Popsicle-stick Construction

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[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Sara Ryan, has ended. Original price: $2. Final price: $15.50.]

Anne Cole writes:

The summer when I was nine, Mom bought boxes and boxes of popsicles on sale, lemon-lime, some discontinued brand. They looked like fluorescent jaundice on a stick, but they tasted sharply sour-sweet, and I loved them. The first time I ate one, or two, actually, since they were the kind you can break in half to share, but I didn’t, I did what anyone would do: tossed the sticks into the trash.

Mom fished them out, rinsed them off, and said, “They’re perfectly good.” “For what?” I asked, but she didn’t answer.

Our house was already swelling up with things we might need, things we couldn’t possibly throw away, things Mom couldn’t believe were just sitting out on the curb.

I took the sticks into my room and stared at them. I needed to turn them into something that made sense to me, but I didn’t know what.

Soon, it became a ritual. Eat, rinse, take sticks to room.

They were drumsticks until there were too many and Mom said it was too loud when I played.

They were bookmarks until they cracked the spine on a library book.

I threw them on my floor and tried to use the patterns they made for divination, but I couldn’t make up my mind about what they meant.

I had more and more of them, clustered in a jar on my dresser. Once I dreamed they all came to life like the brooms in that story.

One day when she had to work Mom took me to the Boys and Girls club. The computers and the swings were full, so I went with some lady who said we were going to do art.

First thing, she got out a huge box of popsicle sticks — at least, that’s what the box said, but it was clear that no popsicles had ever been attached to them.

At least my sticks had served one useful purpose. What was the point of a box of sticks with no popsicles?

I was going to leave, but you had to stay once you chose an activity. I wouldn’t do it, but I watched her and the other kids, and it finally gave me the idea for what to do.

Of course we had glue at home. Of course there was a piece of wood to use for a base. I glued and glued, making up the design as I went.

But when I looked at it when I was done, all I could think is that I’d made a way to perpetuate the cycle, the empty space inside the bowl calling out to be filled with more things. Like the ever-shrinking empty spaces in our house.

I waited until school started, smuggled it out of the house in my backpack, and abandoned it in a kindergartner’s cubby.

It was a start.

[Anne Cole is a character from a forthcoming graphic novel by Sara Ryan.]


Sara Ryan is the author of the novels The Rules for Hearts and Empress of the World, and of various comics, including stories about teen angst, circuses, Hellboy, joining the military, and the 1962 escape from Alcatraz.

6 thoughts on “Popsicle-stick Construction

  1. You have to stay once you’ve chosen an activity – oh man, that captures one of those boundaries of kidworld with such apt resignation. I can exactly remember that itchy feeling.

    Also the ending made me snort. I like this kid.

  2. The bidding on this object has been slow to take off — I wonder why? This is, of course, exactly the sort of phenomenon we’re curious about. Does it have something to do with the story? (It’s the only one we’ve published whose narrator is not only fictional, but a character from a graphic novel. Plus: Maybe readers are grossed out by the fact that the narrator claims to have licked each popsicle stick?) Or does the reluctance to bid have to do with the object itself? (It’s the only “craft” object we’ve featured – the Tin Ark was folk art – and it’s an amateurish example of craft, at best.) Fascinating! Wonder what will happen over the weekend. Of course, my posting this comment might be a Hawthorne Effect-like example of a researcher inadvertently affecting the outcome of the experiment…

  3. Pingback: Sara Ryan » Appearance: Lake Oswego Library, Tuesday 11/17 @ 7 pm

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