The Blessing and the Blues by Forrest D. Poston
Nothing had gone wrong, at least nothing new. It was just a wrong day. Surely I was in the wrong town and the wrong job. Evidently, the universe was in a huff, but we hadn't been on good terms lately anyway. I had worked my way through the "Margaritaville" blame cycle yet again, someone else's fault, nobody's fault, my fault, but knowing it was my responsibility and having a clue what to do can be two all too different things. All I really wanted after all was enlightenment, simple, complete enlightenment, and right damn now. I was grumpy as only a middle-aged idealist does grumpy, and I was sinking in for a good wallow.
That evening in October found me searching the shelves at Hollywood Video, part of me looking for something to give the gloom just the right tone, part on a quest for something to revive my belief in Capra. The horror section seemed promising at first, at least for the part of me that wanted a little more darkness. Perhaps I could snag a vampire film from Hammer Studio, a little blood and obsession, evil and corruption, Peter Cushing cauterizing his neck with hot iron and holy water. I could at least count on a good, inventive ending, but that also meant that I already knew how the vampire died, a question that always meant part of the fun, part of the suspense. I could go with a newer film with an unknown ending, but I hadn't seen a good vampire ending since Fright Night, and few experiences are more annoying that a movie that goes belly up in the last ten minutes. Just because I was grumpy didn't mean that I was quite that masochistic.
An actual Capra movie was out, too much of a jump for now, even Mr. Smith and his lost cause in Washington, but there might be a comedy that would supply the right dose of pre-packaged hope. However, my shuffle along the rows was unintentionally complicated by a girl perhaps six years old, just a few video rows tall. She was wearing the kind of costume that could be fairy, princess, or ballerina with the change of an accessory or two. It wasn't Halloween, but it was close enough. Besides, at that age who needs an excuse to wear a costume? The presence of a glittery, plastic wand suggested that she was in fairy mode, though fairy godmother hardly seemed quite right. I grunted sounds close to "Excuse me," as I sidled past and skimmed more titles.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her looking up, and I wasn't too grumpy to wonder if I had frightened her. In addition to whatever frustration I was radiating, I was looking rather scruffy. Compared to her, I was a bearded, long-haired, unkempt grumbly giant, maybe troll or ogre. Giving children nightmares wasn't likely to improve my standing with the universe, but I had no idea what to do about it. Before I could even decide whether to take action or retreat, she spoke in a voice, clear, simple, almost too low for me to hear, but filled with all the good things about childhood, "Bless you."
I fumbled out a thank you, and she walk-skipped away. Maybe I wasn't quite as deep in the doghouse as I thought. Maybe the universe would still talk if I would listen. Maybe, just maybe another Grinch could be uncursed. What blessing could measure up to the spontaneous reaction of a child with one foot still in Eden? Maybe I really was as special as I sometimes wanted to believe, with an important if still mysterious destiny waiting. One aisle over I heard, in a slightly louder voice, "Bless you." Moments later, another blessing, not in my direction. Fully in character now, she moved about the store, and no one went without a blessing as she passed. I got at least three, but others received at least as much attention. For a while, she stood at the front and blessed each person as they entered or left.
The plastic wand held no magic, but watching a little girl dispense her blessings, and watching everyone from college students to mini-van moms decide how to react, reversed my introverted spin. Few could resist a smile, and I think some made a point of walking past more than once. I'm in the same town, same job, still not sure why, and I don't remember if the movies I finally picked were good or not. From time to time I've tumbled into a funk and found all the video stores quite mundane. Some of the people there that night paid little attention, and most of the others, even the girl, have probably forgotten, but if only for one night I had a fairy god-child, and that with a Frank Capra movie will fight the blues and the evening news.