Valerie Hodgkins sat cross legged in her sandbox in the backyard. An overcast sky darkened her tired, emotionless face. She stared straight ahead as wisps of her curly, brown hair were blown across her face by the breeze.
Her mother had laid out that morning a yellow jumper with sunflower buttons, rainbow socks, and ruby glass slippers for Valerie to wear that day. She and her mother had watched The Wizard of Oz a week before, while their father sat in the Other Room, the room with the stain on the carpet, looking out the window, waiting for the neighbor next door to do something stupid.
“Why the ruby glass slippers?” Valerie thought when she woke up that morning to find her mother’s wardrobe surprise. Her mother must have misread Valerie’s interest in the movie. Either that, or her mother is a nosy, forceful Glinda, making things happy when they shouldn’t be. Next time Valerie and her mother watch a movie, Valerie will make sure to laugh, jump up and down, and point at the things she wants; and when something she doesn’t want comes on, she’ll make sure to slap her mother.
Valerie stared at the ruby footwear. The bright morning sun hit the shoes, sending reflections on the walls. Valerie kept staring, unblinking. She was nauseous.
Now Valerie sat in the sandbox. She was wearing a rainbow sock on her left foot, and a diaper. Sand-dirt was smudged all over her body.
Sand. The feeling of sand. Sand sifting between her small, pudgy hands as she clenched it over and over again. She was anxiously waiting. She wanted it to rain soon. “There are clouds. It rains when there are clouds. Where’s the rain?” she questioned as sand emptied from her hand.
At Valerie’s feet lay a small town she spent building that entire morning. This town was full of Mommies, Daddies, Stupid Neighbors, and Ruby Slippers. This town was built at the bottom of the sand mountain, also built by Valerie. It was a most unfortunate place to live, the bottom of the mountain. It was dangerous because when the rains came, the town went.
“They’re so stupid,” Valerie smiled. “Why would you live here? You’re so stupid.”
The only ingredient left was water. She stared at the garden hose. It was tempting, but no, she would wait for nature to wash misery on her creation. “Funny,” she thought. “I created this town only to be destroyed.” She paused. “Who created me?”
Valerie was facing her house. She could see Mommy in the kitchen window, cleaning dishes. It looked like she was singing. “Of course,” Valerie thought.
In the Other Room’s window, she could see the curtains slightly parted. It was Daddy, but he wasn’t looking at her.
Suddenly, Valerie snapped her head to the right.
A crack of thunder.
The wind picked up. Valerie’s little brown locks blew wildly.
Terrence Howard was staring through the picket fence, weeds collecting around it. Valerie could feel her head grow hot with anger. Her lips closed tighter. She just remembered there were Terrence Howards in her sand town.
They stared at each other; he through the pickets, she from her sandbox. Neither one of them made a sound or movement, just blank stares.
A crack of thunder.
Neither one of them moved.
“What are you doing here?” Valerie asked herself.
Crack of thunder. Valerie remembered her town. She turned. It was already destroyed. She had missed it. Her whole morning a waste. She screamed in rage, turning back to Terrence Howard.
He was gone.
Crack of thunder. She looked to her house. Her mother was gone from the window. The curtains were still partially parted in the Other Room.
Her rainbow sock was soaked. Her diaper was soaked. She was soaked.
She looked up to the sky as rain fell on her.
She could hear in the distance a voice. “Hold on. Hold on, Dorothy!”
It was her mother. Valerie continued to look at the sky.
The voice was getting closer. “A twister! A twister! Better get you inside, Dorothy!”
Valerie readied her hand for a slap.