The Unfortunate Misplacement of Thumbelina by Liz Bregenzer

1. Can we even file a missing person report for a girl that’s 10-inches tall?

a. The entire police station thought this was a joke. When Tommie, a young, frantic mother, rushed into the building begging for someone’s help, the sheriff considered calling for medical transport. But then she produced a wallet-sized photograph of a wallet-sized girl, and that was when things started to get interesting.

2. Okay, ma’am, can you give us some information on your…daughter?

a. Name: Thumbelina Floweret

b. Age: 15 years

c. Height: 10 inches

d. Hair Color: Blonde, down to her calves, never been cut. Eyes: Blue, like a sky full of sun. Weight: a few grams? Medical history in the family: No idea, she’s not mine biologically, she’s mine by magic, by luck.

e. Last Seen: Sleeping in her bed. In the morning it was a crime scene: the walnut shell cradle gone, the rose petal blankets torn to shreds. A Thumbelina-sized hole poked through the window screen.

3. What are some possible theories on this case?

a. Maybe the dog ate her, an officer said.

b. Maybe the wind blew her away, the sheriff said.

c. Maybe she fell down the drain, the receptionist said.

d. Maybe you can all shove it, Tommie said.

4. Who here in this town wants to participate in a search and rescue?

a. Initially, no one responded to the call. Tommie had to flourish the paper with pictures of Thumbelina to get its citizens to even believe. She even uprooted the barleycorn plant that her daughter sprouted out of and showcased it at the town hall. Only then did the public wearily volunteer.

b. No one gets magic anymore, Tommie complained to the sheriff.

c. I never understood it in the first place, he responded.

5. Oh, no…have I killed Thumbelina?

a. This is what the entire town began to wonder two days into the search and rescue. Elementary school children cried every time they walked to school, and their parents kenneled their dogs and drove much less. It was as if the apocalypse had blown through – all was quiet. No one wanted to be responsible.

b. Tommie took this opportunity to listen closely. She opened her windows and let the sounds of nature flood into her house, silently praying for Thumbelina’s voice to cut through, but all she heard were the bullfrogs in the pond out back, singing swamp songs into the night.

6. Did you eat Thumbelina?

a. Tommie tried to pose this question to her dog, but he just farted in response. The TV blared in the background – an HGTV program on tiny homes was on. Thumbelina’s windowsill remained disheveled and empty.

b. She sighed and, for the first time since her daughter’s disappearance, considered that maybe she was at fault for all of this. She wondered where she had gone wrong – if she accidentally swiped Thumbelina into the trash, if she forgot to plug the drains that night.

c. Frustrated, she jerked the TV plug out of the wall socket. Silence.

d. Ribbit ribbit, lulled the frogs.

7. Well…is she happier now, wherever she is?

a. The thought of it kept Tommie awake for days. Maybe Thumbelina didn’t meet a tragic demise – maybe she left on her own volition. Maybe she disappeared for a reason, a good reason, and she’s never coming back to the way things used to be.

b. Or maybe, she thought, she should have tried harder to keep her safe. Thumbelina loved nature, but nature loved her more – it was always hunting her down, trying to return her back to where she belonged, and it was Tommie’s obligation to protect her at all costs. They should have moved to the city a long time ago – or maybe she shouldn’t have planted the barleycorn seeds in the first place. Maybe she should have talked herself out of keeping her dangerous, caring, desirable, giving, flower-sprout child.

c. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

8. Was the search even worth it?

a. Over time, the rescue efforts fizzled. Cars began to rush down the highway, children played outside once again, and the sheriff’s office informed Tommie that this was turning into a cold case.

b. How unfortunate, people said. They looked toward Tommie with pitiful expressions, wondering if she would ever let herself move on. But Tommie understood: Thumbelina was out in the big, bad world, and no one was going to be able to find her.

c. She seized the wilting barleycorn plant and threw its flowers into a pond across town. Wilting herself, she listened for the scattering of wildlife, but nothing resonated. This is the end, she thought. Dead in absentia. Never to be found. Like plucking a needle from a haystack.