by Anne E. Johnson
One summer evening, her brother and sister ran around the yard catching fireflies in their cupped hands. Jessica just sat on the porch with her Observations journal on her lap.
“Look at the fairies!” little Joey cried. “Come catch one, Jessica!”
“Tiny drops from a moonbeam,” sang Margaret. “See if you can hold one!”
But Jessica just said “Hmmm,” and wrote in her journal: “These bugs must have a chemical in their bodies that makes them glow.”
As it happened, there really were fairies living in the big tree in Jessica’s back yard. They liked children in general, but Jessica drove them crazy.
“What’s wrong with this kid?” ZenZen asked her brother Koopie as they sat on a top branch one night. When the moon was especially bright, the fairies gathered at the treetop to soak in important vitamins from the moon glow.
Koopie shrugged. “I thought all kids believed in fairies.”
“And here we are, right in her tree,” sighed Zen-Zen, exposing her tiny green belly to the moon’s rays.
Koopie was always up for adventure. “I have an idea. Maybe she’s one of those humans who will only believe her eyes. So I’ll show myself to her.”
“How can you show yourself?” asked Zen-Zen. “Everyone knows people can’t see fairies clearly. To human eyes, we just look like a sparkly blur.”
Koopie flashed his sister an impish grin. “I’ll put on a rainbow light show in her mirror.”
The next night Koopie was waiting in Jessica’s room when she came in after supper. He’d opened the closet door so Jessica would see him in her full-length mirror when she sat at her desk.
Jessica sat down and opened her math book with a sigh. (Even a very bright girl sometimes gets tired of homework.) Koopie waited impatiently while she scribbled and erased and scribbled and erased. Finally Jessica set her pencil down and looked around her. Her gaze paused on the mirror.
Koopie was ready. He started to glow. He scrunched his eyes and held his breath, pushing out a rainbow of light. The mirror practically danced with shining color.
Jessica seemed fascinated by the tiny fireworks display in her mirror. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide.
Feeling smug, Koopie flew to Jessica’s desk and waited for her to write in her Observations journal. Maybe she’d write, “That looks like magic,” or “Fairies exist after all!”
But Jessica actually wrote, “Amazing colors in the mirror must happen when lights from the streetlamp and car headlights come through my windowpane at a particular angle.”
She even got up and went to the window to examine it, leaving Koopie feeling very droopy and unappreciated. He reported back to ZenZen, who couldn’t believe it. “Time to do some serious magic,” she declared, “and really impress this kid.”
“Yeah? Like what?” Koopie was in a bad mood. He worried that his sister’s idea would be better than his.
“Let me think.” ZenZen pranced out to the end of a branch and back again without even shaking the leaves. “I’ve got it!” she announced, clapping her tiny hands. “Let’s do something for her that only a fairy could do.”
“You mean like do her homework while she’s sleeping?” ZenZen cocked her head at him like he was crazy. “What’s wrong with my idea?” he challenged.
“Well, can you do math or spelling? Because I sure can’t.”
Koopie sighed. ZenZen was right. “Fine,” he grumbled. “What do you think we should do?”
“Fix her favorite shirt,” ZenZen said, as if it were obvious.
Koopie laughed. “You know we’re not allowed to use magic thread on human clothes. We’d get in huge trouble. And we don’t know how to use a human needle and thread.” Koopie crossed his arms. “Next idea?”
“Hey,” whined ZenZen, “I wasn’t finished. The shirt isn’t ripped. It’s stained.” ZenZen made a face. “A pretty yellow top with a big purple grape juice stain on the front. Her mom washed it over and over, but no luck.”
“Why didn’t she throw the shirt away?” Koopie thought it was silly to keep a ruined shirt. But he’d never worn clothes, so he didn’t really understand.
“It’s her favorite top ever. I heard her tell her best friend that last week. She keeps it hanging on her bedroom door. I guess she’s hoping for a miracle.”
