Sunday Short Story – Living Doll

When Ada set out to buy a birthday present for her friend’s daughter she was surprised to see a bizarre crowd outside the large toy shop. Mostly women, a handful of men, people of all shapes and sizes, some in wheelchairs or with guide dogs. Heads turned as she tried to pass through to the shop entrance, but Ada was used to her statuesque figure turning heads.

Ada had been named after Ada Lovelace, abandoned daughter of Lord Byron, who became a brilliant mathematician and the world’s first computer expert. She had lived up to her parents’ ambition, but few people noticed her for her brains and degree in molecular science, they just saw a dumb blonde.

Ada’s mother was short and cuddly, her father was short and dark. By the time Ada was twelve she was taller than her parents and her short older brother called her ‘giraffe legs’. She wondered if she was adopted, but her parents assured her she wasn’t. Ada could hardly ask her mother if she was the result of an illicit affair and her father claimed she merely took after his Scandinavian tall blonde ancestors.

As Ada squeezed past the crowd she took in the words on the banners and boards held aloft.

Ban Barbie

We Want Real Dolls

Diversity

Mattel, please portray Real Women.

Ada sighed; everyone said traditional Barbie dolls did not look like real women, but Ada looked just like a Barbie Doll, everyone at high school called her Barbie and even her mother said they would have called her Barbara if they had known how she would turn out. It was not her fault she had legs that went on forever and breasts that were not large, but looked voluptuous on her slim figure. She was just as real as any of the women in the crowd, though often she didn’t feel real. Boys and young men had always been daunted by her appearance. What she needed was a real life vey tall Ken look alike, a Ken look alike who had brains to match hers. She wondered if she should step up to defend Barbie, but all she wanted to do was get in the shop, buy a present and get home. Ada hated shopping and knew nothing about toy shops.

The shop was empty; no one else had braved the crowd and Ada assumed the staff must be hiding in the stock room.

 Her friend Wanda had said ‘Don’t get her a Barbie’. When Ada had asked what she would like, Wanda laughed and said ‘A Barbie…  but No dolls, No pink, get something creative, educational…’

 As Ada wandered down the aisles in frustration she found herself in a pink froth of Barbie shelves, but above the pink froth was a small sign Diversity Barbie. On the top shelf, way out of children’s sight and the reach of most parents, were the diversity dolls. Glamourous Barbie perched in a wheelchair, looking ready to leap out at any moment, brown Barbies, curvaceous Barbie and then she spotted her. A smiling black Barbie with an Afro hair style and best of all, a prosthetic leg. Perfect, the doll did look uncannily like the exotic Wanda. Her friend had lost her leg in a nasty car accident as a teenager; when her daughter was tiny she thought all mothers only had one leg.

Back outside the shop the crowd had grown, Ada tried to tell them about Diverse Barbie, but they thought she had been sent out by the toy shop. As they threw insults she had an idea, it would be safer to join in. After all, there were not many dolls on the diverse shelf and few that looked like this crowd. It was easy to keep their attention as she stood head and shoulders above most of them.

 ‘We want Chubby BarbieFat KenRefugee KenAcne BarbieDown’s Syndrome Barbie… Disabled Army Veteran Ken.’

 The crowd cheered her on then added more suggestions, not all of them politically correct… Ada tried to think of more diverse variations, she was enjoying her first ever protest. Then she noticed a couple of police cars arriving.

 ‘Conjoined Twins Barbies’ she called out as she made a hasty retreat.

That afternoon she went round to Wanda’s house, she wanted to give the child her present and get out before the little guests started arriving for the party. The reaction wasn’t quite what she expected. Wanda frowned as the wrapping paper was torn off, then burst out laughing when her daughter ripped the box open.

‘Well Ada, now you’re not the only one who’s a Barbie!’

Alas, her little daughter burst into floods of tears.

‘But I wanted a real Barbie like Nicole’s got.’

Friday Flash Fiction – CSI Highcliffe

‘Is that for next door?’ Eleanor asked the green man who had emerged from the yellow van.

