The Youth Fairy
1022 words long
I sell youth. All I ask in return is... access.
Notes from the author:
In The Truth, one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, we meet a character named Harry King. He’s known colloquially as “King of the Golden River” and, more prosaically, “Piss Harry.” Harry makes a living—a fortune, really—trading in human and animal waste. Urine and feces (let’s make no bones about it). Bones, too. Bones and offal and whole corpses when he can get them. There’s more people than you might think use stuff like that in their crafts, and they’ll pay good money to get them.
But what makes Harry’s business so lucrative is, people who don’t have any use for those things will pay good money to have them taken away.
Youth is like that. For every adult who wishes they had it back, there’s a child in a hurry to get rid of it. C. S. Lewis has one of his more favored characters say, in the infamous “lipsticks and nylon” passage about Susan, “She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.” Foolish, perhaps, but to put the blame for it solely upon Susan, and, by proxy, young women everywhere, is to unjustly ignore the perverse incentives built into the mechanisms grinding away at as all.
The game of youth and beauty and social value is a strange one. The only way to win is not to play. But many women are not truly free to opt out. For them, the only way to survive is to play the game and play it well. I suspect that poor Susan, maligned, left behind, and bereft of her whole family, was obliged to play it very well indeed.
Youth is wasted on the young. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. The young little value what they have and cannot be rid of it fast enough. What they want most of all is to be all grown up. But let them survive to lay hands on that brass ring, they will spend the rest of their lives regretting their haste. Their treasure was always slipping through their fingers drip by drop, second by unstoppable second. There was no need to throw it away prematurely.
Still, who am I to tell a child no? I take what I am offered. And when they are older and pine for what they’ve lost, I sell it back to them.
Not to everyone, of course; I can’t be everywhere at once, and even if I could, I haven’t enough supply to make every would-be customer happy. I am drawn only by the greatest need, and only to those willing and able to pay.
Thus I find myself in the opera house listening to an aging soprano perform her famous aria....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for December 15, 2017. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1022 words) from Patreon as an ebook or audiobook depending on their pledge tier.
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