The Respect Fairy
by Dusty Wallace
“Excuse me, ma'am. But this chicken is undercooked,” I said. “It's nearly raw in the middle.” I spread the meat apart with my fork and knife and showed her the pink center.
“I'm sorry, sir,” the waitress said. “I'll have the kitchen cook up a fresh serving on the double.”
That sounded reasonable to me. “That'll do fine,” I said. “No hurry.”
The Old Pine Diner wasn't what you'd call fancy eatin', but I didn't think fully cooked food was beyond expectation. In fact, I rather enjoyed simple diners. The service was almost always excellent and you could usually see right into the kitchen.
At the Old Pine, I could see my waitress approach the cook with my fried chicken thigh and calmly explain the situation. He took the plate from her and she went off to serve another customer. It was at this point he should have thrown the food in the trash and began cooking a new piece of chicken.
But no! He committed the cardinal sin. He put my chicken into the microwave and began to press buttons. The sound of the beeps made my stomach sour. I could only assume he didn't know I was watching. If I had believed otherwise I might have wretched right there and then.
I'm not the type to take such disrespect sitting down. So I stood up. Then I fearlessly walked behind the counter, through the bat-wing doors, and directly into the kitchen. A bus boy and waitress raised their eyebrows as I whooshed past them, but neither of them made to stop me. Somewhere in the primordial recesses of their DNA they knew who I was and what I was about to do and they weren't about to stand in my way.
“Excuse me, sir. You can't be back here,” said the pimply-faced, paper hat-wearing cook. I'd been told thousands of times in my long, long life that I wasn't allowed “back here.” Never once did that admonishment stop me from getting the job done. If you've done something disrespectful and I happened to get wind of it, fate comes into play. And nothing can stop fate. Certainly not an employees only sign.
“Excuse you, indeed!” I said. “Have you any idea whose food you're violating in that contraption of yours?”
“Uh, yours, I guess?”
“Ding ding ding. Tell him what he's won Johnny!”
“Oh sweet Jesus,” I said, putting my hand over my face.
“Listen, dude. You can leave. You don't have to pay for anything. No one's making you eat here.”
“I will not leave,” I said. That's when I stopped being a customer and started doing what I live for. “This isn't about my meal. It's about your attitude. People work forty hours a week. Sometimes hard, dirty work. They get paid very little for doing that work. But they're willing to part with some of that money just to come in here and have a meal that keeps them out of the kitchen. It's your sacred duty to honor their work with a meal that is, at the very least, cooked to a safe temperature. While I understand mistakes happen, I also know they can be fixed. Anyone who has a little pride in what they do, in who they are, would have at least had the courtesy to fry a new goddamn piece of chicken. Yet you are willing to risk my personal health and safety to cut a few corners.”
I paused for effect, and also to take a breath.
“Do you know what you've lost, sir?” I asked.
“You've lost my respect.”
The cook stood there silent for a minute, the color draining from his face. Then he untied his apron and hung it on a nail next to him. His paper hat he crumpled up and threw in the trash.
Finally he said, “You're right. I've disrespected you, my job, and myself. I'm going to quit now. I think it's time for me to go home and reassess my entire life.”
With that he was gone.
That's what I do. I'm the Respect Fairy. You know how when you lose a tooth, the tooth fairy gives you a dollar? When you lose my respect I give you my two cents. It's been that way since the beginning.
Yes, the beginning. As in Adam and Eve. Eve was the first one I lost respect for. Not because she ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. But because she let herself be swindled by a serpent. I mean, who talks to a serpent in the first place? And since when did serpents become go-to experts on fruit trees? If it had been the Mouse of Knowledge they were banned from eating, it might have been understandable, at least.
The entire Old Testament was a busy time for me. Being a Respect Fairy didn't start being a decent job until modern times. Even so, it's really only satisfying in first world nations. Casting aspersions on the motivations of starving Haitians, for instance, just isn't a great job for the Respect Fairy. But when the one percent starts pissing in the ninety-nine percent's cornflakes it's nice to deliver a proper supernatural scolding.
That's why I left the diner and headed for the offices of Sigwara Pharmaceuticals in downtown Indianapolis. From what I'd read online, the place was just a few rooms on the bottom floor of an old office building. They'd recently made big headlines, though, and were expected to be turning a major profit in the near future.
I didn't care about the profit. I'll admit that capitalism has fostered plenty of unrespectable notions. But the root of all evil is the love of money, not money itself. Yet if you the follow the money upwards you almost always find someone in need of my attention. What I was about to do may have been infringing on the Greed Fairy's domain, but there was plenty work to go around.
The office building's directory sent me down a long hallway. The last door on the left had Sigwara Pharmaceuticals etched into the door's window. I went in uninvited and found a pretty young blond sitting behind a computer. The name plate on her desk told me she was Nancy Brighthouse.
“Hello sir,” Nancy said. “What can I help you with today?”
“I'm looking for the CEO. Marvin Spirelli,” I said.
“Do you have an appointment?” Nancy asked.
“No ma'am. But I need to see him right away,” I said.
