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Winifred Mitty

March 23rd, 2010 · No Comments · Real-life Adventure Tales

 The Secret Life of Winifred Mitty



With an affectionate nod to neologist and word-sculpting dreamer James Thurber.  


Flashbulbs were popping all around her.  Photographers called her name from every direction so she’d turn and look them in their camera eye.

“Winnie, over here!”

“Hey Winnie, loved you in Dark Gables!”

“Winnie, you still going out with Clark Hudson?”

“Yeah, Winnie, where’s your boyfriend?”

“Which one?” she shot back, and the whole circle laughed.  She knew almost everyone around her after so many years in Hollywood.  And today it was her very closest friends that were standing closest to her, her fans all back in the bleachers.  Some had lined-up overnight just to get a glimpse of the great Winifred Mitty finally setting her hands in the cement outside the Chinese Theater.  She could have let them immortalize her at any time, but she held off the Academy until she won her second Award.  She had this town in the palm of her hand, and was about to leave that grip permanently in the pavement along Hollywood Boulevard.  She flashed one final smile to the photographers and . . .

“Hey Mom!  What are you doing on the floor?”  Winifred Mitty looked up at her 10 year-old son.

“I, ah, . . . ” she couldn’t remember.  She looked at the ground but the wet cement had gelled into . . . faded yellow tiles.  Then she noticed a familiar earring  . . .  under a store counter.  “I dropped my earring,” she said, scooping it up with a ball of dust.  “Where’s your brother?”

“He’s looking at hockey skates.”

“You’re supposed to be buying school supplies.”

“Ya’but, they’re boring.”

“They’re not boring, Wally.  You have to have notebooks and pens to write love-letters to the girls in school.”

“Oh Mom,” Wally said, turning around toward the book supplies before she embarrassed him anymore.  “Okay, what about this notebook? Hey, this one you can peel the clothes off Pam Anderson!  Or look at this one with all the see-thru pockets!”


. . .  “And furthermore, Mr. Manning, not only will this product revolutionize how we do business, it’s going to double our bottom line by the third quarter.”  The boardroom went quiet, and the commanding Vice-President Winifred Mitty let it sink in.  “What some of you don’t know, and in fact, failed to fund, were some market tests we just completed out West.”  A commotion erupted around the huge table — pounding fists and old men’s voices and desperate scrambles for paperwork.

“You had no business testing that product!” Manning stood up protesting.

“Maybe I didn’t,” Ms. Mitty said calmly, staring him in the eye.  “But Amelia Earhart had no business flying across the ocean, and now everybody does it.”  And some of her secret supporters around the table laughed and “hear-heared.”

“But she didn’t do it with our money,” countered old Mr. McNasty, as his side of the room emitted a foul tobacco-spittle mumble of approval.

“And neither  . . .  did I,” slowly stressed the revered Ms. Mitty.  “By working on spec with a small marketing company out West – with, dare I say, more vision than some around this table – we’ve sold everything we had – and have advance orders for 4 times as much!”

“No, that can’t be true!” McNasty stood up shouting.

“Yes, four times as much!” Winifred exclaimed!


“It’s not four times as much, Mom,” Wally said.  “It’s only, like, another dollar.”

“Huh?  . . . oh,” Winifred said, as store shelves began rising up out of the misty boardroom and surrounding her again.  “Okay, go ahead and get it.”

“Gee thanks, Mom.  . . .  Man, are you okay?”

“Yes, . . . of course.  Where’s your brother?”

“I told you, he’s over at the skates.”

“Ugh!  Okay, let’s get him, we’ve gotta get you to practice, and Bobby to karate in some god-forsaken neighborhood right after that.”

“Huh?” Wally said.

The skates section was packed with customers gobbling up some big Saturday sale and it seemed like every family in Oakville was there.  Pre-schoolers were screaming, eight year-olds yelling, parents hollering, and the referee-clerks seemed to have lost control of the match.  Piles of skates were just opened from boxes, smelling fresh and alive like winter’s first day of skating, Winifred thought.  She finally spotted Bobby holding a pair of what looked like the most expensive kind, over in an aisle that wasn’t on sale.

“Look at the padding on these ones, Mom!” Bobby cooed, as he cupped them in his hands like a trophy.


. . .  Just as Canada’s leading figure skater, Winifred Mitty, landed the perfect triple-axle, the arena erupted!  She’d done it!  And before the hometown crowd!  Now all that was left was to finish the regular part of her routine and the Gold would be hers!  She skated through center ice, waving her arms in graceful swirls like swan wings conducting the Tchaikovsky symphony.  Her smile was beaming so wide she thought her face would break!  All those nights of skating for so many hours had finally paid off!  As she circled round the corner before her final sliding climax at center ice she saw her boyfriend and parents jumping up and down in the first row!  By their faces she knew the routine had been flawless – and tears began to blur her vision.  As she slid climactically on her knees, arms outstretched and fingers splayed, touching every string of Tchaikovsky’s crescendo, her eyes were so watery everything looked like the ice.  The arena exploded in deafening screams from young and old alike!  As her eyes began to clear she could see the judges holding up scores.  A perfect 6.0, 6.0, 6.0 . . .

