by J.S. Kierland
under the willow tree turning and twisting the soft plastic arms and legs,
slipping the electric colors and bright plastic shoes onto naked dolls.
Sammy squeezed a pair of blue jeans over slim hips and Phoebe showed him
how to stuff the bright orange turtleneck under the flowing blonde hair.
Cliffy moaned as he tried to force his doll into a glowing pink party
dress that had somehow turned inside out to expose the curve of the plastic
underneath. He finally handed the doll to Phoebe and she adjusted the
dress and spread its pink ruffles, making them fluff over the dolls
slim thighs and legs.
"Put the clothes on her, not her on the clothes," Phoebe told
him, and went back to fitting the studded black motorcycle jacket on the
svelte red headed doll she turned between her fingers. She knew the boys
were only playing with her because she had been away to what Cliffy called,
"the place in the long thin trees." She'd gone there to gain
back the weight, and to stop vomiting. It had been her first time and
she'd been surprised to find so many other girls with the same fears and
problems she had. Her cure went on for three endless weeks, and she wondered
if she'd ever stop thinking about fat fingers, chubby faces, and growing
breasts. The real test came when she sat down to her homecoming dinner
at the big oak table with the family. She ignored their strained voices
and furtive glances, and tried not to give any hint that she was about
to rush for the toilet to throw up at the end of each bite. Her Mother
finally wheeled in a large cake topped with burning candles that spelled
WELCOME HOME PHOEBE in dark dripping-chocolate. They had all brought her
presents for the occasion. There were brand new ice skates from her parents
and handmade earrings from her brothers. If they dont fit
I can always take them back, her mother blurted and even her father
laughed. Phoebe put on a fake smile, and wanted to go upstairs, close
the bedroom door and be alone with her dolls. For three horrible weeks
shed thought about nothing else but the smooth, slim bodies of her
perfectly shaped Barbie dolls and their bright electric clothes.
The boys waited for her to finish putting on the motorcycle boots. One
of the shoes on Cliff's doll hung loosely on its torn strap but the magnificent
pink dress glowed in the bright morning sun. Sammy's doll was perfect
in its form-fitting turtleneck and glittering black heels. Phoebe finished
dressing her redheaded doll in the tight leather pants and studded jacket,
and snapped her onto the sleek motorcycle.
The boys giggled and waited for her to yell, "Ready, set, GO,"
and they popped off their doll's heads and passed them to each other,
snapping on the new heads so that the dolls were transformed and wearing
different clothes. The boys shrieked and laughed, and kept popping the
heads on and off in a blur of revolving hairstyles.
Phoebe laughed with them, waiting for the kitchen window to open as she
passed her dolls head into the mix of tiny hands pulling off detachable
heads, snapping them on the slim waiting bodies, and holding them up to
show before starting all over again. She loved laughing with her brothers
and was glad to be with them again, even though she longed to be alone
in her room.
The kitchen window opened, got jammed, and Phoebe waited until it finally
straightened and shot up all the way. Her mothers shrill voice poured
down over them, Whats going on? Are you making the boys play
that awful doll game again?
Phoebes finger came up to her mouth and the boys loud laughter
turned into light giggles. Its all right, Mamma, she
yelled up at the window. We dont play that game anymore.
The boys hunched their shoulders to repress their laughter and crawled
further under the willow tree to begin changing the clothes on the dolls
again. When they finished they looked up at Phoebe and held their dolls
in position. It doesnt hurt at all, Phoebe whispered,
and the boys leaned forward, waiting for her, Ready, set, GO!