Flash Fiction Friday: The Music Box

Occasional Fridays, poet and Every Day Poems editor Tania Runyan ventures into world of flash fiction, writing quick pieces using prompts from The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. We offer this piece in observance of Black Friday, and all the music boxes, ceramic clowns, and Norman Rockwell figurines that will meet their match today in the rush of holiday shoppers.


Always the tallest kid in my class, with a butt-long, chunky braid to match, I didn’t feel at ease in my body. I could never do the splits or even touch my toes. I lumbered through fourth grade in truncated pants and shoes in a women’s six wide, jealous of the pert girls who did handsprings at recess, their shiny Dorothy Hamill bobs falling into place.

I often took refuge at the Pic ‘n Save, a bargain store offering a plastic wonderland of hair clips, neon jelly bracelets, flavored lip gloss, and other girly accessories that fit me no matter what. One day, after I found myself sufficiently stocked, I wandered over to the “gift” section while my mother searched for sewing supplies. I passed a number of ceramic clowns and knock-off Norman Rockwell figurines before reaching the star: a pink-satin-lined jewelry box that housed a two-inch ballerina spinning in front of a mirror. I carefully lifted the box and wound it, staring at the tiny girl pirouetting to “Dream the Imposssible Dream”. Her lithe arms formed a heart above her head. Her painted lips pouted. Her miniature toes spun like petals in a breeze.

When the song slowly clinked to an end, I set the box down. The corner caught on the leg of a ceramic Rockwellesque baseball player, who began to topple. I tried to stop it with my foot, which in turn banged into a flowery plaster bookend, which, tucked tightly against a dozen others, caused a sweeping domino fall of every item on the lower shelf.

I stood with my mouth open. Decapitated clowns and plaster petals piled at my feet. A couple of middle school girls stepped into the aisle and giggled. An older man peered at me and shook his head at the decimation as my mother ran over.

“I’ll pay! I’ll pay!” she yelped, as if we were under arrest.

“Well, now,” said the manager, who had already walked over. “What happened?”

“I. . .was trying to catch something,” I half whispered. I looked down at my feet, which seemed to expand by the minute.

“She’s just nine years old,” my mother pleaded.

“It’s okay, ma’am.” He looked at the carnage and sighed. “I’m sure it was an accident.”

“Oh, thank you! Thank you! I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry.” She sounded like she was going to cry. The manager waved us off. She pivoted me away from the scene, but I felt like I had to stay with my victims.

“Let’s clear the aisle for safety, everyone,” the manager called. I backed away slowly as two employees came into the aisle with brooms.

“Wow, someone did a number over here!” one of women chuckled.

“Shh!” scolded an older lady. “It’s that girl over there with the braid. I heard she’s only nine.”

“Nine? She sure don’t look nine. She’s so big for her age!”

“I know. But I bet she’s still real sweet inside.”

Photo by PHotoCo., Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan, author ofA Thousand Vessels A Thousand Vessels.


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  1. L. L. Barkat says

    The awkward ballet of her experience is just too wonderful-terrible. I love how you captured that “awful sinking feeling” we all have known some time or another.

    Delightful piece, Tania. If one is allowed to call this delightful (which I want to :)

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