Alan lived alone in a nice chalet-style cottage.
Alan was bored and lonely. He had been in isolation for 4 months and 17 days. He was working from home and had done all of the Joe Wicks PE sessions every day (if you asked him, Alan would say that Joe was a little too enthusiastic); and he had re-read every book in his home library. All series of Friends had been watched. What he needed now was an adventure.
“Sigh.” He sighed, “I am so bored.”
Unexpectedly, a fairy appeared in his living room, where he was listening to 80s tunes.
“Hello,” she announced, “I am Felicity the fairy.”
“Hello, pleased to meet you,” replied Alan, who never forgot his manners.
“Where did you come from?”
“Just round the corner,” answered Felicity, “I live in the flats.”
“OK.” Said Alan, wondering if he had spent too long in isolation or consumed too many chocolate brownies.
“I heard that you were bored?” Asked the fairy.
“Yes,” answered Alan, “I am.”
“Ok, I have a special task for you, and at the end you will get what you really need.” She answered mysteriously. Or it may have been sarcastically, Alan couldn’t really tell the difference.
“Is it for Costa Coffee to open up again?” wondered Alan.
“Um, no.” She replied.
“Pity. Well, what is my task then?” He was starting to miss his own company.
“You have to help someone in need,“ she replied.”
“Oh… I would love to help someone, but how can I do that if I can’t leave the house?” Asked Alan.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already thought of that. I’m going to turn back time to take us to 6 months ago when things were still normal. Just for one day, so that you may complete the tasks and hopefully receive the thing that you need.” Felicity smiled.
“Right, but what if it takes me a longer than one day to achieve my goal?” Wondered Alan
“Then you will not receive your award, I’m afraid. Everything will return to normal, back to the present day and lockdown, in 24 hours. So you must complete your task before 1pm tomorrow.”
“It would be a real shame to miss out on that thing that I need,” sighed Alan. “Perhaps I could just have it anyway, for trying my best?”
“Sadly that is not an option,” she replied, “Sorry, I am not the one who makes the rules.”
“So, if you’re ready, the first task is to help someone. Just walk outside your house and see if there’s anyone who needs assistance.” Felicity announced rather strictly.
“Sure, why not? I haven’t spoken to a real human beings in months. But what do I do when I find the person?” He asked.
But Felicity fairy had already disappeared, so she couldn’t answer Alan’s query, annoyingly.
“Well, at least I can go outside for a bit now.” He said to himself as he opened the door of his chalet- style cottage and took a little wonder around his neighborhood in the frosty air.
It was exactly as Felicity had said, the weather and plants were wintry, just as though it really was February again. People were busy, cars were driving around on unnecessary tasks, the shops were open and fully stocked with milk and loo rolls. It felt like another world.
Alan saw some ducks swimming on the nearby lake.
“Hello,” said Alan to the ducks, “Do you need my help by any chance?”“Quack.” Said the most harassed-looking duck.
“Ok. Now I’m talking to birds.” Sighed Alan.
He swiftly left the ducks behind and continued his walk. Would he find anyone who needed help today? He wondered. Did he really care?
Soon he came across a penguin standing next to a car, who was in tears. The penguin was in tears, not the car.
“What’s wrong? Do you need any help by any chance?” He asked the penguin.
“It’s my new car. I can’t get it to work.” Replied the penguin.
“I can have a look if you like?” Offered our hero.
“Great, thank you,” answered penguin, “I think it might be the catalytic converter.”
Alan had watched some automotive related YouTube videos when he was younger, so he felt quietly confident.
“I see your problem mate.” He said after a minute, “It’s just this little bit of plastic needs to be put on the right way.”
Alan quickly fixed the problem. The car started up first time.
“Thank you so much!” Smiled the young penguin, screeching down the road enthusiastically.
Alan waved him goodbye. It felt wonderful to help somebody.
“That’s the task successfully completed.” Said Alan to himself. “I wonder if the fairy will appear with my reward?” He looked over his shoulder, in case she was following him down the road. No. No sign of a fairy.
Now slightly concerned about his stress levels, Alan walked slowly back to his house and made himself a cup of tea.
