OBJECT LESSONS • by M. E. Hopkins

She trembled with anticipation. Anticipation and suppressed anxiety. She was to be used — intimately used — as her Maker intended.

She was pressed, popped, pulled from her hygienic, plastic bubble.

“Here is water,” said a great voice above her, “toothpaste. Clean your teeth.”

She was dunked, smeared with paste, then up into the mouth. Connection, envelopment, movement, ecstatic fulfilment of purpose. But brief, all too brief.

“Drink, rinse, wipe,” commanded the great voice.

She was dunked and sluiced again but still held, still accepted.

“Now, hold it up, Let everybody see. That is right.”

She was displayed, waved about. An unsettling experience.

“Would anyone else like to come up and use this toothbrush?”

“No, no, that isn’t right, that isn’t how it is supposed to be.”

“Anybody? Anybody at all want to come and use it? I thought not. Remember this young ladies, consider it well. Your purity is a precious thing.”

The great voice trembled with emotion. “Guard your virtue well, young ladies. Do not throw it away on the unworthy, for it is a precious gift to bestow on your husband. Do not bring him imperfect love, damaged and sullied goods.”

A waste bin was produced and there, in front of everyone, she was cast into it.

No, please,” the toothbrush cried wordlessly, as the hand released it. “I am yours, we were fated to be, don’t leave me.

She went unheard. In the basket she sobbed, “I would have served you well, been intimate with you every day. Even if you forgot sometimes, I would have been faithful. When I grew old, my bristles no longer firm and upstanding, I would have gone contentedly to other uses, to clean mud from shoes or grime from tiles.”

On the table there rested a CD. She had played the students in with popular music, less than five years out of date. She could see the toothbrush in the wastebasket.

“Poor thing,” she thought, but perfunctorily. She had seen many toothbrushes come and go.

For herself, she was a little past her prime. She had the luck to avoid the dangers that could harm or destroy a fragile creation such as herself. She had never been abused, left on the floor as a doormat to be walked on. A few simple precautions had kept her safe. She was proud to have enjoyed the intimate embrace of many CD players, both well-loved friends and exciting strangers. Together they had made music.

In life, she reflected, it is always better to be a CD than a toothbrush.

M. E. Hopkins lives in Norwich, UK and works with myth, metaphor and subversion — when not minding children.

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