My Purpose in Life

Submitted into Contest #118 in response to: Start your story with “Today’s the day I change.”... view prompt


Fantasy Coming of Age Sad

Today’s the day I change, I thought to myself as the autumn sun beamed its first light through the undrawn curtains. I could feel my face warm, as it did most mornings. But today, as if knowing it was my special day, it was particularly bright. Even my sickly greenish complexion appeared a healthier shade of orange in its golden glow.

Little Timmy’s eyes sprung open; the bright light burning his eyes. He could hardly believe the day had finally arrived. With great excitement, he leapt from his bed and scuttled across the floor, hopping over a minefield of dirty laundry and an ongoing battle between green and brown plastic soldiers. In a flash, he had stripped off his tattered pajamas and stepped into fresh underwear and a pair of old jeans. While skipping to the bathroom, he pulled on a t-shirt that was one size too small. The design and style were dated, but he didn’t care. Not today. Today he would be wearing something else. Hurried this morning, he didn’t brush his teeth for the two minutes like his mother had taught him. In fact, he merely used the brush to spread paste around his gums as evidence of having completed the task, should his mother investigate with a sniff, as she often did. Without delay he scrambled downstairs, forgetting altogether to brush his frazzled mop.

The brushes bristles drooped. Every morning she had straightened his curly tussle but today she was overlooked; discarded. When Timmy brushed his teeth the previous evening, she had noticed how his hair was particularly tangled. That night she had combed her thoughts, planning and strategizing; putting together ‘Mission Untangle’. And all for nothing. Her partner in crime—Mr. Mirror—was pained by what he saw.

“It’s ok, Mrs. Brush,” Mr. Mirror comforted. “Tomorrow you will be back to work. And from what I saw today, you will need your rest. As for me, I won’t ever feel the touch of a soft, warm hand. You’re lucky. All I get are eyes that look straight through me as if I am not even there.”

“But that is your job, Mr. Mirror.” Mrs. Brush explained. “That is your purpose in life, and you do it very well.”

As Mr. Mirror reflected, he realized she was right. Indeed, it was his job. Though not the fairest of them all, it was still a better job than, say, Stinky’s and Stuffy’s, the Ankle Sock twins. They were identical. Instead of working one day a week, followed by a nice cycle of hot soapy water and a steam dry, they were sometimes known to sweat it out for several days in a row. It was a grueling job, always on their feet. Plus, Mr. Mirror felt that their days were numbered, though he would never dream of saying anything to upset them. You see, Mr. Mirror had been around for many years, longer than most, and in that time, he had noticed a string of abductions. Only last week, Stinky’s cousin, Phooey Soccer Sock, went missing. Sure, everyone searched high and low for a while, but she was never seen again. Rumors say the big square machine did it. Witnesses swear they saw her go in but never came out. That whole family was cursed; always someone going missing.

Timmy’s mother was supping her breakfast tea while his father sat opposite, feet resting on a stool, his head buried in the morning newspaper. They were both startled when Timmy burst into the room.

“Timmy!” she yelled as her hand wiped frantically at the freshly spilled tea already absorbing into her white cotton apron. “You scared me half to death.”

“Sorry, mommy.”

“It’s ok, sweetheart. Nothing ruined. I’m so glad I was wearing my apron this morning.” Miss Apron tightened her weave, delighted that she served her purpose. “Anyway, you’re awake early. And on a weekend too.”

“It’s my birthday mommy!” Timmy reminded, growing worried.

“It is?” Timmy’s mom looked at his father. “Did you know?”

“Um, are you sure?” His eyes squinted questioningly. “How old are you?”

“I’m ten, dad!”

His thumb and forefinger rubbed at his chin while his eyes raised to the corner. “Hmm. If I was ten, I’d probably want to look on the kitchen table,” his dad suggested.

Timmy’s eyes widened, and he darted from the room, returning a moment later with a wrapped parcel and a beaming face. On his knees, he tore with both hands, turning the paper to confetti. He opened the box. Inside, a nine-inch action figure sealed behind clear plastic on an illustrated card background. It was a soldier. A Marine, just like his eldest brother, Thomas. Having pulled it out, he peered inside the empty box; shook it upside down.

“It’s the one you wanted, right?” His mother asked. “Now you have two, so you can match them against each other.” She knew he loved to play soldiers; he would play for hours with them.

I hated being alone. I did have brothers at one time, lots of them. But they had moved on. Spread across the country, no doubt. Found their purpose. They all sought change like me. I like to think they succeeded too. But you never know. They could be rolling in it, made of money, minted, or… washed up in some gutter somewhere. I wouldn’t know because I have never heard from them.

“Yes, it’s the right one, mommy,” Timmy said solemnly.

“Then what’s wrong, sweetheart?”

Today was not only his birthday, but it was also the day before Halloween, which usually meant his gifts included a costume. And always a soldier of some kind. Last year he settled for an infantryman as the Marine outfit that he really wanted was too big. He hoped for that this year. Knowing times were hard, he sheepishly asked, “My costume? The Marine one.”

