The Beauty in the Flaws, by Sophia Mayhugh
2015 Magic Town Literary Contest. First Place, Ages 13-17
Age 13. Springs Studio for Academic Excellence. Teacher: Adrianne Ryland
I sighed and shifted from foot to foot, trying to warm my toes. “Why are we here, Jonathan?”
I was standing outside of a building that was surrounded by bare, snow-covered trees. “I know you adore Michael Garman’s work, but why did you bring me here? You already spend enough time here every day; do you really have to drag me into this too?”
My twin brother leaned against the door. “You’ll like it, Gina, I promise.”
“Um, yeah, I kind of doubt that.” I looked away. I wasn’t a big fan of statues. I hated the one time my school went on a field trip to an art museum. All the statues were of beautiful women, all the paintings had beautiful backgrounds, and everything was perfect. Perfectly happy. I know that life isn’t perfect.
My eyes darkened. Perfect sculptures struck me the wrong way, and that’s why I’d never stepped foot into Michael Garman’s Magic Town.
I shielded my eyes from the setting sun. “Besides, Jonathan, it’s almost dark. It’s bound to be locked. We should be getting home.”
Jonathan shook his head. “No, he said he’d leave it unlocked.” Without waiting for me, he pushed open the door and vanished into the building.
“Wait!” I called after him. “Who’s ‘he’?” My brother didn’t respond, and I let out a puff of air. My breath swirled around me, crystallized by the winter air.
Jonathan always believed that something could change, that we could find a better life. Unrealistic possibilities. I was the one who had to keep him in check. Make sure he saw things the way they truly were, not some fantasy of what they could be. Since things at home had been rough, I’d grown closer to him. I felt like I had to protect him from the cruelties of the world.
I continued to stand awkwardly in my thin boots. I was sure he would come back out, and we could both go home. Not that home was a great place to be, at least not in my case.
After ten minutes, I got worried. He was going to come out, wasn’t he? Snowflakes snatched at my short, blonde hair and worn clothes. I shivered, and pressed my fingers together. I bet it was pretty warm in Michael Garman’s Magic Town. I could see slivers of light through the shaded windows.
After a few minutes of rubbing my hands together, I sighed. There was no way I was going to be able to get home through this storm, and I didn’t have a flashlight to guide my way through the harsh darkness of the night. I realized we’d have to spend the night at Michael Garman’s shop. I scowled at the thought of all the wondrously perfect statues that were probably in there, smiling and looking beautiful. Then I thought of the bitter cold that awaited me if I stayed outside, and quickly made a decision. I swung open the door of the shop.
Closing my eyes, I savored the warmth that washed over me. My fingers tingled slightly as the warm air rushed to meet them, and I quickly shut the door behind me. I didn’t want to let out any of the precious heat.
“Gina!” I heard my brother call happily. “Come and look!”
I opened my eyes, and they immediately grew wide at the sight before me.
Statues. Everywhere there were statues. Not delicate marble figures with wings. Not bronze depictions of war horses, galloping into battle. These statues were small, no more than a few inches tall, and they weren’t perfect.
The statues looked like actual humans, not people with flawless hair and flawless figures and flawless everything. Yet, they were perfect, in a way that made them realistic. The allies weren’t spotless; there was dirt and trash tucked into corners and scattered among the sidewalks. The people weren’t unnaturally cheerful; some were frowning, and some were smiling. Most of all, these sculptures seemed honest, and real. I bent down and gently brushed my fingers against a woman holding a dishrag.
I didn’t want to like them, but I did, and my brother knew it. Jonathan grinned at me, and I quickly frowned. “They’re ok, but why did you bring me here at night?”
Jonathan checked his watch and grinned. “Watch,” he said, and turned out the lights.
I began to feel impatient. “So, why are we standing here in the dark?”
Jonathan opened his mouth to respond when suddenly a light began to pulse from the back of the room. It wasn’t a warm light, like when you sit by a fireplace and feel it’s light on your cheeks. This light was cool, like the reflection of a full moon on a lake at night.
The light grew brighter and brighter, until I had to cover my closed eyes with my hands so the light wouldn’t bleed through my eyelids. Then, abruptly, it was gone. We were once again engulfed in darkness.
“Jonathan?” I called into the darkness, and my voice sounded wobbly and afraid.
“It’s alright, Gina. Just wait,” his voice responded. Silence reigned throughout the room.
Then, all at once, every statue in the building exploded into the same cool light as before, shining brighter than anything I had ever seen.
When the light finally faded away, nothing happened at first. But after a few seconds the statues began to tremble, and before I knew it the surface of the statues were crumbling away. Even though the outside had fallen apart, the inside was smooth and glowing.
CRACK! I jumped at the sound, which seemed to be a mixture of the sound of lightning and a boulder being cracked in two. Shocked, I watched as the lady with the dishrag I had seen slowly reach her arms towards the sky and stretch, as though waking up from a long nap. “What are you looking at?” She called up, looking a little cranky.
