WEDNESDAY: The Marble and the Coin

BY DIANE SIMPSON

Copyright is held by the author.

MOM, DAD and Janet were all outside getting the barbeque ready. It was the chance she’d been waiting for. Amy knew where Janet had put it. She’d heard the familiar clink of metal hitting porcelain from inside Janet’s’ room.

The piggy bank rattled but it wouldn’t give up the coin. It was a shame really. The piggy was bright pink with flowers painted on its head and a sweet little smile. “Sorry,” Amy apologized as the heel of Dad’s dress shoe made contact. Pieces shattered as the coin attempted to roll to freedom. She slammed her hand down over it.

“Got you back!”

“Amy, hotdogs are ready.” Moms’ voice carried through the windows from outside. Amy smiled triumphantly, stashed the coin in her back pocket and walked to the picnic table with a swagger. She positioned herself directly across from her older sister and loaded up a hotdog. You could tell the girls were sisters by their identical colouration. The difference lay in their age and dietary restrictions. Janet ate her special gluten free bun and dog with her usually fussy little nibbles. It drove Amy crazy, just take a bite already! Amy was starving and choked back the hot dog, gulped the low sugar juice and wiped her mouth on the hem of her shirt.

“Can I be excused, I’m done?”

“Amy! Don’t eat so fast!” said Mom.

Dad shrugged his shoulders. “She did ask politely.”

Mom groaned and waved her hand like a white flag. “Fine, go.”

Amy took three steps away from the picnic table, pulled out the coin and held it at arm’s length for Janet to see. “Got it back you thief!” She took off running.

Three steps were not enough to outrun an older sister who owned a wall of track and field ribbons. Janet dove at her knees and took her down with a hard thump. Amy pulled her arms in under her chest to protect her coin. Mom yelled something and Dad turned his attention back to rotating the wieners. The coin was secure in Amy’s firmly clenched hand. Janet rolled her over, sat on her stomach and peeled her fingers back one by one. Before Mom could figure out what the fuss was about, Janet had snatched the coin and stomped back into the house.

“Amy, enough of this fighting, you two are sisters, you need to get—”

A shrill scream at an octave only young girls can reach pierced through the air. Amy smiled wickedly, caught her Mom’s glare and froze to a blank expression.

“Get up off the ground Amy. Tom, come and deal with Amy.”

Amy brushed grass from her legs and flicked an ant off her knee. Janet had come back from her room and stood on the top step of the porch. Facing the fruit trees that were surrounded by tall grass, her arm was cocked back and her face blotchy red. The low branches of the trees made it impossible to cut the grass there. It was practically a jungle.

“Stop her Mom! She’s gonna toss it just like the marble!”

“Janet Mae you bring that coin over here now!”

Father stepped up behind us eating a hotdog just in time to witness the launch into the green jungle. Janet stuck out her tongue and marched back into the house. Mom stormed in after her.

Gramps had given Amy the coin for her help with feeding the ducks. It was old and he’d shined it up by soaking it in a glass of coke. He even let her drink the sugary pop afterwards with a “don’t tell mum” wink. She loved Gramps and loved that old coin. Amy stood and cried.

“Well, now the marble has a friend,” said Dad.

“Help me look Dad, please?” Amy’s wet eyes pleaded.

“Mission search and rescue accepted.” He saluted her and marched like a stiff tin soldier into the centre of the tall grass.

Amy’s bottom lip pouted as she bent down to spread the grass. Minutes passed as the search produced nothing but jumping bugs. Amy sighed with frustration.

“You know, Amy-kins, there will always be marbles and coins but you only have one sister,” said Dad.

Amy ignored him and kept looking.

“You two are going through a rough patch, but you should give Jan a chance . . .”

That was unthinkable. “Huh! A chance! To break my stuff, sneak things out of my room and she’s not suppose to even go in my room.”

“Now wait, let’s not get all fired up again. I mean, start fresh, forgive and forget and start being nice to each other. Can you do that?”

Amy halted her search and stood up. Pretending to be nice would give her the upper hand and throw Janet off her game. There were several things in Janet’s room that she could hold for ransoms.

“Fine, fresh start.”

“Good, let’s go on in and get some ice-cream?”

“Ok,” said Amy.

Amy offered Janet a round of Mario Kart and handed over the good controller. When it was time for bed she let Janet have the bathroom first without any complaints. Janet was completely content with the new Amy. The plan was working well and even Mom and Dad were pleasantly relieved. Her time for revenge was coming soon.

The house was quiet as Amy tip-toed into Janet’s room. The Barbies watched from the shelf with accusing eyes. Amy turned them all face down, she didn’t want any witnesses. First stop, marker collection, the fruity smelling ones, lids removed and she moved to the dresser. Second stop; apply glitter glue in the hair brush, done. Her hand rested on the box of stickers. Something outside caught her eye. Out in the yard a light scanned across the yard.

“Janet? Get up! Somebody’s in the yard!” She rocked the shape under the covers but it didn’t move.

