things that shine
There’s this girl who exists just on the border of your life.
You know her, but you don’t. You get her, but you don’t.
Because our natures abhor an information vacuum, you fill in the blanks yourself. You’re not doing nearly a good enough job.
When you see her, you invariably think that she’s cute.
And she is. She really is. Especially today. Strapless sundress. Long. Blue changing colours on the way down.
The supper dishes have been washed and put away. She carries her glass of wine, and a mostly unnecessary blanket, out to the front porch with her. She settles into one of two rocking chairs, built by a relative she’s only seen in old photos and can’t imagine not being black and white. She gets comfortable and tucks her feet up underneath her.
She sips. She thinks. She exhales breaths she doesn’t remember taking.
Dusk gently but thoroughly settles in. The little breeze moves on to play with someone else’s hair.
The first flicker, she chalked up to the corner of her eye playing tricks. She turns her head and sees it again. Then a different one.
Fireflies have always loved that edge of her lawn. She hasn’t seen them since last year.
She springs off of the rocking chair and runs into the house.
Dishes are moved around and dropped. A strange hammering sound echoes into the night.
She comes out the door, walking quickly and excitedly. She makes herself slow down when her bare feet hit the cool grass.
The firefly has been joined by a few friends.
She slowly approaches. She tries to remember her methods from childhood.
From the side, not directly over it.
She quickly puts the cover on, double checking to make sure the air holes are sufficient.
She half-skips her way back to the porch, and into her rocking chair.
She knew it would come back to her.
She watches it fly around inside the jar for a little while.
She notices that the sparkling convention at the edge of her lawn is growing. She opens the jar and lets her little friend out, so he can join in the festivities.
She goes inside and sleeps wonderfully.
The thing about summer, she knows, is that sometimes the days are just there to distract you while you wait for the next night. The heat can be oppressive. The cooler evenings are a knowing wink.
She sits on her porch. She’s wearing shorter shorts than she’d wear anywhere other than home, and a pink tank top. Messy ponytail. Fuller glass of wine. Mason jar and cover sitting on the railing in front of her.
The sun is being stubborn today. It knows it should set, soon, but it is taking its good ol’ time.
Waves lap unexpectedly on the shore just beyond the trees, probably caused by a boat heading back to a wharf. She hopes it’ll be greeted warmly.
Words that can inspire her to push on, or take another long sip of wine.
Too many things seems just beyond to her lately.
But that means they’re getting closer, right?
Two lights catch her attention this time. Small. Energetic. They dance around each other. She wonders if it’s a mating ritual of some kind. She figures it’d be a pretty effective one if it is.
She leans ahead in her rocking chair and watches the dance. Soon they are joined by others. And others.
She leaves her jar where it is and walks over towards her twinkling friends. Again slowly. Again barefoot. She gets as close as she can get.
She stands as still as she can.
The lights dance just off to her right. But the circles they’re flying in get bigger. And bigger.
She catches a glimpse of one on her left. She almost lets out an “eeeep.” Then a couple more.
Soon she’s surrounded. They’re flying all around her. She holds her breath for as long as she can. She closes eyes, but quickly opens them again.
The tiny sparks swirl.
She almost doesn’t see the pick-up truck parked on the side of the road, just past the edge of her property. It’s a boy she knows. He’s a nice one. Others think he looks cranky, but he always smiles at the girl. She secretly hopes that the smile is just for her.
It is. Of course it is.
She smiles at him.
He smiles back.
He puts his truck in gear and quietly drives away.
She raises her hands and closes her eyes as the little light show continues.
Tonight forgot to cool down.
The sun set. The dark arrived.
But the heat remains.
She’s restless. The walls aren’t closing in, but they do seem to be growing taller. She wanders from room to room in her underwear. She stops in the kitchen for a glass of water. She looks out the window and is relieved to see her little friends’ light show.
They are not as tightly packed as usual. They are in various spots around her backyard. Maybe they’re restless tonight too, she thinks.
She walks to her bedroom and reaches into her closet. She pulls out the sundress with the thinnest material. She puts it over her head and lets it fall.
She walks through her house and out the back door, grabbing the mason jar and cover off of the railing.
Gently, and in a celebratory way, starts collecting fireflies. She must have a couple dozen, when she holds the jar up to look at it.
She grabs a pair of old flip flops off of her back steps, tosses them on the grass in front of her, and walks into them on her way to the road.
