During the month of May 2020, I participated in Julie Duffy’s StoryADayMay, which means that I wrote one short story everyday in May. To celebrate everyone’s hard work, each participant was invited to submit one story they wrote. You will be able to find the links to the StoryFest submissions on June 27-28 at StoryADay.org.
My story is called Humpty Dumpty’s demise. It’s based on a writing prompt to rewrite a nursery rhyme using another writer’s voice. I chose to write Humpty Dumpty in Elizabeth McCracken’s voice. I’m entranced with her ability to brings characters and setting to life with unusual visual images. Whether I pulled that off or not is debatable, but I enjoyed stepping out of my box and into someone else’s for a moment. I also attempted to write from the “we” point of view, something we are generally discouraged from doing, so why not?
Humpty Dumpty’s Demise
We had long thought Humpty Dumpty would meet his demise with reckless abandon. And we weren’t far from the truth.
Hard boiled and dressed up as if it was Easter, Mr. Dumpty lugged a ladder through the oil puddled lane, drawing veins of black behind him. As if in a trance, his over-easy eyes tractor-beamed him towards the wall.
Humpty Dumpty leaned the ladder against the brick’s pitted pores and eyed its rungs as if they were snakes ready to coil and strike. Still, that did not dissuade him.
Those of us gathering and watching shook our heads. We would never play so loosely with the hand we’d been dealt. Yet no one stepped forward to stop Mr. Dumpty. A simple invitation to go out for coffee and donuts might have changed everything.
We followed his progression up the ladder, rubbing our necks as they began to ache, so slow was his ascent. Reaching the top rung of the ladder, Mr. Dumpty bobbled about, then stepped-crouched onto the wall. He looked down at his shadow, which darkened the ground like a target.
Someone cheered, which startled Mr. Dumpty. He rolled to the left before putting his little gloved hand down and righting himself.
Putting one foot over the front of the wall and then the other, Humpty Dumpty lowered himself to a seated position. All of this would have been so much easier if he hadn’t been wearing those ridiculous curly-toed shoes. Did he honestly think they made him look dapper? They did not, we all agreed.
But so it was that Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall, his chicken thin legs dangling. “Now what?” we all asked. This bit of novelty was wearing thin. We heard the siren song of duty and began to turn away.
But Humpty Dumpty was not done with us yet. His heels began tap dancing against the bricks of the wall as if possessed by demons. Soon, his fingers joined in, click-snapping to some depraved melody that only he could hear in that bulbous, bloated head of his.
It was too much.
Mr. Sanders crab-scuttled as if chased by dogs up the ladder. Perhaps, he wouldn’t have done so if his relationship with Humpty Dumpty hadn’t already been strained. There was that unfortunate incident where Mr. Dumpty knocked over a display of paint at Mr. Sander’s store, which was followed by rotten eggs thrown at Mr. Dumpty’s door. Then there was the paper bag of dog poo left on Mr. Sander’s steps. He had no proof Humpty Dumpty had thus plotted against him, but what other conclusion could he draw?
When Mr. Sanders reached the top of the ladder, without even a sneeze of hesitation, he pushed Mr. Dumpty off the wall. And that’s how it happened that Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Twisting and turning, he reached his little gloved hands out for something to grab onto but found only air. There was a whip crack as Mr. Dumpty hit the ground. We watched as he oozed out of his shell in twisted turns of orange and tacky transparency.
Not as hard boiled as believed, we all thought, shaking our heads.
We did our best to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, walking on egg shells as we did so. An oblong-shaped apparition of Frankenstine began to appear beneath our hands. It gradually became apparent that once a yolk is broken, no man or beast can put it to rights.
We had no choice but to cease our madness and let runny eggs lie.