Thursday, July 14, 2011

Entry #9

The Right Choice
by Gina Langridge


The phoenix rose from the flames and shook out its feathers in a shower of sparks. The death of the fire passed unnoticed in its radiance.

"A single wish is yours," it said.

Angela took her thumb from her mouth. "It hasta be three wishes. It's always three."

The phoenix flexed its wings in a shrug. "One wish. Take it or leave it."

Angela opened her mouth and the phoenix said, "And no cheating."

"Wasn't gonna cheat."

One browfeather quirked.

"Ok then." Angela twisted the hair at the back of her neck. "I want to be rich and happy and have everybody love me."

"I said one."

The phoenix's light illuminated the scruffy armchairs and the worn patch on the carpet. On the table a book lay open and beside it paper and crayons, and the beginnings of a drawing of a sad little kitten.

"To be happy, then."

There was no "Good girl" or "Well done!" The phoenix curled the corners of its beak in a smile and flew out through the window in a scattering of smashed glass.

Angela sat down with a thump.

When her mother walked in hours later she found Angela sitting with a smile on her face looking blankly at nothing at all.

38 comments:

Aimee Laine said...

Angela took her thumb from her mouth. So this makes me think she's around 3 years old.

"Wasn't gonna cheat."
This makes me think she's well older than three because I'm not sure I know a 3 y.o. that understands what cheating is.

That the Phoenix took away the sad kitty was well in line with a very young kid. :) But I can't totally reconcile her age with the narration and it's coming from her POV, right?

I like the idea of the 'wish' being interpreted though and not handing her over some toy, but something so simple and 'unmaterialistic.' :)

SzélsőFa said...

i like Aimee's arguing about the age of Angela, but sometimes a kid older than 3 years old still sucks on her thumb - perhaps that is what the 'sad kitty drawing' wants to refer to. this story invokes really sad feelings within me. perhaps Angela was mentally handicapped or has just become one.

j a zobair said...

I liked the dialogue a lot. Especially the "hasta be" and "wasn't gonna cheat." Great way to show her youth.

I sort of liked that she had to pick one thing--and that it was happiness. Her other wishes might not have made her so.

Bexa said...

This one I like. Best one I've read so far...

Precie said...

I'm in agreement with Szelsofa about the ending. The thump and blank smile strike me as unbearably sad...either as the ultimate cheat or as a dark statement about what happiness really is.

Nicely done.

Cath Barton said...

Thought-provoking. I like the dialogue.

Jade L Blackwater said...

Yikes! Take em at their word phoenix!

my only question that trips me up - wouldn't the mother come running in at the sound of the crashing window?

Mikki said...

Wow. This was powerful. Your metaphors are exquisite, and I loved your dialogue and description. Nice poignant ending, too. Great work.

Thanks for sharing!

pegjet said...

Why does every wish have a dark side?
Angela's age didn't trip me. Clever story.

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks, all of you, for your input!

I feel like this one needed much more polishing - I was in too much of a hurry to get it in! So thank you everyone who pointed out where it has rough edges.

And thank you for all the kind words too!

Old Kitty said...

I had to comment cos I swear Ms Gina - I clicked on no.9 at random and IT WAS YOUR STORY!! WOW! I'm still in awe at this coincidence!!!! My goodness - what are the odds????

Well I love your story! I love the simple wish of this very young child. I guess the magic of the Phoenix is that it appears in flames, crashes through windows, grants wishes but these are only visible and tangible to a child and not to any adult. I think you captured all these amazingly well!

Take care x

Aniket said...

I am reminded of the Bartimaeus Trilogy. You have to really, really careful how you word your wishes. For anything you say, can and will be used against you in the court of the wish-granter.

I loved the dialogues too. Gave a light feeling to it and made the ending grimmer than it is. Which is to say something.

Thanks for an entertaining read.

Peter Dudley said...

Gina, nicely done. I love the two voices. The impatient tolerance of the phoenix.

The ending is unclear as to whether she's catatonic or just... happy. I choose the latter.

