Where Good Children Play

He fought hard but couldn’t break away. With one hand knotted in his dark, curly hair, my other submerged his head deeper and deeper. He threw and rotated his arms to the side desperately searching for a something, anything to latch onto. His revolving, clamped fists sketched imaginary ovals in the air as he struggled to breathe. His body turned and writhed, his stomach constricting and releasing, under my heavy palms.

I could hear him try to speak, his fragmented pleas floating to the surface as air pockets. But I remained emotionless, just like the other times.

Then, when it was time, I heaved him from the tub, his small figure meeting the bathroom floor in a loud slap. In between asphyxiated gasps, he coughed and spat at his feet. And after wiping his mouth on the front of his shirt sleeve, he looked at me with glistening eyes – his cheeks flushed and his lips curved in a mischievous smirk. “It’s your turn now,” he said.

And I grinned.

Attention, Shoppers

I see those beady eyes of yours staring at me through the window. Your desire for what I have is unsettling at the very least, but it’s a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to.

No longer do I shift awkwardly at my post while you scan my purple belted chiffon dress and the white diamond necklace that hangs at my breast. Instead of shying away when you compliment me on how the black Gucci leather bag brings out the blue in my eyes, I smile and wave you on.

You would think that I would grow tired of listening to the endless-looping string of popular songs during business hours, but I find the monotonous melodies soothing. The overhead speakers provide me with a distraction from the typical gossip storm of privileged spenders, and for that I’m grateful. It always surprises me how petty shoppers’ arguments are – let me tell you kids: when I was your age I wouldn’t ever think of bellyaching if my mom didn’t buy me the upgraded cell phone; I was lucky if I had a shirt to wear.

Nevertheless, you are human after all – I merely plastic. If I was fortunate to have such mobility and freedom, I imagine I would be as spoiled and arrogant as you all are. Just remember to see usthe next time you want to steal our handbags and put our clothes in a shopping basket.

We may be mannequins, but we have feelings too.

Stay Humble

A young girl clad in a frilly, pink dress skips down a dark alleyway. An immaculately sculpted ponytail hangs stiff from the back of her head, as if it was frozen in time – she wouldn’t have it fixed any differently. Ever since her daddy plastered her cute face on the bottle of every Avispray hair product, her personal stylist’s only order was to keep her looking fresh and beautiful, no matter the time. She even had to learn to sleep at a different angle to keep from crushing that trademarked pigtail.

Tonight, she was on her way to the annual Solstice Gala, a party she had to attend every year in accordance to her daddy’s terms; in exchange for anything she ever wants until the day she turns 18, she had to attend all of the company parties. She is the face of Avispray, after all.

The only problem was that she isn’t allowed to ride in any motorized vehicle. The static could ruin her hair, her daddy says. So, instead of being whisked to the Berga Event Center in a black limousine like her family was, she got an armed escort and they had to head to the party by foot.

“How many miles away is the gala?” she asks her escort, who is almost as young as she is.

“It won’t take us long, Lisa,” he says, digging his hands into the pockets of his black slacks. His fingers grazed the outline of a blade.

Lisa groans and stomps her pink wedge to the cobbled walkway. “This isn’t fair!” she yells. “I wish I never agreed to this; not even my diamond-encrusted stuffed unicorn is worth this torture! I’m freezing!”

“Here, have my jacket. I don’t need it anyway. And, my name’s Luc,” he mutters, throwing his black coat over Lisa’s bubblegum shawl. “Why are you going to this party, anyway? And why can’t you go in the car?”

“What, so you’re saying you don’t know?” Lisa smacks on a mouthful of grape gum, her teeth and tongue dyed purple.

Puzzled, Luc replies: “Don’t know what?” All he knew what that he was filling in for his brother, Max, who was busy making out with his girlfriend at home. Luc had only walked in to ask him to help him cut out a page of paper snowflakes when he tricked him into taking his shift. He told Luc that the rich people would be too focused on their own stupid problems to know they were leaving their daughter in the hands of an eight-year-old. And he was right.

“It’s my hair, duh.” She motions toward her shiny, blonde hair. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have this hair, if it meant I could live a normal life. You wouldn’t know.”

Luc couldn’t see what the big deal was; to him, hair was hair – what people should pay attention to is a person’s personality. At least, that’s what he was always told. “Oh,” was all he could muster.

Lisa pulls her lips back with a wide, rehearsed smile and walks ahead. Her bright purple teeth nearly illuminate the alley. “Yeah. If it weren’t for my beautiful locks, daddy’s company would have never taken off. When it comes down to it, I’m the one making all the money. This stupid hair –”

Snip.

