Robinne Weiss, 7/25/2016

Current Occupation: self-employed Writer / Heritage Interpreter
Former Occupation: Owner/operator of The Bugmobile science outreach
Contact Information: The natural world is my first love. I have degrees in resource management and entomology, and have spent most of my career as a heritage interpreter—telling real-life stories of people, places, and the natural world in the eastern U.S., Panama, and New Zealand. But I’ve always had an interest in fiction. Eighteen months ago, the time was right, and I closed my science outreach business to write full time. Four novels and a whole lot of short stories later, I’m having a great time, and the story ideas keep piling up, waiting to be written. I currently live in New Zealand with my husband, two kids, four goats, five chickens, and one evil cat.

 

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Mannequin

 

Kirsty stood immobile, hands on cocked hips, her face a blank mask. She was dressed in a low-cut, body skimming purple gown and treacherously tall purple stiletto heels. She suppressed a sigh as she watched the first pedestrians pass by, gazing at her.

How had she ended up in this job? Paid to stand motionless in the window display of a high-end department store wasn’t exactly the career she imagined when she started her degree in graphic design. Newly graduated, she found that entry level positions in her field were more scarce than booze at an AA meeting.

Here it came. She could tell by the way he sauntered into her field of view. The first taunt of the day. Almost always men of a certain age. They wanted to get her to move—smile, scowl, flip them the bird, whatever. They wanted to break her image as a statue.

Her boss had given her pointers. Don’t look at anyone. Stare at the building across the street. Recite poetry. Do math problems in your head. Ignore them.

It was easier said than done. Bored shitless, Kirsty couldn’t help but pay attention to the people on the street. This guy, who had now stopped in front of her, was one of the least bothersome sort of heckler. He stood in front of her, making faces to try and get her to laugh. Maybe if he’d been good looking, she would have watched, but he wasn’t worth it. She counted bricks on the building opposite her window until he went away.

To Kirsty’s irritation, her own brother was her next heckler. He waved and smiled as he went by, rapping the glass with his knuckles. Jim was out of work—fired for mouthing off to his boss. Though he was older than Kirsty and had a degree in engineering, he constantly mooched off her.

He was currently sleeping on the couch at her apartment. Not paying any rent, either, she thought bitterly. Here she was going crazy at this shitty job in order to pay her bills, and he was doing nothing. Not even trying to find a job, and loafing around eating all of Kirsty’s food. She’d have to swing by the grocery store on the way home—Jim had finished off the milk late last night. Kirsty had found the empty carton in the fridge when she went to put some on her breakfast cereal. She wondered where he was headed now.

The street was momentarily empty, and Kirsty sighed, quickly scratching an itch on her shoulder and shifting her weight slightly. The shoes were the worst part. Standing still, her feet slid slowly downward, crushing her toes into the viciously pointy tips. In real life, she’d never be caught dead wearing these shoes. Or this dress, for that matter. She was a sensible-shoes sort of girl. Jeans and t-shirts, not clingy silk, and certainly not purple.

Her boyfriend, Blake, would not approve. She made certain not to tell him what she did at work. They had been together since high school, and she’d known him for years before that. Their parents were friends—their dads old drinking buddies who now attended AA together. Blake was fun loving in high school, but when he went off to college, he changed. He fell in with a group of students Kirsty secretly dubbed the God Squad, and when he came back, he had gone over all religious. No more groping in the backseat of her dad’s car. No more sneaking out after midnight to secret trysts. Now it was “pray to God and he will forgive your sins,” and “sex is a sin unless it’s between husband and wife for the purposes of procreation.” Kirsty’s only prayer was that Blake would snap out of it soon. She missed the intimacy, missed the sex. She wanted the old Blake back, though she’d given up trying to seduce him after he’d gone so far as to shove her to the floor in anger last time she tried.

