“Recycled” is a piece of Flash Fiction I wrote based on the photo below taken in St. Petersburg, FL by a college friend, John Hayes, street name, “Oops John.”
Among other things, Hayes excels as a street photographer, photo journalist, professor, writer and overall reprobate.
I encourage you to check out his work – thoughtful, fun, evocative, and usually a relaxing way to spend a few minutes of enjoyment.
It’s night. I’m hungry … not sure of the date, day or time. Something in the alley catches my attention.
I do the unthinkable … leave the safety of the sidewalk and walk into the alley. I was warned about doing that. Knew I’d catch Hell if Mama found out.
But I have to do it.
Something popped up and smiled at me. It’s a doll … standing in a trash can.
When I reach the can, I snatch the doll outta the trash and tuck it under my coat so Mama won’t see it. It’s smelly. That’s okay. I am, too.
I was standing there on the sidewalk just like she left me when Mama comes back. She takes my hand and we walk away from the alley. Under my coat, the doll feels a little scratchy … like it’s movin’ its arms.
When we reached the doorway … the one with the heat blowin’ in it, Mama spread my blanket over the grate and told me to go to sleep.
I told her I was hungry. She reached in her sack and flipped the box of crackers to me … the same ones we had last night. They were stale then.
I rollover, away from Mama and take a bite of a cracker. Yep, still stale.
Then I hear it. “Kin I have one uh them crackers?” I look around thinking Mama said something to me, but she’s gone … just like every night. I know she’ll come back. She always comes back.
I hear it again. “Kin I have one ah them crackers … please?”
I look down and see one of the doll’s hands extended toward me. He has a quizzical look on his face. “Sure,” I said. “Here’s one … but that’s all you git.”
“Okay by me. This’s the first cracker I ever had.”
I look straight into the doll’s big black eyes. It was talking … to me and I didn’t think there was a thing wrong with that. “Did you talk to the person who owned you before me?”
“Didn’t need to. I lived in ‘er house. Got everything I needed … after they were asleep.”
“Are you a magic doll?”
“Then why can you talk … and walk around someone’s house?”
“You talk. You walk aroun’. You magic?”
“No, but I’m not a doll.” I stared at the doll.
I knew I wasn’t magic ‘cause if I were magic I sure wouldn’t be here talkin’ to an old doll I pulled out of a trash can. I’d be in my bed. Warm. Fed. Probably have a new doll … and a kitten.
“No way I’m magic,” I say.
“What do you know about magic?”
“Ah’m talkin’ to you aren’t I? If dolls don’t talk in your world, then I must be magic. You’re talkin’ to me and you know just any old doll cain’t talk, so I must be magic. It’s simple.”
“Well, if it’s so simple how’d you end up in that trash can, Mr. Smarty Pants?”
“Oh … a bit a temper, have we? Maybe I wanted to be in thet garbage can. Ever think about thet?”
“Who wants to be in a trash can?”
“Maybe a magic doll. Maybe he wants to try his magic and see what happens. Ever think of thet?”
“That’s stupid. You’re stupid. I’m gonna take you back to that can and throw you back in it.”
The girl grabs the doll by the red kerchief wrapped around its neck, leaves the doorway and heads toward the alley. The doll bounces off her skinny legs and drags along the sidewalk.
“Ouch … you’re hurtin’ me. Carry me like you woulda carried your dolls when you lived on Muldoon Street. In that white house with the green shutters.”
The girl yanks the doll up to her face. “How’d you know where I lived?”
The doll winks one of his big-black-orb-eyes. “It’s all in the magic. You know lotsa things with the magic. “
“You’re beginnin’ to scare me. You’re goin’ back in the can. Besides, we don’t have enough around here to feed another mouth. Least ways that’s what Mama says.”
She drops the doll. The kerchief tightens around its neck as it jerks up and down. “I’m havin’ trouble breathin’ down here. Cain’t you hold me a little more gently? I’m not fightin’. It’s not like I’m even askin’ ya to take me to the can. I can walk there.”
“I’m takin’ you back to make sure you’re in the trash where you belong. I don’t trust you. Doll’s don’t talk and you’re not magic, either.”
Both were silent until they reached the alley. The girl spots the trash can and pauses, “Home again, home again … jiggedy jig. Here you go. Better luck next time.”
She grabs the doll by the leg. As she holds him over her head to hurl him into the bin, he reaches down with his right arm, turns her head just a bit and kisses her right on the lips.
A puff of smoke … the smell of burning incense … rustling noises fill the alleyway. A feeling of transformation hangs in the air as the doll swishes head-over-heels landing feet first in the trash can … an enigmatic smile’s fixed on its face.
In the alleyway, a girl turns and looks at the doll. The doll standing in the trash can seems puzzled, looks down and notices that she’s the one in jeans, a checked shirt with a red kerchief around her neck.
The little girl on the sidewalk skips away as the doll yells, “Wait! Wait! You can’t do this to me! I’ll tell my Mama! I’ll tell my Mama!”
The voice in the trash can grows weaker as she turns the corner … headed back to the doorway.
She says to no one, “Sure beats the hell outta that trash can.”