JULY 2008

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The Tiny Doll Wife
By Kelly Hodge, May 20, 2008

Their love affair began in a dark room filled with dolls houses. There were two hundred in all, the artist’s plaque advised, positioned in rows on stands of different sizes. Some were mansions that had obviously been made at a great expense. Others were the classic Tudor look with black beams and abnormally small windows. There were plenty of cheap-looking ‘80s types with a tree and cat painted on the front wall. Each house had been internally lit and the square holes sent tiny avalanches of warm light into the abandoned town. Around the installation the walls had been ravaged and clawed. A smart tactic to induce strange fear. They were inside a pop-up book and something nightmarish had taken place on the previous page. The artist was encouraging guess work.

Olivia strolled around the streets of the exhibition room. “No people inside. If they’d have instigated a blackout this might never have happened.” She motioned towards the shredded walls.

Joe smiled at his red-headed strategist. The town needed a church, a shop, a public house with a swinging sign. It appeared too much like the site of some six-fingered cult finally chased off by God Himself for their depraved ways. Olivia was bending down and squinting through the windows at clusters of tiny furniture, uneaten meals at the tables, unmade beds and minuscule cosmetics on dressers. There could be no doubt that one survivor was hiding somewhere in one of those houses, unable to stop their teeth from ticking together, bug-eyed from their ordeal.

Joe’s palms held beads of sweat inside his pockets. He focused on Olivia’s features backlit by the forsaken lodgings. Her summer dress betrayed her shape each time she bent at the waist to investigate some minor detail. Imagining the houses ablaze helped to distract him. He was the impassioned monster bound to return to the scene of his heinous crime to ignite all evidence.

The velocity of such a pivotal decision is immeasurable. Joe walked between the houses without sound and touched Olivia with one clammy hand, tracing her small waist like a brush with death. The wedding finger slid on his moist finger. Olivia was shakeable. Joe could feel this from the slippery gaze they exchanged and as he did so he snatched at her fragile wrist and squeezed. His serious face made her thighs melt beneath the thin floral print. Her heartbeat was the town’s pre-recorded evacuation broadcast. Radio waves like a needle and thread through each cute little rooftop, militantly repeating phrases like ‘women and children first,’ ‘leave all non-essential items behind,’ ‘run for your lives and don’t look back.’

“You know this isn’t really art, don’t you?” Joe whispered silkily into Olivia’s mouth. “The artist just collected all of these over a period of twenty years from different catalogues and toy shops. She hired a removals company to transport them here and electricians to install all the lights. It’s not real. Don’t breathe so hard.” He pulled her close. “Calm down, Liv. Kiss me.”

Olivia closed her eyes and imagined Joe’s tiny doll wife staring from one of the bedroom windows. The lone survivor spying on the two monsters in a dirty victorious clinch. The town would never be big enough for the both of them.

Kelly Hodge lives and works in Milton Keynes, UK. She is currently working on her diploma in creative writing with the Open University. Her work is forthcoming in Monkey Kettle. You can reach her via email.

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