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Dreamscapes Fiction

The Mannequin
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra

'You are the one,' she said....

It was about 4:00 PM when Steve Lomax pushed the gate of Strickland Lumber Company, got out, and stopped momentarily to look down at his paycheck. The check was good, he said to himself. He walked to his rusted LTD, opened up the driver-side door, and fell, sitting onto his seat. The seat was comfortable when he sat on it, but there was a long, snaky crack on the windshield that always seemed to grow an inch or two whenever he sat down behind it. He was still smiling to himself and about the check. The sun outside was shining weakly on the green grass. He opened the glove compartment, pulled himself a Budweiser and cracked it open. He had two kids, a son and a daughter. Drunk and driving was a big issue to him and to his wife, Kristine, who had lost two distant cousins just because of it. So he wouldn't drink a second beer until he got home and spread his legs on a table in front of him. But he wasn't going to go home now. He was first to stop at Morgan department store to buy a baseball glove for his son, Ben.

He drove off the dirt road and turned on Hennepin Avenue South at a legal speed, and then took a sip of his Budweiser, and bent down to turn on his favorite station: KQ92.

The parking lot of the department store was almost full of cars when he arrived. He parked his car next to a white van that said Shotgun Express on its side. He placed his empty can underneath his seat, and got out. He felt some pain in his ankle when he got out, and so he started to walk awkwardly. There were many people around walking in and out of the department store. One of the main doors automatically swung open when Steve approached it. He got in and stood looking momentarily, sweeping the inside of the department with his tired eyes-he’d had a long day and work was no fun for him. He walked down an aisle directly heading for the sports section. But to get to the sports section he had to go through the women section, first. You could tell from Steve's walk that he had no interest in spending time looking at things he wouldn't buy. He seemed to be in a hurry and he knew what he was looking for. He suddenly looked up and saw a mannequin. She looked at him but maybe she didn't look at him.

She was bald but had a nice outfit on. The outfit was red but had black pockets and was slightly tight, showing her delicate curvature. Her face was pale, mottled pink and yellow, and her neck was sexy and long and weak.
Steve had never experienced such thing before. He passed her, turning his head, looking at her now as though she had sent some dark magnetism into his brains. He was a married man and had two kids. And the last thing he could think about at this moment was to have sex with a mannequin. But the mannequin was skinny and his wife was overweight. The mannequin was bald and his wife had a long, wavy hair, which sometimes she didn't comb. The mannequin probably didn’t nag but his wife was constantly nagging, adding fire to a hot domestic fight, or ice to a passionate night when he wanted to reach a climax.

After he walked a few yard away from the mannequin, he heard a gentle cry in his head. It seemed like the dark magnetism the mannequin had sent to his head was now working elaborately in his brains. He turned around to look at her once more just to look, and saw that she was somewhat staring in his direction. He couldn't tell if she was staring at him, because she was at a considerable distance. A dark fear took grip of him as he walked down that aisle not knowing what to do next. He forgot what he was looking for. A total blackness engulfed his head. He felt like his mind was full of black smoke. He passed the sports section and now reached the video-and-CD section. He picked up a Fiona Apple CD, looked at her fat lips, and then slammed the CD back in its place. He finally discovered that his hands were wet on the palm and shaking. He felt the same way he had once felt when his plane was about to take off from the Twin Cities Airport. Anxiety and fear landed on him at once. He could now remember what he came to the store for, so he controlled himself a little and head on again for the sport section. He finally found the baseball glove he was looking for.

A cloud of dark fear was still hovering over his head when he walked back down the aisle he came from. He could have chosen another aisle to the cash register, but for some unknown reason he felt he had to go through that aisle instead. He passed by the mannequin-she wasn't looking at him-and he heard a voice in his head saying, "You are the one. You are the only one, baby." He didn't look at the mannequin; he just kept on walking straight toward the cash register. The woman at the cash register saw him and immediately knew something was wrong with him. "You are the one!" he heard again. But this time it was louder; it bellowed from the inside of his head with a horrific touch. He didn't look, though. He paid the cash register woman and left.
He didn't even know how he got home when he found himself knocking on the door of his house. He kissed his wife good afternoon, hugged his son and kissed him on the forehead-his daughter was at a friend's house. He went to the fridge, cracked himself another Budweiser and dropped onto his couch, drinking it and thinking about the mannequin.
"How was your day?" his wife said from the kitchen, wiping her hands with a kitchen rag.
"All right," he responded and took a sip of his beer.
"Any news?"
There was a long pause.
"Yes," he said. "There is some scary news, very scary."

