We’re pleased to present two fresh stories from regular Sunday Writers:
- The Odd Glove Ball by Caroline Stevenson
- Flap and Molli by Jonathan Pickering
The Odd Glove Ball
By Caroline Stevenson
Writing prompt: The Things we lose.
* For narrative purposes, all non-human characters have been bestowed with human names. Any resemblance to existing humans is purely coincidental.
One of the loneliest things in existence has got to be a glove which has lost its handmate. Its predestined partner. And all odd gloves out there are painfully aware of this. They can’t be handed on as presents from the original ungrateful recipient, they can’t be donated to a charity shop. They remain abandoned on the streets, sometimes placed on tip of a bin by a well-meaning passer-by, forming a textile shrine to a now chilly human hand. But a glove is rarely considered worth venturing back out into the cold for. Not when pockets exist and it’s only a matter of time until the next pair of gloves is given as a present.
So in a bid to tackle single-glove loneliness, the Odd Glove Ball congregates in the middle of every month. The last one took place at midnight on the 15th March, on the Ides as it were. Conscious that they are supposed to exist as part of a pair, abandoned single gloves have an innate instinct for splitting things exactly down the middle, including the calendar month.
Where Does the Odd Glove Ball Take Place?
At 3am on the children’s sandpit in the nearest park. The occasional human stumbles past, stares for a bit at the proceedings, then with a shake of the head, they convince themselves that they are just tired, or high, or both, and keep walking.
Who or what provides the music?
To some extent the wind rustling through tree branches. The swaying branches also create a mild disco-lighting effect by cutting through the beam of the streetlamp onto the sandpit. Some gloves provide the dance beat by stroking twigs against the park railings. Grown-up gloves can switch dance partners at any time, though any time a dog barks in the vicinity, a switch of partners is compulsory.
And what about the array of guests?
On the face of it, or rather the palm of it, the gathering is supposed to celebrate differences and the fact that it’s ok to be unique.
But let’s face it, everyone knows the urge to want to fit in, and gloves are no exception here.
What can pretty much always be guaranteed is that swathes of odd black leather gloves will be in attendance, black leather gloves being the staple choice least likely to clash with any winter coat. This majority group of odd gloves tentatively sizes each other up, thinking that tonight might, just might be the night they are reunited with their other half, only to find that no, they don’t match together in a perfect fit. Two gloves might be identical and the same size, but when they come palm-to-palm it becomes evident they are both fitted for the left hand and so cannot be two halves of one original pair. Or one of them, despite being otherwise identical, has some minute detail, be it a diamante flourish or a discreet pattern in a different-coloured stitch, which rules out their one-ness. It has yet to occur that a separated pair of gloves has been reunited at one of these balls, and it is generally presumed that if this were to happen, the happy pair would go scampering off into the sunrise together without facing any repercussions apart from inspiring envy amongst the rest of the congregation left behind. There are instances when these quests to find a match get underhand and deceitful. On a previous occasion, two black and seemingly identical gloves linked thumbs and attempted to make a run for it. A suspicious guest, however, extended their index finger and tripped the pair up. On closer inspection it was revealed that the one glove had a rose embroidered onto the inner edge of the thumb. The pair were summarily thrown out of the sandpit by the bouncer glove. The penalty for any gloves caught disrespecting the spirit of the ball is severe: the pair in question were banned from all Odd Glove Balls for the following year.
That said, even if the rules are obeyed, there is still plenty of room left for prejudice within the maligned odd-glove community.
Cynthia, with her real mink-fur lining, drew audible tuts and even middle fingers from the other guests when she clambered onto the sandpit. A tad hypocritical from the other guests, you might think, given what they were made out of, but at least sheep and cows were also slaughtered for nourishment and not purely for fashion purposes, and so the woolly and leather guests needed no encouragement to take the moral high ground.
Who has the authority here?
Well since lawyers and judges don’t wear gloves, authority is bestowed on the glove at the gathering which signifies the most high-status or respected profession. More often than not, power is invested in a police officer’s glove or a medical glove.
On the night of the March ball, power is invested in Melvin, the light-blue latex surgical glove. His very raison d’être is to eliminate any unnecessary contact between two contaminated bodies, making him a natural host… of ceremonies, that is.
And how do gloves dance? All fingers and no thumbs?
Well in order to illustrate this, let’s introduce some of the other attendees of this month’s ball.
In the best-lit corner of the sandpit, a flock of woolly children’s mittens with charming zig-zag patterns is devoting their attention to leaving new fingerprints in fresh sand and making the prettiest sand angels, which they have to achieve first by lying on their backs and swishing their thumb to the side, then flipping over to their front and repeating the process.
