I Found Your Voodoo Doll on the
Dance Floor After Last Call
It was squishy under my feet and at first I thought it was a wad of napkins. But as the crowds cleared, it became obvious. It looked just like me if I’d been made out of cornstalks and had button eyes. Is that really how you see me? I thought as I picked it up and smoothed the yarn hair.
My first instinct was to toss it into the dumpster but I had doubts—what if it landed on its head? Was stabbed by sharp cardboard? What if I woke in the morning and found myself buried alive or impaled on a U- Haul box?
The mantel was out of the question, too far to fall if the cat knocked it down. A cabinet wouldn’t work—there was suffocation, asphyxiation. Anything near a sink was out. Nothing near the fireplace, on the balcony, near a window.
A bird cage seemed the best solution.
One day I rushed home from work and the cage door was open, the voodoo doll missing. I stared a blank, button-eyed stare into its empty depths.
When I saw you at the bar later, voodoo doll on a chain around your neck, I collapsed to my knees in front of you. Thank god, I said.
I knew you’d be back, you said.
I’m standing at the south rim of the Grand Canyon photographing florid undulating rock walls that drop to alarming depths. But it is almost checkout time at my hotel, and I want to take a tub and use all their emollients, a habit my ex deplored. When a young couple approaches to ask if I would please take their photograph, I want to say, I’m not the Park photographer. This happens to me everywhere—in the Boston Gardens, along the banks of the Charles. Always a couple in love—like this couple in their multi-pocket hiking shorts and sturdy Clarks. I let my Nikon dangle from the beaded lanyard round my neck, and take their fancy smart phone, heeding their instructions. “You were always a good listener,” my ex once said, “but sometimes you have to let things go.” I line the couple up in front of the Canyon’s distant north rim, bronze wall aglow. I wave them to the right a bit. Joined at the hip, they happily sidle right, probably thinking I am a good photographer. Then I motion for them to step toward me for another photo. Unaccountably, they shuffle three steps back—and disappear with scrabbling sounds and tiny shrieks. Then no sound at all. I whirl around for help but there is no one in sight. On hands and knees, I peer over the cliff’s edge, but it hides the floor far below. As if to assure myself that they were once here, I look at their photographs. Against two backdrops, they are young, expectant, with squinty smiles in the morning sun. And then a blur. Breathe, I tell myself. I set the phone on a wooden bench for someone to find. It is the only evidence the three of us were here.
We’re painting the nursery in the nude. Slapping eggshell over walls the color of a baby’s tongue. We’ve been at it awhile. The pink keeps bleeding through. We’re not using drop cloths because the carpet’s getting ripped up anyway—this sort of sculpted wall-to-wall that reminds me of my grandmother’s house and smells like cigarettes and corn. So we’re manic about it, spattering ourselves, our glasses, our hair and forearms, our privates. You paint a heart on your chest. I smear a swath across my forehead. A Flock of Seagulls song plays on the radio. There’s a tremor and it makes us stop. Now a jolt and you go, Whoa Nellie. The windowglass trembles. Bits of plaster copter to the floor. Paint sloshes out of the can. You’re trying to reach me and all I can think of is the electric football game me and my brothers had when we were kids and how we’d work forever setting up our offensive and defensive lines and when we’d finally flip the switch, all the little plastic players just stood in one place and vibrated impotently. This is you now, beautiful and vibrating, your arms akimbo, looking like all you want is to break free, achieve forward momentum, catch me, before the world splits apart.
“I Found Your Voodoo Doll on the Dance Floor After Last Call” by Nancy Stohlman from The Vixen Scream And Other Bible Stories (Pure Slush Books, 2014). Copyright © Nancy Stohlman.
“Letting Go” by Pamela Painter was published in “New Flash Fiction Review” and reprinted with permission of the author.
“Akimbo” from Rift: Stories by Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan (2015). Reprinted with permission of Kathy Fish. Stories reprinted from New Micro: Exceptionally Short Stories, edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro. Copyright © 2018 by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.