It’s not a long walk from her house to Main Street. A name selected, she supposes, to distinguish it from all the future streets that haven’t really materialized yet.
The stretch of road she has to traverse is a little dark. She holds up her jar of light in front of her. It doesn’t do a lot, really, but she loves imagining what it would like like to others.
Main Street is pretty quiet, even for a Saturday. There’s nothing really noteworthy about that. Kids ride bikes long after they should have stopped. People go on first dates with potential loves, that they once saw eat paste in kindergarten.
And she walks. People stare at her jar, but not for long. If it had been someone else carrying the living lantern, they might have more questions.
She’s stopped by the biking kids in the middle of the sidewalk.
She knows them. She knows there parents. She thinks she babysat one of the small boys once. His parents didn’t own a TV and the snacks were all gluten-free. It can be a long night when nary a gluten is to be found.
The little twerps are intrigued by her fireflies.
She lets one hold the jar. It gets passed around. The last one to get a turn is a dirty-faced boy, of around ten, she guesses.
He asks if he can have it. She shakes her head “no.” He looks like he is going to bike off with it, when the boy with the truck walks out of the shop they’re standing in front of.
He’s taller than she remembered. Imposing, really. The kid notices that too. He looks up at the boy with the cranky face, failing to notice the kind eyes. The little turd takes a deep breath and hands the jar back to the girl. She takes it with both hands.
The kids take off down Main Street, mumbling words that are no longer shocking to hear kids mumble.
The boy gives her a smile. She smiles back.
She’s always loved going to bed. Even when she was a kid, and expected to rage against sleepytime, she settled in with her favourite blanket the first chance she got, and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Her bed looks just as inviting tonight. She pulls the little quilt – made from pieces of her favourite blanket, and all of those that followed – up to her chin and feels the wave of drowsiness sweep over her.
The sound makes her sit up straight in bed.
It was definitely breaking glass, she thinks.
She runs to her back door and looks out. She sees little kid shadows disappear into the woods behind her house. She opens the door and sees her mason jar smashed on her steps.
She grabs a broom, puts on flip flops and weeps up the broken glass.
She notices a truck driving away slowly towards town.
The broom is put away. The door is locked. And double-checked.
She pulls the quilt up even higher.
Sleeping in on Sundays is easily one of her favourite things ever. But once the sun has filled too much of her bedroom to ignore, she crawls out from under the covers.
She does some stretching, and then makes her way towards the kitchen. She remembers her mason jar and is a little sad again. She walks to the back door, and opens it, to make sure she didn’t miss any pieces of glass.
Not only is there a mason jar sitting on the porch right in front of the door, but there are dozens lined up from end to end on her railings.
She looks closer at the one in front of the door. It has a Post-It note stuck to it.
In plain, if a little messy, boy printing, it says, “So don’t you worry your pretty little mind. People throw rocks at things that shine. And few things in this world shine brighter than you.”
She smiles a smile her face can barely contain.
She closes the door, walks to her cupboard and pulls out a mixing bowl.
The boy opens the door to his truck and almost sits on the cute-looking little basket. He opens it and finds a bunch of cookies. He’s already eating one when he finds the note. He reads it and grins, as crumbs fall out of his mouth.
The storm wasn’t really a big one, by local standards. A bit of wind. Some rain. It’s lovely now. A little cooler than it has been. Still the power has been on and off all day. It’s on right now, but it’s flickering.
She hears the truck pull into her driveway. Door open. Door closed. Heavy footsteps coming around the back of her house.
He fights back a little smile when he sees the mason jars are still all over her railings.
He walks up the steps. She moves over to the other rocking chair, to let him have the closest one. He scans the workmanship, giving it a satisfied nod, before sitting down.
She opens her mouth to say something when the power goes out again.
He is going to ask her about candles, but even in the almost pitch black, he notices her noticing something. He turns and sees it too.
A handful of fireflies are frolicking on the edge of her lawn. Others join in. The numbers swell. He’s never seen so many in one place. Their excited circles grow and move, coming towards the porch.
A giant shimmering cloud of the glittery critters are right in front of them.
They start breaking up in smaller groups.
He can’t even blink as he watches them start to fill up the mason jars on the railing.
All of them. At the same time.
The jars glow, lighting the entire porch.
He looks at her, and is floored completely by what the light is doing to her brown eyes.
She takes his hand and gives it a squeeze.