He keeps her in the bedroom, hands in her lap, face straight ahead. Or either she’s doing the splits, like a cheerleader.
After work, they watch television together. She straddles the recliner’s arm. He keeps the remote.
Despite her big hair and blue eyeliner, he realizes she’s probably a liberal. But he doesn’t let it get to him. He sees the bigger picture, knows that they could “sit around the same campfire, look at the same stack of burning logs” and still come away with different ideas of right and wrong. He likes to think she’s open-minded. He hopes he is too. She’s a catalyst for bigger ideas in his life. And a happy life, according to his therapist, is about compromise.
Most nights, they avoid the news and watch Sex and the City reruns. He only listens to talk radio when he’s in the car.
Sometimes, though, when his manager’s been an ass and he’s tired of the liberal freaking left and the crap they’re trying to get away with, they watch Fox News. He drinks Budweiser and swears in critical affirmation about the bullshit obstructionists that drive the Democratic Party. But after a couple of beers, he feels bad for lording his opinion over her and switches it to MSNBC. But he unzips her Barbie dress first, to even things out. And if it’s Rachel Maddow, he peels off all her clothes, makes her recline fully nude, and explains gently, why Rachel is a communist.
But he never gets angry, never raises his voice.
And she doesn’t seem to mind his endless diatribes.
Last Sunday he visited his mom. She fixed roast beef and mashed potatoes, his favorite. They ate at the fancy table in the dining room that she bought during her third and last marriage.
“I just don’t want you to spend your life alone,” she said. He nodded and told her that he has a date, “every now and then”.
“With the same girl?” she asked, green beans mid-air.
He shrugged and looked at her. She mistook his obtuseness as reluctance. Maybe he didn’t want to overstate the relationship.
“Nice girls don’t make the first move,” she advised. “It’s up to the man to guide it along.”
That night, while watching All in with Chris Hayes, he gave her a bubble bath in the kitchen sink, dressed her in a sheer, floral dress. Then he put her between his palms and rolled her back and forth, like a troll doll, until her silky, blonde mane was as wild as a feral cat’s.
With his cell phone, he called his ex-wife.
“Hi. This is Jill. Leave a message.”
An unfamiliar dog barked in the background.
With his fingertips, he towel-dried the tiny woman, brushed her hair stick-straight and tucked her into his bed, on the pillow next to his own.
By the light of the moon, her shadow was bigger than life. And in that spell, he fell fast asleep.
Notes from Guest Reader Brandon Wicks
Economical, punchy, Mamie Pound’s ‘Dream Barbie’ is at once a humanizing and disturbing reflection of our current moment.