A woman was going to market.
“Why can’t I come with you?” her daughter complained as she watched her mother consult the pantry.
“Because the market is too far away,” the woman replied. “You’re not big enough to walk quickly and too big to carry.”
“But I’ll be all alone!”
The woman peered inside the squat, cantankerous icebox. “You’ve been alone before,” she said. “How about the time you played in the woods?”
“That was different! You told me to take a bath. You wanted to comb my hair! I ran to the woods so I could have fun.”
“You still need a bath,” her mother murmured.
The girl crossed her arms defiantly. “Let me come with you," she said. "I’ll walk very quickly. I’ll be so fast you’ll run to keep up.”
“What about the time I found you in the basement?” her mother reminded her. “You were there for hours and hours. I thought I’d have to deliver your meals.”
Prompted by this memory, she opened the door to the root cellar and walked halfway down the stairs, the sound of her footfalls echoing in the cramped space. The girl waited for her mother to return before providing her explanation.
“I was afraid! You said the doctor was coming to check my throat. I doesn’t count if I was hiding. Anyway, that was my choice -- I decided to be there. Please don’t make me stay. I’ll be so lonely without you.”
As she passed her daughter, the woman paused to give her a kiss on the cheek. Then she continued from the kitchen to the anteroom, where she pulled on her boots.
“We do not always get to decide,” she said, donning her coat and worming her fingers into her gloves. “Sometimes we’re alone because we need to be. I won’t be very long. The house is warm. You have your toys to distract you. When I get back, we’ll make dinner together, and maybe even wash your hair.”
She didn’t give her daughter the opportunity to speak. Twisting the knob, she stepped outside and pulled the door closed behind her. The woman waited until she heard the bolt in the lock before turning to face the woods ahead. The light was dim -- soon it would be dark. Her breath shrouded her face like a cowl. In her kitchen was nothing. There was nothing in the root cellar. Nothing.
Into the stark night she walked.
An old woman lived in a very small house that didn’t have space for all the pots and pans and books and furniture she’d accrued over the years. In order to accommodate her many possessions, she’d moved half of everything to her nightly dreams, where there was more than enough room.
When the woman hosted a solstice feast, she first had to retrieve everything that she would require. The serving platter she found in a dream about gypsies. Ironically, she discovered the linen napkins in an anxiety dream about hosting. The good silverware was being used by a crew of pirates who were terrorizing the high seas. Finally, the woman located her gravy boat where she least expected it -- in a childhood dream of flight. It dipped and soared across a periwinkle sky, until she managed to snag it in a makeshift net.
Once she'd found everything she'd need, the woman was able to prepare her feast. But as soon as the first guest had arrived she realized what she’d forgotten: chairs. There was nowhere for anyone to sit. One by one they filed through her door, removed their coats, and stood uncomfortably around her dinner table. So the woman did the only thing she could think of.
She gave her neighbor a plate and told her to sit among the gypsies. Luckily, they proved to be a companionable caravan, singing and dancing while her neighbor supped.
Meanwhile, the woman’s best friend occupied her anxiety dream, which she, coincidentally, didn’t find the least bit anxious. Her own concerns were centered around impossible solutions to intractable problems.
The woman’s cousin -- the one who’d never married, because women found him to be too pliable -- joined the pirates. Despite their appearance, they were far more sympathetic than he might’ve expected.
Finally, the woman escorted a student to her childhood dream of flight. Immediately the student felt uncomfortable. She assumed it was expected of her to fly, but she didn’t want to, owing to a fear of heights -- so she took ever smaller bites, complimenting the woman on her use of ingredients, and continued to stall, until she noticed with great relief that her napkin had begun to twitch. And as they both watched it flew off to places unknown.
A chalice and a firefly were once great friends. They spent countless hours in conversation, and never tired of each other’s company. In fact, they were so kindred that the firefly insisted they must be brother and sister -- twins, even. The chalice very much enjoyed this idea. She often repeated it to herself when she was alone.
But, at the same time, she grew anxious. What if the firefly realized they weren’t so very much alike? Would he feel betrayed? She could bear his disappointment, but not the possibility of his abandonment. So, rather than wait for an unhappy epiphany, she decided to tell her friend the truth.
“There is something I must say,” she announced to him one morning. The sun had just crested the horizon, throwing shadows so long they couldn’t lay straight. “You are not a chalice.”
The firefly, who was perched on her lip, appeared to think about this statement. His abdomen, so bright in the late afternoon and deep into their shared evenings, hummed with a faint electrical current. Then he spread his wings and flew away.
His response made the chalice feel distraught, but she wasn't surprised. After all, it seemed inevitable that her friend would experience confusion, and even anger. He’d been deprived of his twin, the person dearest to him in the entire world! She could only hope that time would repair this rift between them.
So it was unexpected when the firefly returned the following morning.
“I’ve thought about what you said,” he told the chalice, perching once again on her lip. “At first I didn’t understand, but now it makes perfect sense. You’re a firefly!”
The chalice was amused by this insight, but otherwise she was possessed by a deep melancholy. “No,” she said, in what sounded, to her, like an apology. “I am not a firefly and you are not a chalice.”
The firefly flew away again, and this time he didn’t return the following day. It wasn’t long before the chalice began to question herself. It may hve been right to tell her friend the truth, but had it been necessary? The more she thought about it, the more she wished to revisit her decision. She missed her twin even more than she'd expected.
Thus, she was overjoyed when he returned on the second day. “I’ve been thinking—” the firefly said, but the chalice happily interrupted him.
“It took me a while to understand,” he continued. “But if you're not a firefly and I'm not a chalice, then only one thing makes sense—we’re both receptacles!”
“Pardon?” said the chalice.
“Receptacles!” the firefly repeated, with the same amount of enthusiasm. Then, possibly feeling a bit disheartened, he added, “Aren’t we?”
“Yes,” said the chalice, because she knew she was talking to her twin. “Yes, we are receptacles. Or,” she posited, “maybe we are also daydreams.”
“Daydreams? No, that’s dumb. Don’t be dumb.”
So the chalice agreed and the two resumed their conversation.