I took this photo of our dining room cabinet earlier this year for my photography class:
It kind of fits. Kind of.
Anyway, a while back I entered a contest for my local library. All I had to do was submit a piece of writing under 1000 words, about anything. Simple right?
No. No simple. No no no no no.
I am a writer of length, unfortunately. I love formulating whole stories and words with very drippy-juicy descriptions that are sometimes too long for small boxes marked limit: 1000 words.
But I tried anyway. I thought it might be fun, you know, pushing myself to try to fit into this tiny little box. After all, little things can be very special in their own little ways. So I poured my heart into this box and let it sit a while. (It took a long time to fill– you can guess how many times I crumpled it and started over.) I even asked my friends if they would like to edit it for me– I was totally terrified about the responses I might get, since I didn’t like people reading my stuff then. (They were very nice about it– constructive and kind, a beautiful combination.)
Once the box was filled (and the story was actually a coherent story now), I bit my lip, submitted it, and waited in agony for results.
Result: well, I tried. The loss wasn’t unexpected in the least. But it still stung a little…
So I didn’t win, but I am proud of my 999-word story (1 word below the limit! Success!). I thought it would be a waste just to let it languish on my laptop for all eternity. It needs some sunlight. So here it is:
• • •
Wings & Antiques, Consignment Store
Mary walks as fast as her little legs can carry her, eager to get out of the cold. Pale clouds loom above her, as gray as the sidewalk. The whole block is soggy from yesterday’s storm. Mary scurries forward, hoping that it will not rain again.
Several stores along the street are open, but there are very few people. Mary thinks about going into one of the stores, but decides against it. All those coffee shops and boutiques and bookstores would look down upon a small, nine-year-old girl like her.
As Mary continues to walk, she becomes increasingly lost.
She does not recognize any of the shops here, which all seem extremely similar to one another.
That’s when she notices the store in front of her.
The storefront is a warm chestnut brown, unlike the sea of gray windows surrounding her. She reads the store’s sign: Wings & Antiques, Consignment Store.
Mary goes inside. Surely there must be someone who could help her.
A soft bell rings as Mary pushes open the door. Immediately a burst of warm air greets her, and she feels as though she has just walked into her grandparents’ kitchen as her grandmother is baking cookies. She no longer feels cold.
The store is filled with rows of dark, floor-to-ceiling mahogany bookshelves.
“Why, hello.” Mary turns to see the store’s owner, hidden behind the counter. He is rather grandfather-like, with his wispy gray hair and small round spectacles. “Come in from the rain, have we?”
“N-no… No sir,” Mary says timidly, hoping he will not send her away. “S’not raining outside yet, sir.”
The man chuckles softly. “Well, rain or no, you’re welcome to look around. Try on a pair or two, if you like.”
Mary has not the faintest idea of what he means, but all she can say is, “I haven’t any money, sir.”
“Not a worry!” he proclaims. He tosses something towards her, which she manages to catch rather clumsily. It’s a coin. “I will not turn away a customer. Think of it as a small favor.”
Mary, not wanting to offend the old man, shoves the coin into her pocket. She looks around a little, not wanting to tell the man that she only came in because she was lost.
As it turns out, the front shelves are not full of books, as Mary had thought, but all sorts of interesting things. Jars of all shapes and sizes. Candelabras, standing like little trees growing out of the mahogany shelving. A bowl of rather odd buttons. Curling picture frames. Elaborately engraved silverware. Glinting jewelry in a kaleidoscope of colors.
After Mary comes to the end of the shelf, she moves eagerly to the next one, wondering how much these things must cost. None of the items seem to have prices listed on them.
The next shelf holds antiques, but not as many. Instead, on a particularly dainty stand, sitting between a porcelain doll and an open-faced pocket watch, rests what appear to be a set of wings.
They are only as big as a paperback book, but they are extremely beautiful. The feathers have a glossy, translucent sheen, as if each feather is an individual dragonfly wing.
Mary remembers something about trying a pair on, so she decides to pick them up. She holds them very carefully, as if they might break. They are quite light, and silky in texture.
As she holds them, they start to move. Mary gasps as the wings begin to flutter of their own accord, floating upwards, then disappearing behind her.
Mary feels a tickle in her shoulder blades, and then, suddenly, the wings, now large enough to accommodate her size, appear to be growing out of her back.
She twists around to see them. She can feel them as surely as she can feel her own hands. She tests them, flapping them once or twice.
As she flaps them, a sparkling dust seems to fall from the wings. She rises, little by little, as her wings move. Mary laughs as she ascends, but then realizes that she cannot stop ascending. Her head bumps into the ceiling.
Panicked, Mary wishes the wings off her back. Instantly they fall away, floating to the ground like paper. Mary drops, but finds that she is not hurt.
She picks up the wings and puts them back in their place quickly, but not before noticing the tag attached to them that reads: Altitude.
She moves on to another pair.
It is a pair of butterfly wings. They are as black as night, with an intricate lacy webbing stretching across them in a glinting silver. They remind Mary of her mother’s best necklace, reserved for expensive dinner parties. The tag reads: XL.
The wings attach themselves like the ones before, but instead of growing to fit her, they continue to stretch, becoming heavier. They start bumping into the shelves, continuing to grow. They only stop when the tips of the wings are curled against the ceiling, and Mary is pressed against the mahogany.
Mary tries on others. Some move quickly like hummingbird heartbeats; others cast rainbows off as she flaps them. Although each is extremely wonderful, none seem to fit her quite right.
It is not until Mary reaches the very last shelf in the very last row that she finds a pair of white-feathered wings.
They sit lightly on her back. The feathers are soft and airy, like dollops of fresh whipped-cream. Mary stretches them, admiring their fluffy, cloud-like appearance. She lifts up into the air with them, feeling light and free. They are easy to maneuver, and seem to listen to her. They do not crash her into the ceiling. They do not grow to unmanageable sizes.
They are perfect.
Mary decides that she will get them, if the old man will sell them to her for one coin.
She walks towards the front counter with her wings, and the tag that reads: Small favors.
• • •