Five stories connected. Figure out the order, email it to me, and win valuable prizes. Ennumerate from 1 to 5 in the correct fortune sequence, can you? Or is your brain too small? Yes, it is, but try anyway. : D
What are the valuable prizes? I don’t know. Suggest them, and if I agree, then you win them. A sketch, a story, baked cookies, I really don’t know. It doesn’t really matter anyway because I’m so backed up on commissions and collaborations that you’ll probably receive your valuable prize a year from now. Still, try if you like.
— — —
“Can you take care of him for two weeks?”
Lucy stared at her sister Grace, the eldest and merciless, never an accomplice, always a tattletale, and despite anything she claimed, so attached to structure that she was the least sibling likely to murder Toy. Or so Lucy hoped.
“No. You have custody, you figure out how to take care of that runt while you’re out of town. Why do you have a job at all? You have millions of dollars at your disposal, more headed your way in royalties, why are you working?”
Lucy stared impassibly at her sister and said nothing.
“Fantastic. The silent treatment. Fuck you, Lucy. You sit here and ask me to take care of this little monstrousity while you galavant off to… where? Europe?”
Echoing Toy, Lucy murmured, “I’m not allowed to say.”
Grace guffawed as only she could.
“You sound just like it. You’t not allowed to say. Forget it. Hire a nanny for freaks; you have the money to hire a discreet sitter. In the meantime I have a mortgage, debts, and my own children to take care of. I’m not going to take up tending to the needs of my deceased mother’s aging sex toy. The thought is unthinkable.”
“I’ll give you Toymark.”
“I’ll give you Toymark if you take care of Toy for two measly weeks. But he has to be alive and healthy when I return.”
“You’ll hand over the entire property?”
“Yes. I know you love the island. I know you love the cottage. Take care of Toy while I’m gone and I’ll—”
“Done. I’ll do it.”
From his carrying cage, Toy cried out in protest.
“Sign the papers now and I’ll do it.”
“No. I’ll only sign over the property to you when I come back and see that Toy is alive and healthy.”
“If you lie to me about this…”
“Look at me. I’ve never lied. Ever. Take care of him while I’m gone.”
“Oh, I’ll give it food and water, but don’t expect anything else from me. I’m not going to remove it from its cage and hug it like you do, or cram it into my pussy like Mother did. It’ll be breathing when you come back, and if you don’t sign over the cottage then, I swear I’ll find a way to hurt you.”
“I love you too, dear sister.”
“Go to hell.”
“Toy, I’ll be back in two weeks, okay? Gracey will take care of you until then.”
“Lucy? Lucy, don’t go! Don’t leave me with her! Lucy?”
Grace’s voice was hate and ice. “It’s just you and me now, worm. I don’t want to hear your shitty voice at all, so shut the fuck up or—beach house or not—I will toss you on this kitchen floor and crush you with my foot.”
— — —
“Good morning, Lucy.”
“How are you?”
“I’m very sad.”
“You miss my mom?”
“Because she loved me. She loved me so much that she shrank me and kept me by her side this entire time. I wasn’t happy about it at first, but… you know how she was. She could explain anything to me and make it sound sensible. She made it sound right that I was small, even when I didn’t believe so in the beginning.”
“How did she shrink you?”
“I don’t know, Lucy. You know the story. I was walking to my car after leaving work, and when I was distracted unlocking it I felt a prick in my neck, and then nothing. And then, the rest of my life.”
“Do you think what she did was right?”
“What is right? I don’t know. She was a thief in the night and she stole my life away, but I can’t imagine ever going back; not even now that she’s gone. Whatever I am now, she made me. I am Toy. I’ll die Toy. If you flush me down the toilet, you’ll be flushing down Toy.”
“Who were you before?”
“I’m not allowed to say.”
“Mom is dead, Toy. You can tell me. Maybe I can take you back? Look for someone? Would you like me to do that?”
Toy thought short and hard. The answer was the same.
