The young mother grabs hold of the tray holding their lunch and she heads out of the main dining area to the playground outside. Her daughter is behind her.
“Hurry up!” she yells.
She waits by the door, opening it when her daughter finally arrives and they head to a table. When she puts the tray down, she notices the naked Barbie on the table.
“Oh, a Barbie?” she says as she helps her daughter sit down.
“Babbie?” Her daughter says. She hasn’t noticed the naked doll yet. It sits behind the thick umbrella pole, on its back, legs splayed apart. Her daughter reaches for her soda. The mother gives it to her and slurps her own soda.
“It’s a doll. Plastic. Yellow hair. Big boobs.” The mother takes a French fry and dips it in the ketchup. “I had one, you know. Everyone had one, a Barbie. We took ours to the creek. ‘Cause they’re plastic, and they can float in the water.” She throws her head back and laughs, remembering. “We used to strap them on our inner tubes and spin them around. Their yellow hair flying everywhere. They’re not soft like Teddy, you know. You can’t really sleep with them so at night you have to put them on the bookshelf and take another doll, a soft one, to sleep with. But Barbies are great ‘cause you can chew on them.”
The mother takes another French fry and gives it to her daughter. “Their hands are like flippers that go all soft and gooey in your mouth and they have tiny high arched heels that you can chew on like a dog. And their eyes, you can poke them with a pen and just stab them in their eye sockets. You can even take their heads off! Off with their heads!”
Her daughter giggles. “Off with head!”
“Mm-hm. You can take off their arms as well. They’re so smooth and plastic tasting. You can run your tongue over Barbie’s skin and your then whole mouth tastes like plastic. You can even run your tongue over their boobs!”
“Boobies!” the girl screams, throwing her hands into the air.
The mother nods her head vigorously: “It’s true! The boobs are like hard mountains. Smooth but hard. But it’s not a good thing. Remember your Aunt Lilly? Say yes if you do, don’t just nod. Well she’s got big boobs. I don’t. Even when she was little she had them. And having a Barbie with big boobs, well, it just made us all obsessed with boobies because we didn’t have any, so when we all saw Aunt Lilly with big boobs…” She shakes her head and breathes inward. “Well, it plain made us crazy, and we all planned games to corner poor Aunt Lilly and jump on her and grab her big melons. It’s true. I feel so bad now saying that, but back then we were all crazy and obsessive and we had no control over it.”
The mother pauses to take a bite out of her hamburger. “I think it was all Barbie’s fault.”
Pigeons hover over and the daughter throws several French fries to them. One of them hits a pigeon in the head. The mother throws her arm outward to scare the pigeons. “But it wasn’t all boobies. Something about a tan plastic doll with legs that you can pull apart that made us go crazy as well. And made us want to take off our clothes and do things with each other. It wasn’t just Barbie. There was a boy doll as well. I don’t know who ever thought that up. What kinds of idiots live in this world, huh? So here we have two naked dolls with adult parts on them we can play with. Idiots, I say. Are you listening to me? Honey, I want you to listen to me when I’m talking.”
“Boobies!” the little girl says.
“Yeah, and remember how I always tell you to keep your clothes on? All the time. Yes, that’s right. Don’t ever take your clothes off. Never. You know that, right? You promise? Look at me when I’m talking. You promise.”
The girl promises. Her mother leans back in the red plastic chair. “Eat your French fries before they get cold and stop throwing them to the birds!” She jerks up. “Let me help you.” She picks up a couple of fries and jams them in her mouth. “Yuck! They’re cold! I hate cold French fries.”
“Cold! Yuck!” screams the little girl.
The mother leans in to drink her soda. “But it wasn’t just about boobies sweetie. She had this long, fake, stringy blonde hair. Like Cousin Carla. You remember Cousin Carla? Her hair color. Remember I told you to say the word yes, don’t just nod. So we grabbed our dolls’ long hair, swung them around and flung them into the creek. Oh, it was so much fun. We did it over and over again and then swam after them in the cold water. The water’s so cold like your soda.”
“Coke!” she says, reaching for her plastic cup and putting her lips on the plastic straw.
“Yep, freezing cold! Sweetie, wipe your face. You got ketchup on your face. Wipe it. Now.”
She hands her daughter a napkin. The girl points to the playground, looking at her mother with big eyes.
“No, not ‘til you finish your cheeseburger.”
She points to her cheeseburger. “Pickles,” she says, and sticks out her tongue. “Yuck.”
“All you have to do it take them out. Like this. It’s not difficult.”
Her daughter gets up to crawl across the table toward the Barbie. She has Barbie in her hands. The mother quickly reaches over. “No,” she says. “No Barbie.”
Both of their hands are on Barbie. They struggle. The head is in the mother’s hand and the feet are in her daughter’s hand. Her daughter begins screaming. “I want Barbie!”
The young mother pulls extra hard. The doll slides out of her daughter’s hands. She falls forward, hitting the table. The mother takes Barbie by her hair, swings her arm far back and then throws it with all her might.
Barbie flies in the air over the fence into a shiny black SUV. The car alarms blares, the headlights blink rapidly. A man comes running down the sidewalk toward the SUV. He picks up the naked Barbie. His hands run over the slightly scratched paint. He turns to her. “Hey! Did you throw this?”
She looks at her screaming, crying daughter.
“Hey! I’m talking to you! I saw you throw this! I was in the dining room and I saw you!”
Her hand gently touches her daughter’s reddened face. “Sweetie baby, Barbies are bad.”
Xenia Taiga lives in southern China. Her work is in Asiancha, Eastlit, Fourway Review and Gone Lawn Journal. She’s writing a novel about China, Gangnam Style.