“Janet, serious . . .” She pushed harder against the shape that flattened far too easily. Amy’s eyes narrowed — it was pillows.

She descended the stairs in stealth mode, slipped into her flip flops and snuck into the yard. Janet screamed as an unseen attacker leapt onto her back and pulled her to the ground. The flashlight sent off beams of light into the night sky as the girls fought. A light clicked on in the house.

“You can’t have it,” said Amy.

“I wasn’t trying to—” The grass flattened underneath the rolling bodies.

“You’re out here looking for my . . .” Amy spit out a bug. “. . . coin. It’s mine. I earned it.”

“Girls!” Mom’s voice rumbled like thunder. The girls froze in place on the ground with tangled limbs. She stood over them with hands on her hips and her housecoat undone. Mom picked up the flashlight and shone it on their faces. “Bed now, better run.” She had never chased them, but they didn’t dare test her by walking.

Amy dropped into her bed panting. She heard the disappointing sound of lids popping back onto markers. She rolled over and smiled, she still had the brush.

Breakfast consisted of a double order of sulk with a side order of cold stares. They were still under the pretence of being nice to each other. Janet’s hair twinkled.

“Nice touch with the hair Jan,” said Dad.

“Somebody put glitter in my brush” said Janet through gritted teeth.

“Wonder who?” said Dad. Amy snickered and yet it fell flat.

“Thanks Amy, I love it,” said Janet with a fake smile.

“You’re very welcome.” Amy returned the smile.

“Look, I brought my brush; I can fix your hair to match mine!” she offered angelically. Amy was trapped and once again her sister had outwitted her.

Despite her efforts to be annoyed it felt good as the brush stroked her scalp and relaxed her. Janet’s gentle pull on her hair tugged away her knots and her jealousy. Janet pulled the part to the side and added a braid with a sparkly flower clip. Janet chatted away at how long her hair had gotten and how the sparkles mixed well with the blonde. Amy’s emotions were all mixed up. Warm feelings towards her sister were softening her resolve.

Her sister held up a mirror to review her work. Both their faces reflected back with matching freckles, blue eyes and glittery blonde hair. Amy felt beautiful. She reached around and hugged her sister. Mom and Dad clinked coffee cups.

“Thanks, Janet.”

“Welcome, it’s washable stuff so Mom says it’ll come out okay.”

Mom and Dad sat at the table sipping coffee with a knowing look. The peace between the girls put everyone at ease. It was as if the glitter had a magic power thought Amy. It changed Janet to a nice sister.

“I did find one thing last night. Put your hand out,” said Janet. Amy extended her palm with anticipation. Janet plopped a gritty marble into it.

It was the big kind, white with swirls of purple and a sparkly silver line that made it especially beautiful. In all the shops she’d not seen anything that came close. The surface was a bit grey from being outside but Amy didn’t care. She was impressed that Janet had found it.

“Sorry it’s not the coin,” said Janet.

“Yes, me too, but the marble makes me feel better.”

“How old was that coin?”

“Really, really, really old…2001!”

Mom choked on her coffee and Dad laughed spitting his out all over the table.

4 comments
  1. Diane,

    I read your story twice; the first time as a reader, the second as a critic.

    I did not find that the story stood out as much as it could have and maybe should have. Perhaps it was the subject-matter: a squabble between two sisters with little at stake I found too Brady Bunch for my taste. Too Wonderbread. Vanilla. Even the characters’ names are ordinary. The story might stick in my mind longer if they had unusual names, something to set them apart. I also thought the story lacked enough suspense to hold my attention for long, and offered little for me to emphasize with either of the main characters or their skim milk parents.

    Every story needs a strong Lead character, and almost obsessive desire to achieve an Objective, a major Confrontation with the antagonist, and a Knockout, killer ending. “The marble and the Coin” contain elements of the first three, though I feel that they are watery. And the ending, in my opinion, while “nice”, is less than knockout.

    If this is a slice of family life, it comes across as a “Kodak Moment” captured on an Instamatic (remember those?) with the colours already fading. If “The Marble and the Coin” is pure fiction with no need to stick to the real facts, don’t sell yourself short. Ramp up the tension, make the reader care about the outcome; who wins? Who loses? Who dies (physically, psychologically or professionally) when they fail to achieve their goal?

    Give me an emotionally satisfying ending that makes me want to devour your next story.

    I hope this does not come across as too cruel. I can see from your writing that you have the tools and the ability to write well. Use them to your best advantage.

    Above all, keep writing.

  2. Michael,
    Thanks for the feedback. I agree with your comments and my gut instincts knew this one was lacking in the tension and character development. I had felt there could have been more. It’s not cruel or hurtful, but honest advice and I appreciate it and will use it as encouragement. Thanks for reading my story, twice.

  3. Diane,

    You are welcome to use or discard any and all of my “advice”, but it comes well-intended. We know what you are capable of: “LISTING LARRY” is a fine example of your comedic style, and a hard act to follow.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. If the story is so flawed — why was it chosen?

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