Meanwhile, amongst the adult gloves, Neville, the sturdy construction glove, is attracting a crowd of spectators by doing a succession of thumb-ups in the middle of the dance floor and springing up off the sand entirely between each one.
Sports gloves usually don’t have much trouble finding dance partners. Indeed, Toby the cyclist’s glove had one guest wrapped around his thumb and another around his little finger.
Louise, a vision in violet, is a fingerless creation – technically a glorified wrist warmer – and so her range of dance moves is limited, but she can at least make some eye-catching spiral movements with her increased length. She is being timidly approached by Stephen, one of the various black leather varieties.
And how do they communicate?
Well, small-talk amongst odd gloves takes some dexterity. You can’t exactly ask “So, what do you do?” unless you want to appear completely thick – and not in the good, warm way. The conversation tends to drift more towards previous owners and how they led their lives.
Things are going rather nicely between Stephen and Louise. Let’s listen in:
“I was left on a bus.” Stephen says.
“Really? Same here!” Louise replies.
“My owner had Raynaud’s syndrome, so it wouldn’t take much chill for her hands to go blue. She would wear us for most of the year, but would take us off to use her phone when on the bus. Then when her stop came, she’d forgotten about both of us on her lap. My other half was lucky enough to fall in her handbag when she stood up to get off at her stop”
“What was your owner’s name?”
“With dark hair? Can’t keep still when waiting at the bus stop?”
“That’s right. Did your Caroline also have the Wallace and Gromit theme tune as her ringtone?”
Stephen and Louise would have no doubt found out what else they had in common, were it not for the sound of a torn stitch ripping through the sand pit.
Cynthia was shrieking and indicating a mound in the pit with her index finger, where some of the sand had been strewn away to reveal the edge of a severed hand. The wind came to a standstill and brought the background music to a halt, respecting the grave nature of the discovery. The severed hand was encased in a glove. A light-blue surgical one.
The congregation immediately swerved round to direct their attention to host Melvin, who, being no fool, was already hopping over the sandpit wall and putting as many hand spans as possible between himself and the dancefloor-turned-crime scene.
The forensic glove in attendance sighed and flopped over a discarded spade. Needles in haystacks were child’s play compared to fingerprints in sandpits.
Flap and Molli
By Jonathan Pickering
The sounds of birdsong roused Molli from her slumber. The morning sun, filled with the pleasant warmth of late spring, shone through the beautiful green leaves of the towering sycamore tree, a gentle caress across Molli’s white-tinged black flight feathers. She clambered unsteadily to her feet and stretched out her wings, only to accidentally whack her dosing brother, Flap, square across the back of his head.
“Hey,” he complained as he shook his out his rumpled feathers. “Watch it, Sis.”
“Sorry,” she chirped as she began cleaning her light brown head. “Mother’s not back,” she added, almost as if that were a side note.
Flap clambered to his own feet, and Molli jealously stared at him as he cleaned his own feathers. Unlike her own boring brown and cream colourings, Flap was beautiful, with a red breast and grey crown, followed by a russet brown back leading to a greenish tail. “Oh well,” she thought, “at least the boring colours mean I’m not a boy.”
Now finished grooming, Flap looked about their home. It was a good nest, and their mother had kept it clean and free of bugs after their father had not come home one day. And now their mother was missing, too. Flap could not help but wonder what terrible things could have befallen her.
“I’m hungry,” Molli complained, interrupting his thoughts. “We should go and find food.”
Flap grew worried at the exited look in her eyes as she hopped from one foot to the other. “No,” he replied quickly, trying to curtail his overly adventurous sister. “We should wait here for mother. We haven’t learnt to fly yet, and it’s a long way down.” He peered over the side of the nest, but quickly stepped back as a loose twig fell to the grass far below.
“Oh don’t be such a feather in the mud!” Molli told him as she clambered up to the edge. Extending her wings, she flapped them experimentally a few times, and grew somewhat giddy as she felt herself get ever-so-slightly lighter. Throwing caution to the wind, she threw herself from the nest, and began to fall, crashing through branches as she did. Just as Flap was sure his sister was about to dive headfirst into the ground, her wings gained purchase, and she unsteadily climbed back into the air. She was flying! He winced as she flew into a tree. Sort of flying.
It didn’t take long before Molli was joyfully skittering around the nest while taunting her brother to join her – a notion he adamantly rejected. So, she did what any good sister would do: She flew back and pushed him from his perch. Flap cried out as he fell, and winced as he painfully struck branch after branch on the way down. But he too managed to fly before hitting the ground. Just.