A long, thick clump of yellow hair falls to the ground, and Luc stands beaming. “Look! Now you can live a normal life! How about I take you on a detour and show you this really good candy shop my brother showed me?”

Luc didn’t know a little girl could make such a loud sound. Her scream brought him to his knees.

“WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?” she wails, her hands desperately searching for the lock of missing hair, hoping it was all just a joke.

Luc stammers, “Woh…well, you were just telling me how t-t-t-terrible you felt because of your hair. I thought I could make it better for you.”

“Gimme those scissors!” Lisa snatches at Luc’s pockets. “You really wanna make everything better? I know of just the way,” she says, hissing through a menacing smirk.

Luc suddenly wishes he had stayed home; at least the paper snowflakes don’t throw a fit if he cuts off a little more than he planned.

Painted Faces

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Once a year I take time from home to visit a cabin in Chesapeake Bay in which I sit next to the fireplace, with a notebook on my lap and pen grasped tightly in my palm, and I write. I write for hours, submerged in my work until in my peripheral I notice the sky darkening, the vibrant streaks of pink and yellow fading into a cobalt canvas. The surrounding forest grows darker by the minute, dusk’s damp dew settling into the soft earth. And with this spectacle I take a breath and smile; it is time.

It’s only seconds after sundown that I excitedly shove the key into the lock of the back room and reveal my private play pin, the place in which my creativity blossoms and my block for new material fades. Finally, I will have material to start the new chapter.
For the most part, the room is empty – the windows are smeared with black paint and sheets of newspaper – save for the little beauties: my best friends. I turn on the radio sitting on a dust covered three-legged table. There is no radio reception this far into the forest, but I find the crackling static exhilarating, as do the others.

Sitting around a cream table are the figures of my three perky friends. Each is dressed in the same apparel in which I discovered them: Penny is in her pink-checked nightgown; Timothy is in his denim shorts and white t-shirt; Charlotte is dressed in a gorgeous yellow sundress and white stockings. But something is different. Something is very wrong.

“Charlotte!” I scream, rushing to her limp frame, but she’s already gone. One of the others must have done it. “Who did this?” I demand, pointing to my darling girl’s corpse.

My eyes well up with tears as I imagine one of my own friends doing such an unthoughtful thing.

The others remain quiet. How dare they say nothing! If neither of them speaks, then both of them are surely lying. Could they both have been so ruthless that they murder one of my most precious friends! How can they sit there with that smile plastered on their face, while I handle the body of their dead sister? God, I’ve raised a bunch of psychopaths!

But I have to keep it together. There is a way to work this out. I have two options: I could forgive Timothy and Penny, or whoever had murdered my precious Charlotte – no, I surely can never do that, what is done has been done – or they both should be punished. Regrettably, that’s exactly what I have to do. I must do what is right for my beautiful Charlotte.

There is a hammer in the kitchen cabinet, and I return to the playroom with it in my hand. I used it last year to nail Penny’s drawing of a flower to the wall. How ignorant was I to fall for Timothy and Penny’s devious antics! But before I punish them I have to explain. They have to know.

“Timothy, Penny, I have known you both for three years. Three! And during those years I believed that we each loved and understood one another. I set aside a slice of my life to spend it joyously with you all. Getting to play with you is what I look forward to doing every year.” I glance at the cold, metal head of the hammer. “And because somebody so callously murdered Charlotte – and neither of you will confess – I can’t play with any of you anymore. That’s why I have to do this.”

I open my mouth to mutter, “I love you”, but my lips are shut as firm as my babies’. How could I ever have thought of doing this if I loved them? Did I even love them? Is it my love for Charlotte that drove the other two to destroy her?

Oh, God, it is my fault. It is not Timothy or Penny who should be punished; I should be! For not devoting my life to taking care of each of them initially, I am to blame for Timothy and Penny’s negligent behavior. While I slave restlessly on that computer, typing chapter after chapter to meet publishing deadlines, I destroyed everything. I tore my family apart.

I do not have any options. I must atone and prove to my children how sorry I am for leaving them. So I grab the pair of scissors I used to cut the loose thread on Charlotte’s sundress last year and firmly run the blade against my wrists. My tears finally start to fall as I lie down and rest my head against the icy, shattered face of my darling Charlotte. I try to hear her voice once more, but hear only empty static.

My other porcelain children do not make a sound, nor do they budge. And I am left staring endlessly at their perfect smiling faces.