The Bird Purse
It started with a bird purse. While shopping in Macy's I saw a cute purse on the clearance table that had a pattern of birds on branches. I loved it, and even though I usually had solid black purses, I bought it.
I got tons of compliments on it and always enjoyed carrying it, so when it wore out, I had a great idea: I'd buy another just like it.
Unfortunately, I discovered that the maker, Fossil, had not only discontinued the purse, it had stopped making the whole line of coated canvas handbags.
So I headed to eBay. No bird purse! But when I searched, I found a great assortment of purses, many "new with tags," that were made by the same company in a variety of patterns. So I bought a sixties mod-looking bag with white flowers and pink dots on a black background. This bag was a bit roomier than the last one, so I liked the size even better.
Flash forward to when that bag wore out: I scouted eBay for another. I bought a pink one with a pattern like fireworks, and then, because I was about to take a trip and wanted one that would go better with the clothes I was packing, passed it over for a black purse with a design that reminded me of a Spirograph.
Now that purse is wearing out, and I've bought another style, in navy with dots--which means I have two new purses to choose from.
I might say I'm saving time--I've found a purse I like, and I don't have to deal with going from store to store, trying to find a new purse that suits me. I just look on EBay and order one. But am I getting in a rut?
I wrote before about my little whiteboard of story ideas--a place where I jot down story kernels for future use. The thing is, they are just kernels. For example, I have an item called "Zombie Monarchs" which refers to an article I read about how some of the monarch butterflies in the local butterfly refuge had had their bodies partially eaten by a predator, but were still flying around. One day I decided to start a story inspired by the zombie monarchs. My first thought was that I would write about a couple whose relationship was in trouble.
But then I thought: don't I always write that story? Am I getting in a rut? At that time, I had recently published a few stories that had troubled relationships at their hearts: "It'll Do Motel," "I Used To," and "Lifeboat Drill."
In my writing, I didn't want to be metaphorically buying the same purse over and over in a different pattern. I tried other scenarios, but nothing clicked. So zombie monarchs remains on my whiteboard, for now.
Except for the story from the point of view of bees, my next published stories were all about parent/child relationships of widely differing sorts (including the hypothetical). I'm not worried about a rut right now. But I don't want to let down my guard. Repeating in fashion can be coolly "retro" but in writing repeating is just boring.
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Ann Hillesland writes fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, The Laurel Review, and Sou’wester.
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