‘No, express delivery for Ms E. Fairfax.’

‘But I haven’t ordered anything, certainly nothing as large as that, is the box heavy?’

‘No, I’ll leave it just inside the front door shall I?’

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Eleanor closed the door and rolled the box down the hall until she found the sender’s address.

EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME

RAINBOW WORLD LTD. OF MILTON KEYNES

She was reluctant to open the box; if she had been in one of her black humour thrillers, the box would be sure to explode. But on the other hand, any of her feisty heroines would have no hesitation. Eleanor fetched a sharp knife from the kitchen and ran it along the taped edges. On top of various packages was a rainbow envelope.

To Aunty Ellie   Happy Birthday   Love Ben

Inside was a gothic card of gold and black.

YOUR PASSPORT TO A NEW EXPERIENCE

CSI HIGHCLIFFE

One of Ben’s jokes no doubt. She pulled out the largest parcel, inside were folds of white fabric…

Eleanor picked up the phone. ‘Ben? Thanks for the present, maybe I’ll wear it to my book launch.’

No, you have to wear it on your birthday when you go for your EXPERIENCE. I know how much you love those CSI programmes, I guess it will be like one of those murder mystery dinners, but without the food. Should give you inspiration for your next novel.

She put the phone down and decided to read the instructions more carefully.

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Saturday morning was bitterly cold, especially at Highcliffe. Eleanor was glad she was half an hour an hour early to warm up with a coffee in the Cliffhanger café. She planned to sneak into the Ladies to put on her forensic suit at the last moment, she looked around at the other customers wondering if any of them were there for the EXPERIENCE.

When she slipped outside she saw a van pulling up, black with gold writing

CSI HIGHCLIFFE

As two men in forensic suits got out, other white suits emerged sheepishly from parked cars. Eleanor was glad she had worn her thermal underwear, the wind was biting after the steamy warmth of the café.

Without any introduction the van driver addressed the shivering group.

‘Okay, report of a body on the beach, we need to start work before the tide comes in.’

Without further ado he strode towards the edge of the cliff and the footpath sign. Eleanor tried to read the expressions on the faces of her six companions, but straggling in single file, struggling to keep up, she had no idea if they were taking this seriously or if they were all friends of her nephew. But even Ben was unlikely to have arranged a prank on this scale.

Dodging a few boulders, they came to an abrupt halt near the water’s edge.

‘It’s so realistic’ squealed a young woman excitedly.

‘Looks like a scene from one of my books’ said Eleanor.

‘Ooh, are you a crime writer, are you on television?’

‘No, Amazon Kindle.’

A loud clearing of the leader’s throat drew their attention to the others, just as one of the men keeled over backwards. Another pushed past the two women and behind a rock to vomit.

‘Happens every time,’ laughed the leader ‘no one expects it to be a real body.’

Eleanor approached with a writer’s curiosity to see how they had created the scene. It was the smell which hit her first. A real body washed up from the sea was very different from Google research. She almost laughed to herself, Ben had been right, this was a unique opportunity and she tried to quell the rising nausea.

‘Cause of death?’ asked the leader brusquely.

‘No evidence of external injuries, due to the extent of decomposition’ Eleanor replied. ‘A post mortem will be needed to determine if the victim drowned or was already dead before he entered the water.’

‘Good, good’ said the man, as his assistant stepped forward with arms outstretched, bearing a large folded item of black vinyl. ‘Now before we put the body in the bag does anybody have back problems, it’s quite a weight to carry back up the cliff.’

‘Yes, me,’ said Eleanor ‘but shouldn’t we call the police?’

‘Not until we’ve ascertained if a crime has taken place. Now, does everybody have a car, or does anyone want a lift in the van to the morgue?’

‘Where’s the body going?’ asked the young woman.

‘In the van of course. Has everybody got their metal case labelled

Part Two, not to be used by children under sixteen.

‘Which case do you mean?’ a pale man asked.

‘The one containing a scalpel and saw.’

