Once upon a time there was a fairly named Stephanie who couldn’t see why her mother wouldn’t let her have a pet.  She kept dropping hints, but her mother wouldn’t pick them up.  It was so annoying—and all over a little thing like a pet biggins.

Stephanie’s mother was a New World fairy who married an Irish leprechaun and had two children:  Stephanie the fairly, and her twin brother Winston, the leprefaun.  Winston stayed with his father when Stephanie and her mother returned home to the sugar bush in the Catskill Mountains.  Though Stephanie had not seen either her father or her brother since she was a baby, with her mother’s help she had begun writing to them fairly often.

The last letter she got from them was all about Winston’s pet gremlin.  He had caught it himself in the alley behind their house, and he kept it in an old holey water bottle that the priest had thrown out.  People came from all over Ireland to see the bottled gremlin, and they paid what amounted to a dollar apiece to see his strange pet!  A picture of Winston with the gremlin had even appeared in the Weakly Reader, a school newspaper for slow students.

Stephanie had always wanted a pet, and everybody she knew seemed to have one.  Grammie and Poppa had cats and a dog!  Emilie and Dawson had fish and sea monkeys, though why they were called sea monkeys is anyone’s guess, since they weren’t monkeys and you could hardly see them.  Joshua beat them all with a cat, some goldfish, and a bunch of angry birds. (The birds might have been happy birds, except that somebody kept stealing their eggs.  That would make me mad, too–if I had eggs, I mean.)

Stephanie wanted something that would coo when she talked to it and wiggle when she tickled it, but pigeons and snakes and all the other creatures who lived around the sugar bush were friends, and she certainly couldn’t keep one of those as a pet. That was when she decided that she ought to have a pet biggins.

When Stephanie first mentioned getting a pet, her mother suggested that grubs made good, quiet pets.  Stephanie thought the door to a pet might be open (though grubs never entered her mind.)  So she began to make other suggestions to try to wear her mother down to the point where she might allow a biggins in the house.

She mentioned Fallon the Fairy, who had a starfish, but her mother said they didn’t have enough space for a starfish.  Then she brought up Betty the Brownie, who had saved a sand dollar at the beach, but her mother said it didn’t make sense as a pet.  So Stephanie said, “How about a biggins?”

For those who don’t know, a biggins is like a fairy, but much larger, and without wings, and they live in houses instead of holes under maple trees.  They like to wear lots of clothes and eat lots of food and play lots of computer games.  You are probably a biggins yourself, though you might want me to call you a human instead.  (Unless you are one of my space alien readers, in which case you will have to let me know what you want me to call you.)

For days Stephanie continued to pester her mother with little hints:  “We wouldn’t have slept so late if we had a biggins in the house,” or “I bet I wouldn’t be bored right now if I had a baby biggins to play with.”  Her mother did her best to ignore the comments until one day when Stephanie was fairly upset with her mother and said, “You know, I bet Daddy would let me have a pet biggins if he were here.”  That got her mother’s attention.

“Come with me, young lady,” she said.  “It’s time we had a talk.”  She walked away very quickly, and Stephanie rushed after her, glad that her mother wasn’t flying or she never would have been able to stay up with her.  They went out through the sugar bush, past the old orchard, through fields and woods until they came to a house.  Stephanie’s mother went behind the garage.

On the back side of the run-down building, among the thistles and weeds, were piles of old lumber, broken furniture, and such things, and her mother looked around until she found a wooden box with screens on all the sides and a door in one end.  It was mostly broken, but Stephanie could tell that once it had been a cage.  It had the name “Jaimie” carved into the top of the door.

“You’ve caught my attention,” said the fairly to her mother.  “What’s this all about?”  Her mother sat on the edge of the box and motioned for Stephanie to sit beside her.

“Once upon a time, when I was little like you, I had friends who lived in the woods here and I used to come and play with them.  I think I’ve told you about them–the Sprite sisters, Lemon and Lime?  They had a brother, too.  His name was Pepper, and he became a doctor.  Anyway, one night we were all out playing with the fireflies when two little bigginses came along.  They had nets and jars, and they caught me along with a firefly that didn’t fly.  (He wasn’t too bright.)

“When the bigginses saw that I wasn’t a bug, they put me in this old rabbit cage and kept me locked up for almost a week.  They fed me grass and called me their pet, and sometimes they took me out to play with me.  The boy biggins said he was going to pull my wings off, but his sister punched him and told him no.”  (Now, I don’t want any of you girls getting any ideas about punching your brothers.  It’s never right to do unless he’s about to tear the wings off a fairy.)

“But then one day they took me to the house to show me to the bigger bigginses.  When their mother saw me, she took me out of the cage, and held me gently, and talked quietly to me.  Then she told her children about fairies, and how happy they are when they can run and fly around, and how sad they are when they are caught.  She also told them that fairies didn’t eat grass, and that it was really hard to find fairy food.  (I didn’t tell them that I like pizza without cheese, French fries and bannock; they didn’t need to know that.)

“Then their mother told them, ‘Fairies are people, too.  Treat them the way you would like to be treated.’  And she said that people don’t put other people in cages or keep them locked up, and then she sent the little bigginses to their rooms and told them to close their doors and not to come out until they were ready to stop being Mr. and Miss Grumpyface.  Finally, she set me outside in the flower box.  ‘Good-bye, little fairy,’ she said.  ‘Be happy and be free.’  And she turned and walked away.

“Well, that’s just about the end of my story.  The Sprite sisters had called my Pop, and he came and helped me get home, and we all lived happily ever after.  And then a few years later my daughter wanted to catch a baby biggins and keep it as a pet.  What do you suppose I should tell her?”  And Stephanie’s mother paused for an answer.

“I guess ‘Go ahead’ is out of the question, huh,” said Stephanie, doing a fairly good imitation of Miss Grumpyface.

“Bigginses are people, too.  Treat them the way you would like to be treated.”

Stephanie walked home with her mother, disappointed in a way, but understanding the lesson fairly well.  And the next day she got the address from her mother and ordered a kit to start her own grub farm.


And if the caribou don’t boo and the mooses don’t moo, then next time I will tell you the story about how Stephanie Gets Fairly Lost.