A pair of sunglasses with cat ears. Ticket stubs to every single Star Wars movie (the 1970s ones are printed from pictures she found online – her parents would’ve been fine with giving their originals to Emma, if they’d hung onto them, but never gave it a thought, and weren’t necessarily planning on having kids anyway), even the Holiday Special (no, this was never released in theaters, and she created the stub with a square of red construction paper and a Sharpie, but her friends maintain that it counts). A strip of black fabric she tore from the home-sewn skirt of a cosplayer who attacked her, though she tells everyone that it’s cut from Han Solo’s original vest, given to her as a gift when she did a “booth babe” stint for LucasFilm (push her too hard to recount either tale, and she’ll just tell you it’s a long story). A sketch of Han and Leia’s first kiss, done by her favorite animator (this one is authentic). A creased black-and-white photo of her grandfather raising a glass of wine. No photos of her parents.
Three strands of hair in a tiny plastic baggie (she maintains that it belongs to Cary Grant, and there is no way to make her reveal how it came into her possession; all roads lead to an ad hominem about how she knows more about Cary Grant than you do, and sooner or later, you have to admit that it’s true). Her twelve-year-old daughter’s first report card (the yellow thumbtack holding this against the cork does not actually puncture the paper). Her favorite poem (she originally tacked it on the board so that she’d remember to look up who wrote it, but never did, and when guests asked what it was, she would just say it was her favorite. After her daughter was able to recite it by heart at a big family dinner, this claim became true. She wishes she hadn’t shoved the tack through it. It’s by T. S. Eliot.) A bunch of postcards she meant to send during vacations, but kept instead. Another poem, this one by her daughter, written in the style of Lord Byron (okay, so it’s a total ripoff of Lord Byron), scribbled on the back of one of the postcards. This one she hasn’t seen. Her daughter meant it as a surprise gift on her mother’s birthday, but that was two years ago. Quiz the daughter about poetry now, and she’ll just snort and claim to know more about Lord Byron than you do (also true).
Three small divining rods stolen from three separate State Parks. A string of milk caps (from when she decided to start collecting milk caps, which she has since decided not to do), and opposite that, a string of feathers (she adds one to the string whenever she comes upon it, but doesn’t consider it a collection, exactly, since it’s so casual, and because, quote, “I don’t look up what birds they belong to, or anything”). A caricature of herself done by a carny in the late nineties (which blatantly features her ingrown tooth, the acne she had in high school, and gigantic hiking boots; she still cannot get over the size of those boots). A two-dollar bookmark from a souvenir shop in Soapstone (she did not buy this). A brochure from an adventure park that her mother recommended (the cover features a throng of hikers riding the wings of a bird of prey – the marketers were trying too hard, really – and inside the brochure is an identification guide to birds of the American Northeast). She has not visited the park. Rejection letters from five jobs that never called her for an interview, and an acceptance letter from a job she decided not to take. If you joke about the gaudy brochure while a bird zooms past the kitchen window, you’ll be amazed at how quickly she can tell you whether it’s a grouse, a cardinal, or a pileated woodpecker.
Dried leaves. A balloon, tacked carefully through the knot, that refuses to completely deflate (it’s from her twenty-fifth birthday party – a surprise party that her two fathers threw for her, even though she asked for it and saw it coming from miles away). A copy of the lease from her current apartment building (the third to occupy this spot on the board; she says she put it there so she won’t lose it, but the leases make her think of home, remind her that she’s unhappy everywhere else, including here). A sketch of a bear that she and a tattoo artist friend designed together (intended to permanently reside on her hip, but she never made the appointment). A Polaroid of her and three friends at a farmer’s market (all wear summer dresses and heels except Tal, who’s in jeans, a ruffled tank, and flats; she towers over them). The rest of the board is clumped with things that easily take up space: napkins from rest stops she visited on a road trip to Yellowstone, witty nonsense torn from a page-a-day calendar. Recipes she knows by heart. She won’t leave any space bare.
A postcard from the D&H railroad. A Save the Date for her brother’s wedding, even though it happened a month ago. A corsage from senior prom. A birthday card from her college boyfriend, covered with in-jokes about coding. Photos of herself in six years’ worth of Halloween costumes – homicidal nurse, homicidal bride, homicidal train conductor, homicidal short-order cook, homicidal airline stewardess, and Death (it’s a black corset, torn-up stockings, and a plastic scythe from the costume shop: she phoned it in this year; even her expression in the photo seems distracted). An autographed receipt from a grocery store cashier who insisted that he would one day win an Oscar for Best Animated Character and that his customers would one day say they knew him when. She wanted to tell him that there’s no Oscar for Best Animated Character, but instead she asked him for his autograph. He doesn’t work at the store any more. Danielle has worked the same job for nearly a decade. She wishes she’d told the cashier that he’s never going to win an Oscar.
Highway toll booth tickets. A crumbling strip of birch bark. A Polaroid photo of a decrepit tractor that has been sitting at the bank of the river near her house since 1940 (anyone who would call her a hipster for still using a Polaroid has long been culled from her life). She wonders whether her friends’ reactions to the tickets would be different if she revealed that they’re from the day she moved three states away from her parents. She wonders if it matters to anyone. Even her.
Richard Hartshorn lives in rural east-central New York. He was recipient of the 2011 Richard Bausch Short Story Prize, and his work has appeared in Drunken Boat, The Writing Disorder, theNewerYork, and other publications. He holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.