Tag Archives: Mannequins

The Mannequins of Ethereal Wisdom (Pt. 1)

A creepy, smiling mannequin in a room of mannequins.

An awkward yet relatively stable Liam Lomtick turned the key and opened the front door of his unassuming third-floor apartment somewhere in downtown Buffalo, NY. He shook off the cold, stamped his boots on the mat and stepped inside. He threw his keys on the kitchen table, startling his cat Chuck and awakening his Uncle Grover who had been napping on the old couch in the next room.

Uncle Grover sat up and a multitude of empty beer cans rattled across an old wooden floor. He was dressed in his usual boxer shorts and stained white tank top — his pale-yellow hair a wild and tangled mess, his beard misshapen and wayward.

“What the hell you are you doing home so early?” Uncle Grover asked in his typical raspy, drunken voice, trying to fix his puffy eyes upon his wristwatch.

Liam withdrew a piece of paper from his coat pocket, unfolded it and begrudgingly passed it to his uncle.

“I need my glasses for this,” he said, reaching his hand out blindly.

Liam snatched the glasses from the sofa side table and handed them to the old man. “Here you go.”

Uncle Grover unfolded the paper and looked it over saying “Hmm” and “A ha” as he read the termination notice:

Due to your inappropriate behavior, station management has no alternative but to immediately terminate your contract and cancel your show. Lunchtime With Liam is no more. Goodbye, and have a nice day.

“What’s this about inappropriate behavior?” Uncle Grover wanted to know, glaring at him. “What did you do this time?”

Liam looked at him nervously.

“Did you curse, steal something, pull down your pants again?”


“Then what was it?”

Liam moved across the room to the window that looked down upon the frosted, industrial city.

“They think I was harassing someone.”

“Well, were you?” the old man wanted to know.

“I don’t think I was but apparently, they do. She reported me I suppose.”

“Who was she?”

Liam stared out the window dejectedly.

“She was nobody. Just some intern.”

“Did you do something unethical to her?” Uncle Grover asked.

Liam turned to face him; the old man’s worn face glistened from the heat of the room. “Why do you always have it so god damn hot in here!?”

The old man watched as Liam crossed the floor and went over to the thermostat on the wall to turn it down.

“You’re avoiding the question.”

Liam’s eyes dropped in embarrassment.

“I just wanted her to go out with me. I just wanted some god damn companionship! Is that so terrible?”

“So… What happened?”

“She just kept rejecting me, but I didn’t let up. It aggravated her I suppose. Then one day I found her alone in the breakroom and she was standing at the counter and her back was to me and I… Pressed myself against her.”

Uncle Grover sighed and slapped his palm against his large forehead. “Jesus, boy,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “What did she do?”

Liam started pacing around the room like a madman. “She was pissed! She shoved me away and started screaming at me to leave her alone. She started to walk away, and I begged her to stay there so I could explain and apologize. She had tears running down her face. She wanted me to explain it.”

“Did you? Could you?”

 “At first, I played it off as an innocent accident, like I had tripped or something, but she didn’t buy it. So, I did the foolish thing and was honest with her. I told her I liked her a lot and that I just wanted her to give me a chance to show her I was a decent guy and all, and that, you know, I just wanted to smell her hair and feel her sexy body.”

Uncle Grover sighed again and rolled his eyes. “Good god’s gloryhole, Liam. You’ve got problems.”

“And that’s when she stormed out and went to station management, apparently.”

“Well, looks like you fucked yourself good this time boy,” Uncle Grover groaned. “You’re lucky you didn’t get arrested.”

“She agreed to not to get the cops involved as long as I was immediately fired.”

“You had a good thing going there. You could have been a big television cooking star. There could be some public backlash if word of this gets out. Which, it probably will.”

Liam slumped down in a beat-up chair across from his uncle and groaned.

 “So, uncle, what becomes of a man who fucks up the seemingly good thing he has?”

Uncle Grover scratched at his face and looked down at the floor as he considered his nephew’s question.

“Well,” he started to say. “Maybe that good thing was only an oasis in your mind. Perhaps this will all come out the other end of the meat grinder in a far better way. You must be positive. Think of yourself as a fresh and delicious hand-crafted sausage ready for a new day.”

Liam looked at his uncle with grave concern. “That doesn’t help at all. It’s just weird.”

Uncle Grover slapped at the air with a big hand. “Oh hell, what do I know about life. Look at me. I’m all used up and pitiful. Perhaps you should consult the mannequins.”

Uncle Grover got up and went to the kitchen and snatched an old coffee can down from the top of the refrigerator. He dug around among the spare change, some foreign paper money, and a few nuts and bolts until he found the key. 

