Things Most Meaningful: a story by P.A. Cornell

“It’s for whatever you like,” he said. “To place those things that are most meaningful to you inside.”

Things Most Meaningful: a story by P.A. Cornell
Art by Ana Rubio

The Worlds of Possibility anthology Kickstarter is VERY CLOSE to hitting the goal! At the time I am posting this, it has just $40 to go! I put up a poll on Twitter about what people wanted to see as the next update. A story won, but it was nearly tied with art, and since we are SO CLOSE to the funding goal, I decided to give you both!

This is a story from the February 2023 issue of Worlds of Possibility. Subscribers can get the whole issue in ebook format here. You can listen to this story as a podcast on Spreaker, and you can read the full text below.

Listen to "Things Most Meaningful - a story by P A Cornell" on Spreaker.

Things Most Meaningful
by P.A. Cornell

My father came home from the mill one day with a block of wood. I thought this a strange thing to bring home, but he assured me it came from a very special tree, and that he had a purpose in mind for it. Over weeks I watched him cut into the wood with various tools, then sand and polish it until he declared his project complete.

“It’s a box,” I said.

“It is.”

“Did you make it for Mom?”

“I made it for you.”

I examined the box closely. He’d carved intricate designs depicting flowers and animals, over the entire surface. Lifting the lid, I saw that the marks from when he’d hollowed out the interior remained visible. I ran a fingertip along the grooves, noticing the way he’d sanded them smooth, and the wood’s natural caramel color. I took in the woody scent. The box was beautifully crafted, but I didn’t understand what I was meant to do with it.

“What’s it for?”

“It’s for whatever you like,” he said. “To place those things that are most meaningful to you inside.”

I took it to my room and searched for valuables to store in it. Not being very large, most things wouldn’t fit inside, so I settled on jewelry I’d been given by family members. A pair of gold studs, a silver bracelet with my initials on it, a ring I’d inherited from my great aunt. They all fit neatly in the box and for many months that’s all it held.

Then one day Mom called me to the kitchen to help her bake grandma’s famous walnut tart. Neither of us had ever made it without grandma’s help, and her recipe was a bit unclear, so in the end the kitchen was covered in egg and flour. Walnut bits littered practically every surface. Our hands were sore from cracking shells and the crust had singed a little on one side. Mom and I looked at that mess of a tart, laughed at ourselves, and cut a slice for each of us. Somehow, it was the best we’d ever tasted.

Later, I was in my room when the box caught my eye. I don’t know why, but I picked it up, dumped that jewelry I never wore into a drawer, and once again traced my finger along the grooves Dad had left behind. I thought of the day Mom and I had shared and the sweet taste of the tart we’d made together. I put that moment in the box and closed the lid to keep it safe.

A year or so later, on the way home from school, my best friend and I stopped to sit under the weeping willow that grew on the creek bank. Usually we’d sit and talk for a long time, but that day she seemed strangely quiet. We sat in awkward silence, smoothing our skirts over our knees for something to do with our hands, until finally, she reached out and took mine in hers. The gesture came as both a surprise and not. She whispered that I was beautiful, and I told her she was too. Then we shared our first kiss.

Two girls in school uniforms sit under a willow tree by a creak bank, holding hands and about to kiss.
Art by Ana Rubio

I put that moment in the box too.

Over the years my collection grew. I filled it with countless celebrations and firsts. I filled it with laughter, contentment, and so much love. Life is full of moments to add if you know where to look. If you pause to take them in so you don’t miss them.

Now and then I’d sit quietly and open the box to see the treasures it held. I’d run a finger along the wood and remember them all, feeling those feelings all over again. It worked best on the tough days. I’d open the box and find a moment to carry me through stormy weather and remind me dark days are necessary to appreciate how brightly others shine.

The box taught me the things most meaningful aren’t things. Often, others ask why I keep it empty all the time. I tell them it’s full to bursting, but still has room for more. What is life if not a collection of moments? We choose which ones to hold onto.

About the Author

P.A. Cornell is a Chilean-Canadian author who wrote her first speculative story when she was just eight years old. A member of SFWA and graduate of the Odyssey workshop, her short fiction has appeared in multiple genre markets and anthologies. Her story, “Splits,” went on to win Canada’s 2022 Short Works Prize for Fiction. That same year, she published her debut novella, Lost Cargo. When not writing, Cornell can be found assembling intricate Lego builds or drinking ridiculous quantities of tea. Sometimes both. To find out more about the author and her work, visit her website

About the Artist

Ana Rubio is a Mexican artist. You can find her on instagram as @anitarubio.uwu. You can also commission art from her on Fiverr.

Rocket Bike Cat Sticker Flash Reward Ends Tonight!

If you are seeing this on Monday the 22nd, you have until midnight Eastern US time to grab the rocket bike cat sticker set before the flash reward period ends!

I did have some questions about how to add it onto an existing pledge. The way to do that is to click "Manage your pledge" then "Change your pledge" then click on you same pledge level as before. That will bring up the add-ons menu, and the rocket bike cat sticker set will be there for you to add on. I know this process is a little unintuitive, but you won't lose your original pledge level!

If you have already backed this project, thank you so much! I can't wait to send your rewards! If you haven't, you have until Saturday the 27th at 9:53am Eastern US time to pledge! If we overfund by $500, I'll be sending an extra sticker to everyone who chose to back at the art reward level. If we overfund by $1,000, I will be having a special open submissions call for two new poems to include in the anthology! That will take our poem total from 13 to 15!

More stretch goal announcements will come as we get more funding!

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