Monday, June 6, 2011

Warning: Short Story of Make Believe (Flash Fiction)


“Remember one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Daddy said when they got to the garage sale and handed her a one dollar bill. It’s what he always said.

Mia hated the way the wrinkled dollar smelled, but she loved the way it made her feel and what it meant—time with Daddy.

“Daddy, doesn’t it make you think of the beach?” Mia pointed at the sheets, stretching over the lawn and covered with candy dishes and yellowed Tupperware. The breeze tickled at the frayed edges of the sheets and tangled her ponytail.

His crooked smile made her think of a question mark.

She tried again.

“You know the beach . . . that raggedy line of seaweed after the water goes out?  That’s all mixed up with broken shells but if you walk slow and look hard you can find a whole sand dollar that’s not all broken to bits—sometimes.  It’s like that to me here.”

He patted her head. "Like finding a great deal."

Daddy held her hand as they wandered through card tables piled with blouses and winter sweaters.  He always wore his work coveralls streaked with grease on the pockets when they went treasure hunting together; his name stitched in blue and black on his chest. 

“Like sea treasures,” she said.

“You’re a funny girl, Mia.” That's what he always said.

She felt itchy when grownups said that stuff to her, not sure if it was a good thing to be a funny girl who saw seaweed in the flutter of sheets on the grass at a yard sale.

He left her in front of a table with books and puzzles and games. Sometimes he looked at her like she was a sand dollar hidden under a pile of torn chip bags and barnacles.  She thought he looked tired and rumpled like the money.

He left to look for sensible treasures like torque wrenches and channel-lock pliers. She picked up a book and was disappointed to see that she’d read it and was rejecting the puzzles as too easy when the glitter of sun on glass caught her eye. Maybe it was glass or crystal or even diamonds?

Piled next to her were jars, dishes, mismatched pots and pans, and somewhere in all that jumble the tantalizing sparkle of magic. She felt it. Mia walked to the edge of a paisley blanket and saw it—a glowing face of crystal arching away into an elegant curve. A crystal ball. It was a crystal ball, a real one, half hidden and tipped on its edge against a chipped bowl.  She froze when the sun hit the crystal ball and splintered into a hundred shards of glittering fire.

The sign read, Everything One Dollar.

Mia could hardly breathe. She looked at her daddy and flipped a hand at him, not wanting to give it away, but tempted to yell at him to hurry. Hurry, hurry before someone else discovered her crystal ball and scooped it up. She waved harder and then went to get him.

“Daddy,” she said, tugging at his shirtsleeve. “Daddy, do you see it?” She didn’t want to take the chance and point, so she dipped her head towards the blanket, whispering, “Daddy, there. Look! Next to that broken bowl. Can you believe it? And it’s only a dollar. It’s magic for only one dollar.”

“Mia, what do you want me to see?” He squinted.

Dragging him to the edge of the blanket, she said, “There daddy.” She bent down, desperate enough now to pick the crystal ball up, to hold it in front of her like a chalice.  He looked at it and then looked at her, puzzled. 

“What do you think this is?” He pulled the magical globe out of her hands.

“Shhh, daddy, they’ll hear you.” How could he not know?  “Daddy," she whispered. "It’s a crystal ball! Look . . . just look!”

“But honey,” he said, turning the ball of glass in his chapped hands.  He shook it.  Tipping it over, he watched as a shower of dried up mosquitoes and flies fell out of its hollow center. “We have one just like it in the bathroom.”

He held up her crystal ball to the sun. It became a dusty glass covering for a bathroom light fixture.

“Oh,” she said, softer than a breath. “But I thought . . .”

She covered her mouth with her hand to hide the way she needed to bite her lip—hard. Her hand smelled like the money—sweaty skin and fingernail dirt.

He tossed the light fixture back into the heap and patted her on the head.

“Next time, funny Mia. Next time you’ll find treasure.”



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