Notes: wonderfalls & all characters not mine, no profit for me ever ever. Thanks to Mosca, SA & Bitchygurl. Happy birthday, Lise!!



HIATUS MACHINES



Mahandra said, "See, serial killers are organized. Your mother would be an amazing serial killer."

"And I wouldn't?"

"Compared to your mother? You'd kill one person and get caught. She could kill many. Many people before she got caught if she ever did."

"I could if I wanted to," Jaye said.

Mahandra rolled her eyes and walked away to work. Jaye stared at the bass and waited for it to talk. It didn't say anything. Then Eric came up to refill her glass and she had to ask him if he thought her mother would be a better serial killer than her.

*

Mahandra said, "You told Aaron cow creamers were talking to you."

"Did he tell you that? Were you discussing me in bed? Do you talk about me in bed, because now I'm really not okay with this relationship you two are having, talking about me and doing things."

"We don't talk about you in bed. Well, not in bed in bed."

Jaye cocked her head. "What do you talk about in bed in bed? What sorts of discussions are you having then?"

"The usual. You know."

Jaye said, "Move to the left, not that far left."

"Stop calling me mother, things like that."

"Please tell me that isn't Aaron. Please."

"It wasn't Aaron. And it didn't happen to me, I just heard about it. Just making a joke here." Mahandra fiddled with her drink.

"You just heard about it from yourself?" Jaye grinned. "Which one? Come on, tell me. Unless you're also lying about it not being Aaron."

"You never met him. It was when you were at Brown." Mahandra downed her entire shot and clapped the glass on the bar.

"I missed so much," Jaye said. "What number was he? What number are you up to?"

"What number are you up to, missy?"

"If you're trying to find out if Eric was number 12," Jaye said smiling, "I'm happy to say he was. And is. And now you, come on. What number's my brother?"

Eric came over and refilled Mahandra's drink. "On a scale of one to ten, I'm a twelve?"

He had a very sweet smile. So Jaye opened her mouth to lie as Mahandra said, "Ha, no."

Mahandra didn't return to the topic of the voices and the bass didn't talk. Again.

*

Eric had fallen asleep after definitely earning himself a twelve on a scale of one to ten. Jaye sat up and looked around at the toys, the boxes with cocktail bunnies on them, the monkey and the lion. "Nothing?" Eric didn't stir. "It's been three straight days. You never let me go three straight days."

Eric opened his eyes. "Hey."

"Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

"Nothing," she said. "Absolutely nothing."

*

"Actually," she said to the silent bear in the barrel, "I'm relieved. It's nice not to hear your nagging." She turned her back on it. She looked over her shoulder, heard and saw nothing, and hurried away.

By lunch time she was in the back room, holding up a stuffed donkey and shaking it. "Don't you have anything to say? Anything?"

The mouth-breather came in and said, "Tyler, who are you talking to?"

"My boyfriend," she said, "on the cell phone."

"You're not holding your cell phone."

"I'm practicing. Before I call him and ask him if he has anything to say."

He backed up and narrowed his eyes. "Is your break over yet?"

"No, no it's not." After he left she turned to the stuffed donkey. "Is it? Anything to add?" The little fluffy eyes just stared at her.

*

"I thought you said you talked to me because I listen," Jaye said to the brass monkey. He was really engrossed in the book. Really engrossed like not even looking up or moving his little monkey arms or even moving at all. "I'm listening now. Look at me, listening. Look at me. Look at me."

The monkey didn't look up. "Good," she said. "Good." She stomped out and drove to her parents' home.

"Is Aaron home?"

Yvette shook her head. "He is out with Mahandra. Would you like a cookie? I just made some for your mother and father."

Jaye turned around but the flamingos were gone. She was waiting for someone to tell her if she wanted a cookie. She brushed past Yvette and said, "Of course I want a cookie. I want a lot of cookies. Why even ask? I can make my own decisions. I can do this."

She went home with a tummy ache. "I ate too many cookies," she groaned. The monkey was still too interested in his book.

*

"I can make decisions on my own. I can make good decisions. I'm learning this lesson," she muttered. She decided today she would be a good worker. No reason. Just random. But it was her own random decision. She smiled at the customers. She folded efficiently. She even answered questions fully.

The mouth-breather said, "I'm really impressed, Tyler." Then he frowned. "Are you bucking for my job? Do you know Peggy is coming back? Did she tell you and not me?" He walked quickly into the back office and didn't come out for two hours. When he came out, he looked around at the neat store with smiling customers and merchandise lovingly displayed. "Are you on drugs?"

"Not at all," Jaye said pleasantly.

The next day she randomly decided to go back to being herself. When she was on a roll with retail and being nice, the day went by fast. She'd blink and then she'd be thirty. Thirty needed to be a long way off.

The bears and lizards and lions had no comment either way.

*

"They've stopped talking to me," she said.

Aaron leaned forward. "They?"

"You know what I mean. You told Mahandra. Why did you tell Mahandra?"

"You told Mahandra first."

"She didn't believe me so it doesn't count. Why did they stop talking to me? Are they talking to you?" Jaye held up the cow creamer. "Did you dump me for Aaron?"

Aaron stared at her. "They're not talking to me, Jaye. Has this happened before?"

"No. They always talk to me. At least once a day and usually more. Once it was twenty times in one day. Twenty random things I got told to do by different little faces that didn't have a larynx. Now, silence."

"You miss it," he said.

She nearly hugged the cow creamer. "I kinda do."

"Maybe they're done with you," Aaron said.

She stared right back at him.

*

Eric said, "How's your day going?"

"Miserable. I think my clinical insanity broke up with me. Just dumped me with no explanation, no goodbye." She glared at the bass. "Didn't it? Huh?"

"Can a mental condition say goodbye?" He was so zen and sweet.

"I think it can if it was talking before. If it had already demonstrated the ability to speak. Which this one had."

He cleared his throat. "This isn't a metaphor for us, right?"

"No. Unless you're about to dump me. Which you aren't, right?"

"Absolutely." He leaned over the bar and kissed her and Mahandra made a sarcastic "wooo" sound from somewhere in the back. "So explain to me about your mental condition."

The bass had nothing to say. She said, "It's over now. It dumped me. I'm moving on."

*

Now that it was over and she'd moved on, she could look back and think, how utterly insane she'd been to ever listen to talking objects. Even if things had worked out in the end when she did. She patted the wax lion machine and said, "Thanks. Sort of." Then she noticed the lion waiting in the slot. It was perfect.

"Did we get this fixed? The guy said he couldn't fix it."

The mouth-breather said, "He came back and figured it out. It was just a gear out of place."

"When was that? When did that happen?"

"A week ago." He retreated to his office again.

Nothing in the store talked to her and nodded at her or waved its tiny arms. "Well then," she said, "I think we all know what I have to do."

She waited outside after work, lurking until the mouth-breather left. Then she went inside and crouched by the wax lion machine. She tried randomly kicking it and bashing it with the phone but the lions kept being perfect. She reached inside and punched things. Her knuckles were bleeding but the lion was undented. "Please," she said, leaning against the machine. "Please get broken. Bring them back."

She banged her head against the machine.

The lion it made was dented. She held it up to her face and said, "Hello?"

The lion turned and blinked. It said, "Take a vacation."

"Yes, you did. But you're back now, right?"

"Take a vacation," the lion said. "Take a vacation," the bears said, all of them. The lizards said, "Take a vacation."

"Take a vacation," Jaye said. "I get it. Is anyone going to tell me where you all were? Or how I broke the machine?"

"Take a vacation," the lion said.

THE END

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