He pulled it out, held it up and walked back into the living room. He cautiously handed the key to Liam, oddly raising one white eyebrow causing his big forehead to wrinkle.

“Maybe they can help you,” he said, and he made a clicking sound with his mouth. “But remember, with great power comes even greater responsibility.”

Liam went down the long, gloomy hall where the bedrooms were. The door to Uncle Grover’s room was slightly ajar and he peered in. It was incredibly messy and there was an odd smell. At the end of the hall was the special room. The door was painted blood red. He inserted the key into the lock slit and turned it. The door relented with a click. He stepped inside the room, flipped a switch that illuminated a dim green bulb, and then lit the big candle that sat on the old table next to the old record player.

Liam turned the record player on and set the needle down on an old piece of vinyl; weird songs from long ago came quietly weeping out, brooding organ music and classical harps and angel voices chirping an odd woodsy dreamland sound yet dark.

Liam sat on a wooden chair padded with an ornate pillow in front of something very similar to a stage. There was the sudden smell of funeral incense and a red curtain slowly slid to one side. Liam cautiously looked up at them staring back down at him. He looked at the candle flame and remembered what Uncle Grover had always said: “They don’t like fire, keep the fire away from them.”

“Hello mannequins,” Liam said.

There were three of them, and their eyes suddenly popped open.

“Hello Liam,” they said in unison. “Do you have a problem?”

“Yes, I believe I do?”

The one with a bald head and a cracked cheek looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“Is it a problem or is it not a problem?” the mannequin sharply asked. “We solve problems here. We don’t just engage in idle chit chat.”

“Okay, yes, I have a problem… I lost my TV show today.”

“Lost it?”

“Not lost it. They terminated my contract. In essence, they fired me.”

“Why would they do something like that?” asked the one with the lopsided blonde wig and missing left arm. “Was your cooking not good enough for them? Was it your personality? Was it your clothes? Was it your… Demons coming out, again?”

Liam bowed his head and said nothing.

“Was it!?” the mannequin with the lopsided blonde wig and missing left arm demanded.

“Yes,” Liam said. “I am a strong man, but I became weak.”

The mannequin with the lopsided blonde wig and missing left arm moved forward, bent down, and slapped Liam’s face with its right hand.

“You told yourself that you were never going to do that again.”

“I know that!” Liam yelled. “I just couldn’t help myself.”

The redheaded mannequin with big, black eyelashes and a missing ear stepped forward and spoke to him sympathetically.

“We all have moments of weakness Liam. You should not be so hard on yourself. Perhaps this was your subconscious way of getting yourself out of a situation you were growing tired of.”

“But I loved that job,” Liam groaned.

“Did you?” the mannequins asked in unison.


“But instead, you conceded to your carnal desires,” the one with a bald head and a cracked cheek said.

“Yes. What is your advice? What should I do now?”

The three mannequins looked at each other and nodded.

“Castration!” the one with the lopsided blonde wig and missing left arm suddenly exclaimed.

“What!? You can’t be serious,” Liam cried out.

“Don’t you think that’s a bit harsh, sister?” questioned the redheaded mannequin with big, black eyelashes and a missing ear.

“Indeed, it is,” said the one with a bald head and a cracked cheek. “I for one will not vote for such an inhumane measure. We should be counseling him on a solution, not passing judgment and handing down a life-altering punishment.”

Liam wildly nodded in agreement.

“You are both too soft,” the one with the lopsided blonde wig and missing left arm complained. “Fine. I will take castration off the table.”

The one with a bald head and a cracked cheek looked at Liam with a sense of gentleness. “Let us discuss it. Come back within a fortnight and we will advise you.”

The three mannequins turned and moved toward the back of the stage. The red curtain closed. Liam got up and lifted the needle from the record and turned off the player. He blew on the candle flame to kill it. Poof. He went to the door, turned off the light and went out.


The Doll Salon (End)

The Wedding

When Feldon awoke, he found himself inside a very old and large church, Catholic style, luminous and grand, full of soft light and scents of heaven, high arched ceilings and massive chandeliers dangling down from the rafters, the stations of the cross played out in intricate detail, gold chalices with beams of godly sun shimmering at the altar. He was in one of the back pews, long and sweetly polished, and there was a great stained-glass window at his side, Jesus all gleaming and blessed, green and gold, his arms were outstretched, and he was surrounded by sheep of white and gas eons of blue. There were angels in the clouds playing trumpets and the sun shot forth long bands of golden light across him as if he was God or savior or some important man.