 

For more dark tales dip into Times and Tides

Twenty five stories starting with a blind date and ending on Xmas Eve, with no clue as to what you might expect in between. In this third collection of short stories are some real places and experiences plus much that could happen or should never happen.

Flash Fiction Friday – 963 – Stolen Identity

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Amelia DeVere was dreading her birthday; Brian and the girls were coming round with her present, a lap top. They had given her several other choices; a clever phone, an eye mask, a lozenge or was it a capsule? She had plumped for the lap top, at least she wouldn’t be expected to put it in her handbag and use it. She was quite happy with her mobile phone that didn’t take pictures, buttons 1, 2 and 3 were programmed for the local mini cab firm, Jenny next door and Brian.

But Amelia had not realised the full implications of her choice until it was too late.

You’ll be able to Facetime Aunty Phoebe in Canada and see pictures of the new baby on Facebook.

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‘I just want to do e-mails’ said Amelia, on the offensive as she answered the door on her birthday morning.

‘Of course, we need to do that first. But just think Gran, you would have been the first to know Constanza was expecting, instead of the last.’

Just as Brian’s marriage was breaking up, her younger son Roger had got his act together and met someone. It didn’t appear they were going to get married, but now she was pregnant they had reluctantly left the Orangutan sanctuary and returned to Constanza’s hometown, Melbourne.

She was soon sending Roger an e-mail, AmDev@gmail.com

‘Can we have lunch now?’ she pleaded.

‘In a mo Gran, let’s just look at Facebook and make sure there are no other Amelia DeVeres… oh look, there are…

Are you this Amelia DeVere?

They all laughed at the young woman with spiky rose pink and sky blue hair, but then Amelia felt rather miffed at seeing a member of the family she didn’t know.

‘That’s probably not her real name Mum,’ said Brian ‘look, she’s an author, got her own author page.’

‘Can we look at it?’

‘No, you have to be her friend.’

‘I don’t need to be her friend if I’m a relative.’

The screen was flashing, artificial fingernails were skimming across the keyboard.

‘Here’s her Amazon page,’ said her granddaughter ‘…author of fruity romances Strawberries in Surmmer, Peaches for Pandora, hundreds of reviews… The book every twentysomething must take on holiday, published in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.’

‘Let’s read a preview’ urged her sister.

Amelia had to admit she was quite impressed that they could turn the pages of a pretend book. ‘Let me read, I’m getting used to this lap top… Pandora ran her slender manicured fingers through the dark hairs on Mickael’s chest, then across his firm tanned stomach, bringing to life his…’ she peered closer with her bi-focals at the small print ‘bringing to life his what?’

‘I don’t think that’s your sort of book Mother’ said Brian, hastily moving his large hands across the keyboard.

Images flashed across the screen, more frantic tapping by the girls.

‘Look Gran, Uncle Roger’s accepted you as a friend, they must still be up, probably midnight there.’

Suddenly the bemused grandmother was confronted with a black and white picture of an alien, but her granddaughters screamed with delight.

‘It’s a boy, you’re going to have your first grandson.’

‘They can’t have had the baby already.’

‘No, they’ve just had the scan to tell the sex; four hours ago 23 comments and 40 likes already, you can make a comment.’

‘That’s revolting, looks like one of their Orangutans.’

‘We all looked like that once, in the womb, I can’t believe how ultrasound has improved since we had the girls,’ said her son ‘but I don’t think I would put it on Facebook.’

The girls giggled ‘We can’t put what Gran said, how about Wonderful news, do u want to Facetime tomorrow?’

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Over lunch the girls discussed Constanza and why there were no pictures of her on Facebook and would Dad pay for them to visit their new cousin, but Amelia returned to the subject of the other Amelia.

‘Of course I would know if she was a real DeVere, can I complain if she’s an impostor?’

‘Let’s Google and see what else we can find out.’

‘Yes, never mind the dishes, let’s get back on the lap top’ she said.

She was surprised to see her own DeVeres mentioned, but it was Amelia the novelist who had page after page of blue writing devoted to her, image after image came up as they visited websites. The young woman was everywhere, The Word Hut, Writers’ Room, Romantic Novelists Association, Twitter, she even had her own Blog.