Koopie rubbed his wings together with excitement. “Well, let’s give her that miracle. Then she’ll have to believe in us!”
When the moon was at its brightest, ZenZen and Koopie flew into Jessica’s bedroom through the air vent. Jessica was asleep, breathing deeply.
“You want to do it?” ZenZen whispered, pointing at the dress on the bedroom door. Its yellow cloth glowed like a moon ghost.
Koopie shook his head. He feared he’d make the whole dress disappear by accident. He watched as ZenZen tossed fairy dust at the stained area, a fistful at a time. Koopie admired her patience, although he would never have admitted that. It only took two minutes of concentration before ZenZen turned to her brother. “All done,” she whispered. “We can go.”
“Wait!” hissed Koopie. “How will we know whether Jessica thinks fairies fixed her dress?”
“Oh, you’re right.” ZenZen flew down and perched on the desk. “We’ll have to wake her up. Let’s tickle her.”
With Koopie at Jessica’s left foot and ZenZen at her right, they fluttered their wings against her toes. Jessica woke up suddenly, making a funny “eeep!” sound, and drew her feet up under her. Sitting up, she looked around in the dark then reached to turn on the light. ZenZen flew past the door, making a tiny sound like ice crystals falling on a xylophone. That drew Jessica’s attention to her yellow top.
“Huh?” she said, rubbing and squinting her eyes as if they weren’t working right. She got out of bed to take a closer look at the dress.
Koopie, watching from the top of a large stuffed panda, tried not to laugh. Now she’ll have to believe in us, he thought.
“Hmmm…,” said Jessica as she padded over to her desk and opened her Observations journal. Koopie and ZenZen flew to the back of her chair to peek as she wrote:
“The grape juice stain is gone from my top! Yay! Here are two explanations: 1. Mom got an amazing new kind of laundry detergent. 2…”
As Jessica paused to think, Koopie could hardly keep still. She was about to admit it was magic, he just knew it! But that’s not what she wrote.
“2. After many weeks, the sunshine coming through the window faded the stain.” Nodding her head with satisfaction, Jessica turned off the light and went back to bed.
Koopie and ZenZen flew back up toward the vent, frowning at each other. This human kid was hopeless.
The next night, after they’d had their moon glow breakfast, Koopie and ZenZen went to talk to their father. They explained how stubborn Jessica was, and everything they’d done to make her believe in them.
“But nothing works,” complained ZenZen.
“So we want you to turn her into a fairy,” said Koopie.
Their father plucked a grass seed from between his toes. “Really? Why should I turn her into a fairy?”
“Because then she’ll know how it feels when people don’t believe in her,” Koopie blurted out.
Looking at them thoughtfully, their father said, “She already knows what that feels like.”
Koopie was annoyed. “What do you mean, Father?”
Their father sighed. “You two don’t believe in Jessica.”
“But Father,” said ZenZen, “we know she exists.”
“Yes, but you don’t believe in who she really is. You won’t let the real Jessica Doubt exist.”
Koopie and ZenZen looked at each other, puzzled.
“Like some other humans I’ve seen,” their father continued in a patient voice, “this girl loves to think. Her greatest joy is explaining why things happen. For her, the world is most magical when she’s figuring it out.
“Your job as fairies in her garden is to help her find magic. Whatever kind of magic she believes in. I want you two to think about that very carefully.” He kissed both children on the head and launched off the branch, flying toward the moon.
Koopie and ZenZen did think hard about what their father said. In fact, they talked of nothing else for the rest of the night.
From then on, they did something magical for Jessica once a week. She wrote about everything in her Observations journal. Koopie and ZenZen always enjoyed watching her rub her eyes, say “Hmmm,” and think of a clever explanation.
1. Why did the fairies always go to the top of the tree when the moon was bright?
2. What did Koopie do to make Jessica believe in fairies? Did it work?
3. What did ZenZen do for Jessica?
4. What did ZenZen and Koopie want their father to do?
5. In the end, what did they decide to do for Jessica every week?