Short Story | ‘Lost Mitten’ by Townsend Walker, Illustration by Hong Rui Choo
Thisbe lost her mitten. She’d had it but a minute ago. It was right there, coddling her right hand, and now it is gone. She can even see where it detached itself, from the frayed string that attached it to her coat. And she loved that mitten because it matched her coat so perfectly. Her mother had bought her the coat last Christmas, at the sales. It had a little fur collar; Thisbe thought of the collar as a pet she called Constance. There had been an internal debate about the name for the collar, but Constance won out over all of the other claimants because, well because it was always there, around her neck when she needed it. But that’s not why she so despaired of losing the mitten. The mitten didn’t match Constance; it matched the wool of the coat. And what wonderful wool it was. The man in the shop said that it had come from the north where sheep know how to grow wool that will keep an animal and a person warm in winter. And the color came from the gorse berries that grew on bushes in the highlands.
It was by pure chance that Thisbe found the matching mittens in a shop where her grandparents live. And when she saw them her grandmother said My darling dear you must have them. And they went in the store straight away, even though they were going to be late meeting her grandfather for lunch. Her grandmother said that the mittens were a present for coming from so far away to see her.
But now she’d lost a mitten. Thisbe ran home and told her mother what happened. Her mother put on her coat and hat and boots and they ran outside. She and Thisbe followed the exact route Thisbe had taken on her way home from school, even though, to Thisbe’s chagrin, it meant making a detour into Mr. Conroy’s sweet shop where she had spent a penny on a jawbreaker. Her mother simultaneously scolded and praised her for buying and admitting to the candy. But to Thisbe’s further chagrin her admission did not yield the mitten.
“Whatever am I going to say to Grandmother when she asks if the mittens kept me warm this winter?” Thisbe lamented.
“We’re not finished looking yet my dear child. It may still turn up. We’ll keep looking. That’s the thing to do.”
The reader will by now have noted that everyone calls Thisbe dear and darling. But the reader has not been told why she deserves to be so called. Quite simply she is mostly sugar, but with just enough spice to be interesting, not to be called a dull child, and in many ways remind both her mother and grandmother of themselves when they were her age. Spirited is the term in current use.
With that explained, we can proceed to follow Thisbe’s path home between the sweet shop and school. She and her mother had not gone more than one hundred meters when they saw one of Thisbe’s classmates with mismatching mittens.
“There it is mother, there it is, my mitten,” Thisbe exclaimed.
“Are you sure Prudence doesn’t have mittens like yours?”
“Prudence,” Thisbe asked politely, for she was polite as well as dear. “Your mittens don’t match.”
“It is such a bother,” said Prudence. “I lost a mitten and found a mitten all at the same time, but they’re not the same mitten.”
“A most curious happening, I’d say,” said Thisbe. “I lost a mitten, but didn’t find one. And the one you have on your right hand looks frightfully like the one I lost. See, here’s its left hand.”
“Curiouser and curiouser it becomes,” said Prudence, “for it is my left hand that I lost and a left hand that I found.” Prudence had recently finished reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and belabored all of her conversations since with this quote, even those where it was scarcely appropriate.
“Whatever shall we do?” they both said together. “Only one of us can have matching mittens.”
During this discussion between the girls Thisbe’s mother stood to the side. She rightfully thought that Prudence and her daughter ought to sort it themselves, as they seemed to be doing.
“I know,” said Thisbe. “We can play Rochambeau to decide. Three rounds.”
Thisbe suggested this, somewhat craftily, because she more-often-than-not won. And was nearly proven right, winning the first round with paper-covers-rock. But then lost the next. The last round took ten trials before Prudence’s rock dulled Thisbe’s scissors and thus won the precious mitten. Slowly, reluctantly, visions of her grandmother in her head, Thisbe handed over her mitten. Her eyes moistened as she did, but she forced out the smile of a good sport.
“We’ll write to your grandmother this evening,” Thisbe’s mother said. “Perhaps the shop in her village still carries them. And in the meantime you can wear my wooly pair. I’ll tuck them under for you.”
Thisbe and her mother retraced the steps to their cottage; Thisbe, head down, kicked the snow as she went.
“You know, dear girl, I’m very proud of how you resolved that with Prudence. Most children would have gotten into a tussle over it. You did well.”
“But I lost two mittens.”
Thisbe’s father was home when they got to the cottage. “Look, the postman was just here and brought a package for Thisbe.”
Thisbe put the package aside and told her father about the lost mittens and Prudence while her mother fixed them tea and biscuits.
“Well, aren’t you going to open your package, dear one?”
Thisbe picked at the knot in the string, finally opening the box. On top was a note from her grandmother.
I know when I was your age, I was always losing my mittens and I remember I lost my favorite pair in the middle of winter and never ever again found ones I liked as much. You need not mention it, but the same thing happened to your mother. I know you so loved the mittens you got here last year and being one of our family, they might have found a way to go astray on you, so I bought an extra pair for you, in case.
Many hugs that I wish I were there to give you,
Illustration by: Hong Rui Choo