‘Why does she think we want to know how the romantic holiday with her gorgeous man went?’ puzzled Amelia.

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But after the family had left she felt compelled to switch the lap top on and practice her new skills. She couldn’t resist Googling Amelia. The writer was planning to attend literary festivals and book signings, perhaps it would be possible to see her in the flesh…

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A few days later the grandmother’s notebook was full, she was pretty certain she had looked up every internet mention of Amelia and written it down, she had also read the openings of all her books. She wasn’t even very good at writing, the older woman wondered how she had become so famous.

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A week later the door bell rang; Amelia DeVere was very surprised when a plain clothes policeman introduced himself. He was equally surprised to find she lived alone.

‘D.I. Benson, C.C.U. Cyber Crime Unit. We’re investigating the stalking of a young woman, she has been trolled on Twitter, someone’s hacked into her e-mails, various other online abuses… I can’t go into details. We noticed that the most on line activity connected to her internet presence was coming from this locality, we may need to take your computer away to be examined.’

 

Read more short stories in my four collections;

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Friday Flash Fiction – Musical Chairs

 

‘Mother’s decided what she would like to do for her birthday.’

Roger had come home to find leaflets spread all over the coffee table and his wife and mother-in-law enjoying tea and cake.

‘She wants to go to a concert.’

‘How about Melodies From The Musicals,’ said Roger ‘or this piano recital at the town hall?’

‘Too dull; next Wednesday night at the concert hall sounds wonderful’ the old lady passed the brochure to her daughter.

‘Shostakovich, an hour and a quarter, are you sure?’

‘Yes, is that the symphony with the big orchestra and lots of drums? Good, let’s go to that, it may well be my last birthday.’

‘It might be rather loud’ said Roger hopefully.

‘Not for someone hard of hearing’ she retorted.

‘I’m not sure if you will like the second half’ said his wife ‘…a new commission, can’t pronounce the composer. Making full use of the percussion section, this exciting new composer takes Shostakovich as his inspiration. The fifty five minute work is a profound comment on post Soviet, Twenty First Century Russia, sounds a bit heavy.

‘You’re never too old to try something new’ her mother chuckled

broken drumstick close up dark dirty
Photo by abednego ago on Pexels.com

 

The old lady was pleased with her seat in the front row and settled back to watch the orchestra manoeuvre onto the stage. Shostakovich lived up to her expectations; the percussionists put their heart and soul into the performance. She tapped her feet and strummed her fingers on the arms of the seat. The vibrations shook every ache and pain out of her body, she hadn’t felt so alive for years. As the applause died down she turned excitedly to her daughter and son-in-law.

‘You didn’t fall asleep in that Roger. Do you remember the last time we came here, that poor chap only pinged his triangle twice; tonight he was in his element.’

‘Do you want to pop to the ladies Mother?’

She shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t mind an ice cream.’

‘We’ll try not to be too long.’

The old lady nodded and watched everyone get up to stretch their legs; she was soon sitting alone staring at the empty stage, wondering how steep the side steps were. She stood up; within moments she was perched on the seat behind the timpani, how different everything looked from up here. She admired the array of instruments, drums, xylophones, glockenspiels and chimes; just as fascinating were the selection of implements to strike them. She picked up a stick and hesitantly tapped the drum, then struck it firmly.

A young man in tails strode onto the stage then stopped in surprise.

‘You don’t mind do you dear, it is my birthday.’

He looked round nervously, then demonstrated each instrument and let the old lady try.

Backstage the conductor was glad to hear the percussion section having a last minute practice for the difficult new piece.

As Roger returned with three tubs of ice cream he was surprised to see his mother-in-law being escorted back to her seat by a member of the orchestra. Settling down, he read the programme with dismay.

‘Oh dear, I don’t think we’re going to enjoy the next piece, we could leave…’

‘Certainly not, I wouldn’t miss it for the world’ his mother-in-law replied.