Category: Short Story
Genre: Fantasy short story
Approximately 19 printed pages (or about 16 minutes to read).
When Ellie Goldstein’s mother gives her a present that turns her life upside down, a strange little doll that forces her to make a wish. If she could have anything in the world, what would she wish for?
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I would have to kill my mom for giving me the psychotic little mannequin.
Okay, not literally kill her, but she’d be getting a piece of my mind. The little mannequin was six inches tall and made from blonde wood. Joints on the neck, waist, arms, and legs allowed you to bend and pose the doll.
The problem was the tiny mannequin was alive.
It was also a misogynist jerk. A royal pain in the tuchus.
Let me back up. My name’s Ellie Goldstein. I’m thirty-five, never married, and according to Mom, on the verge of old maidhood. That’s why she gave me the mannequin last Sunday.
I usually go to my parent’s house in Skokie for Sunday dinner. It’s the only time I get to eat a home cooked meal. I live on junk food, or chazerei as Mom says.
Last Sunday I drove to my parent’s bungalow and parked in the driveway behind Dad’s Buick wagon. I don’t know what year his rust colored car is, sometime in the eighties, but I swear the car’s so big it has its own zip code.
I went through the front door. The smell of Mom’s cooking filled the house. My mouth watered.
“Ellie is that you,” Mom called from the kitchen.
I hung my jacket over the closet’s doorknob. “Yeah Mom, what’re you making?”
“A lovely brisket. Gabe set it aside special for me, he did. Come I have something to show you.”
Oh no. A surprise from Mom usually meant a nice Jewish boy, a friend’s kid who Mom just happened to invite to dinner. I asked her to stop I don’t know how many times.
I ducked into the living room. Dad sat in his recliner, watching TV, his remote poised to switch channels the second a commercial he didn’t like came on.
“Hey sweetie.” He looked at me for a second and snapped his head back toward the TV. “Nope. Not that garbage.” He switched the channel.
“It doesn’t matter when you do that,” I said.
“They track it. When viewership goes down eventually they take the stupid commercials off.”
We’d had this conversation more times than I care to admit. The TV still used rabbit ears. No way some evil television conglomerate tracked my dad’s viewing habits, but you couldn’t convince him.
“Ellie,” Mom called. “Where’d you go? I have something to show you.”
I hooked a thumb toward the kitchen. “What’s the surprise?”
Dad changed TV channels again and shrugged. “Some stupid doll to solve your problems.”
A doll? What problems? Oh no, not the find a man and make some grandkids discussion again.
“I were you,” Dad said. “I’d head out the back door.”
I rolled my eyes at Dad and went to the kitchen.
Mom’s a short woman, almost perfectly round. Her hair is died so shiny-black it’s obvious to everyone except her it’s fake.
“Oh good,” Mom said. “Sit.”
I pulled out a kitchen chair and sat at the table.
She placed a shoebox wrapped in a red ribbon on the table before me.
“What’s this?” I said. “it’s not my birthday.”
Mom sat in the chair next to me. “I need a reason to give my favorite daughter a present, do I?”
“I’m your only daughter.”
I untied the ribbon and opened the lid. Inside was the six-inch, wooden mannequin. “Uh, thanks.”
Mom reached into the box, removed the mannequin, bent it into cross-legged pose and sat it in front of me. “Darling, isn’t it?”
I eyed Mom, wondering if she needed to adjust her medications.
“Barbara Shellings gave it to me. Some goy, a Romanian gypsy or something, gave it to her. Cute, isn’t it?”
“Why do I need luck?” I asked.
Mom stared at me the same way she had when I was twelve and asked her what the mohel did with the part they cut off.
“Carry it with you,” she said. “and you’ll have the luck of a thousand people.”
“Thanks Mom. When do we eat?”
After dinner I made to leave, giving the excuse I needed to go to work early in the morning. A small, white lie. I’m the receptionist at Feldworth Media, the number one rated advertising agency in the Chicago area for six years running, according to Bruntington’s annual survey. As lowly receptionist, I never needed to be early.
I grabbed my purse and coat from the hall closet’s doorknob.
“Don’t forget your present,” mom said.
I grabbed the shoebox with the weird little doll, thanked my parents and left. I tossed the shoebox and my purse in the passenger seat of my Corolla.
On the road, heading back to my apartment off of East Lake Ave in Glendale, I heard a small voice say “Don’t take Golf Road, there’s a traffic jam.”
What? I turned down “Hey Jude” on the radio and listened. Nothing. I must have been imagining it. Tired. Too many late nights watching Jimmy Fallon. I got off the Skokie Highway onto Golf Road and immediately regretted it. Cars were at a standstill. There must be an accident.
“Told ya,” said the small voice again.
I looked around. The shoebox lid had slid off and the little mannequin stood, elbows propped on the edge, face in hands, looking at me. Or would be looking at me, had it any eyes.
I jerked back and let out a little “eep.” Had traffic been moving I probably would’ve crashed my car.
“Okay, Toots,” said the voice, “let’s get this part over with. You’re not crazy. Yes, I’m talking. My name’s not Chuckie and I’m not going to hurt you.”