Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Doll Hairs

Oh. Hello there. It's been a while! In the midst of hurricanes and catching up from hurricanes and being in an election coma, I'm very happy to bring some fiction back to the blog to share with you. 

Doll Hairs is a piece of flash fiction by Kelsey Ann Sandy, who is a writing and composition teacher with an MFA from Purdue University. Her work has appeared in The Albion Review and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. She is currently querying a novel of literary fiction, The Looking-Glass House and tweets at @KelseySandy. Enjoy!

Doll Hairs
By Kelsey Ann Sandy

Our father ordered porcelain dolls to look just like us. Little Lily and Little Rosie, we named them, and, for awhile, the dolls went everywhere that we went.

All of us, sisters and dolls, played Ring around the Rosy. We liked it because spinning made us dizzy and falling down was fun. We liked it because the flowers and the falling and the rhyming reminded us of death, and our mother had told us it was a nursery rhyme about the Black Plague. Sometimes we filled our pockets with the wilted petals that had dropped to the floor of our father’s garden. While we sang, we tossed the petals into the air. When they fell, we closed our eyes and let the petals fall all over us. Then, I would tell Rose and the dolls the story of the Black Plague, which I didn't really know anything about.

In my version, a plague of blackbirds filled the sky. There were so many, I told my sister, that even lunch-time looked like midnight. The blackbirds flew as one body covering the sunlight, an undulating sea of shimmering black feathers. Then the birds swooped down and devoured all the rose petals, red and white, all of them until there were no more flowers at all. The bushes shriveled to ashes and so the dirt also turned to ashes. The people walked amongst the flower graveyards until they too were covered in soot. Everything and everyone had turned to blackness. That, I said, is why they call it the Black Plague.

Once, when fist-sized blooms opened on the red and white rosebushes in our father's garden, Rose said, “If you tear off all the petals of Daddy’s rosebushes, I’ll pay you fifty dollars.”

“You will not,” I said. Fifty dollars was a lot of money.

“I will,” she said, “I promise.” And she crossed her heart and hoped to die.

I ripped the roses from the bushes as fast as I could, stuffing the torn petals into the pockets of my poplin dress. A few the thorns tore my skin, but Rose had said I had to tear off all the petals, and I didn’t want to disappoint my sister. In our bedroom, I pulled all the petals from my pockets and dropped them at Rose’s feet.

“Good job,” she told me. She was sitting in the chairs that were too small for either of us at the tea table, right beside Little Lily and Little Rosie.

“Thanks,” I said. “It was hard work all by myself.”

Rose laughed and picked up her doll, the one that looked just like her. “Fifty dollars?” she asked. “Was that the promise?”

I nodded.

“Well, you certainly deserve it.” She was laughing as she said it, as she plucked a red hair from her doll and held it up to me. In the sunlight, I couldn't tell the difference between my sister's hair and the doll's hair. “One doll hair,” Rose said. Then she laughed so hard she rolled out of her little chair. Then she laughed some more right there on the petals on the floor.

“Doll hair?” I said. “You promised.” She had crossed her heart and hoped to die.

“And I kept my promise,” she said. “I'll give you fifty doll hairs.” Then she got up from the floor, tossed her doll on her bed, and laughed as she left the room.

When our father got home he would see the missing roses, the bare stems jutting up from his perfectly pruned bushes, the bloody thorns. Standing between the two beds, I took one step toward the miniature, glassy-eyed version of my sister. The doll lay there, motionless, smiling like my sister had smiled when she’d tricked me. When our father got home, he would find the petals in our room and he would know what I had done and he would say, “Lily, why would you ruin my roses?” The doll still smiled when I plucked a hair from her head, “two doll hairs,” I said and tossed it to the floor. “Three doll hairs.” Little Rosie, the porcelain doll, kept smiling as I pulled each hair from her head, counting all the way to fifty, red plastic hair piling at my feet. But I wasn't satisfied. I kept plucking until I lost count, until the doll was completely bald. Not a single hair left on her pretty little head.

1 comment:

  1. There was something immensely charming about things breaching at "Fifty dollars was a lot of money." I could hear that line so sharply, and loved it, even though I know doll hairs were on the horizon.