“Oh well.” Sighed Alan. “That’s that then.”
Suddenly Felicity the fairy appeared in his kitchen.
“Hi again,” she said, “Well done for completing your first task.”
“Thank you,” replied Alan, “it felt good to help somebody else. Now what is my reward? What is it that I need? And it had better not be deodorant.”
“Oh, I’m afraid there’s another task to complete before you receive any rewards.” She answered.
“Oh man, you didn’t say anything about another task… go on, what’s my second task then?”
“You have to put someone else before yourself. You must be kind even when it hurts.” Felicity said.
“Right. What does that mean? Let them stand in the queue at the post office or something? I mean, you should be more clear on these tasks, someone could…”
But he was talking to himself again. The fairy had gone.
He finished his cup of tea, and then helped himself to the last bourbon biscuit in the tin. He must go to the shops soon.
“So, I need to put someone before myself. I must be kind. I wonder if those ducks need some peas… no probably not.”
Alan thought about putting on some MC Hammer again, but reconsidered.
Our unlikely hero decided to walk around the neighbourhood again, as this method was successful last time. He didn’t see any more ducks, but he did see a sad-looking giant cactus in a park. It looked like it needed some kindness. He approached the potted plant with some trepidation.
“Um, hello, my name is Alan,” he said to the cactus, “Uh, are you… that is can you talk?”
The cactus looked at him with an impatient air.
“Yes, I can talk, what do I look like, an aloe?” She answered rather spikily.
“Great, I mean, you don’t look an aloe, no.” Stumbled Alan. “My name is Alan, nice to meet you.”
“Well, you don’t look like an aloe either,” the cactus replied. “And my name is Cassandra.”
“Oh, you’re a lady!” Smiled Alan.
“How rude! Of course I’m a lady!” She huffed. “Why have people got to be so rude? Just because I have spikes, doesn’t mean that I haven’t got a heart!”
“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that… I mean, I’m not great at talking to ladies at the best of times, and I am having a rather strange day. Um, well, you are quite far away up there. Would you mind awfully if I climbed up your pot?” Alan asked, blushing.
“Well, sure, that’s fine.” Cassandra replied, in a more friendly manner.
Alan climbed to get closer to Cassandra.
“Sorry that we got off on the wrong foot, er, root… I haven’t met many cacti.” Alan explained.
“Sure, I get it. We aren’t known for being sociable.” She replied with a smile.
“Is that your dog?” Asked Alan.
A small friendly dog had turned up, looking for attention.
“No, I don’t have any pets.” She replied. “Sometimes she just visits me. I don’t know who she belongs to.”
Alan patted the dog’s head.
“Woof!” Barked the small friendly dog.
Cassandra and Alan chatted for some time. Soon it felt like they were old friends. The sun was starting to set, and Alan was freezing cold.
“Well, it’s getting late, and those spaghetti hoops won’t cook themselves,” he chuckled.
“Mmm, sounds delicious. Nice to meet you anyway, Alan, people aren’t usually very nice to me, it may surprise you to find out.” Said Cassandra.
“No, surely not?” Alan suddenly had a thought. “I noticed that your skin is rather spiky. I wonder, has anyone ever hugged you?”
“Hugged me?” Cassandra laughed. “No one has ever hugged me. Cacti don’t do hugs, you know, and people don’t tend to want to get near to my kind either.”
“Well, this is crazy but would you like me to give you a quick hug? Please, say no if you don’t want one, I would completely understand.” Alan blushed.
“Wow, nobody has ever… yes please, I would love a hug!” Cassandra grinned. “But be very careful, I am sharp!”
Alan leaned in and gave her the most gentle hug. It hurt a little, but it felt amazing to be a friend to someone who wasn’t used to kindness.
“Thanks.” Cassandra whispered.
“Oh, you’re welcome.” Alan replied. “Right, I’m cold, so am going to head home. See you soon?”
“That would be nice,” she smiled.
Alan walked briskly back home, shivering in the chilly air.
Alan had just finished off his spaghetti hoops for dinner, when Felicity appeared in his living room.
“It’s you again.”
“Indeed.” She agreed.
“Are you going to give me my prize now?”
“Well, no, not yet… you see, there is just one more bonus task that I’d like you…” The fairy began.
“Oi! First there was only going to be one task before I got my reward of the thing that I need. Then you added another. And now you expect me to do a bonus task on top of that? No way! Please leave, I am fed up with your incessant tasks.” Alan cried.
“Oh…ok.” Stuttered Felicity. “If you insist, then I will go.”
Alan made himself a cappuccino with frothy milk, looked in the biscuit tin, saw that it was empty, and sat heavily down on his armchair.
“Hmph,” he mumbled, “Who does she think she is? Expecting me to do all sorts of tasks, for some silly reward. Well, I won’t be pushed around anymore. I don’t want to help others, or be kind to spiky plants anymore. Hmph.” Alan sipped his coffee grumpily. He felt out of sorts. He didn’t want to watch TV, listen to Human League, or even read. He went to bed early that night.
When Alan awoke late the following morning, he wondered if the previous day’s adventures had all been a dream. Or perhaps he was going mad. He realised that there was an easy way to find out: when he switched on the news, if everything was about coronavirus, he would know that it was all back to normal. If not, he was no doubt still stuck 6 months in the past, before the lockdown.
Alan got out of bed, made himself a coffee and some toast, and switched on the news channel.
“Storm Jorge will soon hit coastal parts of the UK, with winds of up to 70mph expected.” Read the presenter.
“Ah, so I must still be stuck in the past.” He said to himself.
Alan remembered that Felicity had said everything would return to normal at 1pm today. So, he had a couple of hours in which to complete the task, if he wanted that elusive reward… no, what was he thinking? The silly fairy was probably making the whole thing up. Why should he waste his time being kind to others, when he was perfectly happy by himself?
He switched the news off. What was he going to do today? It was a Sunday, so he wouldn’t be at work anyway. He could go shopping at least, or maybe a trip to Costa. He finished his coffee and breakfast.
“I wonder what the reward would be, if Felicity was telling the truth?” He said to his teddy bear.
He had a shower and got dressed. He listened to some Wham. He watered his plants. His tidied his sock drawer.
“Maybe I should find out what the last task is, before deciding?” He asked his teddy.
Teddy just sat on the bed, looking at him and not offering any opinions.
“Oh, go on then” he sighed, “I’ll do the silly task. Probably be completely wasting my time, but…”
“Good morning.” Smiled Felicity.
“Oi, what are you doing here?” Alan asked. “Have you got my house bugged or something”
“No, I am magical, remember?” She replied. “Now, would you like to know what your final task is?”
“Well, ok. But this had better be the last task. And the reward, ‘what I need’ had better be amazing!” He answered grumpily.
“It is, and it is.”
“Today, Alan, I would like you to be brave.” The fairy replied.
“Be brave? But I am a complete wuss! I hope that it’s nothing to do with roller coasters? I swore that I would never get on one again after that awful incident when I was in college… I never lived that one down. And that poor man…” Alan began.
“Oh no, nothing like that.” She said. “This is about facing your fear of drains.” She explained.
“Drains?” Alan gulped. “But… they… they’re worse than rollercoasters!” Alan gulped.
“Yes, I have heard of your phobia. There was a childhood incident I believe?” Enquired the fairy kindly.
“There was.” Alan nodded. “I would rather not talk about it.”
Felicity explained that she had recently heard on the fairy network that a resident had had an accident in the park, and needed some help. It involved a drain.
“Does it have to be me who helps this unlucky resident?” Asked Alan.
“It doesn’t have to be you,” said Felicity, “but decide soon. The poor man is getting cold.”
“Ok then. Seeing as it’s going to be my Last Ever task, ah…how close exactly do I need to get to this drain?” Alan shuddered.
“He’s in the park.” Replied Felicity before disappearing.
Alan really did not like drains. He headed off to the park to see what he could do to help.
He found the poor man quickly. He had fallen into a drain and did not seem pleased about it.
“Help, I have fallen into this drain!” The man shouted, unnecessarily.
“Yes, I can see that. I don’t like drains though.” Replied Alan sadly.
“Neither do I at the moment.” He answered. “Why don’t you grab that stick over there?”
Alan got the stick and held it out to the man. He grabbed hold of it, and our hero pulled him out of the dreaded drain.
“Thanks.” Said the man.
“You are welcome.” Smiled Alan.
Alan swiftly stepped away from the drain. Suddenly he needed a coffee.
“Right, I am going home to have a coffee.” He announced.
“Coffee? Great. I am desperate for a drink. I was stuck down that drain for 3 hours!” The man replied.
“Oh… I thought that you lived nearby?” Asked Alan.
“It’s a fair walk. Your house is probably closer. I really need the toilet, too.” The man said.
“Ok… um, well I can give you a coffee too, I guess.” Muttered Alan.
“Great. You lead the way.”
Soon after they got back to Alan’s house, Felicity appeared.
“Eek! There’s a fairy in your kitchen!” Spluttered the man.
“Hello Felicity.” Said Alan.
“Hi Alan. Hi Jeremy.” She replied.
“How does she know my name?” Cried Jeremy.
“She’s a fairy, they know things.” Answered Alan, sipping his coffee.
“Pleased to meet you.” Smiled Felicity.
“So, I completed all of your, frankly ridiculous, tasks.” Said Alan. “Where is my reward please?”
“Your reward, as I am sure you remember, is something that you need.” Said Felicity.
“Yes, what do I need? Is it a holiday? An endless supply of bourbon biscuits? A yacht?” Prompted Alan.
“Alan, did you introduce yourself to Jeremy after you removed him from the drain?” Asked Felicity.
“No, I was too busy thinking about coffee.”
“Right. Alan, this is Jeremy. Jeremy, meet Alan.”
“Hello.” Said Alan.
“Pleased to meet you. Properly.” Answered Jeremy.
“Great, how nice. So, where is my reward? Outside?” Alan peered into his garden, hoping to spot the prize.
“The thing that you really need is not an item, it’s a person.” Smiled the fairy.
“It’s what?!” Alan spluttered in disbelief.
“Alan, more than anything in the world, you need a friend. Jeremy is your reward.” Said Felicity.
“My reward is a man?” Alan stared at Jeremy, feeling confused.
“Your reward is priceless. A friend.” She smiled.
“Um, well, I like your coffee…” Said Jeremy. “Is it Italian?”
“Oh yes, single origin from Italy,” replied Alan enthusiastically, “I get it online from a boutique coffee supplier. Most people haven’t heard of it, it’s called IactuallyloveItaliancoffee.com “
“Oh! I’ve heard of them! They’re amazing. Have you ever tried their Napoli rich dark roast?” He asked.
Felicity’s work was done. She disappeared. The clock struck 1.
“I’m just going to switch the news on for a bit.” Alan told Jeffrey.
“And in international news, Donald Trump has blamed the Red Cross for the current covid 19 crisis in the US. He says that they knew about the virus even a month before China did, and chose to keep it under wraps, in order to damage his chances of re-election at the end of the year…” The Newsreader stated.
“I guess that we are back to normal time then.” Said Alan.
“Huh?” Replied Jeffrey. “How did I get to your house? I don’t remember leaving my place.”
“Never mind.” Smiled Alan. “Do you like football?”
“Should we go to a game when the lockdown has finished?” He asked his new friend.
“Yes, that sounds good. I should probably go now… I shouldn’t be at your house … so, yeah, see you soon. I’ll text.” Said Jeffrey, looking a little confused.
“Ok, bye.” Replied Alan.
Alan looked in his biscuit tin after Jeffrey had left. It was still empty. Oh well. Time to listen to some more 80’s tunes.
When lockdown had finally ended, Alan and Jeffrey went to a football match.
They also visited Bournemouth one day in the summer, where the small friendly dog mysteriously appeared. Sometimes they would walk to visit Cassandra, who always enjoyed a chat.
There was no sign of Felicity, which was probably just as well. She was quite annoying.