11 AM and my whole future is ahead of me. In Haley’s bedroom and the light hangs above me and I’m tired from some night some time before, now gone. Lost. There is light crusted around the blind but I don’t want to let it in and I’m very hungry. I think I could just about eat anything but the shops are a long walk away and I am not dressed.
I am sitting on the carpet with my groin in my lap and I am pulling at threads in the carpet and they come away in my fingers and I rub them together and think of dog’s fur. Laura’s dog. There are dreams in my head growing stagnant.
But the room is so quaint. No. Something else. Maybe some word I haven’t come across before. I don’t think I have ever allowed myself to see it, but I guess that I made it when I stuck up the sheets of rose wallpaper and pinned up fairies and filled the tin on the dresser with coloured pencils and when I jabbed the nightlight into the wall and spattered milky light across the walls and when I built her the dollhouse and painted it white with house paint and set it up in her room and forgot to build any staircases.
I blink and it all disappears. Then it comes back.
There is a party in the dollhouse. In the living room. The guests chat in circles but everyone is friends with everyone and there is the robot talking with a tanned plastic man and the monkey and his drum and the fluffy rabbit and G.I. Jane and the plush bear and Cinderella and Action Man. My Action Man, sitting at the table with a mug between his fingers and his thumb. In my bed, in my youth, in a singlet and cargo shorts and a confident grin and a fake tan and in my hand on my bike down the footpath to the park and the mud and the washing machine and hanging onto the clothesline in my hand.
And then Action Man spots Barbie across the room. All girls look like Barbie but at this party there is only Barbie. Barbie spots Action Man watching her and they move towards each other, through the crowd, across the floor, across the room.
Stop. Horror. There is Ken. Tall. Tanned. Bouffant. Brown eyes. Soft hands. Boat. Car. Nice house.
Action Man backs off until he is standing with the robot and they are chatting and he is talking at the robot and the robot is nodding and nodding and Action Man can’t help but smiling.
“We were in high school together. We were together in high school. And we were completely in love with each other, completely, totally, utterly, perfectly, happily, and we moved out together into our dream house and we never saw our parents because we never needed them. This was all fifteen minutes after we met. And then she was pregnant. Her daughter is mine. She is my daughter.” She is sitting at the table, smiling.
And then suddenly my mobile goes Ring! Ring! and I fumble it out of the folds of my pyjamas.
“David? Jesus; you didn’t just get out of bed, did you?”
“So you got Haley to school alright?
“Have you been drinking then?”
“I heard that you lost your job.”
“Yes it does.”
“So what are you doing now?”
“It was only my last day yesterday.”
“Ok. Look, I was just calling to see if my journalism textbooks were still at the house. They should be in the shelf in the kitchen.”
“Hold on I’ll check.”
I look up at the door. Through the frame I can see the grain in the white walls. I can see the carpet against the walls and the sun streak through from the bathroom window.
“Yep. They are here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure. I’m looking right at them.”
“Ok great. Adam will be dropping by in about half an hour to pick them up.”
“Yes, Adam. Could you please try and show some maturity and get along with him?”
“Great. I need to get back to work, but take care of yourself; alright?
She hangs up. I drop the phone onto the carpet. Beneath the window the light drapes down the walls and the nightlight dims. I notice Action Man is leaning back in his chair. He gets up and before he can think he is walking towards Barbie but then Ken is in his way.
“That’s my girl.”
“No. She is mine.”
And Ken throws a punch that catches me off-guard and knocks Action Man backwards but then he is up again and he slaps the coffee mug across Ken’s face. The mug falls to the floor and Ken throws a fist wildly at Action Man but he is too slow and Action Man catches him against the jaw then jumps on top of him. The two men are carried by their skirmish and each swivels their torsos and swings their fists and they pass through the bedroom door with Action Man on top, laying his fists into Ken’s chest and Action Man knocks Ken onto the bed until suddenly Ken jerks forward like a spasm and drops Action Man against the bedside table and his neck hits the edge and Snap! and his head falls off. The head rolls across the white painted floor and then out of the house and onto the carpet.
It is so grotesque that my eyes turn to water and my lips slacken and I grab up his head with a mute smile still splayed across it and ram it back onto his neck but it doesn’t fit. I hold his body in one fist and his head in the other and feel sick. Life suddenly feels simple and death so flippant. I close my eyes and try to wake up but scrunching my eyes makes me angry and I drop the doll and squeeze Ken in my fist as hard as I can but he just smiles back. I cover his face in my knuckles and hold onto his chest and just sit there holding him for a long time but I can’t do anything more. I guess I am thinking of Haley. I put him down.
I will handle this situation like an adult.
“This court is now in session” says the monkey. He hits his sticks onto the drum. “Will the prosecution please make their opening statement.”
G.I. Jane rises. She looks at Ken in shackles behind the table, then at the judge.
“Members of the Jury; I intend to prove to you that Ken intended to murder Action Man. His actions were fuelled not only by unjustifiable spite for the deceased, but also from the innate evil defined in his soul.”
The first witness is called. The robot.
“And what was Ken’s mood at the time that the fight broke out?”
“Objection,” said Cinderella. “This is mere speculation.”
“I will allow this question,” said the monkey, “as long as the witness does not answer in abstractions.”
“He was calm,” said the robot. “He did not show any outward signs of aggression until he threw the first punch.”
“So Ken initiated the fight?”
“So Ken intended to harm Action Man without any evidence of provocation. I think it can be drawn from this situation that Ken sees violence as a justifiable means to resolve conflicts. And do you, Mr. Robot, believe that Ken intended to kill Action Man?”
The psychiatrist is next.
“Please state your full name.”
“Mr. Rabbit, what observations did you draw from your conversations with Ken?”
“I found Ken to be with little remorse for Action Man’s death. He saw no higher power for settling his dispute and thought violence was the most logical means of action.”
“And what does Ken think of death?” asks Cinderella in her cross examination.
“He has shown very little regard for death, as if it were a fantasy.”
“You see, ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” says Cinderella in her closing comments. “Ken did not intend to murder Action Man as Ken has no grounding of the reality of death and nor does he need to. From the day of his birth he has not aged. He seeks resolution through violence because he feels no pain. He lives in a house without stairs. How can one commit murder when they have never heard of the concept?”
“But the law is the law,” concludes G.I. Jane. “With no means to comprehend violence or feel pain, the fight between Ken and Action Man could only end in death. The law states that entering conflict with the intention of killing your foe is the crime of murder.”
“And the jury will now leave to deliberate.”
“That we find the defendant guilty of murder,” says Plush Bear.
And then what? He as to be punished, it is the law after all. But what? The death sentence? It is only fitting, but I can’t, I can’t get Haley from my mind, smiling, sitting on her bed with Ken in her fist and the sun in the window and so I can’t do it. Because, after all, then am I not as bad as he? So it only fits that he be put away into some dark place at the back of the cupboard. Until when? Another day.
I walk downstairs and into the kitchen and drop Action Man into the bin. Then I get breakfast.