At the front of the church there was a ceremony going on. It was a wedding, Feldon deduced, from the looks of the white gown and black tux and preacher standing there with the great guidebook of life and love. Then the crowd turned around in unison to look at him, and they were all mannequins — soulless, plastic mannequins. Even the preacher wasn’t skin and blood, and then Feldon saw that it was Carl and Eve as groom and bride up front and there was a plume of death incense percolating in a thurible and then a bloodless pall fell over the entire gathering and the crowd turned back around and the preacher said in a loud, monotone voice: “If there is anyone here who objects to this sacred union of love, let him speak now or forever swallow down his peace.”

“Yes!” Feldon cried out from the back, his voice cracking. “Yes! Oh, mighty God I object!”

The crowd hummed and murmured. The preacher craned his neck to see as Feldon marched forward down the center aisle. “Who are you?” the holy man asked. “And what case do you have to present against this couple, right here, under the witness of God.”

“I’m Feldon Fairtz and I strongly object to this union. Carl is unfit to be a husband to her. He is evil and shifty. Eve! I love you! Please don’t do this!”

Eve robotically lifted the veil from her face and looked out at him.

“Can’t you see I don’t love you?” she said, exasperated. “I’ve never loved you. It’s all been a lie. The whole time I’ve loved someone else. That’s right, Feldon. It’s Carl. It’s always been Carl. We’ve been doing it behind your back for weeks now… And in your bed. You’re a creep, Feldon. Now, can you please stop ruining our special day and get out of here before you get thrown out.”

“But Eve, you can’t do this to me. It was I that rescued you from the stuffy back room of Saharah’s Department Store and gave you a home. I gave you freedom and life and this is how you repay me? You’re going to marry this jackass?”

“I don’t care, Feldon. That’s just life. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And yes, I’m marrying Carl, right here, right now, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Feldon’s mind and heart sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

“Very well then,” he said, trying to lift himself back up again. “I hope you have a miserable life together. And fuck you just the same, Eve. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are nothing but a heartless bitch anyways… And hell if I need that in my life.”

Someone quickly grabbed Feldon’s arm to escort him out, but he tore away.

“Let go of me! I’m leaving.”

And as he walked down the long aisle toward the large doors, he heard the preacher’s voice rise from behind him: “And by the power granted to me by God, the church, and the state of this land… I now pronounce you man and mannequin.”

There was some soft, plastic clapping and then great and triumphant music rose to the top of the cathedral and Feldon pushed through the giant doorway and out into the bright light of another day and never looked back.

It was three months later when there was a knock at the door of Feldon’s smelly apartment.

“Who’s there?” he yelled from the couch.

“Feldon?” came a meek voice from the hall.

“Who is it and what do you want?”

“It’s Eve. Could you please open the door?”

Feldon was stunned. “Is that fag Carl with you?”


“I think it would be better if you just went away, Eve. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“Please, Feldon. It’s important. It will just take a minute.”

Feldon knew he would regret getting up off the couch and opening the door, but he did it anyway.

“What do you want?”

“Can I come in?”

Feldon held the door open wide and she drifted in.

“What’s this all about, Eve? I thought you never wanted to see me again.”

She suddenly realized how different he looked. He had gained some weight and his hair was scraggly and he had grown out a beard. “Are you okay?” she asked him.

“What does it matter to you?”

“Don’t be like that, Feldon.”

“Be like what? Crushed?”

“Feldon, Carl and I split up.”

Feldon snickered with a sick delight. “Really? So soon? What a shame. And what does this have to do with me?”

Eve’s head tilted slightly toward the floor.

“I’ve got nowhere to go. Carl is being a real jerk about the money and the house. He got himself some hotshot lawyer, too. I was somehow hoping you could find it in your heart to let me stay here for a while until I can right my own ship, so to speak. He left me with nothing.”

Feldon popped a cap off a beer and sucked the entire bottle down. “You’ve got some fucking nerve coming here asking me for such a favor. That’s some real fucking nerve, Eve.”

She looked away, hurt and somewhat ashamed. “You’re right. I should have never come here. I’m sorry. I’ll just go now.”

She made her way toward the door and Feldon suddenly softened. “Do you really have nowhere to go?”

She turned to look at him with sad, fake eyes. “Yes, but I’ll manage. See you around.”

“Wait,” Feldon said.

She turned again, her fabricated heart beating with hope. “What?”

“As long as you’re heading out, could you take my trash down for me?”

Feldon went into the kitchen, lifted a bag out of the can and tied it.

He went back to her. “Here you go,” he said as he handed the strained bag of garbage to Eve. She took it with a puzzled look of disgust on her face.

“Hopefully it won’t break on your walk down. I would hate for you to have to clean up such a mess,” Feldon said, laughing. He moved toward her, forcing Eve to back out into the hallway.

