Thimble People
Julia Strayer

The dog and I were on one of those walks, not long after she left, when the dog nosed under the leaves at a thimble, packed with dirt, or so it seemed, and leaning slightly to one side, enough so that if it rained, the water would drain off. I picked it up thinking it might be antique, that she might like it if I cleaned it up a bit, that I'd have good reason to call her, so I set it on the workbench in the garage and flicked on the overhead light.

Under the magnifying glass, it was clear the outside dimples were also filled with dirt, as was the filigree edge, but inside was a tiny village. Thatched houses, steepled church and a little bridge that crossed a mini ravine, lush with bushes, flowers and trees. I rigged a clamp light bright and close. That's when tiny people appeared. They gathered in small groups with tiny dogs at their feet, and they shielded their eyes, whispering and pointing toward the sky. After much huddling, they lined up smiling and waving.

At first I couldn't figure out what they were doing, but then it came to me. They thought I was God. A huge brown eye peering down at them through thick glass. Maybe the minister in the wee church described God looking like that. Like my eye. And maybe he told the congregation that someday my eye would look down on them. It startled me. I sat back, flicked off the clamp light, and went inside to feed the dog.

I picked up the phone, punched in my wife's number. She'd know what to do. She always had answers. She had answers to questions I never had. She used to look at me like I was supposed to have answers, and if I didn't respond, she'd keep looking at me and I'd keep looking back, but it didn't change that I didn't have answers. Maybe I'm not one of those natural talkers. Did she ever think of that?

The phone rang. She didn't pick up so I left a message, but I knew she wouldn't believe me about the thimble. Who would?

After an hour, I took another look at my tiny village; the townsfolk from earlier were still in a line, sitting on little blades of grass. They jumped up, again smiling and waving. Maybe they were waiting for a delivery—a tiny buzzing airplane dropping tiny bags of rice from fluttering parachutes. But I didn't have tiny bags of rice.

I turned off the light. Went to bed. The dog snored.

When she moved out, she took half of everything. Like she wasn't coming back. But I keep thinking she'll come back—move her half of everything back in while I'm at work someday, and I'll come home and she'll be there tending to the thimble people.

Julia Strayer has stories in or coming from Post Road, SmokeLong, Mid-American Review and others. She's a past winner of the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.

Read her postcard.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Avital Pinnick.

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