A few days before Christmas, Gary Darling closed his bedroom door after getting ready for Emma’s party. He sauntered downstairs in a new silk shirt to find an old guy in his house, a complete stranger. Gary prided himself on his cool, but even he was mildly alarmed to find an old man pottering around his living room.
Gary’s visitor was tall, with white hair and a slight stoop, rather elegant, even distinguished in an old-fashioned way. He seemed slightly confused too - rather like Gary's old headmaster. Gary glanced at his watch. Eight o'clock - should be off to Emma’s party any minute, but for the moment he seemed to be stuck with some old nutter who must have wandered in off the street... although the front door wasn’t open.
‘Hello,’ Gary said affably. May as well be polite - show a bit of Christmas spirit. It was a bitter December evening - too cold even for nutters to be wandering around. Anyway – this little incident may turn out be a good story for Emma’s party. A laugh perhaps? Especially after a few glasses of something strong. After all, the old guy could have lost his memory like Gary's dad before Gary put him in that home.
‘Bloody typical,’ said the elderly man suddenly interrupting Gary’s flow of seasonally adjusted good intentions. Gary found a pair of piercing blue eyes focussed on his own.
‘Pardon?’ Gary hastily revised his ideas. The old chap didn’t look at all confused now. More like an angry old headmaster who still had all his marbles. Could still be a nutter though.
‘This is absolutely bloody typical - no organisation - none at all.’ The white-haired man pointed a long finger in the direction of Gary Darling's living-room ceiling.
‘Do we have a problem?’ Gary gazed blankly at the ceiling.
‘Too many damn problems - but I suppose we'd better get on with it,’ the elderly man snapped. He gave Gary another searching glance with those sharp blue eyes. ‘I suppose you wish to attend some kind of revelry.’
‘Well I’m certainly going to a party.’ Gary glanced at his watch again.
‘I knew it. He was attending the revels anyway you blithering idiots. He doesn’t need the slightest assistance from me because the young fool was already on his way,’ the elderly man shouted at the ceiling. ‘I knew the young toad didn’t require the services of a fairy godfather as soon as I clapped eyes on him. What? What on earth for? Well – if you insist. The damned fools say I have to carry on anyway now I’ve made myself known to you,’ he said, transferring his furious gaze from the ceiling to Gary.
‘Carry on what?’
‘My name is Pringle and I’m your fairy godfather - and don't you dare laugh or I'll turn you into a fairy and shove you on top of that tree.’ Pringle pointed to Gary's plastic Christmas tree in the corner of the room, opposite his huge TV set.
‘My fairy godfather?’ Gary’s eyes rested for a moment on his phone, lying on the table by the door with his car keys. The old chap didn't look especially strong...
‘Fairy godfathers have been out of fashion for a while, but for some accursed reason the tradition is being revived by management,’ said Pringle. ‘It’s a marketing thing.’
‘Oh. I see - my fairy godfather - I should have known that’s who you are – how could I make a mistake like that?’ Gary sidled casually towards his phone.
‘Have you a suitable means of transport to this shindig of yours?’ Pringle eyed Gary dubiously. ‘I don’t go in for glass slippers or any of that mullarkey, but I can do you a coach and pair.’
‘A coach and pair? Horses and stuff?’
‘Of course horses. How else does one drive a coach?’
‘Wouldn't a coach and horses be a bit old-fashioned?’ Gary was by the table now. He slipped the phone into his jacket pocket but kept his hand in the pocket – just in case.
Pringle seemed surprised by this remark, glancing round the room as if for the first time, his eyes flicking over Gary's massive wide-screen TV and expensive multi-media sound equipment.
‘Blast and damn.’ Pringle pulled out a huge silver watch from his waistcoat pocket. ‘I’ll turn the dozy dogs into a pack of warty toads. This is a bigger foul-up than I'd thought. Are we in the twenty-first century?’
‘Well I am, I don't know about you.’
‘Blast it to Hades. I’m landed with the blasted twenty-first century again - all smoke and fumes and pollution - hardly a grain of romance left. No wonder you don’t have a clue about fairy godfathers. Oh well – the sooner I’m done the sooner I clock off. I suppose you want one of those foul motor cars to travel to your seedy gathering?’
‘Actually I have a car - a Ford.’
‘I could make some improvements on a Ford,’ said Pringle. ‘How about a Ferrari? You look like a typical young twenty-first century fool wallowing like a pig in crass materialism. You must covet a Ferrari – it goes with the territory you people say.’
