Longlisted story in the Retreat West Monthly Micro Fiction Writing Competition, November 2021.
Looking at the zigzags on his woolen socks, he paused. His mother was saying something he couldn’t quite catch. “Okay!”, he replied nonetheless, his boots squeaking as he struggled to put them on. The snowy front yard was mirrored with a sky full of puffy clouds. A rabbit, a cowboy hat, and a dolphin later he was in front of their mailbox. There was an envelope with a dolphin stamp, bright and happy, but sadly addressed to their neighbour. He came back home with something but no letters. His mother asked, “Did you get the wool yarn from the neighbour?”
The Matchbox Generation
Maya’s right hand went to her jacket’s loose pocket and touched a small box. She took it out and put it on the table without first looking at it. The warmness of the jazz club, the music, and the people around all made a stunning entrance into her system. Her heart started savoring it all but soon was interrupted by a woman asking for the light.
“I’ll come outside with you”, Maya’s lips said as she grabbed the matchbox only to first take a close look at the tiny photograph on it. It was of a gasthaus at the Austrian Alps, probably near Innsbruck, she thought. There wasn’t snow surrounding the charming hotel but lots of green.
“You’re not smoking?”, the woman asked.
“I never did”, Maya said right after she blew off the match.
She looked at her hand but couldn’t recognize it. It went swiftly to the front of a red apron she was wearing and took out a matchbox to give to a customer. The man looked blindsided to see the matchbox.
“I think I’ve been to this jazz club, it looks so familiar. You’re from New York?”
She wasn’t sure. She was a waitress at the “Alpenhotel”, surrounded by the lush green and singing trees. One of the trees looked exactly like the one her father had pointed to her once at a demolished site. A very tall and loving tree. That was the time she had asked her father what to call a tree’s hands.
“No, I’ve never been to New York. You can keep it if you want”.
“My daughter will love it, she collects matchboxes…Danke schön.”
Maya smiled as she put her hand back in the pocket of the apron and touched a small box.
“I’m sorry, I have to take that call”.
There wasn’t any phone ringing but she left the table anyway.
“Don’t tell me you forgot it.”
It was her neighbor speaking really fast, and Maya only had to pay attention to certain words to understand what he was talking about. Early. Morning. Run. Central. Park. Overslept. She remembered how she hated jogging. She loved parks, though. They gave her hope. An hour later, as she sat on a bench, her eyes scanning the park, she saw a group of radiating trees being hugged by an equally vibrant group of people. She took out a matchbox resting over her heart. It was a blank one. All white. She held the matchbox in hand and started walking slowly. All of a sudden, her palm had a burning feeling as she noticed a little girl running towards her. Maya stood tall and still as the girl was approaching really fast.
“So sorry miss, we were just hugging a tree, I don’t know where she got the idea of hugging you”, said the little girl’s father.
“Don’t worry, it happens all the time”, Maya said to him, then turned to the litle girl.
“What do you call a tree’s hands?”
Love: More and Enough
It was time to blow the birthday candles, all three of them, but the little girl was eyeing the gifts instead. As she rushed to open a gift box with the help of her mother, she looked at the toy and carefully put it aside and said, “more please”. Her mother forced a smile and flushed a bit, while another gift was being handed to her. The little girl again tore the gift wrap and instantly said, “more please!”. Then a little boy appeared as if someone pushed him forward from behind. He was holding a box bigger than his little arms can hold onto.
The boy dropped the box on the coffee table. The girl, feeling puzzled, rose from her seat and opened it. She recognized the colored envelopes with cute stickers, her curly handwriting and hearts she had drawn. She looked at him with teary eyes and asked, “don’t you want more?”. The boy said “I had enough!”.
The waitress was startled with the voice of the young man, “enough, thank you!”. She looked at the table and saw the dripping water. As she apologized and handed him some napkins, he said, “more please!” and kept smiling at her while drying himself.
He was trying to dry himself with a rough towel while she was still in the shower. She was singing a song that was stuck in her head. She didn’t really know where it came from. Probably a song from her childhood, she thought, as she kept singing. He handed her a towel the second she stepped out of the tub, dripping water. She turned to him and said, “Do you remember your first gift to me, almost fifty years ago?”. He nodded and gave her a delicate kiss. She responded softly, “more please!”.