The Rebirth of Tiny Town
New Year’s eve in Tiny Town was a grim affair. It symbolized the completion of another bleak, dismal year and the start of a new, and what was sure to be even more dismal, year. The citizens of Tiny Town slogged through streets lined with tin-can homes, dragging their feet through the dirt and grime.
It wasn’t always this way. Centuries ago, the town of Tiny Town wasn’t a town at all. The People’s Republic of Tiny didn’t legislate; there was no need. The needs of the Tiny were met by the wildflowers and grass, river water and nectar. They would hunt the butterfly in The Great Field, a single kill filling a family for a week with the sweetest meat of all.
And then the Bigs rolled in and the changes began. At first it was minimal, or as minimal as something on the scale of a Big can be. Homes made from fallen trees dotted the outskirts of The Great Field. What had once been an open skyline from East to West was now interrupted by the brown and grey of wood and stucco.
But then as time rolled on, the Tinys were crowded and pushed aside by brick buildings and wheeled vehicles. The grass vanished; The Great Field paved to make way for the massive buildings that poured their soot and smoke into the skies. Those that survived were pushed to the alleys, taking residence with the cast-offs of the Bigs amongst the rats and refuse. Where once they had feasted on butterfly and honey-suckle now they were forced to scavenge for pill bugs and fast food scraps.
And so the people of Tiny Town did not celebrate the new dawn or the afternoon sun; the purple glow of sunset or the transitioning moon. And the certainly did not celebrate the new year.
. . .
Little Tim Treacher was little more than three centimeters high and a wisp of a man. With a shock of bright, red hair topping his toothpick of a body, he was often mistaken for a strike-anywhere match by the Bigs’ castoffs that populated his alley. In a drunken stupor, they would reach for him with gloved hands, cigarettes ready for a light, only to see him scurry off to safety. This would cause them to curse the paper-bagged bottle in their hands and swear off drink forever.
And oh the drink! The stench of stale beer mingled with sour wine hung over Tiny Town like smog. Discarded beer bottles fell short of the garbage, littering the alley floor. The last dregs of beer, wine, and malt liquor dripping from the upturned tops, pooling to form lakes of backwash and liquor. A brave few had attempted to drink this foul concoction, seeking the same break from reality afforded to the Bigs, only to find themselves retching in disgust.
The night of New Years Eve, Tim couldn’t sleep. While the rest of the town hunkered down against the cool night air, fast asleep and dreaming of better days, he stared up at the moon through a crack in his curved tin roof.
As the night drew on, the moon began to blur and his eyes grew heavy. Just as his eyes were finally giving in to sleep’s inexorable pull, Tim was wrenched from the brink by the sound of laughter off in the distance. The deep voices betrayed it as the sounds of a pack of Bigs, maybe a couple of men and definitely at least one woman. The sound of laughter was a rarity in this neighborhood – around here even the Bigs rarely had a reason to celebrate. They passed and Tim listened as their giggles and guffaws began to fade. He sighed and settled in, reading himself for a return to sleep, when he heard several loud cracks in the succession. He bolted upright in bed, the sound still echoing within the alley walls as he climbed out from his tin can home and out into the streets of Tiny Town, spinning, searching for someone to confirm what he had just heard. He looked about, but nothing, No one emerged from their home. No one came to investigate the ruckus.
It was up to Tim alone to pursue the mystery. He’d never been beyond the alley. The world beyond was filled with fast-moving Bigs and barking dogs, cars and cacophony. But the streets were quiet at this hour, and besides, Tim’s curiosity was piqued. And so Tim grabbed his coat and, pulling it close about him, set out on his journey to the sidewalk.
. . .
Tim peaked around the edge of the alley wall, breathing hard after half-jogging half-walking to the corner. He looked down the endless straightaway, illuminated by the sodium-yellow glow of a streetlight. And there he saw it. Three Bigs, sprawled out on the ground, limbs splayed at unnatural angles.
Tim took a deep breath and rushed over towards the threesome. When he arrived, two were still. The female of the group was still living. Her blonde hair was matted with blood and her mascara was smeared by her tears. She struggled to rise, her painted nails scraping against the white concrete of the sidewalk. A thin rivulet of blood streamed from each of the Bigs, joining to form a small pool that expanded and spread towards Tim. He stepped away from the growing red tide, not wanting to ruin his shoes. He looked about, fascinated by the end effects of a violent confrontation.
