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Concave or Convex - A short story by Kelsey Winterbottom

Concave or Convex

The spoon became warm as Coco rubbed her thumb against the concave stainless steel. The action of rubbing had
become a necessary coping mechanism after weeks of imprisonment. Feeling the
conversion from cool to warm seemed to soothe the variety of feelings that regularly
welled up inside her abdomen.

Coco often heard footsteps echoing down the hard linoleum floors in the hallways outside her room. The echoing was frequent. Coco’s right thumb was often busy
against the concave surface of the spoon.

She had stolen it. There were no other options when it came to theft; a plate was too large, a cup was too bulky, and the Men never gave her any forks or knives.
They knew Coco was harmless, but the Men could never be too careful when it
came to potential hazards.

A bead of sweat ran from Coco’s forehead down to the tip of her nose, where it fell onto her scrub shirtsleeve, which was gray. Aside from the frequent echoing footsteps, which Coco was
trying not to focus on at the moment, there were also muffled voices. The voices were loud enough for Coco to
hear intonations, which always sounded dull, but the Men almost always kept
their voices very quiet at night. This
was a change from the loud, painful male voice she had heard all her life until
she was taken away. The walls of
her room were also very thick. The
metal of the spoon was very thin.

Coco opened her eyes and her thumb stopped moving. Footsteps had stopped outside her door. Coco quickly concealed the spoon in the ankle of her sock, underneath her scrub pants, which
were gray. It was time for breakfast.

“She never sleeps in her bed…” One man said to the other in an uninterested voice, while staring at the corner of the room in which Coco sat cross-legged with her
head down and her forehead propped on her left hand. Coco lowered her hand and lifted her head slightly to stare
at the man. She made a low hissing noise by exhaling through her nostrils.

Her reaction seemed to irritate the two men, but they did not respond to her verbally. Coco was thankful for that. She stood up quickly, continuing to
stare at the first man who had questioned her. The other man began to walk to the cafeteria. Coco lowered
her eyes and followed him. The
first man trailed behind. When
they reached the cafeteria, they walked her over to the Cook, and then moved to
the two exits on opposite sides of the room.

The food was decent. The Cook gingerly placed a grilled-cheese sandwich, some cooked carrots, and a large slice of
chocolate cake on her tray. Coco
wished it tasted awful so her appetite wouldn’t be as strong, but she could
never eat enough. Eating was slightly
uncomfortable because everyone stared at her. Even the other prisoners stared at her when she ate, which
would have made her self-conscious, had it not been for the fact that most of
the other prisoners were notably larger than Coco. The Men were trying to make her fat. Her portions were larger than the other
prisoners, and she ate very slowly.
She enjoyed swirling her tongue against and around each bite of grilled
cheese sandwich every time it entered her mouth. After years of dreading food and nourishment, Coco had
finally begun to eat until she was satisfied.

Coco hated it when people talked to her, especially during meals. The Cook, corpulent with beads of sweat dotting his face, sat down across from Coco. The chair squeaked loudly. He was ugly and fat. Coco crossed her legs and placed her
hand on the convex side of the spoon against her ankle.

“You can have another slice of cake if you want! Just don’t tell Benny over there.” He gestured towards an even more overweight man, glaring at an empty plate a few tables away and muttering profanities to the patient
sitting around him. “Benny’s on a

Coco shuddered and shook her head.

“Now, now, Coco! Always be polite! The Cook worked hard to make that tasty cake,” said a deep, warm voice from behind Coco. The Janitor was the only man Coco would speak to, and the
only man who she did not hate.

“Thanks, Mr. Janitor, but I’m feeling full. Besides, how am I to fight crime after wolfing down two slices of cake?”
Coco chirped.

The Janitor looked puzzled for a moment but shrugged. “Thanks, Mr. Cook, for offering. Hey, it’s almost free time! Coco, won’t you draw me a picture?”

“We’ll see,” said Coco. “Those Men over there want me to play basketball with everyone else. They took away the markers.”

The Janitor once asked her to draw him, and she did. He complimented her and told her that one day she would be a famous artist. Coco thanked him. He gave her a dollar in exchange for
the drawing, which she used to buy a candy bar. He broke the Rules.
Coco hated rules.

He was the only one she had ever spoken to at Tree Ridge. The Janitor had dark, wrinkled skin, white hair and light gray eyes.
His eyes were different than Coco’s. They always sparkled.
He said to her quietly so none of the Men could hear, “You know Coco,
it’s okay to break the rules every now and then.” He handed her a felt-tipped
marker from under the table, wrapped in a piece of paper. She grinned and accepted his offer, and
tucked the marker and paper into her other side of her sock, opposite from the
spoon. Coco felt so happy she had
forgotten about the warm metal pressed against her ankle. “Everybody needs a guardian angel,” he

Breakfast was over and the Men, who had been standing on either side of the cafeteria, walked over to Coco. She followed one man
while the other man followed her.
This was a precaution in case she tried to run away. The Men liked precautions.

