CHILDPLAY • by Nina Fortmeyer

The pink plastic car stopped so short, the Aladdin doll nearly fell out.

“Barbie, you drive like a stupidhead.” Monica made her voice as deep as she could, her man-doll voice.

“You always say everything’s my fault. We hit something, Aladdin,” Monica said in her grown-up lady voice. “We’re stuck.”

“I have to go potty,” she said in a squeaky voice for the three-year-old Kellie-doll.

“I’ll go see what you hit,” Aladdin said. Monica squeezed her hand into the alley behind Daddy’s dresser and pulled Aladdin out of the car. She used the doll to bat the object out from under the dresser, then stuffed him back in the plastic car. “It was a giant golden ring,” he told Barbie.

Monica stared at the ring, then ran into the hallway. “Mommy,” she yelled, not sure anyone would hear her over Max’s loud radio. “I found your wedding ring.”

“Monica, no.” Max pulled her into his room and shut the door.

“Max, I found Mommy’s ring. They’ve been looking for it for a year.”

“More like a week, silly. They want to sell it. They’re splitting up.”

“Daddy told me. He said we can go fun places on weekends. I’m gonna show them.”

“Wait.” Putting his index finger across his lips, he motioned Monica to follow him to the top of the steps, where she could see down into the living room. Mommy and Daddy had all the cushions off the couch and were sitting on the hard part, looking at something together. Daddy talked. Mommy laughed.

Nobody yelled.

Max led Monica back to his room. “I hid stuff all over the house, everywhere a ring might be. There’s a dried flower pin thing under the bathroom sink, and a napkin from their wedding in Mom’s night table drawer. They’re looking at a ticket stub like this one. It’s from a concert.” He pulled a flowered box out of his closet and showed her a strip of torn cardboard.

“You took the Memory Box? Max, we’re not supposed to touch it. You’re gonna get a spanking.”

He laughed. “I’m too big for that. I’ll be a teenager in nine days. Besides, I’m going to put it back. I just need one more good hiding place so I can leave this picture.” He showed his little sister a photograph of a skinnier, younger Daddy and some other big boys and girls on a beach, holding brown bottles and making goofy faces. “That’s Mom on the end.”

“She’s beautiful.”

“Dad wrote a note on the back.” He turned the picture over.

“What’s it say?”

“We’ll always have Myrtle Beach,” Max read.

“Why did he write that?“

“They were in love. I’m helping them to remember. We have to put this somewhere they haven’t looked yet. And you can’t give them the ring. If they sell it, they’ll forget again.”

“I know the best place.” Monica carried the photograph back to her parents’ bedroom and placed it behind Daddy’s dresser, where the Barbie car waited to get Kellie home so she could go potty.

“What should I do with the ring, Barbie?” Monica asked in her own voice.

“Kellie can play fairy princess with it.”

Monica placed the ring on the little doll’s blond head like a crown. Barbie drove the car around Shoe Hill to the master bathroom.

“You drive really good, Barbie,” Aladdin said. “I love you.”

Monica pulled Kellie out of the car and placed her on the edge of the toilet.

“Go to hell!” Mommy’s voice shot up the stairs past Max’s radio. The front door slammed so hard, the floor shook.

Monica leaned the doll over to wipe her before flushing. The ring sparkled through the swirling water like fairy dust and was gone.

Nina Fortmeyer is a writer, enamelist and pastry chef. Her short story DETOUR is featured in the anthology NASHVILLE NOIR (Parthenon Press 2012). She lives in the hills north of Nashville, TN with her husband, seven happy chickens and a peculiar but sweet dog.


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