Today's blog post, like two previous ones in this series, was suggested by my friend Bryce Kime. The writing prompt was simply "Mannequin Memoirs." I had no idea where it would go when I started it, and I was actually quite surprised at where it ended up. This is bizarro fiction at its most...well, bizarre. It's even weird for me, and that's saying something. I hope you enjoy it. I enjoyed writing it (as twisted as that is to admit). Ready! Set! Go!...
"THE MANNEQUIN MEMOIRS"
The first time I saw Quin, my heart – much like the rest of me – stood still. She was tall and leggy, even for a mannequin, with sky-blue painted-on eyes you could get lost in. Her blond wig fell in ringlets just past her shoulders, and she'd been dressed in a sharp-looking royal blue blouse with khaki slacks and pointed-toe flats. Her delicately crafted, molded plastic hands bore painted-pink nails, the very essence of femininity. Needless to say, it was love at first sight – for me at least.
Though she was positioned only a few feet away from me – facing me, in fact – at the entrance to Macy's – we could not properly introduce ourselves just yet. I wondered if she was staring at me, or if that was just the way her head had been angled. It was difficult to tell in her current state, but I would find out shortly. The mall was closing soon, and when the workers left we would all be able to animate ourselves, as we did every night.
At that moment, Judith, the night manager, made her way to the front of the store, and began tugging at the gate which secured the interior mall entrance.
"This stupid thing sticks every time!" Judith complained, and muttered an unsavory oath. I smiled inwardly. Judith was a good person, but she was too grumpy for my tastes. And too human.
As she passed by me again, Judith stopped and stared curiously, apparently seeing a smudge of something on my face. She licked her thumb and rubbed at a spot near my mouth. Satisfied that the stain was gone, she continued on her way back to the center of the store.
I was hoping no last-minute shoppers would linger tonight, because I was literally itching to make my move on the lovely new mannequin who'd captured my lifeless heart. Twenty-five agonizing minutes later, the lights dimmed and the employees' door was shut and locked, and I was finally free.
I stepped down from my pedestal, stretched my arms and legs wildly to loosen up my joints, and sauntered over to the other side of the aisle where she stood. She hadn't yet moved.
"So, what's your name, beautiful?" I said, in the most charming of tones.
She craned her neck toward me and raised a painted eyebrow. "Does that line usually work for you?"
"What line? I just want to know what to call you in my dreams, baby!" I said, smirking smugly at my slyness.
"The only time you'll ever call me is in your dreams!" she sneered. "The name's Quin. Who are you, and why are you bothering me?"
"I'm Manny. And I'm not bothering you. I'm making your dreams come true!"
Quin descended from her pedestal, looked at me skeptically, rolled her eyes, and turned her back on me. This wasn't going well. Perhaps I was coming on a bit strong.
"I'm sorry if I was rude," I offered. "I'm no good at meeting new people. Can we try this again?"
"You can," Quin replied. "I can't promise you the result will be any different, though."
"Okay," I said, frowning. This was one tough cookie! "Hi, my name is Manny. It's nice to meet you. And you are?"
"I already told you, I'm Quin," she hissed, and grudgingly turned to face me, plastering on an even faker smile than the one already painted on her face.
"So where are you from, Quin? That's a lovely name, by the way." I beamed at her, very little fakery required, smitten as I was.
"HQ. And thanks," she said, curtly.
"HQ? Is that near Albuquerque?" I asked, thinking the letters were shorthand for some unpronounceable Native American town out West somewhere.
"No, dummy! HQ as in Headquarters. You know, New York City?" Quin stared blankly, almost as though it were daytime again.
"Oh, yes, of course," I said, and almost let her epithet go unchecked. "You don't have to be cruel, you know. I'm just making conversation."
"Who's being cruel?" Quin retorted. "You are a dummy, aren't you? So am I, for that matter."
"I understand that," I answered. "But I'm kind of sensitive about that word. I prefer 'mannequin' – don't you?"
"I prefer to be left alone," she said. "But you aren't going to do that, are you, Manny?"
"I will, if you want me to," I murmured. I tried a different tack. "I'm from Cleveland, and thank you for asking."
"I didn't, but okay." Quin rolled her eyes in my direction again, and I sighed.
I hadn't bombed like this since they brought in that transvestite mannequin last winter – and even then, I didn't bomb so much as make a complete fool of myself. How was I supposed to know that she was a he?
"Yeah, Cleveland is where they make most of us these days. They got a big factory in the suburbs, somewhere near Akron, I think." I was losing Quin's interest more with every word I spoke, if that were even possible. "So, uh, you really are quite beautiful, Quin."
"I don't know," she replied, "I think they could've made me a little thinner. Look at these hips they saddled me with!"
"Oh, I am!" I answered too quickly. "I mean...I see 'em. They're quite...I mean, I don't see any problems with them. Not at all."
"You wouldn't. You're a man," Quin shot back. "Lard City is what they are! Is there a box cutter around here somewhere?" She craned her neck to and fro, and started heading toward the stockroom.
"What do you need a box cutter for?" Puzzled, I followed her, but not too closely. Quin's hands may have looked delicate, but I was sure they packed quite a punch.
"I've got to do something about these hips," she complained. "I look like Jennifer-Flippin'-Lopez!"
I watched her for a moment as she walked ahead of me. "Yeah, you kinda do." I giggled mischievously. Probably shouldn't have done that.
