Kimberli Buffaloe is a mom, grandmother, pastor's wife, and creator of Carolina Towns and Trails, a blog that showcases outdoor destinations around the Carolinas (www.carolinatownsandtrails.com). She lives in Eastern North Carolina with her husband and their stubborn Jack Russell Terrier.
Tuppence sat in the chair, eyes closed, gripping the ridged edge of its head. Its? “I can’t be an it. But . . . male? Female? Hermaphrodite?” Well, no, not when the bottom looks like the top. If not . . . then what? “I can’t take this anymore!”
Tuppence pushed its rotund body out of the chair and clunked across the pinewood floor, careful not to fall between the planks. Not that those fat shoes couldn’t span the Mississippi. The front door was shut, of course. They kept her—“That’s right, I’m a she,” she said. Not in those shoes, babycakes, a quiet voice cackled—inside until ready to put on display. How many e-mails had she walked? How many Websites? He—no, it—had seen the world, had pasted on a smile while marching to the beat of an unheard drummer.
Easing through a gap in the weather stripping, Tuppence made its way outside, the bright sun instantly warming her copper coating. At the edge of the sidewalk, he gathered up his long arms and legs, and jumped. A risk—she could have landed flat on her back and they would have found her. But she rolled. Rolled fast, gathering momentum. A freedom it had never known filled it. She was soaring!
She continued down the street, rounding corners, bumping over cracks in the sidewalk—oops, sorry to break your back, Mom!—cruising toward the park. When she reached the fountain, he jerked sharply to the right, and like a top, spun in place until she came to rest on the warm concrete. Relief!
And then he waited.
Minutes passed, and then hours. Crickets chirped. Darkness filled the sky. The sun rose, set, and still Tuppence lay, shooing off squirrels and ants. Hope came when a set of chubby fingers scraped at Tuppence’s edges. “You need fingernails,” Tuppence hissed beneath his breath. Moving one leg, slowly, so the kid wouldn’t see it, Tuppence pressed her foot into the ground and lifted herself far enough for the kid to get a hold.
“Mommy, Mommy! Look what I found!” The kid raised a hammy fist and held up Tuppence. Good grief, was his sole purpose to be put on display? “Can I keep it?”
No! Slitting its eyelids, Tuppence looked at the little monster threatening her plans. About three years of age, the child had freckles and auburn hair that fell, tapered, around its face. But was it a boy or girl? Sneaking a peek downward, Tuppence looked at the shoes. White sneakers—no help there. It was a . . . a . . .
Joy unspeakable filled him. A little human Tuppence! Tears gathered in her eyes, and images of a future together flashed through its mind. They would have fun together, those two. She would stay in the kid’s pocket. Play together. Camp together. And anytime the kid needed to flip a coin, she would always land on what the child called. They would be best buds—
“Jordan, put that nasty thing down. You don’t know where it’s been,” a woman said.
And Tuppence flew. Up, up, arching over, until gravity took hold. It smashed into a hard surface that immediately gave way, and Tuppence began to sink.
The palest of colors—pinks, purples, blues—rippled around Tuppence as she sank to the bottom of the fountain. How ironic! Her new hopes ending in the very plan he’d concocted. Lying on his back on the rough concrete, Tuppence looked up, past the sparkling colors toward distorted trees. And she waited until darkness overtook her.
Hours later, she sighed. That’s right. No lungs.
The two short stories this month are a spoof on the mascot of our Penwright Critique group, Tuppence the penny...that we diligently argue as to whether it is male or female on a regular and prolonged basis!