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Writer/Photographer: Christine Stoddard
Models: Julie DiNisio & Virginia Nickerson
Like chipmunks scampering from log to log,
the debutantes descended upon the shore
of a wide and restless river.
Through sun, through wind, through fog,
they scoured the bumpy banks for lore
that they might share in their salons.
Normally their tales centered on creatures--
timid and curious, docile and grouchy--
whom they met at the rocks.
The debutantes listed their features--
from trim fur to crumpled posture, slouchy--
in more detail than a naturalist's journal.
Delighting sailors and gentlemen alike,
the debutantes always sought new
material for their handsome callers.
For how else could they afford their dresses?
Lashes? Powder? Feathers for their hair?
And other cover-ups for God's little messes?
One day, after each one parked her bike,
the debutantes trotted over dew,
moss, and cacti to the booming water.
They came to steal the stones' stories,
only this time, a whirlwind of glitter
arrested the young ladies' attention.
It was a green, mirrored bottle,
which they eagerly fondled.
“I shall assuage your fears, clear your worries,”
hissed a voice that smoothed into a purring flitter--
but not before the debutantes choked in a cloud.
Lavender-colored smoke had engulfed the girls
like a swift and unanticipated change in tide
that seared their lungs.
“A genie!” the ladies cried as loudly as pearls,
their mouths hanging open, their eyes stretched wide,
and their minds running in every direction.
“Aye!” said the genie, “You listened in school
but perhaps you should stay longer
to make your heads stronger.
Your body is not currency—only your thoughts,
and those thoughts inspire stories
that you must write yourselves.”
The genie paused.
“And our three wishes?” asked the debutantes,
to which the genie said, “Back to your cots,
where you must dream tales for yourselves,
not dowry-seeking visitors.”
With that, the genie disappeared,
and, moments later, the girls peered
into the bottle.
The genie had truly gone.
The debutantes would not steal
the stones' stories that day--nor ever again.
As their male callers became fewer in number,
the ladies spent their free hours penning
tales of their own creation,
not mere observations
of a man-managed world.