I was clearing out my wardrobe when I saw him. He was clothed in quite a neat little outfit evidently made from bits of my stash of dressmaking fabric which was spilling out all over the place, tangled up with the shoes I’d never wear again, the random bits of writing shoved out of the way in haste, two old handbags, a set of broken straighteners (the ones which accidentally got a carrier bag melted onto them) and the slinky dress which had slipped off the hanger (presumably to avoid being forced over my less than slender figure, thereby ruining its straight lines, since I haven’t got any). He was standing with his back against the mdf defending itself with a shield made out of an old loyalty card and a forgotten mascara wand, looking terrified.
“Hello” I said. After all, what else does one say when one sees a six inch mystical creature in the back of the wardrobe.
“Put your weapon down or… or else!” he said.
I realised I was holding the thin thingy attachment for the vacuum cleaner.
“OK” I said, “I’ll put down the nozzle if you’ll put down the mascara and tell me what you are.”
I did as I’d promised and sat in what I hoped was a non-threatening stance. After a moment’s hesitation, the creature put down his defensive weapons and quivering a little, waved his arms to show me the back of the wardrobe. “I can’t help” he said, “I can’t find the door to Narnia either.”
“It’s not in here,” I said sadly, “I’ve looked often enough. On the other side of that wall is the airing cupboard.”
The creature looked even more scared. “Not the airing cupboard!” he squeaked, “I don’t want to mess with the laundry fairies, they swear like fishwives and have biceps bigger than their heads.”
“There are laundry fairies?” I said with some annoyance, “I hadn’t noticed.”
“They’re not helpers. They’re pixies. Have you got a lot of odd socks?”
“Oh” I said, “But then who are you?”
The creature stood up straighter and announced: “I’m ÆLFNOÐ” then added apologetically. “It means “bold elf”. I’m a brownie.”
I thought about this for a bit. Weren’t brownies the ones who help around the house, who do all the chores which the exhausted housewife can’t manage?
“I hadn’t realised I had a brownie, it’s not been obvious.”
ÆLFNOÐ shuffled his feet. “I hate housework” he mumbled, “It’s not a proper elf job. Pixies and sprites get to have fun. Brownies just get to clean things up ready for people to mess them up again and what thanks do you get?”
“Tell me about it,” I said.
“And I’m frightened to go out because if I meet the laundry fairies I’m liable to find myself inside a sock inside a random pillow case and shoved in a corner of the airing cupboard. All I want is some peace and quiet and a home of my own to look after.” I patted him gently as he started to sob.
I thought about it for a bit and told him not go anywhere for a moment and not to be frightened. I passed him a magazine to calm his nerves.
I got the loft ladder down as quietly as possible and moved some things about. Our attic is quite nice, with a window in the gable end. If we actually cleared out the accumulations of many years of family life, it could make a nice room.
After about half an hour I opened the wardrobe door, to find ÆLFNOÐ intently reading up on the latest interior design trends and held a basket out to him. “Trust me for a moment and jump in here.”
He hesitated, but I said he could take the magazine and some bits from my craft stash and the mascara wand and this was how I took him up into the attic. My daughter’s abandoned dolls house was now near the window and I had put a piece of ribbon across the front door. I handed ÆLFNOÐ some craft scissors and told him to make himself at home.
We toasted his new life with some tiny glasses of wine and I sat there in the light of the window, listening to him clattering about inside the dolls house, reorganising things and thought that if I could get a table and chair up here, I would have somewhere quiet to write away from the family and could keep ÆLFNOÐ company.
Then I left him to it. I raised the ladder and closed the loft. I shoved everything back into the bottom of my wardrobe, opened the door of the airing cupboard and told any laundry fairies who might be lurking invisibly what I’d do to them if I ever caught them.
Then I went downstairs to finish the wine.
Perhaps I should try and be a better housewife. Or maybe I could contribute to research into dust inhalation to find out exactly just how much is needed to make one hallucinate. Or maybe I really do have a house infested with elves.
It would explain a lot.
Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission