Significant Objects: More of Your Stories

Listeners On Air

Friday, April 06, 2012

Last month, we announced our Significant Object story contest. We picked out three objects from a thrift store — a doll ($5), a thermos with the Marlboro logo ($5), and a wooden trinket ($1). We want you to perform creative alchemy, turning the junk into treasure by giving it a backstory. It can be in the form of a short story, poem, encyclopedia article, comic, essay.

→ Enter the contest — deadline is April 8

 


We featured passages from two backstories for the Wooden Thing on the show — here they are in full:

 

Mark – Fremont, New Jersey

Dad didn't smoke Marlboro, he smoked unfiltered Camels, and he didn't die of lung cancer, but he's still dead. I’m 45 years old, married, two-kids; he’s been gone over 30 years, and every time I see this frickin’ thing, memories of him swarm over me like maggots on bad meat.

I have no idea where he got the red thermos with the Marlboro logo. The reason it isn’t buried in the Arthur Kill land fill since Reagan was president is because Mom couldn’t throw anything away. Now Mom’s gone. May she rest in peace.

Now it’s mine.

Good-bye old man. No more memories of fear; no more memories of pain. I don’t drink because of you; I guess I can thank you for that, but I can never forgive you.

Every Sunday in summer you’d get Mom to pack us each a sandwich and to fill the thermos for me with Kool-Aid and ice. Every Sunday in summer you’d take me to Willowbrook Park. Every Sunday in summer I’d watch you play softball. Every time you got a hit or made a play, you’d look to see if I was watching, and you’d smile. Every time you screwed up you’d look at me too, you’d give me goofy grin and shrug an apology. Every Sunday in summer, you son of a bitch, you’d make me love you.

Nina – Queens, New York

When Daddy gets the call that Grandpa is dying, he books a flight for all of us to Wisconsin. Grandpa is eighty-nine and daddy says he has a memory disease. He won’t know who we are and he can’t remember how to do things like open a can of soup or tie his shoes. Sarah, Ella, and me share one suitcase because Daddy worries about the good luggage getting stolen or lost. Ella asks why he has the good luggage if he’s not going to use it and he tells her to just pack light because Grandpa can’t see anyway.

Wisconsin is gray and blurry. It’s raining when we land at the airport. It takes us an hour to drive out of the city to Grandpa’s house. Daddy makes calls on his cell phone in the back of the taxi. Ella reads while Sarah and I stare out the window and count things, like blue cars and the telephone polls that connect the highway together like stitches. We get there and a fat nurse in a white dress opens the door looking like she doesn’t sleep. Grandpa is yelling something from deep inside the house. The nurse sighs.

"Ambien only makes him more hyper," she says.

Daddy and Mama follow her down the long carpeted hallway to Grandpa’s bedroom. They tell us to wait here, to turn on the television. On the coffee table is a bowl of funny looking things: a pair of joined metal rings, a cube made up of lots of colored squares, a metal ball inside a little jail, a piece of wood with a trap door on it. I pick up the little wooden thing and move the trap door and there’s a penny under it.

“It’s a magic trick,” says Ella, and she grabs it from my hand. “Look, I can make the penny disappear.” And she does. My mouth is open wide.

“How?”

“Grandpa was a magician, and he’d never want me to tell you,” she says. I grab it back from her, but then Daddy calls for us to come back and see Grandpa. In his room, Mama is sitting on the bed asking questions. Would you like your slippers? Would you like to go out into the garden? Talking to him like he’s a little kid. I stand in the doorway, trying to balance on one leg.

“Hi, Grandpa,” says Ella. He is sitting straight up in the bed shaking his arms out from underneath the covers.

“Nancy? What the—, Tom, tell Nancy to get the hell outta here.” He’s laughing kind of scary like he’s angry, and he’s pointing at Ella. She looks at Daddy and runs out.

“These my daughters, you remember, Dad?” Daddy says and he waves Sarah and me into the room. We stand with our backs against the wall. Then grandpa sees the thing in my hand.

“Come here,” he says. “I can’t take this damn eye patch off until December.” He’s not wearing any eyepatches. I come up to the bed and drop the penny trick into his dried out hand.

“Want to see some real magic, Nancy?” he says to us. He slides open the trap door and the penny falls out. He puts it back and slides the door closed once more.

“Now wave your hands over it like you seen me do.” I do what he says cause I'm scared. He slides the wood back and it’s not a penny in there anymore, it’s a dime.

Mama says, ohhh. Slowly, Grandpa leans in real close to me and whispers in my ear, "Promise to get me out of here and I'll teach ya how it's done." Then he holds out the dime to me and winks.

    Music Playlist
  • Belleville
    Artist: Django Reinhardt & Stephanie Grappelli
    Album: Djangology
    Label: Recall Records UK
    Purchase: Amazon

Produced by:

Rebecca Lee Douglas and Jenny Lawton

Comments [1]

That Marlboro thermos was (indeed) one of a number of items available from the Marlboro cigarette company catalog (USA), circa late 60s. They ran a whole ad campaign with assigned "points" per cigarette package, redeemable for Marlboro "signature" products. Similar to S&H Green stamps... that were distributed by supermarkets and redeemable for "gift item" premiums.
The print ad campaign was a 8-page gatefold in the larger format magazines like "LIFE" and "LOOK".
Also available from the catalog were a Marlboro Man white cowboy hat, his red wool 3/4 length Marlboro Man coat, that thermos and a dozen other items.
Depending on how many cigarette packs that you could send in..you could be dressed a your very own "Marlboro Man".

Apr. 14 2012 09:10 PM

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