Hallmark
A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "Bubble"
Originally featured on 01-06-2009
As part of our series "Bursting Into '09"

David, the bubble boy, did not like the thirty thousand dollar space suit offered to him by NASA. Although it allowed him to travel outside of the twelve by six tube of plastic that was his normal home, the trees outside frightening him. He had never touched a leaf. They were too difficult to sterilize due to their fragile makeup.

Beth didn’t like to travel either. She preferred her home. Her three boys were in college and she would go to see them sometimes on Sunday afternoons. but came home on Sunday evenings and then called them. She called them to let them know she had arrived home safe and she called her parents to let them know that she had arrived home safe. The two hour drive was a day trip. Something in which the risk was to be acknowledged. Something to protect oneself from.

Beth had grown up here and didn’t go far. The seasons changed and the people rotated around each other in orchestrated whirls. They ate and slept and worked and went to Hallmark to buy remembrances for the babies they made. Porcelain figurines that represented each year of life. They wrapped these in careful tissue paper and sealed them with a gold sticker. They bought them for their babies so they would remember their days. The overwhelming apple cinnamon candles in the stores told them it was a season and it was home and told them to bring out the throw blankets. This was the hearth.

Beth like to watch TV shows from five to eight every evening, TV shows that she had already seen. Especially ones that reminded her of living at home, like Laverne and Shirley. She laughed and pet her dogs while watching and sometimes ate off-brand microwave popcorn. He husband would come home and they would only use words that they knew. She read books with stories she knew and with people in them that she knew. She ordered more books from her friend at the bookstore downtown when she ran out. She and her husband ate foods that children love, goulash and rolls out of a tube.

Her son mailed her a plane ticket one Tuesday. She found it in the mail at her normal trip there at four. There was to be a wedding on a beach for a cousin. The son had bought the ticket without asking her and she was frightened by this. She would have to find someone to watch the house, because the husband was only home part of the day, and what if someone stole their car? She sat in front of her fireplace and thought long about it.

She purchased a new suitcase and looked up parking maps at the airport. She called her brother to drive her to the airport because it was so far and it would be dark. Maybe his car would break down. She charged her cell phone and put two quarters in her jacket pocket just in case.

The flight frightened her and she was too loud and it was obvious that she was new to those traveling around her. She was too friendly. She talked about her children and her dogs to the people sitting next to her beyond the point that they could be polite. She read the material in the back of the seat and she did not stow her luggage in the overhead bin, instead clutching it to her chest until she was prompted with what to do with it by a falsely friendly flight attendant. The air below her was disorienting and she hummed old lullabies to herself to quiet herself.

When she got there, her son found her and took her to the hotel and checked her in. He drove her to the wedding and she took photos, to remember. She could not find the bathroom at the reception and asked another cousin to go with her. She ordered fruit punch from the bar. The sand from the beach got into her nylons in her dress shoes and she thought this very impractical. When they went back to the hotel, she did not want to go out, she took her shoes off and went to bed early, because it had been a long day.

At home she took the pictures and emailed them to her parents and her children and her friends in other states. She called her friend Marcy and told her about the adventures and left long pauses for Marcy to understand. Marcy said that she thought Beth was very brave.

When Beth was cooking over the stove the next day, she heard a knock on the door. It was a man in his thirties in a sweatshirt with a briefcase. He said he was from Vector and was selling knives. He asked to come in. He looked like he needed help, so Beth let him sit at the table. He opened the cases and it was only when she saw the blades that she thought that there maybe was a problem.

Her husband arrived two hours later and the man and Beth were still sitting at the kitchen table and the man was doing a spiel about the qualities of the knives and their value. Beth’s face had gone from a smile to a straight face somewhere around the first hour, but she did not know how to get him to move. She fidgeted in her snowman sweatshirt. The husband went back into the bedroom and ignored them. At the third hour, the man finally stood up and Beth thought about what had happened.

She wanted a quiet, safe place instead of the E minor chord in her head. Something was wrong. She wanted something sweeter, milder, to soother her. She wanted to read The Tale of Despereaux to children in a reading room. With cocoa and blankets. Her heavy bangs sat on her forehead and she wished she were a little girl.

Read More By Alice Clark

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Portland Fiction Project

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