An Excerpt from The Boy Who Was Mistaken for a Fairy King

The day the King boy was born, crocuses popped from the wintry ground (it was late December in New York’s Catskills) and spread their purple petals wide. People remarked upon it, but no one—not even the nurse who snugged the tiny blue hat over the newborn’s bald egg of a head and was the first to startle at the raised ridges along his cranium (like two arched brows of bone above where the babe’s hairline would eventually be) thought one had anything to do with the other. And they might have had the right of it.

In the language of flowers, the crocus is thought to signify friendship. Or maybe trust. Depending, of course, on what one is trying to say. When it comes to meaning, flowers are far more open to misinterpretation than words. Sometimes a crocus can indicate innocence. Those who don’t hold with Victoriana simply think they note the coming of spring.

…something’s coming, all right…

No one used the word trauma, but the boy’s mother understood that being born vaginally might leave its mark upon a child—journeys always do and canals (birth and otherwise) can be tricky things to navigate. Doctors, nurses, and internet alike assured her that the child’s head wouldn’t retain its conical shape, that he’d settle into himself soon enough. The ridges, which were clearly circling into nubs, were lumped in with the general head re-shaping. The OB/GYN in particular was relieved to hand off Mrs. King and her many questions to a pediatrician in her practice, and, in fact, left said practice soon after—about the time the doctor herself conceived—and never thought of the King boy again, except for the time she and her daughter watched Bambi and then immediately spotted a fawn in their back garden all tiny polka dots; round, soulful eyes; furry, elfin ears; and two tiny bumps where antlers one day would grow. Which was around the same time, the Kings’ once-upon-a-time gyno developed irrational fears about her daughter being stolen away (by fairies or pedophiles or bucks, oh, my). Not that one necessarily had anything to do with the other.

In the iconology of animals, the deer symbolizes peace. And grace. And wisdom. Gentleness. Even fertility. Ubiquitous and meddlesome things, deer. In tales of old, deer serve as messengers or animalia psychopomps to speed the spirits of the dead upon their way. And if one believes in fairies and their creatures, then deer travel between worlds, sometimes even lead fairy armies. To those who don’t hold with folklore, deer are simply something to keep out of gardens and away from car bumpers and quarter panels—or to be hunted and eaten.

…the hunt is a wild, glorious thing…

By kindergarten, the King child’s hair—soft, wavy, brown—mostly hid the bony protuberances. Nobody called them horns; no one allowed themselves to think horns. Mrs. King brushed her fingers through her son’s hair and wondered if either her womb or birth canal was at fault—could it merely be a bad genetic matchup?—and whether she should insist the orthopedic surgeon shave the bumps before people started calling her dear boy devil or demon. But the…protuberances…seemed so sensitive, when she slid her fingers through her son’s hair (always, always trying to lessen the amount of skin showing) and rubbed the bumps he fell asleep: so fast, so deep. The pediatrician sounded certain that they weren’t cancerous nor likely to cause brain damage. Every mother had worries. Perhaps she should be grateful these not horns, never horns were the worst of hers. The father, Mr. King, worried not at all. He was long gone in the wind by then. He’d always been a breezy fellow—but one hundred percent human!—with the DNA to prove it.

This is an excerpt from The Boy Who Was Mistaken for a Fairy King, by HL Fullerton. Buy it now to keep reading!

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