“I think I got mine,” Jamie said.
“Got your what?” Opal asked.
Opal looked out the window. A gray overcast filled the sky. Leaves hung on trees—orange, yellow, red. She watched one fall. It twirled and almost seemed to shine against the dark day.
She put on her red jacket and her brown shoes.
Here’s another Opal story. I’m still exploring her character. My friend Rita’s new play, which features the character of Death, influenced this piece.
Opal watched from inside looking out. Droplets hung in beads on the window pane. Rain flooded the street in front of her house and soon became a brown river rushing down the pavement, shiny under the cloudy sky.
Readers, I’m trying a new approach to the Opal stories. Instead of writing in sequence, I’m just letting myself discover this character in various circumstances. I gave myself the exercise of putting Opal into a situation and seeing how she handled it. This is what developed from that.
Opal was a afraid of the dark—especially Aunt Frances’ cellar.
Opal leaned against the mailbox, trying to catch her breath.
What was she supposed to do now? Her choices seemed so completely hopeless. She could either go back home, but that would just mean packing her things and staying with Aunt Mildred until Aunt Frances recovered. Opal had been there before, and she didn’t want to do it again.
Opal had no choice but to phone Aunt Mildred and tell her about Aunt Frances.
Opal missed the days, not that long ago, when Aunt Frances had a snack waiting for Opal after school—usually an apple muffin and a glass of milk or a piece of pound cake and a cup of weak tea. And then the two of them would pile onto the couch and watch late afternoon talk shows. When the news came on, Aunt Fran and Opal prepared dinner: toast and scrambled eggs or red beans and rice.
Aunt Frances appeared to retreat deep into the couch, the TV providing the only light in the room. Opal sighed. She put her hand on Aunt Frances’ arm. But Aunt Frances kept her eyes on the TV. Blank eyes. They were not really looking at anything. Or maybe, Opal thought, they were looking inside instead of out.
It used to be that Aunt Frances’ spells only lasted a day or so and then she would be back to her old self—wanting to plan hikes and camp outs and movie dates. But lately, the spells lasted longer than her good days, and Opal had taken on the duties of housecleaning, answering the phone, and cooking dinner.
Opal Fenster wanted an aisle seat, but they were all taken. Opal insisted on sitting at the edge of most anything and could not be bothered to crawl over feet and legs only to land in what surely felt like prison.
Ms. Esterholt, the principal of Table Mesa Junior High School, stood at the podium tapping on a microphone.
Opal Fenster was trying to get comfortable in a sleeping bag on the side of a mountain on a cold December night. Her Aunt Frances said, “Camping builds character,” but Opal wasn’t buying it. Character could be found in a book or on a TV show, as far as Opal could see.
“Ouch!” she cried out as her spine landed on a rock.