 “Please Feldon, won’t you reconsider?” Eve tearfully pleaded. “Don’t you have a heart?”

“Not today,” he said, and he slammed the door shut and never saw her again and rarely did he care.


The Doll Salon (Pt. 4)

Mature Content Warning: The following contains language that may be offensive to some readers. You’ve been advised.

The Rejectionists

Feldon felt like crawling into the eye of God and setting the world on fire as he climbed the stairs to his apartment. When he reached his floor, the hall was empty. He could hear a television blaring and some people arguing behind a few of the closed doors. There was always too much noise, he complained inside his own mind. Too much noise. Too much rattling around.

He put the key inside his lock and turned it, pushed the door open, and clicked on a light. Carl was still asleep on the couch, but his eyes were wide and there was that ever-present grin —like a crooked car salesman. He went into the bedroom and turned on a lamp there. Eve was still sitting in the chair beside his bed. He went over to her and kissed her gently on the cheek.

“Hello dear,” he said. “How are you? You and Carl haven’t been up to any nastiness, have you?”

He glanced at his rumpled bed, and it looked the same as when he left, yet he still wondered.

“I suppose you haven’t made any dinner, have you?” Feldon asked her. “No, I didn’t think so. Don’t you realize I’m hungry?”

It was then that the phone in the other room began to ring, and it startled him.

“Who on earth could be calling me?” he wondered, and then he went to answer.


“Hello. May I speak with Feldon Fairtz please?”

“This is Feldon.”

“Hi Feldon. It’s Shirley, Shirley Humpsley from the Fifth Avenue Doll Salon.”

Feldon grew excited. “Oh yes. Hello! How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you. I was just calling as a courtesy to let you know that we have gone ahead and hired another candidate for the position here.”

“What?” Feldon said, suddenly deflated.

“We’ve hired someone else for the position, Feldon. Like I said, as a courtesy, we reach out to our other candidates to let them know. We feel it’s the right thing to do so you can carry on with your job search without wondering if you’ll ever hear from us. It’s standard practice.”

“So, I didn’t get the job?”

“No. I’m sorry.”

“But, why? What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing, Feldon. We just feel the person we hired had the strongest set of skills that matched our needs. Please don’t take it personally.”

Feldon grew angry over the phone. “But I have a very specific set of skills, Mrs. Humpsley! And strong skills they are! I am very talented, and I think this is absolute bullshit that you have decided not to hire me. It’s because I’m a man, isn’t it?”

“Please Mr. Fairtz, there’s no need to get nasty with me and use foul language. And our decision in no way reflects on your gender… Or anyone else’s.”

“Of course not, of course not, of course not!” Feldon repeated in anger. “It’s all straight talk and legit, isn’t it Shirley. It’s all politically so damn correct and sterilized corporate wise and all nauseating too. Well, I’m not buying it. This is a crock of crap, and I demand to speak to your supervisor!”

“Look here, Mr. Fartz!”

“It’s FAIRTZ!”

“I don’t care what it is!” Mrs. Humpsley snapped back in snappy black girl style. “I will not be talked to in this way, and if you ask me, Fartz fits you perfectly because you’re one hell of an asshole! Our decision is final, and I have nothing else to say to you. Goodnight, sir!”

She hung up.

Feldon held the cordless receiver away from his face and glared at it.

“I’ll get my lawyer you fucking bitch!” he screamed. “You violated my rights as a person! You assaulted me with words! Cruel words!”

He was breathing hard. His heart was racing. The phone was empty, and he suddenly flung it across the room, and it struck a picture of his dead parents that was hanging on the wall and it fell and broke. He turned to look at Carl. He was grinning chiseled mad, mocking him in mime.

“What the fuck are you looking at!?” Feldon screamed. “I just had a bit of trouble with a prospective employer. Nothing serious, Carl. Just look away. Please. Just look away from me!”

Feldon shuffled to the kitchen, reached into a cabinet for a glass and filled it with water at the sink. His hand shook violently as he brought the glass to his mouth and drank. It slipped from his hand, fell to the floor, and shattered.

“God damn it!” Feldon screamed. “Everything I touch turns into a disaster!”

He shuffled to the couch and collapsed into it. He leaned forward and put his face in his hands and started crying.

His face was wet with tears and his nose was stuffed when he reached for the box of facial tissues, yanked a couple out, and blew.

“God damn it,” he mumbled. “God damn it all to hell. It’s falling apart, Carl.” He turned to the mannequin, still half reclined on the couch beside him. “Do you hear me? I’m falling apart you son of a bitch. Don’t you care?”

There was no answer of course, just a wide, plastic grin and factory fresh eyes millions of miles away.

Feldon stood up quickly.

