We generally speak of the doings and goings-on among the local f--ries as we walk to the bus stop, Taran and I. It’s quite a vibrant little neighborhood, with elderly elm mansions, a great apartment complex in a towering hedge of arborvitæ, and a holly bush bank. (All holly bushes are f--ry banks, I’m told.) (One afternoon, on the way home from the bus stop, we knocked on the doors of f--ry houses and ran away, quickly; they like pranks, I was assured. We both woke up the next morning exhausted and foully tempered from restless dreams.) —Today, she was pointing out the various berries and berry-like fruit growing from this tree or that shrub: they are f--ry pumpkins, a fresh crop grown to get ready for Hallowe’en. (Strawberries, it turns out, are really perfectly sweet little f--ry pumpkins for f--ry pumpkin pies.)
We passed a holly tree, and the berries on it turning from green to red. “See?” said Taran. “More f--ry pumpkins.”
“No,” I said, “those are holly berries. You don’t want to upset the Holly King by calling his berries pumpkins.”
“No, they’re f--ry pumpkins,” said Taran. —She’s heard stories of the Holly King before, and the Oak King. They don’t impress her.
“But he is a f--ry,” I said. (I’m fudging things a bit here, granted, but one does tend to do so when one is in a hurry to catch the bus.)
“No he isn’t,” she said.
“Yes, he is,” I said. (One must be firm once one’s flag is set, you see.)
“Papa,” she said, and she held up her hand. “Look at this text I just got from the f--ries. It says he isn’t. He’s just a legend. Okay?”