He was just starting to circle around the victims when he saw a shiny piece of glass reflecting in the streetlamp light. It was a broken bottle, the top snapped off. But what really caught Tim’s eye was the label. Unlike the plain labels found on the bottles of cheap beer and pints of liquor found in the alley that housed Tiny Town, this one was made of gold and silver. Tim was drawn to it, mesmerized by its sparkle.
He craned his neck to peak over the jagged lip of the broken bottle. A reservoir of bubbling liquid was inside, sparking and popping. Tim carefully hoisted himself up with one hand, then other dipping into the liquid, bringing a handful to his lips. It tickled his nose as he drank it in. The golden liquid was sweet, but with a little bite. He felt warmth cascade from his head down to his toes and suddenly he felt a bit lightheaded. He smiled despite himself. “So this is what it’s all about,” he said aloud.
He sucked down another handful, swirling it in his mouth before swallowing.
He burped. He giggle. When was the last time he had giggled? Tim turned to run back to town and bring the others to see what he had found, but stopped abruptly, tripping over his own feet. He levered himself up on one elbow to get a better look at what had caught his attention. Was it? It was! An intact bottle of the same sweet nectar, laying on its side and ready to roll. Tim smiled. This was going to be a merry New Year indeed.
. . .
The people of Tiny Town peeked their heads out of their tin can homes to see what all the hubbub was about. What they saw was a very tiny man running in place atop a bottle of fine champagne, rolling it through the alley with his feet, screaming at the top of his lungs for everyone to wake up.
Tim leapt from the bottle as he reached the edge of Tiny Town; the bottle continuing on and bumping into a grey metal trash can. “Everybody, everybody, look what I found!” Tim exclaimed, gesticulating wildly. “It’s – I – It’s…it’s incredible.”
“What the hell are you hollering about, Tim,” said a sour-face woman wrapped in a blanket.
“Yeah, do you know what time it is?” said another equally put-out citizen.
“It’s almost midnight,” Tim said smiling broadly. “It’s perfect! This year we’re going to celebrate the new year.”
“What’s to celebrate? That you finally went off your rocker?” said the woman.
“Listen,” Tim said, palms out, pleading for patience. “I promise that if you just try what’s in this bottle, you’ll have a very happen new year.”
“We’ve tasted what those Bigs drink,” the woman said, wrinkling her nose. “Revolting bile.”
“But this is different. Wait, I’ll show you.” And with that, Tim braced his feet against the lip of the bottle and dug his fingers under the cork. Knees bent he heaved, sweat beading on his forehead in the cold, winter air as he strained against the stopper. But try as he might, the cork would not budge. He heaved again, and again. Nothing. He stopped to catch his breath, slumping against the bottle’s neck. He was getting ready to admit defeat and offer an apology when three burly men of Tiny Town climbed up on the bottle with Tim. Without a word, they all dug their fingers under the cork and heaved. Tim joined them and, with a resounding pop, the cork rocketed away from the bottle and ricocheted against the alley wall. Pressure relieved, the champagne came rushing out of the bottle. Phinneus Philbert, the oldest man in Tiny Town, was standing under the mouth of the bottle when the cork was released, and was drenched by the champagne fountain.
Phinneus, soaked through and through, was smiling broadly when the flow of champagne stopped. “I haven’t tasted anything this sweet since I was a child, before the butterflies went away.
With an endorsement from the old man, people rushed to the bottle and started scooping out the sweet nectar and drinking as fast as they could. Soon everyone was smiling, stumbling about, eyes slightly unfocused. Men and women hugged deeply and old men danced in the streets. A group of families gathered together and sang the songs of their childhood, songs they hadn’t been able to summon the will to sing in ages. In the distance, the church bells chimed, announcing the beginning of a new year. And for the first time in Tim’s life, he watched as people rang in the new year with a sense of hope.
That year would always be remembered as the year Little Tim Treacher brought champagne to Tiny Town. While that bottle did not last forever, they learned to hunt down new bottles, always ensuring a fresh supply of the sparkling wine. The called those who sought out the champagne The Butterfly Hunters in honor of the old ways.
The grime and the grit of Tiny Town never went away – such is life in the city – but the malaise that had become the norm would never return again as long as the champagne flowed freely.