“Fine! Be that way, you prick! You may not give a damn about me and my life, but I’m sure Eve does. Oh, I know she does. See, she loves me. That’s right, Carl. We’re in love. And you better stop trying to fuck her or I swear I’ll kill you!”

Feldon stormed off to his bedroom and slammed the door.

He clicked on a lamp near his bed and the room was illuminated in a stormy, dreary kind of way. He knelt on the floor before Eve in her chair, touched her smooth, plastic hand and then looked up to her painted eyes of crystalline green.

“Eve, my darling. Gosh I’ve had a rough night. I was hoping that, just maybe, you’d be willing to lie in my bed with me tonight.”

He paused to study her reaction, holding the fabric of her dress to his face to smell it and wipe his damp skin.

“No, no, no,” Feldon reassured her as he patted her hand. “Nothing sexual. I just want to be close to you in my darkest time of need.”

He used his fingertips to move his hair back and craned his ear toward her.

“Of course I won’t be naked,” Feldon shyly answered. “I’ll wear my favorite pajamas. You know, the ones with the monkeys riding the trains. They must be circus monkeys, yes, circus monkeys, don’t you think?”

Then he giggled oddly.

“But of course, if you want to be naked, I won’t complain — not one bit.”

Feldon grinned, stood up and took Eve by the waist. He lifted her and took her to the bed, laid her down, and covered her with a sheet and blanket. Feldon stared down at her. Eve’s eyes were staring straight up at him.

“You look lovely,” he said to her.

Feldon quickly went to the other side of the room, stripped down and changed into the pajamas. He went into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and swished mouthwash. He clicked off the bathroom light. Then he clicked off the little lamp by his bed and crawled in beneath the covers beside her. His heart was slightly pounding. He turned his head and tried to see her in the darkness, hoping his eyes would quickly adjust.

“Eve?” he whispered.

He reached to grasp her hand.

“I love you,” he softly said. “Eve? Did you hear me? I love you.”

It was silent except for the sound of a slow drip in the bathroom sink and the humming of traffic outside the windows. He propped himself up on his elbow at her side and reached out in the darkness. He held his hand just slightly above her nose and mouth. He felt nothing and then suddenly felt very alone and empty.

“Are you holding your breath?” he whispered to her. “Eve?”

He moved his face close to hers and gently rubbed his cheek against hers. “Oh Eve, why are you so cold to me? Is it Carl? Do you love Carl?”

He closed his eyes and fumbled in the darkness to find her mouth with his own. He awkwardly pressed his lips against hers and there was no reciprocation. He pulled back, ashamed and hurt.

He threw the covers off himself in frustration and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. He pawed at his face and ran his fingers through his mussed hair of pale cherry. Then there was a light tapping at the bedroom door and he snapped his neck in that direction. His heart began to pound uncontrollably. The light tapping came again.

“Who’s there?” Feldon called out through the darkness. “Carl? Is that you? Can’t you just leave us alone? Ever!”

The tapping turned to a harder knock, then a pounding. The door began to rattle in its frame. Feldon hurled himself out of the bed and yanked the door open. Carl was standing there with his high eyes and wide grin and his fist held up in the air, fixed to pound. He was illuminated from behind by the glow of the television from the other room. There was loud talking and then gunfire rattling from the speakers.

Feldon squinted. “Damn it all, Carl! I told you to leave us alone! And turn the television down!”

The mannequin’s fist suddenly shot forward and clubbed Feldon right in the face. He stumbled backward and clumsily fell to the floor. He suddenly felt dizzy and nauseous and then everything went dark and silent.


The Doll Salon (Pt. 2)

Peanut Butter Psychosis

Feldon pedaled his red bicycle to his apartment building at the corner of Third and Park streets. It wasn’t the best building in the area, not by any means, in fact, it was a bit run down and housed a lot of seedy characters. He secured his bike to a rail out front and hopped up three flights of stairs to the long hallway. He looked down and he saw a couple of rough guys hanging around talking loudly and drinking 40s of beer. He sighed and went forward, key in hand.

When the loiters saw him, they clapped and yelled out, “Hey it’s Mr. Fartz!” And then they childishly started replicating bodily function noises with their mouths.

“Knock it off you guys,” Feldon protested as he got closer. “You know that’s not how you say my name. Do you really have to do this every single time I come home? Why don’t you losers get jobs and leave me alone!”

A punky black guy named Lester approached and stepped in front of him. He was stout and muscular and smelled of frustration and failure.

“What did you say to us fairy fart boy?” he angrily wanted to know.

“I said I think you should get jobs instead of hanging around the hall being jerks and harassing other tenants. I pay rent, too.”

Lester suddenly punched him hard in the stomach. Feldon doubled over and gasped for breath. The rough guys laughed at him.

