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Doll Heads-Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge

10 Jun

I ran into Chuck’s site on Wednesday. I started this blog just so I could put up this story. Seemed like the only way. It’s late. There are mistakes. But at least I did it.

Doll Heads
by Cortney Hamilton

They hover there, vulnerable to the slightest breeze floating through an open window and hooking into their eye sockets. Customers bump into the hutch and the heads quiver as if they will spring from the shelf and fall to his snout. During these moments he leaps to his feet and paces back and forth. This is when the man frowns.

“Billy! Get away from there.”

Billy backs off and settles into his bed. He doesn’t understand the man’s reasoning.

What is wrong with licking the cool smooth rubber of a doll’s head? To satisfy a tongue in the oval crevices of an eye socket? Or pressing fully and wet into the tiny cavern of a nostril? And the cheeks! The round bulbous cheeks that hinted of cinnamon and bacon. Billy craned his neck to reach for a stray pebble of food near his bed.

He had had an entire hour alone with a head. After fifteen minutes he relinquished all dignity by pressing his nose and mouth into the dark depths of the wide neck and muzzling himself. The white whiskers on his snout poked through the eyeholes. He licked the top of the cranium for forty-five minutes. His heart beating faster after each thrust of his tongue. Then the world stopped. Silence and the smell of pine and earth before the dripping dit dit dit dit that seemed to come from behind his eyes. He exploded into a mad fit of sneezes, the doll’s head flying from his nose, the rubber, slapping wet and flat across the wall. The man discovered him, just after the sneezing, diving eyes first into the carpet and rubbing his head back and forth. Back and forth. Soon after this Billy believed in God.

The man rushed him to an emergency animal hospital.

Billy would be fine, the vet said. He had mild poisoning, which was remedied by a dose of activated charcoal, and milk of magnesia with a laxative. He was still a healthy dog. As long as he stays away from doll’s heads.

Soon after this Billy’s eyes crossed.

He sees distances but bumps into doorways and chairs. They look like gray clouds. He lays down. The man has moved the doll’s heads to a high shelf that towers across from his bed. High enough to be in focus. Low enough to reach when he gets a chance.

The man watches him closely. The click-click of Billy’s nails across the wooden floor always gives him away. Each day he stares at the dolls and each day, the pull, the pulsing anxious vibration in the pit of his stomach. He begins to walk in circles, chews on the soft legs of the stool behind the counter. He licks the corners of the hutch, the brass base of a lamp, the pink rubber ball the man has given him. Nothing satisfies and he falls into a depression, sighing and staring at the heads.

Sometimes when Billy looks at the heads for a long time the man growls at him.


Billy acts casual. He glances at the ceiling before looking around the room as though he is scanning for mice.

To Billy the growl is worth it. If only to look at them. Looking at them is one step from licking them. He enjoys the seduction. They tremble. They stare back with deep nothing in their eye sockets. They let the breeze whistle through the transom and into their hollow dark. It is painful and enjoyable and reminds him of moments when every request yielded rewards. When “sit” really meant sit for a treat. When “stay,” built excitement, the anticipation before release.

Now there were few releases. Now the man took him from home to the store to home. Stopping on the way for bathroom breaks. And always rushing back to the store.

“Beautiful dog!”

He doesn’t remember her coming in. He doesn’t know she is there until she bends down to pat his head with the tips of her fingers, a gesture he equates with someone who pretends they like dogs. She moves closer to the hutch and Billy stands. The man steps between them, picking Billy’s favorite head and offering it to her.

She holds it with her thin fingers, careless, as if she could drop it any moment. Billy sits back on his haunches. He doesn’t take his eyes off of her, doesn’t notice the man walking over with an empty bag, reaching for the shelf and removing the heads.

Billy’s ears prop up. His eyes volley between the two of them. The man keeps loading the heads into the bag. She continues chatting at him until finally she holds the last head, the one she’s about to drop. She lets it fall into the bag and hands over two bills. She slips the straps around her wrist and points at a silver ashtray on the hutch.

Billy watches her lower the bag. It dangles from her bony fingers.

Nearly touches the floor.

He circles his bed and whines low and quiet. He stops. Everything goes silent. Dit. Dit. Dit. Dit. His ears stiffen. He scans the room. Questions himself. Where is he? What has become of his life?

The lady opens the door. Billy tenses, leans forward. “Billy!” the man yells. “ Stay.”

Billy’s not aware that his body is moving until he is out the door. He races toward the woman, her figure fading as he gets closer, into outline, into fuzz. He runs past, no longer thinks of her. He gallops, stretching toward the far distant, a dark forest. It is the last thing he sees before he leaps into the blur.

And here is the deep sweet cool air across his nose, the branches grazing the top of his ears. The voice inside sputtering and still too soon to articulate.

Later the voice recovers fully, howling into the pocket of stars as Billy rips through the flesh of a jackrabbit.