When your mom is a wind-up doll

Fiction by Brittany Terwilliger

Pull the string once and she drinks half a bottle of Grey Goose. 

You’re just having fun. Sunday brunch at that old garage with the rhubarb pancakes, the summertime corn fields as high as your head, you get that happy shimmer a person could float in forever. The craft cocktails are your water wings. Can you really fault her for wanting to refill the mirth? She doesn’t see your eyes widen every time she slurs “ya little bitch” and chuckles. She won’t remember it later. Pull the string again.

Pull the string twice and she passes out on the floor.

No, she wasn’t passed out, she was just sleeping. How many goddamned times does she have to defend herself for falling asleep? She works hard, she gets tired. She’s an adult, she doesn’t need a babysitter. How she conducts herself in her own house is none of anyone’s business but hers. In fact, get the fuck out. She doesn’t need you. Don’t ever contact her again. 

Pull the string three times and she is healed.

She has total clarity. All that stuff, all in the past. Everyone goes through a hard time every now and then. She poured all the vodka down the drain. She’s done with all that. Look in her eyes, though, and the sadness is still there. Sadness dressed in a proud bowtie, trying to maintain its dignity. Back at the old garage with the rhubarb pancakes, staring at menus, waiter poised with pen and pad, the dignity begs, “please, don’t pull that string again,” and the sadness says, “please, world, be perfect for me.” 

Brittany Terwilliger
Brittany Terwilliger

Brittany Terwilliger is Managing Editor at Pithead Chapel and her novel, The Insatiables (Chicago Review Press) was published in 2018. Her short fiction has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and the Pushcart Prize, and she was selected as a finalist for the 2021 Oxford Flash Fiction Prize. Find her on Twitter @Brttnyblm.