From across the yard, it looked like a sliver of glass in the herb bed. Ellen wasn’t surprised by it. New house, new gardens, all sorts of things had surfaced during the summer. She’d found handfuls of nails under the yew bushes. Dozens of bottle caps dotted the soil as she dug the wildflower garden. Broken toys, spark plugs, candy wrappers, she’d seen it all. This was a neighborhood where people parked cars on their front lawns and the grass was pounded into dust by brutal disregard.
The daylight was fading as she sat on the porch steps drinking tea. This was her favorite time of day, when the cooling trees gave out a big green breath and the fireflies played hide and seek. Maybe it was the new plantings, but Ellen hadn’t seen many fireflies in other people’s yards. They decorated her flowerbeds like tiny lanterns. Swallows flickered across the sky. She wished them well in their evening hunt for insects.
Like the Magritte painting, the sky still glowed with light while the earth was steeped in shadows. And there, tucked between the tri-color sage and the lemon balm, the piece of glass twinkled with light.
Ellen watched it for a moment. How could it be reflecting the sky? Between the surrounding trees and the tall herbs, it should be in complete shadow. She looked around for a reflective surface that might ricochet the light to that spot. The yard was a smudgy charcoal sketch of leafy shapes.
Her curiosity jangled into annoyance. It was probably a glow-in-the-dark toy thrown over her new privacy fence. Like the soccer ball and toy truck last week. The neighborhood kids were always pushing her buttons. With an aggravated huff, she marched over to the sage.
The sliver glowed golden, not the sickly yellow light of phosphorescent plastic. She looked up to see the full moon just peeking over the tree line. Still, not a sun-kissed light, like that in the garden. As she approached, she could see a soft edged shape, like a luna moth. Did luna moths glow?
She knelt down to get a better look. The mixed smells of sage and lemon balm swirled around her. It had wings and antennae. But it also appeared to have arms and legs. She carefully scooped it up, cradling it like a baby bird.
“What are you?” She whispered to the limp figure.
It stirred against her fingers, mouse ears and butterfly wings. She watched, perfectly still. The little creature hiccupped. It pushed itself up with a giggle.
“Whoa that pollen’s potent!”
Ellen chuckled. The fairy looked up in alarm.
“Woops!” It squealed and burst into a shower of fireflies.
Ellen looked across the yard. The herbs and wildflowers that she’d coddled all spring were heavy with flowers. And the fireflies were thickest among them. She looked into her empty hands. Her palms sparkled with motes of light.
She went back to the porch and her cup of tea, settling in to enjoy the new-found magic of her garden in moonlight.
Alice Sabo writes in North Carolina.