Okay, enough pondering, let’s read a short story with the word ‘fuck’ in it.
This was meant to be written for one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges back at the start of June, where he asked people to write a story inspired by this image:
I didn’t get my act/ideas in gear fast enough to be part of that, but it stuck in my mind, so I’ve been fiddling with a story in my few idle moments. And here it is.
For sale, baby heads, never worn
One dozen kewpie doll heads for sale.
One dozen kewpie doll torsos for sale.
Two dozen kewpie doll arms for sale.
Two dozen kewpie doll legs for sale.
‘The ones who buy the legs are fucking sickos,’ Jeanette tells me. ‘The heads, they get bid on by Goths and arts students and teenagers who want to surprise their mother when she opens her jewellery box. The arms and torsos mostly go to doll collectors who need them for repairs. But the guys who bid on the legs? Fucking perverts, every last one. Those legs will end up in a permanently sticky jar under the bed, only to be discovered when CSI finally bag and tag them along with all the other evidence.’
‘I don’t see why you don’t just sell, you know, the dolls. Intact and undismembered. That way people could actually use them.’
‘And that’s why you’ll never make a fortune on eBay,’ she says. ‘There’s no money in selling them whole. Who the hell wants to give their kid a kewpie doll? But you separate them into pieces and you get some interest, because there are people who just want the arms or the heads and don’t want the hassle of pulling them apart themselves. That’s my customer base – weirdoes that have creative (or disgusting) ideas but are too lazy or busy to do the basic legwork.’
Her workshop (which is what Jeanette calls her garage) backs her up. We sit in a corner pulling the heads and limbs off the dolls she’d bought for next to nothing, sorting them into piles and sticking them with all the other racks and boxes and baskets of disassembled geegaws and widgets. Toaster handles. Typewriter keys. Smurf feet. Dozens of collections of bits, waiting to be sold in online auctions.
‘The future is piecemeal,’ she says. ‘We’ll assemble our houses and jobs and lives from collections of stuff, buying one bit at a time and sticking it into place. Drive cars made from recycled parts, listen to mix tapes made from bits of other mix tapes, leftover pieces of other people’s lives coming back to us. Like bottles in the surf. But, y’know, cooler.’
She talks like this a lot. And yeah, she’s a little bit crazy. But she might also be right. And she’s definitely beautiful. And I’m kind of in love with her, so I hang on her every word and pull the hands off old alarm clocks for her just so I can hang around.
I know it’s pathetic. But it’s who I am, and what I can hope for. So I come by and hang out every day, and help her disassemble and sort things that used to be whole, and wait for her to realise that I’m the guy for her.
I’ve been waiting a while. Every time I come over, I try to work my courage up to tell her how I feel, and every time I lose my nerve and just disassemble old Atari joysticks without pay instead.
But not today. Finally, after months, I just think fuck it and lunge in to kiss her while she’s writing up an auction for a set of five ‘ESCAPE’ buttons prised off computer keyboards (surprisingly popular items).
And she recoils. Not in a disgusted way, but in a disappointed way, which is a lot worse.
Then she has to goddamn explain herself.
‘I go to the movies with Dave. I run my business with Solomon. I sleep with Donell. I read Takashi my poetry. I cry on Lukas’ shoulder. And I talk to you about my ideas. None of you can be everything I want, because no-one is ever everything that someone else wants. People will understand that one day, and we’ll live in clouds of piecemeal relationships, focusing on people when they matter and ignoring them when they don’t. Flitting like butterflies. But, y’know, cooler.’
Jeannette puts her hand on my chest and smiles, like she doesn’t want to hurt me, like she knows it’s not my fault that I’m not advanced (or crazy) enough to understand what she thinks we should be. Like her choices are always someone else’s problem.
‘You get to be a piece of my life,’ she says, ‘same as the other men I know. That’s all I can offer you. And you have to decide if that’s enough.’
Is it enough? I think about it.
No. No, it’s not.
…and yet, I nod my head and give her a little smile and say sorry.
Because even if it’s not enough, it’s enough for now. She might change her mind. I might grow on her.
Or I might just bump off all those other guys.
One by one.
But that’s a plan for another day. Today, there are baby heads to sort. And names to remember.
The current plan, by the way, is to write flash fiction here and there when I get inspired, until I have nine good stories. Then I’ll put them together into a 99c ebook, provisionally entitled Nine Flash Nine, and whack it up for sale. Low effort and cost from my end, and a chance to see what sales of short work might be like at that bottom end of the market.
More on that when it pans out.