“Six point oh!” exclaimed Winnie!


“Um, Mom, I think it’s more like a hundred and sixty,” Bobby said, showing her the price tag.

“A hundred and what?  Oh.  . . .  uh, right, well . . .  have you tried them on?  We’ve gotta get you to karate.  Do you think we can find a clerk in this place?  And where’s your brother gone?  Wally? Wally!  Jeez-Louise!  Look, you go find a clerk and try on your size.  And don’t get them too tight.  You know what happened last time.  Wally?  Walter Mitty!  Where are you?” Mrs. Mitty called, as the world-famous figure-skater struggled off trying to not drop her seven shopping bags as she pushed through the mob like a downtown bus at rush hour.

Down the very next aisle, she bumped into their neighbor, Olmsted Stockwell.  “Oh grrreat,” she thought.  “What next?”

“Ah, Winifred, how very-nice to see you!  I see you’re catching the sales, eh?  Can’t blame you.  No.  Not with this economy and all.  A bloody disgrace.  I don’t know what those bastards in Ottawa are doing, but it sure ain’t like it used to be, is it?!”

“No, I don’t suppose it is.  By the way, have you seen Wa – ”

“No, it ain’t by a long shot.  By god, they’re selling coffee right over there for $5 a cup!  Five dollars!  And that’s not including the bloody tax, which is about another five dollars in this god-damned country!  I swear, I don’t know who’s running this place, but I wouldn’t trust them to sharpen a pencil.  They’d stick in the wrong end, those stupid bastards.  And that Prime Minister, why he couldn’t  . . .  ”


. . .  The First Lady bowed Buddhisticly to the Japanese leader.  Her gold sequined dress lay perfectly flat and straight against her body.  She’d been through so many of these official functions, she knew exactly what was required before each different foreign dignitary.  But tonight was even more special than usual with the freed Czech playwright and now President of his country visiting for the first time.  “Mr. President, First Lady, may I introduce Nelson Havel, President of the Czech Republic.”  They all shook hands and smiled.

“It’s a great honor,” the First Lady beamed.

“No, Mrs. Mitty, the honor is all mine,” the dignified poet responded.  “In my country you are a great hero to all women.  And the men have noticed you as well,” he said with a polite smile that made her blush.  “We look forward to the time we may have the honor of hosting you at our castle in the mountains,” he said, shaking her hand again and clasping her arm.

“So whadda say about some homemade spiked lemonade with Bernice and me tomorrow in our backyard?” Mr. Stockwell was saying, shaking Winifred’s arm.  “Nobody’s gotten sick on this batch yet!” he said with a high-pitched laugh that made her almost end his streak.

“That’s, uh, swell, Mr. Notwell.  I’ll just have to check our schedule, but I think we might have something on tomorrow.  Say, have you seen young Wally anywhere?”

“No I haven’t, but you know . . . kids.  They all look the same to me, har-har-har.”

“You are a gem!” thought Winifred.  “Well, if you see him, tell him to stick with his brother by the skates.  See you again,” she said, but praying to every God she ever heard of that she wouldn’t.

Scanning the screaming skate-fitting room in vain, and starting to worry that now she’s lost two of them, she finally spotted Bobby playing with hockey sticks in a corner.  “I couldn’t really find a clerk too good,” he said, slapping another imaginary puck really hard.  “He’s SCORES!” he screamed, throwing his hands in the air.

“Have you seen your brother?”

Without even glancing up, “He’s a dork,” Bobby says, and let’s go another puckless floor-scuffing rocket.  “He SCORES!!”

“Stop that.  You stay right here,” she said, and with her bag-lady hoop of parcels began to excuse-me her way through the skate wielding mob once more, hearing, “He SCORES!” every few feet.  After miles of aisles and finally bumbling toward the manager’s office, she suddenly heard, “Mom!!  Up here!!”  And she looked up to see Wally waving from the top tower of the medieval castle jungle-gym in the corner.  “Come and get me!” he yelled, and ducked behind the faux stone ramparts.

“Wally, come down here, we’ve got to go.”  He lifted his eyes above the rim then immediately dropped behind again.  “Wally, you come down from that castle!”


. . .  “Oh, when is someone going to come and rescue me,” the trapped princess thought as she paced back and forth across the small round tower room.  She’d been up there for years, grown into a woman, and knew there was a world out there to be part of.  She didn’t even care about the kingdom anymore.  There was no way she could take them all on and win.  She wandered back to the small mirror at her dresser, picked up her brush, and began absently stroking her long hair, looking herself deep in the eye:  “There has to be someone,” she whispered.  Just then, in the middle of the dark night . . . she heard horse hooves clopping, and ran to the window to see a knight on a white horse galloping towards her  . . .



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Some other optimistic upbeat stories you might enjoy …

Be The Invincible Spirit You Are

Love Is

The Rose of Hope

The Ashley Smith Kidnapping Story

“The whole hockey world is rooting for you guys!”


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Brian Hassett


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