Read More: A Brief Interview with Laurie Frankel
Ray leans over Rebecca’s shoulder and crosses her right leg over her left. There is the familiar clunk as her pump clatters to the floor. “Oh, Rebecca,” he says, and replaces the red heel on her slender foot, then pushes her chair in toward the kitchen table. Ray places a napkin on his lap and gives Rebecca’s hand a squeeze as he says grace. Then he eats: scrambled eggs with Tabasco, news radio in the background.
Except for the occasional exclamation, Ray does not speak to Rebecca—that would be odd. Sometimes, it seems, she looks so hard into his eyes he thinks she’s about to say something. Other times she’s all blank stare, drifting.
There is a curtained window above the kitchen sink shaded by a large Poplar tree. If someone happened to walk by and look in they would see what appeared to be a couple enjoying breakfast.
Sept 2, 1998, at 1:05PM, email@example.com wrote:
Yes, I remember speaking with you last January. Welcome back. There is approximately a four-month wait for Rebecca. This can be reduced to two months with an expedite fee of $500.
To answer your questions:
- You are correct, heads are interchangable. You wrote, in addition to Rebecca (Style #2), you were eyeing the Stephanie head (Style #8) which is regularly $250, but I can give you 10% off as a volume discount.
- The skeletal system is too flexible to allow her to stand upright. Rebecca will have the relaxed state of a sleeping girl.
- You can soak Rebecca in a hot bath or put her under an electric blanket to create the sensation of body heat. Silicone retains heat very effectively.
On his way to work Ray stops at the Seven Eleven to buy a cheese danish, some floss and the paper. He is tall, slim and handsome which gives people, women mostly, the misperception he knows his way around the female sex. “Fine day, isn’t it?” the cashier says, eyes cast down, and slowly counts out Ray’s change, touching his palm with two quarters and a nickel. “Come back soon.” She looks into his eyes. Ray nods and leaves.
As the car idles Ray reads the front page and local business section before turning to the obits, a habit he’d taken to when his mother died five years ago. Ray and his mother lived as if they were one life slipped inside the other. They sat for hours, quiet together, Ray reading, she knitting or doing the crossword. As such, they communicated.
The week she died he clipped her obituary and, while it didn’t bring his mother home, it pinpointed her to a specific place even if it was only page thirty-two of the Des Moines Register.
He kept her room exactly as she had left it and slipped the piece of newsprint into a copy of Ladies Home Journal. Once a week he went in to dust and wind the bedside clock.
On Sept 15, 1998, at 11:05 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Thank you for your online order. This email serves as your receipt.
Body #4 (fully articulated)
Dress: blue gingham/white sandals
Notes: No makeup
Natural Hair (auburn, client sending color chip) $200.00
Tattoo (client sending picture/location) $125.00
Expedite fee $500.00
Grand Total $7616.75
**ALL SALES ARE FINAL**
When Ray hears the delivery truck pull up to the house the sensation is that of a white, hot flash—blinding but on the inside. He opens the garage door and waves the truck up the drive. It takes three large men to lower the wooden crate off the truck bed. If they know what it is they don’t let on.
Ray signs by the X and watches the truck pull away. As the garage door closes, a puff of air floats the yellow receipt up off the crate. It dips from side to side, rising a bit each time as it falls. Ray sits on a broken chair and stares at the crate for a long while. Sitting, not doing, in the stillness of the garage with the crate’s potential resting before him, Ray could not so much stop time as hold it till he felt ready.
At a later point, as if on command, he takes the electric drill from the pegboard and sets to removing the one hundred and twenty screws on the crate lid. Twenty minutes later he lifts the top and sees a shoulder covered in gingham. He breathes in, wipes sweat and swallows. As the peanuts fall away, Rebecca, shipped upright and seated, looks as if all she is waiting for is an outstretched hand to help her up. […]
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On June 3, 2000, at 1:10 PM, email@example.com wrote:
We have had many special requests for custom configurations over the years, but yours is a first. I spoke with Rick and, while he has never attempted a pregnant body, he is confident he can meet the challenge. In order to execute this we have to build a custom mold requiring an additional charge of $1500 for a total of $8000 for the four-month body only. And, yes, of course, the Rebecca head will fit. I look forward to hearing back from you.
Three months later a second Rebecca arrives, identical in every way to the original except this one appears four months pregnant. Ray is particularly pleased with the taut roundedness of Rebecca’s belly complete with a dark line of skin running from the belly button down. And, while he knows it can’t be true, he could swear, when the light hits her cheeks, she looks just the slightest bit flushed. […]
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Laurie Frankel is the winner of the 2014 Walker Percy Prize for Short Fiction and a Pinch Journal Literary Prize, Bridport Prize and Glimmer Train Press finalist. Her fiction and creative nonfiction has appeared in Shenandoah, Alaska Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, North American Review and The Literary Review among others. Contact her at: FrankelyMyDear.com.