An odd tale penned by my friend Lola Gentry-Dey and me. Based on a story Lola read when she was a child, this is her version with my two cents thrown in.
Once upon a time an unemployed nurse lived in a small village inside New York City, and though she had no family except a drunken nephew in Queens, she kept herself busy. She made it her business to call on her neighbors with hot chicken soup when they became ill, and she also took care of many poor and homeless children.
One autumn night, as the wind howled outside her apartment windows, the nurse was in her bed and almost asleep when suddenly she heard a knock on her door. It was midnight, and she knew this must be urgent. She slipped into her robe and hurried to the door.
She looked through the peephole and saw no one, but the knocking continued. When she opened the door she saw a stranger—a small, ugly fellow with a fat, crooked nose and black, shifty eyes. “Please,” he said gruffly, “you must come and look after our baby. My wife is too ill to care for him.”
“Well, why don’t you take care of your wife and child?” the nurse asked.
“I would,” the ugly fellow replied, “but it’s poker night.”
The nurse didn’t like the looks or shiftlessness of this man, but she didn’t like to turn down anyone in need. So she dressed and pulled on a heavy coat to shield her from the weather, and she walked outside.
There on the street sat the little man on a large, black motorcycle. The bike’s chrome was gleaming bright despite the darkness, and for a moment she hesitated.
“Up you go,” the little man said, offering his arm, and the nurse shook away her worries and climbed up behind him.
Before she could settle herself, the motorcycle was off, whisking so fast through the village that the nurse had to hang on to the little man for dear life.
They rode for what seemed like a long time, and headed into the countryside, so the nurse lost her bearings. But eventually they arrived at a tiny bungalow made of wood.
The nurse dismounted and went inside. She had to pass several children quarreling in front of a TV set until she found the little man’s wife lying in bed inside a tiny bedroom. Her skin was pale and her eyes dark with sadness, and in her arms rested a beautiful newborn child—a little boy with blonde hair so bright it shone like a halo, and a face as lovely as any the nurse had ever seen.
“You should be in a hospital,” the nurse said softly to both mother and child.
The mother shook her head sadly. “My labor was sudden and the baby came quickly,” she said weakly as she lifted the infant for the nurse to take him into her arms. Then the mother handed a small box to the nurse, and said, “Put this ointment on his eyelids as soon as he opens his eyes.”
The nurse carried the little boy into another room, and before long he opened his eyes. The nurse saw that the boy, despite his beauty, had his father’s black, squinty eyes. Just as the mother had instructed her, she stroked his eyelids with the ointment. The baby smiled and closed his eyes and slept once more.
The nurse peered at the ointment. It was swirls of pink and violet goo and unlike anything she had ever seen or smelled before. Being curious she stroked her own eyelids with the ointment.
In a flash everything around her changed. The house grew from a tiny, dark, miserable place into a big beautiful mansion furnished with the finest things. When the nurse walked into the bedroom, the mother was no longer sad and exhausted; she was as beautiful as any Fortune 500 wife and dressed in silks and satins and brocades. The baby was not squinty-eyed—he was the handsomest child in the world.
And those quarreling children in front of the TV were not little boys and girls; they were imps with blazing eyes and pointy ears and wrinkled faces. The nurse now understood, for her grandmother had told her of such things; she had walked into a house of pixies, creatures that had likely abducted the woman.
She knew a thing or two about pixies from her grandmother, including this: She could not say a word against them or she would become imprisoned by them. So she remained silent, though she stayed for several days, looking after the sweet baby boy.
At week’s end the woman was well again.
“Do you wish to escape from here?” the nurse asked her.
“No,” the woman replied, “it was my choice to marry into the family,” and she thanked the nurse for caring for her child. “Take her home now,” the woman said to her husband.
The little man was no longer ugly, of course, but he remained squinty-eyed and shiftless in demeanor, like every man the nurse had ever known.
Once again they rode the black motocycle through strange woodland until they reached the nurse’s apartment building. Before he left her, the man paid the nurse more money than she had ever been paid in her life.
She was, of course, overjoyed, but curious. “Why does one so wealthy gamble his fortune?” she wanted to ask, but she knew from her grandmother to never ask about the affairs of pixies. Instead, she thanked him and watched him drive away.
The next day she went to the supermarket and while selecting the finest tomatoes, the ripest melons, the sweetest apples, she noticed a squinty-eyed pixie also shopping there. At each place he stopped at, he stole something—eggs, broccoli, beets, anything he could grab.
The nurse did not think his criminal activity was any of her business, but she decided she must say hello to the fellow. After all, she knew his family.
And so, as he passed by, she said, “Good day to you, sir.”
He turned on his heels and glared. “What? You see me?”
“Of course,” the nurse said, and she smiled knowingly. “And I see you’ve been busy today!”
The pixie’s face clouded with anger. “You see too much,” he snapped. “You stole from our magic ointment, and for that you will pay!” And he struck her with a knobby, wooden staff.
The nurse gasped and put her hands to her face, “I can’t see!” she cried. And sure enough, the squinty-eyed pixie had blinded her.
From that day on, the nurse stayed inside her apartment and used her money to pay for a private nurse of her own. Though she held no ill will to the fellow she had offended, the nurse told her own private nurse who came every morning to sit with her and left every night at bedtime, to beware of any pixies that may come calling.
The private nurse promised, and when a year had passed and the spell was entering its fifth cycle, she—a beautiful woman who had given birth to a beautiful child—stayed the night until the nurse in her care was asleep. Then she gently rubbed a healing ointment on the nurse’s eyelids before she left quietly, never to return.
And in the morning when the nurse awoke able to see again, she happily busied herself in her kitchen, and then called on the sick with hot chicken soup, all the while wary of ugly, squinty-eyed men on motorcycles.