I shrieked, and stumbled backwards. “Jonathan, what the heck?” All around me I heard calls of “Good evening!” and, “How’s it going?” The occasional bark and cat’s meow were dotted here and there as miniature animals wove around people and into the streets. I whipped around to see a whole town brimming with miniature people – all laughing and talking, doing dishes and sweeping, reading the newspaper and fixing telephone wires.
There was a sudden tug on my hair, and I glanced up to see a lady with a long, thin black braid leaning out the window of a building, stroking my short tresses. “Such beautiful hair!” She exclaimed, and beamed before ducking back inside.
“Um, thanks,” I responded uncertainly. She waved at me from inside the building.
I rested my hand on the edge of one of the exhibits to steady myself, and felt something small and wet run over my fingers. I glanced down in surprise, and saw that there was a tiny, soggy puppy standing on my hand, wagging his tail. I lifted him up to my face, and he barked happily. For the first time in a long time, I smiled.
“Excuse me!” I heard a voice from below, and spotted a man in a yellow coat looking up at me. “I was just giving my dog a bath, and he escaped. Do you think you could put him down?”
“Oh!” I said, and gently placed the sculpture-dog in the man’s arms. “Sorry.”
“That’s quite alright, miss,” the man said, and tipped his hat at me.
I grabbed Jonathan’s arm. “You need to explain this. Now.” I dragged him towards a corner that wasn’t very populated with miniature statues. “What’s going on?” I whispered hysterically.
“The statues are alive,” Jonathan stated matter-of-factly, as though living statues were the most normal thing in the world.
Jonathan and I were interrupted when a tiny, old man with wrinkles scattered across his face like a spider web said, “would you spare a little money for the poor?”
“Uh, sure,” I said, and dug a dime out of my pocket. It was the size of a dinner plate for the man, and he proudly leaned it against the curb.
“Jonathan!” I hissed. “Tell me what’s going on! How did this happen?”
“It’s kind of a long story,” Jonathan said. “I think you’d better hear it from Michael Garman himself.”
I smirked. “Michael Garman? Jonathan, you don’t know Michael Garman!”
Jonathan just waved me into the ‘employee’s only’ room. How does he always drag me into these things? I wondered, but cut my own thoughts off when I saw that, in the center of the room, stood Michael Garman himself.
I squeaked. “Jonathan, you know Michael Garman?” I’m sure I looked like I was watching an intense game of ping-pong, because my eyes were darting rapidly between my brother and the famous sculptor in front of me.
“Well, we sort of met by accident…..” Jonathan trailed off, and scuffed at the floor with his foot. I could guess what had happened; Jonathan broke something of Mr. Garman’s, probably an irreplaceable statue. He does it all the time, pretty much everywhere.
“Jonathan, you broke one of his statues?” I said angrily. “Well, I sure hope it wasn’t one of the living ones!”
Garman smiled. “Don’t worry about your brother. Accidents happen, and the statue wasn’t a live one. But he also accidentally discovered something even more precious to me, and that’s how we became such good friends. I said I would let him come here whenever he wanted, as long as he kept my secret.”
I leaned forward eagerly. “What’s the secret?”
“Magic clay?” I echoed doubtfully.
“Gina, Mr. Garman traveled all around Central America,” Jonathan said.
Michael spoke up. “I discovered something unusual while I was on my journey. A dusty clay box, buried near a Mayan temple. Inside was a large lump of clay.
“Well, I took that clay to the School of Fine Arts, where I first discovered my talent and passion for sculpting. The first figure I sculpted was made with regular clay, and it turned out wonderfully. So wonderfully, in fact, I decided to make another one, this time with the clay I had found in the box. The box-clay was gritty, and hard to work with. The statue turned out alright, but I decided to stick with the clay the school provided.”
“That is, until he found out that whatever he sculpted with that clay – as long as it was sculpted well – would come to life at night,” Jonathan chimed in.
“My only regret is having sold some of those statues before I knew they were alive. They were my little buddies, and who knows where they are now.” Mr. Garman shook his head sadly.
“And that’s why I built Magic Town,” Michael continued. “For my little buddies to live in, and so people can enjoy its magic.”
“Wow.” I wasn’t sure what else to say. I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. Michael Garman was crouched down in front of me. “It’s alright for things in your life not to be perfect. That’s another reason why I built this town. It’s not fake – it’s real, honest and true, just like life. The trick is to find the beauty in the flaws.”
The beauty in the flaws. His words tumbled around in my mind for a moment, before settling down and letting me examine them thoroughly. “How can I find the beauty in the flaws?” I asked.
Before he could answer, I felt something run over my foot. “Ouch!” I yelped, and looked down to see a little girl in pigtails riding her bike over my fingers. “Sorry!” she shouted, before continuing on her way.
I waved and gave her a smile. I liked these honest little people.
“Maybe things aren’t always as they appear, after all,” I murmured. Could magic truly be real?
Mr. Garman’s only response was a gentle smile – a smile that gleamed with magic.