BARBIES by Christopher James

BARBIES by Christopher James

We bought Barbies for the clothes, but sooner or later they all ended up naked. 

My sister was always the one who undressed them; she said the pretty costumes made her feel sick. 

The dresses were held together at the neck with Velcro, and she liked the sound it made ripping them off. Dress on! Dress off! 

After she died, I took all the Barbies and buried them in the backyard. I watered them every day, and watched the ground for signs of change. 

Most of my efforts came to naught, of course. Such is a gardener’s lot. But one Barbie grew, fast and true. 

After a week, her head poked above the soil. After a month, she was as big as me. Another month and she was the size of my mother. She pulled her feet from the soil and took some clothes from the line to cover her naked, plastic, sad, sexless flesh. 

She wasn’t there when I came home from school, but I found her by following the muddy footprints she’d left. Small steps. 

You’d think they might get bigger once she got used to walking, but they didn’t.

She’d gone down the road. She’d gone to my father’s house. He lived at the bottom of the hill and Mum and I lived at the top, so Barbie had gone downhill like water would, like a mountain spring. 

I found her at my father’s door. I hoped Dad was out and wouldn’t see this—I was still shy around him, even though he was making more of an effort since—

Since she died.

“Bille!” I said. Billie was my sister’s name—I meant Barbie. 

“Barbie! What are you doing here?” 

And she looked so sad, so lost and confused. 

I wondered if I’d made a mistake bringing her into this world. 

“Come home,” I said. “I miss you.” 

She ripped off the clothes. She dug at the dirt with her feet.

Mum found her—I mean Billie—in the bathroom, but Dad was the one who’d had to kick the door in. Mum called him and he ran up the hill, ran the whole way. She was already gone. They didn’t let me see her.

Years later, a new family will buy our house, dig through the soil, and find all the other buried dolls. I wonder if they’ll keep them or throw them away. They won’t know they all looked so good in the beginning, 

in their pretty little dresses, 

before we ruined them and needed new ones.

Christopher James lives, works, and writes in Jakarta, Indonesia, and has had work published in Split Lip, Wigleaf, SmokeLong, Booth, Tin House and more.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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