by Julie Ann Shapiro
I see a long, green house stretching around and around the street in my sleep. Touching it, it becomes a cloth. I hear a woman screaming. I drop the cloth. A voice calls out, “What are you doing? The cloth is yours, you most hold onto it.”
“But it’s not mine.”
“Of course it is; I heard your scream.”
The voice says, ”When one of us screams, we all scream.”
Waking up, I run to the green, abandoned, boarded-up house knowing what I will find. The house sits sandwiched between homes in soft, yellow paint and gardens with flowers in brilliant hues of orange and purple. I know the birds will be chirping and even the bees whistling, but not so at the abandoned dirt lawn; only a long, wispy bush will sit in stubborn silence. I know this well. I cry sometimes seeing this house.
But not today; the dirt is covered not by plants or new found greenery nourishing the birds; the lawn is filled with childhood, childhood is born again, I see train sets, a monopoly game, tin soldiers, and a basket of dolls. The birds are silent.
Running my fingers through a doll’s matted red hair and looking at the green glassy eyes, the eyes I know, they're Chrissy’s, my childhood doll. Holding her, she says, “I told you when one of us screams, we all scream.” I pick up Priscilla too, the balding doll with freckles on her cheeks and a soiled white dress, she says, “The soldiers, the soldiers, what about them?”
I tell her, “There’s a war. I don’t like it.”
She says, “You weren’t listening to Chrissy at all. Now, hold the soldiers.”
“But, that’s not how I played war.”
Priscilla says, “It never was play, you stupid human. Each time you pretended to kill, someone died. Now, hold them with love like you held us.”
“But they’re little and metal, I can’t put my arms around them, not like with you dolls.”
Priscilla says, “I know you think because they’re cold, there’s no warmth inside. Now hold them, but don’t drop us.”
“I can’t hold you all.”
She says, “You have to, there’s no one else.”
“Surely, there are other people who will walk by.”
“No they’re gone. They played with the soldiers too long, the war’s all they knew, but you, you were different, to you we were a family, you dreamed with us, you played house, there was a mom and a dad and children, and we went to school and we sang songs and we told stories.”
“But it’ll bore the soldiers.”
“They’re homesick, they need to go home.”
"But, playing house, it’s for kids, I’m big now.”
“That’s what the others said too, but still they played war with the soldiers.”
Cradling the soldiers, Chrissy, Priscilla, the monopoly game, the train set, I spoke of childhoods past of playing hopscotch until it rained, I sang about an Old Man who snored when it poured. And we took a train through boarded up town after town, telling stories and singing the chu-chu song, “I think I can, I think I can. I think I can, I know I can.” And we waited for the birds to chirp, but they wouldn’t; neither would the bees buzz and the train chortled on by through dusty town after town, watching the tumble weeds spin through downtowns somewhere, everywhere. I sang "I’m a little piece of tin, nobody knows what shape I’m in, I got four wheels and a running board, but nobody knows what shape I’m in.”
Julie Ann Shapiro is a freelance writer with publishing credits for short stories, essays, and flash fiction include, but are not limited to: Second Place Winner in Writer Online's “My First Crush Contest”, Story South, Word Riot, Millennium Shift, Moon Dance, The Write Line, The Glut, Uber, Green Tricycle, Ultimate Hallucination, Dovetail Journal, Cenotaph, Science Fiction and Fantasy World, Opium Magazine, The Quarterly Staple, Journal of Modern Post, Rumble, and Cellar Door. Contact Julie.