It’s not that she liked crude men. The one in front of her window now was, in fact, revolting. He’d slouched up to the window, taken a quick look around to make sure the street was empty, then whipped out his dick and started masturbating. She could hardly believe it, and wanted to run screaming from the window. But she’d complained more than once about the harassment, and her boss had warned her that if she stepped out of the window, she could just keep walking, because she’d be fired. “I’m paying you to do nothing. If you can’t manage that, I’ll hire some other lackey.” She needed this job to pay the rent. She had to stay here. But she didn’t’ have to watch. She shut her eyes and waited for the man to go away.

Next past her window was a young mother with two preschoolers in tow. The mother pointed to Kirsty, explaining in a voice made tinny through the glass that she was real. The children laughed and exclaimed that she couldn’t be real because she didn’t move. Kirsty smiled and winked at them, making them squeal with delight and clap their hands.

Kirsty was good with kids. Her little sister had been twelve years younger than her—a “whoops” baby. Her mom didn’t cope well with the unexpected baby. She sort of checked out, reading romance novels in her pajamas all day and leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Kirsty would come home from school to find her sister crying in her crib, hungry and with a wet, soiled diaper. Her mother, oblivious to the child’s cries, would be asleep on the couch. Kirsty changed diapers, cooked meals, and played with the baby, but couldn’t protect her from her mother’s neglect. One afternoon, Kirsty came home to find the baby floating face down in the bathtub.

That’s when the social workers got involved. Kirsty and Jim were placed in foster care until Mom was happily medicated for depression, and Dad stopped drinking. Eventually, they were sent home. No one ever mentioned the baby, but Kirsty couldn’t forget, and blamed herself for her death.

Kirsty wondered if her parents might have ended up like the homeless woman now sitting on the pavement outside her window. She took no notice of Kirsty, but pulled a grimy knit cap out of her pocket and set it on the ground in front of her, begging for change from passersby. Kirsty shuddered. Yes, she could see her mother this way. She could also imagine herself homeless, too, if she didn’t manage to get a real job soon.

The homeless woman didn’t stay long. The store manager, Kirsty’s boss, soon drove her away with shouts and insults. What an unpleasant man he was! He treated his employees with contempt, acting as though he was doing them all a great favor by not firing their sorry asses. He ignored breaks and kept them late every day without paying for the extra hours. And the pay sucked.

But Kirsty was stuck. This was the only job she could find. She couldn’t do anything about it, just like she couldn’t change her parents or her brother or her boyfriend, or the man currently making lewd gestures at her on the sidewalk. She’d just have to put up with it as best she could.

But why should she?

She was a grown woman. Why should she have to put up with this shit?

She could kick her brother out of her apartment, or at least make him pay rent. He was an adult, too, and it was time he acted like one.

She could ditch Blake. She had never even dated anyone else—it would be good to find out what she was missing. Maybe she would go clubbing. Test drive a few guys. Once Jim was out of her apartment, that is.

Her parents? Well, she couldn’t change them, and she couldn’t bring her sister back to life, but maybe she could stop blaming herself for their problems. Maybe she could move away from her hometown, and leave behind the image of her little sister floating in the bathtub.

And this job?

Kirsty watched as half a dozen teenage boys strutted towards her window. They were laughing and grinning wickedly. They approached the window, calling “Hey babe! Lookin’ hot!” and grabbing their crotches.

She waited until they were gathered around, egging each other on to more and more disgusting behavior. One unzipped his fly. Another licked the window.

Kirsty smiled, calmly picked up the hideous designer lamp that served as part of her staging, and with a mighty swing, shattered the plate glass window.

“What the fuck!” The boys’ eyes were wide with surprise as they staggered backwards. Kirsty stepped calmly out of the broken window, crunching through the shards of glass on the sidewalk. She removed her appalling purple shoes and hurled them at the boys, who flinched, but continued to stare, mouths agape.

"And your fly is open, douche bag," she said dismissively.

Then she turned and strode away.

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  1. […] story, Mannequin, was published in Work Literary Magazine today. A small success, but it makes me […]

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