His wife came out of the kitchen and looked at him to listen.
"What happened?" she asked and sat down in the couch next to him, still facing him concernedly, and the kitchen rag balled in her hand. She could tell from the look on his face that something bad had happened to him. They had been living together for many years and she knew every expression on his face like she knew the back of her hands.
"What is it?" she claimed again. She looked sexy with the teeth bracelet in her mouth.
"Where are the kids?" he said.
"Susie's at Julie's and Ben's probably watching a video. Did you get laid off again?"
Steve had gotten laid off many times. He had once gotten laid off a month after he had been hired.
"No. You'll think I am crazy if I tell you."
"What is it? Tell me!" his wife said impatiently, staring at him, in her eyes an obscure emotion.
"Don't tell the kids or the neighbors. Don't tell anybody!"
"Of course I am not gonna tell nobody."
He told her the whole story. She was flabbergasted, but she couldn't believe him.
"Why don't you come with me?" he said.
"I can't."
"Because I am scared myself, that’s why."
"So you believe me."
"I am afraid so. You've never come up with something like this before."
"What should I do, then?"
"Don't go to Morgan! Never go to Morgan!"
"Of course, I am not gonna go. I will never go to Morgan again."

It was about 10:00 PM when Steve Lomax found himself alone lying on the couch, thinking about the mannequin. Kristine and the children had gone to sleep an hour ago. Steve couldn't go to sleep even though he needed to wake up early the next day to go to work; he kept on thinking about the mannequin instead. He tried to forget her but he couldn't. She was controlling his mind like if it was a ring on her finger. She created a dangerous fissure in his psyche. He thought about going to Morgan to destroy her with a sledgehammer, but again that's against the law. The mannequin was not his property and wasn't on his property. And he would be committing two offences if he did so.

He slid into his bed next to his wife and covered his head with a blanket to avoid thinking about the mannequin. But the mannequin was going nowhere. She became the focus of his thoughts underneath his blanket. He could see her looking at him under the blanket the same way she had looked at him at Morgan. What's worse was that he could now feel her penetrating his body like a fog would penetrate a graveyard. So he swung his legs off bed, slid his jeans on, put on his shoes and went downstairs to the basement to look for his sledgehammer.
At 2:00 AM sharp Steve parked his LTD in the Morgan's parking lot and turned off the lights. A couple of lampposts, erected by the shopping carts stations, shone yellow lights through a cold fog and onto the parking lot. The parking lot looked like a clip from a horror movie. Two cheap-looking cars were still parked-probably the custodians'. Steve pulled the sledgehammer from underneath his seat; shoved it between his belt and belly, metal showing; buttoned his jacket that said Vikings on it; and pushed himself out the door of his car. He looked around momentarily and started toward the main doors like a hypnotized crazed man. A gust of cold wind blew onto his face and ruffled his black hair as he walked. He looked through the glass now and saw nobody inside, except for the hung cloths, the shiny floor, and the columns of the unoccupied registers on the south side. He tugged at the doors, but they were all locked. He looked around him again, his face white with fear, turned back, and tugged at one of the door a second time. The doors were all locked. He walked around the building to look for a way to get in. His eyes stuck out when he saw a rain spout on the east side of the building next to a dumpster. He climbed the dumpster, monkeyed up the spout and suddenly found himself standing on the roof, all six feet of him. There were three or four ventilation fans erected on the roof. Steve went to one of them, swung his sledgehammer at it and knocked off its lid, making a loud crashing sound. He crawled down through the dusty duct of the fan and boosted himself all the way down to a grid inside the building. He knocked off the grid with his hands and stuck out his head staring crazily about. He knew he looked every bit as crazy as Jack Nicholson in the movie "The Shining."

He jumped down from the duct and walked toward the mannequin clutching his sledgehammer. He remembered where she was. The floor was shining when he walked on it and his dark shadow was following him. There was a deep, scary silence in the store.
He walked down to the end of the aisle, turned at the corner and saw the mannequin standing solemnly in the middle of the aisle and looking into his direction. He approached her with his sledgehammer.
"Hi," she said, looking at his sledgehammer. She looked beautiful.
Steve was stunned. He dropped his jaw and his sledgehammer at the same time.
"My name is Sally Hagar," she said smiling. "Do you want to dance?" and she came closer to him, her breasts almost touching him.
After a stretch of silence, Steve said, "Yes," and he gave her his hand.

As the mannequin held his hand, a calm, soft music came to his mind, and he began to dance. He felt her breasts touching his chest and he melted with pleasure. He fell in love with her in a second.
From here you could see a janitor mopping the floor at the end of the aisle. His head was down as he was mopping with slow parallel movements. The janitor now lifted his head and saw Steve holding the air and dancing alone. The janitor, a young man, leaned his mop against the stacks and quickly went to call the police.
"Do you love me?" Sally said to Steve.
"Yes, I do, Sally," Steve said. "You are the one."

© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra July, 2003

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