One day several weeks ago in Creative Writing class, we were finishing up the day’s activity which involved a crazy freewriting exercise that our professor participated in with us. She had just remarked how funny it was that she and two other students referenced the Wizard of Oz, when someone found a little plastic bead on the floor with the letter J on it. Our professor immediately assigned us a 300-word fictitious story about the origin of the bead, and it had to reference the Wizard of Oz somehow.
300 words isn’t much, and it didn’t take me long to come up with a story, but I just couldn’t get it out. Usually I go a different route if what I want to write isn’t working, but I knew I had this, so it’s been nagging at me.
Today I finally got this sucker out! Wanna read it?
Tisoré held her large, round belly and sank into the wooden rocking chair in the nursery. One toe, the only part of her body that wasn’t bloated and tired, pushed off the floor to set the chair into a soothing back-and-forth motion. She began to hum a lullaby in time to the rhythm of the rocking, feeling at one with her unborn daughter.
Tisoré wanted a simple name for her: perhaps Emma or Lily or Jane. Her husband, Breygard, however, insisted on visiting the Mystic Namegiver. He made the trip to the Emerald City himself, and proudly returned with a tiny, square-beaded bracelet, white with black letters bearing the name Jenniah.
Jenniah. Tisoré hated it. It was ugly and inconvenient, like the gaudy nursery Breygard insisted on filling with expensive antique furnishings. Like the clothes Tisoré wore, even now: too tight or short or revealing, lest Breygard ridicule her for being frumpy. Like her too-long hair, because the last time she cut it Breygard didn’t speak to her for a week. Like any choice she made without Breygard’s approval.
Tisoré inhaled deeply as she opened her eyes, but the breath stalled in her chest when she caught sight of that bracelet, mocking her from its perch on the goldwood changing table. The chair stopped rocking. Heart pounding, Tisoré jumped up, stormed over to the garish table, and snatched up the bracelet. With a strangled howl she ripped it in two, sending a small explosion of beads showering through the air and skittering around the room. Her body crumbled to the floor as she sobbed her frustration and helplessness into her empty hands.
Eventually, Tisoré ran out of energy and tears. She placed a hand on the floor to heave herself up and felt a small crunch under her palm. Lifting her hand, she found the crumbled remains of the H- lettered bead, and with a jolt of fear thought of Breygard. Quickly she crawled around the room to collect the rest of the beads, grabbed a needle and length of elastic thread from her sewing box, and set about repairing the bracelet. She knew Breygard wouldn’t notice the missing H: he was controlling, yes, but none too bright, and a particularly bad speller. She froze in a cold panic, however, when she realized she was also missing the J. It was a glaring omission he was bound to notice, intelligent or not.
Or was it?
A delicious wave of excitement rippled through Tisoré. The Mystic Namegiver wasn’t called mystic for nothing, right? What if…
She strung the remaining beads onto the elastic, tied off the ends, placed it back on the changing table, and waited. She, a poor, feeble-minded female, would bat her eyelashes and feign ignorance of such great things, deferring instead to her omniscient husband. She giggled at the thought of using his bloated ego against him. Would he really fall for it? She had no choice but to try.
Many years later, Tisoré sat in the rocking chair, pushing herself back and forth with one toe against the floor. Her daughter stood in the middle of the nursery, hands on her own swollen belly, supervising the renovations while she swayed gently and hummed a lullaby to her unborn daughter. The room was too dark and fancy for a child, to be sure, but it wasn’t so bad. Her mother, however, was rather insistent that she make it her own.
Two men inched past her, carrying an ornate goldwood dresser, followed by her husband. “Annie,” he asked, “Where did this come from?” He placed a tiny square bead into her hand: white, marked with a black letter J.
Annie started, and turned the bead over in her fingertips. “I don’t know. It looks like one of the beads on my name bracelet. Look at this, Mother. Do you know where it came from?”
Tisoré neither opened her eyes nor interrupted her rocking rhythm. “No idea. Chuck it.”