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Story 2

J. G. Formato

A little girl with no name, no voice and no prospects has her life changed when she receives a pot holder loom for her birthday...  J. G. Formato spins a delightful tale in which nothing is quite what it seems, and an abandoned girl's dream comes true.

J.G. Formato is a writer and school teacher from North Florida. She lives in a little house by the woods with her beautiful family. Her short fiction can be read in Bracken,Syntax & Salt, Equus from World Weaver Press, and elsewhere. You can listen to her stories at The Centropic Oracle and Manawaker Studio's Flash Fiction Podcast.

 

Little One and the Loom

by J.G. Formato

            The singing was off-key, and it bounced. The other children’s voices were orange, springy coils, cascading down the walls like perpetual motion Slinkies. When the song was over, its notes collected in rippling puddles that melted into the carpet.

            The tiny girl with the knobby knees and the buttoned-up lips, read the cake eagerly.  Happy birthday, Little One! it greeted her from beneath a frosted layer of roses and butterflies. She swallowed a sigh. She had hoped they would write her name on it, the way they did for the other children. It’d been so long since anyone had used it, she’d forgotten what it was.

            Maybe they had, too. Maybe that’s why they didn’t put it on the cake.  Or in the song. Maybe they never knew.

            They were waiting for her to blow out the candles, so she did. It was hard without making a whooshing sound, but it could be done. She dropped her jaw and let the breath pour out until the six dancing flames were extinguished.

            Too bad there wasn’t one to grow on.

            Little One ate, smooshing the cake against the roof of her mouth with her tongue before swallowing. The chomping of the others was small, grey sharks that nibbled on floating dust particles. She laid her fork down and closed her eyes until the chewing stopped.

            “Here’s a present for you, Little One,” Miss Tammy said affectionately.  She loved this odd, itty-bitty thing. A textbook waif with eyes the color of unfurled leaves and bones that might break beneath the weight of a smile. One day, she would make the girl laugh. Or at the very least find her a good family.  This wasn’t the place for her – it was like keeping a butterfly in a beehive.

            The crinkling of the wrapping paper surrounded the gift with beetle’s wings, but Little One persevered.

            It was a red plastic square, rimmed with mounds of jagged teeth. With it came a metal hook and colorful mess of fabric loops. Little One smiled with closed lips, but her eyes blinked confusion.

            “It’s a loom, sweetie,” Ms. Tammy explained. “You weave potholders with it. You’re so crafty, I just knew you’d love it.”

            Little One didn’t know what potholders were, but she did like weaving paper at craft time. She nodded and let the nice lady hug her. Ms. Tammy’s voice was sunshine, so she was alright.

             Too much sunlight gives you a headache, though. Little One got up and went to the shared bedroom. She tented herself beneath her comforter and stretched rows of loops across the loom.

###

            Little One made five potholders and gave four to Ms. Tammy.

            “Thank you, pumpkin! I’ll never burn my hands again,” she said. Little One allowed herself to be squeezed until her elbows stabbed her ribs. Then she slipped away to the front yard.

            She sat behind the box hedges and peeked through a bend in the branches. She was waiting for the Quiet Lady to walk by.  Little One loved the Quiet Lady. She wasn’t like all the other ladies – her shoes didn’t click and shower the sidewalk with sparks, and she never did angry huffs that sent green smoke swirling through the air.  The Quiet Lady looked soft and comfy, surrounded by an iridescent cloud that glinted with snippets of rainbow. Sometimes she hummed, but Little One didn’t mind. The humming left a thin, silky thread, the color of clear June skies, in her wake.  Little One always followed it with her eyes until the Quiet Lady was out of sight. Then she stared at it until it faded away or someone’s clomping feet burned it up.

            Right on time, the Quiet Lady approached.  Little One tossed the fifth potholder, made of all the blue loops, over the bush and onto the sidewalk. She held her breath and waited.

            The Quiet Lady never saw it. A skateboard teenager flew past, with rumbling wheels that covered the concrete with cracked teeth and broken plates. The Quiet Lady sidestepped him gracefully, exhaled a quiet, icy breath, and continued on her path. 

            A wrinkled old lady passed by next. She saw the potholder, picked it up, and put it in her enormous wicker purse. Little One wanted to shout at her, to tell her to give it back. Instead she sucked her lips between her teeth and bit down, determined to keep the sound from escaping.

            Little One never wanted to see her sounds again.  She hadn’t seen them since last year, when Mommy dropped her off. She cried about it and slimy balls of mud dropped from her mouth. It splattered the sidewalk, her shoes, and Ms. Tammy’s pants with grime. Nobody noticed, though, and Mommy only opened the driver’s side door.

             The tears came faster, and her body shook.  The sobs were bloody hearts that exploded when they hit the ground. Real hearts, like from a medical show – not Valentine hearts. And they drowned her world with red.

            Mommy said, “You’ll be better off at the orphanage.” Ms. Tammy said, “You’ll like it at the Group Home.” For a while, Little One was confused. But then she figured out that Ms. Tammy didn’t call things by their right names, so Little One was pretty sure she was at the orphanage. And she was absolutely sure that she was done making noise.

