The Silver Bowl and Creamer

By | October 15, 2011

Freewrite – 10 minutes, a prompt (in bold, below), and we have to write a story.

All Jane wanted was the antique sugar bowl and creamer pitcher from her Grandmother’s collection. It was the only thing left of any value after the tornado had taken Grandmother away – Grandmother and her parents and every sibling save Ellen.

Ellen, who was always the lucky one. Ellen of the blonde hair to Jane’s dull drab brown. Ellen of the cheerleader body to Jane’s dumpy shot-putter’s build.

Ellen was crying alongside her in the lawyer’s office as the will was read. It was a complex set of affairs, with multiple conflicting wills and distributions of estate. Time of death was established through a tedious analysis of the path of the tornado, but in the end it all resulted in Ellen and Jane being the surviving relatives.

Ellen reached into her purse to grab a Kleenex, then blew her nose, loudly. She balled up the used tissue and then tossed over Jane’s head toward the trashcan.

“You missed.” Jane picked the tissue from her lap where it had bounced from her head. “Your eyes are still blotchy, sis. Might need a mirror.” She threw the tissue into the basket, expertly. The sports training had paid off, again, even in the small things.

Ellen gave Jane that look. The one Jane knew from childhood. The one used when Jane attempted to gain glory for herself, her very own. And Ellen, the star of high school and college, the one who married early to the fabulous athlete, who divorced with a fabulous settlement and then remarried several more times to richer and richer successful men, would need to stop Jane from getting anything – attention, respect, even simple affection. It was Ellen who first stole Joey and then drove him off. Joey had fallen in love with Jane – in love, she knew – but after Ellen was done, Joey joined the seminary and now served as a missionary priest in Ethiopia.

It was the sugar bowl and pitcher on the lawyer’s desk that she wanted now. The only real thing remaining as a memory of that one day when Jane had Grandmother all to herself. When Grandmother had called her “pretty” and “intelligent,” had shown her the old pictures of Grandfather in his handsome uniform, had told Jane how things worked out between men and women. Grandmother was her secret ally in a family where Ellen was always the star, and it was that afternoon during that tea that Jane realized she was bright, wonderful, lovely woman with her own skills and talents.

And Ellen – Ellen with servants and cars and husbands – Ellen didn’t need a single thing, and didn’t really even like the old tea set. Ellen had no memories of Grandmother other than the old lady telling her mom that Ellen was selfish and destined to destroy men. “That lady was a witch,” Ellen said often. “She cursed me. I’ve been unlucky in love. Glad she’s gone.”

That was Ellen’s conversation in the elevator. Now she was weepy and red with her blonde hair cascading off her shoulders. Looking so forlorn and soft and week.

“Well,” the lawyer began, “after the clean-up, these are the only salvageable items remaining. You have your inheritance and trust funds. All that remains is to divvy up the set and let you each have one item. The only proviso is that you must both agree with the choice, or the set will be given away to a charity of my own choosing. So, ladies – sugar bowl or creamer.”

Ellen stopped crying, sniffed, and looked at Jane. Her eyes narrowed. “I’ll let Jane pick first.”