“Yeah, bitch! How do you like that job fairy fart boy?” Lester said, sauntering in a circle around Feldon. “Maybe you should mind your own damn business next time before I go GTA all over your ass.”

Feldon tried to straighten up, and that’s when a bald Hispanic dude named Pinto came over and kicked him in the head. Feldon collapsed to the hallway floor and started crying.

“Oh shit, man,” Lester said to Pinto. “Look what we did. We made fairy fart boy cry.”

Pinto bent down and mockingly laughed at Feldon. “Hey fart boy. You want us to get your mommy for you?”

Feldon got to his knees and managed to slip his key into the lock of his apartment door. He was shaking and weeping. He turned to look up at them. “My mommy’s dead,” he whimpered. The door opened and Feldon scrambled inside and slammed the door shut. He got up slowly and looked through the foggy peep hole. Pinto put his milk-chocolate-pudding face real close on the other side, shook his head, and then moved away.

“Just wait ‘till next time, fairy fart boy, we’ll kill you!” Lester yelled through the door.

Feldon hobbled to the bathroom and started the water in the tub. He poured in some bubble bath and watched the suds blossom. He went to the mirror and tugged off his shirt. He looked at himself. He was so thin and pale, and now there was a big red spot on his skin where Lester had punched him. He peeled off the rest of his clothes and studied his scrawny body. He held his arms up and flexed, but there were barely any muscles.

Feldon was depressed and discouraged when he got into the tub and sank down into the warm, fragrant bubbly water. He scrunched his eyes real tight, held his nose, and went all the way down until he was completely submerged. He felt like drowning himself. He felt like sailing away, forever into the warm recesses of the bath water. The water filled his ears and made his head feel heavy and clotted. He puffed his cheeks out. His heart was pounding. And when he couldn’t hold it anymore, he suddenly shot up and gasped for breath.

“Bubbly, bubbly, bubbly,” he muttered to himself. “I’m so damn bubbly wumbly.” He panted and rested. He used his hands to scoop up the suds and then he’d let them drip down over his body. First there was an eerie and dripping quiet, like the earth suddenly stopped moving, and then, without warning, there came a thundering noise from between his legs that reverberated against the bottom of the tub. Great bubbles rose and burst. Feldon made a face of disgust. “Ugh. I really am nothing but a farter,” he said aloud to the walls. “And my heart is like a broken cup.”

When Feldon finished bathing, he got out of the tub, put on his robe, and went to the kitchen to fix himself a snack. He looked through the cupboards, but money was tight now and he had very little to eat. He reached for a half-empty jar of peanut butter, twisted off the lid, and then stuck his finger inside. He scooped out a big hunk of it and put it into his mouth.

Feldon talked to himself more than usual lately. “Mmmm, that’s good. I’ll have some peanut butter bread and a glass of milk for dinner.”

After he prepared his snack, Feldon brought the plate and glass out to the living room and set them down on the coffee table. He took a seat in the middle of the couch and then turned his head to the right. “Hello, Carl,” he said. And then he looked to his left. “Hello, Eve. How are you both this evening?”

Feldon waited for responses that he knew would never come, but he did not care. The mannequins gave him a sense of comfort.

“Should we watch some television?”

He clicked on the TV with the remote control and a strange light filled the room. Carl was glowing green and white, and he had a strange grin on his face that never went away. Eve was more stoic; her pink lips were tight and slightly chipped. Her eyes were wide and glassy, and the lashes were full and turned upward. She had an air of classy gangster sophistication — like she was someone fresh out of 1930s Los Angeles hiding a machine gun underneath her dress.

Feldon enjoyed Eve’s company more. He really liked her. Sometimes he thought he loved her. He reached out and gently touched her brassy blonde hair. He liked how it felt between his fingers. Then he was uncomfortable because Carl was right there on the other side of the couch.

Carl was more of a nuisance to him now. He felt he interfered with his intentions toward Eve, and several times he had thought about simply setting him out with the trash. But he just couldn’t do it. They used to be the best of friends. Carl came home with him first. He clearly remembers the night he snuck him out of the back room at Sahara’s Department Store and carried him home in the darkness.

But then Eve came along and the whole dynamic of the small apartment changed. It was something Feldon never expected. Feldon often wondered what Carl was up to when he wasn’t around. He was overly suspicious of him. He kept the two separated at night now. Carl was laid out neatly on the couch and covered with a thin blanket. Eve was placed in a chair right beside Feldon’s bed so that he could look at her until he fell asleep. He hadn’t gotten up the nerve yet to lie her in the bed beside him. That would be pushing it, he thought. It would be better to work up to that slowly, Feldon decided.