###

            Little One was all out of loops, so the next day she just watched as the Quiet Lady hummed her way past. The girl watched until she’d rounded the hill and disappeared from view. She didn’t completely disappear, though. A soft thread, sky blue and silky, shimmered on the sidewalk.  Little One slid her hand beneath the bushes and grabbed the end before it frayed.  Hand over hand, she pulled the thread towards her.  It slithered across the ground like a thin, glittering snake until it was all wound up in a tight little ball. Nice old ladies in books always had yarn balls in their knitting baskets, so she knew just how it should look.

            Little One shoved the ball under her shirt and retreated to the bedroom.  She tented herself beneath her comforter and began to weave. As her fingers flew across the loom, a soft hum filled the fabric. 

            It was really kind of nice. She almost hummed along.

###

            It was a pretty thing – velvety and brimming with sparkles.  The Quiet Lady would love it. Little One waited until she was directly in from of her before she threw it over the bush.  It caught the sun and exploded like a mute firework, sending out a shower of sparks. The Quiet Lady looked up and blinked at the falling embers.

            “Hello?” she called. Rainbows sprang from her mouth and wrapped Little One up in a friendly cuddle. She thought about answering, but she didn’t want to destroy the rainbow. She froze behind her bush, and the Quiet Lady moved on.

            She didn’t hum as much today, so Little One only got a bit a thread.

###

            The kids were having Pillow Fight Night. It was shrieks and thumps and people falling down.  It was glinting knives and falling rocks and baby squirrels that tumbled from their nests. Little One hated Pillow Fight Night.

            She got under her comforter and started to weave.  As she wrapped the Quiet Lady’s thread around the loom, it hummed with pleasant distraction. There wasn’t enough, though. 

            It was Thursday. Which meant tomorrow was Friday. And then she would have to wait two whole days to see the Quiet Lady again.

            She had to finish it tonight. 

            Little One’s heart was beating in her ears, and it looked like moth wings brushing against her eyes, but she tried anyway. She hummed a little hum, following the Quiet Lady’s tune. A grass-green thread dropped from her lips and wrapped around the silver hook.  Her lips vibrated, her fingers flew, and before she knew it her weaving was complete – a small, glimmering square woven from the colors of Earth and Sky and the voices of the Quiet.

###

            Little One didn’t sit behind the bush on Friday. She stood behind it, the delicate, dotted leaves brushing her chin. When the Quiet Lady passed, the girl held out the woven square with a stiff arm and white, pursed lips.

            The Quiet Lady smiled at her. “That’s lovely,” she said softly, dropping rainbows at their feet. Little One leaned forward onto the bush, ignoring the branches that tickled, and pressed it into the woman’s hand.

            “For me?”

            Little One nodded. The Lady’s eyes flickered from child’s wan and earnest face to the sign at the door. She looked back with understanding and tucked a stray hair behind Little One’s ear.

            “I have to go to work now,” she said. “May I come see you after?”

            Little One nodded again.

            The Quiet Lady hugged her present to her chest. “This is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received. Thank you so much, you made my day. Who should I ask for when I come back?”

            Little One wasn’t sure. She shrugged and blinked back swimmy tears.

“It’s okay. I’m sure they’ll know who I mean.” Her voice was a caress. “See you soon.”

###

            Little One was sitting behind the couch, enjoying the quiet, when Ms. Tammy and the Quiet Lady came in.

            “So, you’re considering adoption?” Ms. Tammy’s sunburst of a voice filled the room. Little One blinked.

            “Well, I’d been toying with idea for a while. I’d really love a little girl of my own.” A soothing, rainbowed mist mellowed the glare. “And when she just popped up like that today, with a present, like she already knew me… I don’t know. It almost seemed meant to be.  I’d like to spend some time with her.”

            “I have to tell you, she is the sweetest little thing.”

            “I’m sure of that. But you said she doesn’t speak?”

            “Not since her mother left. There’s nothing really wrong – she just seems determined not to let herself.”

            “I see. And what’s her name?”

            “We all call her Little One.”

            Little One stood up. Ms. Tammy jumped when she saw her. The Quiet Lady smiled and said, “But what is her name? I’d like to thank my new friend properly. It was a lovely gift.”

            The girl looked at Ms. Tammy with wide eyes. She’d have to tell her now. The Quiet Lady said so.

            “It’s Anastasia. Such a big name for such a cute, tiny little thing.” Her chuckles were sticky chunks of cotton candy.

            “I like it. A big name for a big heart. Is it alright if I call you Anastasia?” Her words colored the air with sky flecked with rainbows.

            “Yes. Anastasia,” the girl said. Blades of grass dropped from her mouth, and golden flowers bloomed against the lingering blue. She burst into tears, and the Quiet Lady took her into her arms.  Their tears mingled and dripped to the ground as hearts—Valentine hearts, not scary medical show hearts.      

END

 

 

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