DOLL PARTS • by Shane Oshetski

My wife comes home with a new pair of arms. “What do you think?” she asks while turning to show them in the light of the kitchen window. They are smooth rubber unlike her last pair which were plastic and had seams where the two halves joined in the mold. The new arms are more attractive because they look more like skin, but I already miss her old ones. When we watch TV on the couch at night, I liked to pick the flakes of thin plastic away from her seams.

“How much were they?” I ask.

“We can afford them,” she says bending her elbows. There is a click when she does, the joint locking to maintain various poses. “Aren’t they cool?”

She is paying the bills and rent while I go to school, so I really can’t argue. I say they are nice and that she looks great in them. And she does, she looks like a different woman.

We turn out to love her arms. Men on the street check her out when she goes by and people in general seem to want to be near her. At home, she laughs more often and wants to make love in new ways and I feel closer to her. I like how my hands stick to her rubber when I sweat and the locking elbows allow her to hold me without her arms getting tired. I grow to like them so much that when she is laid off from her job, I don’t put them on the list of things we can do without until she finds work again.

Instead we get rid of the cable and the car. My wife spends her days faxing resumes and staying in her pajamas to save on laundry bills. While I study, I look up to stare at her posed beautifully at her desk. I tell her how wonderful she is, how much she means to me, and how proud she makes me. “You never said these things to me before,” she says. I don’t tell her it’s because of the arms.

Finally, she gets an interview. Since we had to give up our car, she has to walk through a bad neighborhood. Along the way, she is mugged and beaten. A witness calls the police, but by the time she gets to the hospital, the doctors say it’s too late and she’ll need a new torso.

We don’t have any health care so I have to take out a loan and opt for the cheapest torso on the market.  I don’t watch the surgery, afraid to see her dismembered. In post-op, she covers herself in the hospital blanket and won’t talk to me. The doctors say it will take her a while to get over the trauma and that I need to be patient.

She won’t let me see her naked when we get home. She needs time, she says. We no longer sleep in the same bed and I miss the click of her arms before she holds me. I try to get her to tell me what happened, but she says she can’t. Then the bank starts calling three times a day because we haven’t made payments on the torso loan and they threaten to take her arms if we default. I’m sure if we keep them, everything will go back to normal. “Just let the bank take them,” she says, “I don’t want them anyway.” I tell her she doesn’t mean that and I’ll figure it out. I have a year left of school before I can find reasonable work, so I quit and take work as a laborer.

One night, I come home early and accidentally walk in on her while she’s in the shower. Her new torso is the same plastic as her old arms. The water runs off her in rivulets, beading on her shoulders. I startle her, and she turns to face me. Her new breasts have a conventional shape, but her nipples are gone. She bends her arms and covers herself, but not before I see her sex is missing too. There is nothing but bare shining plastic.

She cries. She says she is sorry she kept this from me, but she didn’t know how to explain. I get into the shower with her. I say it doesn’t matter. I hold her closely, smoothing my hands over her and she locks her arms around me.

“You’re sure it doesn’t matter?” she asks.

“I’m sure,” I say.

That night she lets me back into the bed with her. Then the night after, too. She says she is lucky to have me. I try to be happy, but I want things to be back the way they were supposed to be. I figure we can buy her a new torso in a year if she just goes back to work. I press her to go on the job hunt, and when she says she still needs time, I’m angry. I know I need to give her the time she needs if we are going to get back to normal, but I have a hard time talking to her.

I stop telling her anything, even about my day, because I’m afraid I might snap and tell her I hate her. I try to cover by saying ‘I love you’ as much as I can, but even I can see my anger under everything. Soon, I move back to the couch, every morning saying I just fell asleep in front of the TV.

It goes on like this, then one night after work I find her standing in the bedroom doorway. She is in her red nightgown, but her arms are gone. I’m going to ask, but she stops me and tells me to unbutton her. I obey. Underneath are ruby rubber nipples and a fleshy, blow-up pussy.

“Where are your arms?”

“Gone,” she says. “Now, come back to me.”

Shane Oshetski lives high and dry in Boulder, Colorado. He’s a graduate of the writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently at work on a collection of short stories.

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Every Day Fiction

  • That was a very polished and powerful piece. Well done. The complexity of the thoughts, the acceptance of the doll as a real person, it all worked really well. Five stars!

  • Unusual story. As children we read doll stories and toy town stories, this one is an entirely different take. Well written.

  • One of the best I’ve read here. A great metaphor for a lot of things about marriage and life. Well done.

  • AJ Smith

    I LOVED this. So different, yet in the end not really!

  • kathryn

    Well done. Very engaging and original. It had me from the first sentence.

  • Brilliant. Loved everything about it.

  • Yeah I forgot to mention that I read this as a metaphor for life, marriage and other things.

    I am wondering why the ratings for this story are sitting at 3 stars with so many good comments. Hope the writer isn’t turned off. I would love to read some more.

  • Stylistically a bit rough, but a good concept. Unnecessary, distracting use of present tense.

  • ajcap

    Certainly interesting, didn’t skip a word. But, talk about suspension of belief. How did she pee? The pussy has other uses and yes, I know, metaphor and all that, but if she performed in every other way as a woman, she would need to pee at some point. Just saying…

    Wonderful imagination, Mr. Oshetski, look forward to more.

  • Rose Gardener

    Great story.

  • Philip Tite

    What strange but engaging story to read this morning. Thank you so much. And good luck with your story collection — I’m sure it will be filled with oddities, wonders, and grins.

  • I was hooked from the line “pick the flakes of thin plastic away from her seams” (How many of us did that to our cheap dolls when we were children?) and became more and more engrossed as the story went on. This is certainly a fabulous and strange bit of fiction!

  • Stan Long

    reads like an weird TV advt for prosthetics or a male’s experiences with an inflatable rubber doll of apparently female gender – its implications to do with the subjugation of women

  • Cool story, Shane.

  • Wow! You had me at hello or rather “My wife comes home with a new pair of arms.”

    Outstanding. Can we have some more, please, sir?

  • Rob Santa

    Wow, nothing but wow, and in a good way.

  • Jen

    This was a weird and wonderful story. It makes me wonder what kind of society we’ll bevome if we need to use plastic doll parts to excist. But then again, a new torso xould come in handy.
    I gave it a five, it deserves it.

  • Douglas Campbell

    Wonderful story about the nature of love, about how we love very specific qualities of our chosen mate, and how when those qualities disappear the love is threatened. Fine work, Shane!

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Love is never having to say… a multidude of things going on here and I think I’ll come back to it a few times.

  • What a wonderfully imaginative piece
    Well written ,
    five *****

  • Michael A. Kechula

    Great concept. Well executed. Nice to see some good speculative fiction. However,I think this would have been even more compelling in past tense. If you write another version, try past tense. Present tense gives it an ameteurish touch. You’re too good for that. One other thing…in another version pepper it with more dialog. You’ve set up some interesting scenes which almost cry out for it. Looking forward to seeing more of your work—but in past tense.

  • Bonnie

    Wow, what a strange and fascinating story. I’ve read this twice. Good job.

  • Excellent story – 5* from me. One of those ones where you really have no idea where it’s going but makes perfect sense when you get there.

  • Jim

    I loved this story. Absurd, surreal – I really enjoyed it. Thanks for writing and posting.

  • Great, great piece, Shane. Of course, a story by Shane should end with “come back,” but it’s the perfect ending to a perfect piece. Bravo.

  • Weird, but wonderful.

    Must say the tense didn’t bother me at all.