His mom and dad glanced at each other with puppy dog eyes, then turning to her son, she said sorrowfully, “Oh, honey. We don’t have the money. Plus, you still fit into last year's outfit. I thought we could dress it up a little. Have some fun.”

Timmy’s eyes drew to a frame hanging on the wall. Behind the glass was an old birthday card with a $100 bill in front. “No!” His mother blurted loudly. “We are not spending that.”

“Oh, come on, Marge,” his dad said softly. “Let the boy spend it. It’s time.”

“No!” She teared and ran from the room.

No? But I’d heard them talk about it. They said today. Today was supposed to be my special day!

Timmy’s stomach turned. He hated seeing his mommy upset. He placed his new toy on the ground and followed her into the kitchen. Seeing her crying at the kitchen table broke his little heart. He ran and hugged her. “I’m sorry mommy.”

Pulling him in tight, she kissed his head through his thick rusty curls that pushed against her face like soft springs. Still lingering from his bath the night before, the fresh scent of soap and lemon, which she savored with a long inhale. “No. I’m the one that’s sorry.” They rocked back and forth, hugging tightly, and then she pushed his shoulders back to see his freckled face. Smiling through her tears, her hands wiping them from her cheeks, she whispered, “It was wrong of me. It is your money, and money is meant to be spent… so how about you and me go buy that outfit?”

Timmy jumped into her arms, nuzzling under her chin.

A short while later, they stood by the front door. “Why don’t you wear your red jacket? It’s not cold today and that one’s thinner. Plus, you haven’t worn it yet,” his mother said. Timmy looked at the coat hanger. His hand hovered over the black coat, his favorite.

“No, pick me!” The red coat shrilled. A gift from an uncle. He had hung there for weeks, untouched, unwanted. Hadn’t even felt the touch of a young boy, not since he had been assembled in that factory in Pakistan.

The black jacket screamed out, as if Timmy could actually hear him. “No, pick me. I’m much warmer, and breathable.” But to his surprise, Timmy chose the red one. As he pulled it from the rack, the warmer black jacket sagged his shoulders. He was down. But, he conceded, the red jacket had a purpose too, and today he was more befitting. He fluffed his goose feathers; he can wait for the colder weather, when his purpose will be better served.

I can’t believe I am at the front door, about to head to the costume store. I’ve dreamed of this moment for the last five years. Today’s the day I change.

At the store, Timmy’s mom filled the shopping basket, which was happy to be of service. Timmy couldn’t believe it. Whatever he wanted, went in: a Marine outfit, a workable rifle that fired suction darts, a helmet, a belt with grenades, and a dagger, sheathed in a plastic pouch.

At the till, his mom pulled out the faded one-hundred-dollar bill, ready to pay.

It truly was happening. This was my special day, after all. Although I better not count my chickens just yet. The transaction wasn’t complete. Anything could happen. Though my expression remained unchanged, I was growing more and more anxious. So anxious I could fold.

“That will be ninety-nine dollars and five cents with tax.” The shopkeeper said kindly with a smile. Timmy’s mom sighed, relieved her math was accurate. She passed him the bill, which he fed into an old-fashioned cash register.

Finally, after five long years, ever since Thomas sealed me in that envelope and mailed me, along with that birthday card and the note that read: Dear Little Timmy, I am sorry I couldn’t be there for your birthday. We are deploying tomorrow for the war in Afghanistan. I have enclosed $100. Use it to buy your next outfit, or keep it, and I will help you pick one out when I get back in a few months. All my best, love, Thomas x.

The shopkeeper pressed the mechanical keys entering the amount received, and then with one pull of the slot machine style arm, it happened…

 My purpose in life. The reason I am—to bring joy to a lonely child—to little Timmy McFadden. That was Thomas’ final wish. For five long years, I have watched from behind that framed glass, wanting to make a difference. Waiting for this special day to come.

The magic was happening. I could feel it: my paper-thin self, transforming inside the machine. My regretful stare formed into proud profiles. Now, gravity had me. I was falling. It was dark, but there was light up ahead. Falling, sliding, faster until finally jingling to a stop in the worn round tray. Three quarters, one dime, and two nickels.

At long last... today’s the day I am change!

October 30, 2021 18:55

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Jeniffer Nanlal
16:36 Nov 11, 2021

I love this story. I must say I was surprised at the end. You are very talented. Thank you for sharing. 😃


Dean Corbyn
18:54 Nov 11, 2021

Yayyy! :))) Thank you so much Jeniffer. I'm trying so hard to remain cool! My wife is the only one, so far, that got the twist about halfway through. But she knows me so well! Anyway, that means a lot. Thank you for your comments.


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Shannon Ethel
15:31 Nov 07, 2021

Very sweet! I loved this idea and the last line was gold! Well done!


Dean Corbyn
18:08 Nov 07, 2021

Thank you so much Shannon. I can’t tell you how much your kind words lifted my day. ;)


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Tricia Shulist
14:35 Nov 06, 2021

What an interesting concept — the secret lives of inanimate objects. Thanks for this.


Dean Corbyn
18:02 Nov 06, 2021

Thank you Tricia. I appreciate your comments. It was completely out of my genre, although I had a lot of fun writing it. :)


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