I turned back around, Mr. and Mrs. Bumpkin were gone.
I'd get the kid placed--there was always another family.
If not, though, it wasn't the first time I'd stepped into the role of the wicked stepparent. It was for the greater good, after all.
I grabbed my wand and hat before dashing out the door. The hourglass told me I could get to the tavern in time for at least one Witching Hour drink.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Author Comments

This story came from thinking about genre conventions--especially those dealing with a "Chosen One" character. Often these poor children are also orphans, spirited away to safety by one type of fairy godparent or another, which convinced me to write about how that type of an adoption system might work.

- Karlo Yeager Rodriguez
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