Quin stopped in her tracks, and turned to face me again. The look in her eyes was no longer sexy; slightly frightening, but definitely not sexy. I waited for her to speak. She didn't; but her point was made.
"Cutting yourself is not the answer," I remarked, helpfully.
"Then what is, Manny?" Quin cocked her head sideways, boring into me with those bright blue eyes.
"Accepting yourself. There's nothing wrong with you, Quin. Matter of fact, you're hot!" She reared back a fist, threateningly. "I didn't mean that! I mean, I did – but not in those words. In nicer, less-misogynistic words." I smiled thinly, to further delay her wrath.
"You don't even know me!" Quin shouted.
"No, I don't," I said. "But I'm working on that right now."
"Well, take a break, you're getting on my nerves," Quin replied, a little calmer this time. She walked a few steps further and disappeared into the stockroom. Seconds later, she screamed loudly and exited, shuffling past me quickly.
I didn't have to ask, but I figured I might as well, to keep the conversation going. "See something disgusting in there?"
"Oh my word! What was that thing, and what was it doing?" Quin turned toward me, scowling and grimacing at the same time. Neat trick, that.
"That thing was Steve. And he was probably eating his supper," I replied cryptically.
"Steve's a mannequin? Like us?" she asked. "And he eats –?"
"Himself. Yep, that's Steve, all right." I shook my head, mocking disapproval but laughing inwardly.
"You mean to tell me that we're sharing a store with a mannequin who eats himself?" She scowled/grimaced even more now. "That's sick!"
"Well, he only eats his legs and feet!" I said. "It's not like he's eating anything important! And besides, he'd never eat one of us. He says that would just be weird." I chuckled.
"I can't believe this, Manny!" Quin shouted. "How can you just stand there and act like this is okay? People don't eat their own legs. That's just crazy!"
"Maybe people don't," I said, "But Steve does. And he's not a person – he's a mannequin."
"But it's gruesome!"
"Manny, why didn't you tell me before I went in there?" Quin still looked horrified.
"I should have," I started. "But –"
"Darn right, you should have!" Quin started to cry, and didn't complain when I pulled her toward me and embraced her.
"It's okay, Quin," I said, patting her gently on the back. "Just keep your distance with Steve, and everything will be fine. He won't hurt you, I promise."
"Manny?" Quin suddenly stopped crying, and looked up at me quizzically. "Who did I replace in the front window?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, innocently.
"Well, they wouldn't have ordered me from HQ if they hadn't needed to replace another mannequin, right? Who was up there?"
I released her from my embrace, and looked away nervously. "Her name was Jeri. I didn't know her that well. I never got a chance to."
"Why? What happened to her?" Quin glanced suspiciously at me.
"I don't know. I think she had an accident of some kind." I had to change the subject; this was getting too dicey. "I'm glad they sent you, Quin. You're way prettier than she was."
"What kind of accident, Manny?" She took a step back, subtle, but I noticed.
"Well, her head...it sort of, fell off."
"How did her head fall off? That doesn't make any sense." Quin was clearly worried now. "Did you–?"
"Did I what?" I said, and took a step toward Quin. She took another step back.
"Did you do something to her, Manny?"
"Okay, you got me," I said, in mock defeat. "I lied to you. Truth is...you look just like Jeri. Spitting image of her. She was gorgeous, just like you are, Quin."
"You're scaring me, Manny," said Quin, taking another step back.
"And technically, her head didn't fall off, per se. I sort of, well, tore it off myself."
"You killed her?"
"Technically, I didn't. Because she wasn't alive to begin with." I snickered at my own joke. "I guess you could say I discontinued her."
"But why, Manny?" Quin was shaking her head continuously, confusion clearly overwhelming her at this point. "Why would you want to hurt her?"
"I don't know," I said honestly. "It's just something I feel like doing every now and then. But only with the pretty ones. The beautiful ones. Like you, Quin."
Quin turned to run, but I was quicker than she was. I grabbed her by the leg, causing her to fall on the carpet-covered concrete floor.
It was over in seconds.
The next morning, I stood in my usual spot as Loria, the opening manager, rolled up the gate to the interior mall entrance, opening the store for business.
She turned to find Gracie, her lead window-dresser, standing right in front of her.
"We lost another one last night," said Gracie, sighing sadly as though it mattered.
"You mean the one with the missing leg that we just replaced yesterday?" Loria didn't see the point of this stupid game that Judith and the night crew were playing on her, but she'd had enough and planned to address it with the store manager this time. No more covering for the foolishness of others.
"No, not that one. Although his right leg is gone again – surprise, surprise!" Gracie continued. "No, I mean the new one that just came in from HQ. That tall blond one we outfitted with the blue and khaki getup yesterday morning."
"She's missing?" asked Loria. "Shoot, that was a good one, too! Looked a lot like that one we had and lost last month."
"But she isn't missing. She's back in the Kids' Department, over in that back corner. Head's torn clean off. Just like all the other ones."
"You gotta be kidding me!" spat Loria. "Not again! That's the sixth one this year, and it's not even June!"
"Tell me about it!" Gracie exclaimed.
"You best believe I'm gonna tell somebody about it!" Loria replied, and the two ladies made their way toward the Kids' Department where I had left Quin.
As soon as I was sure they were out of sight and no shoppers were approaching, I glanced across the aisle at Quin's empty display pedestal – and I smiled.