Cage the Storm

By Kevin Broccoli

Above view of a boat leaving ripples in open water

I liked it better when we were on the bookcase.

The titles were all lined up in front of us and we could read them aloud to each other every night. We’d come up with stories and attach them to the titles. The stories would produce other stories with new titles. It became difficult to tell which story sprung from the child of which imagination and how it connected to one of the spines on the shelf.

Remember when we lived in that tchotchke shop in the Bahamas?

We were just one bottle amongst so many other bottles. The ships were all painted different colors and the captains had different names, but we never felt special, did we? I remember feeling bad, because I wanted to be part of something special, but we were always on sale the same way all the other bottles were on sale. Even when the prices lowered, we would just sit there while the tourists snatched t-shirts with seagulls on them and clamshell necklaces and the worst–the worst–

Snow Globes.

What could a snow globe offer that we couldn’t?

…Aside from snow?

We were offering something better. Adventure on the high seas and daring deeds of the ocean all contained within a beautiful glass bottle.

What is a snow globe compared to that?

Shake a sphere and watch as snow comes down over a miniature beach even though snow doesn’t do that. It doesn’t snow at the beach. That’s why people like the beach. The snow globe is a lie. It lies and it lies and it lies.

But people…

People gravitate towards the lies.

Especially when they’re on vacation.

Especially when their kids are told they can buy one item from the hotel and casino gift shop and they get yelled at when they try and pick up the ship in a bottle, because it might break. A snow globe can break too, but it’s meant to be jostled. It’s meant to be disrupted. It’s designed to engage with whoever decides to purchase it.

We ask for a little bit more, don’t we?

We ask that you let us tell you a story.

When the store went out of business, and the casino was turned into an Amazon distribution center, we found ourselves on a fold-out table with a sign in front of our bottle that read “Just Take One, Please.”

Even then, we were the last one taken.

They say good things come to those who wait, but the bottle that was taken right before us also waited quite a while to be taken, and that one was smashed against a brick wall by a very angry young teenager who was, you know, going through some stuff at the time.

We were chosen — I like to think of it as being chosen — by a lovely older woman who definitely did not murder her husband. She selected us, brought us home, cleaned us thoroughly, and then placed us on a bookshelf. She had always wanted to decorate her home with nautical items, but her dead husband hated that idea. Right up until his disappearance, he forbade her from ever bringing anything into their home that resembled a ship or a pirate or a parrot or a peg leg or a piece of a map leading to a buried treasure.

Luckily for us, he was already long gone by the time the older woman walked by the rickety table that we were placed on so that we could instead be placed on a very stable bookshelf in front of titles like What To Do If You Want to Kill Your Husband and Go Ahead and Kill Your Husband and Famous Husband Killers Who All Got Away With It And You Can Too!

We had so much fun trying to decipher where those cryptic titles could lead.

We’d all gather on the ship and spin yarns as the light from the bay window dwindled to a string. Then, we’d stand on the deck as the caged storm raged all around us. The lighting a swirl of bright yellow paint strewn against the glass. The dark clouds delicately dabbled from the bottom of the cork to the base where the dust gathers.

Our captain would say that one day we’d be placed in water. Maybe not an ocean, but a lake. Maybe not a lake, but a bathtub. Maybe not a bathtub, but a kitchen sink. We’d get to see what floating felt like. That particular bob and dip. The way the water cools the bottom of the bottle. The captain said she lived on a ship like that once, but she won’t give us details. She tells us the memories typhoon her heart. She’d rather hold the wheel and steer us over and over again into the storm.

After the bookshelf, we were brought into the living room and placed where the husband’s urn used to be. We don’t know where the urn went, but the cabin boy swears he saw it poking out of the wastebasket. The light in the living room is much better than the light in the library where it wanes so quickly. In the living room, it fills up every carpet fiber and wall fixture. It lasts as though it’s invested in what it’s done to the room. For the room. We no longer feel as though we’re weathering a whirlwind night after night. Instead, we feel as though we’re locked in a tempest with the sun all around us.

That living room light cradles our bottle in its arms. It assures us that we will break past the glass and the cork and red remnants of the sale sticker that couldn’t be scraped off. It tells us that we deserve to be bathed in the living room light. That we won’t need titles given to us by others, because we will create our stories out on the open sea. Once we have lived our stories, then, and only then, will we name them.

Category: Competition, Featured, Fiction, Short Story