They took her to the Therapy Room and waited for her to sit down, and then left. A Man was sitting across
from her. Coco did not like him. She stared at him. He began to talk, and Coco put her hand
over the convex side of the spoon.
She wished she could pull it out of her sock and feel the smooth texture. The spoon was warm and her ankle was
sweaty against it.

Although Coco was staring directly at the Man, she could no longer see him. The Janitor, with large white feathery wings, had swooped down and lifted her from the Therapy Chair. As they smashed through the roof and
rushed toward the clouds, Coco heard the distant droning of the Man.

The Janitor’s arms were strong. He carried Coco for a while, and eventually let her go with a gentle push. She glided alongside of him, carried by the current of his
beautiful wings. The Janitor
reached for her hand and they rolled in spirals together through the clouds. Coco squinted but did not blink, and
took a deep breath of cool air through her nostrils. It filled her nose, ears, eyes and lips, and then spread
down her neck and shoulders to fill her whole body, down to her fingertips and
toes. She was no longer wearing gray

She was wearing a brightly colored silken gown that the Janitor had sewn for her. He wore a matching colorful robe, tied around him like a toga so that his wings were free to fly. In her right hand she held a great
spoon scepter. This one was made
of emerald. Carved into the
concave side was a gecko, Coco’s favorite animal. A python was carved into the handle. An eye was carved into
the convex side, with mother of pearl as the whites, a circle of turquoise as
the iris, and a sparkling onyx gem in the center.

With her mighty scepter, Coco was able to cast any spell. She had discovered the valuable treasure deep within an underwater cave
in one of her previous adventures.
That particular adventure had been very exciting and Coco had used the
scepter ever since. One time she
had even rescued the Janitor from an enormous furry mongoose monster.

Coco began to fade back into reality. Undulating rainbows swirled around the room and slowly faded away, sweeping away all the
color. Coco blinked, found herself
in another familiar place. The
ceiling was white and the linoleum floor was speckled gray. She had been locked in the Punishment
Room again.

Coco could not escape the Punishment Room. She could not even remember previous adventures, let alone imagine new ones. The Men always let her out after an
hour or two. Coco passed the time
by picking at the corner of a linoleum floor tile, right where it met against
the dark gray rubber baseboard of the wall. Sometimes she thought about banging her head against a
wall. The Punishment room wasn’t that

After the Men released Coco from the punishment room, it was time for dinner. She ate chicken nuggets and peas, but the Cook didn’t give her any cake.
After dinner, it was time for medication. Coco was the only one who did not have to take
anything. She went straight to her
room and crawled into her favorite corner. She welcomed the sleep as she wrapped her arms around her
bent legs and rested her head on her knees.

The next day at breakfast, the Janitor came and sat next to her. “Nice hair. You look like you just crawled out of a train wreck! Did you shower this morning?”

“Well you should know that! You were the one who saved me from the wreck!” Coco
chimed. He gave her yet another
puzzled look. Coco smiled. No one knew about Coco’s adventures,
not even the Janitor.

The Men wondered why Coco wasn’t responding to any of the therapy at Tree Ridge Mental Hospital. One day they decided to
try giving Coco a drug called
They began to give it to her every morning with breakfast.

Two weeks later, Coco sat in the Therapy Chair. She stared at the Man sitting across from her. He was wearing a light
blue button-down shirt, and had light brown hair. He smiled at her.
Coco reached for where she used to hide her spoon, but they had taken it
away when it fell out of her sock at a basketball game that she was made to
play. She held her hand there
anyway. Her scrubs were not gray
today for the first time. Instead
they were bluish-green. In fact,
Coco had not seen color outside of her imagination since she had gone through

Coco began to cry. She knew she would never see the Janitor again, because she would be
leaving Tree Ridge very soon.
Maybe she would see him again someday in an adventure, but probably
not. She had not been on an
adventure since her spoon was taken away.
She cried out loud sobs and closed her eyes. There were no rainbows.

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Comment by Kelsey Winterbottom on August 16, 2010 at 12:14am
Thank you! I had a fun time writing this.
Comment by wiffledust on August 11, 2010 at 10:00pm
kelsey, you are very talented. seriously. this is one hell of a story. i'm very grateful you shared it with us. and i'm very grateful that you found it in yourself to write it. MAGIC!!!

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