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Director/Writer/Photographer: Christine Stoddard
Actress: Erin Maloney
Marion had never believed in anything. For dessert, she ate plain rice, never pudding, because she didn't trust the sparkle of sugar. Christmas irked her. She sneered at angels, true love, and prayer. She even disavowed physics.
Then her dog died.
"Hey, miss!" came a pre-pubescent cry. Marion snapped out of her reverie. It was another Saturday and she was manning the ice cream truck at Quincy Park. A snub-nosed boy in a faded T-shirt pounded on the window.
Marion threw down her magazine and marched to the window. She peered down at the kid, who knocked so hard his knuckles turned red. Marion sucked air through her teeth and opened the window.
"How did you even reach the glass?" Marion scoffed.
The boy blinked. "Magic."
"And, what—you hovered?"
"I want a chocolate cone," the boy said.
"No dice. I ran out. Go wish upon a star or something.”
"Why are you so angry, miss?"
Marion furrowed her brow. "Are you wearing glitter?"
"Why's your face shining like that?"
"Magic," he said, shrugging. Then he scratched his cheek.
"Magic should put glitter on my face and pay my bills while it's at it. Then I wouldn't have to dig into a freezer for brats like you."
The boy didn't say anything. Instead he whistled. Marion stared off past the boy into a soundless universe of green grass and orange tulips. That's when she spotted a beagle who reminded her of the one she had just lost—Erio. The beagle sprinted across the field and disappeared behind a tree. When the dog didn't immediately run back into her field of vision, Marion remembered where she was.
It was only then that Marion noticed that the day was sunny and that she was surrounded by the smell of cotton candy and sprinkles. But she still wanted Erio to return, or at least for that beagle behind the tree to dart back into her sight. Neither one of those things happened. Instead Marion noticed the boy.
"Do that again," she commanded him.
"Do what?" The boy hid his hands behind his back.
"That thing you did with your fingers." Her voice faded into a whisper. "You turned them into popsicles, with a toy or something."
The boy shrugged again. "Magic."
"Go away. Play ball."
"I don't have anyone to play with. Would you come?"
Marion clicked her tongue. She had been in the ice cream truck for hours and the beagle might still be near.
"Okay, but not too long. What do you want to play?"
“I like building houses."
"What do you mean?"
"I like collecting wood, moss, and other stuff. Then I put it all together to make a house for the fairies."
"For the fairies?"
"You already said you'd play with me." The boy crossed his arms.
"Alright. I'll build a fairy house, just to prove a point."
Marion left the truck and scampered after the boy. The boy led her through hedges and trees before approaching a clearing. There stood a graying shed, a pile of firewood, and a white house. The scent of magnolia hung in the air.
"I never knew this was here," Marion muttered.
The boy did not hear her. He had already started rummaging through the wood pile. Almost as swiftly as he arrived, the boy built a miniature house. Then he clapped and threw up his hands. "Your turn!"
Marion gingerly began going through the pile of wood. It felt smooth like driftwood loved long by the sea. Marion picked an armful of planks and wedges. The wood felt as light as a mass of down. Marion knelt down on the ground and cobbled her own house. The pieces fit together quite naturally. She beamed.
Marion sat looking at the house for somewhere in between a second and eternity when something wet lapped her hand. She stiffened and then relaxed. It was the beagle. She swept the dog into her lap, scratched its scruff, and cooed into its ears.
"This dog is just like the dog I had," Marion said. "Do you have a dog?"
The boy did not respond. Marion glanced up. He had gone. A sudden breeze hit the trees, the shed, and Marion. Marion shivered before experiencing a surge of warmth shoot from head to toe.
The beagle nuzzled Marion, slowing the wag of his tail and closing his eyes. She scooped him deeper into her lap and stroked his neck. Marion studied the fairy house at her ankles. Then her gaze shifted back to the beagle.
"The fairies brought you, right?"
But instead of answering, the dog fell asleep in Marion's embrace.