Once there was a little girl who cried all the time. Her parents took her to the best doctors. They even traveled with her to Sweden to see an expert. She cried during the entire flight. The flight attendants passed out napkins for the passengers to stick in their ears. The pilot called her to the cockpit and gave her a nickel-plated pin shaped like airplane wings. Even then, the little girl was crying.
Her teachers put gold stars on her homework and let her sit at the front of the class. They made a crown of construction paper for her to wear. They talked gently to her and wiped the tears and snot from her face with tissues. They even declared one day her day, when everyone else in the class had to bring her a gift. Still, the little girl kept crying.
Then one day, the little girl went with her parents to get their car fixed. She cried in the backseat of the Volvo as they drove to the repair shop, and cried in the waiting room while the mechanic made repairs. Her parents bought her candy bars and soda pop from the vending machines, but still she cried. When the car was fixed, her parents paid the mechanic and opened the back door of the Volvo so the little girl could climb in. All the while, she cried.
The mechanic saw this, and turned to the parents to ask, "Why is your little girl crying?"
"We don't know," said the parents. "She cries all the time. We've done everything we can think of to make her stop, but still she cries."
"Can I take a look?" the mechanic asked.
The little girl's parents stepped back so he could take a closer look.
The mechanic checked her over: blonde curls, pink and white pinafore, patent leather shoes. What a pretty little girl, he thought. It's a shame she's always crying. Then he remembered something he'd learned long ago, as an apprentice. He turned the girl around and lifted her hair from her neck. There, at the nape, was a little gold screw.
The mechanic used his screwdriver to loosen it, just a little. One turn to the left.
And the little girl stopped crying.
Her parents were overwrought. "How ever can we thank you?" they asked the mechanic. "We'll give you anything you want."
The mechanic looked her over again, this pretty girl who was no longer crying. Then he looked back at the parents and said, "I would like your Volvo."
So the parents handed over the keys to the Volvo, and they and their little girl walked all the way home.
Turn of the Screw © Emily Morganti. Do not reproduce without permission.