“I’m not allowed to say. My name is Toy. That past is behind me. Whoever I was then is long gone. Even if I could go back, I know I would not be loved as I am. Was. Owner loved me exactly as I am. I only wish I’d know that right from the start instead of giving her so much shit.”
“Okay. I don’t get any of this. I really don’t. You’re so tiny, I don’t know why Mom thought you were anything special. Please don’t be offended! I just don’t get it. I don’t get any of this. I see you and I see a man that should be… what? Six feet tall?”
“And instead you’re a couple of inches tall. It’s unreal. You belong in a lab alongside my mom’s brain.”
“She didn’t do this with her brain.”
“No? Then how did she do it?”
Toy had no answers for Lucy. He looked around at the luxurious room he knew so well, and dispaired. Owner was gone. He was safe and sound, surrounded by riches, and all he wanted was long, strict fingers around him, demanding sex ’round the clock.
He looked up at Lucy and searched for genetic markers that he could connect to Owner. Deep-set eyes, brown and unfathomable. Check. Full lips, capable of encompassing his entire body at once. Check. Funny nose, too wide to be beautiful. Check. Owner. Owner. Why could I not end my days next to you?
Lucy sat back in her chair. On the table, in a comfortable recliner made to encompass a two-inch tall man, Toy despaired.
— — —
Grace was butchering the fresh catch, greasy fish that made an excellent dinner with potatoes and green beans. Toy had overheard her phone calls to her ex, an addict that refused to pay alimony or visit his children. That was not a problem he could solve. He could, however, help with dinner.
“What the fuck do you want, pest?”
“You’re messing up that fish. May I help?”
“How can a runt with the brain the size of a flea help? What the fuck do you know about fishing?”
“Quite a bit, as a matter of fact. I caught quite a few when I was a kid… back then I was about your height, and it tickled my mom to no end that I brought dinner from the creek nearby. She taught me how to fillet my catch.”
“Ok, flea brain. What the fuck do I do?”
“Get a scaler.”
“I don’t know what a scaler is, abomination!”
“Okay. Just… pick me up in your hand and take me to the utensil drawer. I’ll show it to you.”
Grace McGillicuddy, control freak that she was and having failed at making her ex-husband be a responsible—if not good—father, was secretly thankful for a task she could accomplish. She lifted the tiny man that stood on the picnic table with fingers covered in fish scales and walked back into the kitchen aiming him at drawers and cabinets like a loaded gun.
“Where is it, then?”
Toy pointed the way and armed Grace with an arsenal of sharp tools that frightened him to no end. She had nothing to lose by gutting him instead of the fish, but her attention was aimed alsewhere and he encouraged its direction carefully as he told her how to scale the fish, how to trim the fins, how to sink her thumb into the catch and remove the gills. There was a brilliant satisfaction in her eyes when she gutted their lunch, and Toy was sure she was thinking of her ex when she beheaded the silver creature.
As it baked in the oven, Grace sat outside in an Adirondack chair, and looked less than her hateful self. Toy refused to feel encouraged by their interactions, and prayed for his guardian’s return. Lucy, Grace’s sister and the only person Toy trusted, was away on a yearly business trip, the nature of which she refused to reveal to him. When Grace spoke, Toy almost yelped he was so startled.
“I guess you’re not a complete loss.”
— — —
“How old is it anyway?”
“I don’t know. Seventy? It doesn’t matter, we have to get rid of it.”
“And if Lucy doesn’t give us our share of the money—”
“Plus extra for our suffering!”
“—We’ll get rid of her too.”
Grace listened as her brother and sister groused and plotted, and said nothing until they noticed she was unusually quiet.
“What’s going on with you? You usually spill as much vitriol as we do, but today you’re just gonna sit there?”
“Neither one of you read Mother’s will, did you?”
“Because thenyou’d know that if the little pest dies within the first ten years of Mother’s death, no one gets a penny.”