Nancy wasn't immune to my limited charms. There's not many perks to being the Respect Fairy but one of them is going where you're needed when you're on the job. People just let you through without asking questions. There's a bit of supernatural influence involved. But sometimes I'm not the only one who has lost respect for the person I'm about to see. That likely made it an easier decision for Nancy Brighthouse to let an uninvited guest into her boss's office.
“Who the hell are you?” asked the greasy little man behind a large maple desk. Marvin Spirelli wore a suit that was a little too tight even though he was sickly thin. His hair was dark and seemingly unwashed, hanging down past his ears. Based on looks, I wouldn't trust him to sell me a used car, much less life-saving medicine.
“I'm the Respect Fairy,” I said. “I don't usually lead with that. But this is an extreme case and I want you to know exactly who you're dealing with.”
“You certainly look like a fairy,” Spirelli said. “Give me one reason why I shouldn't call the cops on you, nutball?” Spirelli reached for the phone for his desk as if he were about to dial out.
“Does that homophobia have anything to do with your recent business decision?” I asked.
He moved his hand away from the phone. They always threaten to call for help, but never do. They want to hear what I have to say even if they don't know it.
“You're hear about the Proclavitor?” he asked. “Are you with a media outlet? Why did Nancy let you in?”
“Don't take it out on her. She didn't have much of a choice,” I said. “Now let's get back on topic.”
“Who are you with? CNN? The New York Times?”
“I'm unaffiliated and have been for longer than those organizations have been in business.”
“Wait a minute,” Spirelli said. “You must have HIV yourself. Is that it?”
“What if I did? Should I have to pay thirty times more for a generic anti-retroviral that you purchased and relabeled Proclavitor?” I asked. “Because that seems like the dirtiest way I can think of to make yourself rich.”
“If you want to commit unnatural acts in the face of God then I don't care what you have to pay to get your drugs. I don't really care if you get them at all,” Spirelli said.
That was not the response I was expecting. He should have been softening up at this point. Either this guy had so little care for the respect of others that my powers weren't working, or I was losing my touch. Still, I kept trying.
“Listen up, Spirelli. I've got a bit of personal history with the big G and I can assure you that what people do with their jiggly bits is not high up on his list of concerns,” I said. “And another thing. HIV affects people from all demographics, not just homosexuals. So if you're on some kind of crusade your fighting with the wrong weapon.”
“Okay asshole. I've had enough of this witty banter for one lifetime,” Spirelli said. Then he grabbed the phone and started to dial 911.
This was a position I'd never been in before. No one had ever actually rebuked my rebukes. I grabbed the phone cord and yanked it out of the wall. Spirelli pulled out his cell phone and I smacked it out of his hands.
“Listen buddy,” Spirelli said, slowly rolling his chair backwards. “I don't want any violence.”
“Neither do I,” I said. “But I feel like I'm running out of options.”
“Just get the hell out of here and we'll pretend nothing ever happened,” Spirelli said.
“I do want to leave, Mr. Spirelli. I really do,” I said. “But first, I need you to think about your actions and how they affect the lives of others. You really have lost my respect.”
Spirelli's attitude suddenly switched from confused to indignant and hostile. He stood up, puffed out his skinny chest, and said, “I don't care about your damned respect or anyone else's.”
Stunned. I was stunned. Clearly this was a man with a mangled, ugly soul. I realized then that I finally met someone who I couldn't influence at all.
I pulled my cell from my pocket and dialed 911. My phone didn't ring the local emergency dispatch, though. It went straight through to someone I only call on in the most dire of circumstances.
“How soon can you be here?” I asked.
“Who are you calling?” Spirelli yelled. “Put that phone down. I'll have you thrown in jail.”
“Oh good. I'll never understand how you keep up with that job of yours. See you in a few,” I said, then ended my call.
Suddenly there was another individual in the office. He was cloaked in black, and though I couldn't see his face I knew he was terrifyingly beautiful. Whenever our paths did cross we weren't always allies. Like that aforementioned instance when he convinced Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But some days he was my last best hope.
“Oh this guy,” he said. “Knew I'd be seeing him soon.”
“Dear God, who are you?” Spirelli said.
“He's my shame,” I said. “The one I turn to when I can't get the job done.”
“Don't feel bad about it, RF. We all have bad days.”
“Thanks,” I said, clapping the Devil on the shoulder.
“Why don't you take off. I've got it from here,” he said.
“You can't leave me here with this thing!” Spirelli said.
A flick of my colleague's wrist and suddenly Spirelli's lips were sewed shut with twine.
“Damn that is a nice trick,” I said.
“I'll teach it to you one day.”
“Take it easy,” I said. “But not on this guy.”
“Take it easy,” I said. “But not on this guy.”
Then I left and went to KFC, where the chicken had sat under a heat lamp for too long, but at least it wasn't raw. I needed a full-stomach for my flight to New York. Fairy wings are thin and membranous, not really suited for such long trips. But there was an orange-faced presidential candidate out there with awful hair who was in desperate need of my skills.