Feldon leaned forward and began to eat his peanut butter bread. He held it up to the mannequin’s faces in a sign of offering. He hated to be rude. There was no response. “If you don’t eat, Carl, you’ll die,” Feldon said as he chewed. Carl just grinned and stared at the television. He put the sandwich close to Eve’s plastic mouth and pretended she was eating. “That’s a good girl,” he said. “Can’t have you starving now can we.” He put the glass of milk to her lips and made sipping sounds. “Mmmm, yummy. Good for your wax bones, too.”

He finished the rest of the sandwich, drank the remaining milk, and settled back between them. Feldon didn’t really care what was on television. It was mostly damn commercials anyway. He loathed the fact that he could barely afford to pay to watch this shit. He pushed the frustration aside and focused on her now. His heart wobbled faster when he sat next to Eve. He carefully reached out and grasped her hand. Her plastic skin was cool to the touch. He gently squeezed her fingertips and then leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. He suddenly sensed Carl was watching and he snapped his head in his direction and yelled. “Don’t you have something better to do than just sit there and stare at us!”

Carl grinned and watched yet another bullshit commercial about car insurance as it flashed across the screen annoyingly. 

Feldon stood up. “Damn it, Carl! I’m talking to you.” He reached out his hand and slapped the mannequin in the face. Carl oddly tipped over on the couch. Feldon suddenly felt terrible and went to him and set him up right. He looked into Carl’s high eyes and tried to soothe the tension. “Oh, Carl. I’m so sorry I hit you. Please forgive me.”

Carl’s white smile was distant and masking a bucketful of pent-up frustration.


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The Doll Salon (Pt. 1)

The Interview

Feldon Fartz sat nervously in the waiting area of the glossy Fifth Avenue Doll Salon. It smelled like makeup and money and there were a lot of people moving around and phones ringing.

His dress clothes were too tight, and he was squirming like a galactic worm under the sun after a rock was upturned. He ran a finger inside his collar in an effort to loosen it. He felt like he was being strangled by society.

His thin and perfectly manicured fingertips were gently strumming the cover of his portfolio, a portfolio of few accomplishments. He wet his miniature lips with his snake-like tongue, cleared his throat, and pinched at his eyes. He was being impatient. He was tired and restless. His sleep lately had been unsettled.

He had very feminine features for a man. His face was clean-shaven and baby-butt smooth, his nose was thin and slightly pointed, as was his jawline. The color of his skin was peachy, but he had rosy cheeks. His red hair was split in the middle and went down both sides of his slightly elongated head to just the tops of his ears. He resembled a soft-muscled prince from a magical kingdom as he sat there so at odds with the world, but in fact, he was some sort of a regular man, a real man, one who longed to do great things.

Feldon had pale blue eyes, and the rusty lashes were soft and upturned. He fluttered his lids like a butterfly toward the woman sitting across from him and he asked her, “Are you interviewing for the position, too?” His voice was quiet and soft, like a feathery pillow in the dead of night.

The woman looked up at him and smiled slightly. He could tell she was a bit annoyed by his intrusion. “Yes,” she answered him, and then she tried to look away but really couldn’t. He was just so strikingly odd.

A door suddenly opened, and a sharp-dressed black woman stepped out. She was very sparkly. “Feldon?” She looked down at a piece of paper and paused. “Fartz?”

Feldon raised a finger and smiled. “That’s me,” he said, and he stood up and followed her. As he went by the woman who was in the waiting area with him, he gently tapped her on the arm and whispered, “Good luck.”

The interviewer led him down a short hallway and into a small, brightly lit office of glass. She directed him to sit down. He immediately leaned forward and gently tapped his finger on her desk.

“Actually misses, my name is pronounced Fairtz. Like, say, the county fair, but with the letters t and z at the end.

The interviewer put on her glasses and glanced over his resume, troubled by her mistake. “Oh. I see. My apologies, Mr… Fairtz.”

Feldon leaned back in the chair and playfully waved his hand at her. “Don’t worry about it. Everyone gets it wrong.”

“That must get very annoying at times,” she said with a feigned smile.

“It did annoy me, but now I’m just so used to it I kind of have to just laugh it off.” Feldon chuckled oddly, and then he felt her staring at him strangely. He could sense she knew he was lying. He hated his name, and the ridicule he’s endured forever.

“Have you ever just considered changing the spelling of your name to reflect its pronunciation?”

Feldon stared at her, dumbfounded, lost in space. Pondering the ridiculous question, once again.

“No,” he answered a few moments later. “I shouldn’t be forced to change the spelling of my name just because the rest of the world sucks.”

The woman was uncomfortably silent, cleared her throat and went on with the interview.

