Butter Dish

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No. 44 of 50 — Significant Objects v3

[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Trinie Dalton, has ended. Original price: 99 cents. Final price: $9.50. This is part four of a five-story teamup with the literary magazine The Believer. Proceeds from this auction go to Girls Write Now.]

It dumped snowed one evening, so I got out my velvet swatch, antler-handled magnifying glass, and ice crystal identification guide to take to the riverbank at sunset. This was obviously the most glamorous diamond dust flurry of the season, here in my mountain town. It felt even more like a magical grand finale because I had, warm against my chest beneath my puffy coat, a beaded medicine bag filled with my crystal collection. I’ve been collecting crystal points for years — Herkimers from New York, double-terminated selenites from Arizona, amethysts from Texas, pre-obsidian Apaches tears from California, smoky quartz from Arkansas — and had meditated on capturing, in solid form, the elusive snowflake.

Every snow-lover’s dream is to freeze ice crystals in time. While photography is okay and sketching snowflakes is underwhelming, I strove for the impossible: to preserve the individually frozen stars as glassine crystals alongside their quartz brethren. Capturing them on velvet is only step one. As the white, fluffy storm came, I stood on the frigid riverbank, watching an egret hunt trout while perfectly shaped snowflakes mounted and perched on the maroon velvet’s soft, toothy surface. I hunched over and spied a few cloud-borne flowers through my magnifier, the bird flew off, and my stomach growled. My big plan, to spray the crystals with Freon until they transformed into glass slivers, failed miserably when I got too cold and went in to heat up an old, crumby bagel. Anyway, I had no Freon.

Darkness fell upon our backyard stream, and my stale bagel dinner didn’t cheer me up either. The butter I had to moisten the bread with was misshapen and garlic-infested because it surfed like a fatty goldfish, in its dirty little wax wrapper, throughout the fridge. The butter looked pathetic like a once mighty mountain mined and dredged for gold. The velvet spent the night outside.

Morning sun melted the snow bank blocking my front door, so I could get outside to gather the abandoned props. Down by the river, in my rubber boots and down apparel, I located the velvet and noticed a star-decorated object resting on it as if ready for an antique magazine photo shoot. Picking it up with gloves in case this was an ice sculpture that would meld painfully with my fingertips, I was pleased to discover that although this object resembled a dish from the days when people ate fancy dinners off chiseled Lalique crystalware, this was the real cold deal. The photo you see before you displays the first and last ice crystal-forged object. I kept it in my freezer all winter, accommodated with a brand new butter stick. I ate many fresh-flavored bagels thanks to it. However, for Spring, I feel obligated to share this wondrous work of nature with you. Snowflakes decorate it like petroglyphs. Buy it before it melts.


Trinie Dalton has authored, curated, and/or co-edited five books: Wide Eyed (Akashic), A Unicorn Is Born (Abrams), Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is (McSweeney's), Mythtym (Picturebox) and Sweet Tomb (Madras Press). Check out her work on sweettomb.com.

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