“What?! That bitch! Why would she do that to us? I can’t believe it!”
“And she disinherited you, little brother.”
He said nothing, but his face was white with shock and rage. Grace’s sister was more vocal.
“I say we kill them anyway, and contest the will.”
“No, we’re not going to do any such thing,” said Grace. “We’re going to do the opposite of that.”
“What the hell is the opposite of killing someone?”
“We’re all going to make nice, you understand? We’re going to be a family again. Toy is not going to die for a good long time. He’s only middle-aged and Mother took good care of him. No, we’re going to keep him in perfect health.”
“You called it Toy.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Yes… you called it Toy instead of pest or abomination.”
“And you said he.”
“I certainly did not!
“You certainly did. Why is that?”
Grace bore their suspicious looks with aplomb and went on as though they’d said nothing. They’d be distracted soon enough.
“Lucy’s had him— it three years, and we’re going to spend the remaining seven years being very nice to that little pest, and at some point those seven years, you, little sister, are going to get h— it to fall in love with you.”
The two of them stared at her again, but this time in shocked silence. Then, laughter.
“No. Never. It’s old. It has gray hair.”
“Only a few gray hairs, and that’s not the point. Our inheritance is the point. You’re going to marry him, and you’re going to get it all back.”
“And then we’ll kill it.”
To that, Grace said nothing. She’d say nothing to them of the real plan, not until they could do nothing about it.
— — —
“You mean to tell me that this little shit gets everything?”
“Shut up! Didn’t you hear what this guy said? We get the money if we take care of said little—”
“Ladies, sir, please.”
One by one they fell into uncomfortable silence, the opulent room in which they sat offered no comfort. On the contrary, it insulted them by containing the source of their anger: On the estate attorney’s desk sat a birdcage made of pure gold. In it sat a tiny man, the sole beneficiary of their mother’s fortune.
The second youngest of her children by a long deceased husband uttered one last protest, “This little pest doesn’t have any rights! How can it get any of the money?”
“Shh!” His older sister jammed a finger across her lips, the way she used to do when they were all little and he mouthed off against some imagined unfairness.
The attorney cleared his throat and continued.
“I could have sent you each a copy of the will, but it was stipulated by your mother that I read it to you as I relinquish custody of her ward, Mr. Toy.”
The son snickered then. “Toy. That’s not even a name. It’s not legal. None of this is legal.”
The eldest spoke then, her voice barely controling rage. “Look, Mr…”
“Mr. Johanssen. Isn’t there a way we can dispense with all this… silliness? Look at it. It’s a—she bit her lip then, murder in her mind—It’s a pest. It’s an abomination. If we could just come to an agreement that would be to everyone’s satisfaction?” She let the meaning of her words linger tacit in the air. Name a figure, give us my mother’s money and we’ll flush this thing down the garbage disposal.
“Madam, I’m bound by law to follow Mrs. Owner’s intructions.”
“Dear God, please don’t call her that. Her name was Francine McGillicuddy the 5th, not this stupid ‘owner’ crap.”
“Mr. McGillicuddy, she changed her name legally, and I must address her by her legal name.”
“This is insane. We’re not going to sit here and take it.”
“We have to,” said the youngest. “We have to follow mom’s instructions.”
“Fuck you, you kiss-ass. You just want the money.”
“I want what’s right. The money coming to us is what’s right. What’s right is respecting mom’s wishes. What’s right is taking care of Toy now that she’s dead. I have no doubt in my mind she would never want him harmed.”
“It. Don’t call it a him. She never did.”
“I can’t… do that. He looks too much like a person.”
“Whatever. You’re not gonna get the money. I’ll take care of the little shit, and I’ll make sure it stays alive long enough for me to get it all.”
“I’m afraid that’s not how it works, Mr. McGillicuddy. Mrs. Owner made very clear that whoever stated first that her instructions would be followed is the one that gets guardianship of Mr. Toy and his fortune.”