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Paper Wings

posted Oct 9, 2013, 10:37 PM by Tiffany Rainey   [ updated Sep 13, 2015, 8:53 AM ]
A fairy tale, by Kate Berheimer's definition, is flat of character, abstract, follows intuitive logic, and has an element of normalized magic. Having never before written anything that fit this definition, I took the fairy tale challenge in the wee hours one morning last winter. The following is a slight revision of that story.

"There once was a young lady named Millie who lived all alone in a little house in a little town at the foot of a mountain. Like everyone else in the little town, Millie did the same things at the same time, every single day. Every morning, she braided her long black hair. She then slipped into her old boots and went out to feed her chickens.
For breakfast, she had one fried egg, one slice of toast, and one cup of coffee, always with one spoon of cream and one lump of sugar. Afterwards, she read the newspaper, funnies first. She wrote one poem each day at lunchtime over a bowl of soup. She tended her vegetable garden in the afternoons and collected the mail at exactly two o'clock. She took her dinner at dusk at a little table on her little covered patio. Millie was not lonely. In fact, she was content to be alone. 

One day Millie got a telephone call from a man who lived in a big house in a big city far from the mountains. This man - Ben - claimed that Millie was his twin sister, that she'd been stolen away from her family just after they were born. The man wanted to see Millie, he wanted her to meet her real parents. Millie said he was wrong. She was the only child of a midwife and she her mother had spent their entire lives alone together at the foot of a mountain. He said he was born two minutes sooner than she and that she should want to obey her elder. 

Millie's mother could not confirm or refute what the man said, for she'd died just before Millie's sixteenth birthday. 

So Millie decided she would go to the big city to meet Ben and her "real parents." Traveling far away from the mountains to the big city was difficult for her, especially since she was making the voyage by sea. She wasn't able to do the same things at the same time every day on her week-long trip. By the third day, she was having coffee at three in the afternoon and taking dinner whenever she felt hungry, with two friendly travelers named Kevin and Devin. She learned about art and literature and music. She learned to ride a unicycle and how to seduce men. She began to have peculiar thoughts; she began to question her monotonous ways. Millie did not dislike having company. In fact, she wondered how she ever lived alone. When the trip was nearing its end, Millie found a note taped to a necklace that held a tiny glass vial with a mysterious, shimmery powder inside it on her pillow. It said, "If you find your Ben is much too strange, crush the vial and name your change. Love, Kevin and Devin." 

As Millie disembarked the ship in the big city, she was greeted by a tall man. The man, Ben, hugged her tightly and led her to a beast-drawn buggy. On the way to Ben's big house, he explained to Millie how she would be spending her days. There were so many things! Every day, she would wake up at six and help Ben feed the dogs. She would have oatmeal and fresh-squeezed juice with Ben and her real parents. Then, she would retrieve the newspaper and bring it to her father, who would be waiting on the big, covered patio. For the rest of the day, she would work alongside Ben in his publishing house. In the evenings, she would--

Millie had heard enough. Those things sounded lovely, but she decided she would make her own way, alone or together with others who do not like to do the same things and the same time every day. She opened the door of the buggy and, with a flick of her wrist, released the beasts of their burdensome cargo. Then, Millie reached into her shirt and crushed the tiny glass vial at her neck, touched the shimmery powder, and whispered, "Wings!" 

Millie felt a tickle in her sides and, to Ben's shock, floated out of the buggy on beautiful wings, strong ones made of brightly-colored painting, sheet music and parchment paper. "Goodbye," she said as she turned toward home. In her little house in the little town at the foot of the mountain, Millie gathered all the townsfolk around her and told them everything she had seen and heard. She showed them the tiny glass vial, now only half full, and dropped a tiny speck of the shimmery powder into each of their hands. There was a grand celebration that day and the people of the little town grew beautiful wings made of colorful silks and papers and canvases, each set a little different from the rest. 

And they all lived happily ever."