“I have to say,” the woman began. “I really wasn’t expecting any male applicants for this type of job. You do understand this is a position for someone to provide beauty salon services to our clients’ dolls, don’t you?”

“Yes mam. And I do hope you understand that you cannot discriminate against me based solely on my gender.”

The woman glared at him from across the desk, then smiled seriously. “Yes. I’m quite aware of fair hiring practices.”

“And I’m not gay, either, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“No, of course not, that has nothing to do with anything, but…”

“I like to plow the feminine fields of love just as much as the next guy — if you know what I mean.” Feldon winked at her.

“Let’s just try to get back on track with the interview, Mr. Fairtz… As I was saying, and I mean this in no way to reflect a preference between male or female applicants, but this position has traditionally been filled by women and I am rather curious why you feel you would be a good fit for us in this type of environment.”

Feldon straightened himself in the chair, cleared his throat softly, and tried to remember what he had practiced in his bathroom mirror the night before.

“Well,” he began. “I enjoy beauty. All kinds of beauty — whether it be a sunset or a flower or even a doll. I feel like there is enough ugliness in the world, too much ugliness in fact, and I just want to be part of a team that adds a little sweet frosting to the beautiful birthday cake of life.”

The woman leaned forward and smiled again. “You do have a very intriguing attitude, Mr. Fairtz, but what about the skills and past work experience you have listed here on your resume? Tell me more about that.”

“Yes mam.”

“You can call me Shirley.”

Feldon smiled and chuckled again. “Surely Shirley. As you obviously have seen, I have worked in a real salon with real people as a shampoo agent. I very much enjoyed that feeling of soapy hair all over my fingers. The clients always raved about my scalp massages, too. It was all very exhilarating.”

“And may I ask why you left there if it was so exhilarating?” Shirley glanced at his resume again and then back at him over the top edges of her thick glasses. “It looks like you weren’t there for very long.”

Feldon shifted uncomfortably. “Well. There was a misunderstanding with a client. Someone claimed that I purposely got shampoo in their eyes… Which is a complete lie. I did no such thing. I believe the real reason they let me go is that the other employees felt threatened by my advanced skills.”

Shirley stared at him like a pondering stone. “Hmm. I see.” She scribbled something down. “And what about your position at Sahara’s Department Store? It says here you were the senior mannequin manager.”

Feldon touched the tip of his long, pointed nose with a finger and then pointed at her with a finger on his other hand. “Bingo,” he said, and he chuckled. “I mean… Yes. That’s correct.”

“And which of these two positions do you feel suited you the best?”

“Oh, definitely being a mannequin manager.”

“Tell me why.”

Feldon chuckled oddly again. “They don’t talk back!”

Shirley feigned another laugh, put her elbows on the desk and leaned forward. “Mr. Fairtz, the details of the job are quite rudimentary, and of course we’ll train you on exactly how we want things done around here. The challenges in this position come from the reality that despite the fact you will be working with dolls, those dolls belong to real people, very serious real people. We do cater to a very upscale clientele, and what may seem frivolous and grossly shallow and unnecessary to most, is very important to the people we serve. I guess the bottom line is, Mr. Fairtz, is that even though the dolls don’t talk back, the moms and daughters, and believe it or not, a few of the fathers and sons, do. I’ll be blunt. People can be very particular and demanding about these things. How do you think you will handle that kind of pressure?”

Feldon looked up to the ceiling and thought hard to himself. Then he smiled and looked back at Shirley. “With the upmost dignity and giggly delight,” he answered.

She beamed at him and scribbled another note. “That’s an excellent answer, Feldon.”

“Thank you. Did I get the job?”

“Um, well. We’re not quite through yet. You seemed to have really enjoyed working as a mannequin manager, so, I’m curious as to why you left that position.”

Feldon fidgeted nervously again. “I guess you could say I had a disagreement with management.”

“Really? Tell me about it.”

“They felt I was spending way too much time prepping the mannequins for the sales floor. I took my job seriously but apparently they thought I was overly consumed with the details.”

“That’s odd,” Shirley said. “Usually, employers are thrilled to have someone who pays attention to details. I know I am.”

“Right. That’s how I felt, but instead they just wanted me to get the mannequins churned out as fast as possible to drive sales. That’s all they cared about. They didn’t care about the time and pride I put into it. Those assholes only cared about profit. I just can’t be rushed like that when I’m really into my work.” 

“I appreciate your straightforward honesty.”

“Sure. Did I get the job?”

“Well, I do have some other applicants to interview. And I’ll have to check your references, of course. But I do like you for some strange reason. I really do like you.”

She stood up and extended her hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Feldon. We’ll be in touch.”