Jade: A Shot at Fiction


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photo credit: Twitter-Header-LibAwakens_by_Niels_Sampath via photopin (license)

Note: Today’s my first foray into fiction. Publicly, anyway. I ran across this fiction writing contest centered on the image you see in the body of text. (I had to lead with a Stormtrooper, anyway, because tradition.) I put on laundry and my jacked-up Pandora station and blindly wrote. Let me know what you think

Jade

“Ha!” I could hear her in the other room. I knew exactly what she’d found.

“Um, babe … what the heck is this?”

I abandoned the twist of hangers and clean shirts that would now need cleaning, to see her sitting in the middle of boxes with IT. She held it up to the light, strands of her blond hair out of the bun and framing her face. Her smile revealed equal parts wonder and confusion.

jade“I’ve always said I’d toss that the first move it gets broken in,” I explained.

Marin tapped on the glass with two fingernails. “It’s made of kryptonite, apparently.” She set it on the carpet in front of her and squinted. “Not a sixth-grade art project either, though. Am I right?” For such ugliness, the craftsmanship was incredible.

“I think they’ve just mated,” I said, using that line for the thousandth time. It was funny the first time. “Or, they’re just about to mate. That’s the boy butterfly, beating it for home before she eats his head.” My college roommate hypothesized they were both girls. But that’s a different story.

# # #

I’d followed Marin from Boston to Durham, N.C.

No regrets. Construction jobs come in every city. Marin, though, was an artisan. A carpenter. Can you believe that? The girl has carpenter pants in her closet that have actually held a hammer. Every time I’d compliment her on the craft of building a shelf or decorative piece, she reminded me.

“Carpentry isn’t for sissies, you know,” she’d say, without looking up from her work.

Maybe that’s why she reacted differently from any other woman I’d met to this ugly statue. I’d bought it when I was 11, for my mom, for mother’s day. It became the butt of jokes ever since in the family. The year before, I gave mom a Rodney Dangerfield album. I thought this to be an elegant upgrade.

“Have a place in mind for it?” she asked. She rocked back onto her feet, arms outstretched for effect, like she’d just nailed the landing off a pommel horse. I met Marin at a 9/11 vigil just off Boylston Street.

I’d followed my uncle to Boston for work. Only, with so much rain, there wasn’t much to do. I sustained myself on cereal and waited it out. I’d had so little work before the day I met Marin that it felt my hands hand grown soft. The week before, the Sox/Blue Jays finale got rained out.

I had bleacher tickets and everything – two, with no one in mind to take.

I thought the relevance of a 9/11 vigil could assuage the noise in my mind a bit. And it didn’t – until I saw Marin.

Anyway, I met Marin at this rally that I wouldn’t have been interested in had the week not been so rain-soaked and workless. I’d let the troubles of my world bounce around in my mind for days. I thought the relevance of the day could assuage that a bit. And it didn’t – until I saw her.

Now here I was, moving in with her, watching her hold up the mistake of a mother’s day gift that had stubbornly survived a handful of moves. She held it aloft, at first close, and then at arm’s length. I remembered the snickering when mom lifted it from an oatmeal container decorated with paint.

“I do,” she said of what would become “fugglyfly’s” new home.

I remembered my oldest brother suggesting a place to put it that wasn’t exactly comfortable – or probably physically possible. Instead, Marin walked out into the kitchen, to the end of the bar. I followed, as always.

She pushed aside my blender and two small boxes and placed the figure on the kitchen bar, way to the back, where I thought it would be easy to hide it behind something else, anything else.

“Parfait,” she whispered, even though she knew French about as well as she did decorum. Marin stepped back, over my bag of golf discs, hands on hips. She adjusted a track light onto the figure, and turned it around. Ugly art has no front and back.

I’d assumed the importance Marin placed on this eyesore jade carving were to ridicule me, as others had. They weren’t. She didn’t even know the story.

“That’s ridiculous,” I muttered, and realized how awful that must have sounded.

It occurred to me I’d assumed Marin’s actions were to ridicule. They weren’t. She didn’t even know the story. She hadn’t even asked. Even now, in my petulance, she leaned on a barstool and waited. No reaction. No judgement. Did she just like the piece? Was that it?

I explained the story, and found myself looking more at my hands and feet than at my girlfriend. “But it’s jade, isn’t it?” she asked. “It looks like jade. Smells like jade, too,” she said for comic effect. You know what? No one in my family had ever brought that up. Hell yes, it looks like jade.

I waited for the laughter burst, the proclamation, “you poor boy. How did you not know it was horrid?” Marin instead told me that when her father died, she found bracelets and rings she’d made for him when she was little, in his jewelry box, next to his wedding ring.

She’d found artwork of hers, some of it unidentifiable, in his safe, with his will.

She’d been the first, though, to unpack this symbol of my childhood mistakes this way. Makes me think we’ll be all right.

We talked a little more about stuff from our childhoods. Nothing bitter; I’d felt like a lot of what I did as a kid was misunderstood. I turned and looked through the open bedroom door and remembered the cramped closet space and so low to the ground toilet. I wondered how I’d find work in Durham.

I wondered how we’d share sink space, Marin and I. If my beef jerky would go over well with a girl more likely to dry banana and kiwi chips than beef flank steak. I could see some battles, and that didn’t have anything to do with whose tools would go where. Or if my towels were towel-bar worthy.

She’d been the first, though, to unpack this symbol of my childhood mistakes this way. Makes me think we’ll be all right.

Makes me think I could even give kiwi chips a shot.

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19 Replies to “Jade: A Shot at Fiction”

  1. Of course she’s awesome, because she’s from Boston! 🙂 Lovely story, Eli. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading more of your fiction!

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