The Vase (a writer’s-prompt inspired “flash fiction”)

A post for the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge. Never used a writing prompt before–it was harder than writing just what comes into my fevered brain normally. But a good exercise I think. Readers who are writers, you might give the Weekly Challenge a try.

Sam didn’t notice her grandmother’s vase was missing from the hutch until she knelt down to retrieve her ball from under the armoire. Pressing her cheek to the floor, she held her breath so as not to inhale the dust. Laying there on the cool of the wood, waiting for the eddies of cat-hair to settle, she imagined what it would be like to always live with this world view—as a mouse, or bug—where one’s eye was nearly on the ground; where the underside of a cabinet became a mighty cave, and a dust-bunny an insurmountable obstacle.Vase

She shuddered. All at once, she wanted back out into the bright summer yard, away from the dust and darkness of the spider’s world. But first, her ball.

Biting her lip, she slid her hand into the narrow space between floor and cabinet, trying to avoid running fingers through the dust while still groping for her toy. What her fingertips found was neither the smooth surface of her ball, nor the gritty texture of fifty-year old dust—it was the sharp shards of something that clinked as her fingers grazed them.

With the caution of a girl who was champion at pick-up sticks, she plucked up one of the pieces, drawing it out into the dim light of the hall. The curving shard of ceramic seemed to shine, though no light reflected on its glaze. The convex side gleamed with crackling gold against an indigo background as deep as the evening sky in August. Sam stared at the thing, ball forgotten. The fragment seemed to hold an entire story, one that she might be able to read in the patterns of gold and blue if she could just decipher the language.

“What are you doin’ on the floor, darlin’?”

Her grandmother’s voice made her jump, and she dropped the piece of ceramic with a glassy plink.

“I lost my ball under there.”

Sam pointed at the giant armoire which had stood against the wall forever, even when her mother had been a child—she’d seen pictures.

“Do you want me to get the broom and we’ll sweep it out?”

Though Sam hadn’t broken the vase, in fact couldn’t begin to guess who might have, she suddenly felt a wave of anxiety at the thought of her grandmother fishing for a rubber ball, and instead finding a piece of her life broken into bits in the dust.

“No, Nannie. I can get it. The floor’s nice and cool anyhow.”

As if to prove how comfortable it was, Sam lay down on her back, careful to hide the broken bit of vase under her arm.

Her grandmother raised an eyebrow, and pushed the stray strands of hair back toward the knot at her neck.

“If you say so. Just don’t get too dirty. Haven’t cleaned under there for a hundred years.”

With a smile, her grandmother disappeared back into the kitchen. Sam let out the breath she hardly knew she’d been holding, then rolled back toward the armoire, eyes squinting to see into the darkness.

Piece by piece, she pulled the vase out into the hall until the floor under the massive cabinet was clear—her ball was now in her pocket—then scooped the fragments into a basket made of her shirt.

What now? Throw them away somewhere Nannie wouldn’t see them? Bury them in the garden? Or could she piece it back together like one of those three-dimensional puzzles she’d gotten for her tenth birthday, where fifty, curving plastic sections fitted together to make a globe?

Sam carried the shattered vase out to the barn, her heart beating hard. She couldn’t throw it away—Grandpa had given it to Nannie when they were first married. What would that mean if it was gone for good? Somehow it would be like Grandpa had never even existed at all.

Over the next few days she worked on restoring what had been broken. Super-glue stolen from Nannie’s junk-drawer and persistence slowly built the vase back up into its round-bellied shape. But despite her work, Sam couldn’t repair it completely. Every piece fitted back into its form, minus one. Somehow, the vase was whole except for a single, jagged piece.

She went back to the hall, searched the floor again, this time borrowing a flashlight from the junk-drawer, but the armoire hid nothing more than the spiderwebs of the floor-dwellers. No piece of vase. No single fragment to make Nannie’s life whole again.

Wiping her nose on her sleeve, Sam slumped back to the barn. Maybe Nannie wouldn’t notice. Maybe if she turned the hole to the back of the hutch, her grandmother would never take it out and see it was incomplete.

Sam rubbed her eyes, her throat thick and aching. Somehow, she didn’t think so.

Photo: “20140708 Radkersburg – Vases – H3611” by Hubertl – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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