“Come on,” Molli cried as she danced about her grumpy brother. “Let’s go find food.”
“We should wait at the nest. Anything could happen if we don’t. There could be magpies. Or eagles.”
“Don’t be silly! There are no eagles around here.”
Reluctantly, very reluctantly, Flap followed his sister. “I’m telling you,” he said as he struggled to keep up, “something bad will happen. Mark my words.”
It seemed, however, as though Flap’s anxiety was to prove unfounded. Shortly after taking flight, they found themselves flying over a small enclosed grassy field, with a strange looking tree within. It had no leaves on it, but instead had a flat area on top, and four uniform roots holding it in place. “Look,” squealed Molli. “There are seeds on top. Yum!”
“But what if they’re poisonous. Or there could be a Jay nearby.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic, Flap.” Clipping her brother over the back of the head with her wing, Molli leapt into the air and glided towards the strange tree.
With what could be called a bird’s resigned sigh, Flap followed after her.
Soon they were perched on top gorging themselves on delicious seeds, and even Flap was enjoying his meal. As if the very thought of Flap enjoying himself had awoken the fates from their slumber, the two siblings were startled from their feeding by a furious squeak, followed by an acorn that struck Flap on the side of the head, nearly knocking him from his feet.
Looking over, they saw an angry grey squirrel gesticulating wildly from atop the nearby fence. Another acorn, launched with unerring accuracy, caused the two young birds to take flight and flee from the enraged squirrel.
“I told you it was a bad idea.” Flap almost seemed pleased that his doomsday scenario had come to pass, although his head still hurt from the acorn strike. “We should go home. Mother might be there now.”
“Don’t be silly, Flap,” Molli replied. “We got some food, after all. Let’s see what’s over the hill.” Without waiting for an answer, she changed course and sped away, eagerly anticipating her next adventure.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Flap forlornly followed his sister once more, wanting nothing more than to be at home. He caught up as Molli landed on a rickety wooden post overlooking a noisy grey path that was even wider than a river. Giant bugs of different shapes and sizes followed each other along the path, almost like a line of ants. They made horrible gurgling noises, followed by intermittent squeals. They must be hungry giant bugs, Flap reasoned.
An enormous bug passed their perch, easily three times the size of any of the others, As it passed, pulling its extra long abdomen behind, it let out a furious roar from its dark blue head, and plumes of dark smoke erupted from its silver antennas as it rebuked a small red bug for getting in its way.
“We should go home,” Flap tried once again as he stared at the scary creatures before them. “These monsters sound hungry, Molli.”
“Nonsense,” she replied as she watched the chain of colourful shiny creatures. She found them fascinating, so colourful and varied. And the small ones were not scared of the bigger ones, so why should she be? Then her eyes caught sight of the other side of the giant path. There were piles and piles of food there, mixed in with all sorts of interesting things. The piles went on for as far as she could see, and there were birds there already, feasting on the bounty on offer. “Look!” Her excited squeal startled Flap from his misery. “So much food. Come on, brother.”
“No. No way. I’m not going anywhere near those monsters. I don’t want to be eaten.” Flap shook his head vehemently. “I’m tired and I want to go home. I have had enough of your absurd adventures for one day.”
“Oh don’t be such a spoilsport. We can just fly over them.” Deciding that was the end of the discussion, she took to the air and soared over the noisy monsters before landing clumsily on a mountain of food on the other side. Picking up a piece of bread, she taunted her brother as she danced about in victory.
Filled with trepidation, Flap launched himself into the air, wobbling clumsily as he did. His wings burned with the effort and his flight was uncontrolled as he struggled to maintain altitude. As his exhaustion grew, the burning sensation increased, and he once more plummeted lower. Fear made his wings heavier as he drew closer and closer to the rampaging beasts below. With one final effort he forced himself out of the path of an incredibly fast red bug, feeling the air batter him as the creature passed. “I’m going to make it,” he though, almost giddy with relief.
But then, as fate once more toyed with him, an enormous bug sped towards him. Poor Flap did not even have time to curse his sister as the giant creature struck him. Molli watched on as Flap disappeared in a cloud of feathers, which slowly began to drift down to the ground.
“Oh,” Molli said, sounding more puzzled than distraught, “I guess you were right about it being too dangerous, after all.” With a final glance at what remained of her brother, she turned back to the mountains of food. “Oh well,” she said with a happy little chirp, “more food for me.”