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.’

Silly Saturday – Lego in Literature

I’m sure we would all agree that the best YouTube videos are of Lego people and even on the big screen, wouldn’t you rather watch a blockbuster Lego Movie than one with real people in? But many people would be surprised to learn that Legoland is where some of the greatest writers get their inspiration.

My family are all Lego mad; you never grow out of Lego, you just spend more and more money on it, but it was only this year, after many hints that I got some Lego. You do not need to take the popular Bachelor of Arts in Lego Literature and Creative Danish at the University of Legoland to enrich your writing with inspiring plot lines and character development.

One of my lockdown birthday presents from Team H was a firefighter’s set, aged 4 plus. I just about managed to meet the challenge of building it on Facetime. There is a fire engine, a firefighter, a BBQ on fire and a Lego boy with a complex character – you can turn his head to have a scared face or a relieved face. How did the fire start? What happened next? Fearless Frank the Firefighter and Frightened Freddy became a short story. Then Team AK sent me a boat set, age 7 plus, a real challenge. A boat, two scuba divers, a sword fish and a treasure chest.  I built a landing stage and it wasn’t long before the hapless Frightened Freddy was standing precariously on the edge of the water… Frightened Freddy Falls In became the sequel…

I just received my first review – I wonder if Amazon will accept it?

I had also ordered myself a lockdown present of a big yellow box of bricks and bits – ages 0-99 so it should last me a while.

If you have had writers’ block during the pandemic, you need the world’s most famous plastic blocks.

Are you inspired by Lego or has Lego taken over your house?

The LEGO® Movie – Official Main Trailer [HD] – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ_JOBCLF-I

Friday Flash Fiction – Christmas Department

 

All Annie wanted was a new winter coat, but to reach Ladies Clothing she first had to fight her way through the Christmas Department… and it was only November the first. Lurid pinks and purples, gaudy gold and silver glitter for as far as the eye could see. Grinning reindeer, misshapen polar bears, fluffy mongrels and ugly kittens; a zoofull of cheap toys, not cheap to buy, just cheaply made.

She pictured the crates full of creatures arriving at the store, multiplied them by all the other stores in the country, envisioned a container full of crates, thought of the container ships she saw at the docks, piled high enough to topple over and sink. She saw a whole ship of stuffed animals, an ocean full of container ships ploughing through the waves bringing an endless supply of Christmas tack.

Annie continued her walk, still no sign of clothes racks, but a forest of excess packaging enabling gormless customers to be charged ten times the usual amount for a mug or pair of boxer shorts. Boxes, cartons, tins and tubs full of the most useless things, with the odd chocolate or packet of shortbread thrown in; crossword toilet paper, pink fluffy covers for mobile phones, ipads and ears. She thought she had seen everything till she arrived at ‘Gifts for Your Best Friend’; Father Christmas and ballet outfits for your dog and stockings for your cat to hang up.

The winter coat was forgotten and Annie’s blood pressure was soaring as she stepped onto the escalator, narrowly avoiding dangling decorations. As she ascended through the floors she blended in with other shoppers and none of them would have guessed her secret.

‘Excuse me Madam,’ said a young lady ‘this floor is staff only, offices and the managerial suite.’

‘It’s the manager I wish to see.’

‘Do you have an appointment?’

Annie showed her a small card.

‘Certainly, I’ll show you straight through.’

Annie sailed through the door before the girl had a chance to knock.

‘Get rid of the tat.’

The middle aged man behind the large desk stood up in surprise. He had only just heard the chain of stores had been saved from going into receivership and had no idea who the anonymous buyer might be.

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When Annie had her surprise win on the Pan European Mega Autumn Lottery she had been overwhelmed. All she needed was a new coat, but she had always fancied owning a little shop…

‘The Very Useful Shop…’

‘Pardon’ said the confused manager.

‘That’s what I shall call the company, once we’ve done a few alterations… you can start by having all that stuff downstairs packed up and sent back where it came from.’

 

By early December Annie had been nominated for Woman’s Hour ‘Woman of Power’ and was a guest on ‘Newsnight.’

‘How many container ships were sent back?’ asked the presenter.

‘Enough for the world to get the message.’

‘Did you spare a thought for the livelihood of the people who worked in the factories?’

‘Certainly, I bought the factories; I pay the staff a living wage and we have taken on new staff to cope with the alterations. The Very Useful Factory Company is up and running.’

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At Annie’s local shopping centre and in scenes repeated around the country, the pound shops, Christmas bazaars, calendar and card shops were empty. Everyone was flocking to The Very Useful Shop and the most popular department was Make and Take; the local news filmed customers of all ages cutting and pasting cards, painting pottery, knitting scarves and creating new garments from recycled clothes. Piped music was banned and customers were entertained by local choirs, hand bell ringers and a grand piano.

Rival businesses queried whether it was still a shop, but the Ombudsman reported that customers paid for the high quality raw materials and the delicious food served in the Meet and Eat restaurant.

Ministers from various departments came to visit and so too did several Archbishops. It was rumoured that the Queen was planning to film part of her Christmas Speech there, but more exciting for the children was the news that The Real Father Christmas was coming to visit.

 

‘Christmas Department’ was a runner up in 5 Minute Fiction’s Christmas competition 2012 and was featured on Christmas Eve in the on line Story Advent Calendar.

It rounds up the collection of stories in Hallows and Heretics – twenty four tales to take you through the year.