I think she's a very anxious 5 year old who has two type-A parents. She's a good talker and understands riches and fame and cheating, which implies ambitious, demanding parents. But the worn carpet and scruffy chairs imply they haven't succeeded like they want, and perhaps they preject their desires for riches and fame onto the little girl. The phoenix has granted her freedom from her anxieties.

That's how I choose to read this. Even though it certainly could be very much darker.

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks, Kitty, I love your interpretation.

Thank you, Aniket. I certainly thought it was grim!

Peter, I absolutely love your background story. I'll choose to believe that too!

bluesugarpoet said...

I love the playful dialogue - you capture two distinct personalities well. :) I have to confess that I'm on the darker side of endings (tainted by Twilight Zone and "The Monkey's Paw"); be careful what you wish for! Great piece! ~Jana

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks, Jana!

SzélsőFa said...

whoa, Peter Dudley has just written a sharp and clever backstory, and i love that interpretation!

fairyhedgehog said...

SF, Now if only I could incorporate Peter's backstory into my entry I'd be well away! It's better than what I'd thought of.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Even a good wish can go bad, smiling blankly does not sound happy...many mindless though. I think a very unhappy child would revert back to the comfort of thumb sucking, it could work for the story.

Dottie :)

JaneyV said...

Gina - this is terrific. The dialogue was crisp and there was real depth to your characters. I'm torn by the ending because it suggests that to be truly happy one must withdraw from living. I hope she has found bliss because I'm pretty sure her neglectful mother certainly hasn't.

Well done xxx

Ellis Bergstresser said...

I loved your physical descriptions of the phoenix. The browfeather quirk and the shower of sparks as he shook out his feathers. Brilliant. I could just see him, impatient to be done with this wish rigamarole and get on with whatever more pressing things a phoenix might have to do after reincarnating.

mcwhittle said...

How very delightful...Loved it...be careful what you wish for at it's finest.

D.J.Kirkby said...

I thought the story was quirky and the interaction between Angela and the phoenix made me smile. The ending took me by surprise though. Which isn't a bad thing!

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks, Dottie, Janey, Ellis, mcw and DJK! You're all too kind! No really.

Jayne said...

What a spooky lovely chilling ending! I read this as definitely 'be careful what you wish for'. I love it, in fact. Well done you. :)

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks, Jayne!

Damyanti said...

This is a grim little story...be careful what you wish for!...doubly poignant because the character is a young child.

Four Dinners said...

'When her mother walked in hours later she found Angela sitting with a smile on her face looking blankly at nothing at all'

....the only way any member of humanity can be happy anymore.

I'm a cynical old devil but there yer go.

nice one!

yamini said...

Before reading Peter Dudley's comment, I pretty much had a different interpretation. But that background puts things into perspective now.

I still ain't sure about the writer's take.. but this is a great piece. A thought provoking one.

Good job!

Chris Allinotte said...

I think the setup of this story is wonderful, and the conceit of a phoenix both appearing to, and granting the wish of, a small child is charming.

My read of the end was decidedly dark, which made me sad, but reading the alternate above, I can see that too, and like it.

Smart kid, though - lots of children would've used their wish on candy.

fairyhedgehog said...

Thank you Damyanti, Four Dinners, yamini and Chris.

My own feeling about the story is that the only safe path was not to accept a wish at all. So if you think it's a very dark tale, I'm afraid it is.

Linda Ryan-Harper said...

The Phoenix and the Carpet was one of my favorite books as a kid and your story not only made me smile, but rekindled a fond remembrance for me of a time when reading good books was a lot like finding buried treasure.

fairyhedgehog said...

Linda, I wonder if that book was one of the things that put the idea in my head? I'm glad it brought a smile to your face.

phatichar said...

Wonderful depiction of a child's mind. "No cheating"..hehehe, loved that line.

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks, phatichar!

Aidan Fritz said...

I read it as dark as well. The only safe wish is to wish you don't have a wish? Or not to wish at all and leave the phoenix to wither and die as it hounds you to make a wish.

I like how you captured the sense of the child with such few words.

fairyhedgehog said...

That's very much how I see it, Aidan! And thank you.

jason evans said...

Not a bad result, really. A lot easier that way. Solid writing!

Congrats on Forties Club!