All Stories, Fantasy

June’s Miniature Mart Off Highway 101 by Sage Tyrtle

Her box on the shelf at June’s Miniature Mart is getting dusty. She watches through her plastic window on the world as her aisle is put on sale. “50% off! Get ’em before they’re gone!”

Her box on the shelf at June’s Miniature Mart is getting dusty. She watches through her plastic window on the world as her aisle is put on sale. “50% off! Get ’em before they’re gone!”

So when the elderly woman slides her box off the shelf and brings her to the counter she is relieved.  She pictures the woman’s granddaughter bringing her to school in her lunchbox. Teaching her multiplication. Making her a silver cape of tinfoil and flying her across the backyard.

But instead the woman takes her home and undoes the latch on a Victorian Dollhouse, opens it, points to a man sitting on a horsehair couch. “Here’s your beloved, Mr. Christopher Smythe!” she says, humming the Wedding March. “He is kiln-fired ceramic, can’t get much better than that.” The woman winks. “I’ll leave you two alone to get acquainted.” She closes the dollhouse.

The man looks up from his book and drawls, “You’re Mrs. Smythe, I suppose. Sorry I didn’t get to carry you across the marital threshold and all that.”

She stares at him with her painted-open eyes. She has never had a name before, but if anyone had asked she would not have picked “Mrs. Smythe”.

“Hullo-ullo? You there?”

She has never spoken before and doesn’t know how to begin. So she just stands there.

He folds his newspaper, lays it on the couch next to him. “Wondering about the accent, hmm? Came here special order from London on a ship back when old Patricia still lived in the manor. But we’ve all had to pull up our bootstraps since.” He looks her up and down and sighs. “Though I didn’t think she’d sunk to plastic just yet.”

She licks her lips, clears her throat. But says nothing.

“Good lord, you are fresh out of the box, aren’t you?. Well. I suppose I’ll have to instruct you on your…” He narrows his eyes. “Wifely duties.”

And Mr. Christopher Smythe does instruct her. In duties cooking and cleaning and conjugal, with wooden spoons and mop handles and long belts with notches made by artisans wearing jewelers loupes. Holding pins with steady hands.

Once, when his steak is burnt, he lights a real, working tiny match (that must have come, she thinks as she stands there silently, with the real, working candles that stand on the buffet in the dining room) and holds the flame under her plastic wrist. “You burnt the steak just like this,” he says, and months later the melted patch on the underside of her wrist remains tender to the touch.

But perhaps, she thinks, this is what marriage is. Perhaps she and the others at June’s Miniature Mart were created to be plucked from the shelf, were created to saute, to scrub and seduce their arranged husbands.

At night when Mr. Smythe is asleep next to her, she lies on her back and mouths the words he has said to her that day, memorizing the way her tongue touches the roof of her mouth, the way her lips close and open as she almost-speaks. “Bitch. Whore. Darling.

One morning Patricia opens the dollhouse.  Christopher is in the parlour reading Jane Eyre and she is stirring beef stew at the stove. Patricia’s head is the size of the parlour. She holds up a closed hand. She says, “Hello, lovely dollies. Can you guess what I have?” She shakes her hand gently in the air. “I’ve been saving it, because you two have been on your honeymoon. But it’s been nine months, my darlings!” She opens her hand and with her other hand she picks up a tiny cradle. “This belonged to my grandmother when she was just a little girl,” says Patricia. “Can you imagine? Handmade by a man who was famous for his woodwork and consented to make a miniature, just this once.” The elderly woman slides the cradle into the space next to the big mahogany bed. “Oh, I do I wish I had the little baby who went with it, he was made of porcelain with real red hair. He’s lost to the sands of time, I’m afraid. But nothing wrong with a June’s Miniature Mart dollie, is there!” She rocks the cradle with a fingertip and smiles. “I’ve saved up for the taxi and I’m heading there right now. Oh, you’re embarking on such a journey! You’ll be mommy and daddy soon!” There’s a honk outside, and Patricia quickly closes and latches the dollhouse. She grabs her big white purse and bustles out the door.

Mr. Smythe saunters into the kitchen and sits at the kitchen table. “Well well well,” he says. “Here’s a turn-up for the books, Mrs. Smythe! Didn’t think I’d be a father at my advanced age, but I’m game. Hell, I’ve proven I’m a good teacher. I’ll be teaching Christopher Junior in no time.”

She turns and looks at him and is, as always, silent. She leans the wooden spoon against the side of the pot and opens the kitchen drawer. She gets out a real, working match, with a head the size of a pin. She is thinking about June’s Miniature Mart. About her plastic window on the world. Her tinfoil cape which she will never wear now and how the lunchbox would have smelled vaguely of iceberg lettuce. Christopher is still talking but his words are a background blur.

She is remembering the plastic babies, in the boxes on the other side of the aisle. Their helpless bodies, their scrunched-up fingers. She turns the knob on the real, working gas stove. She feels the tender, melted place on the underside of her wrist. Kiln-fired ceramic does not burn. And Christopher may not die. But he will feel pain. Oh, he will feel pain.

She lights the match. “You burnt my arm just like this,” she says.

Sage Tyrtle

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6 thoughts on “June’s Miniature Mart Off Highway 101 by Sage Tyrtle”

  1. Jesus Christ. So THAT’S what happened to Baby Jane. Amusing in a twisted sort of way, also beautifully unnerving. (Notice that I didn’t say anything about the first paragraph creating an echo?)


  2. Hi Sage,
    This was clever. It touched on abuse, snobbery, being trapped and a touch of madness.
    I thought setting it in a dolls hose was also interesting. Normally we associate a dolls house with happiness and a wee girls laughter but this was all about oppression and misery. I thought that idea worked well.


  3. The dolls played their traditional family roles in this anti-diorama drama, victim, victimizer, the good the bad and wow the ugly situation. Quite the setting for the play. It fits the message.


  4. Hi Sage
    This was clever on so many levels. I especially enjoyed the ending and that Jane leaves her plastic shell, so to speak. The entire time as I’m reading this, I’m thinking this would make such a cool little movie. Very enjoyable.


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