A few months ago I challenged myself to write a story under 300 words. Here’s the result at 293.
All the Trapped Stars
The day after the tornado fell from a starless sky, and like a mosquito’s proboscis, sucked away her house and life as she knew it, Clare sifted through the debris. She searched for irreplaceable things – photos, keepsakes, heirlooms. Two-by-fours and bricks mingled with soggy books and sneakers in a bitter stew.
“Play on the swings while I look, sweetie,” she told her son. “And Luke, keep Sophie away from the rubble. Too much broken glass.”
With a churning stomach, Clare started in what had been the den. She found the cover to The Three Little Pigs, a carboard page from Good Night Moon, Sophie’s doll minus the limbs. A key to a house which no longer existed.
“Find anything?” yelled Luke. Which meant, did you find my Legos?
“Find anything?” Sophie echoed, playfully.
Clare hid the mangled doll behind her back and shook her head.
In the roofless garage, under crisscrossed wooden beams, lay a purple box – wet, warped, but uncrushed. Inside was Grandma Bett’s Waterford crystal bowl.
The cut angles caught the sun and flashed triangles of color, just the way it had on Grandma Bett’s dining room table when Clare, like Sophie, was five. She wasn’t allowed to touch it, so she’d walk around the table to examine the sparkles from different perspectives. She’d count all the trapped stars.
“Look!” she called to the children as she walked to the patio. “Not a scratch on it!” Ha! What were the chances?
Sophie asked, “Can I hold it?”
Clare placed the bowl in her small hands, and Sophie held it up to the sun like an offering.
Then, with the sound of a myriad celestas, the bowl crashed onto the concrete, scattering the light, freeing the stars.