A life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth.
While sorting through old notes for a novel-in-progress, I encountered a tattered-edged piece of construction paper covered in hasty script, portions scribbled out or marked through. It is a writing warm-up assigned in a former writing group. I don’t recall the specific list of words or themes we were required to incorporate; however, given a few word and phrases that I would not normally use together i.e. unicorn and Don Corleone, I can guess.
We’d create eclectic lists of items, names, story elements, etc., and then we’d write furiously for, say, fifteen minutes. Our goal was to create a scene or a complete story within those limits.
I rarely met the goal, although tantalizing ideas might arise from the unexpected mix of elements.
The one written on construction paper is almost a complete flash fiction, and the ending line is an unconscious reflection of my own childhood (and grownup) feelings of being value-less and a failure.
“Little Johnny!” Mrs. Callahan called from the apartment window and pointed toward the playground. “Yer kid’s stuck again!”
Johnny was no longer the neighborhood wimp, but he was still saddled with a nickname no self-respecting fortysomething would answer to, unless he was gangster for Don Corleone.
Sighing, he veered from the sidewalk and jogged toward the weathered playground equipment. The colors had faded on the plastic slides, and the paint was chipping off the swingsets.
“Lily!” he called. “Lily, it’s Daddy!”
A muffled sniffle betrayed his daughter’s hiding place. He crossed the spongy woodchips and rapped his knuckles gently against the plastic tunnel that linked two halves of the play fort.
“Are you hurt?”
“I’ll get out by myself!”
Lily, unfortunate child, was as plump as he had been at her age. Why she insisted on playing in this tunnel, he did not know. It was as if she refused to acknowledge the impossible physics. Her girth would never sausage its way to the other side, but she seemed determined to make the tunnel conform to her dimensions.
His heart ached for her. If only her beloved fairy tales were true — “Oh, look! A unicorn has come to grant a wish to a pure-hearted little girl!” — except that his wish for her wouldn’t be the ability to traverse the tunnel but to see her own worth.
c. E. Easter