Broken Toys: pt. 2 Fluttering

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Julie Duffy is the host of the creative writing challenge for short story writers, held annually in May. She first came across the term ‘defenestration’ in a high school history class and blames it for her subsequent degree in History. A transplanted Scot, she lives and writes in Pennsylvania and blogs at



Fluttering. Yes, that was the right word. Not a word she used much anymore, but there it was, still in her brain, patiently waiting to be needed, appreciated. And here was its moment. The patterned cotton—all manly grays and blues—fluttered as it fell: air flooding in through the ridiculous flapping leg-holes, ballooning until it escaped through the ‘comfort waistband’; tumbling down from the bedroom window to the neatly-mown grass below. (She did the mowing.)

She clapped a hand to her mouth to catch the giggle that had erupted from nowhere. Ridiculous. No-one really does this—his voice drawling in her head—no-one does this in real life, Jane. Grow  up. But she had grown up and look where it had got her. She turned to the tall-boy dresser and plunged, both hands now, deep into the top drawer, coming up with handfuls of boxers (his ‘smalls’, he called them without a trace of irony). In a long-forgotten move, she pirouetted—right leg relevee—back to the window once more and flung her arms wide. Fireworks, she thought, as the bundle of clothing flowered open: stunning for a moment, then fizzling to the ground.

Biting air from the open window reddened her cheeks—close the windows, Jane, you’re letting all the heat out—and she gulped in its freshness, filling her lungs with tiny daggers of ice. Sharp cold abraded her from the inside out, scraping away the dull layers that had formed through all the years—all the endless hours—inside these walls. There was fear, yes, that it might cut too deep, but the fear brought along its friend: thrill. Jane stood, unmoving, by the open window and simply waited. Life or death. Which would it be?

Through the window frame she could see her neat square of grass, her neat garden path, her garden wall with its neat wooden gate. Beyond that, a neat street of red-brick houses all with their own neat squares of grass, brick garden walls, and painted wooden gates, some with little carved decorations or bundles of dried flowers tacked on to them, some without. She could see Poppy and Oliver Mason across the street, unnecessarily bundled in snowsuits, playing with something in the flowerbeds of their front garden—safe behind the garden gate. Jennifer would be out any moment to put a stop to that. Couldn’t have her perfect children, perfect life, marred by mud. And here came Mrs McIver rolling slowly down the street in her gold Daihatsu, doing her 21st century curtain-twitching from behind the wheel of her little bubble car; looking askance at Jane’s open window blighting the sleek row of wintering houses. Jane spun again, grabbed another pair of boxers and flung them out of the window while Mrs McIver’s rearview mirror was still in range. She laughed out loud this time. Perhaps she would go mad. Perhaps she had been mad all along and now she would suddenly go sane. It wasn’t fashionable, but maybe she would start a new trend.

Another pirouette. To the wardrobe this time. The muscle memory was there, but it had been too long and her relevee was disappointingly delevee. So many things she had once known and practiced, now flaccid and underused—like that word, ‘fluttering’. She had never, not once, had cause to use that word since she allowed herself to grow up. What kind of a way was that to live? But there was still so much inside her waiting to be found again.

The big question now was: what word would spring free from her brain to describe the way a knock-off “Harris” tweed sports jacket made its heavy downward way through the cold morning air?


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