George walked along the rainy sidewalk and looked through the window of the department store, seeing today’s modern fashions strewn on the white floor of the display area. A colorful beach ball rolled playfully amidst a male mannequin mounting a female mannequin missionary-style in what seemed to be a tropical beach setting. “Damn mannequins,” grumbled George. “They get more action than I do.”
George had separated from his wife Janice two weeks earlier after discovering that she was having an affair with her ski instructor Rolf. In fact, at that precise moment, Janice and Rolf, like the mannequins, were having sex on a beach. Over the next few weeks, George’s jealousy of the mannequins escalated, and their sexual positions became more sophisticated and elaborate in the department store window. One evening, the mannequin scene was a groping orgy in a winter chalet setting, advertising snow-wear, while on another continent Janice and Rolf skied in the Swiss Alps, looking forward to a big night of sexual gymnastics in the ski lodge.
George became obsessed, seeing Janice and Rolf in the mannequins’ plastic limbs. He got a maintenance job at the department store, in order to monitor more closely the actions of the two plastic figures, which he started to call Ms. Lacquer and Mr. Acrylic. In his green-eyed seething, George began to see the mannequins everywhere. As he replaced some fluorescent lighting in the administration department, he noticed Ms. Lacquer sitting at a desk, typing and answering the phone, while Mr. Acrylic sorted memos nearby. With twisted logic, George deducted that a cartridge audio tape had been implanted in each of the mannequins’ plastic throats, enabling voice greetings and requests for information, in a reliable loop. He also noticed that helpful rollers had been applied to the mannequins’ feet, providing mobility. As Ms. Lacquer’s right index finger mechanically tapped the keyboard, her right wrist occasionally slipped off of her arm and fell to the neutral gray nylon carpeting below. Mr. Acrylic would quickly roll to her side and re-attach Ms. Lacquer’s wrist, winking his plastic eye and applying a dab of glue, as a jealous George looked on, enraged by Mr. Acrylic’s gallantry.
In George’s eyes, the relationship between Ms. Lacquer and Mr. Acrylic escalated rapidly. At the park on a Sunday afternoon he spied on the mannequins at play. From behind a bush, his binoculars focused on their roller skating date, which involved collisions and periodic dismemberment.
The following day in the department store break room, George was stirring non-dairy creamer into his coffee when Ms. Lacquer and Mr. Acrylic rolled in. With a boldness she’d never felt before, Ms. Lacquer ventured throatily to Mr. Acrylic, through the voice of the cassette tape embedded in her throat, “Am I making you hard?” while brushing gently his firm plastic exterior. Mr. Acrylic seemed to be momentarily taken aback, but quickly recovered, the tape cassette in his throat intoning suavely, “Why yes Madam, I am of plastic and varnished enamel.”
George watched Mr. Acrylic send a series of love notes to Ms. Lacquer in the office. The notes were romantically written by Mr. Acrylic on a typewriter from the 1960’s. Strangely, each ringing sound of the typewriter’s ‘Return’ mechanism sent the just-typed, wet-inked letters and numbers into the air as a cloud, wafting down the hall. The cloud of typewritten characters settled onto a blank sheet of paper on Ms. Lacquer’s desk. She would typically put the piece of paper into an envelope and read it later, away from prying eyes, but this morning she read it immediately. Soon she appeared at Mr. Acrylic’s desk, as he was starting to type another love note, a small cloud already beginning to form over the typewriter. “I am sorry, Mr. Acrylic,” voiced the cassette tape embedded in Ms. Lacquer’s throat, but I cannot marry you, and I can’t even tell you why.” With that, she unscrewed her wrist, with the engagement-ringed finger attached, and placed it on a stunned Mr. Acrylic’s desk. She then turned and moved back down the hallway. The cloud over the typewriter obscured Mr. Acrylic’s vision as he watched her roll through the mist, out of his life, forever an enigma.
The next day, George was walking to work, looked in the department store window, and saw Mr. Acrylic & Ms. Lacquer, back together again (!), and mocking him while donning colorful spring-sale togs. Apparently they were rekindling their romance. George’s jealousy and rage toward the mannequins had not diminished. Screaming wildly, George crashed through the department store window, and began tearing apart Mr. Acrylic, piece by piece.
Janice declined Rolf’s request to marry, enigmatically providing no explanation. She was realizing what a mistake the affair had been, and resolved to go back to George. This was until she passed by the department store window and saw George sitting in a pile of freshly dismembered plastic limbs, screaming and babbling incoherently.
Bio: Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the qualities of his vegetable juicer. He is in the orange hallway (www.orangehallway.com)