The Perhaps Bag
Please see the author’s note at the end.
“Hurry up, Anna,” Dad called. “I’m starting the car!”
Anna shoved her arms into her jacket. “Why do I have to go, anyway?”
“You love going to the airport,” her mother answered from the doorway.
“I love Grandma, but she’s so, I don’t know, strange.”
Mom smiled. “Grandma isn’t like anyone else we know. Isn’t that something to love about her?”
Anna made a face. “Alright, I’m going.”
In the airport terminal, Anna remembered what her mother had said. She did love Grandma but saying she wasn’t like anyone else they knew was an understatement. Grandma wasn’t like anyone else anyone knew. As a short, round, gray-haired figure carrying an enormous, grungy beach tote came into view.
“What’s that thing she’s carrying?”
Her father stepped forward, waving. “Mom! You look great. Had a good flight?”
“Lovely, thank you. I met a couple from Finland who studies sea slugs. I must remember to jot down what they said. Fascinating.” She turned to Anna. “Anna, dear! Is that you? Goodness, you’ve grown.”
Anna hugged her grandmother, but couldn’t keep her eyes off the old bag. “Grandma, what’s that you’re carrying? Did you lose your purse?”
Grandma laughed. “It’s my Perhaps Bag. I know it isn’t pretty, but I couldn’t part with it.” As they walked, Grandma lifted an abandoned newspaper and tucked it in her bag.
“Perhaps bag?” Anna frowned.
Grandma nodded. “I like having room for any useful things I find.”
At a lunch stand, a stack of napkins and a packet of crackers had been left on a table. Grandma tucked these into the tote. Anna wrinkled her nose. Why would anyone want someone else’s newspaper or crackers? It was just another of Grandma’s weird ideas.
In the baggage claim area, people stood around luggage carousels or trundled past with carts of suitcases. There was a line of unhappy looking people, including a woman with a crying toddler, standing before a desk with a sign saying “Lost Luggage.”
Grandma tapped Anna’s arm. “Come, dear. She could use some help.”
Smiling, she walked up to the woman and her whimpering son. Anna followed wondering what she was planning.
“Trouble?” Grandma asked, kindly.
The mother gave a wan smile and shifted her son in her arms.
“Yes, we only just made our connecting flight and our luggage wasn’t so lucky. It should arrive on the next flight. It makes sense to wait for it. But Zack isn’t convinced.” She patted the child’s back. “He’s tired.”
“Poor things,” Grandma said. “May I?” She reached out to Zack who was watching with such interest, he forgot to cry. His mother smiled and nodded.
“Now, Zack, let’s have a look in my bag.” Grandma said, settling on a bench. Zack peered into the bag, nose to nose with Grandma. Grandma pulled out the comics section of the newspaper. Further rummaging brought out crayons and the packet of crackers. Zack took them eagerly and his mother beamed.
“Thank you, you’re very good to take such trouble.”
“No trouble,” Grandma answered. “I’m glad I had a few things along.”
Grandma turned to find Dad loading her bags onto a luggage cart. Anna hurried after her but stopped short when a man brushed past, a cell phone to his ear and a coffee cup in his hand. He didn’t notice Anna. His elbow caught her shoulder, jostling the cup from his grip. The cup hit the floor, spraying coffee over his and Anna’s shoes.
“Oh, sorry, I should watch where I’m going. What a mess!”
Grandma whisked her tote open and pulled the wad of napkins out, passing a few to the man and Anna. She used the rest to mop up the spill on the floor. With another apology, the man wiped his shoes and hurried away.
Anna watched her grandmother thoughtfully, then glanced across the room. Zack and his mother shared crackers and colored comics; tears vanished. Maybe there was something to that old tote, after all.
At last, the suitcases were on the cart and they followed Dad out of the terminal. Halfway to the parking structure he exclaimed in disgust. “Rain! I thought we’d make it to the car before it started. Mom, do you have umbrellas in that Perhaps Bag?”
“No,” Grandma said, “but I have something nearly as good.”
The newspaper was pulled again from the bag. A few quick folds and Grandma held out a hat to Anna. Grinning, Dad took a piece of paper and folded another hat for Grandma’s head. A third section soon topped his own, and they set off.
Once in the car, Anna pulled off her hat. “Grandma,” she said, “do you think you could help me find a Perhaps Bag?”
Grandma smiled and began rummaging.
Author’s Note: This was a children’s story written for the Writer’s Digest Annual Fiction Contest in 2009. It took Honorable Mention in the Children’s/Young Adult category. I think it was ranked #53 in the top 100. Or was it #45? Hmm… At any rate, it placed rather well and it was the first piece of fiction I ever sent out into the world. I have a certain fondness for it as a result. 🙂