Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Nine: For Your Eyes Only

9. For Your Eyes Only, Sheena Easton. “For Your Eyes Only” tries to recapture the Carly Simon magic of “Nobody Does It Better,” with moderate success; it’s close to “All Time High” purely on pop song merit, but grabs the sound of the 80s much better, and that’s when I grew up, so points to it. Interestingly, the song was almost written and performed by Debbie Harry, who had penned her own version (later released as a Blondie song with the same title, which sounds more like a typical Bond theme if you imagine the orchestra behind it). Behind-the-scenes production issues led to the hiring of a new composer for the score who was also contracted to write the theme song, and Harry took her song and her voice and quit, leaving it for Sheena Easton.

Fiction: For Your Eyes Only

Kelly was ten the first time she saw the Munchkins, three years after she learned the truth about Santa Claus (though she did not celebrate Christmas, most of her friends did, and her parents chose to celebrate it secularly) and three years before she stopped dressing up for Halloween (her last costume would be as Lady Gaga, complete with eggshell). Later she would learn that they called themselves Trolls, but she had just seen “The Wizard of Oz,” and besides, she knew that trolls were nasty things that lived under bridges and ate goats, and the Munchkins were slender, delicate creatures with rosy-pink skin and lively, intelligent golden eyes. They looked more or less human; it wasn’t until her eleventh birthday that she touched one and found that the rosy-pink skin was actually fine fur, as soft as a kitten’s. The first Munchkin she saw wore a filmy cloth around its body, and at first she thought that someone had left a tissue wrapped around a red highlighter. Then the highlighter moved, and Kelly squealed, and she spent the rest of the evening lying very still in her bed staring at her desk to see if any of her other pens or pencils would move.

A week later, she saw another Munchkin climbing the side of her wastebasket. It disappeared over the lip, and Kelly hurried over to peer down. The creature was holding up a broken barrette she had thrown out the previous day, but when it saw her looking down, it dropped the flowered plastic and leapt from the can so quickly that Kelly stumbled back and sat down on the floor.

The Internet on the computer in the living room did not provide much help. She told her parents she was doing a report on tiny creatures for her science class, but when she searched on “small pink people” she got links to little people working in Hollywood, or Bratz dolls, or a cartoon show she’d never seen; or to short essays about faeries and their kin. Eventually she found a link to books about “The Borrowers,” and read some from Amazon’s free sample. Wikipedia, which her class had just learned how to use, told her how the rest of the book would go.

It didn’t seem quite the same, but regardless, she went back to her room that night with a small saucer of milk, which she set on her desk. “This is for you,” she said, and crawled into her bed, pulled the covers up to her chin, and waited.

Nothing happened while she remained awake, but in the morning the saucer was empty. After that, Kelly brought a saucer up every night, and it was a week later that the Munchkins came out while she was awake, creeping up the chair and drawers, bringing little flagons to the saucer where they sat and drank, with an eye on her.

Kelly said, “Who are you?” and they jumped, but did not flee. They arrayed themselves at the edge of the desk.

“We are the Trolls,” the leftmost one said with a bow. “And we thank you for your gift of milk.” His tone was polite, but they all kept the same wary manner.

“You’re very welcome,” Kelly said. “I’ll keep bringing it, then.”

They bowed again, and that was all they said that night.

But as she gave them more milk and no threats, they warmed to her and spoke more often. She learned that they had come on a long journey, packed into boxes with an estate that had come from somewhere far away two hundred years before. They only stayed in a particular house for a short time, but they liked her house and had been here for a year now. And, most importantly, she learned that nobody else could see them when her mother burst into her room to scold her for not putting away her dishes, completely ignoring the three Munchkins sitting on Kelly’s desk.

When Kelly was thirteen, she wondered why only she could see the Munchkins. TV and movies suggested that she was insane, that they didn’t really exist. But she tested them by asking them to report on what her mother and father talked about at night, and that was how she learned that her mother had had an affair with Mrs. Besley, her fifth-grade English teacher, and that her father was battling alcoholism. Those were things she could not possibly have known on her own (she confirmed them by finding Mrs. Besley in school and saying hello from her mother, watching as she did the Munchkin-bright pink blooms in the woman’s cheeks), so she concluded that she was not hallucinating the Munchkins.

Kelly believed for a short time that God had sent the Munchkins to her as a gift. But the little creatures seemed supremely uninterested in whether or not she read her Torah, went to synagogue, or discussed any kind of religion with them. They did not come to her bat mitzvah and did not care about it when she tried to tell them.

They had a similar coming-of-age ceremony, but in it, their children left the family to strike out on their own and might never be heard from again. Kelly concluded that this splintering of the family was not something that her God would have condoned, and so reluctantly concluded that the Munchkins were not creatures of God.

Two months before her fifteenth birthday, the family of Munchkins gathered to tell her that they would be moving on. She cried, and some of them did as well, but they were feeling confined and trapped, having been in this house for nearly six years. They left her with a small ornament to hang on her wall which would tell other Munchkins that this was a friendly place, and they asked her to lower her head to the desk so they could kiss her nose.

Kelly’s going off to college this year, ready to study economics and play softball. She is about two years away from dressing up for Halloween again (as Columbia from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” with her sorority sisters), and two years removed from her first date (with Brad, a neurotic boy who washed his hands three times in an hour during dinner; she has had more and better dates since). Her father no longer drinks, and if her mother is still seeing Mrs. Besley, Kelly has no way of knowing.

But she packs the ornament lovingly in her small jewelry box, and when she arrives in her dorm room, it will be the first thing she hangs on the wall.

One response to “Nine: For Your Eyes Only

  1. James Bell May 2, 2014 at 5:03 am

    How sweet. Just like the domoviye.

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