‘Yes – thing with four wheels don’t you know. Anyway – make up your tiny mind. Do you or do you not want to go to your party in a Ferrari? I haven't got all night.’
‘Well...Don’t you need a pumpkin and white mice and stuff like that?’ Gary tried to remember the Cinderella story. He'd have a hell of a tale to tell when he finally got to the party.
‘A pumpkin?’ Pringle gave a short, barking laugh. ‘Pumpkins and white mice are for show-offs, I'll just make a few modifications to your Ford.’
Gary upset the table as Pringle suddenly seemed to flit past him, leaving the room at a great rate. Almost as if he... ‘Almost as if he flew,’ Gary muttered as he followed his uninvited guest out through the kitchen and the back door.
‘This vehicle needs a damn good clean and a spot of polish,’ Pringle grumbled when Gary eventually found him in the garage, running a fastidious pink finger across the soiled blue paintwork of Gary's Ford.
‘I don’t get time to clean it,’ Gary said automatically. Why was he apologising to the old nutter? ‘Can't you clean it by magic?’ he added with a smirk.
‘Cleaning a client’s car is absolutely not in my contract.’ Pringle took a kind of glittery wand from somewhere in his jacket and waved it. There was a brilliant flash of pinkish light.
‘What was that, you stupid old...?’ When Gary finally blinked away the stars and persuaded his eyes to focus, he found his Ford was gone. His garage was occupied by a bright red Ferrari F40 crouching on fat black tyres like a sleek leopard ready to launch itself at its prey.
‘Like it?’ Pringle asked.
‘I can't believe it.’ Gary stared at his reflection in mirror-bright paintwork then looked up and noticed that only his own breath was visible in the cold night air. No vapour escaped from Pringles flaring nostrils. Gary shivered.
‘Believe it, because I'm off.’
‘You're leaving already.’
‘That's right - all done - thank heavens.’
‘No - hang on - don't go.’ Gary put a disbelieving hand on the cold surface of the car. It felt real enough.
‘You have a Ferrari to waft you to your merrymaking,’ said Pringle, fishing out his big silver watch again. ‘What more do you want?’
The Ferrari seemed to send Gary’s mind into overdrive. ‘Don't I get three wishes or something?’ He suddenly had visions of winning the National Lottery as teeming images surged through his busy mind.
‘I was going to skip the three wishes. You aren't exactly one of the deserving poor, are you?’ Pringle slipped the watch back into his pocket with a frown.
‘I bet it's in the rules,’ Gary said.
‘It is in the rules - but I still say you don't really need three wishes you greedy young toad.’ Pringle drummed his fingers on Gary's Ferrari.
‘Less of the personal stuff - I'd like to see those rules.’
‘What?’ Gary stepped back as his fairy godfather thrust a tattered book under his nose.’
‘You asked to see the rules so that is one wish over and done with. I showed you the rules, so you have two wishes left.’ Pringle slipped the book back into his pocket.
‘That's not fair - that wasn't a proper wish and you haven't even let me read the rules.’
‘You only expressed a wish to see the rules, but you may read them too if you wish. There is a whole chapter on the seven deadly sins - you may care to brush up on them. Do you wish to read the rules?’
‘No I don’t want to read the rules. I want to win ten million pounds on the National Lottery.’ Gary grinned and folded his arms. ‘I know what you're up to, so that was my second wish.’
‘TWO.’ The fairy godfather smiled for the first time.
‘When?’ Suddenly Gary felt uneasy about matching his wits against this old bastard. He placed a hand on the cold metal of his Ferrari - just to be sure.
‘What do you mean?’ The fairy godfather smiled again.
‘When do I win the National Lottery?’
‘You'll win ten million pounds two days before you die. Would you like to know when that will be? I’ll look it up for you shall I?.’
‘Ten million pounds?’
‘You didn’t say when you wanted to win the lottery, but as I'm your fairy godfather I'll stretch a point to make sure you do win - eventually.’
‘Ten million pounds for two sodding days?’ Gary clapped his hand to his forehead, trying to force some hard thinking into the turmoil of his mind. How could his own fairy godfather not want him to have his three wishes? How mean could you get? There was only one wish left now so it had to be foolproof – he must make a damned sight more than a Ferrari out of all this...
‘Won't you be late for your party?’ Pringle smiled his irritating smile.
‘I‘d rather stay here for now…’
‘No - hang on…’
‘That's three wishes and as you have changed your mind about attending the revelries you do not need the Ferrari,’ said a voice as the fairy godfather vanished along with Gary's beautiful red Ferrari.