by Saul Lemerond
Before the curse, Lamont was almost always happy. Sister Teresa would comment on it. She would say he hardly ever fussed, that he was the happiest boy in the orphanage, and that his face was brighter than a cloudless day in July. And it was true. Everyone could see it in the boy, many were jealous, and Father Henry said he hoped that life would never teach the boy lessons that could muddle his happiness. Everyone at the orphanage thought, when he was older, that he should marry Cindy Faller who was also intensely happy, and who seemed to bring him much gladness, and would probably always love him dearly.
Indeed, the world was an exciting place for little Lamont, full of new and unending joys. It was as if the world could offer him nothing but cheer.
That was until he stepped on the fairy’s house.
He didn’t see the home that was made of tiny bricks with a tiny smoking chimney. The fairy was not happy and flew up, red faced, with wings throwing clouds of sparkling dust in all directions.
Lamont was startled. This fairy didn’t look like he imagined fairies should. He reminded him of his old first grade teacher, Mr. Bartholomew, who was eighty-years-old and who had wrinkles on his wrinkles.
“I’m sorry,” said Lamont. “But I did not see your home hidden away there, under the corner of Father Henry’s shrub.”
The fairy didn’t care, and cursed him. He said, “You stepped on my house. Now you will never be truly happy ever again, and you will never be loved.” And it was true.
When Cindy Faller embarrassed him in front of the class by telling him she would sooner go to the dance with Clifford the smelly kid than with him, he knew it was because of the curse.
When Cindy told him she would marry him not out of love, but out of pity, and because she had made a promise to Sister Teresa when she was a small girl, he knew it was because of the curse.
Pulled over for drunk driving by Mr. Bartholomew’s grandson who had grown up to be traffic cop. Curse.
Imprisoned for ninety days in jail after failing to show up to his court date at the appointed time because he was running an errand for his wife, Cindy. Curse.
Lamont was unhappy. Everyone told him he needed to stop making excuses for himself.
“I’m cursed,” he said. “I keep trying for smaller and smaller joys, smaller accomplishments, and the curse is always there.”
He sat at home and his wife who was pregnant and didn’t love him told him to cheer up.
He told her, as he often did, that he was cursed.
“Please do break the curse then,” she said. “It’s very difficult to stay in good spirits when you’re so gloomy.”
“I will,” he told her.
“I never loved you,” she said, as she always did before leaving for work, this time adding, “and probably never will. Neither will your son.”
He decided he would rebuild the fairy’s home.
It took him eight years to rebuild the tiny fairy home with small modeling tools and with his little son watching while playing with dinosaur dolls. When finished, he could see one imperfection. The chimney was bent.
“Can I play with the tiny cabin?” Asked his beautiful seven-year-old boy.
“No,” he said. “This house is so Papa can lift a fairy’s curse.”
“Oh,” said his son, who was nearly always truly happy, and who did not love him, and didn’t understand his father’s plight, and proved he didn’t when he accidently stomped on the house as Lamont placed it under the corner of Father Henry’s shrub. Lamont couldn’t scold him because he had done the same thing.
After eight more years, he had made another tiny house. This one with a broken chimney-flue. He showed it to his son, who was older now.
“Why did you make that?” His son asked, not remembering having stomped on the first one.
“Because I’m trying to fix something I broke.”
When he placed the tiny house underneath the corner of the late Father Henry’s shrub, a strong wind blew a walnut out of a tree, which then caved in the house’s east wall.
He built house after house. Each one took him eight years. Each was imperfect, with crooked storm shutters or a blocked oven vent. Every time he put the tiny home under Father Henry’s bush, it was destroyed by a dog or squirrel or hail or tornado or the hand of his grandson.
The curse never lifted. His family never loved him. He was never truly happy, and he hated himself.
He didn’t see the fairy again until the day he died.
Lamont was old and broken, with aching bones and joints and permanent frown lines covering the folds of his aged face. The fairy still looked like Mr. Bartholomew, his old, dead first grade teacher.
“You ruined my life,” said Lamont.
“You stepped on my house,” replied the fairy.
“Well,” said Lamont, coughing a cough that had started months before and would kill him today, “I hope you’re happy. I learned my lesson, and now I’m going to die.”
“There’s no lesson,” said the fairy. “I don’t care what you learned. I wanted you to suffer.”
“But, I made you new houses, and you destroyed them all,” said Lamont.
“I did,” said the fairy, “because I cursed you to never be truly happy.”
“You weren’t trying to teach me a lesson about carelessness and how sometimes that which is broken cannot be fixed?” Asked Lamont.
“Nope,” said the fairy, shaking his head.
“I thought curses were for teaching people lessons.”
The fairy didn’t respond and continued shaking his head.
Lamont let out a deep cough, and his body shook violently. He thought about how he would be dead soon, and asked, “Sometimes people suffer and nothing is learned? Is that it? Is that the lesson?”
“No,” said the fairy, shaking his head. “It’s not.”
Saul Lemerond is currently working on a PhD in creative writing at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. His book, Kayfabe and Other Stories, was published by One Wet Shoe Press in 2014. He’s also been published in Waterhouse Review, Drabblecast, Dunsteef, and elsewhere.