Quilldancing challenges us to write a story, based on a theme, in 500 words or fewer. This month's was April Showers and National Poetry Month, so we were to combine a non-functioning umbrella and include poetry. Whew! I went over, so my challenge to you is to tell me which of the extra words YOU would remove! I'm a lousy editor of my own stuff, so feel free.
Please join us for this fun writing exercise. Start by clicking on this graphic, and go from there!
Corinne squeezed into the quiet elevator. With her arrival, it was officially full, and there was barely enough room for her to turn around and face the door. She giggled inwardly, imagining herself having turned around and backed into the elevator in order to maintain etiquette.
When the doors opened with a whoosh on the ground floor, she couldn’t move, mesmerized by the torrent of rain streaming down the glass front of the building’s lobby. Others pushed past her, bumping her in their eagerness to escape the confines of a building that represented work. It was Friday, time to switch to their own schedules.
All around her umbrellas began to pop open. She recognized Monet and Picasso depicted on some; others showed product endorsement. Still others were the ubiquitous pink of breast cancer research support. A few were the bright red of The Economist newspaper, with an ever-so-tiny imprint that tastefully proclaimed that publication.
Corinne grinned and began to reach into her bag. She knew hers was unlike anyone else’s. She’d found it the month before while visiting Mexico City. Incongruously for that location, it had simple pictograms on it that looked like Kanji, Japanese lettering. She’d looked at the inside workings and marveled at the high-grade plastic that looked like aged ivory. The design was unusual, but she opened and shut it a couple of times to make sure it worked. The handle was carved to look like bamboo joints. Again, it was a very high grade plastic that looked quite realistic. She didn’t see another in the shop, and instinctively realized she’d not find another like it, here or back in New York. She asked the young man in the shop whether he knew what the Kanji said. He grinned at her question, amused by her school-book Spanish, and answered in English. “It says whatever you want it to say, señorita.”
It was the last day of her holiday, and she wanted a souvenir that captured how intriguing and romantic she had found Mexico. Impulsively, Corinne bought the celadon green umbrella resolving to decipher the letters before she used it in New York. But she had forgotten about the Kanji as the weather had been gloriously sunny since her return. She’d had no time to research it; now she wondered if she might offend someone by what it said.
Looking at the deluge outside the door, she wasn’t sure that any umbrella would be much help, but something would be better than nothing so she popped it open and stepped through the doorway. She hadn’t gone ten feet down the pavement towards the subway before the umbrella fabric with its beautiful Kanji was in shreds hanging from the ribs of the contraption. She gave up and ran for the stairs.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, she moved out of the stream of humanity so she could throw away the left-overs of a misguided purchase. As she started to toss it into the bin, a hand touched her shoulder and she heard a deep voice say, “No, please, doesn’t throw it away.” Corinne turned to see a handsome Asian man speaking to her. “Well, it doesn’t have any use any longer,” she said. “It is just plastic parts now.”
The man smiled at her, “It only appears that way. That is actually genuine ivory and hand finished bamboo. This is an ancient, special umbrella, meant to shield the user from pain, not rain. It fell apart because you were using it incorrectly.”
Corinne felt a little defensive. “The seller didn’t say anything like that.”
The man continued, “He probably didn’t know. I noticed it when you first came out of the office building, and sprinted to try to stop you, but the crowds on the sidewalk prevented my catching up until now. “ He laughed softly. “Running after a beautiful woman in New York City is a good way to get arrested on a sunny day. Today no one was going to be generous enough to allow me to move quickly.”
Corinne’s heart was racing. He thought she was beautiful? The unspoken dialogue between them was heating up -- intense and unrelenting. She felt her mouth drying and cleared her throat to ask, “But of what use is it now?”
He took the broken thing from her hands and caressed its ribs. “I can help you repair it, personalize it, and allow it to protect you.” His voice held a reverence for things beyond normal understanding.
Corinne sensed that the conversation had moved beyond more than just a broken umbrella. Her body was betraying her, leaning towards this intoxicating man. Trying to regain her equilibrium, her voice sounded harsh as she asked a practical question, “Well, do you know what the Kanji said?”
His smile widened, and he recited:
Home for your dear heart
Refuge from slings and arrows
But not waterproof.